Tag Archives: dark

Adam Created eve and the eves Served the Inheritants in ‘Only Ever Yours’

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

OnlyEverYours

Plot: 20/20                                             

frieda and isabel have been friends their whole lives. Groomed as eves at a Euro-zone school, they must go head-to-head to secure their Inheritant – to secure their future – unless they want to face a future as a concubine. As the pressure increases, isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her only asset – her beauty – in peril. The boys – the Inheritants – arrive and are eager to choose a bride but can Frieda’s and Isabel’s friendship survive the ceremony?

The story takes place in a male-dominated dystopia and it’s absolutely fascinating. O’Neill touches on bulimia, anorexia, drug use, sex and misogyny and O’Neill obstacles for frieda that compel you to read further while simultaneously disturbing the reader.

Narration: 20/20

O’Neill injects character into the narrative but better still, she earths us in frieda’s mind so that we’re almost literally seeing everything through her eyes, feeling every emotion and hearing every thought. frieda is a character who struggles to uphold her social responsibilities as this wars with her character and we get inside her head and discover her anxieties, fears and insecurities.

Character: 20/20

I love the characters because, although they are always striving for perfection, ultimately we see the cracks in who they are and who they’re pretending to be. We see the malicious megan, the insecure and unsure frieda, the indifferent yet caring isabel and the cruel chastity-ruth. It’s interesting as well because there’s layers to every character. frieda is struggling to discover herself in an environment where she is being trained to serve men. When she stops taking her pills and chastity-anne hands her them, she has an internal struggle; she doesn’t want to take them but she knows she must because that is what man has dictated. We see it with Megan too. She’ll lie and betray everyone around her to climb to the top. She tells frieda that she’s not a bitch, she’s just doing what she was created and taught to do. It’s these internal struggles and the oppressive nature of the world that give each character a duality; a duality that we can’t always see but makes the reader wonder about other facets of the characters exist. Everything down to the names (Darwin, in particular) conveys character. Genius

Quality of Writing: 20/20

The writing is phenomenal. Jeanette Winterson summed it perfectly when she said that O’Neill “writes with a scalpel” and here’s the proof:

  • “… flickering images anaesthizing us into silence.”
  • “Why do I feel as if there is limescale building up inside of me, clogging my air supply?”
  • “The words fill my mouth like marbles, crammed too tight for them to escape.”
  • “It doesn’t feel like a bridge, I think as she leaves. A bridge would feel some way steady. This feels more like I’m balancing on a tightrope of cobwebs.”
  • “The room expands and contracts like an accordion.”

Setting: 10/10

O’Neill creates and shapes a new world, which to me, is a portrait of our world under a microscope and holds kernels of parallel truth for our own society.Her world-building abilities are second to none. She builds a world even though we only see the school. She anchors us in a particular place and reinforces it with societal elements. The eves’ PE classes are basically pole-dancing lessons and they are forced to carry out domesticated tasks like baking in order to gain favour from the Inheritants. Adam created eve. The eves take pills to supprsess their “Unacceptable Emotions”. eves (women) live only to serve the Inheritants (men); a chastity must have her womb cut out and her head shaved in order to sacrifice of all herself to man; a companion lives to serve her husband; a concubine exists to fulfil a man’s carnal desires. Anything that jeopardizes the balance is eradicated; lesbianism is viewed as an act of defiance and the last time it happened, they sewed up their private parts and shot them through the head. This really captures how high the stakes are for the eves; they can’t put a step wrong if they want to survive.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I’ve honestly never read a dystopian story as powerful as this. The Hunger Games, though not wholly original, was always the pinnacle for me of dytopian fiction but O’Neill has produced something that is flawless; a story that deeply disturbed me.

Overall Score: 100/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: Winner of the inaugural YA Book Prize and rightly so. Dystopia that delivers on all levels. Dark and edgy and as Jeanette Winterson summed up: “O’Neill writes with a scalpel”.

