Young Adult Reviews

Review: Floored (collaborative)

img_6104

Review – Floored (Collaborative)

Synopsis: 

The swot. The fraud. The dutiful daughter. The child star. The fangirl. The asshole. Six teenagers are at the scene when a man collapses in a lift. None of them have the skills necessary to save his life. Although the teenagers come from totally different worlds – and have different aspirations – they recognise the significance of the moment and keep in touch via social media.

The group meets every year on the anniversary of the man’s death. Romances are formed and broken, lives change and change again and the group becomes a larger part of their lives with every passing year.

One Day meets YA-literature in this explosive collaboration.

birdReview:

Floored is one of the most highly anticipated UKYA novel of the year. Written between seven YA authors, the question buzzing around the bookish community is which author wrote which character? Six characters and a narrator. We know that it is one author to one voice. The rest is secret. The buzz this has caused is publicity-gold.

The story follows a group of young people across five years. They come from different walks of life but they discover similarities as well as differences. 

One of the things I liked about Floored was its current-day themes. In the wake of Brexit social divisions have become more apparent. Politicians and national publications fail to understand anyone outside the metropolitan elite. Floored captures these attitudes and gives them faces. Joe, who wants to distance himself from the town where aspiration means becoming a supervisor. Hugo, who thinks people without money are lazy scroungers. Floored is a book of its time and it challenges its readers to see past those divisions. 

To clarify – this is not a political book. It is not about Brexit or Trump or left VS right. It is a book about people. It is about young people in Britain today.

All of the voices are distinctive. I particularly enjoyed the introduction, where we saw how each character had become entrenched in one way of thinking. Joe wants to escape his hometown. Sasha wants her father’s approval. Hugo doesn’t want anything to change – he just wants to trog through the system until he too has a high-flying job. I loved how the characters bounced off one-another, changing each other’s outlook and self-perception. 

I have said for years that UKYA needs more books aimed at the oldest end of its (target/marketing) audience. This gap seems to have been noticed and Floored is one of the books which fills that space. It looks at the transition from teenager to young adulthood and the different routes journeys people take. 

Did I have strong feelings about the relationships in the novel? I was more interested in the friendships and the trajectories of the individual characters. Dawson’s relationships interested me most because they were so much a part of his self-discovery.

A story about young people redefining themselves. Redefining each-other. I recommend this if you enjoy character-driven fiction or contemporary stories with a large cast.

Advertisements
Young Adult Reviews

Review: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

img_5997-1

Extract:

…if Bennett’s Greysworth were to go, then we’d have to get a train to the nearest bookshop. And I wouldn’t get a staff discount or first dibs on any of those books. I wouldn’t be able to sit behind the counter in those bookshops, pretending to enjoy coffee, and dipping into a book that makes me look sophisticated and intellectual. 

(Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles. PP. 21 – 22.) 

birdSynopsis:

Bennett’s bookshop has been Paige’s refuge for as long as she can remember. It gave her a place to escape the dull prospects of her hometown, it introduced her to other worlds and it gave her a Saturday job. Now the bookshop is due to close. Soon there will be nothing left on the high-street except cheap shoes and buskers.

Paige and her friend Holly vow to fight. They start an online petition to save the bookshop. Meanwhile, Paige is dealing with a major crush on art-school student Blaine Henderson. Will his belief in anarchy make or break the protest?

birdReview:

A contemporary novel perfect for fans of The Exact Opposite Of OK and It Only Happens In The Movies. A witty and wise-cracking protagonist faces up to situations which highlight modern issues.

The major theme is the affect high-street closures have on a town. The story looks particularly at easy access to books – Paige’s local library cuts its hours at the same time that Bennett’s announces its closure. Cutting access to books – access for everyone, because what the middle classes often forget is not everyone has the internet – affects literacy and aspiration. Paige lives in an area of low employment. Reading can open doors. It shows people other worlds. Beyond that, reading allows us to face our own insecurities. It dares us to change our lives and to believe in ourselves.

