Tag Archives: YA

Join The YAfictionados Team Today!

I’m setting up a new and exciting YA platform with the BritishBiblioholic aka @thereaderrunt. We are opening our doors to bloggers both new and experienced to join the team. If you’re interested, here’s what you need to know:

  • We want to encourage creativity and diverse content ranging from author interviews, reviews, discussions, debates, videos and more to com! We already have three interviews lined up for our launch with one UK and one US debut (not to mention a 2014 debut that’s sweeping up accolades left, right and centre).
  • To clarify, this is not a paid opportunity. We do not earn any money for the content but there may be chances to secure free books.
  • The deadline for applying is 15th May though Georgina and I will be reading through interested enquiries before then and we may choose our team members before this if we receive sufficient applications so get yours in early!

About you:

  • You love YA as much as we do
  • Any additional skills is a bonus
  • We want to know what you think. Everyone gets an equal say and we are open to new ideas

About us:

  • An opportunity to reach new readers
  • A chance to bring together talented, passionate YA bloggers and create a community for both readers and bloggers to enjoy.
  • A platform to facilitate YA discussion

 What do you need to do:

Copy and paste the template below into an e-mail. Fill it out and send it to

YAfictionados@hotmail.com with a title reading “YAF”. Don’t forget to follow us at @YAfictionados.

We look forward to hearing from you and…

HG

Name:

Age:

Location:

Blog name and link:

Favourite book and why:

Preferred YA genres (eg romance, paranormal, dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi etc.):

Skills (mention any relevant skills such as design, editorial etc.):

Any additional information: 

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‘Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You’ – Or Is It?

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

mePlot: 8/20                                       

The story centers on Darren and his life; his parents’ divorce, his distanced relationship with his best friend and his brother moving away to Ann Arbor to study. My issue with this kind of story is that there aren’t enough plot points and obstacles to keep the reader reading. For such a long story, there isn’t anything compelling the reader to continue on past the first 100 pages. It becomes a battle to finish it rather than a pleasure. The story is an average, basic one.

Narration: 12/20

The narrative framework is something else though – a novel told in lists. The concept drew me in and once you get about ten or so pages into the story, you can lose yourself for a hundred pages or so. Many of the lists are tangential and while this gives the story an interesting quality, it also detracts from plot and character. It reads as more of an attempt to play with literary devices than an opportunity to tell a story. This kind of tangential referencing is fantastic for building character in certain instances but overall, it weakens the story. Realistically, it adds an additional and unnecessary 200 pages to a very long-winded novel.

Character: 7/20

Darren’s character comes through loud and clear and I actually kind of like him up until his Dad comes out and he completely loses it. I get it; he’s upset and confused and constantly questioning his parents and their marriage but at the same time, it’s over-exaggerated and I couldn’t invest any more of my time in him past this point. And it just got worse as the novel went on. Nate was interesting in the beginning but his character wavers so much that he reads like a different character in each scene. The parents are OK for the roles that they’re playing; except maybe the father who’s a bit like a Parenting-101 counselor. I like Zoey but again, there’s isn’t much different about her that I haven’t seen before.

Quality of Writing: 13/20

The writing is great because it’s episodic and Hasak-Lowy manages to infuse character into his lists which I give him credit for. If he had trimmed it back a bit, it would have worked a lot better. Sometimes, the lists run on too long and become chapters, making it difficult to remember what the respective list is about.

Setting: 7/10

The fact that Hasak-Lowy can anchor us in Ann Arbor and Chicago, while writing a novel in lists, is pretty incredible, and much to his merit. It would have worked a lot better if he cut back on some of the lists and let character, setting and the story flow rather than washing us in a muddled tidal wave of all three where we find it difficult to clearly identify where we are, who the key players are and what’s going on. I Google-mapped Ann Arbor and looked at how long the journey is from Chicago. It’s about five hours or thereabouts but what I find interesting, is how badly conveyed and unclear this is in the story.

Comparative Literature: 4/10

The most interesting aspect of the novel is the lists but this is much to the detriment of story and character. It doesn’t offer anything new, apart from what appears to be a gimmick. John Green’s Paper Towns gives us Margo Roth Spiegelman, a mysterious yet humorous character and while the story has its faults, Q’s reaction to her disappearance is appropriate. Darren’s reaction to his Dad coming out is INSANE. I actually cannot imagine anyone acting like that, regardless of the circumstances. It’s supposed to be a coming-of-age novel but when you compare it to its contemporaries, it doesn’t stack up. I’m the first to criticize John Green’s work but he gets you invested and interested in his characters. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has some character issues but overall, it’s a superior caliber of story.

