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Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray - Review

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"It's not really kidnapping, is it? He'd have to be alive for it to be proper kidnapping."

Where did I get it? I recently bought a bunch of UK YA titles as part of my research into the current market. I had Keith Gray recommended to me, and chose this one.

What's it about? Kenny, Sim, Blake and Ross are friends, but Ross has just died. The novel starts just after his funeral when the remaining three decide to kidnap his ashes and take him to Ross, in Scotland, a place that Ross had always wanted to visit.

They set off from Cleethorpes with tickets in hand, but clearly things go awry and friendships start to fray. There's some hilarity and a lot of chaos. By the end of the novel we've learnt an awful lot about Ross, his death, and his friends.

A reviewer on Goodreads commented that the first 30-50 pages are hard to get into, and I'd definitely agree. I first picked the book up weeks ago, but couldn't get through the first bit. I persevered while on a train and loved the rest of the novel. The first 50 pages are stilted and weird; do push through if you can!

What age range is it for? Due to subject matter I'd recommend it for 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No.

Are any main characters non-white? No, if they are it's not stated.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, but I can't say more because it would be a spoiler.

Is there any sex stuff? Not explicitly. The boys talk about girls and there's some tame kissing and stuff.

Is there any talk of death? Yep - it's sort of the premise.

Are there swear words? Yes, but they're not frequent.

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely. The boys' friendship and passion is really lovely, There's genuinely funny and genuinely sad moments, and I love how it's a pretty typical road trip novel, albeit with a different premise and set in the North of the UK.

How many stars? A good 8 out of 10.

Where is the book going now? I will keep it for now, but probably loan it out!

Young Adult Literature Conference 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Sunday 19th July I went to YALC, the Young Adult Literature Conference. It was part of London Film and Comic Con and was running for the second year. I couldn't go all weekend, but Sunday was filled with lots of interesting panels for me, anyway.

I'll start at the beginning. I don't really like London, or trains, or hotels by myself, or crowds, or anything associated with this kind of thing! But I still did it, and I read this post by Jess Hearts Books which helped a lot. I was also asking my friend Lucinda (who was there all weekend) what it was like. I got the train from Sheffield to St Pancras on Saturday evening, then got the tube to Earl's Court. The hotel I'd booked was clean enough, although basic, and had been cheap (£53 for a single room). In the morning, I got a taxi to the Olympia and went to the YALC queue, which was apart from the main LFCC queue.

I got in, swapped my eTicket for a wristband, and got into the lift to go to the YALC floor. It was around 10.25, so I went straight into the main area for the first panel. The event was all in one room, with screens to make different areas. The main area had around 800 seats, but for the first panel only around 200 were taken.

The main area for panels
The panel was on Mental Health issues in YA. Having struggled with mental health issues since I was 8, it's definitely something that I write into my own work. It was nice to see Annabel Pitcher on the panel and hear about her new book Silence is Goldfish - she's from the same area as me and we have mutual friends - I spoke to her later in the day.

The next panel was led by James Dawson and was about sex in YA literature. I really enjoyed listening to different opinions, and some comments on how it isn't always librarians or schools that ban books, but usually pressure from parents. I also appreciated that James gave a trigger warning before the panel started, as it included discussion of rape and sexual assault. That's a good way to keep people safe.

The reading area books!
I sat in the reading corner for a while with some friends, and then I got some lunch and listened to part of the panel on Troubled Teens. I was sitting further back in the main area by this point, and I have to say it was sometimes hard to hear what was being said. I need to feedback to YALC on this point, actually.

At 1pm I went to talk to an agent about my work, which was really positive - next year I hope to be pitching a book to one!

The LGBT in YA panel was next, and it was interesting, but it needed more intersectionality. I did like Den Patrick's point that LGBTQ+ people have always existed and therefore deserve to be found in fantasy (which often takes its inspiration from medieval England).

After that I was really tired, so I just hung out for the rest of the day. There was definitely enough space to do that though, which is part of what made it so good for me. I spent a lot of time at the bookstalls, and as it was coming to the close of the con, I managed to get some real bargains! I recommend sticking around for this if you can!

In this picture you can see all the books that I got. All of the Above is a chapter sample booklet thing, and I got some bookmarks too. I bought Music and Lies just as we were leaving - it's about a music festival so right up my street. I'll be reviewing it soon. The next two I got free thanks to a friend of Lucinda's. Twist is a modern retelling of Oliver Twist. Under My Skin I bought after the LGBT panel so that James could sign it for me. I bought The House of Silk as I've never read anything by Anthony Horowitz and it was reduced to £2. I enjoyed We Were Liars by E Lockhart so picked up these two new ones. When I Was Me looked interesting and was also reduced, and Malala's story is definitely something I'm interested in. Quite a nice little haul I think!

I can't wait until next year; I'll definitely go all weekend!

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