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Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell - Review

Monday, August 31, 2015

Where did I get it? I saw on Goodreads that Kath had liked it because the protagonist is fat, so I scoured eBay for it. 

What's it about? Riley Rose is a rebel. Finding things hard after the death of her mum and her dad's new
girlfriend moves in, she rebels by staying out all night, drinking, going to parties, all of that stuff. Norma, her dad's girlfriend, thinks that Jesus Camp is the best place for her, so she's packed off. There she meets bullies, people who are far too much into Jesus for her liking, and Dylan, who is hot, and who is disabled. She's dead set on rebelling at camp, too, but maybe she's not as much of a badass as she'd like to think. She's unapologetically plus size, which I liked.

What age range is it for? A mature 14.  

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? It's not said 

Are any main characters non-white? Yes, although it's a bit clumsily done. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Dylan, and it's handled sensitively.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, two incidences, and I think they're both extremely well written. One is really beautiful, too!

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, but it's not explicit or gory. 

Are there swear words? A few, not many.

Would I recommend the book? Yes, I liked it. Riley is a likeable character mostly because she is so flawed, and I liked reading a YA novel set in Australia. 

How many stars? 8 out of 10 

Where is the book going now? I'm not sure - I'll probably keep it

A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks - Review

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

As mentioned previously, I will sometimes review adult books that I think teenagers could read and enjoy. I will try to raise issues as I do with my YA reviews, but all these reviews come with a caveat. Teenagers aren't stupid, and I won't review anything that I think is explicitly too inappropriate for them.

I read A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks for my book club, and probably would never have picked it up otherwise as its not my usual cup of tea. I really struggled to get into it at first, as the prose style is a bit strange and the narrative is very dense. Once I got through that, I really enjoyed the novel.

Where did I get it? Penistone Library, not far from my house!

What's it about? Eyam in Derbyshire is known as The Plague Village because, when the Plague hit in 1665, the village chose to isolate itself and let no one in or out so that the contagion didn't spread to nearby towns and villages. In Brooks' vivid novel based on these true events, housemaid Anna Frith loses her husband in a mining accident and takes in a lodger to support her family. He dies of the Plague, probably due to flea-infested fabric, and it spreads rapidly. Anna becomes friendly with her employers, the Rector and his wife Elinor, and she and Elinor take over as the village's medicinal women after predecessors Mem and Anys die. 

What age range is it for? 15+ I would say. When Anna gets married, she is 15, and is not much over 19 by the time the novel ends. I think it's interesting for teens to see what someone their age would have been doing in the past - in this case, getting married, having two children, and becoming a widow!  

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Nope. 

Are any main characters non-white? Nope.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, both. 

Is there any sex stuff? A little bit, but it's not very explicit. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, except for natural remedies. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, obviously. A lot of the Plague deaths are gory, and there are several other violent deaths. The bit with the knife on the moor.... was very gory for me, and I'm not usually bothered. There's also some talk about childbirth, so bear that in mind too. 

Are there swear words? I don't think so. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, I liked it and it was interesting to read about the Plague and about Eyam, and also about how everyone had a job to do in such a village.

How many stars? 8 out of 10, once I got through the denseness. 

Where is the book going now? Back to the library from whence it came! 

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel - Review

Thursday, August 20, 2015

So, I don't always read YA literature, I probably read half YA and half other fiction. I like literary fiction and I love crime novels (the gorier the better). When I was a teenager I read mostly adult novels, including some which are still my favourites (like 1984 by George Orwell and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath), and I think teenagers deserve access to appropriate adult novels as much as they deserve access to YA literature.

With that in mind, I've decided I will review adult novels that I think are suitable for older teens, and I will flag up content that may be difficult for readers. If you're a parent, librarian, or teacher, I'm sure you can discern whether a particular teen is ready for a certain book - I hope to help that in a small way!

So recently I read Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel and I loved it. I want everyone to read it! I've lent it to my 19 year old Eng Lit student cousin. Here's my review:

Where did I get it? I bought it. 

What's it about? A man playing King Lear dies on stage in Toronto and a trainee paramedic goes to help him, watched by a little girl playing one of the King's daughters. Later, the paramedic is told that a flu has arrived from Eastern Europe and is rapidly killing off the population. Twenty years later, the little girl is now in a travelling Shakespeare theatre company, in a country where only 10% of the population survived and where people have congregated in abandoned towns defended fiercely. The theatre company keeps moving, playing music and performing Shakespeare, in some kind of homage to the past. We learn about the actor playing King Lear and those around him, all of whose stories are woven tightly together.

