logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: teenager
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-21 21:24
The Sound - Sarah Alderson

Trigger warning: Mention of rape/abuse of minors. Not implicit, but it is fairly important to the plot later on and not what the reader might be expecting.

 

I loved this book! Really loved it. Yes, it is practically a trashy teen romance with lots of cliches. I’m not denying that. However, I’d rather have something like this – which doesn’t need to try very hard to do what it sets out to do – than some kind of overambitious dystopian future with countless plot holes which falls apart in a few chapters. This book was consistent, and I liked that.

 

I enjoyed all of the characters to some extent, even the horrible ones. (They weren’t horrible all the time.) I also really loved the dynamics between the protagonist and her love interests more than naything. Ren was a great character to read about, and her interactions with Jesse and Jeremy were really, really cute. We had a pretty large cast and lots of directions to take the plot, and it felt like everyone was important in some way or another.

 

This book tries to make out that it’s something more than just teen romance, but…it isn’t, really. It’s about Ren finding love in America and there’s no two ways about it. There’s this subplot about a serial killer on the loose but strangely enough it’s mostly in the background whilst we focus on Ren making out with Jeremy, or Jesse, or whichever half-naked shirtless hot boy she’s enamoured with. Like, I was 2/3 of the way through the book before they were like “Oh shit, somebody else has been murdered. Ren, don’t you think you should be going home now before you get killed too?”

 

The story being this: Ren is working as a nanny in America for the summer. Here, she ends up getting romantically involved with two of the many hot guys who lives here, and…well, that’s the bulk of the book. There’s a serial killer in town who goes around murdering foreign nannies. Just like her. You can imagine how that works out.

 

It’s strange that the serial killer is mostly in the background the whole time and does almost NOTHING until the last chapter (in fact, I almost forgot he was there). He kills one girl in the entire book, and he doesn’t even do a good job of it. (She runs away and only dies of her wounds much later). The murder seemed almost like an afterthought, but I understand that wasn’t the focus of the book. It’s also not easy to guess who the killer is, because of the large cast and there’s so many characters that he could be.

 

There’s another subplot where one of the boys has been preying on underage girls. I say “preying”, but rape and abuse are involved (though in the past tense, that is, since it’s crimes he’s committed before). Nobody has filed any charges against him because he is very rich, has a lot of connections, and has a powerful lawyer that will protect him from any consequences.

 

This guy was actually more iconic than the fricking serial killer, I swear. You really wanted to see him thrown in prison for his crimes, he showed no remorse for anything he did and actually bragged about it. He also got more focus than the murderer did. If anything, he was a lot more interesting because he was one of the main characters, too. The scenes where they finally confront him are some of the most intense ones in the entire story.

 

Let’s take a look at the core of the book - Ren’s two love interests.

 

Love Interest Number One: Jeremy. He’s one of the first boys that Ren meets in the story, and is a total gentleman from the very beginning. He opens doors for her, compliments on her appearance all the time, takes her out to parties, makes her feel like the world revolves around her, makes out with her quite a bit and she’s always swooning over him. He sounds like the perfect boyfriend.

 

Love Interest Number Two: Jesse. Practically unapproachable “bad boy”. Most people avoid him because he has a reputation for being aggressive and violent. Prior to this book, he literally beat the shit out of another guy, landing him into hospital. He’s done time in juvenile prison as a result and also has a restraining order. Yeah, it’s that bad. But wait, he also plays guitar and sings in a band, and that makes him cooler. When Ren meets him for the first time, she finds him pretty intimidating already (but he also has his shirt off at the time and she can’t stop looking at his muscles).

 

Guess who she’s more attracted to? You think it’s the guy who treats her like she’s the centre of his world? The non-violent one?

 

Nope. Guess again. She goes for the violent bad boy who’s done time for assault. Seriously. What is wrong with her? Who in their right mind would do that?! Even her friends think she’s nut for going for him. He may be her second choice, but she gets attracted to him pretty fast.

 

However! We get a plot twist, and it turns out Mr Nice Guy was just using Ren to score points with another dickhead friend of his, so actually he’s no longer nice or a gentleman at all. It also turns out that Mr Violent Guy had a very good reason for wanting to put that other guy into hospital – but the fact remains that he still lost control and beat him to a pulp, meaning that he’s still very violent and our protagonist seems to forget that.

 

I guess if she’d read on in the book then she might have a reason for dating Jesse for plot reasons, but it still doesn’t make sense. The first time she meets Jesse, he literally looks like he wants to kill her…I mean, come on. This isn’t healthy. This just sounds like she’s attracted to really violent men. Good thing that the violent guy wasn’t actually that violent after all, but man, it just feels a bit off.

