Blog Tour – Review: Salt and Stone by Victoria Scott

I received this book for free from Chicken House in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour – Review: Salt and Stone by Victoria ScottSalt and Stone by Victoria Scott
Series: Fire and Flood #2
Also in this series: Fire and Flood
Also by this author: Fire and Flood
Published by Chicken House on April 2nd 2015
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Chicken House
four-stars
One hundred and twenty-two began. Only sixty-four remain. Tella's made it through the first terrains of the Brimstone Bleed - but the contest isn't over yet. If she wants to save her brother, she must face oceans and icy mountains, all for the chance of winning the Cure. And even if Tella survives these deadly places, the greatest threat will still be her fellow Contenders - even the ones she trusts the most ...

Review: I loved Fire and Flood last year and was eagerly anticipating the next installment in the series so was really pleased to receive a review copy from Chicken House. Fire and Flood took me by surprise last year and I remember just being so caught up in the world, but I was a little worried the magic would have worn off when it came to reading Salt and Stone. I luckily was wrong and ended up devouring the book as quickly as possible.

Tella is back and a lot more kickass. She’s questioning things and really doing her very best to get through an incredibly difficult feat. I loved seeing her development and was really rooting for her. One side effect of some of the plots that necessitated this was that Guy and her relationship with him felt changed, especially at the start and I was a bit thrown by this as I remembered him differently. However I did see shades of the character I remembered as the novel progressed and I liked seeing Tella more active and making decisions for herself, she’s come a long way from the girl at the beginning of the book,

The plot progresses well and there are some shocking moments as the organisers are very cruel. What I found interesting was how Tella came to question everyone and everything, even her Pandora, as the novel progressed and there weren’t clearcut easy answers.

The final quarter of the book is tense and full of action and intensity with the ending presenting some surprises. I’m intrigued to see how this series will end and what is next for Tella and her allies.

I really enjoy Scott’s writing and think that Tella is a great narrator and character. She has a very strong voice and what I love is that she isn’t instantly tough and doesn’t know it all but she does build on her skills as the books progress and she’s willing to put herself through intense stress and danger for her brother and family.

Fans of the first book should definitely enjoy the next addition in the series and the slightly darker tone to the book.

four-stars

Blog Tour: Delete by Kim Curran


Delete Tour BannerToday I am delighted to share with you a guest post from the lovely Kim Curran for the Delete blog tour. Thanks to Faye for organising the tour and Kim for the great post! 

About Delete:

Delete

The country is at war. Beset by enemies within and without. And all because of the decisions changed by one boy, Scott Tyler. In this ravaged alternative reality, Scott hardly recognises himself. He’s a war hero, a leader of a unit of Shifters and maybe the only one who can prevent the country’s frail defences from crumbling.

But all Scott wants to do is find a way back to the world he knew, without losing the girl he loves. With every Shift he makes, Scott edges closer towards oblivion. With no one to trust – not even himself – how much is he willing to risk to get home?

Delete is the third book in the Shift series and is published by Xist Publishing in ebook (March 31st 2015).

 

Top Ten Mistakes – Scott Tyler

It’s safe to say I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. And when you have the power to change your decisions it makes you think about them. A lot. It’s not easy to get over a mistake if you know you could undo it. It niggles and niggles at you. I’m constantly picking at the things I’ve done, like a healing scab, wondering what would happen if I’d done this or not done that. Aubrey tells me I need to let go more, to forget about that past. But if I did that… well, that’s a different story.

The problem with fixing mistakes is the consequences. Take going out that night with Hugo and trying to climb an electricity pylon. Big mistake, really. If I’d just stayed at home playing my videogame, then my life would have carried on just as it always had done: no surprises, no cannibals, mind-controllers or world wars to worry about. But then, I’d never have met Aubrey Jones. The girl I love. And even now, after everything, she was worth it all.

But there are things I do look back on, before I knew about Shifting and ARES and all, that I wish I could change. Although it’s too late to track the consequences, so I have to just let them be. But if I were a normal teenager, if I didn’t have to worry about creating a new reality just by thinking about my past, here are ten of the things I’d change in a heartbeat.

