teen · Young Adult Reviews

Blog Tour: The Cantankerous Molly Darling by Alvy Carragher

Blog Tour: The Cantankerous Molly Darling by Alvy Carragher

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Extract:

I know what she means. Rescuing Lady MacBeth simply shone a light on a much bigger problem. And the worst part is we’re in the wrong … not only did we steal a chicken, we released three hundred more. What if we were seen? Claire will not hesitate to destroy us.

(The Cantankerous Molly Darling by Alvy Carragher. P53.)

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Synopsis:

Molly’s life should be simple.

Instead her mother is moping in the attic and dating Gary ‘The Hulk’, her sister Polly is engaged to a boy with an IQ to rival a gnat and nothing is getting repaired because money is tight. Now her chicken companions have been sold to the shoddy local farm.

When Molly and her friend Tess rescue one of the chickens, they accidentally set hundreds of other chickens free. Then drama queen Claire Kelly doctors some video footage to make out the chickens were stolen in a wilful act of chicken hate crime.

Together with her friends and supporters, Molly sets out to prove the conditions on the farm are unacceptable. But will life ever be as mundane as it should be in a quiet area of rural Ireland?

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Review:

Cold Comfort Farm meets a rural Irish childhood. With added social media. This is the sweetest teen novel I have read in ages, and possibly the funniest. It shares the same charm and biting wit as the classic novel but throws in the sort of dysfunction and family changes faced by many teenagers today. And chickens. A whole load of chickens.

 Molly Darling is in many ways my teenage self. The kid who watches everything from one step back and keeps a running satirical commentary. She’s fond of the outdoors, less fond of people and happy to hide among the family book towers. Her wit and strong desire for peace and normality make her an easily relatable character.

 Unfortunately, she’s faced not only with the changes and dramas in her family (like her eighteen-year-old sister’s insistence that she will marry the latest boyfriend) but also with the challenges of social media, in the form of blogger-supreme Claire Kelly.

 The plot centres around Claire’s exaggerated claims, which she backs by editing different video clips together to prove the truth. This is a form of bullying which has become more common in recent years, with the rising interest in video editing. The cruelty is twofold – firstly that any viewpoint can be pushed with a bit of clever editing, and secondly that it can take one point and twist it into gold. In the story, a girl sneaking into a barn to rescue her pet chicken is made to look like a hardened criminal. Zoom in on a face and put the voice from one clip over another and presto. You can claim anything.

 Alvy Carragher calls this behaviour out by pitting antagonist Claire against a group of kids who genuinely have good hearts. Claire knows she has an audience and she knows what she is doing. I rooted shamelessly for Molly and her friends in their search for justice and kindness.

 This is a countryside book in many ways. Chickens are kept as pets and found dead at the side of the road. Although Molly’s vegan friends are persistent in their cause, there’s no shying away from why farm animals are kept. It is also a book about small communities, family life and people who work tirelessly for very little profit.

 I will be shouting from the rooftops about this one. It has just the right blend of heart, humour, and social commentary to make it last and, while Molly would probably prefer a quiet life, I hope it gets the noise it deserves.

 

 Thanks to Laura Smythe PR and Chicken House Books for my gifted copy of The Cantankerous Molly Darling. Opinions my own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Middle Grade Reviews · teen

Review: Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen

Review: Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen

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Extract:

I may never sleep again until I find a way to warn the people six thousand kilometres away of a catastrophe that is certain to happen.

(Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen. P90.)

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Synopsis:

Halo Moon loves watching the stars in her Yorkshire village. Nothing ever happens, but Halo loves walking the moor and going to the library with her new friend Pedro. Then a stranger appears and tells them that a catastrophe is going to endanger the lives of everyone in the village.

Ageze digs up a stange device from the ground near his home in Ethiopia. It appears to be an ancient fortune teller, and with a little help Ageze is able to use it to make accurate predictions. When it tells him that a great disaster is going to occur thousands of miles away, Ageze knows it is duty to change the course of fate.

