young adult

Book Review: Anything That Isn’t This

Well this was a surprising read. Not just a typical YA dystopian novel, but a peculiar, artistic novel complete with illustrations throughout.

For some reason, I wasn’t expecting the strange world that Priestley created in this book. The Grey is suffocating Frank, the Ministry controlling his every decision. Most people are okay with it, comfortable in the routine provided. But Frank wants more.

First, Frank is obsessed with a girl from his school. Even after they graduate, he is desperate to be with her – he believes they’re ‘fated’. But after a while, he realises that maybe she’s not quite right for him.

This combines two typical YA romance plots – the “unpopular boy gets the cool girl” and also the “childhood friends become lovers” plot. I think it’s a bit unusual to mix the two, but I didn’t find anything spectacular about this aspect of the novel.

The whole book has a very strange abstract sort of feel to it; I was unsure at times whether to actually take what he was saying at face value or take it as a metaphor. There are loads of weird myths that are thrown around, many of which play a big role later in the book. 

The friendship with Scape was interesting; it kind of just happened out of the blue and ended in a similar way. And Mr Vertex was a weird character – it was obvious there was something strange about him, and I felt he really added to the abstract feel created.

The book kind of felt grey, but not in a bad way – as in, I felt how Frank felt about his life. I was pretty shocked by how dark it got at the end, quite suddenly. The ending was a bit of a whirlwind, followed by a moment of calm. The calmness was nice, an interesting ending that left your imagination running wild.

I didn’t really enjoy this book at first but I did eventually get into it, and quite liked it. I definitely liked the unique feel it had, almost like Coraline. 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: Everybody Hurts

I don’t usually read cheesy YA romance novels, and very rarely do I enjoy them much. This was kind of an impulse read, and I probably wouldn’t have read it usually. But I’m glad I did.

It is pretty cheesy, and the voices of the characters are maybe over-exaggerated and trging-too-hard. But something about the writing was just really good, and I often found myself not wanting to put it down. Even though it was about love and sex and brain tumours. 

Jango is an interesting character, who seems like a plain old bully/idiot at first but actually turns out to be pretty good. His home life is complicated, and his friendship with Matt is more valuable than he lets on. But near-death experiences bring out the truth – and Jango’s affectionate, kind side.

Like I said before, it does all feel a bit too artificial – the “teenage” lingo is just not right, and the events are maybe played out to be more dramatic than they needed to be. I’m not actually sure how much I liked either of the main characters, but the telling of the story was great and made up for any dislikes I had.

It is a bit of a feel-good, cheesy romance in the end, which is nice to read sometimes. It’s got a lot of twists – bad luck, bad tempers – that make it a bit more unique than similar YA romances. 4 stars.

Book Review: The System

The System

The System (The Killables #3) by Gemma Malley – Paperback, 357 pages – Published April 10th 2014 by Hodder (first published December 5th 2013)

I finally got round to reading the conclusion to The Killables trilogy!

It’s been quite a long time since I read the first books, so I had forgotten some of the details. But as I read, I started to remember what had happened previously and was able to appreciate the current story.

After escaping the City, Evie, Raffy, Linus and Benjamin are now trapped in a world where everyone is being Watched. People actually made a living off of being Watched by strangers around t

The world, by having people see their daily lives and every thought. But Thomas, the leader of Infotec, isn’t satisfied; he still wants Linus to create the System he had originally thought of.

Frankie is one of the most Watched girls; her boyfriend, Milo, is high-up within Infotec and has really boosted her Watcher numbers. But an anonymous message encourages Frankie to write a blog post about the UK, and Milo suddenly turns pretty hostile. Suddenly Frankie is being thrown in the back of a van, her ID chip removed and given to some random doppelganger now claiming her identity. Frankie isn’t about to go down without a fight, though, and with the help of the anonymous messager, she escapes the Infotec enforcers.

There are a lot of switches between the POV this story is being told by, but after few chapters, the characters start to come together in one story.

A group of people are determined to tell the rest of the world about the UK – which was believed to have been destroyed by the Horrors. But Thomas is not going to let that happen easily – he’s more than happy to dispose of anyone threatening his company.

The future Malley has created is, in my opinion, quite plausible. Vlogs on YouTube are already super popular, and this isn’t that big a step up from that. And the System Thomas wants from Linus is probably not too far-fetched, either.

Frankie and Milo are probably the most important new characters in this book. Frankie was developed pretty well throughout the story, slowly discovering the truth and realising how she had been manipulated by Infotec. She’s not a big fan of Evie when they first meet, though, and I kind of thought Malley emphasised that more than was necessary. Milo also developed a bit, but with more of a sudden switch being flicked later in the book.