Blaine Henderson is an interesting character. He comes in like the typical boyfriend in a YA romance – boy walks in, girl experiences palpitations and can’t stop thinking about said boy. His character develops in a way which is more interesting than typical YA boyfriends. Blaine is an artist. He believes in anarchy, in the total freedom of the individual. Without any spoilers, the big question is whether his beliefs might save Bennett’s.

A  chatty, laugh-out-loud novel packed with contemporary references. It is lovely to see a YA novel which celebrates bookshops and bookish culture. With a second installment already in the works, Paige Turner (yes, really) is your new YA BFF.  

 

Thanks to ReadersFirst and Hot Key Books for my copy of Bookshop Girl. Opinions my own.

Young Adult Reviews

Q&A: Author Melvin Burgess

Q&A: YA Author Melvin Burgess answers some questions. 

51ffcqken9l-_sx323_bo1204203200_I am delighted to welcome Melvin Burgess to my blog. His title – the Godfather of young adult fiction – is justly earned. Burgess’s fiction approached subjects and styles which appealed to a young adult audience years before YA was recognised as a category. Burgess is one of the most versatile YA authors. He has written about drugs, Vikings, WW2 and virginity. His forthcoming novel – The Lost Witch – is a fantasy about a young woman with visions who doesn’t know who to trust. Should she believe her parents, who tell her she is hallucinating, or the mysterious strangers who tell her she has the power of a witch. 

NYALitFest – The Supernatural And The Strange

Melvin Burgess will appear at NYALitFest – The Supernatural And The Strange on Saturday 21st July. Regular readers will remember how impressed I was with the first NYALitFest earlier this year. The line-up for the forthcoming event is equally impressive and I can’t wait to hear more. Tickets are still available here. 

A big thanks to Melvin Burgess for your time. 

bird

Interview with Melvin Burgess

Q: Bea is a skater. What made you think of a skater-witch?
A: I always think of skating as an alt hobby – little bit different,
little bit left of field. How else would a witch spend their spare time? My
witches have a relationship with the spirit world, that’s where they
get their magic from. But if they were the storybook kind with spells
and black cat, I reckon they’d have replaced their brooms with a
skateboard by now.
 
Q: Your story is set in the modern day, yet it is a story of
ancient powers. Why did you decide to set it in the modern day?
 
A: The past has already happened, it’s safe. the future isn’t even here
yet – but the present is right where you are. I like my stories to have
an edge – I like it so that you never really know what’ll happen next.
Yes- the present is definitely my favourite tense.
– Being disbelieved by her parents is as frightening to Bea as
being hunted. 
 
Q: Can you tell us more about the psychological story?
A: In that first part of the book, it’s all about who Bea is are, who
she belongs to, who she belongs with. As you grow up you gradually find
your parents play a smaller role in your life, but to be taken away from
too soon is a very scary and dangerous thing. Bea is a loving person –
she can’t help it, that’s just the way she is – and the idea that she’s
turning into something that her parents can’t understand, or that she
could even be dangerous to them, is a dreadful thing for her to cope with.
Q: If you could choose a magical power, what would it be and why?
A: I’d choose the power to make to make friends – which answers your
next question as well! But if I could have a power without losing my
friends, I’d pick one of the powers witches have – to have my spirit
enter the body of any creature I chose, and to share their life for
a while.
 
Q: Would you rather have friends and no powers, or magic and no
friends?
A: Friends any time.
Thanks to Melvin Burgess for your answers and to Hazel Holmes for arranging the interview. Melvin Burgess will be at NYALitFest – The Supernatural and The Fantastical on 21st July.
Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Survival Game by Nicky Singer

thesurvivalgame.jpg

Synopsis:

This boy is not my responsibility

Resources are running out. Many countries have pledged that their citizens will only live until the age of 74 to preserve resources for as many people as possible. Years can be gifted from one person to another and criminals pay their sentence in life years. This is the world Mhairi lives in.

