Thursday, 29 December 2016

REVIEW: What Light by Jay Asher

Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: Contemporary, Christmas
Release Date: 20th October 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon - it's an idyllic place for a girl to grow up, except that every year they have to pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life begins to eclipse the other... 

My Thoughts:
What Light follows Sierra's potential last Christmas at her family's Christmas tree farm. Though she has to spend the festive period away from her friends at home each year, going to the farm means that she gets to spend time with her other best friend, Heather. This year, Heather wants to split up with her boyfriend in the New Year, so whilst she's having to spend time him in the run up to Christmas, she encourages Sierra to date a boy whilst at the farm so that they can go on double dates. That's when Caleb enters the story.

He becomes a frequent buyer of trees at the farm, and Sierra ends up developing feelings for him, especially when she finds out what he's doing with all of the trees he's buying. There are lots of rumours about something dark that happened in Caleb's past, but despite warnings to stay away from him, Sierra continues befriending him.

The romance between Sierra and Caleb is the main event of this story, but it just didn't fall into place for me. It's a short, Christmas love story, but I was hoping for something a little more interesting than a typical instalove plot with a boy who has made a mistake. I also didn't feel any ounce of the chemistry that was supposed to make Sierra have this instant connection to him in the first place. Caleb didn't stand out for me, not even with his troubled backstory. There was nothing about his personality that made me think 'ah, this is why she's so smitten'.

The great thing about this story was Sierra's family and friends. The relationship she had with her parents was believable and sweet, and I wish we could see more daughter/parent relationships like this one in YA. Her parents were cautious, but not too overprotective. Whilst they were wary about Sierra, they eventually came to allow her to do things her way. Sierra had a wonderful set of friends, both at the tree farm and at home. What I wasn't pleased to see was Sierra hurting her friends for the sake of Caleb, a boy she'd known for just days. All of the friends in this story had more potential than what we were shown of them. I would've like to have seen their characters expanded on more, but since the story was only a short one, there wasn't much opportunity.

This was a cutesy Christmas romance, but since romance was the focus of it, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't expecting a better love story than the one I was given. For me, the spark between Sierra and Caleb just wasn't enough light a fire, and I found myself way more interested in the characters and things going on around them.

Royal Rating:

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: November 3rd 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

From the author of the critically acclaimed, LOOKING FOR JJ, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2004 and the Carnegie Medal in 2005.

My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey's story.

A tautly told and important book, perfect for readers of Asking for It by Louise O'Neill.

My Thoughts:
This was the November read for The Book Club!

This book tells the story of how seventeen-year-old Stacey Woods was raped. After she has an argument with her mother and sister, Stacey goes to spend the night at her dad's place, and the next day she heads to a cafe before going home. Whilst there she meets Henry, a boy who has a lifestyle completely opposite to her own. He's rich, has connections, and goes to a private school. Stacey is whisked away by his charm and attention. That chance meeting leads to a chain of events that spiral into a horribly life-changing situation.

No Virgin is without a doubt a very important story and Anne Cassidy tells it powerfully. This book shows that horrible things like this can happen to anyone, and that the attacker doesn't always fit the stereotypical image of what you'd expect. It also reminds us all that the victim is never to blame in this situation. After the attack, Stacey questions the decisions she made, scolds herself for being foolish, but no matter how naive she might have been, getting raped was not her fault.

The final few chapters of this book, when Stacey begins to face up to what has happened and take control, make for a powerful ending. But the end itself was quite abrupt. I wanted to read about the aftermath of Stacey deciding to speak about her attack. Whilst I've read YA stories that have dealt with rape before, I very rarely get to read books that deal with the fall out, including court cases. I wanted to see if justice was brought because the harsh reality is that there are attackers who don't face punishment for their crime, and this can discourage a lot of victims from coming forward. I was keen to see how the story progressed, so I was a little disappointed in the way it ended. But what I didn't know at the time was that there is going to be a sequel, so I'm interested to see how that second book deals with everything.

No Virgin is a very short read that can be finished within a few hours, getting straight to the point of what's happening, and the second half of the story compels you to keep reading. Whilst the attack itself was haunting and a huge reality check, the first half of the book failed to pull me in as much as the later chapters did. But it was still an impactful read and I think it's hugely important to have stories like this one in the YA genre to send a message to young people that attacks like this do happen, and that it can happen to anyone. 

Royal Rating:
I'd actually give this one more of a 3.5!

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