Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

By John Green and David Levithan, published by Penguin.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Goodreads synopsis: One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, teenager Will Grayson crosses paths with…”Will Grayson”! Two teens with the same name who run in two very different circles suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions. Culminating in epic turns-of-heart on both of their parts, they team up to produce the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high-school stage. Told in alternating voices from two award-winning, popular names in young-adult fiction – John Green (author of “The Fault in Our Stars”) and David Levithan (author of “Boy Meets Boy”) – this unique collaborative novel features a double helping of the heart and humour that has won both authors legions of fans.

My review: I bought this over a month ago, whilst getting pretty much all of John Green’s other titles, too. For some reason, I hadn’t gotten around to reading this one until last week! As I turned to the first page, I was wondering how different it might be to John Green’s other books, as he wrote WG, WG with another author (Which, unfortunately  I haven’t read anything by!). And, it was very different. But in an amazing, unique and genius kind of way. The whole book was written in alternating chapters, in turn by each Will Grayson, with one author writing each. John Green’s writing style was his same, hilarious and descriptive fashion. I haven’t read anything by David Levithan before, so I don’t know if he always writes like this, but he wrote with no capitals and no speech marks. As much as that drove me round the bend (I’m a Geek, it frustrates me. Okay?), I grew to really enjoy the individual style by Levithan.

The plot was unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I was so not expecting the events that took place. The story began with who I’m now going to call WG1, as he started another day at school being the sidekick of his outrageous, constantly-falling-in-love friend Tiny. I got to like WG1 a lot, as his problems were really and relatable. He was just your typical male teenager, with the hopeless crush on that girl and the best-friend he is stuck with and sometimes hates. Then, I began the second chapter of WG2, who led a very different life. I instantly felt sympathetic about him, from his home life, to his difficult relationship. He seemed like such an outsider, with nobody but this online guy who he’s fallen for to turn to, and when that world of his was torn down I felt like crying for him. His emotions were raw and real, displayed really well through David Levithan’s writing.

The two boys came together under the most unlikely, most hilarious circumstances, and their meeting really made me giggle. After they’d met, it became pretty predictable that WG2 was going to fall for Tiny, but as much as I enjoyed seeing the ups and downs of their dating, it seemed to take over the whole plot, and made WG1’s story seem so much smaller. The story could’ve been re-named Will Grayson, Tiny Cooper. I really liked WG1, so would’ve liked him to have a little more limelight. I loved his growing relationship with the leading female character, though. It was really sweet. However, the focuses on certain characters did not stop my love for the overall plot. The book made a really great build-up to a sweet, emotional ending that has a lot to do with the name Will Grayson.

Overall, WG, WG was a very fun read. It focuses on accepting gay people for who they are, and teenage life through a very unlikely, brilliant coincidence that really made it funny. The plot was unforgettable, and I loved the switching narrative between two really strong protagonists. John Green’s writing, as always, was so amazing and full of emotion and laughter. Also, the story made for a great introduction, for me, to David Levithan’s equally emotional and fun writing. I’d love to read more from both author’s in the future!

My Goodreads rating: 4/5!

I bought Will Grayson, Will Grayson from a local bookstore.

The Weight of Water

By Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury.

The Weight of Water

Goodreads synopsis: Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat.”The Weight of Water” is a startlingly original piece of fiction; most simply a brilliant coming of age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails.

My review: When I picked this up for my school book club read, I was definitely not expecting the entire book to be in verse! I’ve never read a book quite like this before, with its unique format that makes it really stand out. I think that having the whole thing in poems instead of chapters gave a very different effect on me as opposed to other reads.Somehow, I seemed to understand the character of Kasienka more than I think I would’ve done if  The Weight of Water had been written like other books. I could really understand her emotions and feelings towards her sudden new life, her parents, and the bully at her school, through the format. The poems were pretty emotional and thought-provoking- they really made me feel empathy for Kasienka, and other, real-life young immigrants.

Kasienka was, in my opinion, a really strong protagonist. She had just arrived in England and felt uncomfortable and like an outcast as her mother practially forced her to help search for her father; who ran away from their home in Poland two years before. I felt so sorry for her about her situation, and was rooting for her throughout, hoping she would be okay. The bullying towards Kasienka really shocked me, as did her mother’s sudden desicion to move to England! I didn’t like her relationship with William, though. I felt he was pretty careless about her, because he was hanging out with Kasienka’s bully.

