Monday, 4 May 2015

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You, Todd Hasak-Lowy

Pages: 656
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 23rd April 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Darren hasn’t had an easy year. His parents divorced, his brother left for college, and his best friend moved state. Also, he still doesn’t have a girlfriend. Then his dad shows up at 6am with a glazed chocolate donut and a pretty world-shaking revelation.

In full freak-out mode, Darren ditches school and jumps on a bus to visit his brother, Nate, at college. But someone weird/amazing comes along for the ride.

Told entirely in lists, this hilarious novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone is: 1. Painful 2. Unavoidable 3. Ridiculously complicated 4. Possibly, hopefully, the right thing after all.

This debut had so much promise: told entirely in lists, a world-rocking secret and a fab book trailer, but I really didn’t get on with Me Being Me.

A novel told entirely in lists is a form that has so much potential, both to go very right and very wrong, and it didn’t fall on either side for this novel. It just felt a little unnecessary to me. The lists were lists, but only technically; they were almost pieces of flash fiction in the novel – they were a narrative itself. For the epic length of the book I was expecting short, sharp, poignant lists and not the wordiness that I got. I kind of felt that if that amount of prose was what the author wanted then why didn’t he just stick with the traditional form? The only time those shorter, more concise lists came up was when there seemed to be stalling in some way. There were lots of lists that really gave nothing to the plot and didn’t develop the characters of their relationships at all, for me.

The lists that comprise this novel tell us all about Darren and the fall out of a 6am visit from his dad. I’m going to talk about that revelation now so if you don’t want to know, skip this paragraph! There are spoilers ahead. Darren’s parents are recently divorced and on this early morning visit, the reason becomes clear: Darren’s dad is gay. I have to admit that I really didn’t like how this was dealt with. Though it was likely unintentional, I felt like Darren’s reaction was borderline homophobic. He claimed to be fine with it and yet he called his dad a freak several times and was constantly worried about people thinking he might be gay too – what would people think of him now? Obviously, this isn’t an easy revelation to deal with, but I just don’t think it was approached in quite the right way.

I also had a few issues with Darren’s approach to girls. Darren spends the entire novel mooning over Zoey, a manic pixie dream girl if there ever was one. We hardly get an idea of what she’s actually like, just Darren’s feelings about how she would be even prettier with ‘normal’ hair and without her piercings. He also judged a lot of other girls in his class and at camp by how they looked – wishing they would alter themselves in some way to make them more appealing to him, even if he admired their talent or intelligence or enjoyed interacting with them. It really set me on edge, and though I finished Me Being Me, it was a struggle.

Me Being Me wasn’t for me but I have no doubt that lots of other people will fall head over heels for Darren’s humour and haplessness and the unusual format of the novel.

Thanks to S&S and NetGalley for the review copy.


Sophie 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Letterbox Love #87

Letterbox Love is a way to show you all of the lovely, lovely books I’ve gotten in the post, bought and everything else over the last week. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. Hosted by Narratively Speaking.

For review:

Extraordinary Means, Robyn Schneider (e-proof)

A bittersweet, coming-of-age novel that’s perfect for fan of John Green and Stephen Chbosky.

When he’s sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may well be over.

But when he meets Sadie and her friends – a group of eccentric troublemakers – he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn’t have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure.

Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances.

I really loved Severed Heads, Broken Hearts so I’m really looking forward to this. Thanks S&S and NetGalley!

An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir (proof)

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice. But when Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commander ruthless and deadly overseer of Blackcliff Academy.

Elias is the Academy’s finest soldier – and secretly it’s most unwilling. He has seen too much at on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite warriors and is desperate to escape the Academy. If he succeeds, he will be named a deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power. Now they must find a new Emperor to rule over them. And before Elias can escape he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to the death that will decide the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high. Sometimes it’s life itself.

Cannot WAIT for this - I didn’t even know this was being published in the UK! Thanks Harper Voyager!

Bought:

The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (paperback)

When a freak cosmic event renders most of Earth’s population blind, Bill Masen is one of the lucky few to retain his sight. The London he walks is crammed with groups of men and women needing help, some ready to prey on those who can still see. But another menace stalks blind and sighted alike. With nobody to stop their spread, the Triffids – mobile plants with lethal stingers and carnivorous appetites – seem set to wipe out the survivors.

The Day of the Triffids is perhaps the most famous catastrophe novel of the twentieth century and its startling imagery of desolate streets and lurching, lethal plant life retains its power to haunt today.

So looking forward to this! I remember loving a TV adaptation of this yonks ago, and Stacey of the Pretty Books recently read it and reminded me of how much I fancied it! Also, I love these editions of Wyndham’s novels.


Sophie 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Joe All Alone, Joanna Nadin

Pages: 233
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: 7th May 2015
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: the Rachel Riley series, the Penny Dreadful series, Wonderland and many more!

