Tag Archives: YA debut

Book Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

Published 2nd July 2015 by Hot Key Books.

24917415Goodreads Synopsis: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Struggling to deal with her brother’s death and a past she refuses to confront, Stevie knows she has problems. But she’s still furious about the fact that she’s been packed off to a health clinic, in the middle of nowhere, where mobile phones are banned and communication with the outside world is strictly by permission only. The regimented and obtrusive nature of the clinic and its staff is torture to the deeply private, obstinate Stevie – and don’t even get her started on the other ‘inmates’. All she wants is to be left alone…
But as Stevie is about to find out, life is full of surprises. And she will prove herself stronger than she knows – even when her past finally catches her up in the most shocking and brutal way possible.

My Review: I’ll have to admit that I didn’t know much about the plot of this one – I quite largely was interested in it because of that beauuutifullll cover – but once I’d started Paperweight, I couldn’t put it down. I meant for it to be a quick read for a train journey – and it turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year so far!

Paperweight starts with Stevie’s induction at a clinic for people with eating disorders. As the story progresses, with every day spent there, we get to look inside Stevie’s head to see her memories of what’s ultimately brought her there, and how she is dealing with it – because it’s a heartbreaking and harrowing story of love, loss, rivalry and secrecy.

The plot was unpredictable, a little hard to read at points because it became so sad – but, in all, a truly unique story. It was paced well and I raced through the book, as there was never a dull moment or a point in which I didn’t feel invested in the story. The realistic themes of anorexia, bulimia and death are treated well in the novel I think – though I’m not sure this is everyone’s cup of tea.

I connected with Stevie straight away. She had such a strong and believable voice; a personality driven by her eating habits that felt very painfully real. As the story progresses, Stevie lets the reader in on the reasons why she is where she is now; and it’s a complicated, unexpected tangle of secrets and drama. What I really liked about Stevie was that I never quite knew what direction Meg Haston was going to take her character in – I wasn’t expecting the romance side that became apparent but I loved the fact that Stevie’s identity was never labelled or questioned!

I have never read anything by Haston before (According to Goodreads she has written a few seemingly YA titles before!) but I would jump at the chance to read similar YA from her in the future. Her writing is brilliant; a talent I hope doesn’t go unnoticed when this is released. Writing about topics like she has here can be tough, but she has done so admirably. On top of the heavy themes, she’s written such unforgettable characters, the chemistries between which are well developed and raw-feeling.

Overall, I highly recommend Paperweight – I know that because of a lot of sensitive scenes it won’t be for everyone but it is an incredibly poignant read by a writer I hope to see more from. Stevie’s story has stayed with me long after I closed the pages – it ends on the perfect note. I’m so glad I picked this book up!

My Rating: 

five

 

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

Book Review: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Published September 2nd by HarperCollins US.

18340210Goodreads Synopsis: Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika — from laughter to tears, and everything in between.

My Review: This caught my eye online and I was so excited about reading it! From the blurb, it sounded like a really funny but dark contemporary, a little like Looking for Alaska. It really was, though I’m really mixed about it. Anatomy of a Misfit is definitely going to be well loved – I think I’m in a minority of people still unsure.

I liked Anika, needless to say. She’s a very relatable protagonist, and I think Andrea Portes has captured the social hierarchy competition in high schools really accurately. Anika had a greatly developed back-story that’s the reason for most of her social struggle. The way she deals with things is often really funny. The protagonist did have a good voice but I didn’t click with her like I do with other characters.

There are two love interests… something which I instantly worried about because I can hardly ever tell either love interest apart. I’m useless. And truthfully, I got so mixed up with them… Even with the shocking ending, I had to reread earlier bits to make sure I was getting everything right. It’s probably mainly me being really forgetful though…

The plot is enjoyable and there are so many things dealt with in it. Every event was either really funny or really hard-hitting. There were some things, though, that seemed to just be forgotten about after a while – there’s one minor character’s story that could’ve developed more especially, I think.

