Review: Bad Girls With Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten

Note: We received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

I read this is practically one sitting, and it’s been so long time since I did that! It’s also been ages since I’ve read a YA thriller, so it’s been a books of ‘the first time in forever’s. Bad Girls With Perfect Faces was unexpected, with its lyrical writing style and detailed characters. Unfortunately, I felt like it took way too long to get started – the thriller element didn’t start until roughly 60% through the book!

This is the story of Sasha and Xavier, who are best friends, and on Xavier’s birthday they go to a club and run into Ivy, Xavier’s toxic ex-girlfriend. Sasha’s in love with Xavier, so obviously she’s not best pleased, and tries to catch Ivy in the act of cheating.

Continue reading “Review: Bad Girls With Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten”

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Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost is all about Juliet, who leaves letters on her mother’s gravestone as a way to process her grief. Declan is the boy who’s doing community service and stumbles across her letter. He reads it and decides to write back. The pair then communicate through letters and emails, without ever telling each other who the other person is. What’s tricky is that they go to the same school, and while Declan figures out Juliet’s identity, she’s still in the dark.

Continue reading “Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer”

Review: Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

Note: We received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I was really excited to read this after loving Stargazing For Beginners, earlier this year. I literally jumped when I saw this come up on NetGalley, because no way was I getting to read two new Jenny McLachlan books in a year. This definitely followed in the same style, and there’s so much to love about it.

First of all, Annie, the main character, has cerebral palsy and uses both a wheelchair and crutches in the book. I haven’t read about that many visibly disabled characters, and this is something I hope to change in the coming year. The discussion of Annie’s disability and her mentality surrounded it was really well handled, and although I can’t speak on behalf of those with CP, I felt it was respectful and insightful without trying to tell someone else’s story.

Second, it’s set at a sixth form and the representation of that environment is absolutely spot on. For the classes and cafeteria dynamic, to the desperate need to reinvent yourself and find new friends, I absolutely loved the setting. It took me right back to my sixth form years which were a delight.

Of course, it can’t be set in a school and not have English classes as a prominent feature. Throughout the novel, Annie and the boy she sits next to, Fab, are constantly arguing about Wuthering Heights. It felt like a copy and paste of my own A level lit lessons, as that was one of the texts we studied and I hated it. Jane Eyre, now that’s a book I can get behind. But, it was great to see how the book reflected Annie and Fab’s relationship and how it inspired the final 20% of the book in a very Sara Barnard style way. (Also, the style of the moors makes the cover beautiful!)

Annie and Fab are an interesting couple, mostly because they’re not a couple for most of the book. It’s obvious that Fab likes Annie, but Annie is apprehensive to be in a relationship. There’s a back-and-forth between them about this, and some classic miscommunication that could have been resolved quicker, in my opinion, and maybe I would have liked more reasoning for Annie’s disinterest in romance. She was showing a lot of demiromantic and asexual tendencies, and I got too excited about those possibilities when they weren’t canon.

I loved the scenarios that Annie and Fab were put in, like a costume party, a Polish wedding and a date involving berry-picking. It was all cute and lovely, exactly what I want in a contemporary romance.

Annie’s  mum was something special too. Close mother-daughter relationships are my favourite thing (see Radio Silence by Alice Oseman).  She was someone that Annie actually talked to about her problems and I loved her parental prominence.

Overall, I really liked Truly Wildly Deeply, if you couldn’t tell already, and give it 4 stars. There were a few things that I didn’t gel with, and there were a few pacing issues but they didn’t take away from how just lovely this book was. If you’re looking for disability rep, a love-tolerate romance and quirky plot points, I’d totally recommend this book.

Review: Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Note: We received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This book comes to you in two very distinct parts. The first is a version of All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, with our main character, Maya, attracting the interest of two boys: the very sweet parents-approve Muslim and the most popular guy at school that Maya’s had a crush on for years.

In the first chapter, she seems really into Kareem. They meet at an Indian wedding and have a lot in common, with Kareem encouraging Maya to pursue her dream of being a film-maker. It was cute and I was looking forward to the romance unfolding, following in the footsteps of When Dimple Met Rishi. 

Then Paul gets introduced later and there’s this contrived way from them to hang out: teaching Maya to swim. Paul was an exciting prospect because I haven’t read many interracial relationship before, but I couldn’t get behind their romance because Paul was already in a relationship. He’s hanging out with Maya in a definitely romantic fashion, and neither of them show any remorse for the fact that what they’re doing is cheating. It wasn’t okay in Anna and the French Kiss and it’s not okay here. I can’t root for a couple when I know there’s another girl outside the page that’s getting her heart broken.

The cheating thing felt especially bitter when Kareem was so lovely and an all around great guy. I didn’t understand that something which started quite flirty quickly fizzled out into ‘let’s just be friends’. I’ve never been on the ‘wrong’ side of a love triangle before, so this was an interesting experience and one that I hope never to have again.

So, if you haven’t got the sense already, this is definitely a contemporary romance. It stays that way for around 60-70% of the book. The rest of the story takes a complete U-turn from this.