  • Putting a whoopee cushion under Sharon Connor’s Chair.
    This was back in primary school. I must have been nine, maybe ten. Sharon Connor was a shy, tiny girl, who never spoke and spent the whole time hiding behind her long fringe.
    One day, me and some of the other boys were daring each other to make her speak. Some of the boys were going to bribe her with sweets. Others were going to steal her bag and not give it back until she asked for it. Me? I came up with the genius scheme of slipping a whoopee cushion on her chair. You know the things, pink rubbery pillows that make a fart noise? I know, hilarious. Well, the day came and I had the whoopee cushion blown up and hidden under my jumper. When the teacher came in, we all had to stand up and say good morning. When Sharon sat back down, this enormous Ppppppfffffffff! sound came from her chair. Everyone froze, staring at Sharon. And then, one by one, they all started laughing. Even the teacher couldn’t help but laugh. I was feeling pretty please with myself, I can tell you. I waited and waited for Sharon to say something; to deny that it was her, to tell people to stop laughing. Instead, huge tears rolled down her face and she ran straight out of class.
    The balloon of smug joy that had filled me up when the laughter started deflated just like the whoopee cushion. I felt awful and wanted to cry too.
    Sharon changed schools after that, and I heard she’s getting on OK.
  • Playing pirates with Katie.
    My little sister and I have always had a competitive relationship. Mostly because she’s better at practically everything even though she’s five years younger than me. Better at school, better at martial arts, better at swearing, better at life really. One day, when she’d come back from school with yet another gold star for something and mum had given me that ‘why can’t you be more like your sister’ look, I decided to get some payback.
    I’d been building a tree house in the garden. It was mostly just old bits of wood shoved in between branches, but I’d painted a skull and cross bones on it and that was enough for me. Katie was desperate to get up there with me, but I always said no. I told her she was too young, too small. But not that day. That day, I told her she could come play pirates as long as she was willing to walk the plank.
    Katie has never backed down from a challenge in her life. And she wasn’t going to back down from that one. She clambered up into the tree, hauled herself up onto the plank and started walking. There was an almighty thwack as the plank snapped in two.
    Katie looked up at me from the ground, cradling her clearly broken arm, and I wanted to throw myself off the tree, too. She never told mum or dad what had happened. I tore the tree house down and Katie never asked to play with me again.
  • Making a total pratt out of myself in the school play.
    Let’s just say trying to sing a solo as the angel Gabriel when your voice is breaking isn’t the best way to have your theatrical debut and leave it at that.
  • Smashing the headmaster’s window.
    It was the last day of the summer term and I was playing cricket in the playground. I was bowler and Hugo was up to bat. He’d done something to annoy me that day, so I decided to make the bowl especially hard. I took an extra long run up, and threw the ball as hard as I could. Only, instead of bouncing into the wickets like it was supposed to, it soared straight through the stain-glass window of the headmaster’s study. As punishment, I had to come to school over the summer holiday and paint a fence. Which wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for mistake number five…
  • Jane Nagle.
    When you go to an all boys’ school like I did, girls can feel like a bit of a mystery at times. And never was that more true that of Jane Nagle. She was the headmaster’s daughter so lived at the school. We’d see her walking across the school grounds every morning on her way to her own school, tartan skirt way above her knees. She became a thing of legend – the great whale that every boy in school was hunting. But she ignored us all. That is, till the summer I had to come into school every day (see above). It wasn’t even that hot a summer; more the usual drizzly July you get in London. But for whatever reason, Jane took to sunbathing every day. In her bikini.
    I didn’t know where to look. Well, OK, I knew exactly where I wanted to look, but I managed to keep my eyes firmly fixed on the fence. Five whole days, I turned up, painted the fence, and went home. Then, just as I was getting to the last panel that needed doing, I felt a tapping on my shoulder.
    It was Jane. In her bikini. Holding a bottle of sun cream.
    There are loads of things I wish I’d done. Say something witty and charming. Casually rub the sun cream into her pale, soft skin. Scoop her into my arms and kiss her. Spilling my tin of paint all down her front was not one of them.
  • Peach schnapps.
    Whatever you do, don’t, and I repeat, don’t, drink a whole bottle of your mum’s peach schnapps. Even if it does taste like liquid gummy bears.
  • Listening to Hugo.
    Hugo is supposed to be my best friend. But all he seems to do is find new ways of getting me in trouble, like the time he told Christopher Gravett that I was the one who drew the picture of him in the boys’ loos. Or when he dared me to break into the sport’s hall at night. Hugo can be a real dick.
  • Being angry at my parents all the time.
    I spent most of my youth being angry at my mum and dad. Only slightly less angry than they were at each other. I’ve realised now, that they were just trying to do their best for me. They pushed me to focus at school because they wanted me to have options, they nagged me to try harder because they wanted me to reach my potential. If I could, I’d go back and say sorry for all the times I rolled my eyes at them or stomped up to my room because I didn’t want to listen to them any more. Sure, they’re still annoying as hell. But they’re the only parents I’ve got.