Overall Score: 51/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Slate it: It’s too long-winded and tangential to really invest your time and develop an emphatic to Darren. The unique selling point of this novel is also the final nail in its metaphorical coffin.

Books You May Also Like:

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – a humorous, coming-of-age story that explores romance, sexuality and friendship

Paper Towns by John Green – a story of love, lies and mysteries

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – a profound story exploring sexuality, drugs, alcohol and depression

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‘My Heart and Other Black Holes’ Sucks You In

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

my heart

Plot: 20/20 

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

Narration: 17/20

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

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

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

Character: 18/20

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

Quality of Writing: 20/20 

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

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

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

Setting: 10/10 

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

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

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Comparative Literature: 10/10

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

Overall Score: 95/100

Rate it or Slate it?

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

Books You May Also Like:

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

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

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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

#WeNeedDiverseBooksUK

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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

Plot:

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

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: David Levithan and Stephen Chbosky

Links:

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

2. Under My Skin by James Dawson

Under My Skin
UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

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

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

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

3. The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

The Dolls
UK Release Date: 1st March 2015

US Release Date: 2nd September 2014

Plot:

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

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

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

Hype:

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

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

Links:

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

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

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot:

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

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

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

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke

Links:

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

5. Soulprint by Megan Miranda

Soulprint

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 3rd February 2015

Plot:

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

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

Ideal for fans of: Sophie Kenzie

Links:

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

6. Geek Drama by Holly Smale

Geek Drama

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 26th February 2015

Plot:

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

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: Lousie Rennison and James Dawson

Links:

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

7. Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild

UK Release Date: 26th March 2015

US Release Date: 24th March 2015

Plot:

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

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

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

Hype:

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

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

Links:

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

8. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: Jenny Downham and Gayle Forman

Links:

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

9. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater's Daughter

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 24th February 2015

Plot:

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

Hype:

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

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

Links:

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

10. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

The Alex Crow

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th March 2015

Plot:

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: Markus Zusak and Sally Gardner

Links:

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

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

I'll Give You The Sun

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 16th September 2014

Plot:

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: Karen Joy Fowler and John Green

Links:

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

12. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

Unspeakable

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 5th February 2015

Plot:

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

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

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

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

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

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and David Levithan

Links:

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

13. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl At Midnight

UK Release Date: 28th April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

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

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

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

Ideal for fans of: Leslye Walton and Marcus Sedgwick

Links:

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

14. Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick

Killing

UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

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

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

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

No Goodreads link available.

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

15. The Prey by Tom Isbell

The Prey

UK Release Date: 12th March 2015

US Release Date: 20th January 2015

Plot:

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

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

Hype:

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

Ideal for fans of: Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth

Links:

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

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‘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

Tape Needs To Be Taped Over

Tape by Steven Camden

Tape

Plot: 9/20

Tape is a story of past and present; of love and loss; of friendship and family. It holds such promise but the pages don’t contain very much and it becomes one of those books that you just want to finish and get to the end rather than savour the story and enjoy each scene. The idea of a cassette tape connecting two different generations is great but it feels like the story hinges on this and as a result, it dissolves into a very basic and boring plot. There was nothing compelling me to read to the end. The chapter endings and actual conclusion is clichéd. It’s not strong enough to compete in the YA market as a love story. It becomes a sort of novel idea and less of a story.

Narration: 10/20

The third-person narration is very basic. I would have liked to see first-person narration from Ameliah’s and Ryan’s points of view. The story would have felt more personal and maybe then, we would have felt more character coming through in the narrative voice. It’s not bad and it’s not good. It’s middle-of-the-road and undercuts the characterization.

Character: 8/20

I struggled with the characters. There wasn’t one character I felt like I could relate to or like. There was something missing – a spark of life – from each of the characters that prevented them from leaping off the page and coming to life. Ameliah was bland. Ryan was very vanilla – much like his daughter. I guess the real issue was that they all felt like caricatures; characters that were all cut from the same mould.

Quality of Writing: 7/20

There was nothing spectacular about the writing. It was average with nothing memorable to hold on to. I wanted something personal or poetic and what I got instead was a sort of formulaic writing style that bored me five pages in. The over-reliance on sight didn’t help and a change-up in the sensory detail would have been a welcome breath of fresh air.

