Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby: After Iris

By Natasha Farrant, published by Faber.

Goodreads synopsis: Bluebell Gadsby is 13 but that’s the least of her problems. Both her parents seem more interested in their careers than the family, leaving Blue and her three siblings as well as their three pet rats (who may or may not be pregnant), in the care of Zoran the au pair. The enigmatic Joss moves in next door and Blue thinks she might be falling in love, until he takes out her older sister Flora instead (who, incidentally, is trying to make a statement by dying her hair bright pink but no one takes the blindest bit of notice). Blue thinks and feels very deeply about life but can’t really talk to anyone about it, because no one in the Gadsby family wants to address the real problem – that Blue’s twin sister, Iris, died a year ago, and they are all just trying to hide their grief in busyness…
So Blue turns to her diary and her unique way of seeing the world through her camcorder to express herself.

My review: After Iris was such a brilliant read! When I read the blurb after it arrived, I got kind of confused. It said Bluebell’s story was told through words and film. Film? In a book? Then I opened the book up and saw that all of Bluebell’s films were written up in transcripts, and were between every few diary-entry chapters- such a clever format! I really loved how it was written. Not only the unique format I’ve never seen before- but also the writing itself, crammed with emotion. Much of the story was quite sad, with the constant reminders of Iris that haunted Bluebell, and the writing was so full of raw emotion about that, and the rather shocking love story. Speaking of which- the plot was so unpredictable! Especially the love story that was woven into the plot. I expected a very basic romantic tale, where Bluebell would fall in love with Joss, the love interest, and then there would be a fight and then they’d get back together for a happy ending. I didn’t get that. what I got? A brilliant, complex romantic tale, where Bluebell fell in love with Joss, the love interest, but not all goes to plan and Blue’s sister has a large involvement and there wasn’t exactly the happiest of endings for that. But I loved that plot twist with Joss! It was so unpredictable.

The other aspects of the book were really great, too- I loved reading about Bluebell’s ‘invisible’ school life, and how she managed to get back at a bully, and I also really enjoyed reading about her frantic, very unique family and how they all dealt with Iris’s death in different ways. Everything was resolved really well- I loved the outcome. I think that the event at the ending, involving Blue’s little siblings, was really quite terrifying. When the story ended with them okay, I was so pleased- but that was solved a little crazily.

Bluebell was a really great main character, and I loved her throughout. She was so relatable- through the bullying incidents and the many issues at home- so made for a very realistic character. She had a very strong narration and I got to know her really well through her detailed diary entries and the things that she filmed on her camcorder. Bluebell had a really interesting, in-depth background, and her past was revealed little bit by little bit throughout the story, which was quite clever because it kept me reading because I wanted the full back story.  I grew to love Bluebell so much, and I was so happy to read that this is the first book in a series- I will DEFINITELY be looking out for the sequel!

Overall, After Iris, was an emotional read, with its witty parts too. It was so well written, in a totally unique format that I really loved because it captured the essence of Blue’s family so effectively. Bluebell’s story was harsh at points, humorous and uplifting at others, and it’s really hard not to just fall in love with it. I honestly could not stop reading- this book is like a mixture of Cathy Cassidy’s contemporary masterpieces mixed in with the raw emotion from Annabel Pitcher’s equally amazing titles. Definitely recommended to young teenage girls, because they’ll definitely be able to relate to at least a small part of the story. I really can’t wait to read more of this series!

My rating:

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

 

Friday Brown

By Vikki Wakefield, published by Hot Key Books.

Friday BrownGoodreads synopsis: ‘I am Friday Brown. I buried my mother. My grandfather buried a swimming pool. A boy who can’t speak has adopted me. A girl kissed me. I broke and entered. Now I’m fantasising about a guy who’s a victim of crime and I am the criminal. I’m going nowhere and every minute I’m not moving, I’m being tail-gated by a curse that may or may not be real. They call me Friday. It has been foretold that on a Saturday I will drown…’

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run—running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past. She will learn that sometimes you have to stay to finish what you started—and often, before you can find out who you are, you have to become someone you were never meant to be.

My review: Friday Brown was such a brilliant book! As soon as I started it, I go so engrossed in the unique story. At the beginning, with the superstitious mother, it felt a bit like If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. Of course, if was so different, but in a good way. By the ending of the prologue tears had already sprung to me eyes (This book is SAD. Do not read it if you get as emotional over books as me. Or you will cry. At multiple points.)- that’s how powerful the authors words are.

The whole plot was totally unpredictable. I had no idea what the story was about, honestly, when I picked it up- and the whole thing was so unpredictable that I never knew what was around the next corner. After Friday leaves her grandfather’s home, she runs away and is picked up by a ragtag gang of homeless teenagers like her. But things start going terribly wrong when one character turns sour. I really wasn’t expecting the event that happened about two thirds of the way in! In total, the plot covered some really sad and really shocking issues, through an exhilarating and, at points, terrifying story.

