young adult

Manga/Graphic Review: Seto Utsumi, Volume #1

This manga was comprised of seven chapters, each containing a separate story. Well, story is not quite accurate… Each chapter is really a new conversation between the two teens as they sit by the river after school. They talk about anything and everything, from girls to bullies to ghosts. It’s sweet at times, when the boys’ affection for one another is made apparent, even without them actually voicing it. They tease each other endlessly, argue and taunt each other, but all in good humour.

Some of the things they talk about did seem rather shallow to me, and the way they spoke was a little strange to me. I get the feeling that this is aimed more at readers who understand the culture a bit more and can relate to the characters.

Personally, I found the book a little boring overall. There was no real plot, which can be nice sometimes, but just felt a little… lost here. Sometimes the boys spoke about interesting topics, but I would have liked to hear more about their personal lives, their emotions and fears.

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This was a strange read, honestly. I didn’t particularly like it, though I didn’t dislike it either. I just didn’t really connect with the characters or enjoy it that much. 2.5 stars.

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Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: Open Earth

This is only a short book, and my review is also only going to be short.

Basically, this focuses on members of a human colony who have left Earth. The teens in this colony are the first generation of Earthlings not born on Earth. The main character – who’s name was rarely mentioned – strongly wants to create new customs and culture, as she believes the Earth culture is what led to the planet’s ultimate demise. Her parents are more interested in preserving old cultures, though, and find her ideas of ‘normal’ to be quite extraordinary.

There wasn’t much of an overarcing plot really, only the story of the girl and her many lovers. Basically, her and her whole friendship group are all in a polyamorous relationship. There are a lot (and I really do mean a lot) of sexual scenes, but they are written in a way that normalises the behaviour.

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The girl realises she has a different connection to one boy in particular, and wants to move into his home after his sister moves out. But this makes the others fear that they’re going to ‘couple off’ and cut them out of their lives.

It was a pretty strange book, honestly. It’s good to be normalising different relationships such as this, but I didn’t see any other plots really going on. 3 stars.

Book Review: Ghost Boy

Another young adult novel, following an 11-year-old boy. His name is Ben, and he sees ghosts. Well, spirits, and only a few. Mainly, he sees Abby, a girl of his own age. His mother views his ability as a ‘gift’, but his father thinks he’s crazy. He gets angry when Ben talks about Abby as if she’s real, and tries several methods to rid Ben of his spirits.

Ben goes through a lot in this novel, from his cousin losing his foot, his father sending him to a shrink, being caught graffiti-ing, and being beaten up for standing up to a bully. And more! These things are mostly nothing to do with Abby or Ben’s ability to see the dead, but there are some connections. In one case, Ben actually exorcises a ‘dybbuk‘ from a stranger on a beach.

It is clear that Ben is desperate for his father’s approval. He attempts daring and foolish stunts designed to impress him, and he ends up lying about taking anti-psychotic medication just to please him. His mother often stands up for Ben, but this causes h er to fight with his father. Ben’s sister is rarely mentioned, and does not seem to make any comments on Ben’s ability – if she even knows about it.

A lot of this book felt like it was completely disconnected to the main plot; it felt a bit like a generic YA fiction novel at times. The plot revolving around Abby seemed to disappear for a while, before being re-introduced.

The plot with Abby was actually very interesting. I had my hunches from relatively early on, but it wasn’t overly obvious or predictable. I did find it a bit strange how Ben believed he had a romantic interest in her at one point, and the ‘solution’ she suggests is also a bit strange… But it was unique and innovative, that’s for sure. I’m intrigued to know where Abby got her name from, as it is later revealed that her mother referred to her as Eliza.

Ben’s exorcising ability was not explained or developed upon at all, and there was no other mention of/reference to dybbuks or similar demons. This was a bit of a shame, as that was an interesting aspect.

