This is the first of the companion novels to Pushing the Limits, it focuses on Beth - Noah's friend and housemate and introduces Ryan, a baseball star...moreThis is the first of the companion novels to Pushing the Limits, it focuses on Beth - Noah's friend and housemate and introduces Ryan, a baseball star in the making.
I have to admit, when I read about the dare element of this book I was really worried. I generally find that books with secrets like this leave me so stressed out as I read, and so I end up not really enjoying the book. I was so pleased to find that this part of the plot didn't play out as I'd expected it to, and so I could just enjoy the reading experience.
The majority of this book is set at a different school, in a different town, to Pushing the Limits so there's a whole new lot of characters to get to know. Beth makes numerous trips back home though, giving us time to catch up with Echo and Noah, and with Isaiah.
This isn't a perfect book, but the writing is so good that I was completely swept away by the reading experience and can happily overlook things that might have been gripes in a weaker book. I'm completely in love with this series, I think it's the closest a series of books have got to making me feel the way watching Friday Night Lights did.(less)
I really loved Pushing the Limits and was thrilled to hear there would be further books and novellas featuring key characters. This is the first of th...moreI really loved Pushing the Limits and was thrilled to hear there would be further books and novellas featuring key characters. This is the first of the novellas, focusing on Lila - Echo's best friend. I must admit it took me a few pages to settle into the book, and understand how it fitted into the world McGarry has created, but as soon as I'd done so I loved it.
Whilst it is a much shorter story, I didn't feel robbed or cheated - the characters are still well developed and I really cared about them. I particularly loved hearing about Lila's wonderful organisational techniques - I've got a few new ideas to try now!(less)
Regina is the focus of this book, once a member of the highest and meanest tier of school, some pretty awful actions mean her position changes overnig...moreRegina is the focus of this book, once a member of the highest and meanest tier of school, some pretty awful actions mean her position changes overnight - she's now at the very bottom of the pile and number one target for her former co-conspirators. The opening of the book, the incident that causes this downfall, is hard to read and leaves you wondering what else is going to happen in this book.
The book is all about the social structure of high school, particularly the more toxic aspects of it. The teenagers in this book are not nice, they have few if any redeeming qualities. Their actions are brutal, and the consequences are far reaching. All of this makes the book a gripping, but unpleasant read - the tension levels at times made me feel sick with nerves. Never once though was I put off, this is such a strong novel, it's hard, shocking and oh so very real. It's been a couple of weeks since I read it, and still I'm thinking about aspects of it - truly a book that gets under your skin.(less)
I had no real preconceived ideas about this book when I sat down to read it. The blurb was intriguing, but I couldn’t quite imagine how the story was...moreI had no real preconceived ideas about this book when I sat down to read it. The blurb was intriguing, but I couldn’t quite imagine how the story was going to work. I always like it when this happens, mainly because when the book is good – and this one really is – then it’s a real treat to see the story unfold.
The book tells Cat’s story, it begins when she is a little girl and follows her through into adulthood. It also tells the story of Finn, a one-of-a-kind android who is brought into the family home to act as tutor to Cat. Over the years they grow and learn, and their stories become increasingly difficult to separate.
This book is one of those that is going to be impossible to categorise, it is most definitely a science fiction story, but whilst this thread runs through the book its importance ebbs and wanes – at times I found myself suddenly remembering the sci fi element because the love story of the book had almost entirely taken over my brain. The story is one of love and friendship, but it’s also one of philosophical wonderings and moral questions.
I got incredibly invested in the characters in the book, I cared a huge amount about what was going to happen to Cat and to Finn, even when I started to question what was right and wrong I was rooting for them most of all. At one point when the story seemed to be moving away from what I wanted I could hardly bear to turn the page in case something happened that I didn’t want to see, but at the same time I had to read on to make sure everything was okay.
This is the sort of book that I know I will be returning to in years to come, and I’m sure that as my life experiences shape me so my reaction to this book could change, but however this may happen I know that I will still love it and still love Cat and Finn.(less)
When I travelled by plane for the first time on my own I found myself paying far more attention to my fellow passengers, and thinking about the fact t...moreWhen I travelled by plane for the first time on my own I found myself paying far more attention to my fellow passengers, and thinking about the fact that on a long haul flight you spend more time sat next to a complete stranger than you might in the space of a year with a distant relative yet you often get off the plane still knowing absolutely nothing about them. So when I heard about this book I was really intrigued by the plot, it sounded like something I’d really enjoy.
Enjoy? I absolutely loved it! Within the first few pages I was completely wrapped up in the story, from Hadley and Oliver first meeting to their plane journey and then their respective stories in London. The plot is lovely, and sweet, with plenty of funny bits, making it a really really good romantic comedy.
Hadley and Oliver are both great characters, I really enjoyed getting to know them both. The budding friendship and romance between the two of them felt really genuine and played out well. I also liked the way the supporting characters were written, Hadley’s dad and stepmom-to-be in particular.
I thought this books was brilliant, it’s a slim book so a fairly quick read, but one that I know I’ll be revisiting time and time again.(less)
I think this is a real gem of a book. It’s a wonderful story with great characters that leaves you feeling really content as you read the final page.