Books You May Also Like:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – for a similarly cut-throat, dystopian world of betrayal and secrets

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – for an adventure into the unknown with secrets, betrayals and deceit galore

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

‘My Heart and Other Black Holes’ Sucks You In

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

my heart

Plot: 20/20 

I think this is one of the most interesting takes that we can expect this year from YA. My Heart is a stunning debut that deals with suicide and depression and unlike many other books in the genre, it opens up a can of worms that actually spends time developing and giving the reader a sense of resolution and conclusion. It tells the story of a boy, Roman, and a girl, Aysel, who, both for very different reasons, are planning to commit suicide together but as Aysel and Roman share more of their broken lives with each other, Aysel starts to realize the gravity of her decision.  Can she sway Roman to her side or is he fated to die? The idea is dark and edgy and that’s actually what drew me to it. It’s definitely NOT for the faint-hearted.

Narration: 17/20

The narrative style is spot-on with Aysel describing her situation and capturing the essence of depression perfectly. I will say that it’s a bit inconsistent at times. We get lots of character-infused commentary but it comes in sparks:

The woman running the booth holds up one thin finger to indicate he scored a point. Thanks for that. We can count one. We’re suicidal, not innumerate.

I’d like to have seen it pushed a little bit more.

Character: 18/20

I like Aysel and I can understand why she’s doing what she’s doing. I don’t agree with it but I can understand her thinking. I want to shout at her and tell her to stop so I guess, Warga has done her job in getting me to connect to her protagonist and building an emphatic link, which is key to the subject matter. There’s a handful of characters to remember and recognise, making it easier to retain information and focus on Aysel and Roman. I like that the chemistry builds slowly between Aysel and Roman and it never gets overly clichéd. Roman’s reactions towards the end seem a bit forced when he’s with her. I’m not sure I buy into it or the language he uses but overall, no major character flaws.

Quality of Writing: 20/20 

Not much needs to be said. It’s written beautifully but if you need evidence:

  • “Sometimes I wonder if my heart is a black hole it’s so dense that there’s no room for light, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t suck me in.”
  • “I once read in my physics book that the universe begs to be observed, that energy travels and transfers when people pay attention. Maybe that’s what love really boils down to – having someone who cares enough to pay attention so that you’re encouraged to travel and transfer, to make your potential energy spark into kinetic energy. Maybe all anyone ever needs is for someone to notice them, to observe them. And I notice Roman.
  • “Something inside me clicks. It’s like I’ve spent my whole life fiddling with a complicated combination only to discover I was toying with the wrong lock. And now, the vault inside of me that contains all of my secrets is swinging open and I feel this rush of blood swell in my chest.
  • “Something inside me sways like a rocking chair in an empty room – it’s both lonely and comfortable.”
  • “We both know a letter, a story, is inside, but right now neither one of us is brave enough to break the seal.”

Warga selects metaphors that are simple to grasp but reinforce Aysel’s characters; her black hole reference above perfectly sums up the way that she’s feeling and makes it easier for the reader to understand what Aysel is struggling with.

Setting: 10/10 

Warga’s language is sensory; she sets the scene through community, geographically and through the smells and tastes of her town:

  • “My car glides down Willis’ main drag. It’s full of painted Victorian-style houses that have been transformed into cutesy businesses – the Creamy Whip, an ice cream shop; the Fried Egg, a breakfast diner; Suds and Bubbles, a Laundromat.
  • “On certain days, you smell bourbon in the air, the sweet rye coming from a distillery that’s a few miles away, but today, I only smell mud and damp grass.”

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

For me, the best book on the theme of suicide is Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. It’s beautifully dark and tragically haunting. You can almost hear Hannah’s ghostly voice ringing in your ears. Warga’s My Heart rivals this. She takes a different angle on the subject and plots it out perfectly. It adds something new to the genre and as readers, that’s exactly what we want.

Overall Score: 95/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: Dark, tragic and gripping –  one of the stand-out YA debuts of 2015.

