Monday, 1 April 2019

REVIEW: How Not to Lose It by Anna Williamson

Pages: 176
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Non-Fiction, Advice
Release Date: March 7th 2019
Source: Gifted from publisher
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

The go-to mental health guide for kids! Exam stress? Friendship issues? Panic attacks?
How Not to Lose It will help you be the boss of all of this, and more.

It's not just your body that should be fit and healthy - your mind needs to be, too! How Not to Lose It is the go-to guide for achieving a balanced mind and strong emotional well-being.

With immediate, heart of the matter advice and a chatty yet honest tone, Anna Williamson addresses all of the key issues affecting children today.

Topics covered:
anxiety depression stress friendship bullying relationships and sex family life and bereavement phobias peer pressure self-harm self-esteem and confidence.

The purpose of this book is to inform and reassure young people about what goes on inside their heads by openly discussing how the mind can react to different situations. This is the book I wish I’d had as a teenager. I didn’t learn about anxiety and panic attacks until I was at university and even then, it was through social media. No one in school taught me that my anxiety was more than just being painfully shy. I know I’d have been grateful for a book like this to have been in my library.

How Not to Lose It covers a range of mental health problems, giving advice on how to cope with situations that young people might find themselves in. From stress and grief, to navigating the online world and learning to accept yourself, Anna Williamson leaves no stone unturned. 

What I particularly loved was the Myth Busting and Ask Anna sections. We all have illogical fears at times, and it can be difficult to find people to ask about them. It’s great that Anna uses these parts of the book to show teens that they’re not alone in their way of thinking. There are even sections for writing things down, and letter templates for when things need to be said but speaking might be too scary. There’s nothing condescending and no lectures on what’s right and wrong, just pure understanding.

The section that discusses being online is super important. A lot has changed since I was in school just ten years ago. Whatever advice I might have needed then is so different to what teens today need to know. The world of social media can be a wonderful community, but it also has may dangerous and upsetting sides to it. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for teens to navigate their way through that whilst being in school. We definitely need more books like this one to give an updated look in to how modern society can impact mental health.

  • It’s simple and straight to the point whilst also being reassuring. 
  • The book normalises things that young people might worry about. 
  • There are wonderful illustrations throughout, making the discussions seem less intimidating. 
  • It talks about various treatment options from doctors to medication. 
  • There are several websites at the back of the book to find further help. 

Books like this being easily available to young people are so important. We need to help teens feel like they have places to turn. Mental health can make us so isolated but there is always help available and there are places to find comfort, even if it’s within the pages of a book.

Royal Rating:

Monday, 18 March 2019

REVIEW: Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

Pages: 249
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Genre: Contemporary
TW: Agoraphobia, panic attacks 
Release Date: May 26th 2016
Buy the Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn't left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom--even if his kingdom doesn't extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She'll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon's solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon's trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe. But all three teens have grown uncomfortably close, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse as well.
I adore YA books that deal with mental health. I actively seek them out and consume them as often as I can. Partly because it's hugely important to expose young people to the topic of mental health, and also because it's a topic very close to my heart due to my own issues that I face every day. But I'm not here to give you a run-down of my own mental health cocktail, so let's get into this review. Warning: I’m going to include spoilers here because I don’t think I can get my thoughts across on this one without discussing the ins and outs.

This story splits between the characters of Solomon and Lisa. Solomon hasn’t left his house in years due to his crippling agoraphobia, and Lisa wants to be a psychologist, so she decides to use Solomon as her project to get to college. To get straight to the point, Solomon falls in love with Lisa’s boyfriend, Clark. Lisa, though heartbroken, believes Clark is in love with Solomon too and tells Solomon this without any real evidence (her logic? He won’t sleep with her, so he must be gay!!!!), encouraging him to admit his feelings. Here’s where things get even worse. Clark is most definitely straight and doesn’t have romantic feelings for Solomon, and he and Lisa then sort out their problems. Along the way, Lisa literally uses Solomon and his mental health for an essay as she attempts to ‘fix’ him. Yeah. That’s…that’s really the plot.  

Solomon was wonderful. Honestly, by the end of the book, he was the sole reason I was still reading. Characters with mental health problems like his are so important for sharing what it’s like to live with anxiety for people who might not understand it, and to help people with anxiety find themselves in the stories they read. But in saying that, I don’t think his mental health was addressed properly within the story. I loved him as a character, I just hated the story he was a part of.

Now, Lisa. At first, I simply thought she was a bit na├»ve and that she was going to learn that her use of Solomon for a project was wrong. Whilst she did learn *some* things, she didn’t come anywhere close to accepting just how many mistakes she made. The line at the end about Lisa 'luring' a gay teen out of hiding with her attractive boyfriend? Yes, I understand that part was written into Lisa's essay, admitting to herself that she'd been stupid. BUT YIKES. Just reading sentences like that made me cringe. The attitude Lisa had in general to everything that happened (or didn't, as the case may be) with Solomon and Clark just gave me so many bad vibes.

I liked Clark enough, I just don’t understand why the author felt the need to include him in the way that he did. I’m not necessarily stating that I wanted him to reciprocate Solomon’s feelings. I adore platonic relationships in YA and it’s super important to have male best friends who love each other without there having to be anything romantic between them. But this whole situation just didn’t sit right with me.

The good? Few and far between for me, but I will say that the one thing this book seriously nailed was the Reed family. The relationship between this family was written beautifully. I'm so used to reading about tense and awful families that it made such a refreshing change for Solomon to have a solid support system at home.

This book really had the gay character fall for the straight character, only for the straight couple to have a chance at a happy ending by the end of the story, whilst the gay character was left with the knowledge that someone got his hopes up over a straight guy. WHY ARE WE NOT OVER THE GAY GUY FALLING FOR THE STRAIGHT FRIEND TROPE? Yes, I know this is a thing that happens, people can't help falling in love with other people. But do we really still have to do that in a book like this? It just wasn’t necessary, and it wasn’t enjoyable to read. Why did Solomon have to fall in love with Clark in the first place? Just because he's gay, he has to fall in love with the other male character? He needs a romantic sub-plot to get him over his mental health problems???? This book could have simply focused on Solomon’s mental health, and Lisa attempting to help him. I didn’t actually see the point in Clark AT ALL.

I genuinely wish I had more good things to say about this book because I never like coming online to discuss the negatives, but with a book like this, I think it’s important for me to share what I personally feel was wrong within it.  

Royal Rating: 

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Deserve More Goodreads Ratings

I don’t usually do Top Ten Tuesdays, at least I haven’t for a good few years because me keeping up with a weekly feature just wasn’t going to happen. HOWEVER. This week’s theme was calling out to me because there’s nothing I love more than shoving my personal fave hidden gems down people’s throats. Here are ten books from my Goodreads shelf that somehow still have less than 2000 ratings (and I’m very mad about it). 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

 10. Minty by Christina Banach
Fourteen-year old twins Minty and Jess are inseparable. Maybe they bicker now and then, even crave a bit of space once in a while. But they have a connection. Unbreakable. Steadfast. Nothing can tear them apart. Until a family trip to the coast puts their bond in jeopardy. As Minty tries to rescue her dog from drowning she ends up fighting for her life. Will Minty survive? If she doesn't, how will Jess cope without her? Only the stormy sea has the answer.
This is a prime example of why people shouldn’t sleep on indie books. I read Minty a few years ago and it ended up being one of my faves from that year. I’m always a fan of stories that focus less on romance and more of the bonds of friendships and families, and this book delivers that and more. 

9. The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan
Jay's creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, to end with 'they lived happily ever after'. But the way her life is panning out she's not sure it will ever reach that stage. A powerful moving gripping story which explores themes of family, loyalty and culture clash but is ultimately about hope and understanding.  
I can’t stress enough how important stories like this are. It’s a tough read, but it teaches so much. Again, it’s a small story that deserves a lot more recognition because it opens up conversations that people are too afraid to have. 

8. A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood
Born a girl, Peyton Honeycutt meets Tara Parks in the eighth grade bathroom shortly after he gets his first period. It is the best and worst day of his life. Determined to impress Tara, Peyton sets out to win her love by mastering the drums and basketball. He takes on Tara’s small-minded mother, the bully at school, and the prejudices within his conservative hometown. In the end, Peyton must accept and stand up for who he is or lose the woman he loves.
THIS BOOK. A Boy Like Me is one of the first trans stories that I had the chance to read as a blogger and it opened up a whole new world of diverse literature me. I’m always recommending stories like this one as often as I can now. This is another independent book that is just as amazing as any story you’ll read from a big publisher. 

7. Damage by Eve Ainsworth
How can you heal if you can't face your past? Confident, popular Gabi has a secret - a secret so terrible she can't tell her family, or her best friend. She can't even take pleasure in her beloved skateboarding any more. And then one day an impulse turns to something darker. Gabi has never felt so alone. But then she learns that not everyone has wounds you can see. A searing look at self-harm and acceptance from hugely talented author Eve Ainsworth. Warning: includes content that some readers may find upsetting. 
Self-harm is something that has affected people close to me and finding stories like this means a lot. It’s not something I see discussed in YA nearly enough. This book provides an open and honest discussion about self-harm and what it can do.  

6. Super Awkward by Beth Garrod
15-year-old Bella Fisher is an absolute winner ... at failing at life. When she's not unknowingly snogging her teacher's son in front of her mum, she's accidentally revealing her best mates' biggest secrets online. Bella's life is spinning into catastrophe. But will she be able to piece it back together in time for prom?
The amount of times this book made me laugh alone is a reason for it to be included on my list. I used to thrive off funny stories when I was a teen and stories like this one are helping me to rediscover the genres I used to love so much. 

5. The Everest Files by Matt Dickinson
Ryan is on a gap year adventure, working for a medical charity in Nepal. When a local girl begs him to investigate why her sixteen-year-old friend Kami never came back from Everest, Ryan cannot resist the challenge.

A solo journey takes Ryan deep into the mountains where his detective work finally pays off. What emerges is a shocking tale of lies, betrayal and obsession.

All played out on the lethal slopes of the highest mountain in the world.

Little by little Ryan is falling under Everest’s deadly spell.
When I came across this series, I was looking for something out of my comfort zone because as a YA blogger, I read a lot of the same type of stuff. So many similar plots and characters can get a little dull after a while. The Everest Files is completely different to the books I normally pick up and gave me an epic new adventure to follow. 

4. Vanilla by Billy Merrell
Hunter and Van become boyfriends before they're even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises -- mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn't guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities -- with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.
 ASEXUAL MAIN CHARACTER. NEED I SAY MORE? I was crying out for asexual stories when I came across Vanilla and I’m so glad I had the chance to read it. Not only is it the diverse story of my dreams, but it’s told in the most beautiful way, through poems.

3. The Island by Olivia Levez
Frances is alone on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She has to find water and food. She has to survive. And when she is there she also thinks about the past. The things that she did before. The things that made her a monster. Nothing is easy. Survival is hard and so is being honest about the past. Frances is a survivor however, and with the help of the only other crash survivor, she sees that the future is worth fighting for.
I lost so much sleep for this book. I remember checking the time at 1:30am just as things were starting to get super serious in the story, knowing I wasn’t going to be putting it down any soon. My sleep deprived self had no regrets in the morning though because this book was WONDERFUL.

2. Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
Fliss's mum needs peace and quiet to recuperate from a long illness, so they both move to the countryside to live with Margot, Fliss's stern and bullying grandmother. Life on the farm is tough and life at school is even tougher, so when Fliss unearths Margot's wartime diary, she sees an opportunity to get her own back.

But Fliss soon discovers Margot's life during the evacuation was full of adventure, mystery . . . and even passion. What's more, she learns a terrible secret that could tear her whole family apart . . .
I love Juno Dawson and I love stories that are split between two different time periods, so this was a perfect combination for me. How this book doesn’t have more ratings is beyond me. IT DESERVES SO MUCH LOVE.The characters are adorable and the story will have you hooked. 

1. Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green
Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn't herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is...Well, it's pure HELL.

Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light?

But Noah's plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That's when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.
I’m sipping my Loving Noah Juice again. Everyone must be so tired of me mentioning this book in every possible blog post by now BUT IT’S NOT MY FAULT, OKAY? It’s one of my favourites, so obviously I’m going to whine about how it needs more ratings. 

What are your favourite books that don't get the love they deserve? Let me know! 

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