  • Kissing Ella
    So, it wasn’t exactly my fault, as I didn’t have control over my actions at the time. But I’ll never forget the look on Aubrey’s face when she caught us. I’d drink a thousand bottles of schnapps and paint a million fences if I could wipe that memory away.
  • Worrying about what people thought about me.
    All though my early teens I was terrified of doing something that would make me look stupid, that would draw the wrong kind of attention to myself. And so, I mostly did nothing. I hid behind other boys, kept my head down, and didn’t make waves. All because I was worried what people I didn’t care about thought of me. What a waste. If being able to change my past has taught me anything it’s that I wish I’d done more with it. Wish I’d made even more mistakes. Because being too afraid to take chances because you’re worried about what people thing, that’s no way to live. 

Review: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan Stroud

I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan StroudThe Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood and Co #2
Published by Random House, RHCB on October 10th 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Random House Children's Books
three-half-stars
Ghosts and ghouls beware! London's smallest, shabbiest and most talented psychic detection agency is back.

Life is never exactly peaceful for Lockwood & Co. Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, while Lockwood is desperate for an exciting new case. Things seem to be looking up when the team is called to Kensal Green Cemetery to investigate the grave of a sinister Victorian doctor. Strange apparitions have been seen there, and the site must be made safe. As usual, Lockwood is confident; as usual, everything goes wrong, a terrible phantom is freed and a dangerous object is stolen from the coffin. Lockwood & Co. must recover the relic before its power is unleashed, but it's a race against time. Their obnoxious rivals from the Fittes agency are also on the hunt. And if that's not bad enough, the skull in the ghost-jar is stirring again!

The author of the blockbuster BARTIMAEUS sequence delivers another humorous and chilling instalment in the critically acclaimed LOCKWOOD & CO. series.

Review:  I loved The Screaming Staircase, Stroud’s first Lockwood novel, so was keenly anticipating the follow up. Lockwood and Co is a great series and the Whispering Skull offered the same humour, darkness, spooky scenes and engaging characters as in the first novel.

This time, the central plot concerns a dare between Lockwood and Co and the rival Fittes agency. They need to find a missing relic and fast.

The series is developing well and characters are feeling more and more three dimensional. George’s mishaps remind me of Jerry on Parks and Recreation as the poor guy just can’t seem to get it right. Lucy is also a strong narrator and we learn more about her as the story progresses. As for Lockwood, there’s an intriguing twist at the end of the book that offers more insight into his character. I love his confidence in the book and how this often borders on arrogance, particularly regarding the agency.

The only flaws I found in the book was that the word felt a little less certain, I can’t help wondering what the adults in this world do as they become more unhelpful as they grow up and surely everyone can’t be involved in the supernatural business? What about all of the kids, are they all involved in that business too? Despite these questions and the fact I found it a little slower to develop in parts, the book was still great fun and I’m glad I read it. Stroud writes creepy, dark scenes very well and juxtaposes these beautifully with wonderful humour. The characters are great and I’m constantly rooting for Lockwood and Co to come out on top.

