Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac 51vf-m3-xol1by Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Published by: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Rating:
★★★
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

It all started with a coin toss. A simple wager on who would have to go back to the school to collect the camera that they had left behind. It was Naomi who lost and subsequently fell down the front steps of her school. The next thing she knew she woke up in hospital. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is the story of a girl who has forgotten who she once was and is trying to make sense of who she is now, but not everyone is quite so happy with the change. When she eventually does remember who she is she has to face moving on with the troubles she had previously forgotten, and decide what she is going to do with her life now that she has a fresh start.

      I loved the writing style; it was perfectly formed for a teenage audience. The banter between Naomi and her best friend Will was hilarious and there were some particularly great one liners that I’ll have to use at some point. Even though Naomi was confused and slightly off-kilter when it came to her emotions, as an audience we’re not annoyed by this because it’s understandable in her condition, whereas in other young adult books I will not refrain from shouting at the protagonist until she pulls herself together.

      However, regardless of that fact that she has suffered from some emotional and physical trauma, I didn’t think it was a good enough excuse for treating her friends badly. I understood why she didn’t want to tell them everything now that she was ‘a new person’, and for the most part she did handle things quite as well as I would have hoped, but when it came to Will I just didn’t get how she could ignore him.

      There were moments when she was with James (the boy that sort of rescued her from the fall) when I thought: even if she had lost her memory, surely she shouldn’t have lost her common sense, but apparently so. It was still an enjoyable read.

      The novel is split up into three parts: I was, I am and I will, and my favourite section was definitely I was. Everything was explained perfectly, and Zevin made sure to tie up the majority of the loose ends by ‘I will’, but I couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed with the ending. I wanted more to have happened and there to have been more character development. I was proud of how Naomi dealt with her family, but with boys she definitely still has some work to do.

Therefore this one gets a 3/5 rating.

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus UK

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Published by: Anchor
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Rating:
★★★★
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

I have heard nothing but good things about this book and I have to say it did live up to my expectations. The Night Circus is hard to explain as there are just so many elements to it and the blurb gives almost nothing away. From the title you can ascertain that it is indeed about a Circus and everything that comes to mind when the word ‘Circus’ is mentioned. You may also have guessed that as it is called ‘The Night Circus’ it is indeed only open…at night.

      The Night Circus is a story of romance, mystery and magic. Two magicians are to face a ‘challenge’ and what happens to the loser isn’t revealed until almost the end of the novel. Written in the third person, we experience chapters with almost every character and multiple time lines that all fit together in the end. We start with Celia Bowen when she is five, and we finish the story when she is in her mid-thirties. Although The Night Circus is a stand-alone novel the romantic elements do not feel like an ‘insta-love’ as so often is the case in young adult literature, simply because their love story has lasted almost twenty years in the scheme of things.

      Along with the third person narrative interspersed throughout the novel are second person passages that explain the circus as if you are really there. The Circus itself is a mystery; therefore having it explained to you in that way really helps to build up an image of the Circus. These passages are also key to the plotline even though you don’t quite realise how until more things are explained.

      Reading The Night Circus is very much like playing a game of ‘Jenga.’ With each new piece of information a brick is placed on top of the pile, and with every mystery a brick is taken away. However, you get to the final part of the novel and realise that the tower is way too high and the climax of the story has to topple it down. This is the part where you may be slightly disappointed. You’re still learning about the way of the circus and some things have started to piece together, but there are still bricks being taken and somehow everything still stands up. Just when you think everything is going to fall down, the tower stops swaying and you’re left pretty much where you began. I think there wasn’t quite enough closure, and the ‘competition’ wasn’t explained as well as it could have been – leaving it up to the imagination. It may have been a slightly laboured metaphor, but once you read it I guarantee that it won’t sound quite as ridiculous.

      Overall, I still got completely caught up with the story and will have to buy myself a copy – as I found this gem in my school’s library – so that I can re-read my favourite parts. 4/5 A must read as long as you’re okay to fill in a couple of blanks on your own.