On the back of my copy it talks about the story having a dark undercurrent flowing through the story, and lots of foreshadowing towards an unbelievable ending. That’s completely true. Every few chapters, there’s one that’s a flash forward, that’s so sinister sounding I struggled to figure out what could possibly happen! The last few chapters really do hit you like a punch to the gut. I could never have predicted it. At first I didn’t see how it was… There are hints in the plot, but because I got so confused between parts I don’t think it hit me as hard! The foreshadowing is very hard to see, but reading over bits made me kick myself a little. Portes leaves you in a bit of a daze at the ned of the story.

Overall, Anatomy of a Misfit was an enjoyable novel, but one that I expected to love more than I actually did. I think the protagonist was likeable, but didn’t really completely stand out to me – though I’m sure that many other readers will love her! The plot was so memorable and I’m sure I won’t every forget that ending… There were aspects I couldn’t get on with, but I’m sure I’d read another YA title from Andrea Portes!

My Rating:

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

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Published 3rd October 2014 by MIRA ink.

22710376Goodreads Synopsis: It’s 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it’s Sarah Dunbar’s first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re both determined ignore. Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you – and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.

My Review: I hadn’t heard about Lies We Tell Ourselves until I’d received an email from the publisher, but as soon as I’d read the synopsis I knew it was going to be a really great book! I haven’t really seen much, and definitely not read much YA fiction based around the civil rights movement in the 50s & 60s… And I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any YA books centered around LGBT characters in that era.

Needless to say I delved straight into the story very excitedly, as I was sure this would be an amazing, original début. I was certainly awed by the story. It was moving and powerful, and I’m sure I’ll be recommending it to lots of people. However, after finishing it, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something… Though I can’t completely work out what!

The narration was really memorable. Roughly, the first third of the book is from Sarah’s perspective, then after the first pivotal moment, the second third is Linda’s – and finally the last third is quickly alternating chapters. Both girls’ voices were really amazing. I felt really familiar with both of them and was rooting for them, for the entire story! Both of them develop so much, especially Linda, who’s grown up with a segregationist father, but realises what mistakes she’s made as she grows closer to Sarah.

I think it was admirable how Lies We Tell Ourselves dealt racism. It wasn’t sugar coated or toned down – it was alarmingly real. I didn’t actually realise how hard-hitting and brutally honest the topic of racism would be tackled in Lies We Tell Ourselves – I was actually tearing up within the first chapters, reading the all-too-vivid scenes where Sarah is at the receiving end of some awful abuse at Jefferson High.

The main thing that I struggled with in the story is hard to explain, because I really want to keep this review spoiler free! By the ending, a lot of the story was resolved, but there were certain key elements to the story that I was expecting more elaboration on… The ending left me really wanting a sequel, or some kind of follow up, to say the least. I felt there was a lot more to tell about Sarah and Linda!

Overall, Lies We Tell Ourselves was, without doubt, a really stunning and original début. I really fell in love with the main characters; their chemistry, and the narration. Lies We Tell Ourselves really stands out in the YA market as it’s completely unique, and deals with two topics (LGBT and race equality) that I really want to read more of in fiction in the future. Lies We Tell Ourselves, though I am unsure of a few things, definitely deserves a lot of attention upon publication!

My Rating:

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

Unrelated note! Sorry for having not written a blog post in just over a week now – I usually aim to get at least one or two published every week. Last week was the first full week back at school and it was even more chaotic that I’d assumed it would be! I also found out I’ll be doing most of my GCSE coursework and some GCSE exams a year early, which I wasn’t expecting, over the next year… so sadly I think I’ll be blogging less often, though trying to schedule more!

Book Review: City of Halves by Lucy Inglis

Published 7th August 2014 by Chicken House.

18523130Goodreads Synopsis: London. Girls are disappearing. They’ve all got one thing in common; they just don’t know it yet…

Sixteen-year-old Lily was meant to be next, but she’s saved by a stranger: a half-human boy with gold-flecked eyes. Regan is from an unseen world hidden within our own, where legendary creatures hide in plain sight. But now both worlds are under threat, and Lily and Regan must race to find the girls, and save their divided city.