Overall, The Weight of Water made for a pretty short read due to its poem format. It was emotional but with a happy ending, although I feel that the last parts of the book could’ve been a bit better. I think it had a really great plot, too. The storyline dealt with serious problems in the life of a young immigrant, and it was very interesting to see through the eyes of a person who felt like the outcast of everything. I’d recommend it to fans of Refugee Boy, by Benjamin Zephaniah. The Weight of Water really reminded me of that book!

I received A Greyhound of a Girl from my school, for a book-club read because we’re shadowing the Carnegie shortlist.

Everything is Fine (and other lies I tell myself)

By Cathy Brett, published by Headline.

Goodreads Synopsis: Things haven’t been going so well for fifteen-year-old Esther Armstrong. With her brother Max – her closest ally – absent, she’s forced to face everything alone, not least her parents’ heated arguments. As the summer holidays stretch endlessly ahead, she’s desperate for something, anything, to divert her attention.

Then she finds some letters hidden in the walls of her family home, sent by a soldier to his sweetheart from the trenches of WWI. Esther is consumed by the mystery of these lovers – not very much older than herself – and what became of them. Perhaps in piecing together the jigsaw of someone else’s life, Esther can work out how to reassemble her own, and how to make everything fine again…

My review: Having previously enjoyed Cathy Brett’s past books so much, I couldn’t wait to start on this one! I read this in two sittings. It was amazing and seriously unputdownable. The story started off really well, and the pace was great throughout the novel. I really liked the idea of finding love letters from world war one in your bedroom wall, coincidentally as a film crew are shooting a WW1 film in your house. Cathy Brett played out the story really well, and I especially liked that she drew out the suspense a little by revealing the content of the letters every couple of chapters- that really made me want to keep reading on, and also left me wondering what was in the last, unopened, letter at the ending.

as well as the two World War One-based stories in this book, Everything is Fine outlined some thought-provoking issues of grief and loss and how a family can deal with it. Although this read was pretty uplifting, and funny at parts, it maintained some serious notes throughout that really got the whole message of the story across to me.

Esther was a really great protagonist. She was unique and really caring, overall. I fell in love with her personality right away because she was so determined to make sure that both lover’s from the WW1 letters had been okay, and survived the war, even though they had no connection to her and weren’t even in her generation. I could see those caring thoughts again through her emails to her brother Max. I could tell there was a really special bond between them and loved that element of unconditional love. it absolutely broke my heart at the ending, when you find out hat has really happened to Esther’s family. Although there was a lot of great description about Esther’s feelings, I feel that I would’ve gotten closer to the character a bit more is the story was in a first-person narrative.

Overall, Everything is Fine was an absolutely brilliant read, with a strong plot and really special characters. I loved it so much! It was very different to Cathy’s dark-humored previous books, but still so enjoyable. It was really brought to life in a unique way, unlike any other book, with the beautiful watercolor illustrations and the drawings; also by the author. I can’t wait to her more from Cathy in the future!

I received Everything Is Fine from the publisher, for review.

Kite Spirit

By Sita Brahmachari, published by Macmillan.

Kite Spirit

Kite and Dawn are best friends, and totally inseparable. Kite and Dawn share everything with each other… or so Kite thought. On the eve of their first GCSE exam, Dawn takes her own life, and Kite’s world shatters. Kite’s dad, Seth, takes Kite to the Lake District to give Kite space to grieve and cry for her lost friend, whilst he delves into his family history.  Soon, Kite meets a boy, who seems to understand her pain. Can Kite get help from Garth, this understanding, kind boy, and learn how to say goodbye to Dawn?

 

I absolutely loved Kite Spirit! It was emotional, heartbreaking and truthful  and I couldn’t stop reading it. The plot was really great, and beautifully written. I loved the main backdrop for the book, the Lake District- I really enjoyed the authors vivid descriptions. There was a tie-in with the afterlife while Kite was in the Lake District, a little, with the Owls (I won’t explain anymore, because I might drop some spoilers!), and I really liked reading about that and how it drew Kite closer to Garth and his grandmother.

  I really loved the character of Kite- Sit Brahmachari has managed to convey so much of her emotions, through a third-person narrative. I really understood Kite, and loved her unique personality so much. She was a really strong protagonist, overall. Her ending to the story was just perfect! It really showed how Kite had changed after the events of the book and that she had said goodbye to Dawn.

I liked how Kite and Dawn’s relationship with each other in the past was clearly illustrated for the reader with frequent flashbacks, and memories. The really showed me what Dawn was like, and gave me clues as to why Dawn might have committed suicide. Dawn’s situation pre-death was very understandable, and the outcome very shocking.