Review: Slated by Teri Terry

Slated by TSlatederi Terry
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-fi
Published By: Orchard Books
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

Originally, I wasn’t going to pick up this book. I’ve already had my fill of stories about girls that didn’t know the world they lived in was an elaborate lie the government produced as a method of control. But, after consulting GoodReads, my trusty reviewing companion, I decided that ‘Slated’ had something to prove.

The idea is that teenagers that have done terrible wrongs in their lives are given a clean slate (hence the newly coined verb: to slate) and are ‘reprogrammed’ to no longer feel anger; their emotions controlled by a device with a death grip on their wrist.

Kyla (beautiful name) is the main character so, as we are reminded many times, is different. She can feel anger. She can remember parts of her previous life. She is unhappy to conform to the world the government is trying hard to maintain and is desperate to learn about her past self, and the horrible thing she did to be Slated.

 One thing I’ve learnt from novels like this: questioning the government ends in your ultimate termination….or the termination of the government, of life as we know it, of the truth. (These books can be a little melodramatic.)

Generally the pace of the book was very slow. I put this down to it being the first in the series, so a lot of explaining had to be done to build the world, but perhaps 300 pages of miniscule plot was slightly excessive. Kyla doesn’t actually get her ‘mission’ until the final third of the book and though the first two thirds aren’t without purpose they could have been more exciting.

There was a love interest, though like a modern Jane Eyre, Kyla was hung up on the fact that he may have been previously dating another girl that disappeared. The love story felt slightly forced, as if romance is a necessary part of all teen fiction, when in some cases it can only distract from the action.

The last five pages were thrilling, though slightly confusing because the pace of the novel rapidly increased, like Teri Terry was trying to sprint to the finish after she’d saved up her energy at the start of the race.

Dark and sinister in places, ‘Slated’ was a captivating read (when the plot was actually moving forward.) I enjoyed the relationships between Kyla and all other characters; there was so much development below the surface.
Overall, 4 stars.

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

17208924Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ
Published by: Penguin
Pages: 310
Format: Paperback
Rating:
★★
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

Will Grayson and Will Grayson, by John Green and that other guy, you have both failed to impress me. I had such high expectations for this book, after reading all of John Green’s other published works and having sampled David Levithan’s writing when I read ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’. Perhaps, because of these high expectations, I was guaranteed to be let down.

      Being a co-written book, ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’ is a mixture of good and bad. Unlike other co-written books, such as ‘Beautiful Creatures’, it is easy to tell which writer is writing which Will Grayson. I preferred the first Will, who had a fairly robotic way of life until his joints were oiled by love. The way that this Will Grayson articulated his feelings was occasionally beautiful but generally easy to relate to. It was easier to love this Will Grayson, compared to the second one.
      The second Will Grayson was distinguished by his inability to use capital letters. He was suffering from depression and knew that he shouldn’t use his mental condition as an excuse for being a rude and horrible person, but did it anyway. The way he treated his friends and his mother made me want to distance myself from his character, or completely skip his chapters all together. One Will Grayson was definitely enough for me.
      The second Will Grayson was gay. This book did a lot to raise the awareness of homosexuality; the plot is all about a musical production about being gay. But, I didn’t understand why it was so necessary to make a big deal over who was gay and who wasn’t. Isn’t the point of raising awareness about homosexuality to promote that everyone is normal, no matter what? Why did the fact that a character may or may not be gay have to constantly be mentioned?
      Also, one of the main aspects of the book was that the Will Graysons were both meant to meet. This meeting didn’t happen until 100 pages in, yet the I felt the plot in first 100 pages could have been at least halved. Not a lot was happening up until the point they met, and to be honest, not a lot happened after that either. I’d say, out of the whole 308 pages, both Will Graysons were together for 20 pages, max. Not what I expected.
      The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying, but at least one Will Grayson got a happy ending.
Of course, if you’re looking for a book that has a trial and error (or trial-error-trial) attempt at being witty and somewhat insightful then this is the book for you. If you’re dead set on reading this book just because John Green co-wrote it, may I recommend ‘Paper Towns’ instead? The library also has a copy of this and you won’t regret the decision of deciding to follow the story of Quentin and Margo over Will Grayson and the other Will Grayson.