 

Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was romantic, it was cute, it had conflict – and just the right amount, too. It didn’t try to shove tons of drama and conflict down our throat like some YA books I could name, and it never made me feel bored at all. It was just right. There was a love triangle, obviously, but it actually made sense and didn’t feel forced.

 

I cannot tell you what a breath of fresh air it is in a YA novel to have a love triangle which actually feels like it BELONGS there. So far, I’ve only found this to be true in actual romance books which revolve around the romance and very little else.

 

I guess one criticism was that Ren was pretty similar to most female protagonists you find in a YA novel, and didn’t seem very unique. But you know what, I didn’t care. The romance was done well enough that it hardly seemed to matter. And I can’t fault the book for that.

 

All in all, I’ll give this a 4.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-13 17:38
Flawed - Cecelia Ahern

I can't believe I sat through this entire book.

 

This is an example of what happens when an author tries to mimic a YA dystopian future, but doesn't flesh out the world enough. This is what happens when the author concentrates on all the wrong aspects completely. This is also what happens when the author puts in a very shoddy and superficial love triangle, has the main character make constantly bad decisions (despite being supposedly "clever" and "flawless", by the admissions of everyone else around her), and manages to cram far too much content into too few pages.

 

It's disappointing, really, because the first chapter was really well-written. The world seemed well thought-out, it was a novel idea, but by gods that's where it ended. About two-thirds of the way through the book, it felt like the author had no real idea what she was doing, and it just felt like an utter trainwreck by the end of it. With a sequel planned, no less.

 

Here's the setting, then: the book is set in a world where people are branded for being "Flawed". That's for making morally unethical decisions - be it lying, stepping out of line of society, stealing from society (that's also in a metaphorical sense, too, which leads to all sorts of trouble). It also includes helping out another Flawed person.

 

In this world, Flawed people are treated like subhumans. They are constantly monitored, are bound by a strict curfew, must stick to a diet of bland food, are despised by the rest of society, and no more than two of them are allowed to be together at one time.

 

Oh, and they are *physically* branded when they become flawed - the courts have a branding iron placed upon a part of their body, branding the letter F on their body, and they must wear a red armband so everyone knows they are Flawed.

 

The first chapter of the book begins with our main character witnessing one of their close friends being arrested for being Flawed, for no other reason than because she took her ailing mother to a different country to administer euthanasia to them. So far, so good. We can already tell that the justice system is fucked up. Tell me more.

 

Our main character is called Celestine North. She's a model member of society and is deemed to be near-perfect. Class-A student. 

 

What happens is that she sees an old man suffering on a bus, and helps him to his seat. An old man who is Flawed. By doing so, she has aided a Flawed person, and is deemed Flawed herself. And punished accordingly.

 

Despite being only 17, the major courts are very angry at her and have her branded 5 times at different places on her body (mainly because this becomes a very public case for the media, her father works in the media as well), especially when she refuses to admit that she was wrong.

 

This, uh, seems a bit excessive. 

Not to mention that the main villain, Judge Crevan, goes further and puts a sixth brand on her spine without anaesthetic, which is quite illegal and fucked up.

Basically, that chapter was very hard to read and is mainly about the main character being tortured excessively because that's apparently the only way the author can make this impact upon us.

 

This part also takes half of the book.

 

We already know this happens from the synopsis on the back of the book. By the time it happens, the book is half over. Uh...I'm sure you could have made your book a bit longer? It hardly feels like anything happened except Celestine's court case...

 

Somehow, the next half of the book concentrates on how Celestine finds a way to fight back against this tyrannical organisation. Almost as if she's hardly weakened at all from being branded six times and subjected to prejudice and torture. There's also a graphic bullying scene which is also very hard to read through.

 

You're telling me that this one character has been put through to hell and back and, without even a thought for her own safety or anything, immediately starts trying to bring down Judge Crevan for administering that sixth brand illegally - I mean we could have some more thoughts from herself on the matter, maybe? Just a little? It just felt like she did it for terms of plot alone...

 

Nothing was fleshed out enough. There's another Flawed boy called Carrick, and Celestine somehow falls for him. They say one sentence to each other. That's all. Yet she somehow spends most of the book searching him out because she feels a connection to him - she doesn't even KNOW him. it's ridiculous.