Mhairi has walked across continents. Since the thing that happened at the checkpoint, the thing she cannot think about, Mhairi has been set on one thing – survival. She has reached the Scottish border, but everything has changed since she was last here. There are checkpoints and detention centres and border patrols. There are crowds of displaced people looking for the same thing – a place where they can survive.

A young boy needs Mhairi’s help. He is an illegal, an alien,  and joining up with him will make Mhairi’s journey more difficult. He’s not her responsibility … is he?

bird

Review:

An exceptional piece of work which will make you look at the world a different way. The Survival Game poses a question. People in Britain are used to hearing about displaced people on television. What if we became the displaced – and how long before it happens?

Mhairi is fourteen, but she is not fourteen as we know it. She has crossed continents and fought for food and survived things so traumatic that she can’t think about them. She keeps those memories locked inside her ‘castle’ – the mental fortress she has built in her head in order to survive. Her voice is distinctive and harrowing. There are children in our world living Mhairi’s life. There are children in our world who are traumatised and desperate and prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. This is not a voice you will forget.

I kept turning the pages. I kept reading. There wasn’t any question of putting the book down because I had to know what happened to Mhairi and the boy she called Mo.  

The story is set in the near future. In my lifetime. It’s proximity to the present makes its messages more chilling. This is a world where people have become so desperate they have lost all sense of humanity. There are too many people without resources. Instead of working to reverse the problem, those who have everything they need become defensive. They fight to protect what they have. To keep enough for themselves and their close family. The most frightening thing is this dystopia has already begun.

Following Mhairi – who, for all her protestations, is unable to see the little boy as a problem beyond her control, as a statistic, enables the reader to think about their own attitudes. If we want to leave the world in a better state than this we need to act. Fast.

This novel is exceptional in several ways – first in its craft. If this isn’t on several major prize lists next year there is no justice in the world. The voice is exceptionally strong, and the story opens the reader to empathy towards other human beings. On a big scale. I’m not going to pretend this is a cheerful read but it is compelling. This is a book we should celebrate.   

 

Chat · Young Adult Reviews

Floored blog tour: ‘It’s grim up North’

img_6104

Floored is a collaborative novel written between seven young adult authors. The story is told by six characters and a narrator. This post is about wealthy, inconsiderate Hugo. Hugo is one of my favourite characters in the novel because he personifies an issue which has become apparent in recent years – the contempt held by the metropolitan elite for the working class outside of London.

Hugo’s opening line – It’s grim up North – is a snapshot of his character. He believes that people begrudge his privilege because they can’t be bothered to work for it themselves. He has no understanding of opportunity or inequality. Things go downhill as Hugo treats one of the girls as a cheap one-night stand.

 It’s grim up North is where Hugo starts. A cliché which he has never bothered to challenge because it doesn’t affect his life. This is where Hugo starts- but Floored is a story, and stories begin with a promise that our protagonist will not be the same person by the end. All stories, at their heart, are about transformation. Hugo may be entitled and arrogant and cruel but he isn’t content. The way he lives gives him no pleasure.

I hope people reading Floored will take note of Hugo’s disdain and start to see his attitude in other places. In the politicians who take photo-ops in deprived cities at election times then fail to provide the jobs and infrastructure those cities desperately need. In the national newspapers which continually pitch their work to a metropolitan middle-class readership. In the public-school educated television personalities who make jokes at the expense of working-class Northerners.

 

Catch everyone in my Floored group blog tour: 

flooredbanner.jpg

 

 

Young Adult Reviews

Review: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

askypaintedgoldimg_6402

Extract:

What else was out there for me? The thought of leaving, of somehow making my own path, seemed a daunting impossibility. I was the follower, not the leader, and I truly had no idea where to go next. The Cardew House – even in its dilapidated state – felt like an answer.

(A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood.)

bird

Synopsis:

Summer 1929. Lou’s sister has married, and now seventeen-year-old Lou is under pressure to do the same. Lou isn’t ready to marry. She wants one glorious golden summer of freedom before she thinks about her future.