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As Ben was quite a young protagonist, I do believe I am a bit too old to actually really appreciate this. The writing definitely seemed more suited to a slightly younger audience, but wasn’t overly immature. I’d definitely recommend this for slightly younger readers. I noticed a few mistakes, but only generic typos. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Becoming the Dragon

This is a fantasy novel aimed at a young adult audience, following a young boy named Andy on a bizarre, out-of-this-world adventure. I received my copy via the Online Book Club.

From the start of the novel, it is clear that Andy is a bit different. After being struck by lightning on a school trip, Andy has a strange effect on electrical appliances. When Andy’s father left some important documents at home, Andy is responsible for delivering them to his workplace. However, Iliya (Andy’s father) is working on a sort of portal. Of course, Andy’s ‘condition’ has an odd effect on this teleportation device, and suddenly Andy finds himself in the middle of some strange woods. At first, he thinks he may be in South America. But South America doesn’t have GIANT ants, or another planet visible in the sky, or… dragons?!

So Andy finds himself being used as ‘prey’ for a royal hunting party, alongside several other intriguing characters. He accidentally attacks the princess, though, and ends up being held prisoner. He is tortured and ridiculed, displayed alongside a dragon. Together, they eventually escape, but Andy is badly injured. The only cure is to undertake a transformation – The Ritual – and become a dragon himself. However, this carries a lot of risks, especially for an older boy who is mostly grown.

While the premise of this story sounds exciting and unique, I found it quite dull when I was actually reading it. I was not really able to follow everything that happened. However, I must say that there was a great amount of detail when discussing the magical processes and the history of the people, which was very good. But when the history was being told, it felt a bit like a lecture. It wasn’t exciting or interesting, sadly.

The story takes a sudden turning toward the end of the book, involving a girl Andy meets. This all happens very, very quickly, but was possibly one of the most interesting parts of the book.

As for the writing, I did notice a fair few issues. There were inconsistencies in the tense being used, as well as the perspective. There was also a lot of language used that was never actually defined; while some terms are mentioned in a glossary at the end of the book, I do believe several were not. This left me feeling a little bit clueless and unsure of what was happening at times, which was a shame.

I also did not feel any emotion in this book. The characters were not particularly well-developed, nor did they display any emotion or relationships with one another. Andy rarely expresses any longing for his own family, nor does he make any attempts to return to Earth. His ‘love’ for the girl, Polana, comes extremely suddenly, without much development at all. The speech was all very artificial, lacking the fluidity of natural speech.

Overall, it was interesting and unique, but not particularly well written or exciting. 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Friendship Fails of Emma Nash

I’m back from Croatia now, so here is the updated review with links and images.

This is the second book in the Emma Nash series, but I read it as a standalone without reading the first. There are several moments where I’m sure I would’ve benefitted from having read the first book, but there is enough information in this book alone to understand what’s happened and follow the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am now considering reading the series ‘properly’.

So as the title suggests, this is a book about Emma’s friendship mishaps. The entire book is comprised of Emma’s personal blog posts, which I really liked. It gave a very interesting narration, and allowed Seager to really develop the voice of Emma.

The ‘plot’ is a bit hard to explain, as it’s pretty much a collection of lots of little problems and events. The book starts with Emma outlining her new ‘resolutions’ which involve working on herself and her hobbies, and developing new friendships. She also focuses on not stalking her ex-boyfriend online, and strengthening her existing relationships. It sounds like the last book was a lot more romantically focused, and Emma emphasises how she is not looking for romantic relationships this time.

The friendships Emma attempts to form are… Disastrous. And in attempting to strengthen her existing friendships, she manages to have a major fall-out with her best friend, Steph. She does make some unexpected friends, though, and there is an interesting romantic plot throughout the book, too.

Her friendship with Gracie sounds like it went through some tough patches in the past, and the couple work on their relationship. Another close friend of Emma’s, Faith, has some big happenings regarding her own relationship with her girlfriend, too. I really liked how Seager included the same-sex relationship, and how she talks about the issues faced by the couple.

There are some fantastic moments in this, from a feminist POV. The girls openly discuss things such as sex and masturbation, and Emma even brings up the use of the word “slag” as a sexist term. I really appreciated how casually things are mentioned. There is even a moment where Steph’s boyfriend reacts to her period blood in a bad way, and the girls discuss how awful it is of him to do so.