 

Which makes one love triangle after another - her boyfriend Art who mysteriously disappears after her trial, then comes back, then finds out she is going to a party with another boy, then throws a jealous fit and disappears (and he NEVER returns again). And then another love triangle with Art and her sister?? Are you serious? Why put him in the book at all?!

 

There are also so many plot holes because apparently criminals have a separate justice system of their own, and once they serve their time, they get to have a normal life. As in, they're not Flawed. It doesn't make sense. How can you make someone Flawed for helping another Flawed being, and say that makes them lower than a murderer? Why is the criminal not also Flawed? It makes no sense at all...

 

A lot of the book was also based on the political impact.

 

This is where the book really fails, because Celestine is made out to be this great paragon of a rebellion against the organisation, even though nothing like that actually happens. If the book had been twice as long and the rebellion happened near the end, then maybe it would have made sense...but barely anything is fleshed out at all! It's somehow fast-paced without anything happening.

 

Like, her teachers at school refuse to teach her because she's Flawed. The one teacher who agrees to home-school her turns out to have political motives for her to speak at some kind of gathering of the Flawed and it just gets ridiculous. I got the impression that the Flawed aren't allowed to have gatherings like this, but apparently it's legal? There wasn't enough detail about any of this at all.

 

Oh, and don't get me started on Celestine herself.

 

She makes so many bad decisions. She goes around poking her nose into all of these situations which would see her in tons of trouble, and gets almost nothing for her efforts. She is easily tricked into attending a party by one of her classmates (who then kidnaps her and locks her in a shed to try and make her miss her curfew). And she keeps trying to search for that one guy called Carrick for no real reason other than because he was her age and happened to be in the same cell as her. (Again, they never said a word to each other.)

 

I see a lot of people hating on Celestine, but she's not a terrible character. She's just extremely bland and not that compelling of a protagonist. Her sister, Juniper, is actually rebellious and seems to know what to do, and I'm surprised that she doesn't have a bigger part to play. Her granddad is cool too. It's like everyone except Celestine is a decent character.

 

Near the end, the story dives into ever-more ridiculous territory as Celestine somehow single-handedly starts a riot just by standing up to a police officer (just one), has a long extended conversation with her teacher's Flawed husband (he appears just one chapter before the end and yet talks for several pages about plot-important stuff, even though he is also really drunk at the time and I couldn't take anything seriously here), and finally we discover that the other judges are turning on Judge Crevan and are willing to help out Celestine if they join their side.

 

Like, all these people are so willing to help Celestine. It's not as if she's alone. All these political sides everywhere, except I don't care at all because the author has forgotten to flesh out all of the other parts of the world. It just doesn't add up at all. It's just a really badly-written dystopian future (it feels more like a dystopian present) and so little is left out.

 

I don't know why Celestine acts so stupidly throughout the book, yet everyone excuses her actions and says what a clever girl she is because she studied mathematics. (The teacher's husband tells her that she can use mathematics to work out how to get out of her situation. I did mathematics at university. He's an idiot.) I don't know why the author chose to delve into the political side and leave out everything that could have been interesting.

 

I don't understand the reason for the terribly-written love triangle, or the love interest that never appears until the end, or the boyfriend who disappears in the second half of the book, or the desire to make the villains so ridiculously evil and sadistic that I can't take anything seriously anymore. 

 

By the end of it, I had come to the conclusion that this book is so bad that it's good. And good god, I am not reading the sequel.

 

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-04 19:34
If you believe in the power of stories and love magic, theatre, families, and heart-warming novels, you must read this feel-good book. Love at first-read.
Days of Wonder - Keith Stuart

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown and Company UK (Clara Díaz in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Keith Stuart’s first novel A Boy Made of Blocks, a truly extraordinary book, a couple of years ago, and loved it. I could not resist when I was offered the opportunity to read the author’s second novel. And, again, it was love at first read.

Days of Wonder has some similarities to A Boy. It does center on the relationship between a father and his child (in this case, Hannah), and how their relationship is shaped by a specific condition affecting the child (Asperger’s in the first novel, a chronic cardiac illness that cannot be cured and will only get worse in this novel). All the characters are beautifully portrayed, not only the protagonists but, in this case, also an array of secondary characters that become an ersatz family unit.

Tom, the father, runs a small theatre and has close links to the amateur theatrical group. His wife, Elizabeth, left the family when their daughter was three and leads the life of a high-flier, with no real contact with her family. Hannah has grown-up in the theatre, surrounded by the players and by stories, both on stage and out.

