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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve seen so many articles, tweets, Tumblr posts about acts of police brutality against African Americans in the US, I’ve lost count of the amount of names I’ve seen listed. It’s upsetting. It’s horrible. It shouldn’t be happening. And it’s difficult to raise awareness about it, beyond sharing something on social media – so I really want to share this book as widely as I can.

Published 6th April 2017 by Walker Books UK. 

32613366Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.


My Review: I was so eager to read this, from the minute I learned what it was about. The Hate U Give is focused on Starr, a girl my age, who is in the car with her childhood friend when he’s killed by a police officer who had no reason at all to shoot. Grieving Starr is thrown into the most difficult situation, where she has to decide whether to stay silent or to speak out, even if it puts her life at risk.

What happens to Starr’s friend, Khalil, is frighteningly similar to so many deaths I’ve read about – and it’s frightening to think that this happens regularly. It really opened my eyes to the situation of prejudice and racism in America, as before I was aware but not aware enough, as most people sadly are.

The story is heartbreaking, and might be difficult for some to read as it touches on so many relevant themes today – but that’s why this book has to be read. It’s unflinchingly powerful and brave.

The narrative is compelling, and I grew to really love Starr throughout the novel – it’s told in her very realistic voice. She’s torn between what to do, because remaining silent about what she witnessed and raising her voice. She’s also torn between two different ‘lives’ she’s living: her hometown and the mostly-white populated private school she attends. Starr lives with so much internal conflict, and I really empathised with her because I can imagine so many people are in the same situations.

I became really attached to Starr’s family, and Thomas writes so much detail into each character that I can’t stop thinking about them. Starr’s father is one particularly well developed, unforgettable character – an ex-convict who found his way out of gang culture, determined to protect his children and also build up his life with the store he now owns. There’s something about all of the characters that’s incredibly inspiring – their stories stay with you for a long time.

The best thing about The Hate U Give is how unapologetic and real it is. I’m really excited to see how it translates into a visual story, too! The movie rights have been sold, with Amandla Stenberg to star – which is the most incredible news. I really hope this book, and a movie in the future, helps to raise awareness. Not only is this a captivating story – it’s a powerful and unforgettable message about an ongoing issue.

Overall, I obviously recommend The Hate U Give to everyone, especially if you’re not very informed on current events in America and the Black Lives Matter Movement. It’s the most memorable and moving book you’ll read this year.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Hate U Give from the publisher, via Lovereading4kids, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis

Related posts: Blog Tour: Lisa Selin Davis on the novels that inspired her

Published 16th October 2016 by Hot Key Books.

31328363Goodreads Synopsis: In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself…as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.

My Review: First things first – I read this book at the wrong time. It was a really great story, and I did enjoy it very much, but I stupidly started reading it as my mock exams started. It took me nearly a month to find the time to finish it! So, maybe, I would have loved it even more if I had read the book in one go: it’s definitely a book you can get completely immersed in.

What I loved the most about Lost Stars was the characters. They were so wonderful and real-feeling. They’re still in my head, long after I put the book down. I quite liked Carrie and how complex her character was – the story is centred around her anger issues, and how her mother’s absence has played into it. I did tear up a little at the resolution.

The gang of teenagers Carrie hangs out with were my favourite. I loved how Selin Davis takes the time to explore Soo, who I could’ve read a whole book about! The love story… I didn’t enjoy so much. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just really cynical.

Another aspect of the book I adored was the setting. Selin Davis’ debut is such a fantastic trip back to a few decades. I love books set in the 70s-90s – the atmosphere is just so great and nostalgic even if I’m a millennial. I loved all of the pop culture references, and the frequent mentions of iconic songs. It just made the book.

I do think I would’ve been able to enjoy Lost Stars even more if I’d read it at a better time, but I also think it has quite a few similarities to books that were already favourites of mine. It seemed very much in the same vein as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Love Letters to the Dead, in terms of the atmosphere and the similar topics of grief. It reminded me of those books a lot in places, but that’s not to say it’s not really original and compelling itself. I’m sure fans of those two books would adore Lost Stars.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable book and quite a fantastic debut novel. Lisa Selin Davis is definitely an author to look out for – I would love to read more from her in the future. Lost Stars intertwines grief, hope and love into a really thought-provoking and poignant story. I’d definitely recommend it to contemporary fans!

My Rating:

three and a half

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

Book Review: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Published September 2016 by Bloomsbury.

30367320Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate.

