Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

Required Reading: Books I Would Put on the Curriculum

Particularly in the last three years, following Michael Gove’s decision to axe American literature from the GCSE English reading list, I’ve paid close attention to the types of literature I’ve been exposed to in school. Here’s all the books I’ve studied from year six to year twelve:

studied

These books are great and generate a lot of discussion. This year, I’ve really enjoyed Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I don’t mean to say these texts aren’t worthy of studying – but classrooms would hugely benefit from more diverse and current books, especially from this century. This is already happening, to a certain extent – for example, with Noughts and Crosses.

I think YA is more likely to make an impact on a student’s life. The YA section in a bookstore is where you’ll find some of the most influential and life-changing reads, as well as a plethora of diverse stories. So much of what I read in these categories spark important discussions.

In my opinion, the current syllabuses fail to do so – of course, there’s discussion of race and patriarchy, but often in the context of eras gone by. As important as historical literature is, it’s also integral to make syllabuses inclusive of books that deal with issues in the current state of the world.

It’s also so vital children see themselves represented. I’m yet to find literature by authors of any Asian origin on a syllabus, and LGBT* representation is shockingly sparse. The ratio of black and female authors to white and male authors is also far from equal on reading lists.

So, what would I put on the curriculum?

A while ago, I wrote a post based on a Twitter discussion, about what books others would like to see in school. I wanted to revisit this idea, using some of my recent reads! Without further ado, here’s a shortlist of books I’d give students, if I had the power:

if you could be mine

GCSE and A Level: If You Could Be Mine is a beautifully written book about two girls in Iran, who have feelings for one another but can’t express it publicly. It would be awesome to see an Iranian author on the syllabus, and the story is an emotional one with lots of themes to be talked about in class, from sexuality and religion to society and tradition.

george

Middle Grade Reading: George would be a fantastic book to discuss with younger pupils. Not only is it a really fun, heartwarming read – it’s also the perfect way to start a discussion about gender with children and promote tolerance of trans kids. Trans children are more likely to feel alienated and be victims of bullying in school: wouldn’t it be incredible for them to see themselves in the books they read?

 

the bunker diary

A Level: The Bunker Diary is controversial, to say the least, and it’s incredibly hard hitting. That’s why I hesitated to put this on the list. But I think it would be fascinating to analyse for students who would feel comfortable talking about its themes. In particular, the narrative is a really interesting point; it’s constantly evolving and switching as the protagonist spends longer in the bunker.

the hate u give

GCSE: Especially on the GCSE curriculum, opportunity to talk about current events is very limited. Police brutality and racism in America is a really important topic to engage students in so they’re aware and informed. The Hate U Give is perfect for this. It’s also a fantastic read that’s hard to put down.

wide awake

GCSE and A Level: Wide Awake is definitely underrated and I’m always eager to recommend David Levithan! The current state of the US is pretty depressing, but this book explores the idea of a gay Jewish president being elected, and the diverse celebration surrounding his campaign. It’s brilliant! David Levithan’s writing is absolutely beautiful and it would be so wonderful for it to be reflected on in classrooms.

 

wonder

Middle Grade Reading: Wonder has to be on this list! I’m pretty sure some primary schools have already used this book as a talking point. Wonder is written from multiple perspectives and follows Auggie as he starts mainstream school with a facial deformity. This book is so heartwarming and has already inspired so many young people to promote kindness.

What books would you put on the curriculum?

 

 

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Reasons to Read: Unboxed by Non Pratt

Published 15th August 2016 by Barrington Stoke.

I thought I’d make today’s post in an infographic form! I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut recently (school, life, lack of motivation to do anything but binge netflix and sleep) and although I could write so much about this book, I wanted to summarise it really briefly and give it a pretty looking post. I mean, look at that cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Unboxed unexpectedly moved me to tears. It’s an incredible book, and I haven’t been completely able to stop thinking about the characters. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Book Review: If You Were Me by Sam Hepburn

Published 2nd April 2015 by Chicken House.

22892748Goodreads Synopsis: From the author of CHASING THE DARK comes a thrilling young teen crime mystery, guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end.

