Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Thank You

We have reached the end of Contemporary YA Month. I’m pleased to say that it’s been a success and I’ve loved hosting it. I set out to highlight some of the fantastic contemporary YA that’s been written and published over the last couple of years that has been a little over-looked, quite often by me, too. I think I did it. I had some fantastic guest posts from long-time lovers of the genre as well as warmly welcomed newbie’s and I managed to get around to reading some of those contemps that I’d bought ages ago and never quite gotten around to. But I couldn’t have done it on my own.

I’d first like to thank to lovely ladies who wrote fantastic guest posts for me: Luisa Plaja, Emma Pass, Catherine Bruton, Clover of Fluttering Butterflies and Hannah of My Book Journey. We heard about those authors that kick-started a love affair with contemporary YA, current favourites, legendary authors and why it’s so popular.

Clover’s Favourite Contemporary YA Authors

Then we had Viv from Serendipity Reviews whom guest-reviewed a contemporary YA classic (that I still haven’t read!): Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and I Want to Read That’s Sammee who reviewed Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life for us. Thank you!

Then half-way through the month, we had a So Many Books, So Little Time first: a cover reveal. I was the first to show the brand new cover of Keris Stainton’s upcoming Emma Hearts LA, which I know many people are very excited about (including me). Isn’t it fantastic? Emma Hearts LA will be released June 7th by Orchard Books.

You’re all probably wondering what on earth I did contribute now, aren’t you? I waxed lyrical about the two authors who I credit for making me fall in love with contemporary YA before I even really knew what it was, before blogging and before the term YA was even coined. I owe Sarah Dessen and Sarra Manning a lot really and in these rather fan-girly posts, I tell you exactly why.

I also managed to review quite a few examples of contemporary YA. There was a mixture of the old and the new and I’m pleased to say that a few authors and books have been added to my favourites list.

Rockaholic, CJ Skuse

The best bit is that these twelve books are only a tiny, tiny sample of what’s out there at the moment. Although it's cheesy, there really is a contemp YA novel out there for everybody. All you have to do is look at some of the fantastic ones we’ve got coming out this year: Nobody’s Girl by Sarra Manning, Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton, Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles, the Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg, Wonder by RJ Palacio, This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees, A Midsummer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison and so many, many more.

And now for the biggest thank you of all: to everyone who read, commented, tweeted, re-tweeted and followed during the course of every month. I read and appreciate every comment and every effort to help me spread the word brought a smile to my face. Contemporary YA Month really wouldn’t have worked without you all, thank you.


Monday, 30 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Rockaholic - CJ Skuse

Rockaholic – CJ Skuse

Pages: 365
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 7th March 2011

Other Titles by this Author: Pretty Bad Things

Jody’s obsessed with a rock star.

At Jackson Gaitlin’s concert, she’s right at the front. But when she’s caught in the crush, Jody’s carried backstage. Throw in concussion, a super-wired superstar, and a Curly Wurly – and she finds herself taking home more than a poster.

OMG! Jody’s kidnapped him. But what happens when the rock star in her garage doesn’t want to leave?

Jody’s stuck between a rock idol and a hard place!

CJ Skuse’s second novel is just as brilliantly mad-cap and filled to the brim with laughs as her first.

I have to say that one of the things I looked forward to the most while reading Rockaholic was starting a new chapter because the titles are made of awesome. I mean, you don't come across many books that have chapter titles like ‘Too Posh To Mosh’, ‘Softly, Softy, Catch a Junkie’ and ‘Jody Pothead and the Half-Assed Snail’ very often, do you? I love them – they’re utterly brilliant.

Jody is completely nutty – in the best way, of course.  The way she stumbled into kidnapping Jackson was absolutely hilarious and I can’t imagine it happening to many other people, but her, definitely. Her all-consuming love for Jackson Gaitlin and his band The Regulators is beyond anything I can comprehend – she’s obsessed. Her conviction in them is amazing. It wasn’t just this that made her stand out though. Jody has left school after finishing her GCSE’s and is now working full time and that is not something that I’ve come across very often, if at all, in YA and it really threw me.

Though I don’t recall ever really feeling the way about a band that Jody does, I definitely remember that single-minded conviction that some person, someone completely out of reach, if utterly perfect for you. That that person will complete you and fix everything wrong in our life. Jody gets the shock o her life when he’s not the dream she imagined and I was heart-broken for her. Even after Jody’s experiences, I’m still convinced that my hero, in a different way to how Jody sees Jackson, will be just as amazing as I imagine if, *when*, I get to meet her. I’d be curious to see if anyone can guess who she is...?