At the end of every chapter, you get this tiny scene that slowly tells the story of a suspected suicide bomber that shares the same surname as Maya. They are in no way related, but the town reacts as if Maya’s family is responsible for the trauma. The 15% where this storyline is pursued feels like a different book. I wish it had played a bigger part in the book as a whole, because it felt like I was waiting and waiting to get to the moment described on the blurb, and the romance was just filler until then. Regardless, this plot line was powerful and will always be relevant to what’s going on in the world, but particularly this year when every day we seem to wake up to news of another terror attack, or more mass injuries. It was jarring to place these two things together, but realistic in the way that a terror threat is always going to deeply disturb a normal life.

However, if I didn’t know this book was going to have such a powerful perspective on the repercussions of prejudice, hatred and Islamophobia, I don’t think I would have kept reading beyond the halfway point.

I’m so pleased that more books like this are being published, and that I got the chance to read about a character so far from my own perspective. It’s definitely inspired me to try and find more books like this in 2018 – and also finally get round to The Hate You Give…

Review: Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

*Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(First posted on Goodreads on 4th November, having read the book on October 29th)

I’ve been really delayed in writing my review for this seeing as I finished it at the end of last week, but I was hoping that if I left in for long enough and I mulled over ‘Goodbye, Perfect’ I’d love it as much as I did Sara Barnard’s other books. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. (Hence why the rating in the featured image and the actual review are different – I had to be more honest with how I felt about the book, and not just be lenient with my rating because I loved Sara’s previous two books.)

I knew nothing about the plot before I started reading, which was definitely a good thing because if I’d have known it was about a student-teacher relationship, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up – not matter who wrote it. That relationship is one of my most hated buzzwords. Luckily, it’s from the perspective of the girl who’s best friend is groomed, delusional and ‘in love’ with her music teacher, which made it more manageable and definitely had me questioning the strength of loyalty in the face of a criminal offence.

My opinion was very firm. Even if Bonnie is Eden’s best friend, she doesn’t know how much danger she’s in so Eden needed to tell the police everything. And while I was sympathetic to the difficult situation Eden was in for the first fifty pages, I couldn’t deal with the same thought processes throughout the whole book. How this book managed to feel so long winded (slow paced and – dare I say it? – dull) at just over 300 pages is beyond me.

The saving grace of the book for me was Eden’s relationship with Valerie, her older sister that she struggled to bond with when she was first adopted, and Eden’s boyfriend Connor who was just an all around great guy. (Having a character in YA be in a committed relationship before the book began and NOT have any drama surrounding that relationship during the narrative was so refreshing!) These characters were both most prominent in the last fifty pages of the book where things started to get interesting for the first time.

Another thing that kept me reading despite feeling like I wasn’t getting enough out of the story was the newspaper inserts and text message exchanges. I was just waiting for what ridiculously warped thing Bonnie was going to say about how happy she was to be with Jack (ugh.) I love that multi-media is becoming more and more prominent in YA, at least!

There were also a lot of things happening in the background of this story that were super interesting but not developed enough for me. For example, Eden’s little sister Daisy and her descent into being a young troublemaker/following the path of Eden from years ago. Or the fact that Connor was a young carer for his mother. Or the relationship Eden had with her birth mother. Or Eden’s identity as biracial (with a Brazilian father). All of these things could have added a little zest to a story that was too consumed by Bonnie running away.

Also, (rant incoming) I’m never a fan of narratives that make a straight-A student/generally ‘good’ girl feel like she’s missing out on the ‘teenage experience’ (which doesn’t exist!) Being a teenager isn’t a check list of underage drinking and disrespecting your authority figures. I was told this way too much by people in secondary school that made fun of me thinking a nice evening consisted of watching Call the Midwife and knitting. Just because Bonnie cared about her exam results, that doesn’t make her boring or not worthy of her story being told.

Overall, this book gets 2.5 stars from me and I’m beyond disappointed that I can’t call this Sara Barnard’s best book yet. But she’s still one of my all-time favourite YA authors and I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that her next book is more my thing.

Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Juniper Lemon has been on everyone’s radars since it was chosen to The Book of the BookTubeathon 2017. We had planned to read along with everyone else, but with YALC getting in the way, it was hard to coordinate. Now that YALC’s truly been and gone *sob sob*, we picked up Juniper and read it practically in one sitting. It was a fantastic book that dealt with grief and permanence in a way that didn’t make you want to bawl your eyes out, with a very lovely emphasis on building relationships with people who need them.

So, if you don’t know about it, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is all about a girl called Juniper (yes, Lemon. No, it’s not a spin off from Big Hero 6.) Her sister, Camie, died six months ago and she finds a letter she wrote to a mysterious ‘You’. Juniper then takes it upon herself to discover You’s identity, making a new friend along the way, kind of like the first six episodes of any magical girl series. The Happiness Index is a bunch of notecards that Juniper makes listing all the happy and sad things that happen during the day. One of her cards goes missing (with a pretty big confession on it) that’s the catalyst for Juniper’s to find her new love interest/ friendship group/ artistic mission for closure.