Books You May Also Like:

13 Reasons Why by Jas Asher – for another gripping story that will leave you in tears

Undone by Cat Clarke – a powerful story of revenge and suicide that will have you at the edge of your seat

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

15 YA Spring Titles to Sink Your Teeth Into (***May Contain Nuts***)

Here are my YA picks for Spring 2015. I’ve tried my best to order them in the way I think the general reader would want to read them with a touch of subjectivitiy. If you have any feedback, comment below. Enjoy!

**Note that all covers used are the UK covers**

1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

UK Release Date: 7th April 2015

US Release Date: 7th April 2015

Plot:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Hype:

North American rights were pre-empted by Balzer & Bray within three days of the manuscript being submitted and the story has the book trade buzzing. The author, Becky Albertalli, is a clinical psychologist and spent seven years working with a support group for gender-nonconforming children in the US. Penguin have also bought rights for her second novel.

Ideal for fans of: David Levithan and Stephen Chbosky

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19547856-simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda?ac=1#

2. Under My Skin by James Dawson

Under My Skin
UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realizes that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’

Hype:

Another story from 2014’s Queen of Teen. Dawson established himself last year with titles such as Say Her Name and This Book is Gay and his Number One gal-pal, Conchita Wurst. His latest offering, no doubt, offers a new and interesting twist delivered in classic Dawson-esque style. What’s that? You don’t follow? Then, I guess you need to pre-order Under My Skin. Now. Of course now. I’ll just wait…

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23058143-under-my-skin?from_search=true

3. The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

The Dolls
UK Release Date: 1st March 2015

US Release Date: 2nd September 2014

Plot:

Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right

Hype:

Though I’ve yet to read them, I admire an author who supports her stories with e-novellas, short stories and, in Sullivan’s case, e-episodes. It allows for the expansion and development of the world. I think the premise is an interesting one. I’m a sucker for paranormal and fantasy stories. Sullivan had me at murder!

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Links:

Link to a free chapter of the book and six free e-episodes: http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/book/1~EB~E14~8884/the-dolls.aspx

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18249114-the-dolls?ac=1

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot:

I’m getting higher and higher and I feel the swing set creak. ‘Be careful,’ he says. ‘Why?’ I’m not thinking about being careful. I’m thinking about one last push, of letting go, of flying, and of falling. ‘You aren’t allowed to die without me,’ he whispers.

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they’ve been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month’s time, they plan to commit suicide – together. Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn’t equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can’t figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all…and why he’s even more determined than she is. With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman – a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all – but is Aysel in so deep she can’t turn back?

Hype: This feels a bit like a re-visioned Romeo and Juliet. I love reading something different. I think it will appeal to teens and twenty-teens because of the way it deals with a real social issue but uses it as the means for two people to come together and fall in love. High hopes for this one.

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke

Links:

Goodreads: http://www.bookdepository.com/My-Heart-Other-Black-Holes-Jasmine-Warga/9781444791532

5. Soulprint by Megan Miranda

Soulprint

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 3rd February 2015

Plot:

Alina Chase has spent her entire life in confinement. With the science of soul-printing now a reality, she is ‘protected’ for her own safety – and the safety of others – because her soul has done terrible things …or so she’s told. When Alina finally breaks out of prison, helped by a group of people with unclear motives, she begins to uncover clues left by her past life that only she can decipher. And she may not be as innocent as she once believed. Can Alina change her future, or is she fated to repeat her past and face the consequences?

Hype: I love the mystery behind this; the obliviousness of the main character’s actions that obscure whether she’ll be the hero or a sort of anti-hero. What is soul-printing? And what has Alina done that’s so bad?

Ideal for fans of: Sophie Kenzie

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22392926-soulprint?from_search=true

6. Geek Drama by Holly Smale

Geek Drama

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 26th February 2015

Plot:

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

Harriet Manners knows that the hottest observed place on earth is Furnace Creek in Death Valley. She knows that dolphins shed the top layer of their skin every two hours. And she knows just how badly auditions can go, especially when you’re a model. But she has no idea how to get herself out of the extreme embarrassment of the school play or what to do when arch-nemesis Alexa decides it’s the perfect opportunity to humiliate her…Can GEEK GIRL survive the bright lights of the stage?