 With brilliant escapades, characters to fall in love with and YA references scattered throughout, Rockaholic is a lovely way to see out Contemp YA Month.

Thank you to Chicken House for providing me with a review copy.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Guest Review - Clover's Favourite Contemp YA Authors

Today I would like to welcome the ever-lovely Clover who blogs over at Fluttering Butterflies. She is going to share with us the contemporary YA authors who have stolen her heart. Over to her:

First of all, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Sophie for having me on her blog today! I adore Sophie's blog and I love the idea of Contemp YA month. I'm so pleased to be here and to be writing about a subject that I love!

I would describe myself as a pretty diverse reader; I enjoy paranormals and dystopian fiction. I've been known to read science-fiction and fantasy. I read books for younger readers; I read adult fiction and even the occasional non-fiction book. But, my favourite is by far contemporary YA. I just connect to it emotionally better than anything else and for me that is the deciding factor between books that I love and books that are just all right. And contemporary books are so diverse anyway, there is so much to explore and enjoy! I thought today, I would write just a little bit about some of my favourite contemporary YA authors. 

Melina Marchetta - I think Melina Marchetta is a genius, I really do. How on earth does she write such gorgeous stories with such fascinating, interesting and flawed characters? How does she make me care SO MUCH within such a short period of time? 

I read Looking For Alibrandi first, and I was awed. Everything Josephine Alibrandi said or did or thought and I believed it, because it felt real and honest. Saving Francesca instantly became one of my favourite ever books because of the sensitive way in which depression is handled and also this wonderful group of friends that is collected together (not to mention the romance!). And then I read Jellicoe Road and that was it. Jellicoe Road is so amazing there doesn't seem to be the words to describe it. I love the vulnerability of Jellicoe Road, the grief, the relationships, the secrets, just everything about it. But if ever there was a book that destroyed me so utterly and completely, it's The Piper's Son, the companion novel to Saving Francesca. 

With each book of Melina Marchetta's that I read, I find my heart being broken into teeny tiny little pieces and I will never be the same again.

Sarra Manning - I'd heard of Sarra Manning's name before, but I didn't pick up any of her books until I read her first adult novel, Unsticky. I loved it so much that I went immediately to the library and read what I could. I devoured Let's Get Lost and Guitar Girl within days and luckily it wasn't long until Nobody's Girl was published and that book really cemented my love of her stories. I love the complex romantic relationships in her stories and how feisty and wonderful her female characters are. 

Nobody's Girl kept me company during a difficult few days and it made me want to go travelling and meet gorgeous, foreign strangers and fall in love in Paris. I'm dying to read her latest books out in 2012! Get here quicker.

John Green - Hopefully by the time this post is published, I'll have already devoured The Fault in Our Stars, but for now, I'm still patiently (!!) awaiting for my signed book to arrive. I have been a huge nerdfighter since.. forever, really. I love John and Hank's videos and I've sat through them all, despite not getting to them until at least two years in. 

I remember hearing a great deal about Looking For Alaska when it came out in America, but I wasn't all that keen on reading it. For some reason, I thought it to be a book about the wilderness .. in Alaska. I'm an idiot. Looking for Alaska turned out to be a very sweet and awkward story. I think the thing I loved the most about Looking for Alaska, and also John Green's books are the great friendships between male characters. There's great bonding and dialogue there. I read An Abundance of Katherines next and found the maths and the nerdiness really put a smile on my face. And Paper Towns was really something worth waiting for, as I'd witnessed through John's videos, his writing process. When I read Paper Towns, I had John's voice in my head because he'd read aloud the first chapter. My favourite of John Green's books though is probably Will Grayson, Will Grayson that he co-wrote with David Levithan. For the amazing characters and that very special ending. 

Courtney Summers - Now Courtney Summers, she's amazing. I am absolutely in awe of her and her writing. Her books are so emotional and her characters go through such difficulties and as a reader, I feel like I am sucked into her books so completely that I become her main characters. And in doing so, feel and experience everything that her characters have to deal with. 

Picking up Cracked Up To Be was a complete whim on my part. I hadn't heard of the book or the author, but something about it intrigued me. And I remember sprawling on the floor in my computer room reading this book. On the floor, because I couldn't be bothered to get up and sit on a sofa or chair because that would take me away from reading. When I saw she'd published another book, I bought it without even reading the synopsis. It was by Courtney Summers, that's all that mattered. And Some Girls Are was a difficult book to read. There was so much emotion and guilt and heartache that I sobbed. It was one of those ugly and messy cries that take over everything when I read Some Girls Are. 