Friday Brown was such a brilliant character. I loved her from the beginning, right when she lost everything and had the courage to set out into the Australian city by herself. I really enjoyed the way that she met Silence and his fellow gang, because not only did that open up her chances of survival, but that crucial night also came back to her at the end for a different, and clever reason. She was a really likeable person, and realistic too. Her background was pretty much all shown in the prologue, which was great, so I knew all about her, why she had that name, and even about her ancestors, before the story had even begun! I think that the decisions she made in the book were really great, and full of courage, especially towards the ending.

Overall, Friday Brown was such a brilliant read. The character were all great, the plot well written, and the story sad. This story will move you to tears, pull you in, make you gasp in shock, thanks to such brilliant, detailed and fluent writing by an amazing author. I really recommend it to Young Adults, and Adults too, if you’re looking for an emotional, yet also uplifting read. Watch out John Green- you have a contemporary fiction contender here, who’s bound to win awards too for this masterpiece! There was only one aspect of the book that I didn’t like, which I’ve put below.

**KINDA SPOILERISH ALERT**

My only problem with this book was that she never got in touch with her dad! I thought that he might come in at the end, to make the ending even happier than it already was. I mean, the reason she set out alone was to go and find him- and I still don’t understand why she didn’t make a bigger effort to go and find him. So her primary goal was never fulfilled. Which I didn’t like. But I don’t suppose it really matters- I guess the dad-less plot shows how goals and lives can change in an instant.

My Goodreads Rating: 4.5/5!

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

GLOSS

By Marilyn Kaye, published by Macmillan.


GlossGoodreads synopsis: 
New York, 1963. 
Fashion, music and attitudes are changing, and there’s nowhere in in the world more exciting. Sherry, Donna, Allison and Pamela have each landed a dream internship at Gloss; America’s number-one fashion magazine. 
Each girl is trying to make her mark on New York and each finds herself thrown head-first into the buzzing world of celebrity, high-end fashion and gossip. But everything isn’t as glamorous as it seems – secrets from the past threaten to shatter their dreams. 
They’re finding out that romance in New York is as unpredictable and thrilling as the city itself.

My review: 

GLOSS was a seriously great read. I requested a copy because it looked like a really good introduction for me to a genre I don’t normally read.  I wasn’t quite sure if I would enjoy something that wasn’t fantasy/set in the modern era, but GLOSS was brilliant!

The story started off with Sherry, the first of the four new interns at the 60’s fashion magazine, GLOSS. I didn’t really like her character from the first chapter. She was portrayed as the kind of girl who was popular, and a bit of a show-off. However, as I got to know her a bit more throughout the story, I grew to like her much more. The same went for Pamela, another intern. The other two protagonists, Alison and Donna, I really liked straightaway because of their unique personalities that made them different to the other glamour-loving GLOSS interns. All four main characters were likeable once I’d gotten to know them. I felt sympathy for them and they really did feel like real, three-dimensional people that lived off of the ages. They all had brilliantly developed backgrounds that were just so realistic- one especially was terrifying. Everything about them was in detail, also the author has written their stories perfectly. The novel’s focuses were shared out equally between the four interns with chapters that had switching between characters.

I think the idea was really great, and there’s really not anything like it on YA store bookshelves at the moment. The story is set in 1963, where fashions are changing rapidly and four teenage interns are about to start summer working at the offices of GLOSS, the biggest teenage fashion magazine of the decade. I’ve never really ever come across Young Adult books set in the sixties, despite it being a pivotal decade for teenagers. GLOSS has captured the era perfectly and effectively. It’s the perfect setting for the characters and the plot. The offices are in New York City, where each of the girls have their own place of interest to explore. I think that the setting was really effective because the four teenagers discovered so much about the city that never sleeps- the good and the bad aspects.

The plot played out really well, and I enjoyed it so much. The plot covered teenage love life, sixties fashion, journalism, and so much more in a brilliant story-line. I think that the flashbacks to Donna’s past were really gripping and moving. They added a kind of haunting hint of nostalgia to a bit of the plot. The other events played out really well. Many parts were very shocking and unpredictable- a lot of things were going on at once between all four characters but I think that just pulled me in and kept me reading.

Overall, GLOSS was such a great read, and I’d really recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction and real-life dramas. At some points, it felt modern. At others, it was like a flashback to the most brilliant musical, fashionable moments of the nineteen-sixties. The whole story, I think, was probably really hard to pull off- four different girl’s separate adventures in one book could have easily been confusing and too jam-packed for a single novel. However, I think Marilyn Kaye has written the book really, really exceptionally well. From a teenager’s point of view, it was uplifting, gripping, and shocking all at once. I loved all of the characters, especially Donna, and I was thinking about them long after I put the book down. A great read for teenage girls with an interest in vintage fashion or pursuing a journalism career!

My Goodreads rating: 4/5!

I received GLOSS from the publisher, in exchange for a review.

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!