Not long after Aliya’s family escapes Afghanistan for Britain, her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure of his innocence, but when plumber’s son Dan finds a gun in their bathroom, what’s she to think?
Dan has his own reasons for staying silent: he’s worried the gun might have something to do with his dad. Thrown together by chance, they set out to uncover a tangled and twisted truth.

My Review: Recently, I’ve read quite a few books based around religion, intolerance and terrorism – so I was very excited about getting to Sam Hepburn’s latest title, which is along the same lines. I really enjoyed it!

Aliya is an instantly loveable character; from the moments we see her forced to leave her home, to the closing pages. Her chemistry with Dan was great. I was a bit nervous watching them develop as I was certain it would end up in a love story, but I’m really glad it didn’t. The story is focused on finding the truth about Aliya’s brother – and told through Aliya and Dan’s switching perspectives, which were really insightful.

I am so glad that so many books are being written on similar themes lately (see also: You’re Not Proper and One Of Us) as terrorism and victimisation are things happening every single day. If You Were Me tackles stereotypes and the way the media portrays events expertly and brutally honestly – within a tense and gripping plot.

The plot was incredibly well paced and engrossing. Solving the mystery was such a thrill ride – I guessed some elements, but there were a lot of surprises. I think the only problem I had was that I lost track of characters at points: There’s an intricate web of antagonists and allies in If You Were Me and I got a little mixed up sometimes (partially blaming that on reading distractions though…:P).

Overall, If You Were Me was a lot more than I’d expected. It’s a totally gripping read with some unbelievable twists and turns that kept me hooked. With prominent themes of media portrayal, and terrorist attacks, I hope this gets a lot of attention as it’s a very relevant book. Definitely recommended if you’re looking for a nail-biting thriller, or something that’s very relatable.

My Rating:

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

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140 Character Reviews! [contemporary fiction]

I have no idea if this has been done before, but the idea very randomly struck me. I was about to write mini-reviews for some books but wanted a new way to post them – and my Twitter tab was open. I’m prone to rambling about books for many, many paragraphs – so maybe it would be fun to try and sum up everything in 140 Characters or less?! Here goes…

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The three summaries above were all of contemporary books I’ve recently read. If you liked this kind of post, let me know and I’ll think about doing some more, with books of different genres! 😀

Geek Girl: Model Misfit

By Holly Smale, published by Harper Collins.

Model Misfit (Geek Girl #2)Goodreads Synopsis: “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am still a geek.”

Harriet knows that modelling won’t transform you. She knows that being as uniquely odd as a polar bear isn’t necessarily a bad thing (even in a rainforest). And that the average person eats a ton of food a year, though her pregnant stepmother is doing her best to beat this.

What Harriet doesn’t know is where she’s going to fit in once the new baby arrives.

With summer plans ruined, modelling in Japan seems the perfect chance to get as far away from home as possible. But nothing can prepare Harriet for the craziness of Tokyo, her competitive model flatmates and her errant grandmother’s ‘chaperoning’. Or seeing gorgeous Nick everywhere she goes.

Because, this time, Harriet knows what a broken heart feels like.

Can geek girl find her place on the other side of the world or is Harriet lost for good?

My Review: (This first paragraph MAY be viewed as a SPOILER. Tread carefully, if you haven’t yet read this sequel). About a year ago, I read and fell in love with Geek Girl. After seeing in the back of my copy that there was to be a sequel, I was literally crying with joy that I’d get to read about Harriet again! And Nick! And them as a couple! Yay! So, when this came in the post, I dived in, thinking Harriet And Nick Were Happy Together And Everything Was Going To Be Fine. And then, Holly Smale, you SMASHED my dreams and everything fell apart and I may have shed a tear. Holly! Why! However, it did make an epic plot twist- which made for a very beautiful ending!
Spoiler-ish paragraph over 🙂

Speaking of the plot for this novel: flawless. I loved it so much! It was just as great a Geek Girl’s… Maybe… Better. Harriet, upset about being cast aside as the baby’s on the way, takes up a modelling shoot in Japan so she can get away for the summer. I think the change of setting made for a very different read! I also loved the setting because I’m a manga/anime nerd, so a little obsessed with Japan :). As well as the plot twist with Nick, there were lots of surprises in store- most, were hilarious.

