Tag Archives: Lies

The Crème De La Crème Of YA Lit: 15 YA Summer Reads

 

Here are my top 15 YA Summer Reads. Follow me here for more bookish, YA thoughts and tweets and keep an eye out for an exciting new start-up @YAfictionados , launching 25th May, run by @thereaderrunt and @yablooker.

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

***Information correct at time of publication***

1. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

untitled (8)

UK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: 7th May 2015

Plot:

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . .

Ideal for Fans of: Ransom Riggs and Maggie Stiefvater

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23592175-the-lie-tree?ac=1

2. Bomb by Sarah Mussi

9781444917864
UK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

I’m Genesis Wainwright. I’m a sixth-form student. I come from Somerset. My mum is the best mum in the world. I play the guitar (badly). My best friend is Holly. I’m searching for answers to the Meaning of Life. I believe in True Love. AND I’M IN LOVE WITH NAZ. I want to be a performance poet. And I’m crazy about motorbikes. I can remember everything. Except last night. When Genesis goes on a blind internet date, she just wants to get over her ex-boyfriend Naz. She just wants someone to like her again. But when Genesis wakes up the morning after the date, she can’t remember a thing.

She doesn’t know where she is, or how she got there. And she can hardly move because she is strapped into some kind of body armour …Before she has time to figure it out, she receives an order through an earpiece stuck in her ear. And then a voice sounds in her head: ‘You have been chosen for an assignment …The vest you’re wearing is packed with high explosives. And with one mobile call we can detonate it.’ To her horror Genesis has become an agent of mass destruction, a walking weapon in the hands of a terrorist cell. The countdown to detonation has begun: Genesis must re-examine everyone and everything she loves and make terrifying choices …in the face of certain death

Ideal for fans of: A. J. Grainger and Kathy Reichs

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23604128-bomb

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas


BECAUSEUK Release Date:
 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 2nd June 2015

Plot:

Ollie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures, while Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize, but turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz. Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times – until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.

Ideal for fans of: Becky Albertalli and Tess Sharpe

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20649195-because-you-ll-never-meet-me

4. Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015SUICIDE NOTES

US Release Date: 7th July 2015

 

Plot:

When June met Delia, she was a lifeline. Their intense friendship gave her a sense of belonging, of security, that she’d never had before. She felt braver, smarter, funnier, more attractive when Delia was around. But then something went wrong, and Delia and June haven’t spoken for a year when an announcement is made at their school that Delia is dead. June barely has time to mourn before Delia’s ex-boyfriend convinces her that Delia didn’t kill herself but was in fact murdered, and June is fast swept into a tangle of lies and deceit – and a conspiracy she can barely conceive of, never mind believe. Stylish, sexy and atmospheric, with so many twists it will leave you breathless.

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke.

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18244970-suicide-notes-from-beautiful-girls

5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


SARAH J MAASUK Release Date:
 5th May 2015

US Release Date: 5th May 2015

Plot:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest.

Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. The start of a sensational romantic fantasy trilogy by the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series.

Ideal for fans of: Julia Kagawa and Holly Black

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16096824-a-court-of-thorns-and-roses

Birdy by Jess Valance

UK Release Date: 2nd July 20159781471404665

US Release Date: N/A 

Plot:

Frances Bird has been a loner for as long as she can remember. But when she is asked to look after the new girl at school, the sparky Alberta Black, they soon become inseparable, doing everything together, and even creating their own sign of togetherness – a blackbird. After a while though, Bert wants to do things without Frances, and see other people without her there. And that won’t do…No that won’t do at all…

A darkly compulsive tale of friendship and obsession.

Ideal for fans of: Melissa Marr

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25269375-birdy

7. I Am Her Revenge by Meredith Moore

REVENGEUK Release Date: 1st May 2015

US Release Date: 7th April 2015

Plot:

She can be anyone you want her to be.
Vivian was raised with one purpose in life: to exact revenge on behalf of her mother. Manipulative and cruel, Mother has deprived Vivian not only of a childhood, but of an original identity. With an endless arsenal of enticing personalities at her disposal, Vivian is a veritable weapon of deception.

And she can destroy anyone.
When it’s time to strike, she enrolls in a boarding school on the English moors, where she will zero in on her target: sweet and innocent Ben, the son of the man who broke Mother’s heart twenty years ago.

Anyone… except for the woman who created her.
With every secret she uncovers, Vivian comes one step closer to learning who she really is. But the more she learns about herself, the more dangerous this cat and mouse game becomes. Because Mother will stop at nothing to make sure the truth dies with her.