I did find this a little bit immature at times, like Emma was acting quite young. Sometimes the grammar/punctuation was a little off, but then that fits the teenage voice of Emma, who is ‘writing’ the book through her blog. Usually I find books about friendships and romances, especially at this age, super cheesy and boring. But I actually really liked this! It was so easy to read, and such a feel-good book. Emma really emphasises the importance on working on you, and not letting external factors ruin your happiness. She even faces cyber bullying at one point, which is another extremely important topic.

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Overall, I really liked this. It was fun and happy and tackled some really important issues. 3.5 to 4 stars.

Book Review: Half a Creature from the Sea

David Almond is definitely a unique author.

This book is a collection of short stories based on Almond’s own childhood, mixed in with anecdotes of his own experiences. Like most of Almond’s writing, there is a very strange magic realism throughout these stories.

The stories are all based in Felling-on-Tyne, but Almond notes how he altered the setting to fit his stories. The characters are also a mix of fictional and real people.

Religion was clearly a big part of Almond’s upbringing, and he envelopes tht in his writing. However, the stories aren’t particularly religious at all. It’s more the daily routine of the young boys and how religion is incorporated into this.

I’m a big fan of short stories. This collection was really good, though they were all very similar in atmosphere/genre. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but I do like a bit of variety.

Almond’s writing is fantastic, as always. Descriptive enough, but still leaving some details to the reader’s own imagination. It was easy to just sit and read this book without needing to put it down. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: A Voice in the Distance (Flynn Laukonen #2)

I read A Note of Madness a little while ago and absolutely loved it. Flynn is a great character, and the story of his struggles with mental health is just fantastic. There can never be too much awareness, especially in boys/men.

This book was even more… emotional for me. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Flynn really reminds me of my boyfriend. The ending of this novel – while fantastic and honest – was not very comforting at all.

Jennah and Flynn started dating after the first book, and so in this book we alternate between the two narratives. Hearing Jennah’s thoughts on what’s happening with Flynn was amazing. I related to a lot of it.

In case you haven’t heard about A Note of Madness, it’s about Flynn Laukonen, a young uni student in London. He struggles with mental health problems and is misdiagnosed at first, but eventually correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He suffers from extreme manic episodes, followed by severe depression. Fitting his music – especially competitions – around these episodes is quite a feat.

As I mentioned earlier, the ending is great. It was extremely bittersweet. I think it’s good to be honest about things like this, though, and not just throw together a stereotypical happy ending.

In this book, Flynn goes through a few treatment methods. Following attempted suicide (which may be hard for some people to read about, so be warned) he is sectioned and sent to a residential unit for a month. He also has some issues involving his medication and the side effects they cause.

The most noteworthy thing about Jennah’s take on Flynn’s illness is her admitting that Flynn can be horrible and can hurt her sometimes, and it’s okay to recognise that. Just because he is ill does not mean he is excused for harmful and mean behaviour. This is so important for anyone to realise when dealing with a loved one with any kind of mental health problems.

A really good book, realistic and reassuring but really quite emotional. 4 stars.

Book Review: Uprooted

I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time now and finally managed to do so. I’m so peased I did! It was such a great book, and I really did enjoy reading it.

Agnieszka is a seemingly ordinary young girl. Her best friend is about to be taken by the Dragon, a powerful wizard who routinely takes girls into his tower for ten years before they leave the village for good. Everyone’s prepared for Kasia to go – she’s the pretty one, the talented one, the one who everyone is drawn to. Of course the Dragon is going to choose her.

Right?

Of course, nothing goes to plan. Agnieszka assumed she was safe from being chosen, due to her clumsiness and lack of appeal or talents. But of course, she is chosen. Little does she know that she was destined for this role all along.

The Dragon is feared by most, including Nieshka. But she soon learns that he is not as terrible as she thought. She also learns some valuable skills involving magic that she never knew she was capable of.

