Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood



I’ve got six weeks to win over my fellow students, and that’s loads of time. Just think about all the good things I could achieve. Like doing away with lunch passes for the privileged few, and setting up more clubs and activities so people don’t have to eat their lunch alone. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This could be the first step on my path to prime minister. 

(Vote For Effie by Laura Wood. P43.) BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586Synopsis:

New girl Effie Kostas isn’t afraid to speak her mind. It’s not helping her to make friends, so the last thing she needs now is to be involved in a campaign, but when she finds out that popular boy Aaron is only on the student council to get a lunch pass, Effie feels compelled to speak up.

Effie signs up to run for the student council. With her new friends behind her, she sets out to win people’s votes.BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586Review:

If 2018 was the year of the inspirational book, 2019 looks set to be a year of inspirational characters. As much as I believe there is a place for list books I am glad to see this shift. Seeing a fictional character developing and growing can be so much more empowering than reading about someone who already appears to be impossibly special.

Effie is unafraid to speak out, even about the smallest things, even if she drives the people around her up the wall. However, as Effie’s elderly neighbour constantly reminds her, fairness and equality doesn’t come for free. Sometimes we have to speak up for what we believe in. The lunch pass may cause more than one adult to roll their eyes (rather like Effie’s teacher) but it is a twelve-year-old sized battle.  It also leads Effie to investigate other inequalities in her school, such as the disparity in funding between girls’ and boys’ sports teams, and then to issues which affect the wider world. Children, and particularly girls, are often told to accept the way things are, but only when we are all unafraid to speak up will things change for the better.

Effie learns to voice her views in a constructive way, to listen to her opponents and to take setbacks with resilience and grace. The conflict between herself and Aaron turns into something healthier as they learn to respect each other’s stances.

It is lovely to see a contemporary novel about issues which affect every young person, and one which encourages readers to speak up and form their own opinions. This would make a great introduction to topics around discussion and debate. Effie is a brilliant role model for today’s preteens.


Thanks to Scholastic UK for my copy of Vote For Effie. Opinions my own.



Young Adult Reviews

Review: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood



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.)



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?



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.

waiting on wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood


Synopsis (from Scholastic): 

Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, sixteen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer – a handsome, dashing brother and sister – Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams. But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions… and is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family? A gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance set against a stunning Gatsby-esque backdrop, this is perfect for fans of I Capture the Castle and Eva Ibbotson.birdWhy I can’t Wait to read A Sky Painted Gold:

This sounds very Daphne Du Maurier. Big house mysteries were a core part of my diet as a teenager. I loved the blend of history, romance and mystery which the big house setting lends itself to, as well as the themes of social change and prejudice. 

Lou is a writer who appears to have conflict about her ambitions. It can be difficult to tell people your life’s ambition is to write a novel. People often think arts come fully-formed. Either you have the ability to write a novel already or you never will have. I’m looking forward to seeing a book which explores the conflicts faced by aspiring writers. 

I want to know whether there is something sinister about the Cardews. I enjoyed The Wren Hunt where a similar question was posed about a magical faction and the answer was more complex than I guessed from the outset. I love novels which make us question people’s motives.

Let’s face it – we all love cocktail parties and moonlit meetings on private beaches. We never learn. We’re all dreaming of Manderley.

Laura Wood is the author of the Poppy Pym series. Poppy Pym is a middle grade mystery series about a circus girl who finds herself in a boarding school. With four books in the series so far, Laura Wood has significant experience of writing mysteries. 


A Sky Painted Gold

Scholastic UK

July 2018