And while her latest, Fall for Anything, wasn't quite as emotionally impactful as Some Girls Are, I still found myself easily falling into this story of grief and asking the difficult questions after a loved one's suicide. Courtney Summers new novel is apparently about zombies, but I hope she'll return after with that with more contemp!

I don't want this post to be miles long, but there are so many wonderful contemp YA authors out there that I love. Phil Earle's books Being Billy and Saving Daisy are incredible and had me crying like a baby. I love Keren David's books, especially When I Was Joe. I was really amazed by I Am the Messenger and also Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl by Markus Zusak. I adore novels by Keris Stainton and Luisa Plaja and Maureen Johnson. Every time a book comes out by Susane Colasanti or Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott comes out, I do my happy dance. I could happily write forever about my favourite authors, but I shall leave you with this list for now!

Thank you so much, Clover!


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Someone Else's Life - Katie Dale

Someone Else’s Life – Katie Dale

Pages: 478
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 2nd February 2012

One secret can change everything.

When Rosie Kenning’s mother, Trudie, dies of Huntingdon’s disease, her whole world falls apart. Not only does Rosie miss her mum, but now she has to face the fact that she may have inherited the fatal disease herself. Until she discovers that Trudie wasn’t her biological mother at all...Rosie is stunned. Can this be true? Is she grieving for a mother who wasn’t even hers to lose? And if Trudie wasn’t her mother, who is?

But as Rosie delves into her past to discover who she really is, she is faced with a heart-breaking dilemma – to continue living a lie, or to reveal a truth that will shatter the lives of everyone around her...

I’m not entirely sure where to start with Someone Else’s Life. While I appreciated and enjoyed its complexity and emotional intensity, it annoyed me more than I loved it.

Someone Else’s Life is extremely clever. Interspersed between the chapters detailing Rosie’s story are unnamed chapters from the point of view of a character who’s identity we don’t know of. At first, I was completely in the dark. Then I thought it might be her birth mother or maybe even Rosie from before her mother got sick. I was wrong and I was glad to be – it was rather genius, actually. For me, this was one of the strongest aspects of Someone Else’s Life.

It was probably the characters that stopped me from fully enjoying Someone Else’s Life. Rosie really annoyed me. I understood that she was confused, angry and hurting in unimaginable ways, but the way she treated some of the people around her was bordering on awful, especially Andy. An incredibly sweet guy who’s willing to support you through the toughest time in your life blindly and help you in every way you can deserves treasuring, not continually abandoning. I just couldn’t understand how she made the same massive mistake over and over again, well, I could, I just didn’t understand how she couldn’t see what she was doing.

The protagonist of the chapters I mentioned earlier turned into a major component of the novel, turning Someone Else’s Life into a dual narrative, in fact. And I didn't like her either. It would be very difficult to explain exactly why without giving anything away, but she was moody, vindictive and frankly, a bit of a bitch. I mean, she like Rosie had reasons, but it still put my back up. it’s hard to get too emotionally involved with a novel where the two main characters annoy the hell out of me.

Katie Dale saves herself with style, intrigue and cleverness. Someone Else’s Life deals with lots of issues that pose a strong moral debate and the characters response to these situations inspire serious discussion – I couldn’t even begin to imagine making some of the decisions they had to make during the novel. On top of these thoughtful and often deep dilemmas, Katie Dale kept me on a wave of drama. Poor Rosie barely had a moment of down time and I could hardly take a breath between dramas.

I also learnt a lot about something that I knew very little about beforehand: Huntington’s disease. I knew it was degenerative and incurable but that was pretty much it. I now have a much clearer understanding of just how devastating a disease it is for both the sufferer and their family. having your life turned so completely upside down like Rosie’s is unimaginable and I really hope that they find a way to manage or even sure it soon.

While I had some pretty serious problems with Someone Else’s Life, Katie Dale’s style and intelligence is enough to make me want to read more of her books in the future.


Friday, 27 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: How Contemporary YA Got Emma Pass a Book Deal

Today I have Emma Pass, 2012 debut author of ACID, which will be published by Random House in early 2013. 

