I was thrilled to hear that Harper Collins is publishing some of Maureen Johnson's earliThis review was originally published at Fluttering Butterflies
I was thrilled to hear that Harper Collins is publishing some of Maureen Johnson's earlier work here in the UK. As much as I love her Shades of London series and I'm dying to read the next book in the series, I've also been incredibly curious to read the books that haven't been as readily available here in England. I've enjoyed all of the books I have read by Maureen Johnson, and while Devilish can be quite fun, there was something lacking in it to move it up from being an okay read to one I absolutely loved.
Devilish is a book about popularity in high school and the lengths that some students would go to in order to achieve it. The story starts out with a ceremony in which upperclassmen like Jane and Ally are to be paired as mentors with incoming freshman in a Big-Little event. I didn't quite get the importance of this event, but aparently it's a big deal.
So when Ally humiliates herself in a big, flashy way, she feels like there's no hope for her whatsoever. Ally goes to incredible lengths in order to achieve popularity after the most embarassing moment of her life. And Ally will do anything to repair the damage done, including selling her soul to a demon in the form of new sophomore student, Lanalee. But when Ally's best friend, Jane, finds out about it all SHE decides to make another deal with the demon in order to save Ally's soul.
I don't know. Some parts of Devilish really worked for me. I quite liked Jane as a character, she had a fun personality and I liked how much her friendship with Ally meant to her. I was hoping for a bigger sense of friendship between the pair, but it is mostly missing until the last third of the novel. I also like the wackiness of it. I found myself laughing at the craziness of this book - demons and blood-soaked cupcakes and the fact that the show-down of good and evil happens at the Poodle-Prom. But while the quirky storyline kept me reading, I still didn't feel any great connection to the characters. ...more
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan was a bit different that I expected it to be. It was aThis review was originally published at Fluttering Butterflies
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan was a bit different that I expected it to be. It was an interesting story and I really enjoyed getting to know this brilliant cast of characters, but sometimes I felt let down a bit by the structure of the novel between narrative and diary entries.
Our main character, Nicola, has been sent to a summer camp for gifted youth. She's interested in becoming an archaeologist and has signed up for classes at the Institute. On her first day, she meets a group of people that quickly become friends throughout this eventful summer.
We have Katrina, this wonderfully outgoing computer nerd, Isaac, the nice guy with a huge crush on Katrina, and of course, there's Battle. Battle who is this beautiful girl who is smart and cool and slightly mysterious. Nic finds herself immediately attracted to Battle, which begins Nicola's questions about herself and her sexuality as she examines her feelings for Battle and the people around her.
I really liked Nicola as a character and narrator. I thought Battle and Katrina and Isaac were all believeable and realistic characters. I could definitely relate to the feelings of first love as being confusing and overwhelming. I especially loved this thing between Nic and Battle. It was very sweet and beautiful as Nic and Battle spent more time together and Nic realised how much she was attracted to Battle physically but also towards her as a person and her personality. I loved the beauty of how this this relationship builds up.
My only issue with this as a story, is sometimes Nicola's diary entries that she writes as a way of making sense of the world in an archaologist's way really breaks the flow of the narrative. Especially after a really sweet and tender moment between Nic and Battle - going between that and a journal entry felt jarring. The diary entries left me feeling distanced from the story and towards the end, after a big conflict, I couldn't quite find myself again inside these character's heads and hearts. Still, the first half of the book more than made up for the second and I'm very glad that I read this book!...more
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli is not at all what I'd expected. First, from that cover, I believed the book to be aimed at a much younger audience. It isn't.Zel by Donna Jo Napoli is not at all what I'd expected. First, from that cover, I believed the book to be aimed at a much younger audience. It isn't. Zel is most definitely young adult as there are themes and topics covered in this book which are a little disturbing. Second, I thought that because this is quite the slim book, I'd zip right through it. That didn't happen either. The atmosphere of the book and some of the heavy emotions that are evoked made Zel a pretty dense read in parts. It isn't by any means light reading. And for the most part, I liked it, though it is a little bleak.
Zel, is of course, a retelling of the fairy tale Rapunzel where a young girl is locked away in a tower with no access but a window. Her mother visits her by day calling for Rapunzel to let down her hair. A prince falls in love with her and together they hatch a plan for escape.
The first part of the story, in which Zel is still quite innocent and believes her mother to be a good was my favourite. Zel and her mother visit a distant town to gather some supplies and there meets a prince. Zel's mother feels threatened by the prince and plans to hide Zel away in order to keep Zel safe and tied to her.
Since reading Zel, I can no longer think of the story of Rapunzel as anything but cruel and barbaric. Donna Jo Napoli's version of the story is told from each of the main character's viewpoints and really gets into their heads. The prince, who is desperate to locate the mysterious girl he met in the market at any costs. Zel's mother, who is unable to let go of her daughter so that she may lead her own life separate to her. You can really see in Zel's mother's head the twistedness and justifications for her actions. And then there's Zel. And with her perspective the reader can see quite clearly the effect that the isolation and confusion Zel must have felt being locked away during puberty without any company and her declining mental state.