Nieshka discovers the importance of magic in protecting her village from the Wood. The Wood is full of corruption, often taking unknowing passers-by and either never releasing them or returning them to their families changed beyond repair. The Wood has been a huge threat for centuries. The Dragon holds it at bay, but nobody ever dreamed of defeating it.

Until Agnieszka came along.

It’s quite a complex plot, and there are a lot of moments where Nieshka makes mistakes. She is driven by emotion, especially when her best friend’s life is at risk. She is a passionate girl and doesn’t always think rationally. I liked her for this – don’t we all let our emotions get the better of us sometimes?

There was a small amount of romance in this book that I felt was rather unnecessary, but it didn’t overtake the plot or anything. I loved how the plot and subplots twisted together, and how many turns they took. It was exciting and intriguing and very clever.

The ending seemed a little too simple to me, though. Had they never thought to look into the Wood Queen’s origin before?

Overall it was a fantastic book. Timeless. I can see why it’s so popular, and I’m sure it will be for some time. 4 stars.

Book Review: Carry On

Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic author, and when I heard she would be writing Carry On I was really pleased. Fangirl was a great book, and actually writing the novel frequently mentioned in that book sounded like such a unique idea to me. It is a romance, so it’s not my favourite book ever, but I still loved it.

Carry On is pretty much the Harry Potter of Rowell’s Fangirl universe. This did make this novel a bit of a rip off, honestly, but that was bound to happen. It actually kind of embraced it.

The plot was really interesting, and I really did find myself excited to see what happened next. I wanted to understand the Humdrum and discover how he would be defeated. It was also rather interesting to see how the Mage played a part in everything. And the use of magic was fantastic; I really liked how Rowell explained the basis of spells and how they got their power.

The writing – as always – was fantastic. So easy to read, but very hard to put down! Even though it was cheesy (I mean, the hero falls in love with his best enemy. Who’s a vampire. Seriously.) I just enjoyed reading it so much. I even kind of shipped Baz and Simon.

The ending was… not disappointing, but I wasn’t overly pleased with it. I thought it was a bit too simple of a solution – surely they would’ve considered something along those lines? It’s not like it was particularly hard to see the connection. (I’d go into more detail, but I don’t want to include any spoilers.) I did like the bittersweetness of it, though. I liked how realistic it was, despite being a fantasy novel.

It was definitely a bit of a cheesy novel, but I kind of loved it. Rowell writes so well. It was a long novel, but I could’ve just sat down and read it from cover to cover without even realising. A strong 4 stars.

 

Book Review: A Song for Ella Grey

Sorry I waited so long before writing this. My life is a bit hectic at the moment.

I found this book really quite strange – but then everything I’ve read by David Almond has been a bit different. It really teeters on the line between the real world and fantasy, and I honestly couldn’t be sure whether some of the story was metaphorical or actually literal. It was a really interesting read.

Claire is the narrator of this book, telling us the events of the past. The story isn’t told entirely chronologically but more like a person would speak, with tangents and relevant contextual events thrown in.

Ella Grey is Claire’s best friend and possibly the protagonist of this book. Claire tells the story of how she met a strange boy called Orpheus on a beach one day, and how he turned up outside their school for Ella. The couple had a marriage ceremony soon after, but the day ends in tragedy.

Claire’s affections for Ella seem to blur the line between friendship and romance, which was definitely an interesting aspect. Her opinions of Orpheus seem a little mixed, and she is clearly looking out for her friend’s welfare.

Orpheus’s ‘journey’ at the end of the novel was especially strange; as was the way it was told through Claire. The entire book – especially when describing Orpheus and Ella – was extremely lyrical. The language was all very romantic and poetic, which I guess was to emphasise the musical quality that surrounds Orpheus’s character. It also really added to the sense of fantasy and mystery, giving the whole tale a strong ethereal quality.

This book was fantastically written, and definitely unique. I must say it was a little too romantic and poetic for my personal tastes, so I’m giving it 3 stars out of 5. I can definitely appreciate the beauty of Almond’s writing, though.