What age range is it for? 15+, I would think. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, although it's not explicit until quite close to the end. 

Are any main characters non-white? Yes.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, quite a few are after the epidemic

Is there any sex stuff? Very little.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, that's sort of the premise. Some are more violent than others, so be warned for violence. I must also raise a warning for suicide. 

Are there swear words? A few, but not many. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely. It's a fantastic example of a post-apocalyptic novel (something which I've longed enjoyed) and deserves its place alongside something like The Handmaid's Tale or even the Hunger Games trilogy. If you like those novels, I would recommend this for you. 

How many stars? 9 out of 10 - fantastic. 

Where is the book going now? It's currently with my cousin, but I'll be after it back! 

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - Review

Monday, August 10, 2015

Where did I get it? My gorgeous friend Janet sent it to me because she knew I'd love it. 

What's it about? Simon is gay, and has been emailing with Blue for a few months when Martin, someone he barely knows, sees the emails on a school computer and starts blackmailing him: he'll tell everyone Simon is gay if Simon doesn't help him get together with Abby. Simon goes along with it because he doesn't want to be outed, even though he has a pretty supportive family. He keeps emailing Blue, and is falling for him. 

What age range is it for? 15+, I'd think. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Well duh, it's kind of the premise.

Are any main characters non-white? Yes, very much so. Simon's high school is in Georgia and seems pretty diverse. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think there's mentions of both, but I could be wrong. 

Is there any sex stuff? Very little.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No. 

Is there any talk of death? No.

Are there swear words? Yes, quite a few. Simon usually says 'freaking', so you can tell when he's really angry and says 'fuck'. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, I absolutely loved it and want everyone to read it. 

How many stars? 10 out of 10 - not because I think it's perfect, because no book is, but because it is very very close to perfection. 

Where is the book going now? I promised it to my 15 year old stepcousin Nirosha :) 

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu - Review

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Where did I get it? Amazon, I pre-ordered it on the recommendation of my friend Angie, so had it in my hands on release day!


What's it about? Rachel is one of the oldest girls in her large, fundamentalist Christian family. She's homeschooled and expected to take care of her younger siblings. One Sunday in church, one of her peers is just back from Jesus Camp and repenting his sins. Rachel starts thinking, and remembers a girl who left the church but who has moved back to the area. Rachel isn't really allowed unsupervised access to the computer, but snatches time here and there to google the girl who left and read her blog. 

What age range is it for? It would depend on the teen, I think. Anything from 14+, but it would be useful to have a conversation about spiritual abuse. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No.

Are any main characters non-white? No.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No.

Is there any sex stuff? No.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? No.

Are there swear words? Very few. Like maybe two instances. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely

How many stars? An excellent 9 out of 10.

Where is the book going now? It's currently with my friend Lucinda who expressed an interest in reading it. 

Music and Lies (George and Finn #1) by Gill-Marie Stewart - Review

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Where did I get it? From YALC. I started reading it on the way home! I picked it up because my own work is about a band, and this is about a music festival.

What's it about? Georgina is fifteen and tells her parents a couple of lies each so that she can go and stay at her dad's empty house to get some revision in. When she gets there, her stepsister Becky and her boyfriend Dex are there. They decide to take George to a music festival so they can look after her.

George is really excited about this, but soon gets involved in dodgy things going on at the festival. She meets the mysterious Finn and his cousins Marcus and Cami. She starts to investigate what Dex and Marcus are really up to.

Stewart self-published this book and I think it may have struggled to find a publisher; I would cut it down somewhat. There seemed to be quite a few pages where nothing happened, or where the 2nd narrator (Finn) repeated what the first (George) had just put across.

This is the first in a series, but I didn't like it enough to go seeking the rest, even though I liked Finn a lot.

What age range is it for? Due to subject matter I'd recommend it for 16+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No.

Are any main characters non-white? Not explicitly, and this may be just me, but I was completely imagining Finn as mixed race; white and South Asian. You could believe that his cousins were, too. I don't know if this was deliberate by the author, but for me they were read ambiguously.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and it needs a trigger warning for sexual assault.

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes - a few characters smoke weed and one at least has a harder habit, and there are drug dealers as main characters.

Is there any talk of death? Some, but not much.

Are there swear words? Yes, lots. It's another thing that I feel wouldn't have got past a mainstream publisher.

Would I recommend the book? Yes, if the reader was discerning enough for the language and subject matter.

How many stars? A solid 6 out of 10.

Where is the book going now? I'll probably swap it somewhere before long.
 

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