Ideal for fans of: Sarah Mussi and Sara Shepard

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18658071-i-am-her-revenge

8. Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

UK Release Date: 4th June 20159781408335222

US Release Date: 2nd June

Plot

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Grey doesn’t look dangerous. A tiny, blonde, wisp of a girl shouldn’t know how to poison a wizard and make it look like an accident. Or take out ten necromancers with a single sword and a bag of salt. Or kill a man using only her thumb. But things are not always as they appear. Elizabeth is one of the best witch hunters in Anglia and a member of the king’s elite guard, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and bringing those who practice it to justice. And in Anglia, the price of justice is high: death by burning.

When Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself, she’s arrested and thrown in prison. The king declares her a traitor and her life is all but forfeit. With just hours before she’s to die at the stake, Elizabeth gets a visitor – Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in Anglia. He offers her a deal: he will free her from prison and save her from execution if she will track down the wizard who laid a deadly curse on him. As Elizabeth uncovers the horrifying facts about Nicholas’s curse and the unwitting role she played in its creation, she is forced to redefine the differences between right and wrong, friends and enemies, love and hate…and life and death.

The first book in an incredible new series set in a fantastical medieval world.

Ideal for fans of: Rachel Hawkins and Sally Green

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18190208-the-witch-hunter

9. The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery

UK Release Date: 4th June 20159781444920277

US Release Date: N/A

Plot

On New Year’s Eve, Jess’s life is unrecognizable: her best friend is in the hospital, her boyfriend is a cheater. A drug-dealing cheater it would seem, after finding a stash of Nostalgex in his bag.

Nostalgex: a drug that stimulates memory. In small doses, a person can remember the order of a deck of cards, or an entire revision guide read the day before an exam. In larger doses it allows the user detailed access to their past, almost like watching a DVD with the ability to pause a moment in time, to focus on previously unnoticed details and to see everything they’ve ever experienced with fresh eyes. As Leon, the local dealer, says ‘it’s like life, only better.’ What he fails to mention is that most memories are clouded by emotions. Even the most vivid memories can look very different when visited.

Across town Sam Cooper is in trouble. Again. This time, gagged and bound in the boot of a car. Getting on the wrong side of a drug dealer is never a good idea, but if he doesn’t make enough money to feed and clothe his sister, who will?

On New Year’s Day, Jess and Cooper’s worlds collide. They must put behind their differences and work together to look into their pasts to uncover a series of events that will lead them to know what really happened on that fateful New Year’s Eve. But what they find is that everything they had once believed to be true, turns out to be a lie …

‘A pleasingly dark teen thriller with fun, fresh characters. Spradbery is a debut author to watch.’ James Dawson

Ideal for fans of: Ellen Hopkins and Tess Sharpe

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23595949-the-memory-hit

11. Lola Carlyle’s 12-Step Romance by Danielle Younge-Ullman

99 DAYSUK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: 21st April 2015

Plot

I told her the worst, most secret, most important thing in my life – and she wrote a bestselling book about it. Last year, Molly Barlow did something terrible. Then, her mother wrote a book about it. And so everyone in their tiny hometown found out that Molly cheated on her childhood sweetheart, the love of her life, her best friend with his brother.

After spending senior year at a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Molly now has ninety-nine days to endure back in her hometown before she can escape to college. Ninety-nine days of being the most hated person in town. Ninety-nine days to heal the hurt she’s caused. Ninety-nine days to figure out what she wants, and who she loves…

Ideal for fans of: John Green and David Levithan

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22836575-99-days

12. The Lost and Found by Cat Clarke

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015THE LOST

US Release Date: N/A

Plot

LOST. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.

FOUND. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…

Ideal for fans of: Lucy Christopher and Tanya Byrne

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20685157-the-lost-and-the-found

13. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

RED QUEENUK Release Date: 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart …

Ideal for fans of: Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17878931-red-queen

14. All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzieALL MY SECRETS

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 2nd July 2015

Plot

A brand new title from bestselling, award-winning author, Sophie McKenzie. The shocking reality behind a GBP10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown’s world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear …including her life.

Ideal for fans of: Robert Muchamore and Lucy Christopher

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24907336-all-my-secrets

15. All the Rage by Courtney Summers 

ALL THE RAGEUK Release Date: 11th May 2015

US Release Date: 14th April 2015

Plot:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything–friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.

But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time–and they certainly won’t now–but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, Courtney Summers’ new novel All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and Lousie O’Neill

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21853636-all-the-rage

All these books are available here from Foyles.