How Contemporary YA got me a book deal (even though I don’t write it)

First of all, I have a confession to make. Although I count authors such as Keith Gray, Kevin Brooks, Sarah Dessen and John Green among my all-time favourites, ACID, my own YA debut which comes out in 2013, is a dystopian thriller set 100 years in the future. And I’m working on a second novel that runs along similar lines.

So what am I doing writing a blog post about contemporary YA?

I started writing Young Adult fiction in 2002, after struggling for many years to write for adults. Up until then, I wasn’t enjoying my writing or my reading, but I couldn’t work out why. All that changed when I signed up for a short course run by YA and children’s author Linda Newbery – who has written many contemporary novels – and I read some of her books before I went. I enjoyed them so much I tried books by other YA authors… and then more books… and a couple of months after the course, I had a revelation. Why not try writing the contemporary adult novel I’d been struggling with for several years as a contemporary YA novel?

The end result was pretty horrible, and – quite rightly – was rejected by every publisher and agent I sent it to. But I was hooked, and started writing another, also a contemporary YA. This novel never even made it as far as being submitted to publishers, but it did win me a free critique with a leading manuscript assessment and editorial advice service. The feedback I got from them convinced me that I was on the right path and I started a third YA novel – yet another contemporary.

This one did go out on submission. After a few rejections, Carolyn Whitaker of London Independent Books asked to see more. And after working on the book with me for a few months, she started sending it out to publishers.

In the end, it was a near miss. I got some great feedback, but the novel didn’t get picked up, and I started to realise that maybe, as a writer, contemporary wasn’t the right genre for me. So the next novel I started was what would eventually become ACID, which sold in the summer of this year.

But even though I don’t write it any more, I still love to read contemporary YA. My characters might live in a world which has changed drastically from the one we know, but they still fall in love; they still have families; they still have issues; they still have to struggle to figure out the people around them and deal with the consequences when they don’t get it right. For me, the characters are what make the books in any genre work, and contemporary YA has, I hope, taught (and will continue to teach) me a huge amount about how make mine relatable and real. I have a lot to thank it for!

Thanks, Emma!


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

Pages: 276
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (US)
Release Date: 21st December 2010

Other Titles in the Series: It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer

Some summers are just destined to be pretty.

When each summer begins, Belly leaves her school life behind and escapes to Cousins Beach, the place she has spent every summer of her life. Not only does the beach house mean home away from home, but her favourite people are there: Susannah, her mother’s best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been chasing Conrad for as long as she can remember, and more than anything, she hopes this summer will be different. Despite distractions from a guy named Cam and lingering looks from Conrad’s brother, Jeremiah, Belly’s heart belongs to Conrad. Will he offer his to her? Will this be the summer that changes everything?

I had heard endless good things about Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy so when I decided to do Contemp YA Month, I knew I couldn’t let it pass without reading The Summer I Turned Pretty. Boy, am I glad I didn’t.

This novel caused me much indecision. You see, there was a love quadrangle. I can’t remember the last time I came across one of those. There is Cam who is sweet, if a little bland; Jeremiah who is one of her best friends and worships the ground Belly walks on; and then there’s Conrad, the moody, bad boy who Belly’s loved since she can remember. Cam never really came into the picture for me, I felt he was kind of a stepping stone to getting one of the brothers, if I’m honest. At first I was all in favour of Conrad, then in the middle I was cheering for Jeremiah and then I switched back to Conrad. But by the end...I just couldn’t decide. Both boys, while very different, are brilliant YA heroes.

There was a lot more to The Summer I Turned Pretty than the love story, though and I have to admit that I wasn’t really expecting there to be. There are family problems for both Belly and the boys, a rather serious and dramatic issue that I won’t go into as I want it to surprise new readers like it did me and the changing of friendships as you grow older. I think that there’s something in this novel that every teenage girl, and everyone can remember being a teenage girl, can relate to.

Another of my favourite elements of The Summer I Turned Pretty is the flashback chapters. I loved how each was related to the current-time chapter that came before or after it. They were very nicely done. They didn’t feel thrown in at all; they were completely natural. I also liked how Belly’s age at each of the flashbacks was stated at the beginning of the chapter. Not knowing a characters age at a certain point, or in a novel in general, is something that really gets on my nerves so I was very pleased to have that given out immediately.

I loved The Summer I Turned Pretty and I’m now eagerly waiting for my copy of It’s Not Summer Without You to come through my letterbox.

I purchased a copy of this book myself.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: How Hannah Mariska Discovered Contemporary YA

Up today is Hannah Mariska, a fellow book blogger who hosts at My Book Journey. Enjoy!