Fans of the first book should find a lot to enjoy in this latest addition and tantalising clues about the characters and their backstories. I really like this series and despite not being as swept away as I was in the first book, I enjoyed The Whispering Skull and plan on continuing the series.

three-half-stars

Blog Tour: Review – Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky

I received this book for free from Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: Review – Code Red Lipstick by Sarah SkyJessica Cole: Model Spy: Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky
Series: Model Spy #1
Published by Scholastic UK on June 5th 2014
Genres: General, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Publicist
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Models, spies and lipstick gadgets... When Jessica's father, a former spy, vanishes mysteriously, Jessica takes matters into her own hands. She's not just a daddy's girl who's good at striking a pose; she's a trained spook who knows how to take on MI6 and beat them at their own game.

Note: This review is part of the blog tour for Jessica Cole: Fashion Assassin. It was meant to go live yesterday (Saturday) but due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to post this until today.

Review: I heard a lot about the Model Spy series through twitter and the UKYA community so when Faye (A Daydreamer’s Thoughts) asked me if I’d like to review the first book for Sarah Sky’s upcoming blog tour I leapt at the chance.

I really enjoyed Code Red Lipstick and read it at just the right time, when I needed something fun and funny to read. While the concept isn’t entirely new, Jessica’s realistic and relatable voice carried this book really well and Sky raised several themes and ideas that made it stand out in the crowd, plus the gadgets and Bond-like feel worked well.

The balance between modelling content and spying worked well and as in Holly Smale’s successful YA series Geek Girl, Model Spy also shows the unglamorous side to modelling as well as the glitz with label-dropping and  the beautiful city of Paris as the backdrop. While the way some of the plot develops is implausible, Sky makes it feel convincing for the novel and the main villain of the book had some interesting twists and developments I won’t spoil.

I did guess quite a few of the twists, however I love mysteries and puzzles and this is the case for a lot of the books I read and review, so I don’t feel this is particularly negative

What I really liked about this bug was Jessica and her family. Her dad is a really interesting character and the stakes behind his disappearance are very high for Jessica due to him needing his medication. At the same time, he’s a former spy and successful in his current career and not letting illness or disability destroy him. The father-daughter bond works well in Code Red Lipstick and it’s nice to see parents have more importance in YA.

I read this book very quickly and it was an addictive read. While I would say this feels more like the younger end of YA, it has great appeal and I think fans of Geek Girl in particular would find a lot to enjoy in this series.

A fun, compelling and enjoyable read. I would continue reading the series and am intrigued to see what Jessica does next.

 

three-half-stars

TV Post: Epic Soundtracks and Musical Moments

I think that one of the things I love about TV and films is the use of music. It’s something you just can’t experience so readily in a book and a song can utterly change a scene and send shivers down your spine. This post is a look at some of the musical moments in TV and film that have stuck with me. I have a whole playlist on Spotify of songs I have discovered through TV shows and films and I often find new bands and singers I love through this. Obviously due to copyright, I cannot include clips of the actual shows, however hopefully you guys will still enjoy the post and maybe even seek out some of the songs for yourself.

The Hanging Tree- Mockingjay

This was always going to be a hard scene for the film crew. How to turn a song everyone had read and possibly imagined differently into something for the film and carry through its important message. For me the montage with this scene was the strongest scene in the film and sent shivers down my spine. The haunting melody, coupled with people taking action against their unfair society was really effective and worked.

Nitesky – Robert Koch and John LaMonica

This song is beautiful and while I don’t always like Teen Wolf’s music, a few bands they’ve used and songs I have loved (I discovered Hozier through this show) This song is in the season two finale and is evokes the mood so well, the good and the bad happening in that scene.

Bad Moon Rising – Mourning Ritual

This song was everywhere last year; Teen Wolf, The Following (where I heard it first) and the Walking Dead. It’s a wickedly atmospheric cover and full of awesome. It’s a fantastic writing song and you can see (hear?) why it’s so popular on TV when you listen to it.

The Blacklist Soundtrack

It’s hard to just pick a couple of songs from the Blacklist for this post. The music supervisors need serious kudos because the music on this show is fantastic. From the great closing of the pilot with 99 problems, the use of Sinnerman and Sympathy for the Devil in episode two, I just don’t know where to start. I particularly love Susie Suh’s Here With Me and Radical Face’s Welcome Home, Son.

 

What are the songs and musical moments onscreen that stand out to you? Do you like music on TV shows or does it detract for you? 

 

January Wrap-Up

I can’t believe it’s February already, once again time just seems to be passing me by so quickly. This year I’m hoping to post monthly wrap-ups and keep to them, I have some short codes and ways that should hopefully make these a lot simpler to write.

Reviewed in January

Non-review posts in January

What I’ve Read

This month I managed to read 15 books and make some progress on my reading challenges.

1. Yes Please – Amy Poehler
2. Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill
3. All Fall Down – Ally Carter
4. Us – David Nicholls
5. The Murdstone Trilogy – Mal Peet
6. Don’t Ever Change – M. Beth Bloom
7. Frozen Charlotte – Alex Bell
8. The Minaturist – Jessie Burton
9. Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda -Becky Albertalli
10. Mind Games – Teri Terry
11. Vanishing Girls – Lauren Oliver
12. Seven Days – Eve Ainsworth
12. Model Spy: Code Red Lipstick – Sarah Sky
13. Arsenic for Tea – Robin Stevens
14. Othergirl – Nicole Burstein
15. The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle

Book of the month: I loved Only Ever Yours and found that very haunting and thought-provoking. I also adored The Accident Season and found it beautifully written and haunting.

Reading challenge progress:  I read and reviewed 2 books for the British Books Challenge, plus read another five UKYA books, some of which were review books and I’ll schedule closer to publication/shortly. I read five non review books and three non YA books.

 

Review: The Illusionists by Laure Eve

I received this book for free from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Illusionists by Laure EveThe Illusionists by Laure Eve
Published by Hot Key Books on August 7th 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Source: Hot Key Books
Goodreads
A thrilling, seductive and electrifying new adventure set in the world of FEARSOME DREAMER
A shocking new world. A dangerous choice. Two futures preparing to collide . . . Having left her soulmate White behind her in Angle Tar, Rue is trying to make sense of her new and unfamiliar life in World. Its technologically advanced culture is as baffling as is it thrilling to her, and Rue quickly realises World's fascination with technology can have intoxicating and deadly consequences. She is also desperately lonely. And so is White. Somehow, their longing for each other is crossing into their dreams - dreams that begin to take increasingly strange turns as they appear to give Rue echoes of the future. Then the dreams reveal the advent of something truly monstrous, and with it the realisation that Rue and White will be instrumental in bringing about the most incredible and devastating change in both World and Angle Tar. But in a world where Life is a virtual reality, where friends can become enemies overnight and where dreams, the future and the past are somehow merging together, their greatest challenge of all may be just to survive.

Review: I really enjoyed Fearsome Dreamer so was excited to read the conclusion, The Illusionists. I think Laure Eve has a beautiful writing style and I love her prose.

What really makes this series standout for me is the world building and how vivid the setting feels. Both World and Angle Tar are so well described and so easy to visualise. This really made a difference for me reading the books as I was able to fully immerse myself in the world. It was great to see more of World as well in The Illusionists as in Fearsome Dreamer most of the plot takes place in Angle Tar. Seeing World through Rue’s outsider eyes worked really well as well because she was as new to this as the reader.

The characters are really strong in the Illusionist and Wren in particular stands out as I both loathed him and felt there was an element of tragedy to his character. His feud with White was carried through and understood more as the plot progressed. The relationship between White and Rue was beautifully handled.

Rue really grows a lot in this book as she explores what she wants, whether that is in World or Angle Tar and I felt her journey felt true to the character. Eve really made me care about Rue and the other characters and invest in their development and adventures.

Towards the end things do develop very quickly and the ending is quite unexpected and the sort of ending that you need to take time to think over. I wasn’t entirely sold on the Castle plot if I’m honest, however I think that may be more personal preference.

Overall Eve is definitely a YA author to watch. The Illusionists is a satisfying, beautifully put together and crafted novel and I definitely want to read more from Laure Eve.

Review: Captive by A.J Grainger

I received this book for free from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Captive by A.J GraingerCaptive by A. J. Grainger
Published by Simon & Schuster, Limited on January 29th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Source: Simon and Schuster
Goodreads
three-half-stars
I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a splice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope. Dad isn't here. No one is, but me. Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now. Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all . . .
A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.

Review: I was really intrigued by the concept of Captive, which tells the story of Robyn, daughter of the prime minister, who has been kidnapped. I read Captive very quickly and within a couple of sittings.

I thought Robyn’s first person narration worked well, as did the interweaving of a past incident with her father through flashbacks, as Robyn tries to work out what is going on and why. The overall plot was fairly tight and I thought there were some good twists and developments. There is very little time before the action starts so the reader is immediately pulled in and shocked.

In terms of characters, I thought that Scar was just as creepy as his named implied and Grainger really depicted that danger well. Feather felt flat at times, and a little too obviously unhinged however overall the characters were well written.

I really liked Robyn’s relationship with her sister, Addy, and the way familial relationships were included in the book. The stockholm syndrome esque concept was very high stakes as Robyn begins to learn more about why this has happened and the role her father may have played. I liked that her father was a quite flawed character.

I felt that the  final quarter was a little confusing at times due to its fast pace, also while parts felt realistic as we got closer to the ending certain aspects began to feel less realistic. However, this did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book and I thought it was tense, well written and very compelling.

The themes raised about corruption, animal rights and also testing were very interesting and topical. I think Grainger balanced the exploration of these themes with the plot very well and the corruption and political side of the story made the concept and kidnap feel far more unique.

Fans of novels like Stolen and tense contemporary YA will find a lot to enjoy in Captive. It’s an assured, promising debut and I would definitely read more by the author.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Juvie by Steve Watkins

I received this book for free from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Juvie by Steve WatkinsJuvie Published by Walker Books on 1st January 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Friendship, General, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Walker Books
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie offers an unflinching and poignant view of life in juvenile detention, and will appeal to fans of TV shows like Orange Is the New Black. Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one - she's the star player on her basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal - wrong place, wrong time - it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn't commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger - at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla and at herself - fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

Review: I was lucky enough to be invited to Walker Books blogger brunch last November and had a wonderful time chatting with bloggers and publishing people, eating yummy food and hearing all about the upcoming books from Walker. One of them immediately caught my attention with its striking cover and compelling concept: Juvie.

Described alongside Orange Is The New Black comparisons, Juvie tells the story of Sadie who is accidentally caught up in a drug deal. To keep her sister out of jail, and niece out of care, Sadie confesses despite being innocent. What was meant to just be a slap on the wrist turns into a six month sentence and when we meet Sadie she’s just about to start this.

Juvie surprised me as I read it. It is far more about Sadie’s own journey and growth than action. The structure is divided between past (what led to juvie) and present time serving her sentence. With the flashbacks I loved seeing more of Sadie’s family, something that could have easily not featured in a novel set away from home, and in particular her relationship with Lulu, her adorable niece. I did find Sadie’s relationship with her sister Carla frustrating as Carla was a difficult character to sympathise with at times and I really wanted her to step up more for both her daughter and her sister.

Sadie was a strong narrator and I thought the moments where she discovered more about her fellow inmates and  the way first impression and innocent expressions can actually be deceiving. The only criticism of the fellow inmates was that not all of them stood out to me and a few felt quite cliched.

There were some great tense moments in the final third of the novel I won’t spoil and I found the whole book very readable and compelling. I read it in just over one sitting and wanted to find out what would happen to Sadie. The ending was also quite open and while I often like this openness and making my own conclusions, I wanted something a little more cement personally.