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‘Captive’ Captivates The Reader

Captive by A.J. Grainger

9781471122927

Plot: 20/20

Captive tells the story of sixteen-year-old, Robyn Elizabeth Knollys-Green, the Prime Minister’s daughter. Kidnapped and held hostage by a mysterious yet seemingly gentle boy, she discovers some dark truths that threaten to change everything she’s ever known. Grainger knows how to ratchet up the tension. We get just enough insight into Robyn’s family and life to before she’s kidnapped quite early on in the story; a great contrast in establishing what and who she has lost. The tension accumulates gradually like a rising wave, demanding the reader’s attention. It’s a breath of fresh air in a market that has become dominated in recent years with vampires, dystopia and fantasy.

Narration: 20/20

Robyn, as the first person-narrator, is in direct harmony with the story. Her thoughts, her feelings, her perceptions; they all need to be felt first-hand versus the loss of  the closeness to Robyn and her emotions that would be lost in third-person. Her narration sets her tone and her age. We experience her resentment of her father’s position and the discord within her family as if we were there. When she’s being held captive, we see a development in her character, the desire to survive; that one element that keeps her fighting. We get, in ways a more resilient Robyn, but also a more vulnerable narrator.

Character: 17/20

While I like the narrative technique, I did feel like we were getting 80% of Robyn. I thought Grainger could have cranked the dial up to 100% and pushed it further.

“If looking like a boiled sweet were in this season, Michael would be right on trend.”

We get some great sharp descriptions that illuminate Robyn’s character though I wanted more. I wanted there to be no doubt in my mind who Robyn is before she’s kidnapped. What Grainger does sensationally though, is to capture the intricate little details -the traumas, the heightened awareness to pain and sensation, to her senses, her perception of her kidnappers and her environments – beautifully. She crafts Feather, Scar and Talon through their gestures and tones of voice.

Quality of Writing: 18/20

The writing veers dangerously into that area of excessive detail. Sometimes, it just needs to be snipped a bit to get to the point. Aside, from that, the story is told in poetic detail. I love tht Grainger changes it up and the first page of the story is perfect:

“Paris. The coldest winter in thirty years. The shivering limbs of trees pierce the deadened sky in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Ice clings to the abdomen of the Eiffel Tower. My father’s blood is a vivid stain on the white-laced pavement outside the hotel. In the distance, the sirens scream, but they are too far away.”

I love how Grainger personifies the trees and the Eiffel Tower and then, in direct contrast, distorts them with the striking image of Robyn’s father bleeding in the snow.

One of my favourite lines:

“‘Words are a powerful weapon. A single word can change a destiny. You wouldn’t waste a bullet – or a nuclear warhead. Don’t waste a word.'”

Setting: 10/10

After the incident in Paris, we are placed at Number 10 Downing Street, an iconic address that most, if not all, will be familiar with. Grainger’s descriptions are so vivid that one might think she lived there at a point in time. The accuracy of the real-life Downing Street furnishings is irrelevant if she can make the reader believe it.  When they go to visit their grandparents, the journey they take anchors us in Central London, giving non-Londers all that they need to set up the scene and picture the River Thames, Westminster Abbey and Parliament.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I haven’t read anything quite like this. I’ve read stories where characters are kidnapped or taken hostage but never a story where we get to witness a character’s physical, mental and psychological trauma. It’s fresh and new; a story that deserves to be told.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • A fast-paced, rollercoaster ride of deception, survival and love
  • Poetic detail that will anchor you in the moment
  • A protagonist that the reader will empathize with

Overall Score: 95/100

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January 8, 2015 · 8:59 am

‘The Giver’ Could Have Given More

The Giver by Lois Lowry

 the-giver

Plot: 11/20

Set in a futuristic Utopia, Jonas is selected as the new Receiver of Memory but when the memories show cracks in his perfect society, he starts to discover dark secrets that lie beneath the surface. I enjoyed the story. It could have been choppier in places and especially in the beginning but overall it’s a good read. What irks me though, is the ending. It feels like the story ends in the wrong place, just short of the conclusion. It’s a bit like ending The Hunger Games before Katniss has even entered the arena.

Narration: 15/20

The narration is third-person though focuses solely on Jonas and what he sees and thinks. While I enjoy the narration, I feel as though it hinders the development of Jonas’ character. It enhances the story-telling but ultimately, it makes Jonas read as a dull, hollow fragment.

Character:11/20

While the characterization isn’t anything to shout about, I can understand the rationale behind this. It’s a story set in a futuristic, perfect world where there is no hunger and pain. The people are all essentially clones. When you take away their freedom of choice, you wipe their personalities. The exceptions being Jonas and the Giver. Having said this, a good story hinges on plot and character. I needed one rebellious character to invest in. I think that was meant to be Asher but I think he’s just an OK character. There’s nothing definitive about him; nothing that grasps and demands my attention. I also would have liked to have seen more evolution in Jonas’ character as the secrets started to surface.

