Tag Archives: 2015 debut

Book Review: BOO by Neil Smith

Published 21st May 2015 by Windmill Books.

24702495Goodreads Synopsis: When Oliver ‘Boo’ Dalrymple wakes up in heaven, the eighth-grade science geek thinks he died of a heart defect at his school. But soon after arriving in this hereafter reserved for dead thirteen-year-olds, Boo discovers he’s a ‘gommer’, a kid who was murdered. What’s more, his killer may also be in heaven. With help from the volatile Johnny, a classmate killed at the same school, Boo sets out to track down the mysterious Gunboy who cut short both their lives.
In a heartrending story written to his beloved parents, the odd but endearing Boo relates his astonishing heavenly adventures as he tests the limits of friendship, learns about forgiveness and, finally, makes peace with the boy he once was and the boy he can now be.

My Review: As soon as I’d read the synopsis for Boo I knew it would be my kind of book – it reminded me of an old favourite anime series, Angel Beatswhich is about a high school that deceased teenagers find themselves at. The ‘heaven’ in this book is quite different, though shares similar themes, so I was really interested in reading Boo.

Boo is the nickname of the protagonist, Oliver – who wakes up in an afterlife consisting only of American 13 year-olds like himself. He thinks he’s died of a heart problem in school – but when he finds his sort-of friend there with him, Boo has to track down who killed them.

The story is very dark and unnerving at points – but is also unexpectedly a heart-warming story about the bonds people make. I couldn’t predict a single thing about the plot – it turns in ways impossible to imagine. The ‘reveal’ was abrupt and shocking. There’s no way I could’ve guessed it, but as soon as I finished the book I was wondering how I’d missed it! It definitely sent a chills through me, though.

Neil Smith’s imaginative ability is admirable. His version of heaven in Boo felt completely individual and was the perfect backdrop for the mystery plot. As fantastical as it was, it seemed so real: Each uniquely crafted character of the strangely bound community seemed to jump from the page, brimming with personality.

The main protagonists were incredibly memorable. Oliver is a slightly awkward thirteen year-old, who is more engrossed in his science fascination than anything else. I saw a little of my thirteen year-old (and current…) self in him and his voice grabbed me from page one. I’m sure I say that the voice stood out about a lot of books I read, but Boo was just different. The narrative was flawless to me and I felt Boo’s vulnerability and curiosity shine through.

Overall, I’d without a doubt recommend Boo. It’s certainly not for everyone, given its disturbing subject – but it’s hard to fault Neil Smith’s writing. His characterisation and narrative were brilliant – as was the plot, which unravelled cleverly. Boo didn’t turn out the simple ghost murder mystery I thought it would be: It was addictive, ingenious and the kind of book that breaks your heart then sticks it back together again. Multiple times. I can see Boo getting a lot of attention!

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of Boo from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Time in Between by Nancy Tucker

Published 2nd April 2015 by Icon Books.

23315461Goodreads Synopsis: When Nancy Tucker was eight years old, her class had to write about what they wanted in life. She thought, and thought, and then, though she didn’t know why, she wrote: ‘I want to be thin.’

Over the next twelve years, she developed anorexia nervosa, was hospitalised, and finally swung the other way towards bulimia nervosa. She left school, rejoined school; went in and out of therapy; ebbed in and out of life. From the bleak reality of a body breaking down to the electric mental highs of starvation, hers has been a life held in thrall by food.

Told with remarkable insight, dark humour and acute intelligence, The Time in Between is a profound, important window into the workings of an unquiet mind – a Wasted for the 21st century.

My Review: Upon starting this book I was trying to think of two things. One; if I had actually read an autobiography before, and two; if I had read a book on a mental health issue like anorexia. I couldn’t think of anything, so The Time in Between was completely new territory to me. I was very nervous to start it though also incredibly interested to read an account of an issue that’s really prevalent today, yet never fully talked about.

Nancy Tucker developed anorexia in her early teens and The Time in Between is her story, from late childhood to adulthood. It recounts all the terrifying moments where she was admitted to hospitals, and how anorexia and bulimia affected her so dangerously over her life, as well as family and friends impacts, and growing up in general.

The Time in Between discusses some very sensitive topics, but talks about them fearlessly. There are chapters, many chapters, that hit the reader hard, but that raw emotion Tucker has conveyed makes The Time in Between all the more unforgettable.

I can’t fault Nancy’s writing: It’s stunning, and I loved how parts of the book were written in different styles: from mock guides for how to care for sufferers, laced with dark humour; to movie-style transcripts of pivotal scenes in Nancy’s life. She writes so openly, not covering up any experiences, and that makes her book feel so honest. I wish more books about similar topics were written this way: In fiction and non-fiction.

