death

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – Published March 22nd 2018 by Orion Children’s Books

Another book I read almost four months ago now (oops!). I think it’s time to get this review written!

I was immediately drawn to this book when I read the blurb. Leigh is a young woman struggling to accept her mother’s suicide. She finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her mother’s parents, where Leigh discovers more about her mother and her family than she ever expected.

This book was written beautifully, with colours expressing emotion. Leigh is an artist and thus pretty much thinks in terms of colour. It’s also an amazing mix of real-life, sorrow and loss, and fantasy. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Leigh is convinced her mother is visiting her even after her death, but in a very different form.

As well as all the emotions surrounding the loss of her mother, Leigh addresses the issues around being a “half-blood”. As a child of mixed-race parents myself, I found some of the things in this book incredibly relatable. But it wasn’t an overbearing part of the story though, which I thought was fantastic.

This was a really emotional book, fantastically written. It was sad but heart-warming. 5 stars; I loved it!

Book Review: Bone and Bread

A huge thanks to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a copy of this novel.

As I’ve mentioned many times on my blog, I have anorexia. I struggle with mental health issues and I believe books on the topic are extremely important. This took my interest for that reason, but I didn’t expect this unique view. Beena’s sister, Sadhana, is diagnosed with anorexia at 14 – after a rather traumatic, difficult childhood. Beena recaps their early days, while simultaneously narrating her current-day life. At first, Beena only vaguely references Sadhana’s illness, but it soon becomes clear that her heart attack was brought on by the eating disorder.

This book is about Sadhana’s struggle, her sister’s sire attempts to help her, and her grief at Sadhana’s eventual passing, but it is also about so much more. It is about Beena’s teenage pregnancy and single motherhood. It is about the death of their parents, one by one, before they were even midway through their teens. It is about Sadhana’s on-off struggles, Beena’s exhaustion at being her carer, their relationship and arguments and love. It is also about Sadhana’s life, separate to Beena’s, her secret girlfriend. It’s about life overall, really. And while the anorexia is a huge part of it, it isn’t the whole story.

It was written fantastically, and the opinions Beena gives on Sadhana’s illness are really quite unique. She expresses her anger and frustration, and the tiring nature of caring for her sister throughout her life. She does not express the sympathy and sadness toward sufferers that is often portrayed in books.

Sometimes, I did find Beena a bit too harsh – and Sadhana, too, actually. But overall the characterisation was great, and the relationship between the girls is so complex it feels real. 4.5 stars.

Graphic Novel Review: Sheets

Again, I found this on Edelweiss+ and am really glad I did!

So this is a graphic novel about a thirteen-year-old girl struggling to maintain her family’s laundry business after her mother’s death. Things keep going wrong, and Mr Saubertuck makes an offer to Marj and her family – give up their home and business in return for lodging and work at Saubertuck’s new spa & yoga resort. Marj’s father says they should accept it; Marj refuses. Her mother loved their house, and she is not going to give it up without a fight.

Marj soon discovers that some of her problems have been caused by a supernatural presence. Wendell has escaped from his ghost town and returned to be among the living despite it being against every law in the ghost rulebook. As Wendell remembers more and more from his life, Marj is struggling with the business, her nasty classmates, and her longing for her deceased mother. When she meets Wendell, she can’t believe her eyes. Ghosts aren’t real. Are they?

The pair have a rocky relationship, as Wendell accidentally risks the fate of Marj’s whole family. But Marj soon links Wendell to an old memory, and realises that he is not the one to blame for the problems her laundry business are facing. Wendell goes to extreme measures – nearly being arrested by his ghost-kin – to help Marj get the business back up.

The story is really, really lovely. The colour palette is perfect, and the art is just beautiful. It’s a really sweet book, with lots of lovely little details. It’s touching and emotional, but resolved really nicely. 4 stars.

Book Review: Eden Summer

I keep falling behind on writing my reviews, sorry! I really need to get back on track. I finished this on Tuesday I think? I really enjoyed it, although it isn’t quite worthy of five stars.

I’m going to put in a trigger warning as there are mentions of substance abuse, physical abuse, death, adoption and suicide.

Jess’s best friend has gone missing. Through interviews with the police and Jess’s personal recollections, we begin to build up a picture of Eden’s life before her disappearance. Her sister had recently been killed in a car accident, and her seemingly perfect relationship with Liam was more complicated than anyone realised. Bit by bit, Jess – and we – begin to piece things together and discover where Eden has gone.