Hype:

A hilarious World Book Day GEEK GIRL novella by award-winning, bestselling author Holly Smale. I love this. Seriously, I’m 24 and I don’t care. Holly Smale is a genius. Harriet comes alive in the pages and I literally LOL on the bus (which is worrying when you’re pressed up against sweaty armpits at the peak time rush!).

Ideal for fans of: Lousie Rennison and James Dawson

Links:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Geek-Drama-50-Book-Pack-Holly-Smale/9780008113483

7. Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild

UK Release Date: 26th March 2015

US Release Date: 24th March 2015

Plot:

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.

Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

Hype:

Sally Green’s Half Bad debut saw a boy in a cage at Manchester Piccadilly and the book itself gave witches a face-lift (arguably, literally) and experimented with first- and second-person narrative styles. This is certainly one to look out for. No doubt, we’ll see it in bookshop windows very soon.

Ideal for fans of: Rachel Hawkins and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20814989-half-wild?from_search=true

8. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly re-imagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history?

Hype:

This has the potential to be amazing. I can’t add anything else, without sullying the plot, other than saying I love reading about diverse characters in YA Lit. I hope it’s a dual narrative and offers credible accounts from both characters.

Ideal for fans of: Jenny Downham and Gayle Forman

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20308537-the-game-of-love-and-death?from_search=true

9. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater's Daughter

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 24th February 2015

Plot:

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. She’s the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

Hype:

I got an advance copy of this last year at the London Book Fair and I have to say, it’s a damn good read with twists, romance, betrayal and action galore. The cover looks amazing and Melinda (from what I’ve gathered, tweeting her back and forth) is absolutely lovely.

Ideal for fans of: Ideal for fans of: Maria V. Snyder and Philip Pullman

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22536448-the-sin-eater-s-daughter?from_search=true

10. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

The Alex Crow

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th March 2015

Plot:

Ariel, the sole survivor of an attack on his village in the Middle East is ‘rescued’ from the horrific madness of war in his homeland by an American soldier and sent to live with a family in suburban Virginia. And yet, to Ariel, this new life with a genetic scientist father and resentful brother, Max, is as confusing and bizarre as the life he just left. Things get even weirder when Ariel and Max are sent to an all-boys summer camp in the forest for tech detox. Intense, funny and fierce friendships are formed. And all the time the scientific tinkerings of the boys’ father into genetics and our very existence are creeping up on them in their wooden cabin, second by painful second…

Hype:

The story is an interesting one (much like the rest, he says). The follow-up to Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle – I think we can expect another great read. I also heard that the book fairies left copies at London (underground) tube stations this morning.

Ideal for fans of: Markus Zusak and Sally Gardner

Links:

Goodreads: http://www.bookdepository.com/Alex-Crow-Andrew-Smith/9781405273428

11. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You The Sun

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 16th September 2014

Plot:

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

Hype:

This one is described as “a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying” so obviously, I had to include it. I would have placed it higher except that A.) it’s a tough quarter for YA and B.) it echoes Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and that worries me a little. If it’s too similar, it will show but still, a potential good read.

Ideal for fans of: Karen Joy Fowler and John Green

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20820994-i-ll-give-you-the-sun?from_search=true

12. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

Unspeakable

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 5th February 2015

Plot:

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months.

Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out.

Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter.

Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

Hype: This has echoes of Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me so I’ll just wait and see. It seems to offer some diversity (LGBT) and again, we need more diverse voices in YA, so that, along with the plot (and the John Green style cover) places this at the #12 spot.

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and David Levithan

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22103725-unspeakable

13. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl At Midnight

UK Release Date: 28th April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants …and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Hype: I love fantasy escapism. This looks like just the ticket. World-building and story; all we can do now is hope for character and distinct narration and Melissa Grey is on to a winner.