Quality of Writing: 10/20

The writing style is simple which would suit the story if it weren’t for the excessive detail. When Jonas is washing one of the Old, he goes into microscopic detail and in moments like these, it’s easy to zone out and forget about the story. There are moments when we’re told what’s happening when the gestures would suffice. At the Assignments ceremony, we’re told that the crowd is “ill at ease”. It’s not necessary. It fills pages but it detracts from getting to know the world, the characters and progressing with the story. It grates on me that everything has to be explained the minute it’s introduced and that it’s the ordinary, everyday objects like doors that get such elaborate descriptions rather than the rituals and happenings with which we are unfamiliar.

Setting: 10/10

Jonas’ world is explained, not only through place, but through his interactions with other characters and his observations. When he speaks with Lily, we learn that there are significant symbols for each age. Fours, Fives and Sixes have jackets that fasten at the back but on their seventh birthday, they receive a jacket that fastens at the front to teach them independence. We learn about Assignments and the system for acquiring children, for the ritual of death with the Old and it is all of these that reinforce the descriptive detail and anchor us in Jonas’ world.

Comparative Literature: 7/10

The book is twenty-years-old so I can’t exactly compare it to dystopian stories from the last five years. The concepts are strong and the world is fully-realised. The characters are somewhat flat. The plot cuts off at the end rather abruptly when it feels like it’s just about to reach a peak, which is disappointing.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Solid world-building technique
  • Somewhat flat characters
  • A ending that leaves the reader feeling cheated

Overall Score: 64/100

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December 28, 2014 · 3:26 pm

Truth or Lies in ‘We Were Liars’?

 

 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

liars

Plot: 20/20

The plot centres around Cadence and her accident on Beechwood Island. She has trouble remembering what occurred and the doctors and her mother refuse to help her, telling her that she must remember in her own time. Nothing is quite what it seems. You’ll fall into her world, trying to sort fact from fiction (in a world of fiction – meta-fiction?) and you’ll arrive at an ending that will leave you breathless and completely stunned.

Narration: 20/20

Cadence has a really poetic way of describing things that imbues the narrative with a sort of fluid consistency. The contrast between long and shorter sentences (even sentence fragments) makes it easy to absorb the information. As the unreliable narrator, she adds another dimension to the story. She keeps you on your toes. She forces you to question everything you hear and the story itself will be a completely different experience for each reader.

Character: 20/20

I was fascinated by Cadence. As a character, I warmed to her instantly. I love how Lockhart personifies her emotion throughout the story. The side characters – Johnny, Mirren, Gat, Mummy – are fine. They serve their purpose and I like them and Cadence’s interactions with them but she’s the star. Her fairytale analogies are interesting and relate back to her character but more importantly, they allow us to understand what is happening on another, more emotional level and also allow Cadence to make sense of everything around her.

Quality of Writing: 20/20

The writing style is simple but beautiful. The fairy-tale analogy is one that I have never seen used in a (YA) first-person narrative in a such a way that it is fused to such a distinct, narrative voice. Usually, sentence fragments tend to annoy me but here, and in the only other exception I can think of, Sally Green’s Half-Bad, they work. The nouns-as-adjectives style works well because it’s consistent:

“He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee. I could have looked at him forever.”

This style of writing literally reflects Cadence’s accident and her ability to recall events.

Some other excerpts that I loved:

  • There is not even a Scrabble word for how bad I feel.”
  • “We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.”
  • “She is sugar, curiosity, and rain.”
  • “I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools.”

Setting: 10/10

Beechwood Island is a fantastic, vivid setting. There’s a map before you read the story though you won’t need it. Lockhart captures the detail of the family home in sharp, succinct detail. Though Cadence contradicts herself with other detailing, Lockhart manages to bring the island to life from her perspective which is truly a remarkable feat.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

I’ve never read a book with an unreliable narrator but it is not this alone that makes this book stand out. It’s a single element and it’s this, mixed with the sentence structures, the unique descriptions, the poetic snapshots of the scenes and Cadence’s world and her relationship with the Liars. It’s a story about family and friendship; one of greed and money; lies and truth; love and loss.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Poetic writing style
  • An interesting slant on traditional narration
  • A story that will touch your heart
  • A character that you can’t help but empathize with (though you might find your empathy will be strained at times)

Overall Score: 100/100

Books You May Also Like:

Half-Bad by Sally Green – though the content is world’s apart (literally), the story-telling ability and narrative structures are quite similar

I Was Here by Gayle Forman – I include this here because the connection I had with Cadence, is similar to the one I had with Forman’s narrator, Cody. Also, behind the story, lies a sort-of-mystery, much like Lockart’s tale (***Publishes in January 2015***)

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Don’t Even Think About It

Think

Title: Don’t Even Think About It

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Publisher: Orchard Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 299

Plot:

The plot is pretty straightforward. The 10b Homeroom class  acquire telepathy through botched flu shots. I was never on the edge of my seat reading this. It took me almost a week to read because I kept putting it down and picking it up. I don’t buy the “scientific” explanation for the telepathy. It strikes me as more of a cop-out than an explanation. There’s no real sense of plot either. Just an event and the after-effects more than a story. The characters all have their own personal dramas but none of it feels real or relatable. And it’s predictable to the point where it starts to feel like one, big cliché. Also, Brinn tells everyone to skip donuts, at one point, in case they’ve been spiked with the antidote but if that’s the case and it can be ingested, then why are they getting injections?