The book, narrated in the first person by both Tom and Hanna (mostly in alternating chapters, although towards the end there are some that follow the same character’s point of view, due to the logic of the story). Hannah’s narration in the present is interspersed with what appear to be diary entries addressed to Willow, (the theatre is called The Willow Tree). She is a strong girl, who loves her father, the theatre and the players, her friends, and who has a can-do attitude, despite her serious illness, or perhaps because of it. She knows how valuable each moment is, and lives it to the fullest (within her limitations). She is worried about her father and how much he has focused his life on her and decides that he must find a woman and live a fuller life. She loves comics, fairy-tales, is funny (having a sense of humour does help in such a situation, without a doubt), witty, and wise beyond her years, whilst being a credible teenager who worries about boys and can sometimes have questionable judgement. I challenge anybody not to fall in love with Hannah, her enthusiasm, and her zest for life.

Tom is a father who tries his hardest in a very difficult situation, and who sometimes finds himself in above his head, unable to function or to decide, frozen by the enormity of the situation. He is one of the good guys, he’d do anything to help anybody, and some of his philosophical reflections are fairly accurate, although, like most of us, he’s better at reading others than at understanding himself. His date disasters provide some comic relief but he is somebody we’d all love to count as a friend. Or, indeed, a father.

One of my favourite characters is Margaret, an older woman who has become a substitute grandmother for Hannah, and who is absolutely fabulous, with her anecdotes, her straight speaking, her X-ray vision (she knows everything that goes on even before the people involved realise what is going on sometimes), and she is a bit like the fairy-godmother of the fairy tales Hannah loves so much. As for the rest, Callum, Hannah’s boyfriend, is a very touching character, with many problems (the depiction of his depression is accurate and another one of the strong points of a book full of them), and the rest of the theatre crew, although they appear to be recognisable types at first sight (the very busy mother who wants some space for herself, the very capable woman whose husband is abusive, a retired man whose relationship with his wife seems to be falling apart, a gay man who can’t confess his attraction for another member of the group…), later come across as genuine people, truly invested in the project, and happy to put everything on the line for the theatre.

The novel is set in the UK and it has many references that will delight the anglophiles and lovers of all-things-British, from language quirks to references to plays, movies, TV series and festivals. (Oh, and to local politics as well), but I’m sure that the lack of familiarity with them will not hinder the readers’ enjoyment. Although there are also quite a number of references to theatre plays and comics (and I don’t know much about comics, I confess), they never overwhelm the narration and are well integrated into the story, adding to its depth.

The book deals in serious subjects (family break-ups, abuse, chronic physical and mental illnesses [affecting young people, in particular], aging and death, growing-up, single-parent families) and whilst it makes important points about them, which many readers will relate to, they are seamlessly incorporated into the fabric of the novel, and it never feels preachy or as if it was beating you over the head with a particular opinion or take on the topic.

Reading the author’s comment above, I can vouch for his success. This is indeed a book about love, life, and magic. It is a declaration of love to the world of theatre and to the power of stories. The novel is beautifully written, flows well, and the readers end up becoming members of their troupe, living their adventures, laughing sometimes and crying (oh, yes, get the tissues ready) at other times. Overall, despite its sad moments, this is a hopeful feel-good book, heart-warming and one that will make readers feel at peace with themselves and the world. It has a great ending and although I wondered at first if the epilogue was necessary, on reflection, it is the cherry on top of the trifle. Perfect.

The book is endlessly quotable and I’ve highlighted a tonne of stuff, but I couldn’t leave you without sharing something.

Here is Hanna, talking about magic:

I don’t mean pulling rabbits out of hats or sawing people in half (and then putting them back together: otherwise it’s not magic, it’s technically murder). I just mean the idea that incredible things are possible, and that they can be conjured into existence through will, effort and love.

As I’m writing this review on Star Wars Day, I could not resist this quote, again from Hannah:

I feel as though it’s closing in around me, like the trash-compactor scene in Star Wars, except I have no robots to rescue me although I do have an annoying beeping box next to the bed doing a twenty-four-hours-a-day impression of R2-D2.

Oh, and another Star Wars reference:

It’s as though the spirit of Margaret is working through me, like a cross between Maggie Smith and Yoda.

And a particularly inspiring one:

Margaret told me that you must measure life in moments —because unlike hours or days or weeks or years, moments last forever. I want more of them. I am determined. I will steal as many as I can.