In the past few years, my reading habits have increasingly tended towards the paranormal side of the Young Adult market, and often when I visited a bookshop or library, I would give contemporary YA a contemptuous sniff. I just didn’t quite understand what was so different or special about it. As I started picking up contemporary YA books for the first time a few months ago, I really thought that I would miss the vampires, witches and werewolves and feel like something was lacking from ‘normal’ YA stories. But the more I read, the more I came to realise that by relying less on magical theories, supernatural mysteries and paranormal gifts, contemporary YA authors work a lot harder developing their characters to make the story feel true to life and genuine.

I was amazed at the different characters that I came across, from those that I could really relate to like Bea from Nobody’s Girl who had an overprotective mother and trouble standing up for herself, to the characters whose backgrounds were quite far removed from mine, like in Kill All Enemies whose characters were entrenched in violence and family neglect. When Bea first faced up to the mean girls I practically jumped with joy, but I also came to understand those characters different from me and why they bullied others, hated school or generally made trouble. Seeing what their family lives were really like was truly heartbreaking and sad.

Whether I’ve been reading debut authors or well established authors, all of the characters felt very real because they had flaws, they made mistakes and sometimes the wrong decision. With a fair amount of paranormal YA the characters often seem glossed over; the female protagonists are generally good looking, their boyfriends are gorgeous and charmingly nice. There may be the odd skeleton in the closet or family issue, but these aren’t usually central to the story and therefore aren’t at the forefront of the plot or the character's thoughts. In fact, the types of problems the protagonists face aren’t usually ones we can necessarily relate to. Well, I’ve never been bitten by a vampire or had to learn how to control my magical powers (I’m still waiting in hope though!).

The issues that are touched upon in contemporary YA stories are often heartbreaking, complex and serious, although they can also be inspiring and motivating. From drug use, prostitution, family abuse and living in care, these issues reflect what happens behind closed doors in our own neighbourhoods, but that we rarely see. What’s more, the way you get to understand why the characters are the way they are makes you realise that sometimes people’s lives aren’t always in their control, such as Candy who spiralled little by little from a nice middle class family into a world of heroin addiction and prostitution without realising it was even happening. I’ve certainly had my eyes opened and will be more appreciative of what someone might be dealing with in their private lives before I start judging them.

But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom - I’ve also read about some really cool places and things like travelling across South America in Wanderlove, making cakes in The Sweetest Thing, kissing on Paris’ Pont Neuf in Nobody’s Girl, and living in a sustainable yurt in This Girl is Different.

None of these books though has been predictable or boring. They have all been eye opening, refreshingly different and honestly true to real life. So next time I’m browsing the shelves for something to read I certainly won’t be passing over contemporary YA for its paranormal counterparts.

Thanks, Hannah!


Monday, 23 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Pretty Bad Things - CJ Skuse

Pretty Bad Things – CJ Skuse

Pages: 265
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 1st March 2010

Other Titles by this Author: Rockaholic

Twins in candy-store crime spree...

I know what you’re thinking. Tearaway teens. Yadda yadda. Maybe you’re right. But we’re all out of choices.

Last time we made headlines, Beau and I were six-year-old ‘winder twins’. Little kids found alive in woods after three days missing, looking for our dad.

We’ve just hit sixteen and life’s not so wonderful. In fact, it sucks out loud. Still no Dad. Still lost. Still looking.

But now we’ve got a clue where Dad could be. Everything’s changed. It's a long shot, but we’ve got nothing to lose. In the words of Homer Simpson, seize the donut.

Pretty Bad Things is a quirky, funny and immensely entertaining.

Through dual narration, we get to hear from both Paisley and Beau, and you’d be hard-pushed to get two more opposing characters. Paisley is spiky, angry and hard for most of the novel – she’s one of those characters that you probably wouldn’t like in real life, but can’t help but love in a novel. She’s a little insane really and I can’t imagine how Beau put up with her. Beau on the other hand is very sweet and studious: the absolute reverse of Paisley. All the poor boy wants to do is read and learn! But by the end of the novel, you can see that the two are most definitely related...

Pretty Bad Things is rather bizarre in its plot line (ergo, awesome): a crime spree in Las Vegas sweet shops. I loved it. I want to visit so many of the shops that they targeted – America is literally a sweet-lover’s dream. And Las Vegas sounds amazing. The lights! The mad-cap hotel themes! The rides! Man, I want to go. It would probably be better if I waited until I’m twenty-one, however; then I can fully appreciate it.