6/20

Narration:

The narration confused me at first. I like the idea that everyone is telling the narrative. I like those moments, in particular, where we’re reminded of it:

  • “We think her best jeans were actually the ones with the frayed bottoms.” (75)
  • “He tried to avoid us when he could. He couldn’t stand our sympathy.” (197)
  • “We all thought it at the same time – Renée.” (183)

But overall, it kinda annoys me and it feels far to clinical. I don’t feel like the narrative style was altogether thought through. I didn’t buy the characters’ telepathic thoughts either. Would teenagers actually think so mechanically? I’m only 23 but I still should be able to relate to the teenagers on some level or at least coming away thinking, “yep, sounds like sixteen-year-old me” or “yep, sounds like something my sister might think”.

8/20

Character:

The characters are about as flat as the tyres on my bike –  there’s no air in them. They all feel kind of one-dimensional and by the end, I wasn’t sure who was who (and not because I can’t keep track – I’ve read The Bone Season for crying out loud!) and the girls all felt the same. There were no distinguishing characteristics. I had high hopes for Pi since she was so different but by the end of the book, I didn’t even buy her evolution. The only character I sort of believed was Cooper’s sister – Ashley. Here’s an image that sums up the characters in this book:

tt

3/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing made me feel like I was being spoon-fed. I wondered if I needed to know every little detail; if it was all relevant. I would have preferred to have had the information sliced in instead of being overloaded with scene-setting and backstory that takes me out of the scene, like when we hear all about Pi’s choices to try and achieve a higher IQ. I mean, why do I need to know ALL of that and even if it is important, could it not be condensed? If it’s supposed to support her character, I should be able to tell what sort of person she is by her actions and reactions. Not to pages upon pages telling me about the things she does to boost her IQ.

5/20

Setting:

The story is set in and around Tribeca and centred mostly at BHS (Bloomberg High School) but it feels like it could be anywhere. There’s no anchoring details, nothing to support this or give it an air of authenticity unlike the works of other YA authors such as Tanya Byrne or Cat Clarke. It could be set in any part of the States and I wouldn’t know the difference.

2/10

Comparative Literature:

The concluding explanation feels disingenuous and doesn’t feel credible. When you look at Michael Grant’s FAYZ series, you get a sense of character, place, narrative, world and an explanation that matches up to how grand the events are in each book of the six-part series. I get none of that from Mlynowski’s novel. I give her a four for trying to do something a bit different and trying to bring something extraordinary to the ordinary but I won’t give any more based on the fact that the book is a bit of a snooze and offers practically nothing new to the genre. Props for experimenting with narrative though it wasn’t properly thought through and it wasn’t pushed as far it could have been.

4/10

Overall Score:

28/100

Summary:

It’s a Just-Ham kinda book. It’s got nothing on a BLT.

Books You May Also Like:

Think

Title: Don’t Even Think About It

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Publisher: Orchard Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 299

Plot:

The plot is pretty straightforward. The 10b Homeroom class  acquire telepathy through botched flu shots. I was never on the edge of my seat reading this. It took me almost a week to read because I kept putting it down and picking it up. I don’t buy the “scientific” explanation for the telepathy. It strikes me as more of a cop-out than an explanation. There’s no real sense of plot either. Just an event and the after-effects more than a story. The characters all have their own personal dramas but none of it feels real or relatable. And it’s predictable to the point where it starts to feel like one, big cliché. Also, Brinn tells everyone to skip donuts, at one point, in case they’ve been spiked with the antidote but if that’s the case and it can be ingested, then why are they getting injections?

6/20

Narration:

The narration confused me at first. I like the idea that everyone is telling the narrative. I like those moments, in particular, where we’re reminded of it:

  • “We think her best jeans were actually the ones with the frayed bottoms.” (75)
  • “He tried to avoid us when he could. He couldn’t stand our sympathy.” (197)
  • “We all thought it at the same time – Renée.” (183)

But overall, it kinda annoys me and it feels far to clinical. I don’t feel like the narrative style was altogether thought through. I didn’t buy the characters’ telepathic thoughts either. Would teenagers actually think so mechanically? I’m only 23 but I still should be able to relate to the teenagers on some level or at least coming away thinking, “yep, sounds like sixteen-year-old me” or “yep, sounds like something my sister might think”.