The Cardew House has stood empty for as long as Lou can remember. She trespasses, eating apples from the trees and reading detective novels from the library. Now the Cardew family are home and all eyes are on young Robert Cardew and his American fiancée.

Lou befriends Robert and his sister Caitlin, and her summer is filled with parties, but can a farmer’s daughter remain friends with aristocrats in a world obsessed with social division?

bird

Review:

A brilliant and beautiful book reminiscent of I Capture The Castle and the works of Daphne Du Maurier. If you love big house novels set in the inter-war years, this is a must.

The first word which comes to mind is atmosphere. Laura Wood captures the atmosphere of the era. Think swinging parties and smokey jazz-bars and obsession with the upper-classes. She also captures the protagonist’s age. Lou is on the cusp of adulthood and wants to enjoy her youth. She is thinking about the future but not ready to live adult life. She alternates from very mature feelings to very childish ones at a second’s notice. Anyone who remembers being sixteen or eighteen will remember both wanting the future and wishing it would never come.

I adore the relationships. There is the sibling relationship between Alice and Lou, which is being renegotiated in light of Alice’s marriage and emerging adulthood. Robert Cardew is protective of his little sister Caitlin, and wants to do right by her but can’t see beyond society’s expectations of the upper-classes. Then there are the other relationships – the marriage of convenience between Robert and Laurie and the flirtations between Lou and wealthy bore Charlie. Other relationships shift and emerge over the course of the story. I found myself caring desperately about the outcome.

This is the story of a girl given a taste of a world to which she doesn’t belong. It is also about renegotiating what we thought we knew about society and about other people. It is pure escapism and the writing is exceptional. I can’t wait to get my paws on Laura Wood’s middle-grade detective novels. After reading A Sky Painted Gold, I want to read every word she has written.

 

Thanks to Scholastic UK for my arc of A Sky Painted Gold. Opinions my own.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

neverworldwake

img_5943

Extract:

Time is standing still. It has become trapped inside an eighth of a second like a luna moth inside a mason jar. There is a way out, of course. There is one means by which the moth can escape and time can fly irrevocably free. Each of you must vote during the last three minutes of every wake. You must choose the single person among you who will survive.

(Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. P31.)

birdSynopsis:

Bee hasn’t spoken to her best friends since her boyfriend’s death a year before. Now she is ready to face them. On the night she confronts them, she and her friends are in a car crash. They are transported to a Neverworld Wake – a strange dimension where pockets of time repeat themselves. A sinister man known as the keeper tells the friends that only one of them can return to life. There must be a consensus about who that person should be.

Trapped in a strange reality, Bee and her friends hash over what happened the year before as each tries to figure out ways to manipulate the Neverworld Wake.

birdReview:

Imagine The Secret History, throw in some physics and add a Hunger-Games style survival contest. That’s Neverworld Wake. If it sounds like an odd combination, just you wait. It doesn’t just work. It sucks you in and keeps hold of you until you’re on the final page.

If physics and alternate realities aren’t your thing, don’t be put off. The Neverworld mirrors the characters’ lives, so most of the locations from the real world feature in the story. Essentially the world enables the characters to move about in time and space. This allows them to solve a case which has been written off as a suicide. 

There are two major questions throughout the novel:

1.) what happened to Jim Mason – rich kid, musical genius and Bee’s boyfriend?

2.) which of the five friends will return from the Neverworld Wake?

Like Bee, the reader is not quite certain who to trust. The mystery is layered and complex. As soon as one question is answered, two more are posed. This kept me turning the pages because I wanted to reach the moment where all became apparent.

I read Marisha Pessl’s debut when I was seventeen and I remember being totally hooked. The book was not branded as YA, but I have always wondered if it would be rebranded. It is one of the novels I remember best from my teens. It kept me hooked with its mix of insanely wealthy characters and unsolved mystery.

I recommend this to readers of mystery novels and to people who like worlds which are slightly dark and edgy. I’m pleased to see Pessl working in YA and look forward to reading more of her work.