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review 2017-08-31 16:25
Review: Words on Bathroom Walls
Words on Bathroom Walls - Julia Walton

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Never expected to get approved for this one and was quite surprised and pleased when I was. (I so rarely get approved by Random House). Really impressed with the book as well. (Always kind of makes me feel a bit guilty when I get approved for something by a publisher I don’t get approval from and then find I don’t like the book. Thankfully not the case this time.)

 

This novel tells the story of teenager Adam who suffers from schizophrenia. Adam has quite a unique personality, he knows he’s schizophrenic. He sees illusions, people who aren’t there but the interesting thing I found was while each of these illusions of his seem to have their own personalities and speak to him, he’s actually quite aware of the fact that these people aren’t real. They seem to be some form of emotion he can’t express.

 

The novel follows Adam as he struggles with his illness and a new experimental treatment drug and starting at a new private Catholic high school. Dealing with the bullies, the geek who winds up becoming a good friend and the girl he has a crush on who becomes a friend and something more.

 

The novel is told in diary entries through Adam’s therapy sessions – he refuses to speak to his therapist and writes down what’s been going on in his daily life. He’s got a brilliantly blunt tell it how it is attitude, and can be deliciously snarky. Added in some complicated family drama – dad not in picture, mom has new husband. The mom’s new husband was actually pretty decent if a bit dim. Though step dad’s mom was a nightmare.  Some interesting ideas on faith as well considering Adam attends a Catholic private school without being too preachy.

 

Quite realistically handled as well, I though. Some deep emotional turmoil, a sweet romantic storyline as well.  Well handled, without being sickly sweet, fair amount of drama, but not too over the top. Ups and downs, sad and funny. Likeable characters, believable parental involvement. A really good read.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s for approving my request to view the title.   

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review 2017-07-03 12:01
Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful - Eric Lindstrom

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Not entirely sure what to say on this one. This is a contemporary YA novel about a girl with bipolar disorder. I know almost nothing about how bipolar disorder works, so I feel like I can’t judge how good the representation was. I liked the author’s debut novel. I liked this one too, but not quite so much.

 

It tells the story of Mel Hannigan, who is struggling to cope with bipolar disorder. She works at an old people’s care home, has a few friends, reluctantly sees a therapist, takes her meds, though seems more comfortable talking to one of the doctors at the care home where she works than confide in her regular therapist. She keeps a track of meds and how she’s feeling in a somewhat complex routine noting how she’s coping and feeling. Each chapter starts with a list of Mel’s tracking routine. (Which seemed complex to me, it was explained in the novel though I can’t say I understood it).

 

Mel had a brother who met a tragic end, who also had bipolar disorder, she lives with her mom and dad and her aunt who also has the disorder. They each deal with it differently. The aunt is very outgoing and loud, where Mel is quite quiet and while she connects to a few friends she can’t bring herself to tell the truth about her disorder.

 

Her family moved at some point, and Mel found a great group of friends, but a fight and falling out with one, lead to the others getting some false information and cutting her off.  Though at the start of the novel the girl she had a fight with drops a bombshell on her leading her to have to try and speak to the others again. While this is going on Mel is getting to know David, the grandson of one of the residents at the care home. They have a somewhat rough meeting which leads to a cute romance.

 

The novel dealt with Mel’s ups and downs, struggles reconnecting with her old friends, and the truth about what really happened and why they all fell out, dealing with her disorder, falling for David, realising that the therapist isn’t so bad and is there to help.

 

Of course nothing is quite so smooth and everything goes wrong at some point. It seemed to me at least to be handled quite realistically, Mel was a likeable character, she had good moments and bad moments, times when she did stupid teenage things which caused problems in other respects. Like partying and drinking which had a big effect on her meds. Fights with her aunt. Surprising things came out when Mel reconnected with her old friends. One thing I did like was the parental input from Mel’s parents. Not overbearing, but understanding and helpful, which was nice to see.

 

A decent contemporary read.  I did buy a finished copy (The UK paperback has a really nice bright pink eye catching cover, I couldn’t resist).

 

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children's for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-06-23 11:03
Review: The Memory Book
The Memory Book - Lara Avery

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This book was an absolute heartbreaker. And I loved it. Surprised because I really wasn’t expecting much considering I really didn’t like the last book I read by the same author, but I really enjoyed this one.

 

The novel tells the story of 18 year old Samantha, who has a rare disease which will cause memory loss and other nasty side effects, very few teenagers are diagnosed with the disease and very few (if any) survive. Sam is very smart and almost ready to graduate high school, with dreams of going to college in New York. Determined to survive and live her life the best she can, in spite of the horrible news she’s been dealing with.

 

She writes The Memory Book as a guide to her future self for when her memory has been sliding and she can’t remember things. She has two younger siblings, a brother and a sister and involved parents who are reluctant about the whole college thing. She sees a guidance councillor regularly and doctors regularly.  Sam is a brilliant debater, she’s off to Regional Debate Championships with her friend and debating partner Maddie, she’s set to be Valedictorian when she graduates. And the boy she’s had a crush on for years, Stuart, who went off to New York and became a published writer, has come back into town. All going pretty good. She’s going a high school party and actually talks to her long term crush.