8/20

Character:

The characters are about as flat as the tyres on my bike –  there’s no air in them. They all feel kind of one-dimensional and by the end, I wasn’t sure who was who (and not because I can’t keep track – I’ve read The Bone Season for crying out loud!) and the girls all felt the same. There were no distinguishing characteristics. I had high hopes for Pi since she was so different but by the end of the book, I didn’t even buy her evolution. The only character I sort of believed was Cooper’s sister – Ashley. Here’s an image that sums up the characters in this book:

tt

3/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing made me feel like I was being spoon-fed. I wondered if I needed to know every little detail; if it was all relevant. I would have preferred to have had the information sliced in instead of being overloaded with scene-setting and backstory that takes me out of the scene, like when we hear all about Pi’s choices to try and achieve a higher IQ. I mean, why do I need to know ALL of that and even if it is important, could it not be condensed? If it’s supposed to support her character, I should be able to tell what sort of person she is by her actions and reactions. Not to pages upon pages telling me about the things she does to boost her IQ.

5/20

Setting:

The story is set in and around Tribeca and centred mostly at BHS (Bloomberg High School) but it feels like it could be anywhere. There’s no anchoring details, nothing to support this or give it an air of authenticity unlike the works of other YA authors such as Tanya Byrne or Cat Clarke. It could be set in any part of the States and I wouldn’t know the difference.

2/10

Comparative Literature:

The concluding explanation feels disingenuous and doesn’t feel credible. When you look at Michael Grant’s FAYZ series, you get a sense of character, place, narrative, world and an explanation that matches up to how grand the events are in each book of the six-part series. I get none of that from Mlynowski’s novel. I give her a four for trying to do something a bit different and trying to bring something extraordinary to the ordinary but I won’t give any more based on the fact that the book is a bit of a snooze and offers practically nothing new to the genre. Props for experimenting with narrative though it wasn’t properly thought through and it wasn’t pushed as far it could have been.

4/10

Overall Score:

28/100

Summary:

It’s a Just-Ham kinda book. It’s got nothing on a BLT.

Books You May Also Like:

Eve and Adam by Michael Grant – for better world-building, a story about the limits of science and humorous and varied narrative perspectives

FAYZ series by Michael Grant – for better world-building and a similar journey of teenagers getting paranormal abilities (from ordinary to extraordinary)

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July 17, 2014 · 9:01 am

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

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The Maleficent Seven

The Maleficent Seven

Title: The Maleficent Seven

Author: Derek Landy

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series – Novella (offshoot) from the Skullduggery Pleasant series

Pages: 288 

Plot:

The plot centres around Tanith Low, who assembles a group of criminals, and Dexter Vex, who assembles a team of good guys, who race to find the four God-Killer weapons. Tanith wants to destroy them so that Darquesse, when she emerges, won’t be harmed and Dexter wants to stash the weapons away so they have a way of defeating her. You know from the start what you’re going to get in a Landy novel: explosive action, incomparable wit and OMG moments throughout. The story delivers on every level and even in a short novella, Landy manages to provide twists and turns and weave lies and secrets into the plot. A beginning that will pique your interest, a middle that will keep you reading and an action-packed ending.

20/20

Narration:

The third-person, omniscient style of narration is consistent with the series. As is usual in Landy’s novels, we get to observe different characters and Landy keeps us in the dark, moving to a different character and leaving us with a burning desire to find out what happens next. The voice is funny, creates dramatic suspense and ratchets the tension.

20/20

Character:

Some of the characters we’ve met in the other Skullduggery novels but some are new like Sabine and Black Annis and fit perfectly into Landy’s world. Tanith is the breakout star for me but there’s so many great characters within the novella, each with the certified, Landy stamp of approval.

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing is a joy to read. The words all but flow off the page and paint the picture. I especially love how Landy demonstrates and differentiates between the old Tanith and The Remnant Tanith. He’s able to show just how cruel and brutal she’s willing to be to get what she wants.

