This is probably my favourite book that I've read this year. But I don't know how to review it without giving away too much. Just to say that MelanieThis is probably my favourite book that I've read this year. But I don't know how to review it without giving away too much. Just to say that Melanie - the girl of the title - is an amazing and unique character, and the whole hook of the beginning of the book and the way it develops is completely brilliant. The way we first discovering Melanie imprisoned in a military base and are with her through all the horrors she suffers.
The way the story gradually opens out to reveal the other characters and their agendas, and thus what Melanie is imprisoned for. And then the way the story goes from there, as Melanie finds out the truth about herself and comes to terms with it, while enduring a gruelling journey with the other characters.
Even saying these few things I feel are almost spoilers, for a story that just builds and twist and keeps you on tenterhooks throughout....more
I wish I could write like David Levithan. This is a fantastic book of Y.A. short stories about love. Good, bad,ugly, indifferent, redemptive. Lesbian,I wish I could write like David Levithan. This is a fantastic book of Y.A. short stories about love. Good, bad,ugly, indifferent, redemptive. Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Queer, and straight. Most of the stories feature teenage or college protagonists, but one or two are about older couples.
The writing really captures the open-hearted, self-conscious, obsessive, un-selfaware, romantic yet cynical quality of the teenage voice. Most of the stories have a hopeful optimism to them in the end, but despite that there's bitter-sweet sadness to much of the writing. It infuses the interior space of the characters adults and teenagers alike, all aching to be whole, to be truly heard and felt and understood. And who cannot relate to that?
There are some repeating themes: proms, and unlikely cupids, first meetings, coincidences. Nearly all the stories are great, but Starbucks Boy, The Alumni Interview, and The Good Witch, stood out for me. And my absolute favourites, the two that made me cry big time, were: Princes and The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes. The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes in particular took a really startling and beautiful turn in the second half of what was already a great story.
Although I have read quite a few adult books with young trans protagonists I have never before seen a YA book with a trans lead, and so I was really iAlthough I have read quite a few adult books with young trans protagonists I have never before seen a YA book with a trans lead, and so I was really intrigued by The Art of Being Normal as it seemed to be, potentially, a totally unique book. Even more so after seeing the stunning cover artwork, reading the synopsis, and flicking through a few random excerpts.
I loved the opening hook of the book where David reveals that he has always wanted to be a girl. It’s funny and authentic, but also sad and marks him as an outsider, so really sets the tone for the rest of the story. The book has 2 narrators: David and Leo, whose POVs are distinguished by slightly different fonts - a great design idea - and their differing teenage voices, David, nervous but optimistic, Leo, hard nosed, with an edge of cynical humour. Both voices feel engaging and authentic from the outset. The first half of the book focuses more on Leo and the writing is characterful and intriguing. As the story moved into the world of teenage parties and romances I felt it might become a typical YA tale about outsiders who become friends, with less focus on the trans stuff. How wrong I was, near the middle, the story takes a suprising turn that made it much deeper and more interesting. And, as David and Leo’s characters get to know each other, it becomes a personal and heartfelt piece and our understanding of them really deepens. I found their conversation at the derelict swimming pool very moving and beautifully done, really erring on the side of subtlety in what could have been an overplayed moment. There were many scenes like this during the second half of the story, where I worried things could get too dramatic, but Lisa WIlliamson does a fantastic job, creating quiet intense moments with a light touch and mixing bittersweet or dark events with the lighter funnier YA material about friendship, so that everything feels balanced just right.
It is a brillaintly plotted book with lots of fun details and I enjoyed the little nods to Twelfth Night and Mermaids etc and loved the Cinderella elements of the ending. I really think young trans and queer readers need their share of these type of YA stories, and more of them, so this books is a brilliant and unique addition to that genre. ...more
This is such a good children's book. The pirate characters are just brilliantly drawn, and their dialogue is just great - over the top and salted withThis is such a good children's book. The pirate characters are just brilliantly drawn, and their dialogue is just great - over the top and salted with pirate slang. Even the hero Jack Hawkins is interesting for a victorian child protagonist and he gets a lot of physical action and adventure - which in reality would be way beyond his age and ability - this must be the prototype for all children's adventure books that followed. Not only is the characterisation great but it is also brilliantly plotted and I am sure if you put it against the Hero's Journey model it would hit all the beats. I think, from memory of the movie versions (I recently saw treasure planet the animated version,) the plotting in the book seems more sophisticated, which is surprising too. It seems like they also stole whole chunks of its plot and characterisation for the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Altogether the archetype of children's and YA adventure and I think it would stand up well to any modern competitors....more
I just finished rereading this book - I first read it ten years ago and had forgotten a lot of the details, but I was talking about it with some frienI just finished rereading this book - I first read it ten years ago and had forgotten a lot of the details, but I was talking about it with some friends in the pub recently and so I thought I would read a little of it again. I opened it and from just reading the first few pages I was totally drawn in. The comic characters are so alive - their voices so brilliantly written, every single one of them. It really feels as if they are wandering around living their crazy lives and it all flows so effortlessly from there that it seems somehow as if J K T is just transcribing what they say. I'm sure the writing process was not at all like that, but that's how it feels. It often brought a smile to my face reading it, and many laughs too, each situation is so deliciously absurd and milked for as much comic potential as possible. Ignatius may not be 'likeable' to those around him but he has a roguish charm for the reader with his haughty blustering view of a world in which he totally incapable of functioning. A gigantic fat car-crash of a man for whom the author obviously has great affection and patience, bemused and surprised by what his creation does next, rather like poor Mrs Reilly!...more