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When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman - Review

Monday, October 26, 2015

Where did I get it? I bought it at YALC I think. 

What's it about? Ella Samson is an ordinary 17 year old girl, she's at 6th form college, she has divorced parents, she has a best friend called Deeta and an on/off boyfriend called Billy. Except she wakes up one morning and everything is different. Her parents are still together, her best friends are called Rachel and Jen, and even her hair and her room are different. Is she ill? In a parallel universe? If she is, can she get home? Can she find her old friends and Billy? And what's with the old woman who says she knows Ella?

What age range is it for? 14+

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

Are any main characters non-white? It's not mentioned.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not explicit

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, somewhat

Are there swear words? Not many 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, it's a pretty decent read.  

How many stars? 8 out of 10, it's well written and I'd pick up another book by Freeman. 

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani - Review

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Where did I get it? I bought it

What's it about? Sonia has an Indian dad and a Jewish mum, and while she's always been at a private, Montessori type school, she's now in public school and learning how to deal with that, as well as how to deal with being asked questions like "what are you?" and "where are you from?" Her dad is quite ill mentally, which is skillfully done, and Sonia is growing up, challenging her parents' rules, and learning who her real friends are. 

What age range is it for? Anything from 10 - 13 I think. 

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

Are any main characters non-white? Yes, one of the main premises.  

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes as I mentioned, Sonia's dad has depression.

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, and suicide. 

Are there swear words? No.

Would I recommend the book? Yes, it's a really excellent example of a diverse middle grade book.  

How many stars? 8 out of 10. I'd definitely read something else by this author. 

In Bloom by Matthew Crow - Review

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Where did I get it? Janet gave me it when we met up in Leicester.  

What's it about? Okay, so. The blurb says "Francis Wootton's first memory is of Kurt Cobain's death, and there have since been other hardships much closer to home.
At fifteen years old he already knows all about loss and rejection - and to top it all off he has a permanently broke big brother, a grandma with selective memory (and very selective social graces) and a mum who's at best an acquired taste. Would-be poet, possible intellectual, and definitely wasted in Tyne and Wear, Francis has grown used to figuring life out on his own.
Lower Fifth is supposed to be his time, the start of an endless horizon towards whatever-comes-next. But when he is diagnosed with leukaemia that wide-open future suddenly narrows, and a whole new world of worry presents itself.
There's the horror of being held back a year at school, the threat of imminent baldness, having to locate his best shirt in case a visiting princess or pop-star fancies him for a photo-op . . . But he hadn't reckoned on meeting Amber - fierce, tough, one-of-a-kind Amber - and finding a reason to tackle it all - the good, the bad, and everything in between - head on.
In Bloom is a bright, funny, painful, and refreshing novel about wanting the very best from life, even when life shows you how very bad it can be. It is a novel about how to live".

However, there's very little mention of the Kurt Cobain thing at all, so I don't know why it's so prominent on the book itself. Francis is about to go into Year 10, only he's not very well, and is diagnosed with leukaemia. He spends time on a ward having treatment, and meets Amber and her family, and falls in love with Amber. That's the whole thing, basically. 

What age range is it for? 13+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Francis' brother Chris (who is actually far more interesting than Francis), but it isn't mentioned much. It is nice to see a gay character in a novel set in the North East, though. 

Are any main characters non-white? Not as far as I recall.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I suppose both Francis and Amber are made somewhat disabled by their illnesses, but it isn't mentioned much. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, but it's not explicit (hence my low age rating)

Are drugs mentioned or used? Not really

Is there any talk of death? Yes

Are there swear words? Very rare, also leading to my low end of teenage rating 

Would I recommend the book? No. I didn't enjoy it at all. One problem was the misleading blurb, which bore little relation to the rest of the novel. Secondly, I didn't feel Francis was a convincing teenager. He was too Adrian Mole, too Morrissey, to be real. I also felt like the timelines were all over the place with not a lot of signposting when time moved on. I felt that the medical side was really lacking - Francis has "treatment" but there's no explanation as to what, exactly, and then he feels awful for the rest of the novel but there's not much description of that, either. Also, given that this was published in 2013, if Francis' first memory was when he was four, by 2013 he was 23. That's off for YA fiction. Finally, the epilogue just really bugged me. 

How many stars? 4 out of 10. Being generous.  

Where is the book going now? I'm passing it on to a friend who wants to read it - I think she'll like it, and especially Francis, more than me!

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley - Review

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much Harlequin books! 

What's it about? Toni and Gretchen have been together since junior year of high school, and they're about to go to university in Boston together. Only then Gretchen says she's going to New York University, but they're determined to stay together. Toni doesn't use pronouns for anyone (which is a bit odd to read at first but then you get used to it), and when Toni arrives at Harvard, Toni joins an LGBTQ+ association and makes some friends. Toni starts to think hard about what Toni's gender presentation is, and how that affects Toni's life and Gretchen's. The story is told in alternating chapters, with some flashbacks to high school. 

What age range is it for? 15+, right up to 19, as that's the approximate age of the protagonists.  

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Obviously yes. in fact, there's a whole range of genders and sexualities represented, all equally valid, but not in a way that feels preachy or forced. I will warn and say that Gretchen's friend Carroll is really transphobic in a number of places. 

Are any main characters non-white? Yep, a few. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, but it's not explicit 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No, in fact I think it's self-censored in a couple of places. For instance, in one of Toni's parts there's a line like "I utter a few swear words". 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely. If you're a teen questioning gender, it's probably invaluable because lots of stuff is talked about. If your partner is questioning their gender, likewise. Gretchen often shies away from asking questions because she doesn't want to upset Toni. If you're a teen who just likes in-depth prose, this is definitely worth it, you'll probably learn something.

I also loved how Toni and Gretchen were at college - that's not something I see often in YA. It made an effective end to how they'd been at high school and made life a lot more open for them. I liked how Toni was stressed about life at Harvard quite apart from the gender stuff. I liked how Gretchen went out in New York. 

How many stars? 9 out of 10. Practically perfect!

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens - Review

Monday, October 5, 2015

Where did I get it? I bought it after reading good reviews. 

What's it about? Set in the 1930s, Daisy and Hazel are detectives and have at this point solved two mysteries (hence the subtitle "A murder most unladylike mystery"), one of which took place at Daisy's home. In this book, Hazel's father takes Hazel and Daisy on the Orient Express, where one of their fellow passengers is murdered. Daisy and Hazel must battle Hazel's father, who wants them to behave, as well as other detectives, to unravel the mystery of the locked sleeping compartment where the passenger died. Six suspects each have a reason for wanting her dead - so who did it? 

What age range is it for? 9+, it's very gentle and suitable for fans of the Famous Five and so on. If I was ten years old I would be ALL OVER this series! 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Nope

Are any main characters non-white? Yes - Hazel is from Hong Kong and there's quite a few references to the racism she encounters and how England is very strange to her. It's very nicely done. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so, but I could be wrong 

Is there any sex stuff? No.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, as a murder has occurred. However, it's not done in a gory fashion at all.  

Are there swear words? Not at all. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. Daisy and Hazel are both likable characters and there's a lovely slowness to the prose which would be perfect for an older child.  

How many stars? 8 out of 10. It's definitely a good middle grade novel and I'll look out for the others in the series.

Where is the book going now? I'll probably keep it, I like the cover a lot!

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