 

However, it all starts to go wrong, symptoms of Sam’s illness which cause her to forget where she is, strike suddenly, and unexpectedly. Maddie freaks because Sam didn’t tell her about the seriousness of her illness, Sam is naturally crushed. Bright point of life is when she starts developing a friendship into something more serious with Stuart. At the same time her childhood friend Cooper has recently come back into her life as well, Cooper became a big baseball star in high school then blew it with a pot addiction. Sam finds an unexpected closeness with Cooper, opening up to him as they reminisce about their childhood companionship.

 

The novel was very emotional, I loved Sam’s voice, given what she was dealing with she was incredibly strong and very brave. Her inner monologue went from a range of emotions from excitement and swooning over her developing relationship with Stuart, funny, moody, despair. She talks about her fears, her desires, what she longs for. The struggles with talking about what she’s going through. Dealing with the fall outs when things happen.

 

There’s a love triangle that does pop up but it’s one that works really well and managed to surprise me. And still made me smile.

 

Sam’s memory book also includes input from her parents and siblings and later Cooper who all start adding to the narrative.  The emotional impact was incredibly deep and moving.

 

By the end I was in floods of tears. I was reading the last 20% or so during a slow afternoon at work and by the time I’d finished I had to leave the office and have a cry in the toilets for five minutes. I reread the end again at home and cried all over again.

 

Beautiful, beautiful book. The story manages to go from cute and funny to gut wrenching with some incredibly sad moments. Even so, it was a really amazing read. I loved it so much I bought a finished copy.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Group.

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text 2017-06-22 21:33
DNF: The One Memory of FLora Banks
The One Memory of Flora Banks - Emily Barr

I received a copy from Netgalley.
Not for me, read about 30 pages and I hated it. It's an interesting concept about a girl who can't remember anything until she kisses her best friends boyfriend which she actually remembers. The best friends boyfriend is a dick who is clearly taking advantage of FLora because he KNOWS she won't remember, yet says some bullshit about her being different from all the other girls, so she's convinces herself she loves him. That alone is eye rolling enough to make me want to throw things. The narrative is also very repetitive I'm guessing because of the uniqueness of Flora's illness she can't remember things so she writes the down and says it to herself over and over, dry annoying very quickly. Not for me. Marking as did not finish.

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children's books for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-06-27 11:35
Review: The Problem with Forever
The Problem with Forever - Jennifer L. Armentrout

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I pre ordered this ages ago, but of course jumped at the chance when I saw the title pop up on Netgalley.

 

The novel tells the story of Mallory, who grew up in a terrible foster home with fellow foster child Ryder, after one really bad incident the authorities were involved and they were separated. Mallory was adopted by a couple of doctors who loved and cherished her. Though as a result of the terrible things that happened in foster care Mallory almost never talks. She’s gone through extensive therapy and is now in a good place with her new parents who adore her and after a few years of home schooling, she’s ready for high school.

 

It’s a gigantic step for Mallory who is only really comfortable with a small handful of people. She has a best friend Ainsley, who’s also home schooled and very supportive. I loved Mallory right off, there was something about her tone that was very real and very honest and so easy to understand. There was a big emotional impact in this book as well. I can’t even say what it was, the first 50 pages or so had me misty eyed immediately. When Mallory goes to school she is reunited with Ryder, the boy who protected her and looked after her in foster care.

 

The novel deals with some hard issues – the abuse Mallory and Ryder dealt with, the horrible foster parents and the event that lead to the authorities becoming involved and the aftermath. Also with Mallory’s trauma as she adjust to high school - speaking to people, dealing with mean girls, making friends, the cafeteria. And dealing with having to see Ryder again. Mallory has also challenged herself to take a public speaking class. Which has its ups and down and is a huge step for a girl who can hardly cope with speaking to people at the best of times.

 

It was all very good, very emotional. It was very easy to get lost in this story as Mallory and Ryder reconnect and work through their feelings for each other. Ryder believes he wasn’t so lucky as Mallory after they were separated, he wound up in a group home, which actually seems pretty decent. He’s made friends and the lady who is in charge is hardworking and nice. Though while Mallory is looking to college Ryder is still mixed with some pretty dark stuff and doesn’t see much prospects for himself after high school.

 

Mallory goes through some incredible character growth and transformations as she gets comfortable with high school and learns how to cope and deal with her own emotions from worry to romantic feels for Ryder to fear of dealing with Ryder’s former mean girl girlfriend.

 

Parental involvement from Mallory’s parents was pretty incredible. They talk regularly and openly, though they are not without their faults, Mallory like any other teenager has her indiscretions and arguments. Very realistic and nice to see some good parental involvement rather than absentee parents or one parent out of the picture like in so many YA novels.

 

My only particular issue with this which is why it was a four star rather than a five star was the whole Ryder/Mallory romance while as sweet as it was, it was rather preditcable and a little repetitive. Mallory’s parents had their own issues with Mallory seeing Ryder and Ryder’s college prospects (after he turns out to be a brilliant artist but still can’t see any future for himself) the same points came up more than a few times. The end did make me cry a bit.

 

Other than that, a very good, very moving and emotional read.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin UK for approving my request to view the title.

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