20/20

Setting:

Again, Landy doesn’t fail when it comes to his settings. From the English Sanctuary to Jackie Earl’s compound in Chicago, we get the full experience.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

Landy creates a world in the Skullduggery Pleasant series and is able to build upon and reinforce it in this novella. He does this with an incomparable wit and an imagination to rival top children’s authors. Landy creates worlds that rival the dystopian worlds of The Hunger Games and Divergent and characters as memorable as those from iconic texts ranging from Harry Potter to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

10/10

Overall Score:

100/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Great characterization
  • New and interesting characters
  • High quality writing that makes you feel as though you could be watching a movie
  • Incomparable wit and explosive action throughout

Books You May Also Like:

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – for another story about magic and the good and bad within all of us

 

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White – for more great world-building and a story packed full of humour and action

 

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins – for another story of magic, betrayal and secrets

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May 30, 2014 · 8:52 pm

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

imageimage (1)

Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Publisher: Scholastic

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 320

Plot:

Set in Lomere, Salisbury crafts an original world. The plot progresses with  a three-act structure and there’s enough bumps in the road to keep you hooked.

20/20

Narration:

The narrative is told by Twylla in first-person narration. I like how she sets up the world and the back story with Tyrek and slowly releases information about her life and her world. I had an issue with her personality though. It doesn’t really shine until halfway through the story and even then, I found myself wanting more. I love the world, I love the setting and the array of characters but I just wanted more personality in the narration.

15/20

Character:

I love Twylla’s mother and we get glimpses of Twylla’s personality mirrored back to us in how she thinks about, and acts, around her mother. I love the ruthlessness of the queen and the open-mindedness and intelligence of her son, Merek. I like Lief as one of the love interests in the love triangle. The issue I had was when Twylla discovers that her sister is dead. I don’t feel any more sad when I discover this than if Morrissons ran out of fish fingers. The reason being that other than being Twylla’s sister, I have absolutely no idea who she is. There is not enough established back-story on her character for me to feel anything when this blow is delivered.

13/20

Quality of Writing:

The lexicon employed in the novel is, for the most part, consistent and words like “breeches”/”my lady”/”Queen” and so on, help to support the world and the information that is released about it. I wish the in-the-moment scenes were more immediate as I read them and felt quite distanced and on certain occasions, there are words like “rank” (referring to smell) and “slut” that don’t fit in with the established lexicon. I would also have liked to have seen the information filtered in or dramatised. At times, it’s al lot to digest and it’s big blocks of text with a lot of information coming at the reader fast.

15/20

Setting:

The setting is spot-on. There’s not much else I can say. Salisbury knows her world inside-out.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

The plot reminds me somewhat of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study where, Yelena, having committed murder, must choose between execution or becoming the new food taster to the King. To prevent her escape, she is poisoned with Butterfly Dust and must take the antidote every day or the poison will kill her. Both authors create really vivid worlds. But have memorable antagonists and a good range of characters. Salisbury layers her plot with betrayal but Snyder does infuse more character into her narrative style. The main selling point of this book is the world and its secrets – secrets that can get you killed.

9/10

Overall Score:

82/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Great world-building
  • Could do with more character in the narration
  • An intricate story layered with betrayal and secrets
  • A memorable antagonist
  • Layered characters that have their own agendas

If you enjoyed this review, follow me on @YAblooker and follow Mel on @AHintofMystery

Books You May Also Like:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder – for another fantasy title with forbidden love and a great world to explore

The Iron Fey series by Julia Kagawa – for a novel with an exciting world to explore, a love triangle and memorable antagonists

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April 28, 2014 · 7:15 am

Insurgent

Insurgent

Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages:

 

Plot:

Continuing on from Divergent, we are plunged straight into the aftermath of the extermination in the previous book. Tris carries secrets that take a toll on her health and she struggles to hold a gun, constantly thinking about how she shot Will. One thing that did seem a bit off is when Tris enters Erudite headquarters, there’s no mention of her being searched which seems logical. Known to always bring a weapon, I can’t understand why Roth doesn’t explicitly say she has been searched. It makes you think that, similarly when she encountered Eric previously, she may have a knife tucked away.

 

17/20

Narration:

The narration is first-person, present tense and the second book in this trilogy offers us more personality. Tris’ thoughts allow us to witness her feistier side that we did not get to fully witness in Divergence while also elaborating more on her decision-making and thought processes which factor into the way the story is told. There are times when Tris still comes off a bit robotic but the narration in this book is definitely better than the first.

19/20

Character:

We get more of a sense of who Tris this time around. Her Divergence is explained we get to see her bad-ass, tough attitude balanced with her vulnerability at certain points throughout the novel; self-sacrificing nature is balanced with her guilt. We get an insight into Tobias’s background and his relationship with Marcus. New characters are introduced and the existing character cast continues to demonstrate multi-faceted natures and diversity – some of whom have secrets and agendas of their own. I like that Roth demonstrates Tris’ desire to still hold on to her old life and her parents and still want to move forward and fight for a better world. One of my favourite moments is when a Candor boy is searching Tris and she comes out with this zinger:

“”I have a knife in my back pocket.” I say. “Put your hands on me, and I will make you regret it.” (121)

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The quality of writing, for the most part, is on point. There are temporary lapses in the quality like when Tris is with the factionless and she undercuts her position by telling us  that she doesn’t “smell very good” (112). Also, there are times when Roth overuses “say”/”says” in dialogue and, though it’s not that noticeable, there are instances when it’s unnecessary and could be cut. When Lynn meets Hector, she repeats that Lynn stepped on her toes to show us that that they are not friends when we already no this and serves only as spoon-feeding us information. On another occasion, Tris mentions that Four smells like water. I’ll leave it at that.

