Tag Archives: LGBT

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

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill


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


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‘Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ Flies The Flag For Diversity

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Plot: 17/20                                              

On a microscopic level, it’s a story about a teenage boy “coming out”, not just to his friends and his family but to the world. When we zoom out, we see that it’s so much more than that. It’s about life and love; friendship and family; and ultimately, the unbreakable bonds that connect us as homo sapiens. The scene where Simon tells us that the story has very little to do with him and more to do with the people in his life really sums up the premise of the novel beautifully. When Simon is blackmailed by a classmate, he must help him if he wants to keep his sexuality a secret. Meanwhile, there’s Blue; a guy that Simon falls madly in love with and will do anything to protect. It’s a funny story, chronicling the ups and downs of everyday, teenage life. My only critique is that the author makes the identity of Blue all too predictable and so it takes some of the magic out of it for me. I think Albertalli could have also pushed the story a bit further in ways but overall, the plot is great and we’re finally starting to see the emergence of LGBT YA as a mainstream genre with universal appeal.

Narration: 18/20

Simon’s narration is generally spot-on. There are times when his perspective feels a bit stilted and generic, particularly at the beginning of the novel. Words like “freaking”/“fucking”/“fuckstorm”/“holy box of awkwardness”/“goober”/“goddamn”/“hell” make him come across as a bit of a caricature but luckily, he straddles the line so carefully that for the most part, it’s not an issue but when it is an issue, it’s like being hit by an eighty-miles-an-hour wind in December. Still, you can’t take away from the humorous narrative voice:

“So maybe it’s the winter air of maybe it’s soccer boy calves, but after everything that’s happened today, I’m actually in a pretty decent mood.”

Character: 18/20

There’s a lively cast of characters and even better, there’s tension and chemistry between them. The Leah-Abby-Nick triangle affects the other characters. Nick is great as the quiet musician. We see different sides to Marty; both vulnerability and a funnier, goofier side. We see the evolution of Simon’s character from start to finish. I particularly liked Simon’s sisters, Norah and Alice and the scene where Simon is grounded and, wanting to speak to Leah, he makes a deal with his Mom to allow her supervised access to his Facebook account. Seriously? They’re freaking hilarious! Simon has some really clever, witty lines too:

“‘The blondest circle of hell.’”

Quality of Writing: 20/20

Albertalli’s writing lulls you into the story with her easy, understated style. She demonstrates a powerful grasp of the English language while still staying true to what her character would do and say:

  • “So when the school day ends, and nothing extraordinary has happened, it’s a tiny heartbreak. It’s like eleven o’clock on the night of your birthday, when you realize no one’s throwing you a surprise party after all.”
  • “A couple of the girls put some junk in my hair to make it messy, which is basically like putting high heels on a giraffe.”
  • “And cranking Sufjan Stevens at top volume doesn’t solve anything, why is probably why people don’t crank Sufjan Stevens. My stomach is apparently on a spin cycle.”

Setting: 10/10

The story is set in Shady Creek and most of the action takes places at Creekwater High. Albertalli captures the physical settings perfectly but she adds another layer in her references to pop music (Tegan and Sara and Justin Bieber), specific locations (Chick-Fil-A) and gaming (Assassin’s Creed). Furthermore, the e-mails intrigue the reader and these, along with the Tumblr, lends the story a credible modernity.

Comparative Literature: 9/10

The writing is very reminiscent of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Is it an original story? Not necessarily but Albertalli infuses the story with a modernity that Alex Sanchez’s and much of David Levithan’s works seem to lack. It’s s standout in its genre and something that will have universal appeal; it’s a story that will reach out to many teens, regardless of sexuality. Personally, I give Albertalli two-thumbs-up for managing for making something that could have been extremely niche, so universal.

Overall Score: 92/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: The words are the wrapping paper, the characters are the gift and somewhere in between lie the kernels of truth of the everyday life.

Books You May Also Like:

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – for an LGBT story infused with character and humor

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger – a funny LGBT story that explores the sexuality and the social minefield

Rainbow Boys by David Sanchez – a coming-of-age story about three boys, their secrets and betrayals

The Perks of Being a Wallflower for that same easy readability

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan – for a story about two different Will Graysons that encompasses hope, serendipity and love

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April 10, 2015 · 7:53 am

Thursday Morning Thought: Is the Book Industry Championing Diversity in YA in the UK?