T...moreI think this is a real gem of a book. It’s a wonderful story with great characters that leaves you feeling really content as you read the final page.
The story is primarily about Travis, a boy with some pretty significant anger and emotional issues. He’s deeply resentful of the fact his grandfather has made them move, and particularly hurt and angry that their dog went missing just before they moved and his grandfather didn’t find him. School’s a real battlefield for Travis, he’s never been very keen on school for very good reasons and having to integrate into a new one seems like just too much. Luckily for him he hasn’t counted on two people entering his life, Mr McQueen – one of those super-teachers everyone should have the joy of encountering during their educational experience, and Velveeta who really shares the story. She also has secrets, she’s got some lousy adults in her life too and is trying very hard to make her own way in the world, however she can manage. Over the course of the book Travis and Velveeta’s stories become increasingly entwined and they pick away at the walls each other has built to keep the world out.
The characters Schmatz has created are great, I adored Mr McQueen – it’s so good to see a teacher who really cares, I was fortunate enough to encounter a couple of teachers like this when I was in high school so I always love seeing them in the books I read. My favourite character was Travis, he absolutely jumped off the page at me. I felt so invested in his story, he’s absolutely the kind of teen that makes me want to be a youth librarian.
The bulk of the book tells Travis’ story, but at the end of each chapter there is a page or two where Velveeta gets to tell her version of events from the same day. I really liked this structure, it was nice getting to hear from both of the teens and I think Schmatz has captured their very different voices perfectly.
I really enjoyed reading this book, it takes on some pretty big issues and handles them all in a careful and sympathetic manner. This is the sort of book that could have been cheesy or mawkish, but instead it’s realistic and the sort of book the reader can really identify with. Highly recommended.(less)
Contemporary YA is one of my great loves and when I heard about this book it sounded right up my street.
This book is about Payton, about her discoveri...moreContemporary YA is one of my great loves and when I heard about this book it sounded right up my street.
This book is about Payton, about her discovering that her father has Multiple Sclerosis and trying to adjust to both knowing this and the feeling of betrayal she experiences when she discovers the rest of the family had been keeping the news from her. If I’m being completely honest for a good proportion of the book Payton behaves like a bit of a brat but I didn’t find this frustrating, it felt like a very genuine reaction and one that I could understand even if I couldn’t imagine behaving the same way in the same situation. The one character I didn’t really take to however was Jac, Payton’s best friend. I found a lot of her behaviour irritating – she’s definitely the kind of person I wouldn’t want around me for very long.
Sean Griswold is the boy who sits in front of Payton in the classes they share – seating is allocated alphabetically and so she’s been sitting behind him for years without ever really noticing him. She chooses his head for a focus exercise the school counsellor gets her to do, it’s something that’s part of her everyday life. This allows us to get to know Sean as Payton does, I liked him a lot as a character. I really liked the way he and Payton grew closer through developing a shared interest, some of the moments they shared were lovely.
I thought that Payton’s father’s illness was covered in the book really well. It ended up not being the main focus of the book, instead it’s more about the effect it has on the family – I think teenagers in a similar situation to Payton or those who know someone who is might find it good to read. The one thing I would have quite liked to see however was a page pointing interested readers in the direction of reliable further information about Multiple Sclerosis.
This book is funny and warm with real heart. I thoroughly enjoyed it and just wish I’d not put it off for so long. (less)
This is a quirky, unique book that wins a lot of points from the first moment you pick it up thanks to its structure. Held within a slip case the book...moreThis is a quirky, unique book that wins a lot of points from the first moment you pick it up thanks to its structure. Held within a slip case the book is printed on a long continuous concertina, there are hard covers at both ends, one with an E and one with a B. If you start with the E as the front cover you read Evelyn’s story and if you start with the B you read Brendan’s story. The idea is that you get both sides of the same story, it’s up to you which you start with. The only thing I would say is that I decided to read this with the book on a table – the concertina does have a slight tendency to simply fall open if you’re not holding it carefully. This is very easily got around however and is very worth it for the loveliness of the book.
I read Evelyn’s story first, I found part of her story intriguing – she has a history of seeing other worldly beings and I was interested by the way this was treated as some sort of mental health problem. Brendan’s story is a little more straightforward though sadder, the section of the story where the two stories are not intertwined fill in the gaps for Brendan very well.
I loved the way Celtic mythology was at the very heart of this book, for me it added a whole extra layer of satisfaction. Very quickly you understand how the story is likely to unfold, I found that this pulled me deeper into the book. I liked the ending of both sides of the story and felt that it fitted well with the mythology.
The idea of telling the story from both perspectives adds some really nice touches to the reading experience. It allows you to get to know the characters really well, you get the combination of their thoughts in their side of the story and how they’re seen in the opposite side of the story. The only downside I found to the structure was that at times when I was reading Brendan’s story I found myself scanning quickly through the bits that were virtually carbon copies of the same events in Evelyn’s story.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book, it’s a very quick read – both sides of the story are just over 40 pages long – and the novel structure is used really well to enhance the book.(less)