I have to admit that Paisley’s single-mindedness in searching for her dad was impressive. For the entire time that her and Beau were in Vegas I was waiting for Paisley’s illusions about her dad to be shattered. And wow was I worried about how she’d take that.

I really have no idea why I waited to read Pretty bad Things for so long, but now I’m all set with Rockaholic and read more of CJ Skuse’s fantastic writing.

I purchased a copy of this myself.


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Pages: 313
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin US)
Release Date: 10th January 2012

Other Titles by this Author: Looking for Alaska; An Abundance of Katherines; Paper Towns; Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan)

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I don’t really know how to put my feelings about The Fault in Our Stars into coherent sentences and not spoil the story. But I shall try my hardest. Promise.

I guess I should start with Hazel. All of the words I could use to describe her don’t really seem enough: strong, fragile, snarky, spunky, angry, sad, witty and completely lovable. I’m in awe of how John Green is able to write a girl so well; I think he must just have a really good understanding of people. And he has serious skills. He got inside her head and touched on all of her fears, insecurities and wants, both related and unrelated to her illness. Haze is the type of girl who you’d be glad to know, even though she wouldn’t think so. Her observations and reflections on life are incredibly astute and things that I know would never cross my mind. Before reading The Fault in Our Stars I couldn’t even begin to understand what it would be like to be her, but now I know a little more.

And then there’s Augustus. Oh, Augustus. John Green really does know how to write the most incredible guys – though he’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He’s clever, funny, sweet and really loves Hazel, but then something changes everything and he reacts in the way that most teenage boys would – he struggles. It was probably one of the most heartbreaking section of the novel when Augustus begun to come undone, and there were many of these moments. I adore this character.

John Green handled the reality of cancer and its wide repercussions beautifully. Okay, so in order to explain why this touched me so deeply, I’m going to have to go pretty personal: you’ve been warned. My mum has been suffering from cancer since 2007 and so, while with obvious differences, I understood what Hazel’s parents were going through and now that she’s been told that it’ll never be cured, I empathise even more. The situations are very dissimilar in quite a few aspects, however. The struggles, the fear and the depression were handled beautifully and, I think, accurately and I have so much respect for him for not shying away from the horrible reality of a disease such as cancer.

As you can probably imagine because of what I just said, I reacted very strongly to The Fault in Our Stars. I devoured the first 250 pages with occasional bursts of sniffles and then I had to put it in the freezer – I just couldn’t read it anymore; I was coming undone. I’ve never, ever had to do that before. My housemate even stopped cooking and came and gave me a hug.

The Fault in Our Stars is stunningly beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, endlessly clever and easily one of the best books that I’ll have the honour of reading for a long while.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Guest Review of How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life – Sara Zarr

Pages: 341
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: 18th October 2011

Other Titles by this Author: Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, Once Was Lost

From Goodreads: Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she's somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. 

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It's harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy--or as difficult--as it seems.

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.

I’d like to welcome the lovely Sammee from I Want to Read That and thank her for her fabulous guest review of Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. Over to Sammee!

How To Save a Life is the second book by Sara Zarr that I have read.  Having read and really enjoyed Story of a Girl I had high expectations for this one and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

One of the things I really love about Zarr’s books is how character driven they are.  It’s all about the characters – what drives them, how they feel, what they want – that I can’t help but be completely engaged in the story.  In How to Save a life we get a dual narrative – which I love – and have the story told from Jill and Mandy’s point of view.

I fell in love with Jill immediately – she has that snarky vulnerability I just love – very independent but also so obviously crushed by her father’s death.  Mandy on the other hand was a character who grew on me – suddenly I found myself really loving her and I had no idea when it happened.  But it’s the combination of the two perspectives that really makes this work.  Through Mandy’s eyes, you see how incredibly lucky Jill is to have the family and friends she has, and Jill manages to make you believe that the ending is the only possible outcome.

I also loved Dylan - with all my heart. He’s just so great to both Jill and Mandy and it’s really nice to have a couple who may or may not be together but who are friends anyway.  They have a gentle way with each other even when they are arguing.  I though Ravi was an interesting character too – very different from Dylan but I understood Jill’s interest.

I think the story is a very honest portrayal of grief – coming to terms with what has happened and trying to move on with your life.  You may not be the same person you were before but it shows how you can move forward and how you can accept love back into your life.

Thanks so much, Sammee!