This was a good conclusion to the trilogy, and I enjoyed reading it. It maybe tries a bit too hard to be edgy, with swear words being thrown around and things like that. Still, I liked it. I felt a bit of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies coming through at times, but not enough that it felt samey or anything. 4 stars for the final Killables book.

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Book Review: Rippler

Rippler

Rippler by Cidney Swanson – eBook, 285 pages – Published March 8th 2013 by Williams Press (first published May 26th 2011)

This book is available for free on Kindle devices and apps over on Amazon, which is where I downloaded it from.

The book begins with Sam “rippling” – become invisible in front of her friends. No one sees it happening (assuming she just fell in the river) except for Will. From here, the two of them form a close bond, and Will tells Sam about the research his sister has been doing into Rippler’s Syndrome.

Researchers studying the Rippler gene have mysteriously died, leaving Sam, Will and his sister Mickie to assume they were murdered. They need to be careful to avoid being found – especially since two of the trio have the gene themselves.

Sam also discovers the truth about her mother’s death when she was young, which has some unexpected links to the murder of the researchers. Mickie becomes more and more fearful for the safety of her little brother, and Sam finds herself afraid of losing Will when Mickie considers moving them away.

The Rippler gene is a fantastic idea, plausible and well thought through. The symptom of the gene – the turning invisible – haven’t been explained particularly well yet, but that may come later in the series.

I did find the writing a little amateurish at times; the phrase “she/he/it was explained” was repeated quite often in place of actually writing the explanation. I’m not sure if this was to avoid lengthy descriptions of things that had already taken place or just to avoid having to write it out in detail, but it was something I noticed often. Also, Swanson tries to avoid repeating names and uses what reminds me a school-child method; describing the person, calling them things like “my mother” or “his big sister” in place of simply writing their name.

There are some aspects of romance, but they have yet to be fully developed. There’s also friendship drama, where Sam’s friend, Gwyn, believes her to be in an abusive relationship. This assumption was possibly a bit too dramatic and far-fetched, but the idea of Sam being torn between Gwyn and Will was good.

I enjoyed reading this book, and am thinking about reading the next novel in the series. However, I definitely did notice where improvements could have been made. 3.5 stars.

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Book Review: The Heir

The Heir

The Heir (The Selection #4) by Kiera Cass – Paperback, 342 pages – Published May 6th 2015 by HarperCollins Children’s Books (first published May 5th 2015)

This is the fourth novel in The Selection series by Kiera Cass. Twenty years after the Selection which led to the marriage of America and Prince Maxon, this book follows their eldest daughter, Eadlyn. As the older twin, she is destined to inherit the throne instead of her brother. She’s been preparing herself for the role since birth, and had every intention of doing so alone. But when the removal of the caste system fails to satisfy the public, it’s clear that a distraction is required. Reluctantly, Eadlyn agrees to take part in a Selection herself – but she’s certain she will not end up with a husband.

Much like her mother, Eadlyn’s attempt to avoid affection towards the candidates is futile; she actually finds herself feeling friendship (or more) to several of the boys she meets. Still, she tries to remain distant – romance was always her brother Ahren’s thing.

The twins are as close as is possible, but Eadlyn finds herself fearing the loss of him. He’s been deeply in love with the French heir for a while, and Eadlyn’s attempt to separate them backfires drastically. And then, on top of everything, their mother falls ill suddenly. Finally, Eadlyn begins to realise the importance of this Selection.

The reluctance to actually engage in the Selection was very similar to America in the first book. Too similar, maybe. And the change of heart followed the same pattern, too. But maybe it won’t end in love this time. (I’ll have to read the next book and find out!)

Eadlyn’s quite a “typical” feminist sort of figure – believing she will be the best queen without any husband around. But Ahren makes a fantastic point, saying she’s able to fall in love and have a beautiful wedding and love fashion and flowers while still being the strong, brave queen she is inside. To me, that’s what feminism is truly about. It was nice to see this view – from a boy, nonetheless – challenging the original view of Eadlyn.

Also, Eadlyn is a very strong, blunt girl most of the time – her way of being strong is, often, being rather rude. And eventually, she actually sees that in herself and realises that maybe she doesn’t have to be that way to be powerful and successful. Her admiration (and jealousy) of Ahren’s girlfriend also confirms this; she’s a petite, gentle girl, but is taken seriously by everyone around her. She is not harsh like Eadlyn, yet she is not taken for granted by anyone. A girl can be beautiful and feminine, yet still be a powerful authoritative figure.