A beautiful book, a roller-coaster of emotions, and an ode to the power of stories, to their magic, and to family love, whichever way we choose to define family. I urge you to read it. You’ll feel better for it. And I look forward to reading more books by its author, who has become one of my favourites.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
quote 2017-12-23 12:38
She wished desperately that he would call her up. She imagined him driving up now, I came over to play with your breasts, he might say. Now Billy Joel was singing. She thought about how distant and businesslike he was in that video where he wore garage mechanics coveralls. She wished Tom would drive the VW over from his garage. ¨I came to give you this car and while I´m at it I want to hold your beasts again.¨
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-11-28 22:51
Never Always Sometimes: A coming-of-age ... Never Always Sometimes: A coming-of-age novel (Harlequin Teen) - Adi Alsaid

Dave and Julia are two high-schoolers who have decided to make a list of all the high-school cliches that they would become a part of. A list of "Nevers". Never attend a party with the Kapoors. Never hook up with a teacher. Never become prom king/queen. Never date your best friend.

 

The twist? Dave is in love with Julia, and has been as long as he can remember. So he's technically already broken that last one on the list. 

 

Gee, I wonder how THIS could turn out.

 

The problem with this book is that, despite these two teenagers being so determined to stay out of cliches, they're literally a walking cliche by themselves. Teenagers already rebel against the norm. If this is all there is to the book, then you're already going to get bored - but wait! Romance! Love triangle! Just like...every other YA book ever. God. I'm sick of this shit. I mean it, I'm sick of it.

 

Strangely enough, the romance is what kept me reading the book. There was even a twist at the end because I assumed that Dave was always to end up with Julia.

 

However, here's the main problem of the book: our protagonists are really, really, really fucking boring and uninteresting and I don't give a monkey about them.

 

They're just written so simply and to sound like ordinary teenagers - which is fine - except that almost every other character is more engaging than they are. Dave was your typical protagonist, thoughtful and kind, never stops going on about how much he loves Julia in his internal monologue. I wanted it to end. He would not stop.

 

Halfway through the book, we get Julia's POV and discover that actually she was in love with Dave the whole bloody time. Wow. Really? She also got on my nerves a lot. She is always being a smartass, cracking jokes, being irritatingly sassy - and not in an endearing way, but in a really annoying way. 

 

There's a part where they throw a party at their house. Julia finds out that Dave has kissed this other girl who isn't her and gets pretty pissy at him. When he's gone, she breaks a few things, punches the wall, smashes the window, etc. There's vomit on the carpet, the place is a mess.

 

When her parents turn up and demand to know what's happened to their house, the way she talks to them is just atrocious. I swear, I wanted to slap her. Even worse, her parents just seemed to take it in their stride. No grounding, nothing. They gave her a lecture and then it all went away.

 

I mean what is this? What IS this? It's really irritating when you write the parents as being "cool, so hip, so down with the kids" - because they're not! You want them to appeal to the target demographic, is that it? It just makes them seem incompetent and lousy role models! This is hardly the first time I've seen this in a YA novel...

 

I wish the book had developed the side characters. We meet a jock at some point and he has more personality than anyone else, really. But no, the only other person who is really developed is Gretchen, the other girl pushed into the love triangle.

 

I really liked Gretchen, actually. Apparently, she's supposed to be a blonde popular girl, but the use of the name Gretchen made me think of that girl from Recess. You know. The nerdy girl with glasses. I mean come on.

 

Still, she was much more likeable than that smartass Julia. Mainly because she wasn't Julia, and thus better to read about.

 

There's a part in the book where Dave wants to ask out Gretchen to the prom. He does so by creating a stupidly drawn-out treasure hunt where she has to find all these roses. All twelve of them.

 

Twelve?? Twelves fucking roses?! Just to ask a girl out? It's literally like a treasure hunt, leading her from rose to rose. He serenades her at the end. For god's sake, just ASK her without resorting to this madness.

 

I mean...what if she had said no? Imagine that. Imagine spending hours and hours putting all these shitty roses in different places, leading your crush to each one (one of them was high up in a tree), only to have her say "Sorry, I'm actually not into you." I mean come on!

 

I fully expected her to say no to him because the entire thing was absolutely ridiculous. I was amazed when nothing actually went wrong.

 

The love triangle goes on from there, and one of the girls ends up forever alone because Dave was her only friend and she didn't bother to think of getting any other friends because she avoided everyone else in school because she's a stupid cliche. The end.

 

It's not a terrible book, I guess, but it is really REALLY bland. It's really not worth wasting your time on. Even the title should be evidence of that enough. I just started skimming over the last few chapters because it was just mushy stuff between characters I couldn't stand.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?