14/20

Setting:

Great world-building and we finally get more of an insight into the faction system. Although, I’m still not sure what it is that Candor does. Just saying.

9/10

Comparative Literature:

A lively, action-packed, funny sequel to Roth’s Divergent. Roth amends many of the downsides in the first book and manages to improve the quality of the writing while still holding to, and even strengthening, Tris’ voice. It’s more interesting than Crossed, Ally Condie’s sequel to Matched. It’s a solid read and those that finished Divergent and didn’t gel with it, might want to give Insurgent a go. It doesn’t cost a penny. Go to your local library now. Yes, now. Well then, turn off the Kardashians. Yes, There’s still time. And I’ll leave the crazy there… for now.

9/10

 

Overall Score:

88/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • An stronger, more developed world
  • A daring hero that must fight to survive with a stronger, kick-ass voice
  • Great fight scenes

Books You May Also Like:

Matched by Ally Condie – if you liked the romantic element and the world-building

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- if you loved the savagery and cruelty of Roth’s world

Legendby Marie Lu – for a corrupt, dystopian world, lots of action and strong male and female protagonists

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April 18, 2014 · 10:50 am

Picture Me Gone

9780141344034 Title: Picture Me Gone Author: Meg Rosoff Publisher: Penguin Books Format: Hardback Standalone/Series: Standalone Pages: 208   Plot: The plot shows a lot of promise. It tells the story of Mila and her father, Gil, jetting off to America to help search for Matthew, Gil’s friend, after he disappears and solve the mystery behind his disappearance. Mila has “special powers” (that got me excited) but really, she’s just observant. Nothing much happens in the book. There’s nothing exciting throughout and very few obstacles. I like how Rosoff deals with secrets and betrayals but apart from that, the ending was anticlimatic and it lacked the pzazz that I was looking for. 11/20 Narration: The narrative style is first person, from the point of view of Mila, a 12-year-old girl. I liked Mila’s voice but she reads as much older than her age. Her “special powers” seem to suggest that she has a somewhat supernatural ability while instead, she is really perceptive; in fact, too perceptive for a 12-year-old. Her voice is strong though and she’s a likeable narrator and character. She adds a bit of personality to the story. Mila has a tendency to delve into anecdotes that, sometimes do, and other times don’t, connect with the story but either way, ultimately remove us from the action of what’s happening in the plot. 10/20 Character: The character cast is not as diverse as I would have liked and with the exception of Catlin, there’s not much characterisation to witness. She is the star of the story, the secret sauce on the burger you love but the rest of the characters are the lettuce; bland and not especially necessary. Forgettable, even. 7/20 Quality of Writing: The quality of the writing was average, at best, but as this was targeted towards a 12 and up (to 17) audience, I believe that the writing is too simplistic for the audience is intended for. Rosoff also uses language that, while appropriate for her audience, is not appropriate for a 12-year-old girl. If this was really meant to be marketed as a YA novel, it’s too short and too simple for the audience and and I find it rather insulting as someone that reads YA lit. With all of the amazing YA debuts and series that are out there, this book doesn’t hit the mark. It can’t even find the mark. 6/20 Setting: The setting was the only aspect of the book that did read strongly. Mila describes her surroundings in America, everything from Matthew’s family home to his secret cabin, with vivd detail. She also compares it to her home in England and while it is great to draw a contrast between the two, sometimes it’s unnecessary. 8/10 Comparative Literature: I struggle to find something new and exciting about this book that makes it stand out from the pack and aside from Mila’s poorly explained “special powers”, there’s nothing new or intriguing in this book. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read but it’s a long way from being the best. 5/10   Overall Score: 49/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • A far-from-believable narrator
  • Good scene setting
  • Betrayal and secrets galore
  • Poor characterisation
  • Anti-climatic ending

Books You May Also Like: Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy – for fantasy meets mystery, great-world building and a masterclass in how betrayal, secrets, twists and turns are done Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher – for a funny narrator, characters that are dealing with real problems and a terrible secret that will keep you reading to the last page She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – for a clever and thought-provoking mystery

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April 14, 2014 · 8:16 am