Although it was pretty similar to the first book, I still did enjoy it. And Eadlyn’s attraction to so many suitors means that this could go any way, so I do look forward to finding out who she will end up with – if anyone. This series has always been really enjoyable and easy to read. 4 stars for The Heir.

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Book Review: Glass Sword

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard – Paperback, 464 pages – Published February 11th 2016 by Orion (first published February 9th 2016)

When I read the first novel in this series, Red Queen, I was absolutely hooked on Aveyard’s writing. So I found the second book, Glass Sword, eager to follow Mare’s story as she fought alongside the Scarlet Guard and bring the newbloods to safety. Although the book is good, it was not as amazing as I had first hoped. Still, I’m really looking forward to reading the next one.

After the battle in the Bowl of Bones, Cal and Mare are on the run. Everyone knows their faces, their stories – the stories Maven and Elara are telling, anyway. Cal, the fallen prince, the murderer of the king and his own father. And Mare, the Lightning Girl, to one who corrupted the prince. And of course, the Scarlet Guard are being hunted.

Farley, Kilorn, Cal, Mare, and Shade steal a jet from the Scarlet Guard’s hidden island, and set out to collect as many people from Julian’s list before Maven finds them. Sadly, they are not always the first ones there. Eventually, they have a small army ready, just in time for meeting Jon – a newblood with vision that stretches farther than any Silver eye’s. He hints at their fate, the action they should take. In three days, they will free both Reds and Silvers from Corros prison.

As always, this war brings death. One death is particularly important, but I won’t ruin it. And one death honestly broke my heart. (I was kinda hoping they would come back throughout the whole of the rest of the book, even though I knew they were dead.) I was so not expecting that death.

The not-relationship between Mare and Cal is continued, and sort of developed. They clearly still care for each other, but try not to let their affections get in their way.

Honestly, I didn’t like Mare that much in this book. She came across as kind of stuck up, often pointing out how she was so “valuable” and “special”. She also became colder and more comfortable with murder, but that would happen to most people in a violent environment like hers. Still, I felt like she lost some of her original charm and personality, and became too harsh and, well, bitchy.

Also, Mare misses Maven (or the person she thought he was, anyway) which is natural. She tries to remind herself that he was never truly like that, and that he was always a monster. But I actually found myself still rooting for him, hoping for him to come out innocent. I just don’t seem to hate him as much as intended.

Despite Mare’s character flaws, the story was still great. The ending has definitely left me wanting more. What will happen now that the truth is out? Now that the imprisoned Silvers are free to tell their stories? I can’t wait to find out. 4 stars.

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Book Review: The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child (Mortal Gods #3) by Francesca Simon – Paperback, 320 pages – Published December 1st 2016 by Faber Faber

I finished this on Tuesday but have had some technical problems, which is why I’m posting it now. (Sorry.)

Apparently this is book #3 in the Mortal Gods series – but I read it believing it to be a standalone novel and really enjoyed it like that. It’s another short, new YA book, which a pretty large font to fill up more space. I never used to like short books, but I’ve found some I’ve really enjoyed recently, including this one.

One of Loki’s (monstrous) children is Hel, a girl with a perfectly normal human body… except her legs are deadLike, full-on decaying dead. Still, she’s a goddess, even if she’s never treated as one.

Hel has learned to just deal with what she’s got in life and carry on. But when she’s kidnapped and taken to Asgard – the home of the gods – she finds an unexpected light of hope. His name is Baldr, and he’s the only one who’s ever treated her like she’s normal. The only problem is that he’s married.

And then, just to make matters worse, Hel is literally thrown into the underworld, sentenced to be the queen of Nifelheim for all of eternity. It’s cold, smelly, and soon enough, full of dead people. She’s alone, plotting her revenge on the gods, with no chance of escape – but at least it’s hers. She can build her own fortress without anyone guiding her; she can order the dead around however she pleases. And she can have a high seat ready, beside hers, for when Baldr inevitably comes for her.

What she wasn’t planning was a third seat…

Anyway, Hel has created Hel for the dead, the End of Days is drawing nearer, and dear old Dad has dropped by for a favour. All very… fun. 

I thought this was a really different kind of book. The narrative voice is really sarcastic and youthful, pretty funny too, as well as still sounding like a Norse goddess. She also sounded somewhat modern, too – which I suppose would be the case if you were immortal. Sometimes I found her to find a little too sarcastic and bitter, a little too chatty and “different”. I don’t know, it just didn’t sound all that natural sometimes.

The whole Norse theme was refreshing – not some paranormal YA romance that you see everywhere – and really well told. Hel was a really interesting character, too; modern enough to relate to yet still believably a Norse goddess.