Ideal for fans of: Leslye Walton and Marcus Sedgwick

Links:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20345202-the-girl-at-midnight?from_search=true

14. Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick

Killing

UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

Set in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts a haunting and sinister story YA story for World Book Day from prize-winning author Marcus Sedgwick. 1963. Foxgrove School near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One of the oldest and finest academies in the country – but what really goes on behind closed doors? Nathaniel Drake, the new young English teacher, Isobel Milewski, the quiet girl who loved to draw spirals, her fingers stained with green ink, Jack Lewis, who lent Isobel books – just words, just ink on paper, Margot Leya, the girl with those eyes – who are they, what part have they played in killing the dead? Follow the dark, dark path Into the dark, dark woods To the dark, dark bridge By the dark, dark water. Linger. Let the ghosts of heaven tell their story

Hype: A stylish and creepy story for World Book Day from the award-winning author of She is Not Invisible. Cheap and cheerful: what more could you want?

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

No Goodreads link available.

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/killing-the-dead/marcus-sedgwick/9781780622392

15. The Prey by Tom Isbell

The Prey

UK Release Date: 12th March 2015

US Release Date: 20th January 2015

Plot:

In the Republic of the True America, it’s always hunting season. Riveting action, intense romance, and gripping emotion make this fast-paced adventure a standout debut. After a radiation blast burned most of the Earth to a crisp, the new government established settlement camps for the survivors. At one such camp, Book and the other ‘LTs’ are eager to graduate as part of the Rite. Until they learn the dark truth: ‘LTs’ doesn’t stand for lieutenant but for ‘Less Thans’, feared by society and raised to be hunted for sport.

Together with the sisters, Hope and Faith, twin girls who’ve suffered their own haunting fate, they join forces to seek the safety of the fabled New Territory. As Book and Hope lead their quest for freedom, these teens must find the best in themselves to fight the worst in their enemies. But as they are pursued by sadistic hunters, secrets are revealed, allegiances are made, and lives are threatened.

Hype:

We had The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner and now, we have The Prey. There’s been a lot of talk about this one over at Team HC (HarperCollins – the publisher). It seems to be aimed at adults (marketed by the Harper Voyager – sci-fi/fantasy imprint) though it will be probably also resonate with a teen audience. Dystopian fiction has been exhausted in recent years (with big screen adaptations and book market saturation), this holds promise though I worry it could come off like The Hunger Games fan fiction.

Ideal for fans of: Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22061971-the-prey?from_search=true

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

‘Made For You’ Needs To Be Treated As A Hit-And-Run

Made For You by Melissa Marr

Made For You

Plot: 5/20

Eva wakes up in hospital after becoming the victim of a hit-and-run. After her release, she gets visions of her friends being murdered. And then, the visions play out and the body count rises in the sleepy town of Jessup. Nate, an old friend, offers to help but the killer will stop at nothing to get to Eva.

It has the makings of a page-turner, no?

Great idea but poor execution. The pivotal moments are drawn-out and the tension is undercut by a shoddy storytelling technique. The synopsis sets up a standard that the writing doesn’t live up to. Eva takes so many risks towards the conclusion that I wonder if they’re even plausible. Would the police – would her family – allow her to race after her murderer? Would they not be following her? Would her house not be monitored? Are Marr’s fictional police force so stereotypically incompetent that they allow another girl to be kidnapped? Minimum marks for (wasted) potential.

Narration: 4/20

The narration is car-crash bad. The story is told by three narrators: Eva, her friend, Grace, and Judge, the one who wants her dead. Let me break it down:

  • Eva is a bland narrator and without an infusion of personality, it’s hard to care either about the story or her, as a character.
  • Grace reads exactly like Eva and I have no idea what she brings to the table. She doesn’t sound different from Eva’s voice and her narration doesn’t give us any vital insight that justifies her point of view in the story.
  • I’m not quite sure why Judge’s voice is included. Filler, maybe? Including his point of view further undercuts the tension of the plot. His voice is weird and creepy although I’m not sure it’s in the way Marr intended. It’s plain difficult to read. And his motive, which drives the story, is a bit out there.