My Review: This book arrived unexpectedly, and I was really excited based on what the synopsis had to say! I knew of Danielle Paige’s work as Dorothy Must Die looks like a fantastic read, and has been on my radar for a while. So I started this not hugely knowing what to expect, not having read anything by this author before, but excited to see what it was like.

For the first 75 pages or so, I was hooked – I adore the set up for the story, from the slightly eerie institution Snow is locked away in, to the really well developed characters in the wards with her. I really loved exploring that world- the characters were all so interesting to me.

Unfortunately, a little way into the fantasy world of the story, I suddenly stopped getting as into the plot as I was at the beginning. I was incredibly absorbed at the beginning, but for some reason I’m just not sure of, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the sort in the way I thought I would. The world of Algid and the magic and characters within was really intricate and detailed, but for some reason I couldn’t engage with it.

Snow was a really interesting character, because like with the whole story itself, I felt really involved with her in the beginning, but less so for the rest of the book. I think the story swept the detail away a little, and all I could really be told about her throughout most of the story was her newest insta-love feels. I feel like a lot of people will really love Snow, as she’s got many likeable aspects and I think that she’ll become an awesome heroine later in this series, given this book’s set up.

Overall, I would recommend Stealing Snow to high fantasy fans, like fans of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by S.J. Mass. Sadly, this book just didn’t click with me. It may partially be because I’ve been getting into contemporary fiction more and more lately, but I just couldn’t find myself engaging with or being excited about this book as much as I’d hoped. However, I’m sure I’m probably in the minority of people who disliked it, and that many fantasy fans will adore it 🙂

My Rating:

two

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

Favourite Quotes: You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

YOU KNOW ME WELL

~

1

I’ve been excited about this book for months, as I’m a huge fan of David Levithan, and recently read Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads to You, which has fast become one of my favourite books. I was delighted to find a copy in Waterstones a few days ago, not realising it was already out! I read it in one go, eager to see how two favourite writers of mine had collaborated.

2

I adored the story. It’s centered around Mark and Kate, who fast become friends after a crazy coincidental encounter at a Pride party, and become involved in each other’s romantic situations. Both of the authors are ridiculously talented at crafting memorable and lovable characters.

3

The story has its fair share of heartbreak and sad parts, but it’s balanced out with some really heart-warming and lovely moments and scenes. The ending was beautiful! Also – another plus was that there were multiple Tegan and Sara references by Kate. That pleased my fangirl brain.

background

I picked up on a lot of really beautiful sentences in this story (as I have done in both writer’s works) and I wanted to compile a list of my favourite quotes, as little graphics. I hope you enjoyed them!

5

Have you read You Know Me Well? What did you love about it? 🙂

Book Review: Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Published April 2016 by Little, Brown.

26030682Goodreads Synopsis: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

My review: Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I do not shut up about Monica Hesse’s début YA books, STRAY and BURN, which are two of my all-time favourite books, ever. My excitement went through the roof when I found out that Hesse had written another YA book – and I was very interested to see her genre choice jump from Sci-Fi to historical fiction. I was delighted to have the chance to read it.

Girl in the Blue Coat is set in wartime Amsterdam. Hanneke is secretly running illegal errands, delivering extra rations of food to local people, and staying under the radar. But when one of her clients asks her to help search for a missing Jewish girl that she’d been hiding, her life is turned upside down as she is catapulted into a complex mystery, and begins to unravel dark secrets about the what is happening to Jewish people being captured in Amsterdam.

Story time: I visited Amsterdam last year, and had the chance to also visit Anne Frank Huis. It was really heartbreaking and moving to walk around the tiny place the Frank family had to hide in for years – it’s incredibly eye-opening, and hard to believe that this was a reality for many Jewish people during the second world war. Monica Hesse’s attention to detail is admirable; her extensive research is evident in her meticulous descriptions – from the streets of Amsterdam, to the place Jewish people were inhumanely held, to the hiding spaces in Dutch households.

The plot gripped me from the start and hasn’t really let me go, even after closing the book. I’m still thinking about the story weeks later. It’s rare to find something so incredibly raw as this is – the emotion in this book is so intense and it can be quite hard to read the brutal nature of events at points. Admittedly, I don’t take history, but I’m sure the level of detail Monica Hesse explores in Girl in the Blue Coat can exceed what people learn in schools. This has really opened my eyes to what happened in Amsterdam, and I’m eager to learn more.

Hanneke is one of those characters I couldn’t help but adore. From the opening pages, I admired her daring nature, and her realistic inner conflict about searching for a Jewish girl in a dangerous world. I was rooting for her all of the way through, and loved the unlikely community she finds in the book, during her search. All of these characters will definitely stay with me for a long time – many scenes where their backgrounds are explored really moved me.