Setting: 3/10

There were little clues to locations but I wanted more detail filtered into the story, anchoring us in a finite place. At times, it felt like we could have been anywhere. Ryan’s and Eve’s back gardens are supposed to be these special places but there was nothing that really made them special. It would have been nice to see or smell something that linked the places together and reminded him of Eve.

Comparative Literature: 3/10

Apart from the cassette tape, there is nothing new here. The characters are flat. The story is dull. The narration is basic. It doesn’t compare to other YA romances. Marie Lu’s Prodigy trilogy puts a twist on the romance element by pitting her two characters together (June falling in love with, and hunting down her brother’s killer, Day). Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series demonstrates first-rate world-building and a rollercoaster romance that oscillates between taboo and temptation. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars delivers an emotional suckerpunch as his story deals with the realities of cancer and romance between two funny and relatable characters.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Characters that felt like they’d been brought to life with cake cutters
  • Locations that felt like they could have been anywhere in England
  • A nice idea but impossible to lose yourself in the story

Overall Score: 40/100

Books You May Also Like:

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg – if you want a story about finding love in the most unexpected of places

The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting by Holly Bourne – if you’re after that creative twist that Tape teases

The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss – an emotional story of past and present; of coming to terms with maternal loss and moving forwards

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December 12, 2014 · 4:46 pm

Klepto Ghosts Are In And Shorts and Sandals Are Out

Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike

Plot: 11/20

Jeff moves to a new private high school where he meets Kimberlee Schaffer; resident ghost. Kimberlee is stuck and needs Jeff’s help to return everything she’s stolen if she’s to move on. Jeff, after disbelief and despite his reluctance, agrees. There are a number of plot holes. Would the American authorities be that lenient? I mean, I’m Irish and maybe they’d be like that in Dublin but I’ve never seen cops like these and I’ve been to the States six times. Secondly, the wrestling team don’t for a second question why they’re returning all of this stolen stuff. It strikes me as a bit weird. And lastly, Pike explains why Kimberlee was so horrible to Sera but I don’t buy it. How can you be so vicious for no real, solid reason? Fair enough if Sera beat her up but she never did anything to her. Interesting premise but poor execution.

Narration: 6/20

The narrative is blurred. Sometimes, you feel like the story is being told by Jeff and other times, most of the time actually, it comes across as a teenage girl. The language is melodramatic and he makes gestures and speaks in a way that emulates the female characters in the story.

Character: 7/20

Besides his melodramatic language and his hyper self-consciousness, there are other instances that make Jeff read as a girl:

  • Why of course, I love basketball. Go team!” (58)
  • He talks about the colour of Sera’s eyelashes under her mascara. At his age, I hadn’t a clue what mascara was. I can’t imagine many guys do, especially ones that don’t have sisters or close girlfriends.
  • He talks about things being “chic” repeatedly.
  • He kisses Sera and notes the vanilla taste of her lip gloss. Who – boy or girl – does this?

Jeff doesn’t read how he should but what about the other characters? Kimberlee is interesting at times but it comes across that she’s a vapid, calculating blonde and that’s about it. There’s no depth, no real emotion. I don’t buy her as a character though she is a breath of fresh air compared to the other characters and she brings a much needed sense of humor. Khail is a caricature jock. Officer Herrera is unlike any cop I’ve ever met. Sera is a funny one too. There’s something about her I just don’t trust. It feels like her character doesn’t come full circle by the end of the story. And don’t get me started on the housekeeper, Tina. When has an actual person ever sounded like this?

Quality of Writing: 8/20

Sometimes, I lost myself in the story and then I’d come to twenty or so pages that would pull me out of the world. It took me almost two weeks to read it. I was reading other books alongside it to try and maintain my interest. Poor word choices don’t help. On one occasion. Jeff slurs his words when he’s eating with Sera. Is he drunk? Because I associate someone slurring with drunkenness or someone having a stroke. Is Jeff having a stroke? Sadly, no. There’s another 200+ pages to work through.

Setting: 5/10

I believe the high school setting I’m in but I feel that the unintentional boy-girl narrative viewpoint takes away from it. I also would have liked Pike to have dramatized more of the detail and added something to make it more special and memorable and set it apart from the thousands of other novels that are set in high schools.

Comparative Literature: 4/10

It lacks the excitement of a paranormal story and as a high school tale of drama, secrets and crushes, it’s about as exciting and enticing as having to take out the garbage on a Monday morning when you’ve overslept and you’re running out the door to catch the bus for work. If you’re going to go down the route of paranormal twists, you need to commit and make the supernatural element read strong. Pike focuses too much on the ordinary and not enough on the extraordinary. Jeff focuses more on Sera then the resident ghost in his bedroom.