Overall, Kite Spirit was totally amazing, and flawless, in my opinion. It brought tears to my eyes multiple times, but that just shows what an emotional ride this book was. The characters were three-dimensional and realistic, and the setting was really great. I think this book was a great introduction for me to Sita Brahmachari’s award-winning writing- I can’t wait to soon read Artichoke Hearts, Jasmine Skies, and any more from Sita in the future!

An Abundance of Katherines

By John Green, published by Penguin.

An Abundance of Katherines

Anagram-loving, child prodigy Colin Singleton has a slightly different taste compared to any other boy when it comes to girls. In fact, he does not judge on looks or personality. He only dates Katherine’s. In fact, he’s dated nineteen of them to date. 

After Colin is dumped for the nineteenth time, he grabs his joker of a friend Hussan and sets off on a road-trip. The two boys find themselves in a lesser-known town called Gutshot, where they start whole new lives for the summer. Whilst staying there, Colin begins to work out a theorem to predict his future relationships. Will he ever get the right formula, and save himself from being dumped a twentieth time?

 

An Abundance of Katherines (Which I will from now on refer to as AAOK, because the title is long) was such a fun read. I absolutely fell in love with Colin’s personality right from the beginning, and loved his story so much. AAOK contained so much, in such a short amount of pages (213)- a rather hilarious teenage love story, and themes of friendship and hope. I didn’t really know where the plot was going to go at first, but it played out really well and I liked the outcome. 

Colin was one of the coolest protagonists In have ever read about, because of his nerdiness. He was a child prodigy who was reading at two, what’s not to love? I loved the way he would geek out and correct grammar or state random facts. It just made me smile, and I don’t quite know why. His background was really well explained thanks to the frequent flashbacks to important scenes with certain Katherines. I really liked those, as they provided a real insight into his Katherine-relationships- as he did not actually date a Katherine in the events of AAOK. My favourite supporting character has to be Hassan. He just made me laugh so much, with his joking personality. I also quite liked the character of Lindsey, because she was so kind to Colin and I really enjoyed their developing relationship throughout the book.

Overall, AAOK was really fun and entertaining read. It didn’t have the best beginning ever- I didn’t quite understand why Colin and Hassan had to go on a sudden road-trip out of the blue- but I think the characters were some of the most three-dimensional I have ever seen. John Greens writing was totally amazing: It conveyed emotion and humor really well. I can’t wait to read more from John, starting with Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I bought a few days ago!

Paper Aeroplanes

By Dawn O’Porter, published by Hot Key Books.

Paper Aeroplanes

Fifteen year olds Flo and Renée, high-school girls on Guernsey Island, were never really meant to cross paths. They’re totally different, and come from equally sad and harsh, but very different backgrounds. Flo lives with her mum who has separated from her father, and ends up looking after her baby sister instead of socializing all of the time, whereas Renée lives with her overly-strict grandparents and thirteen year old sister following her mother’s death years before. When they do meet,things will change for the both of them forever, as they form a friendship whilst experiencing the ups and downs of beings fifteen in 1994.

I was very curious about this debut, and didn’t really know what the events in it would be like. But, right from the first page, I was totally absorbed by this book and read pretty much all of it in one car journey. Renée and Flo’s voices both captured me from the start, and I really felt for them as the both went through some pretty traumatic times together. I really enjoyed the switching narratives between the protagonists- as it gave me a real insight into what one thought about the other. I though Paper Aeroplanes would be told from only one narrative, so that really surprised me… and it was pulled off really well, too. I loved both of the characters very much- their backgrounds were realistic and well-developed; as were their unique personalities. They were loveable, and easy to understand. I really loved reading their story and finding out how these two girls, Renée and Flo, form such a beautiful yet unlikely friendship, and also how they dealt with bullies like Sally!

The plot was really great; the events played out really well. there was always something really exciting happening in at least one of the girls’ lives, which made this book such a page-turning thrill ride. The story dealt with some really common themes in teenage life, not just in the nineties but today as well: exam stress, love, rebellion, peer pressure and home-life struggles. All of the events were realistic and understandable through the brilliant narratives. It was really sad, but at the same time the author has added in clever pinches of humor that liven it up.

Overall, this book was a totally stunning debut. It was powerful, thought provoking and emotional to me as a reader, and I think it will be like that to anyone who picks it up. Dawn O’Porter has captured teenage life expertly, and I wouldn’t have had this book any other way. It was a totally thrilling story, with so much emotion and drama packed into the pages- I didn’t believe it was a debut! A must for older teenagers and adults.

Paper Towns

By John Green, published by Bloomsbury.

Paper Towns

Quentin (Q) Jacobson is the soon-to-graduate boy who has always loved his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman from a distance. One night, she enters his room through the window and summons him to join her on a well planned night where Margo’ll take revenge on uninteresting classmates. Head over heels in love, and in shock, Q follows willingly.