Character: 2/20

Some American YA authors have this really lazy attitude when it comes to characterization that the idea and the story will carry them through and Marr is no exception. I’m not going to go into too much detail here but finding character in Made For You is like trying to find Atlantis.

Quality of Writing: 2/20

It feels like Marr wrote the book in several parts and different stages of her life. There’s no sense of continuity in the words and the whole thing feels contrived. There’s no sense of transition in and out of Eva’s premonitions. They’re clunky and jarred me out of the story:

“She reaches out to brush my cheek, and that’s all it takes. I fall into what looks like a continuation of the same hallucination of Grace I had before.”

Marr’s attempts at humour and character are weak and cringe-worthy:

“He looks aghast, as if I’d just suggested his father was a closeted Democrat.”

When I read a YA book, I expect more from it than Adult Fiction. The word choice was monotonous, overused and dull. With every page, I wanted it to end. I fell asleep reading it because the language induces sleep. I wanted at least one memorable line that would stick with me (like Marie Lu’s Legend, Veronica Roth’s Divergent or E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars) but each word is like someone twisting a knife into my side:

“I feel a wash of happiness at her praise. I am doing well. I’ll be ready when I’m allowed to go home. My parents are here to be tomorrow, and they’ll see that I’m coping fine. I told them as much, and although I know I sounded connvincing, they still suggested we hire a temporary companion for me. I know that this is there way of trying to help, but I haven’t had a sitter since I was eleven. I’m almost eighteen now and I’m very accustomed to being on my own. They’ve never quite known what to do with me. They work hard and succeed, and when they think of it, they stop to say hello to me.”

Marr proves her writing ability to be as repetitious and dull as English weather:

“My mouth feels like it’s filled with something hot and sour.”

It was a painful read and undoubtedly one of the worst YA books I’ve ever read.

Setting: 1/10

The locations – Eva’s bedroom, the hospital (etc.) – feel generic. Jessup is the sort of place I feel like I’ve read about in twenty other YA books. Nothing new. Nothing special. In direct contrast to Marr’s inability to create setting for her scenes, is Gayle Forman’s I Was Here. The dramatization of scene-setting is subtle and sharp but it gives you enough to ground you within Cody’s community.

Comparative Literature: 1/10

Where do I start?

If you’re going to try and experiment with narration, you need to push it. Judge could have been pushed further. If you cover the names, you should be able to tell from the writing who is speaking but that’s near impossible since Eva’s and Grace’s voices both sound as dull and devoid of personality as each other. E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars introduces the unreliable narrator and achieves a result that compels you to listen to Cadence’s story.

If you’re going to do a murder-mystery/thriller, then it really shouldn’t be obvious one hundred pages in, who the killer is. And there should be suspense but Judge’s voice sucks the tension out of the story. Alyxandra Harvey creates atmosphere, earths her story in a particular time and setting that’s easy to grasp and creates a mystery that isn’t so easy to uncover in Haunting Violet.

Though not in the same category per se (and leaning more towards dystopian fiction), James Dashner offers a master-class in suspense and mystery in The Maze Runner. He keeps you on your toes, page after page, right up until the end.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Stereotypical characters that have as much personality as a Big Mac has nutrition
  • Narrators who sound the same and in no way relate to their audience
  • A story would potential but one where the execution could put you to sleep

Overall Score: 15/100

Books You May Also Like:

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – a narrator that will keep you on your toes, a story worth investing your time in and an ending that you won’t see coming

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey – a sharp and humorous narrator telling a murder mystery the way it should be told

Leave a comment

November 21, 2014 · 2:33 pm

Undone

undone

Author: Cat Clarke

Publisher: Quercus

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 352

Plot:

The plot is something else. I read this line – “Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she’s learning to live with it.” – and I thought:

mean girls 1

Then I read on – “Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online …and he kills himself. Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down.” And then I was like:

mean girls 2 A

But seriously:

mean girls 2

And 100 pages in:

mean girls 3

I was roped in. It was something different and I feel like 2014-2015 will be the year where the spotlight will be on realistic YA books by which I mean that illness, suicide, pregnancy, teenage angst (etc.) will be prevalent over paranormal stories. Not to say that paranormal stories don’t deal with these issues. I just feel like The Fault in Our Stars, Trouble and 13 Reasons Why and similar books have opened up the door for stories that teenagers (and wannabe teenagers like me) can relate to. I love the plot. It moved along nicely. There’s no swordfights or explosions if that’s what you’re expecting but it’s a beautifully, dark story and I loved every minute of it. The only thing that bugged me was Bugs’ revenge. It felt too much like a frat-party prank rather than revenge. It didn’t have the power and effect that Lucas’ and Stu’s revenge carried. If Lucas had an equal part in the act in Jem’s eyes, which she believes  he does, then something more crushing needs to happen to Bugs.

17/20

Narration:

I loved the narration though I feel as though Clarke could have reinforced the fact that it was a letter throughout the novel in the same way Stephen Chbosky does in The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Annabel Pitcher in Ketchup Clouds. Clarke straddles the line between a dark Jem and a flippant Jem at times and while I think she succeeds, there are times where we tend to forget how disturbed and dark she is; how determined she is to die. Kai’s letters are uplifting and show how Jem, even as she decides she wants to die, mimics her best friend’s letter-writing – if maybe only to be closer to him.

16/20

Character:

I like Jem. I don’t find her whiny. I understand her pain and in the last 30 or so pages, I found it difficult to breathe. That’s right, Cat Clarke. If you’re reading this, you very nearly killed a reader. Disclaimer much? I felt every moment of Jem’s pain, every second of Kai’s pain in his letters. But Kai’s voice in the letters really gives you something to look forward to and tugs at your heart strings. I would like to know more about who Jem is rather than knowing things about her like how she looked and that. I mean, in the first scene, we get a sense of a younger Jem but for the rest of the novel, she’s losing herself – who she is – but the “self” hasn’t been fully established. I liked the rest of the cast but Jem (and Kai from the grave) really do rule the show.

16/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing is powerful but rather than go on and on, I’ll pick out some examples:

  • “Everyone thought that things were getting back to normal. They had no idea that normal didn’t exist for me any more. Normal had been smashed on the rocks beneath the bridge.”
  • “I know people think suicide is selfish, and maybe sometimes it really is. But what happened to Kai was beyond what anyone should have to cope with. I didn’t blame him, not really. It just broke my heart that I wasn’t enough to keep him here.”

20/20

Setting:

I had no issues with the setting. I knew where I was. There was adequate description without being overloaded with pages of tedious scene-setting.

Comparative Literature:

I quite enjoyed the voice and the premise though the narration could have been more distinct. I think Jay Asher nails it in 13 Reasons Why when he uses the tapes to get Hannah’s voice across and we get to see how Clay was and how he is as the tapes start to affect him. I think both books have pros and cons but Undone is a story worth reading and raises awareness about an important issue while also telling us a plot-driven story of revenge. Chbosky and Pitcher, as I’ve already said, have stronger narrative structures with the letter format. And yes, while Clarke’s characters aren’t the strongest characters I’ve ever read about in a YA novel, they serve their purpose and when you read, you can look over certain details once the story is good. And baby, is it good!

8/10

Overall Score:

87/100

Books You May Also Like:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – deals with suicide and the story is told in part, through tapes, which give it and eerily creative effect

Looking for Alaska by John Green – for another story that raises the question of suicide and explores a character who suffers from depression

Torn by Cat Clarke – for another story with guilt, lies and revenge

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized