Friday, 26 May 2017

REVIEW: Damage by Eve Ainsworth

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Mental Health
Release Date: March 2nd 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

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.


Please Note: This review discusses self harm and addiction.

My Thoughts:
Damage is a book that features a protagonist who finds herself starting to self harm. From the moment I realised the subject this book was about, I knew I wanted to read it. Self harm is something that I don't see discussed openly and honestly in YA very often, so I was keen to read a story that focused on it. As someone who has seen what self harm can do to a person and how it can turn someone's life upside down, I wanted to see how this book portrayed the issue.

Gabbie is grieving the death of her grandfather, who had been an important figure in her life. But his relationship with her parents was a turbulent one, so Gabbie found herself feeling torn between them. After his death, she feels like she is the only one who is hurting over his loss and she has no one she feels she can truly express her feelings to. When she discovers that physical pain can press a temporary pause button on her emotions, Gabbie starts to self harm, and she finds herself losing more and more control.

I can't applaud this book enough for it's portrayal of self harm. It is different for every person who goes through it, but Damage provides an insight as to how something like this can take over a person's life, and for what it's like for someone to struggle with this every day. This story is also a great way to educate young people about self harm because as the characters in this book show, it's easy for a person who doesn't understand the issue to jump to conclusions and make assumptions about people who cut themselves.

Another thing that really upped my level of respect for this story is how it dealt with alcoholism. There are a lot of stereotypes that come with alcohol addiction, so I was pleased to see that Gabbie's grandfather wasn't painted as a bad man or a lesser person, he was simply someone who'd had his life overshadowed by his addiction to alcohol. Ainsworth perfectly presented the range of emotions and situations that surround a family who have to deal with that.

Damage is a short read and it's easy to get through in a couple of days. Gabbie struggles but develops so much throughout the story, and there are some heartfelt scenes towards the end. I was also very pleased to see that there were some helplines and useful links at the back of the book for anyone struggling with self harm and grief. It's so important that books like this are out there for young people to access.

Royal Rating:

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: Guest Post from Simon James Green!

Hello fellow bookworms! Today I'm super excited to share with you this wonderful guest post from Simon James Green, author of Noah Can't Even.

Being open in coming-of-age stories


Coming-of-age stories have been loved and enjoyed by TV, film and book audiences for years. As an adult looking back on those teenage years, it’s easy to do so through rose-tinted glasses, remembering fondly the first feelings of fancying someone, or the long, endless summers, that beautiful kiss…

Er… no! Of course, it wasn’t like that. Fancying that person was the start of an emotionally turbulent nightmare, the summer wasn’t endless it was packed with revision and stressful exams and that kiss was a stupid drunken one and you’d actually just been sick, and you totally regret it.

Those years – they’re actually quite difficult. And they’re packed with confusion, misinformation, and, a lot of the time, you can feel quite scared. These feelings, the stuff you’re going through, it’s all brand new. You’ve no reference point based on previous experience, so you don’t know if it’ll all work out OK. Whether you’ll get through it. You can feel like you’re lost in the woods: the torch has died, there’s no 4G so Google Maps won’t work and what use is a compass if you don’t know whether you should head North or South anyway?

I think this is why it’s so important to be open and honest in coming-of-age stories: you can feel like you are the only one going through this stuff… and you’re not. It might not make it any easier, but knowing you’re not alone, hell, knowing that just one other person feels like you do, maybe that’s a small crumb of comfort.

I’m pretty sure the internet has made it harder. Sure, you can find like-minded people and support websites to help you with whatever you’re going through. But you can also find a whole lot of utter tripe, written by people pushing their own hateful agendas. You only have to look at some of the vile comments written below videos that LGBTQ+ teens have made on YouTube – you’re exposed to hate these days like never before, and that’s not what anyone needs, especially when you’re making your first tentative steps to working out who you are. And sometimes our educational establishments don’t help. There are many good schools out there doing great work, but some schools don’t. Some schools won’t discuss LGBTQ+ issues in PSHE lessons, or tackle homophobic bullying in any sort of meaningful way. Take a look at the Stonewall report on homophobic bullying in Secondary schools – it’s depressing reading.

But we have a chance to address this in coming-of-age stories. Here we can tell it like it is, explore those feelings, and tell those stories. In the world of YA fiction, those gay kids who feel like they might as well not exist as far as their school experience goes, can read about characters going through the same things they are going through. They can join them as they fall in love, kiss, break up, get back together, laugh, have sex, screw it all up and put it all back together again. Reflecting that real experience, writing it in an honest, open way, in the safe space that a novel offers, that’s so important. With Noah Can’t Even, one of things I really wanted to achieve was exploring teenagers’ different experiences of sexuality and coming out in an open and honest way. If we were all more open, less afraid of being honest, especially with those young people we’re meant to be supporting and nurturing, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

www.simonjamesgreen.com
@simonjamesgreen

Noah Can’t Even is out now – published by Scholastic UK.

Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a BeyoncĂ© tribute act. 

Huge thank you to Simon for stopping by! You can read my review of Noah Can't Even here, and be sure to check out the rest of the awesome blogs taking part in the tour!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

REVIEW: Here Be Witches by Sarah Mussi

Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Series: The Snowdonia Chronicles #2
Publisher: Shrine Bell
Genre: Adventure, Mythology
Release Date: February 1st 2017
Buy The Book: Vertebrate Publishing - Book Depository

All Ellie Morgan wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she’s caught in the middle of a BATTLE as old as SNOWDON itself. A battle between GOOD and EVIL.

A WITCHES’ SPELL, cast high on the mountain, has sped up time and made matters MUCH WORSE. The dragons are awake; mythical creatures and evil ghosts have risen. And nearly all of them want Ellie DEAD.

Thank heavens for loyal friend George, disloyal bestie Rhi, and mysterious stranger, Davey. Armed with Granny Jones’s potions, Ellie and her companions must set out on a journey to REVERSE THE SPELL, stop the EVIL White Dragon and find Henry.

As an eternal winter tightens its grip on Snowdon, Ellie and her friends have just THREE DAYS to SURVIVE and complete their quest.

My Thoughts:
Following the events that happened in Here Be Dragons, Ellie is determined to find a way to get Henry back from his tomb under the mountain. But when her friend Rihannon gets into a spot of trouble and a witch's curse is unleashed upon Snowdon, Ellie ends up thrown into a race against time with her best friend George. After highly enjoying the first book in this series, I was keen to get stuck in with this sequel.

The quest that Ellie and her friends have to go on in Here Be Witches was fascinating and packed full of adventure. With the story taking place on and around Mount Snowdon, it provided an epic setting for the journey of the characters. Something that I loved about this book was the magical myths within it. There's nothing I love more than learning about legends, so I appreciated the way that not only were they included in the story itself, but there were also extra notes at the bottom of the pages to explain things thoroughly. This series is great for getting to know epic tales from Welsh history!

I loved seeing how the characters developed in this story. Whilst Ellie has learned a lot from the events in Here Be Dragons, she still has this sense of innocence about her which I love. She has a funny, relatable attitude and I like how Mussi doesn't try to make her seem older than her age, which is something I feel a lot of YA fantasy writers tend to do. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Ellie and her friends change as they faced different situations, and despite her love for Henry, Ellie's will-they-won't-they tension with George was cute to see.

What I love about this series is the chatty way in which it's told. Though it's a fantasy novel with action and adventure, there is also something very contemporary in Ellie's narration of the story, and it makes for a delightful combination. It also helps the situation and characters feel believable because they are acting exactly how you'd imagine a bunch of teenagers would if they were thrown into a magical quest.

The Snowdonia Chronicles is fun fantasy, but dark and more serious when it needs to be, and I'm definitely excited to see what happens to this varied bunch of characters next! 

Royal Rating:

 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

REVIEW: Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green

Pages: 365
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: May 4th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. 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 are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That's when things go from bad to utter chaos.


My Thoughts:
I can't even. With this book. It's charming and funny, and also completely adorable all at the same time. This type of book just feels very home to me. My teen years used to be filled with UKYA books set in typical British high schools and filled with plenty of laughs, so Noah Can't Even reminded me of the books that helped shape me into the reader I am today.

Noah Can't Even follows Noah Grimes, who just want to be an average, 'normal' high school student. He's tired of trying to fit in, only to have some aspect of his life exposed to and mocked by his classmates. When Sophie, someone Noah has always admired from afar for her cool and quirky attitude, finally speaks to him, he decides that this is his ticket to normal. So he tries to win her over romantically, with his, um, charm? But then his best friend Harry kisses him and throws Noah's life into even further turmoil.

This is such a brilliant coming-of-age story and I adore the way that sexuality is discussed so openly, all the awkward stuff included. Noah and Harry are such close friends, but they're also very different when it comes to being themselves. Once Harry kisses Noah, he's honest with his best friend about being gay, confessing that he's only attracted to other boys. But then we have Noah, who hasn't got a clue what to make of anything that's happening, and doesn't really acknowledge being interested in anyone who isn't a girl as a possibility for himself until Harry kisses him. I love that this book shows those two variations of teens coming to terms with their sexuality. It shows that sometimes it's clear-cut, and other times it's confusing as heck, but that's okay.

All of the characters in this story are so vibrant and they make an interesting mix of different personalities. Noah's relationship with Harry and how their feelings develop is just so genuinely sweet that you can't help but love them. They're too precious for this world, honestly. Noah himself is an extremely funny protagonist and some of the stuff he came out with when he was in awkward social situations had me giggling. I also loved seeing Noah's relationship with his mum change throughout the book. Though they have their difficult moments, they make a great team when it really matters.

Noah Can't Even is a wonderful mixture of humour, romance, and awkward adolescence that hits home with a few important topics along the way. I've been in a huge reading slump lately, but once I got started with this one, I couldn't stop! If you're looking for a fun read complete with a bunch of seriously loveable characters, then this is the book you should pick up next.

Royal Rating:

Monday, 24 April 2017

REVIEW: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Pages: 438
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: April 6th 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository

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 Thoughts:
The Hate U Give follows Starr as her life completely changes after she witnesses her best friend get shot down and murdered by a white police officer. What follows is her struggle to fight for justice for Khalil and make sure he's remembered in the right way. The desperately sad fact about this story is that whilst Starr and Khalil are fictional characters, their situation is a harsh reality that occurs far too often in our society.

Compelling, powerful, and important are only some of the words that are floating around in my brain as I try to describe why this book is so amazing but, honestly, my words don't do it justice. The characters in this story are just so real and believable. I challenge you not to feel for Starr and her family, and what they have to deal with in their everyday lives. Though the subject matter is serious and important, the moments between Starr and her family were precious, heart-warming, and often funny. They all had so much life and a lot of love for each other, and it came across beautifully on the page. It was also interesting to see how Starr began to mix the two different sides of her life that she'd struggled to keep separate for so many years.

One character who frustrated me throughout this book was Hailey, but she exists to make readers feels that way. She's someone who says stupid things without thinking, and definitely doesn't recognise her own privilege. The sad thing is that there are many Haileys out there who can't even see how they're hurting and offending people with their words. So whilst her ignorance left me annoyed, it's important to show that Starr had to deal with attitudes like that.

The Hate U Give is a book that not only educates, but also inspires. It's about standing up and doing something, even though you might be afraid. Starr's journey to finding her own voice was a painful yet beautiful one, and seeing her determination grow throughout the story was brilliant. It also opened my eyes to things I wasn't as aware of as I should have been, and I'm so grateful to this book for doing that.

It's quite difficult for me to talk about everything that I want to without delving into spoilers, so I'll probably revisit this book for a video discussion at some point. I know a lot of readers, me included, can be a little skeptical of books that are surrounded by hype, but this is one of those books that earns the buzz. Relevant and raw, this is a story that shines a light on the situations like this that are still painfully common today.

Royal Rating:

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: Review of 'Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined' by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Release Date: April 6th 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.

My Thoughts:
Ingrid is taking part in Peak Wilderness on a promise. If she completes the trip, she gets to go to the school of her dreams in England. But Peak Wilderness isn't anything like how Ingrid expected it to be. What she thought would be cabins and fun, outdoor activities were actually harsh nights of camping and brutal days of hiking. The story follows Ingrid as she struggles to make it through the difficult three weeks with a bunch of strangers who are all there for very different reasons.

What I particularly loved about this story was the various ways in which it was told. We got to jump between the past and present to gradually get the whole picture as to how and why Ingrid ended up at Peak Wilderness, and then there were the letters. Throughout the book, Ingrid writes letters that she never intends to send, but help her get her feelings out, putting them all onto the page. This variety in the storytelling kept things interesting and also kept me guessing as to what events had occurred in Ingrid's past.

Ingrid herself was a wonderful character to read about. Despite the situation she'd found herself thrown into, she managed to find determination to get through the difficult days. It was interesting to see how she reacted to the other characters and to watch her opinions of them change over time. She had a bit of everything to offer with her sarcasm, her wit, and her strength that grew throughout the book. Her turbulent relationship with her mother was heartbreaking but also beautiful at times. The writing really drove home the sadness and desperation that follows a career in the spotlight being pulled from right beneath a person's feet.

I'll admit that I'm difficult to please when it comes to romance in contemporary stories, so I was happy to see that the romantic relationships in this book didn't have any typically cheesy instalove attached to it. It wasn't what I expected, so I was pleasantly surprised! The journey that Ingrid and the other characters had to endure was gritty and tough, but I felt a sense of pride as they grew stronger through it. The secondary characters were all interesting in their own right, and it actually made me interested to learn more about them outside of Ingrid's story.

Whilst this book undoubtedly had it's more tragic elements, there was a sense of hope and determination underneath it all. With several issues being discussed, this story is a powerful one and these characters aren't easily forgettable. 

Royal Rating:

 



  
 
Be sure to check out the other blogs taking part in the blog tour this week:

 
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