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Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson - Review

Monday, May 11, 2020

Where did I get it? I think I said previously that I bought a few books from Round Table Books that were on the Carnegie longlist, and this was one of them. I haven't actually read any of Lisa's other books before, although I own The Art of Being Normal and it's even signed as I've met Lisa a couple of times. I've just never got around to reading it, but now I think I might do! I have read Floored, which Lisa was one of the contributing authors of. 

What's it about? Ro Snow is fourteen and lives with her mum, Bonnie. The two of them aren't close. Bonnie is a compulsive hoarder and the house is a mess. Ro can't have a bath because there's stuff in it, she can't remember the colour of the carpet in the hallway, and she lives in constant fear of Bonnie dying under a mountain of stuff. She also lives in fear of Social Services being told about the neglect she's suffering, so she very much keeps herself to herself. Bonnie is a singer but often overspends as part of her hoarding, and the two of them don't have a lot of spare money. 

Ro's dad is around, Ro sees him once a month. He lives with his wife Melanie and her daughter Izzy, who he regards as his own daughter. He's not very caring towards Ro and seems content with his perfect life and new family. Ro keeps her room locked, and perfectly clean, and doesn't have any friends.

Then some new people move in next door, and Ro gets friendly with new boy Noah. He's at boarding school, though, so she doesn't see a lot of him. She's just starting Year 10 and there's a new girl in her class, Tanvi. Well, she's not exactly new, she's been ill and is back at school after recovering from cancer. She and Ro get seated together and she is determined to crack Ro's high walls and be friends with her. Tanvi is adorable, I really liked her. She pushes Ro and I loved how their friendship grew. 

I loved Ro. I felt sorry for her, and I understood why she was like she was, but I also found her brave, and plucky, and in need of a hug. I thought both her parents were awful, but I also thought Bonnie was a good character. Hoarding compulsively is a serious mental illness and I thought that was well put across in the book. This is an excellent YA book. There are so many teenagers who fly under the radar when they really shouldn't, for whatever reason, and this book shone a spotlight upon a story that readers might identify with. 

What age range is it for? Ro is fourteen, so I'm going to say from there. It is in parts a difficult book to read. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Tanvi is Hindu - this is a lovely part of the book and I really liked her and her family. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Bonnie obviously has mental health problems. It's written really well and I felt sorry for her while I also felt really sorry for Ro. I think Ro understands that her mother is ill even while she is angry and frustrated with her - a condition that I understand a lot from my own life. 

Is there any sex stuff? Not at all. 

Are drugs mentioned or used?  No 

Is there any talk of death? A little bit, it is a tiny bit graphic but it's really small. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? I have really few, so really I'm just nitpicking, but at times I thought Ro read as older than fourteen going on fifteen. This could be partly because of everything she's been through, but I'm not sure. But then there's a bit where she's arguing with someone, and it was so perfectly like a fourteen year old that I thought it was amazing. 

I was also confused about where exactly it was set. It's set in a fictional place called Ostborough, and Ro goes to Birmingham and then to London, in a way that makes it seem like Birmingham is closer to her home. But I would have liked a little bit more clarity on that. 

I would have also liked a little bit more description about what the house looked like so that I could picture it better. It's supposed to look awful from the outside, but I didn't quite understand why. I would have liked a bit more there - was there stuff in the garden or was it just a general air of neglect?

But I am just being picky because in all I really enjoyed this book. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. I told a friend of mine who is a teacher and who works with kids who are in need of extra support that she should read it immediately. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Because I'm determined to read all these Carnegie books as soon as I can! 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute, I like the blue and yellow. It fits with Lisa's other books (although the copy of the book I have is a different - hardback - one)

What other books is it like? Oooh gosh. It reminded me of something by Sarah Crossan, although it's in prose not poetry. 

How many stars? Five out of five. I loved it. I couldn't stop reading it. Stephanie from A Little But A Lot has started a new YA chat on Sunday evenings on Twitter which I'm always late for, but she recently asked about why we give five star ratings. It made me think, because sometimes, I'm not sure whether to give a four or a five. They're both ratings that mean I've really enjoyed the book, so what makes a book jump to five from four? Often, it's just about feelings. If a book has made me really feel something, then I'll give it a five. And this made me feel a lot of things. 

Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it! 

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