Harriet! I love you so much. Please come to the real world someday and be my friend? We can geek out over facts and watch some documentaries together. And we can do physics!!
Harriet’s so much like me, and that’s a main reason I love the story so much. I have a Toby friend, and a best friend whose dream is to be a model, and I’m a geek, and she’s described to look like me (YES, Harriet! High fives for the Strawberry Blondes Who Are NOT Gingers Contrary To Popular Belief). A lot of other people have said similar things, too! Holly’s invented an unforgettable character who we’re all like in one way or another. All of the other characters are unique and brilliant. Most of them (Bar Alexa and a couple of others.) I just wanted to hug because they make me smile so much!

Whilst I was reading this, even though their stories are quite different, I couldn’t help but feel that Holly Smale’s writing is in the same vein as Louise Rennison’s; another huge UK teen comedy author. Holly’s books are similar because they’re laugh-out-loud-embarrass-yourself-on-public-transport-because-you-snorted-with-laughter type books, (yes. That happened okay.) and are really feel-good reads.

Overall, Geek Girl: Model Misfit loved up to my expectations- and more. The plot was brilliant, pretty much unpredictable, and the setting for the story was perfect. I didn’t think it was possible to love Harriet more than I did in the first book… Well, I was wrong! Go read the Geek Girl books, whoever you are. If you’re a geek, hugely or slightly, you’ll love this because you’ll relate all too much to it. If you’re a fashion lover, read it, and you’ll love it for Harriet’s funny teen career. If you’re neither, I can guarantee you’ll still love this. Geek Girl is one of the best contemporary series I’ve ever read, definitely!

My Rating:

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

Being Billy

By Phil Earle, published by Puffin.

Being BillyGoodreads synopsis: “Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn’t forgotten what they did.”

Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy’s angry – with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy’s concerned, he’s on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can’t keep him out of trouble. But he isn’t being difficult on purpose. Billy’s just being Billy. He can’t be anything else.

My Review: After reading and really enjoying Heroic, Phil Earle’s newest book, I decided that I should read his other two. I picked up this, his debut, along with Heroic, and really couldn’t wait to start it too. I was totally blown away by this! It went above and beyond all of my expectations and it’s one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction that I’ve read this year, and a close contender to John Green’s writing. I enjoyed it so much! Billy is living in a care home and he hates it. The only thing stopping him from doing a runner is his two younger siblings. He’s alone and angry, but some things are about to change his life.

Apart from Tracy Beaker, which I read when I was younger, I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book about a person growing up in a care home. Truthfully, the book was such an emotional roller-coaster, thanks to the setting and Billy’s family life. Phil Earle has captured life in a care home so well, and I read that the author actually used to work in the social care area. I think that helped him to give this book an emotional punch, and made the setting realistic and believable with raw, truthful elements.

The plot was just brilliant. From the beginning I was totally absorbed in the story: Billy sneaks back into his care home after breaking out, and he is restrained by the carers and an argument ensues. Then, he soon meets a girl called Daisy on a walk. As the two get to know each other more, Billy is also facing an inner-conflict about whether or not to make contact with his old foster parents, who he parted with after a terrible incident.

From the beginning, I knew that Billy was going to be an entirely unforgettable character. Plunged straight into his shocking life, I understood him straight away. He was such a realistic character, and the author has portrayed him excellently. He had such raw emotions, that made me sympathize with him so much. I felt his anger and pain through the author’s brilliant narration. He made for such a brilliant protagonist, who I was rooting for throughout. I got to know him so well, because as the story progressed hints were dropped at Billy’s abusive past, which was eventually revealed and left me totally dumbfounded. what I loved about him was that he stayed strong, just for his twin siblings, who are living in care with him, and that behind his defence walls, he was just a boy. It made me just want to go and hug him!