After their all-night revenge-fest, Q makes his way to school and finds that Margo is not there. She’s been known to run off before, but Q knows this is different. He soon picks up on a trail of vague clues, and determined to track down the girl he loves, he follows them… but where will they lead?

**Review contains tiny spoilers about Margo in the ending of the book, in the second paragraph!**

I picked Paper Towns up this morning- just because it was a small paperback that I could read on the train today. I ended up becoming totally hooked on the story, impatient to find the outcome of the unique events. At first, it seemed strikingly similar to Looking For Alaska, another novel by John Green- popular girl and unlikely, somewhat geeky accomplice pranking students of their class, then something happening to the popular girl. However, I carried on reading. The pranks were witty and ingenious and made me laugh out loud, and the characters brimming with unique and well developed personalities. The similarities between  Paper Towns and Looking For Alaska stopped there as this whole new adventure began after Q and Margo’s all-nighter, and the searches for the clues were totally captivating. I loved every second of it. Also, I found it interesting how one poem was the answer to all of the questions Q was searching for, if he looked hard enough. The references were very clever.

Q was an enjoyable protagonist, and I enjoyed his narration a lot. I really admired his courage to find out what had happened to Margo, as she had disappeared without a trace, despite his fears about a possible suicide.  I mean, in the end, he traveled all of the way across America to find Margo who could or could not have been in the location he suspected. Margo, on the other hand, I thought was kind of selfish. Who just leaves for no apparent reason, after committing a few acts of vandalism as revenge? I honestly didn’t understand her at all throughout the book, although I did like her personality from the beginning part she was in. However, when Q found her at the end and she explained everything, I understood her and came to like her a lot more for the last few pages. It was interesting to see how her fourth-grade magical story drove her to running away, and how it linked to a dead body (Q and Margo discovered a dead body in a park when they were little), Q, and her home life. She was, overall, unique, just like the other protagonists I’ve read about in john Green’s other books.

In all, Paper Towns was a really great read. It had that classic essence of mystery solving to it, with some really memorable characters. I also liked the supporting characters , who were just as brilliantly developed as the protagonists. The plot was pretty captivating, and kept me guessing about the outcome throughout. It was witty and thought-provoking- recommended to YA’s!

 

If You Find Me

by Emily Murdoch, published by Indigo (Orion).

If You Find Me

Fifteen year old Carey and six year old Jenessa can only ever remember living in the woods, in a broken down camper van with their mentally ill mother. The girl’s mother leaves them for weeks at a time, going into the town and leaving them with only some canned foods and a shotgun. One day, whilst their mother is out, two strange people arrive, claiming that Carey’s mum sent a letter to them asking them to look after them, because she can’t cope anymore. Everything changes for Carey and Jenessa, forever…

I received this book yesterday from the lovely Nina at Orion, and I picked it up just to read the first chapter before finishing some other books. Well, that plan failed. I couldn’t put it down, and devoured it in a couple of hours. If You Find Me was so amazing and I just couldn’t bring myself to stop reading it! The whole idea of two girls and their broken mother living in the forest, away from civilization just had me hooked- it was so different from anything else I’ve read. They had been rescued from possible starvation not even fifty pages in, and had moved into their long-lost father’s new home along with his new family not even halfway through the book, so I wasn’t very sure where the rest of the story would go. However, the rest of the plot was strong and didn’t disappoint, with lots of clever links in Carey’s new life back that go back to her old one- like the boy she meets in her new high school. 

I absolutely loved the protagonist Carey, as her narration was fantastic and full of heart. Her voice totally captured me from the minute I read the first page, and I enjoyed reading her terrifying, unique story. I felt her emotions and was rooting for her throughout the book. I also liked the character of her sister, Jenessa- she was just so loveable and I just wanted to hug her because she’d been through so much. The reasons behind her muteness and personality were really shocking, and I felt so much sympathy towards her because of not only that, but what her mum did to her. Despite the fact that their mum isn’t actually in the book (She’s only mentioned by characters, or shown in Carey’s flashbacks), I felt I knew a lot about her by the end of the book, and her actions shocked me so much. As you can probably already tell, If You Find Me dealt with a lot of very serious themes that brought tears to my eyes frequently… Things like the abuse from Carey’s mum, the emotional blackmailing from Carey’s new stepsister Delaney, and more. Carey’s frequent flashbacks made her past events so much more real and scary.

It’s an extremely emotional roller coaster of a book, and I bet more than one point will make you cry, but it’s full of hope and free will too, which makes you smile. Definitely recommended for thirteen/fourteen and up, this is a must read which I’m sure will capture the hearts of so many people. The characters and the tear-jerking story will stay with you long after you close the book after reading the last page- I know they did with me.