My Review: Upon hearing about City of Halves, I was sure it was just my kind of book, and that I’d really enjoy it. Then, after receiving a copy, I was a little apprehensive: I re-read the blurb, and then double checked the cover, and thought to myself, “This sounds familiar.” Bits on the cover and synopsis like ‘hot tattooed boy;’ ‘Unseen world hidden within our own;’ and even the title, beginning with ‘City of…’ Despite those elements being frequent in YA, it all sounded a bit too The Mortal Instruments for me!

I was scared the content would be all too similar to Cassandra Clare’s series – so I started it pretty nervously… However, after a while, I found myself really enjoying it – It was a great urban fantasy YA début.

The story focuses a lot more on its fantasy elements and setting more than its characters and their relationships, I felt. That did bother me a little bit, but I quickly grew to like that – I loved Lucy Inglis’s descriptions of London, where the book is set. It’s easy to tell this book was largely written fuelled by the author’s feelings for London. Inglis has set major events in the best, magical feeling locations, like St Paul’s Cathedral, and I think the fact that I was very familiar with areas made it all seem really real.

The fantastical elements in the story were all really imaginative. The book read like a standalone novel, but I really hope that there will be a sequel or follow-up story of some description; I’d love for the author to elaborate a little more, as I was really interested in this urban fantasy world and its inhabitants.

I’m always looking for unique protagonists who stand out, but whilst Lily was likeable, I don’t feel like I ever really engaged with her as much as I’d thought I might. She’s a little strange at points, especially at the beginning of the book, when she discovers this whole new side to her city, and seemingly isn’t very shocked or fascinated at all. However, while she lacked in some areas, she did have an interesting back-story, which made up for it! I wasn’t sure about Regan, aka the ‘hot tattooed boy’ who saves her life. I feel like I was meant to really love him but I just couldn’t, for some reason. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure other readers will.

Overall, City of Halves was not what I expected it to be. I was really unsure as to how I would find it, as the book’s blurb was too similar to City of Bones… But it did become a very different, individual fantasy book. Though I struggled to like the protagonists a little, I adored Lucy Inglis’s talent in weaving fantastical elements around a well-loved city, and I’d love to read more YA from her. Recommended if you’re a fan of the genre, or if you’re looking for a read with a really clever ending!

My Rating:

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

Book Review: My Second Life by Faye Bird

Published 1st July 2014 by Usborne Books.

20958008Goodreads Synopsis: The first time I was born, I was Emma.
I was beautiful. I had everything to live for.
But I died.

Now I have been born a second time, and my previous life haunts me. Because in it I think I did something very wrong. I must find out what I did to Catherine. I must uncover the truth about Emma…

Intriguing, compelling, heartbreaking.
What if your past life could shatter your future?

My Review: I’ve been really behind on reviewing ARCs due to general summer busyness, so I think I’ve left too much time between reading My Second Life and reviewing it, to be able to do it enough justice! It was, without doubt, a very compelling, suspenseful and original debut novel. I really enjoyed it, and though I wasn’t completely blown away as most readers have been, it was a really gripping read.

I fell in love with the concept of the story right from the first few sentences of the blurb, and the idea kept me hooked throughout the book. It was really individual, and makes My Second Life stand out. What if you were born into a second life, with memories of your past – and what if you did something terrible in your first life, that you know you need to rediscover? It’s haunting, and very chilling!

I felt like I really knew Ana and Emma (Both lives) really well by the end of the story. I got to know them really well through Faye’s writing. I was really absorbed thanks to Faye Bird’s writing voice. I would really love to read more from her in the future.

There were some very long scenes, particularly towards the end, that were very dialogue heavy… I don’t usually mind that, of course, but I found myself getting a bit tired during the long, long conversations – even though they were revealing massive plot twists (which were very clever and exciting!). I think that was the only big reason, really, that I didn’t fully enjoy it – though I understand why so much of the story was conversation.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Second Life, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers, and gritty crime stories! The characters are very well developed, and I think the concept of the story was one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen in a debut novel. A few little things meant I didn’t full enjoy the story – but overall it was a genius debut, and I’m really looking to reading more from Faye Bird!

My Rating:

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