Daisy, the girl that he meets, was also a really likeable character. I found it very clever how her story linked into Billy’s at the ending, in a totally unpredictable plot twist. The other character that I really loved was the care worked who Billy originally hates. It was really shocking, how he became a hated character at the beginning to quite a liked one toward the end.

Overall, Being Billy was a really amazing debut, from a brilliant author. It’s a really emotional read, by an author who packs so much thought and feelings into his immaculate, detailed writing. The setting was really realistic, and made me think so much about children growing up in a care home. The characters were also really realistic- and so believable. Billy is an unforgettable character who I really want to read so much more about! I now cannot wait to start Saving Daisy, Phil Earle’s other novel. I think it’s like a prequel to Being Billy, about Daisy’s life before she meets him. But I’m not entirely sure. Either way, I’m sure I’ll love that as much as I did this!

My Rating:

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I bought a copy of Being Billy, in a box set of Phil Earle’s books, in a local shop.

 

The Taming of the Tights

By Louise Rennison, published by HarperCollins.

The Taming of the Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey #3)Goodreads synopsis: Gadzooks! It’s another term at Dother Hall for Tallulah and her mates. But can they keep their minds on the arts with all those boys about…
After the thing-that-will-never-be-mentioned last term, Tallulah is keen to put all thoughts of Cain behind her. But that seems like that the last thing he wants.
Their performing arts college may have been saved by Honey’s mystery benefactor, but for how long is anyone’s guess. So will Tallulah finally get to wear those golden slippers of applause or will Dr Lightowler swoop down on her glory days?
Don your craziest tights and Irish dance your way to some surprising and hilariously unexpected answers…

My review: Hooray, more Tallulah!! I loved the first two books in the Tallulah Casey series so much, and was ridiculously excited when this came. Louise Rennison’s previous books have been so brilliant, quirky and hilarious, and this one was no different. Before Tallulah had even arrived at Dother Hall for another term, she’d already made me laugh out loud a good few times. Things only got wittier as the term started, with Tallulah’s crazy love life, teachers, and friends. The plot was just brilliant, again focused around a school play (The Taming of the Shrew, hence the altered title of this book). I sped through the book, desperate to know what happens to all of my favourite comedy characters, and there wasn’t a single chapter that was boring.

I fell in love with Tallulah’s personality all over again in this third book in her series. Usually in books,  I don’t like the make-up loving girly-girls, and prefer the kick-butt heroines, but Tallulah is one of my exceptions. She’s just so funny! A unique, cheeky protagonist, Tallulah always seems to make a mess of things in the most humorous ways possible. I just adore her, and I really like how she got really close to Charlie in this story. They make such a cute couple, and their date-ish thing about two thirds into the book just made me laugh so much.

As well as Tallulah, I also love her friendship group, The Tree Sisters. All of them are really awesome. They’re not as funny as Tallulah (though Jo kinda was in this installment), but I really do enjoy reading about their misadventures too. Jo in this book had quite a large part, thanks to the hilarious incident with Phil. I won’t go into detail about it, but it is one of the funniest points in the book.

Ooh, another point- THE DEAD RABBIT WAVING!!! You probably now think I’m mad. But, in the past two books, Rennison has put in the author’s note that she had this grim scene of a dead rabbit, but her family wouldn’t let her put it in. However, she snuck it in here. I’ve been wanting to read the scene so badly, even though it’s only a paragraph long. I was absolutely ecstatic when it appeared in the book. Look out for it. You shall laugh your head off, or cry because of the grimness. I laughed.

Overall, The Taming of the Tights was another brilliant read from another brilliant author. It’s crammed with ridiculously funny characters, and events, and there’ll be at least one point where you’ll find yourself laughing. Although I think the ending was a little too cheesy for me, the plot was just amazing. I honestly can’t wait for a next book (hurry, Louise Rennison, I want more!! :)). Just don’t read this in public, because people will probably give you funny looks because you’ve suddenly burst out laughing on the train, or something. This series is an absolute must for teenage girls!

My Rating:

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I received an ARC of The Taming of the Tights from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.