It’s all well and good to shout it from the rooftops that “we need more diversity” in Young Adult Lit. but it’s another thing entirely to DO SOMETHING about it. I’ve compiled a list of most of the most YA and Children’s book prizes (only one of these is aimed primarily at YA though the Waterstone’s Children Book Prize does include a “best book for teens” category):

  1. The YA Book Prize
  2. The Booktrust Best Book Award
  3. The CILIP Carnegie Medal
  4. The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
  5. The Red House Children’s Book Award
  6. The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize
  7. UKLA Book Awards
  8. Costa Children’s Book Award
  9. Blue Peter Book Awards
  10. National Children’s Book of the Year Award
  11. Waterstone’s Children Book Prize

While this list is non-exhaustive, I don’t think YA is fairly represented. The YA Book Prize is a fantastic achievement but it highlights a small selection of YA titles when, what I think we need, is a selection that promotes diversity. I’m not asking for an exclusive award for LGBT YA or the representation of African-American/Asian/Native American/Mixed Race (etc.) characters in literature. I want diversity in YA books to be championed; books that reach the twelve-year-old boy who’s being bullied for the color of his skin; books that will help the sixteen-year-old girl to understand that liking other girls is not a bad thing; books that will show children with dyslexia that the hero that saves the world might not be able to read and/or write but he can save the world just as well as any sparkle-in-the-sun, 6-pack vampire or the pretty blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Caucasian wonder. No, it’s not good enough to include diversity in the background and say “job done”. We desperately need new voices, untapped themes, developing and current social problems and illnesses that affect different teens. I’m not talking about niche publishing per se. It can still carry universal appeal. Teens that aren’t directly affected can help understand more about a classmate, a friend, a neighbor, a family member that has the illness. It’s simply about promoting diversity.

And for publishers, think of the endless opportunities; the new channels to market; the publicity that such a prize could generate. A story that touches on LGBT issues or race could be sold directly to schools, introduce talks at the Southbank Centre by the authors to tackle bullying in conjunction with schools. Publicity can be garnered from LGBT media, newspapers, social media accounts, newspapers, blogs, TV channels (etc.). Think global and as my Publishing MA lecturer once said: “think laterally”.

I’ve never announced this publicly, and I don’t know why I’m doing it now, but I have FAP – a form of genetic polyposis (FAP) that causes daily discomfort, pain amongst other, less attractive symptoms that I won’t remark on here. I had to have my large intestine completely removed when I was 13 to buy more time and a further two major surgeries when I was 17 and 18. I don’t want or expect a pity party. I’m all the stronger for it. I came out as “gay” when I was 19 and my illness has been a sore point, my illness obviously having a huge impact on my life. I would have liked to have discovered David Levithan’s work (and the work of similar authors) earlier when I was denying who I was on a daily basis. LGBT YA shouldn’t be placed in – what was once then – a very dusty, LGBT section (homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1993 in the Republic of Ireland and as a deeply Catholic country, not as progressive about sexuality). It would have helped me to understand myself better. There is no YA story that I’ve discovered about anyone that has gone through what I went through and I don’t blame them. With books like The Fault in Our Stars and Before I Die though, there are new perspectives and themes starting to emerge and who knows, maybe one day, maybe myself or another polyposis sufferer might write that book.

New forms.

New voices.

New stories.

We need all of these to broaden our sphere of diversity. As Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate 2013-15 said: “[i]If everyone is white or Caucasian, it is just not accurate and it’s a very odd thing to do when we live in a multi-cultural society.” And she didn’t just mean with regard to race. I heard her speak at the London Book Fair 2014 lat year and she’s certainly championing diversity and not simply race as some trolls have slated her for on Twitter.

The potential opportunities are only starting to be tapped in certain areas of certain areas but the book industry has a long way to go. Can we create about the adventures of an Indian child for example? Can we print it in dual languages and cater for two markets; a market that English-language publishers in the UK seem not to have investigated, perhaps because the Big 5 are known for avoiding what has come to be identified as avoidable risk.

These are just my thoughts. If you feel differently, if you feel that I am wrong, I welcome any and all to a healthy debate either here, or on Twitter.

Final note: I’m happy to see LGBT books starting to take centre-stage this year:

More Happy None of the Above Simon Vs Tiny Cooper UnspeakableHalf Wild



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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


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.


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


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


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’


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

5. Soulprint by Megan Miranda


UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 3rd February 2015


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


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


“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?


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



7. Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild

UK Release Date: 26th March 2015

US Release Date: 24th March 2015


“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?


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


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


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?


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


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


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?


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


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


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…


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


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


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.


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


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

12. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton


UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 5th February 2015


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


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


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



14. Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick


UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A


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


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


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.


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


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


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Author: Cat Clarke

Publisher: Quercus

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 352


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.



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.



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.


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.”



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!


Overall Score:


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

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Title: Hero

Author: Perry Moore

Publisher: Hyperion

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 428

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Perry Moore and Hyperion.