As I said, I read this without realising there were other books before it in the series. I didn’t realise that at all while reading – I didn’t feel like I was missing anything and still enjoyed it plenty. I’m going to say 3.5 to 4 stars for The Monstrous Child. I’ll have to look out for the other books.

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Book Review: Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley – Paperback, 249 pages – Published May 26th 2016 by Faber and Faber (first published May 10th 2016)

This is only a short book, but there is a huge story between these pages. I personally found this book amazing because I related so much to one character, Solomon, due to my own personal experiences with mental illness. (Hah! You’ll get that reference if you read the book.) But I still think that anyone will enjoy this book, and gain a deeper understanding of the mental health issues that are discussed.

Lisa seeks out Solomon, the “crazy” kid who jumped into a fountain three years ago, in hopes of writing a scholarship-winning essay on him. Solomon hasn’t left the house in three years. Not even to go in his own back garden. Every time he tries to, or even thinks about it, he has severe panic attacks. So instead of trying anymore, he gave up and made peace with a life inside four walls.

As an aspiring psychologist, Solomon’s case is perfect. But they become close friends, and eventually, Lisa even brings her boyfriend, Clark, to meet Sol. One thing they never expected was Sol falling in love… with Clark.

I have had times where I have been unable to leave my house. I used to have my school work sent home, and would avoid seeing anyone for as long as I could. It never got as bad as Sol’s case, but I would happily stay inside my house 24/7. (My mum won’t let me, though.) So I really did relate to Solomon. The descriptions of his behaviours and thoughts were really accurate in my opinion. It was quite inspiring to watch him slowly emerge from his shell and start living again.

Of course, there’s also the topic of homosexuality in this. I love how Clark remained so friendly even when he knew Sol was gay – not doing the whole “ew he might fancy me” thing that a lot of guys tend to. They were best friends. But Lisa was fed ideas by her friend, Janis, that made her worry Clark was cheating on her with Sol. Yeah. Awkward.

Overall, I just thought this was fantastically written. There are aspects for everyone to relate to, I think. And hopefully, it will help people understand why some of us may seem so “crazy”.

I can easily give this book 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed it, and loved the characters and their relationships. Even when Lisa was using Sol, I could see how she had good intentions. It was so well written.

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Book Review: Dead to You

Dead to You

Dead to You by Lisa McMann – Paperback, 288 pages – Published May 2nd 2013 by Scholastic (first published February 7th 2010)

This is just a short YA book, but it was really interesting. It’s about Ethan, a teenager who was abducted 9 years ago and lived alone on the streets after being abandoned, who has returned to his family at last.

Obviously, it isn’t going to be easy for anyone. But Ethan doesn’t remember a single detail from his life before the abduction, and his brother, Blake, is adamant that he’s an imposter. The family goes through therapy together, and Ethan builds a loving relationship with his young new sister. But even with his new girlfriend, Ethan finds his new life awkward and difficult. The tension in his house is unbearable, and his own anger issues aren’t making things any easier.

I personally found Ethan’s edgy, youthful narration a bit fabricated. Almost like McMann was trying too hard to make him come across a certain way. But it wasn’t a major problem, and I still enjoyed the book.

And the ending was so unexpected, and not in the typical, predictable way. I won’t ruin it for anyone who wants to read it, but the ending raised this book from 3.5 stars to 4.

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Book Review: Evil Rises

Evil Rises

Evil Rises (Noah Reid #0.5) by Wesley Robert Lowe – eBook, 42 pages – First published June 10th 2014

This is just a short prequel to Lowe’s Noah Reid series, with a little extract from the first book included at the end. The story itself is only about 35 pages long.

There’s a little intro to the culture and the origin of Shaolin Martial Arts, which is an important theme in this story. It helped to understand the story, so I appreciated that detail.

The beginning of this story is almost a prequel to the prequel; the childhood experience of Wudan, who would later become Master Wu. Why he chose to take up Shaolin training, and then why he decided to leave “Heaven” to teach the art to others.

The protagonist of the series, Noah, is introduced in this story. He’s not a big character here, though – we’re simply given a taste of what he’ll be like and what purpose he will serve. Instead, this story focuses on some of Master Wu’s students: Tommy, Garret, and (presumably) the antagonist of the series, Chin. We see how Chin went from a young student to a criminal businessman, and are even given some of his motives. And then, after a tragic “accident”, we see his former friends and colleagues planning to defeat him when the time comes.

I like the idea of this, and having all this backstory is really interesting. But this was one of those books that just didn’t stand put to me. The writing seemed mediocre, the characters average at best. I didn’t dislike it, exactly, but it didn’t really excite or interest me. 2.5 stars, as it wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t my kind of thing.

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