No parents, no rules… no problem?

When 13-year-old Joe is left behind in Peckham while his mum flies to Spain on holiday, he decides to treat it as an adventure, and a welcome break from Dean, her latest boyfriend. Joe begins to explore his neighbourhood, making a tentative friendship with Asha, a fellow fugitive hiding out at her grandfather’s flat.

But then the food and money run out, his mum doesn’t come home, and the local thugs catch up with him. Joe realises time is running out too, and makes a decision that Will change his life forever.

Joe All Alone was my first of Joanna Nadin’s books and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Joe’s narration is so personable and easy to read that I whizzed through it in about two hours! He’s a sweet, awkward boy who’s fumbling his way into being a teenager without the advantages of a supportive, loving family and a group of friends that have his back and I really felt for him. Joe’s mum isn’t horrible at all and she isn’t completely neglectful; Joe says that it wasn’t like this before Dean, and that’s a really interesting thread in the story. How severely a person can be influenced by someone in their lives and completely turn their personality around – their character isn’t good or bad, this way or that – is something that isn’t often discussed in early teen novels.

Joanna Nadin set up some really interesting conversations for younger readers both with Joe’s mum and Dean’s attitude. It is made clear by Joe throughout the novel that making friends with Asha is a risk for him because Asha is black and Dean is racist. With issues of race, social situation and education in run-down areas of south-east London and crime, Joe All Alone is an important book that I sincerely hope makes its way into libraries.

Joe doesn’t get a traditional, cheesy happy ending, but he I think he the right one: the life-affirming one that makes you believe in the right things. Definitely give this one a go!

Thanks to Little, Brown for the review copy!


Sophie 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Book Blind Date (Giveaways!)

Today I have something a little different, and a lot exciting, for you guys.

Book Blind Dates!

Inspired by some of the fantastic tables in bookshops, I’ve wrapped up some recent (last two-ish years) YA reads with a few clues and you get to have them! Here they are:

1. GONE

2. GONE

3. GONE

4. GONE

5. Contemporary/Diversity/Mental illness
For fans of: Wonder

6. GONE

7. GONE

8. GONE

9. GONE

All you need to do is leave a comment with a way for me to contact you, preferably a Twitter handle or an email address, and which number book parcel you would like me to send you! You can have as many as you like – it is first come, first served!

As I’ll be mailing out all nine books myself I do have to limit it to the UK, I’m afraid.

Comment away and hopefully you’ll discover something you wouldn’t normally pick up and fall in love!


Sophie 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

All the Rage, Courtney Summers

Pages: 336
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: 14th April 2015
Edition: US e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Cracked Up to Be, Some Girls Are, This is Not a Test

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything – friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of his assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time – and they certainly won’t now – but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Nothing I write here will come close to describing the range of powerful emotions that Romy’s story elicits, but I’ll give it a go.

All the Rage is written in beautifully sparse and haunting prose, split between ‘Before’ and ‘Now’. Dividing the two periods of time is the legendary party, Wake Lake, and the person Romy is in each. I loved how Summers made clear the staggering effect Romy’s assault had on her – before she was ‘I’ and after ‘she’ – she no longer recognising herself. What an incredible way to get that feeling across.

Romy struggles to keep herself together in the aftermath of her rape. She’s been branded a liar, lost all of her friends and the whole school, and lots of other people in town, hate her. The only control she has left is the routine of building her armour out of flawless nail polish and lipstick in a violent, blood read. It’s a ritual that occurs throughout the novel, but most significantly, it’s the final scene of the novel, repeated word for word from when it was introduced in the beginning and followed by a short, powerful command from Romy that took my breath away. She takes strength from that armour and she’s going to use it, it’ll make her stronger.

And yet I think it’s the whole rape culture that All the Rage highlights that has the most impact. It makes the book and uncomfortable, scary read because everything Summers demonstrates is true. Romy wasn’t believed when she reported her rape, even her best friend abandoned her. The sheriff, the father of Romy’s rapist, refused to even consider the possibility and everyone is under his thumb. When a girl goes missing and the events of that night at Wake Lake come to light, there is talk of that girl being raped and it’s thrown down immediately. The radio discussions of the case blame it on the alcohol, the expected circumstances of a party like that, the clothes girls wear to this party – everything but the fact that it could happened and someone would have committed that act. It scares Romy so much that she wishes a newborn baby girl wasn’t born a girl because this is the world she’ll have to live in. The title of this novel perfectly sums up Romy’s feelings about how she was treated, but also the rage of every person in this situation, every reader of this novel, every girl and woman living in this world right now.

All the Rage is powerful, important and deeply affecting. I sincerely hope Courtney Summers will be picked up by a UK publisher soon – her books are too significant to be missing from UK shelves.

Thanks to NetGalley and St Martin’s Griffin for the review copy.


Sophie