It's quite a sad, little story. And while there is a happy ending of sorts, there is so much that is broken within Zel that the ending didn't quite live up to my expectations. Which might have been the point, I'm not sure? I think I'm still making up my mind about this book! ...more
Here's one that really surprised me. Push by Sapphire is the book that the movie Precious was based on. I haven't seen the movie and I didn't know befHere's one that really surprised me. Push by Sapphire is the book that the movie Precious was based on. I haven't seen the movie and I didn't know beforehand the extent of which this book would go to. Wow. I finished it of an evening (it isn't very long at all) and absolutely mesmerised by the character ofPrecious Jones. What a resilient and courageous character.
Precious Jones, is 16 and illiterate. When she's kicked out of school for being pregnant (for the second time and by her father) she is given the opportunity to attend an alternative school instead. There, surrounded by other young people in similar circumstances, Precious is able to learn in a more supportive environment with a teacher and other students who care about her. All of her life, Precious has been abused, sexually by her father, physically and emotionally by her mother. She's foul-mouthed and angry at the start and as the story continues she doesn't lose any of that attitude. But she is able to see more clearly, her worth, and her capabilities.
I really loved the message of this novel, to keep pushing forward and working hard to make something of yourself, to go after your dreams. I did find it a little difficult to read Precious' story as it's a written diary with spelling mistakes and bad grammar, but once I was used to the feel of it, I couldn't put this book down. Precious is a wonderful character, who I'll have a hard time forgetting....more
It's been a really long time since I've been as excited as I am about a series as I am right now witReview originally posted at Fluttering Butterflies
It's been a really long time since I've been as excited as I am about a series as I am right now with the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. In this, the second book in the series, The Dead of the Night, I was just as drawn into the story, drawn to Ellie's voice and the other characters as well as the emotions and decisions and the action and these teenagers struggle to survive and to make a difference.
The Dead of the Night by John Marsden follows on a few weeks after the shocking ending to Tomorrow, When the War Began. Ellie and her friends are still in their hidden valley (which they call Hell) and are pretty shaken up with the departure of two of their friends. The balance seems to have shifted and without their two friends, they've lost their hope and their momentum.
A decision is made pretty early on into The Dead of the Night that they need to shake themselves awake and start preparing for more of the worst. Their families are still being held hostage by foreign invaders and it's beginning to get colder. Ellie and her friends decide they need to stockpile more food and supplies, they need to go after their two missing friends and they need to take stock of their surroundings to find out the situation in other places beyond their secluded little family.
Honestly, I really love this series, but I'm also finding it a little difficult to describe just what it is that I really love about this story or these characters so much. Ellie and the rest of them are dealing with something really horrible and disturbing - a complete change in everything they knew. And they have to come up with the strength to keep going, to plan ahead, to continue rebelling and using what they know and what little they have in order to provide for themselves as well as strike a blow against the people who have taken everything away from them. It also raises some thought-provoking questions about life and death and what it means to take someone else's life.
And as well as being this exciting and dangerous story about a bunch of teenagers making it on their own and blowing stuff up (which happens a lot, to my utter amusement and joy!) but there's also some really complicated and emotional connections between these friends as they navigate new relationships and heading into territory. I'm so seriously excited and anxious to dive into the third book and continue on with this story. Why has it taken me so long to get to these books?! ...more
Without a recommendation from a friend on this one, I probably would have never picked up this book. And that would have been a shame. Even though it'Without a recommendation from a friend on this one, I probably would have never picked up this book. And that would have been a shame. Even though it's quite a slim book and made for a quick read due to the way it's written in verse, A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone is really powerful look at relationships in high school, with a specific focus on three girls and the same boy they each fall for and deal with the pressures of a sexual relationship.
Each of these three girls, Josie, Nicholette and Aviva are very different, and have certain ideas of the type of person they'd be in a relationship with this particular charming boy at school. And each girl must then struggle with their own doubts and insecurities and must deal with the ways in which this boy handles each girl, always after one specific goal. Will the girls buckle under his pressure to take things farther and farther? Will the girls compromise themselves or their values in order to feel special and important to this popular, charming and good-looking boy?
I loved how each girl is from a different social circle, and these three different 'types' of girls could really encorporate all girls. From Josie, the freshman girl, innocent of any relationships. The girl who abandons her close group of friends in order to be The Girlfriend. Then there's Nicholette, who believes she holds the power between her and him because she's more forward and goes after what she wants. But the shift is fairly evident as we see how He treats her and how he doesn't acknowledge her in the hallways or in front of his friends. And then there's Aviva, the quirky girl who flits between groups of friends, always staying on the fringes, the one who wants to give Him another chance despite being warned off. The three may not normally be friends, but over the course of this verse novel, they have one major thing in common. They've all fallen under the spell of one Bad Boy.
I'm actually a little surprised at how filled with emotion and hormones this book is. I knew there would be sex involved, but there are some really hot scenes there. All the hormonal teenage urges to kiss and press against each other and have sex are very present here. But so is all of the doubt and insecurities as each girl wonders 'why is with me?' to 'what have I done wrong?' My heart ached for each individual girl as Josie, Nicholette and then Aviva all fall under his charms and even though each are strong, intelligent and grounded teenage girls, each one makes mistake after mistake and lets this one boy control and take over.
I do also really love the offensive that is taken during the course of this book and how each girl stands up for herself and for others in order to lessen this boy's hold on them and any future girls he might take a fancy to. It's a wonderful message to give to young girls today - respect yourself, stand up for yourself and look out for those who might make the same mistakes. A wonderful read, I'm very glad to have read it!...more