Overall, Juvie is an interesting and character focused story with an unglamorised look at the justice system, and a novel that I think would appeal to fans of Orange is the New Black and similar programmes.

three-half-stars

ChooseYAtrope: Grief, Loss and Suicide in YA

This book may contain content that is triggering or disturbing.

chooseyatrope

 

ChooseYATrope is an original feature at ChooseYA discussing, examining and analysing popular tropes and trends within YA literature. 

ChooseYAtrope is back. While my survey is still open on the blog, currently 100% of participants have suggested they would like to see more posts about YA trends and tropes so I’m brushing the dust off this feature and hope to make it a regular occurrence.

Today I’m talking about something I’ve noticed in a lot of early 2015 titles I’ve been reviewing: suicide. Obviously, this is a potentially very triggering topic and therefore I have put my standard content warning and would advise readers who may be affected to use their discretion and be carefulI would also like to add this post may contain spoilers for several recent or upcoming releases and while I’ll try to tag those who don’t reveal this in the summary, I cannot promise you won’t be spoiled.  

Grief and loss have been a staple topic discussed in YA for years; the loss of a parent, sibling, friend or brother. As teenagers we may unfortunately start to see death more than as a child and it’s an important issue to discuss. Mental health is too and lately I’ve noticed several YA books dealing with a friend or sibling’s suicide, most notably Gaye Forman’s I Was Here, Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Said Goodbye, Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff and View Spoiler » I read two of these in the same week, not realising where the latter title was heading, and it was a quite difficult and emotional experience. The Last Time We Said Goodbye in particular was an incredibly poignant and moving book about dealing with  a sibling’s death/suicide and the guilt that can come with this.

At the moment in the UK, children and youth’s mental health funding is being cut and more and more teenagers are seeking help for mental health issues. Literature informs, some would say it’s the duty and others would say literature shouldn’t be so didactic. It’s tough, isn’t it? Where do we draw the line from informative to preachy? And does literature have to save, does YA? About a year or so ago there was a trending topic on Twitter, YA Saves. And I think it does. It can make someone feel less alone and like they have a voice and this is so important. It’s why I’m against books like Speak being banned in schools. Literature is a lifeline.

I think on the other hand there is a line, is the use of this serious topic just for drama, to give backstory or create sympathy? In the examples I’ve used, I would like to make it clear I don’t think this is the case at all, I think they are pretty sensitively handled and have more to say than ‘my main character is tortured, yo!’ If I’m honest, I don’t like Finch fixated on Violet at the start of All the Bright Places but as the book progressed, I found this lessened.   However, this probably isn’t the case for every book and using a topic like this just for backstory or drama really upsets me. There’s a difference between sensitively exploring difficult topics to look at wider questions around them to just throwing in angst for drama. Also romanticising mental illness is dangerous, it isn’t glamorous and in particular romanticising suicide in YA is really worrying.

What I find particularly interesting about the aforementioned group of recent YA books that look at suicide are they are often from the perspective of a friend or sibling and I’ve been trying to think about why? Why are authors choosing to approach this subject from a friend and not the actual person? I think by doing this they get to show the repercussions of suicide, there’s an element of cautionary tale without being overtly obvious and perhaps feel like they are avoiding romanticising suicide. If you see the pain caused by an action, are you more likely to get help and not attempt this yourself? However there a danger in writing through the perspective of the depressed to further trigger others? Mental health is an important topic to be explored though. And like I said, death narratives and exploration are common in YA and can be an unfortunate part of growing up.

There is certainly more YA being published dealing with mental health and suicide than I can remember from earlier years. There’s more discussion and openness. We live in a post ‘It Gets Better’ world, I think people are beginning to see that teenagers can suffer from depression and mental health issues in the same way as adults and are more forward about this now. Just this week Hot Key Books announced a new non-fiction James Dawson book for 2016 about mental health: Mind Your Head. 

What do you think? Have you noticed an increase in books that deal with difficult topics about grief and suicide? Do you think these books work or do they feel preachy?