The girls are only young – 15 I think? – and very much have the all-consuming passion that young teens feel. As in, every little issue feels huge, and things feel far more serious than they might to an older person. I remember feeling this way. I think it was portrayed so accurately, the way fighting with your best friend feels like the end of the world and a family argument overwhelms you with guilt. It was a bit annoying in some ways, though; no fault of the author, of course, I just get a bit annoyed at kids taking things too seriously. I look back at myself and think how stupid it was to get so caught up in such little issues. So the things that Jess gets so worked up over just seemed a bit trivial to me, like she was exaggerating too much. But as I said, this creates the teenage voice really well in my opinion.

The things that both these girls have gone through are massive, though – Jess was attacked and Eden’s sister killed. That’s pretty hard for a young girl to deal with, and these are not the problems I’m saying are trivial. These are hugely important and emotional issues and I think it’s great to talk about. I love books with these real, albeit sad, events. I think it is so good to discuss all the feelings and situations that follow, and also emphasise how it is not the end of the world if something bad happens. life will continue. Eden says how she feels her sister’s death becoming more distant, more bearable, and how she doesn’t want that to happen. She feels guilty, as if she’s forgetting her and moving on. This is so important. She also thinks about killing herself due to guilt – which I won’t ruin too much – but then realises how she shouldn’t take life for granted. Her sister would’ve given anything to be alive still, and she shouldn’t be throwing that away.

It was a really good read and I found myself wondering what was going to be revealed next. It was well written and perfectly captured the young voice of Jess. If I read this when I was younger, I think I would’ve adored it. I would’ve understood it and connected to Jess more than I did now I’m older. 4 stars, definitely worth a read.

Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

Wow. Just… wow.

Okay so the main/underlying theme in this is the death of Griffin’s closest friend and first love, Theo. We’re given alternating excerpts from different moments in the past (such as when Theo and Griffin first got together, fun memories they made, sad moments etc) and excerpts from “now” (after Theo’s death). While this alone is a huge topic that is so important to address, this book manages to discuss several other issues at the same time.

The most important part of this book (to me) was Griffin learning how to move on without feeling guilty for betraying Theo. My boyfriend lost someone a few years ago and sometime’s I get scared I’m “competing with a ghost” (which is a fantastic quote from in this book, but I won’t tell you who said it because that’s a pretty big spoiler). I can only imagine how awful it must feel to lose someone you love, and how crap you’d feel for ‘forgetting’ them. But Griffin tackles this, not quickly or easily, but through mistakes and heartache and small realisations. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the journey, I think, and offers hope at the same time.

Other themes include homozexuality – which is explored through four different characters, as opposed to just one or two – and even OCD. Griffin’s OCD isn’t by any means the “main” plot, but it impacts everything in his life – which is, of course, very true for anyone with a mental illness like that. It reveals itself in tiny ways throughout his life, and is even seen as a sort of “quirk” by Theo. I especiay liked how Griffin’s new love interest at the end of the book tackles his compulsions so differently to Theo – he encourages him to move on and fight them, rather than just accepting them and letting them rule both Griffin’s and his behaviour.

I’m not sure if this counts as a theme, but there’s also the big issue of Griffin actually meeting the boy Theo was dating when he died. (Theo moved away to go to college, and his relationship with Griffin came to a weird end-but-not-quite. Theo found a new boyfriend, Jackson.) Jackson and Griffin had spent months hating each other, and refusing to even try to get on. But after Theo’s death, Griffin realises that this is the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through. Although he hates that they had their own history together he knows that it means Jackson is grieving in the same way as Griffin. They eventually decide to help each other through the first month following his death, but when Jackson reveals how Theo told him some very personal information from Griffin’s childhood, Griffin begins to see Jackson as a weapon. Since his death, Griffin has been talking to Theo in his head. Now he wants him to watch as he has sex with his boyfriend.

Like I said, Griffin makes a lot of mistakes. He knows that. He made mistakes while Theo was alive, too – there are references to the “taboo” issue between him and Theo and the betrayal Griffin felt he committed that we are later informed about. But Wade, their closest friend since childhood, becomes the rock that Griffin had never expected. He helps Griffin see that Theo is in the wrong by asking him to wait for them to get back together when he has clearly moved on himself. Wade later helps Griffin see that Theo would be happy to see him move on, too, and that despite being his first love, Theo doesn’t have to be his only love.

So yeah, a pretty emotional book with a hell of a lot of twists. I loved it. I have another book by Adam Silvera on my shelf to read (I bought it back before I’d found this) and I am seriously looking forward to it now. Amazing book: 5 stars.