Can Halo help Ageze in time to change their destiny?

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Review:

A group of friends, a strange fortune-telling instrument and a disaster which could affect the lives of many people. With that formula, it was always going to be gripping. What I didn’t realise was I would be hooked ages before by the characters and their day to day lives.

Halo loves her home. Even if she isn’t the wealthiest, even if there isn’t much to do other than go to the library. She is struggling to be a good friend to Jade, the perpetual show-off whose behaviour is only getting worse in light of her parents’ potential separation. Halo prefers to spend time with her new friend, Pedro, a boy who is new to the village and shares her interests. Then there is Ageze, who lives miles away, the son of middle-class parents with high aspirations. Ageze wants to be a good son, but he also knows he must help the strangers whose lives are in peril. To do this he must break a lot of rules.

Their daily lives wind on until they come together. Not everybody wants to listen to Ageze, but Halo is able to look past his status a ‘stranger’. This exploration of how we can live apart but be connected by the same fate an interesting theme.

It was lovely to see a small Northern village as the main setting. The UK can be very Londoncentric (I speak as somebody who grew up in London) and many people in and around the capital know little about what the rest of the country looks like. When Ageze finds out how far it is from Heathrow to Halo’s village, he doesn’t see it as the same defeat that somebody in the UK would. He works out logically how many days it would take at x miles per day and sets off. It was refreshing to see a character stand in London and feel they are close to being in the North.

The writing is superlative and the story rolls along. A brilliant adventure about friendship, bravery, and shared experiences.  

 

Thanks to Querces Children’s Books for my gifted copy of Halo Moon. Opinions my own.

 

teen

Review: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Review: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

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Extract:

Here’s an even worse part. They want us to get to know each other and become close like sisters (or maybe even twins because we’re the same age?) because it’s possible we might become a “family”.

(To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. P9.)

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Avery is a bookworm and serial worrier from New York. Bett is a surfer and carefree spirit form California. Both are usually the centre of their dads’ lives, so when those dads meet at a conference, Bett tracks down Avery’s school email to propose that drastic action should be taken.

The dads are two-steps ahead. While they go off on a motorcycle tour of China, they have booked Bett and Avery into the same summer camp. To their surprise, they form the sisterly-bond their dads had hoped for and are all set to live happily-ever-after as a new family.

Things don’t go quite so to plan for their Dads. Determined not to part, Bett and Avery set off on the summer adventure of a lifetime and discover the true extent of family and friendship.

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Review:

The Parent Trap has been given a timely and brilliant makeover in this story of two girls from opposite sides of America. I am delighted to see a nod to the classic story. The Lindsay Lohan version was a staple when I was growing up, and there was a particular age (maybe 9 – 13ish) where I thought it was the most impossibly cool thing on the planet.

I have to admit that Bett and Avery have a heck of a lot more character. Bett isn’t a rule-breaker so much as a rule-maker. She makes her own rules. She is a good judge of her own limits (for example, as a proficient diver she is quite happy to jump from a zipwire into a lake) but less so of how her example will endanger others. Avery is superficially polite, but she worries to the point of driving everyone around her up the wall. Their characters are so individual that I can tell you exactly who they are even now I’ve finished the story.

The story is told through a series of letters and emails. Many of the emails are sent between Bett and Avery, but there are also messages from their dad’s, from Bett’s grandmother and from other characters they meet along the way. Although it takes a little keeping up with who is sending each message, it is worth the effort as it creates a totally rounded picture of each character.

This is a great one for the teen market. As a guideline ‘teen’ covers readers aged 10-14. What I liked about this story was it didn’t try to be YA for eleven-year-olds. It respects its audience exactly at the stage they are and tells a great contemporary story.

Grab a packet of marshmallows and some biscuits, get the smores made and get to know this great cast of characters. Whether you are a night owl like Avery or a Dogfish like Bett, you will relate to this story of friendship and family bonds.

 

Thanks to Egmont for my gifted copy of To Night Owl From Dogfish. Opinions remain my own.