Alyxandra Harvey’s Haunting Violet takes a similar angle but Violet reacts appropriately to the ghosts she sees and it’s undoubtedly the focal point of the story. Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed focuses on Helen and Lucas, their love and their hatred for each other. It’s set in a typical high school, a school that’s not unlike hundreds, if not thousands of others, around the States. What makes the story different is the mystery and passion between the two main characters. Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You takes a simple high school location but hers is a school for spies. The setting sticks in your mind as strongly as the sense of character and the plot. Life After Theft achieves nothing short of failure or, at the very least, sub-standard results in most categories. Luckily, I got the book for free. I don’t think this book is worth the paper it’s printed on.

NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:

  • Weak characters that come off as flat caricatures
  • A setting that’s like every other high school in every other American YA story
  • A strong premise but weak delivery
  • A male narrator that reads as a teenage girl

Overall Score: 41/100

Books You May Also Like:

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini – if you’re looking for a paranormal element with a pacy narrative and a strong romantic element

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey – if you want to see how ghosts in YA should be done with a personable narrator and interesting, 3-Dimensional characters (I can’t recommend this book enough!!)

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter – if you want a high school experience with a twist (and a bit of character!)

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Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park

Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: Orion Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 325

Plot:

The plot has the makings of a John Green hit. I wondered for a moment if it could be the next The Fault in Our Stars; a story dealing with real issues in a non-paranormal world. So, does it hold a light to John Green? No. The story has the potential to really push the domestic abuse to the limit but I kind of feel like Rowell just glosses over it. It’s always hovering in the background but it’s never tackled head-on. The love story motif isn’t enough to carry the plot. Eleanor’s and Park’s initial meeting is sweet but there needs to be another element or the domestic abuse needs to be dealt with because the plot is flat. I was satisfied with the ending but I felt like Rowell could have worked harder in the beginning and middle parts to make me empathise with her characters.

8/20

Narration:

The narration is third-person but focuses in on Eleanor and Park. It’s extremely clinical to the point where I don’t warm to either character. Each voice should be distinctive but instead, there’s nothing to distinguish them. They read the exact same. For dual voices to work, both characters need to have different lexicons, different ways of seeing things and different thought processes. I don’t get that here and a lot of the time, Rowell uses words that undercut the language associated with each character. A perfect example is when Eleanor can’t help but look at Park with “gooey eyes”.

6/20

Character:

The characters are as flat as my Mam’s (for Americans = Mom’s and for Brits = Mum’s) pancakes. Mr. Stessman is an inconsistent character. Park’s Mom comes off a bit stereotypical and one-dimensional at times. I like Eleanor. She’s the only character where I feel like the reader might almost connect to.

7/20

Quality of Writing:

While I think the writing quality is average, there are some things I like such as the comic book back-drop and references (Mr. Fantasic/The Invisible Woman/The Hulk) throughout the story. It reinforces and reminds you of their common interest and always draws it back to how they started out. Having said that, there’s nothing spectacular about the writing. Rowell has a tendency to tell us everything. The control of information needs to be more gradual as the reader won’t read on if they feel like they know everything about the book in the first few chapters.

10/20

Setting:

There’s enough detail for me to get a picture of where I am but it lacks that personal touch that the author usually bring to the world they create.

8/10

Comparative Literature:

I’ve read some pretty great love stories – both paranormal and non-paranormal. Eleanor and Park ranks at the lower end of the scale. It contributes nothing new to the genre and to love stories in YA. John Green in The Fault in Our Stars shows us a terminally ill girl and how everyone can love and be loved. Will Grayson, Will Grayson shows us two very different Will’s and everything thereafter is somewhat serendipitous. Eleanor and Park, on the other hand, left me with a sense of triumph when I turned the last page because I wanted to give up at pretty much the end of each chapter.

3/10

Overall Score:

42/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Shoddy narration
  • A half-baked love story
  • Bland characters
  • Reveal-it-all release of information

Books You May Also Like:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – if you want to see how love stories should be done

Looking For Alaska by John Green – if you want a love story with a wildcard thrown into the mix

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green – if you want to see how dual narration should be done with two contrasting narrators

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – you might want to give this a read if you’re interested in the mother-daughter dynamic between Eleanor and her Mom (also just an all-round, great story)

2 Comments

July 26, 2014 · 9:45 am

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