Overall, Girl in the Blue Coat was an incredible read. Monica Hesse has transcended into the historical fiction genre beautifully, with a powerful and mesmerising novel about the brutality of wartime events in Amsterdam, highlighting the bravery and selflessness of those who resisted Nazi efforts. The story is hard to fault, and was hard to put down; I was desperate to unravel the truth about this mysterious girl for myself. The ending was incredibly unpredictable, and the final events of the story brought me to tears! Highly recommended if you’re looking for a thought-provoking read.

My Review:

four and a half

I received a copy of Girl in the Blue Coat.

 

 

Book Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Related Posts: 2016 Releases: Books on my To-Read List!

Published April 2016 by Bloomsbury Books.
27235365Goodreads Synopsis: 
Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.
Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.

My Review: I’ll admit, this was a book I judged quite largely on the cover – it was so beautiful, I just had to see what it was about. And I’m so glad I was pulled into it. When We Collided was everything I expected and so much more; a truly unforgettable story that I want to recommend to everyone.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters from the opening pages; instantly, I was swept up within the separate lives of Vivi and Jonah – her bustling, art filled life, and his busy and mourning family – and didn’t want to stop reading as they, well, “collided.” Both Vivi and Jonah have awful hardships in their life, but after finding each other, it’s like they both have a new lease of life. I’ve never read anything by Emery Lord before, but I really want to now; her ability to craft realistic, memorable characters is second to none.

Mental health is a topic discussed often in YA fiction – and When We Collided is an incredible depiction of bipolar disorder. The author writes about it honestly and openly, and in a very realistic way. I think it was discussed really well in the book – Emery Lord’s writing is authentic and raw, her characters voices genuine.

I could tell from about a third of the way in that this book was bound to get quite sad at some point – it does, inevitably, but I was so wrapped up in Vivi and Jonah’s lives that I hardly saw it coming. The plot is so heartbreaking, but there are plenty of points that made me smile – Vivi’s happy moods are infectious. The whole book is a roller-coaster of emotion, and I definitely wasn’t expecting such a powerful story.

Overall, I’m incredibly glad I got the chance to read When We Collided – it was a moving, wonderful book and I can’t wait to read more from Lord in the future. I’ve never fallen for characters or gotten so engrossed in a love story so quickly. When We Collided is the perfect book if you want to read about some amazing characters, with a heartbreaking but also at points uplifting story. And the setting is gorgeous. I really can’t do this book justice – just go have a read for yourself 🙂

My Rating:

five

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

Book Review: This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

Published March 22nd 2016 by Greenwillow Books (US)

24039424Proof Synopsis: Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie.

That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivian moved next door.

It’s the perfect friendship – as long as no one finds out about it.

It’s the perfect friendship, until Janie Vivian disappears and Micah can’t remember when or how or why.

My Review: I started This is Where the World Ends not hugely knowing what it was about – and I raced through it, I couldn’t put it down. I loved living in the world of Janie and Micah, and unravelling the story of what happened to cause everything in their lives to change.

I wasn’t too sure of the book at first, as from the first pages, it had a very Paper Towns-y vibe to it – Janie is very much like Margo, although that was also a reason I was so fascinated by Janie – I love complex characters like that. However, the story is individual – it seems like it’s taken elements of some of the best contemporary books I’ve read, and combined them to make one fantastically feels-y book.

I think the best thing about This is Where the World Ends are its characters – their voices are incredibly strong and memorable, especially Janie’s. The story is written in three different ways – chapters are either ‘before’ in Janie’s narrative, ‘after’ in Micah’s narrative, or pages from Janie’s journals. The journals were perhaps the hardest-hitting parts of this book, which took a turn for the emotional.

I didn’t expect this book to be as emotionally-charged and poignant as it was. There are, especially towards the end, plenty of moments you’ll need tissues for. Just a heads up. The ending was not what I’d expected at all and left me wondering about the protagonists, especially Micah, for a long time afterwards.

Overall, I think This is Where the World Ends is a perfect read if you’re a fan of John Green or E Lockhart. It’s a powerful and moving novel about a close friendship, and how things can change so quickly and unexpectedly. There’s also quite a tragic mystery in its core, too, as you slowly piece together the night Micah lost his memory throughout the split narratives and diary entries. Definitely recommended!

My Rating: 

four

I received a copy of This is Where the World Ends from the publisher, via Harper360, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.