Excerpt from page 1:

“I NEVER THOUGHT I’d have a story worth telling, at least not about me. I always knew I was different, but until I discovered I had my own story, I never thought I was anything special. My destiny began to unfurl during my very last game at school. What started with an accident on the court ended with the single most devastating look I ever got from my father. And it made me want to die.”


I like the intertwining of Thom’s sexuality with the idea of superheroes. I’ve never seen this done in a YA novel before and I enjoyed it. There are some drawbacks though. Some of the superheroes and villains resemble Marvel and DC characters. This isn’t too much of an issue but when you look at the mention of the Silver Surfer, it instantly brings to mind the Fantastic Four. Even this isn’t bad compared to Justice, whose whole story arc is remarkably similar to Superman’s:

  • Superman is an alien. Justice is an alien
  • Superman’s home was destroyed. Justice’s home was destroyed
  • Superman is from Kansas. Justice is from Kansas
  • Superman’s weakness is kryptonite. Justice’s is a similar (purple) stone
  • Superman is invulnerable. Justice is invulnerable (both sharing most of the same abilities)

I also wondered about Scarlett and how her clothes didn’t burn off when she lit up and how the Spectrum was murdered in the lab and no one thinks to put two and two together and deduce logically who the culprit could possibly be. Instead, the heroes venture out on a crazy quest to apprehend every villain in the vicinity. I can’t deny though that the plot, although similar to the comics, is well-thought-out and feels fresh.



I don’t like Thom as a narrator. I’m not even sure I like him as a character. Scratch that, I just don’t care about Thom. His narration is like a bag of nachos without the jalapeno kick. Moore’s narrative voice comes across, at times, like a female’s and the words go against the character:

“He wiped a long strand of luscious platinum hair out of his face and smoothed it back over his ear.” (77)

He might have gotten away with it once but it happens a lot and these thoughts do not reflect Thom as a character and they confuse and jar the reader’s ability to read and get lost in the moment.

The voice comes across as a bit too advanced for Thom in some of his language (“vestibule”/”anathema”/”sowing destruction”/”trim bare midriff”). It doesn’t matter that they may be interesting words or clever phrases in some cases as they don’t fit the vocabulary of a teenage boy.



Character is a grey area. Thom is weak both as a narrator and a character though there are glimmers of hope with other characters like Scarlett and Ruth. Thom’ fantasies about Uberman come across as a Mills and Boon story. Thom is described as a gay stereotype at certain stages in the novel (like his comments on men’s and women’s hair when it doesn’t fit with his character).

When we first meet Scarlett, she’s reading a NASCAR magazine and this simple piece of information tells us a lot about her character. She’s also just a badass. Ruth doesn’t care about the rules and her clairvoyance ties in with her character nicely, leaving opportunities that Moore takes to amp up the humour. The villains are believable and though similar to some comic book villains, Moore does well in making them seem fresh and new: Sig Sig Sputnik, Ssnake and Transvision Vamp.


Quality of Writing:

The writing isn’t as sharp as it could be. Thom uses formal language at times and it’s not in line with his character. I found myself becoming quite distant. The piece is peppered with clichés (“bone dry”/ “And then the unthinkable happened.”). The sentences run on far too long and are often clunky, and difficult to grasp on first reading. Moore also repeats some of the same words, particularly within the same page and  paragraph.

There are a number of occasions where Moore could capitalise on details that I found interesting but instead, he brushes over these. And finally, while I read, I noticed how Moore will find three different ways of describing something in close succession where one would do.

Despite this, information is slowly released and  the superheroes names and places in the story are dramatised rather than being told and over-egged. At times, there were some nice analogies like Thom comparing a child mesmerised by a Disney film to the first time he sees Uberman in person.  The Americanisms further reinforce the setting (“patties”/”goofy”/”grocery store”).



There’s evidence of world-building here and I do get to see the world clearly through Thom’s eyes but sometimes, Moore could dramatise more. Thom tells us everything and we get a lot of lengthy description that pulls away from the plot. It gets to the point where you almost feel like you’re been presented with, let’s say, an apple, that it is, in fact, an apple and you’re tasting that apple and touching that apple.


Comparative Literature:

I honestly haven’t read anything like this in a novel and it would be unfair of me to compare it to the comic book form. The voice could be a little stronger to stand out in the world of YA Fiction but in terms of content, the general idea feels fresh to the genre.


Overall Score:



Good world-building but if you’re after something with a lot of bite, maybe give this one a miss.

Books You May Also Like:

Gone by Michael Grant – for fast-paced plot and super-powered content

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – for the LGBT content and a heart-warming tale of finding love

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger – for similar discovery of self

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February 27, 2014 · 9:31 am