The mystery of ‘You’ definitely distracted Juniper from the grief and unspoken things surrounding her sister’s death. It wasn’t all overly dramatic and teary, with her crying in the cemetery late at night in the rain. (Although, Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer does that perfectly.) There’s certainly emotional resonance to Camie and Juniper’s relationship as you learn about what the pair did when they were younger or during national holidays but to have new beginnings as such an integral theme was a smart move of Julie Israel’s part. It was the perfect balance of quirky and fun, deep and real.

Our favourite aspect of the story was when Juniper was being a friend to the misfits, the loners and the just-likes-to-sit-in-the-library types. Seeing her surround herself with a growing circle of friends, while also trying to repair broken bridges with her bestie before Camie’s death, Lauren, was just the kind of positivity you needed.

I really liked that there was always more going on under the surface with Juniper’s mother and her grief, and Brand, Juniper’s love interest, and his home life. Her name might be in the title but she’s not the sole focus of the story, and to have so many little subplots involving the people around her made this a really rewarding read when you got to the end and the classic ceremonial burning of shared possessions.

Overall, we’d give Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index 4 stars. The mystery kept the pacing fast and the gotta-catch-them-all friendship group had us glued to the page. This was such a great debut for Julie Israel, and we’ll definitely be looking out for her next release!

Review: The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

If you love travel, or have been on a similar European tour, then this will feel like a Travel Diary and send you right back to your own adventures.

As someone who likes the idea of travelling but knows it’s definitely not for me, I have to admit I was bored at times. This is also from someone who loves DCOMs where travel is a huge part. (I’m talking Cheetah Girls 2, the Lizzie McGuire Movie, etc.) And let’s not forget my obsession with the old Mary-Kate and Ashley films. ‘When in Rome’ and ‘Winning London’ are pure classics. My favourite place the girls went to was probably Monte Carlo, only because I love the film ‘Monte Carlo’ and it reminded me how much I needed to rematch it. So, it’s not like I can’t enjoy travel stories, but this wasn’t the right one.

I don’t think the girls went through any character development. The ones that were in relationships ended up single and the girls not in relationships, found one. That was the only change. Personality wise, and friendship wise, they still seemed to be the same as page one. The friendship in general, though probably realistic, felt very imbalances. Leela had double standards and I wish the disconnect they were having could have been more of the centre rather than this Jackson guy who Leela kept calling a ‘Man Whore’….um no. You don’t get to judge someone based on how much sex they have! And they’d never even met! So, that was annoying.

I really liked what was going on with Sydney’s mother back home – her being agoraphobic and Sydney becoming the primary carer – and I would have much preferred to know more about that than their summer holidays. It felt like the most unique part of the story was happening outside of what we were being told.

I feel like their travels become a little dull, and kept hitting the same note. They’d struggle with money but somehow get through it, meet up with really kind people and sort of pick them up as they went along. (Even though there was this weird kissing contest that seemed to present itself at random times…) But there were no real stakes. We didn’t see the consequences of anything bad happening, so any sort of tension was completely lacking. Sydney and Leela had a few hiccups but nothing to stress over. I guess that’s because they were building this whole ‘perfect summer’ vibe, but maybe one instance of them having nowhere to sleep because they couldn’t afford it rather than some rich guy who fancies one of them coming in to save the day.

However thee final page did seem to suggest some kind of companion novel sequel about what was happening to one of Sydney and Leela’s other friends at the summer camp she was a counsellor at, which sounds 100% more up my street, so in the end, I’m glad I read this, so I could get the Easter eggs for the second book!

Review: Spellbook for the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

I had seen a lot of hype surrounding this book on twitter – lots of authors and publishers getting ARCS, which were beautiful, by the way. So, it’s one that’s been on my radar for a while, even though I had no idea when it was coming out. Then I went book shopping with Maddie and happened to see Spellbook For The Lost and Found on the table and I NEEDED IT. I picked it up practically as soon as I got home (which hardly ever happens) and I feel like I genuinely have some stuff to say about it, so let’s get to it.

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Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Note: We received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a book. If it’s shocking to you, it’s shocking to me too because I thought I was going to love this. It was one of my most anticipated releases and I was so excited to read an #OwnVoices story about teenagers of Indian descent. And for the most part, the elements of Indian culture and passion for your own heritage was my favourite part of the book. It delivered that, but that was the ONLY thing it delivered for me.

So, let’s just pros and cons everything about this book, from character to plot to actual writing: Continue reading “Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon”

Review: None Of The Above by I. W. Gregorio

This is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read this year. Although ‘None of the Above’ isn’t an own voices intersex story, Gregorio is a medical professional who has dealt with intersex patients and the amount of research and sensitivity reading that has gone into this book shows in the way it’s informative, sensitive and, most importantly, a delight to read.

Continue reading “Review: None Of The Above by I. W. Gregorio”