Overall, I cannot recommend The Time in Between enough; to those who want to read a powerful and moving autobiography; to those who need something to relate to; and everyone in-between. I haven’t read anything like it before, and I doubt I will ever find something similar: this book just stands out. It’s simultaneously a shining example of evocative writing, and a uniquely honest memoir about mental health, and above all, hope. It was just extraordinary!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of The Time in Between from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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VENDETTA Blog Tour: Catherine Doyle on films that inspired Vendetta

I’m really delighted to be hosting a spot on the Vendetta blog tour! Vendetta is a UKYA début novel from a talented, young new voice in YA literature. You can read my review of Vendetta by clicking here. Here’s a guest post from the author, talking about films that inspired her début…

Catherine Doyle: Films that Inspired Vendetta

Cat Doyle BioColour-2As a small child, there was nothing quite as exciting to me as watching Cinderella or Pocahontas or Aladdin, and as I grew up, my love of movies grew with me, expanding to include more than just the old Disney favourites. I fell in love with The Princess Bride, saw Pirates of the Caribbean five times in the cinema, and spent hours imagining myself as an elf living in Middle Earth. While I was studying for my undergraduate degree I got a part-time job in a movie rental shop, where I worked for four years. I got to encourage my passion for cinema and forge friendships with a bunch of awesome, like-minded movie junkies at the same time.

Of course, books have always held a special place in my heart, but together, novels and films have inspired my creative side and set me on the path I’m on now.

For me, writing is a very visual endeavor. I take my cues from images in every day life or ones that randomly pop into my head. From there, I build the scenes and the characters, and see where the story takes me.

Vendetta was inspired by an image that popped into my head one night as I was falling asleep. There was a crumbling white mansion, and in front, five boys were standing side-by-side, doused in shadow. The story began from here, but as the characters took shape I suddenly discovered where they were leading me and what I wanted to do – I wanted to bring the Mafia to YA in a way that was fresh and exciting, while also providing a throwback to some of the greatest films of that genre. I hope I have managed to do just that! The finished result is a teenage romantic thriller reminiscent of The Godfather, Goodfellas and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.

The Godfather finds its place in the family structures and power-plays that drive the story of Vendetta. The theme of loyalty is a powerful one, while corruption and deception are equally rife, threatening the stability of Nic and Sophie’s world just as betrayal and dissension affected the powerful Corleone family in Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s iconic works.

There is a scene in Goodfellas where the protagonist, Henry, has to comfort his girlfriend after her neighbour harasses her. After dropping Karen home and attending to her with great tenderness, Henry tracks down her abusive neighbour and what follows is a take-down. This sequence expertly juxtaposes heart-thudding romance with violence, and brings about a sense of uneasiness in the viewer. There’s discomfort having to witness something so dark, and yet a sliver of appreciation for someone being so impassioned by the mistreatment of a loved one that their defence far outweighs the initial crime. The co-existence of dark and light is something I wanted to instill in Vendetta, where questions of morality compete against the ideas of love and devotion, and the lines between right and wrong are blurred.

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an intimate portrayal of all-consuming teenage love, and the obstacles that can threaten the purity of something experienced at such a young ago. Rival family politics play a similarly large role in Vendetta, and as an ode to the star-crossed lovers theme, the cover of the book is reminiscent of Luhrmann’s 1996 movie posters.

I can really see what parts of the book each movie has inspired, which is awesome! Also, Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet has to be one of my favourite films – I love how Vendetta has developed from aspects of it 🙂

Check out the rest of the blog tour stops!

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Vendetta by Catherine Doyle out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House). Find out more about the author at http://catherine-doyle.tumblr.com and http://www.catherinedoylebooks.com.

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Published 1st January 2015 by David Fickling Books.

23058402Goodreads Synopsis: Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long.

My Review: It’s pretty hard to collect my thoughts about The Art of Being Normal! I knew, from the many tweets I had seen about it, that it was going to be a stunning novel, and it was. I was speechless after finishing – I had no idea it was going to be that amazing.

I was so glad The Art of Being Normal it was receiving so much hype when I first heard about it last year, as not only is it a debut UKYA novel, but it’s also a story of growing up as a transgender teenager – a topic that is very rarely discussed in YA fiction. I think the only YA book I’ve read that centres around a character’s gender in a similar way is Pantomime by Laura Lam.

I have never read a book that tackles such a rarely-discussed subject so fearlessly. Lisa Willamson’s story is brutally honest, and very real-feeling. I definitely had moments where I was tearing up a little. The writing was strong, beautiful and engaging; from the first words I was swept up in David’s and Leo’s stories. I really felt like I was there, alongside them, or experiencing their situations first-hand.

The plot developed so well. I don’t think I’ve ever found an apt situation to use the phrase “the pages practically turned themselves” – but with The Art of Being Normal I can deifnitely use that. I never go through a book of this length in a day, but I literally couldn’t put it down. I was reading to and from school; during class; all through the evening. So many aspects just captured me: From the interesting social divide between characters, to the familiar UK school setting, to the very unexpected twists.Williamson has an unbelievable talent for storytelling and I’m very eager to see what she writes next.

Leo and David are characters whose stories I think I’ll always remember. They’re both in secondary school, of different social classes and circumstances, but they’re both struggling to cope with many issues. They were incredibly relatable & real feeling, and I was rooting for them all of the way. They develop so much over the course of the story. My favourite thing about the book was David and Leo’s chemistry and how it changes especially at moments like that reeeally big plot twist that I did not see coming…

Overall, The Art of Being Normal is most definitely one of the most powerful début novels I’ve ever come across. It was riveting, eye-opening, and had some perfectly crafted characters. I can tell we’ll be hearing a lot more from Lisa Williamson in the future; her writing voice is incredible. I’m so glad a story like this has gotten so much attention because stories like this need to be read by everyone.

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of The Art of Being Normal from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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