Finding Cherokee Brown

By Siobhan Curham, published by Electric Monkey.

Claire Weeks is browsing the second-hand book tables on the Southbank when she pulls out a copy of ‘So you want to write a novel?’ by Agatha Weeks. Claire starts writing her own book about her life, and thinks she will have to exaggerate her own life to make it exciting, but she is so wrong. Enter Claire’s long lost father, the rock ‘n’ roll loving street-singer, who tells Claire that she is actually called Cherokee- Cherokee Brown. Cherokee starts a new life, full of adventure, where she finds out who she really is.

Ever since I saw that there was another book coming from Siobhan Curham, I’ve been an even bigger jumping-up-and-down-impatiently-waiting-and-extremely-excited fangirl than I usually am. When this came in the post, I was so excited to start it! In my opinion, this is probably the best piece of contemporary fiction I have read this year. I simply couldn’t stop reading, and finished it in a few hours! Cherokee was such an amazing protagonist, with a well developed, realistic personality and a big heart. I loved reading about her so much. Her narration was absolutely brilliant, and I especially liked the ‘notebook extracts’ in-between some chapters. They were very fun to read, and as they were character profile pieces that Cherokee had written about herself, Harrison, and her dad, they gave a really great insight into what Cherokee thought of the new men in her life, as well as herself. Also, I really loved the character of her Dad- a street singer, who dresses a bit like a hippy and drives around in his campervan. He was so unique and unlike any other fictional Dad I’ve encountered.  I loved the relationship that developed throughout the book between him and his daughter- there was a really strong bond between them even though they had only met about ten times. As well as that, I loved the connections to music in the story that he made (I haven’t listened to many of the rock songs that play a big part in his life, but I really want to now!).

The plot was very fun, and well structured. It dealt with lots of very common problems that teenagers face today- Bullying, Stepfamilies, and first love. Siobhan Curham’s writing made these events in Cherokees life really realistic and understandable, and I found myself sympathizing with the characters a lot. However, as well as dealing with some very sad themes, this story was upbeat and funny at parts too. I enjoyed this story of freedom and discovery so much. Despite the difficulties in Cherokee’s life, she had some great times finding out who she really was. I loved seeing her make the journey from being plain, dull Claire Weeks to becoming the cool and quirky Cherokee Brown.

In total, Finding Cherokee Brown is an unforgettable book that leaves you thinking about it way after you put it down.  It had some of the greatest characters I’ve seen in a while, and a well-thought-out plot with lots of great twists, and a satisfying ending. Recommended to fans of Annabel Pitcher- this book had lots of heart, humour, and tears. I can’t wait for a next book from this brilliant author!

Pushing The Limits

By Katie McGarry, published by Mira Ink.

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

Echo Emerson is the ex-popular girl of her high school, re-labelled as a freak after a horrific incident a year before. Her mother had supposedly tried to kill her, but Echo’s mind had repressed the memories of it, and now she’s been landed in counselling to try and regain the memory of the day she has forgotten. She’s living with her seemingly careless dad, and his stupid new wife who’s expecting a baby who Echo is sure will replace her.

Noah Hutchins is the bad boy of his high school, and his parents died years ago in a house fire. He’s been through more care homes than any other foster kid, and is currently living with a couple who don’t care about him, and two two equally bad Isiah and biker-chic Beth.

Both Echo and Noah are broken, but when they meet, everything will change as they fall in love…

WOW. I have never actually read a book with such realistic events, that has been pulled off so brilliantly! I absolutely loved how this was constructed- with switching narratives between Echo and Noah. That really gave me a great, clear insight into their relationship and both of their lives at home. The plot dealt with some very serious themes, and although they were heart-breaking and terrifying, they still had great positive endings. I loved how the events in this book played out, and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Echo Emerson was the character I fell in love with instantly. Her personality was so unique and her emotions easy to identify, and I really understood her nervousness and how she felt about all of the problems in her life. On the other hand, I didn’t like Noah so easily, and didn’t understand why Echo fell in love with him- he’s the bad boy who uses fists instead of words, and turns to alcohol instead of friends. However, through his narration, I began to understand him and why he did what he did. I ended up really liking his character, too, about halfway into the book. The protagonist’s relationship developed really well throughout the book, and I loved reading their story.

In total, I enjoyed Pushing The Limits so much. It had a really gripping plot which had lots of unexpected twists. The characters were three-dimensional and understandable, and I grew to really love them. I so want to read more writing from Katie McGarry in the future!