Review: Dead Ends by Erin Lange

Dead Ends by Erin Jadead-endsde Lange
Genre: Contemporary, Friendship
Published By: Bloomsbury
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Rating:
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

I picked up this book because a lovely friend of mine said she had mixed opinions on it and I wanted to see if I could come up with a more definitive thought on the novel to share with her. Plus, I loved the colour of the cover.

‘Dead Ends’ is told from a bully’s perspective, though like many bullies, he doesn’t realise what he’s doing is wrong until someone else, in this case a kid with Down’s Syndrome, Billy, points it out. Dane, the bully, is roped into helping Billy around school and their on-off friendship leads to trouble, mayhem and more trouble as both boys try and find their lost fathers.

It was definitely interesting to read a novel told from a troubled perspective. It was a different dynamic that I’m not entirely sure I enjoyed. Dane didn’t seem very anxious about the repercussions of his actions, whereas I’m sure Voldemort might have felt at least some inner turmoil.

The relationship that grew between Dane and Billy was a Marmite relationship – they either liked each other or they didn’t. Dane had a few double standards when it came to Billy – he didn’t like other people treating him differently because of his appearance yet would distance himself from Billy’s company by not wanting to call him a friend. As the novel progressed, I’m sure his outlook changed but it annoyed me that Dane wasn’t completely accepting of Billy like he wanted others to be.

Slightly ‘Paper Towns’-esque when the boys were trying to figure out a trail of clues left for Billy by his dad on how to find him. That was slightly interesting, but not enough to make me turn the pages any faster.

Billy had his own double standards when it came to honesty, though I won’t go into that but it made me feel as angry as Dane at the injustice of his outbursts, which were valid but not at all fair.

The plot progressed nicely, with new things being weaved into the story at semi-regular intervals that helped me to keep reading. My favourite character was probably the love interest, Seely, but it seemed she was only written in for convenience and didn’t hold a bigger purpose other than ‘the girl with the computer’.

Still, it would be wrong to say I didn’t enjoy parts of the novel, though it didn’t contain anything that wowed me. My rating would therefore be: 2.6 stars because I felt, in the end,  I was just reading it to finish it, not to love it.

(Spoiler) Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

fallenFallen by Lauren Kate
Genre: Romance, Paranormal
Published by: Delacorte Press
Pages: 452
Format: Paperback
Rating:
★★.5
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

There are certain buzzwords in novel descriptions that just seem to put me off the story, because I feel like it’s going to be the same thing as what I’ve read before. Things like ‘dark and mysterious boy’ and ‘they’ve met in another life’ not to mention the oh so clichéd ‘love triangle.’

And Fallen had all of these things, but for some reason I still felt compelled to read it. Granted, this is probably because of the pending movie, and I didn’t want to be left out of any hype. Movie Casting: http://laurenkatebooks.net/its-official-the-fallen-cast/

      Fallen follows the story of Luce, who has been haunted by shadows all her life, and one day those shadows do something terrible that ensures Luce a place at Sword & Cross – home for delinquents. Which is where she meets the crazy Arriane and the bookish Penn. Not to mention the two boys that steal her heart…well, okay so there’s this one boy and he’s all dark and mysterious but they’ve met each other in a past life and they’re just meant to be. And then there’s the other one.

      Luce wasn’t the strongest of female protagonists, but she certainly wasn’t weak, the fact that she told people how she was feeling was quite refreshing. She did have moments where she lost a little bit of her common sense, but other than that I enjoyed her character. There wasn’t a large amount of character development, and I think this was because everything happened so quickly.

      I haven’t read a lot of books where Angels are the focus so it was nice to delve into a slightly different genre. Although, Fallen definitely had a Twilight feel to it…except instead of vampires and a werewolf we just get one moody angel and one even moodier angel.

      I feel that Fallen was written just as a warm up for the next three books in the trilogy and, if the Goodreads ratings are anything to go on, then the series seems to get better and better. Although I enjoyed the characters I didn’t connect with them enough to feel outraged, or any strong emotion in particular in regards to the ending.

      There were so many questions that were just left unanswered I feel I have to follow on to the next book, just to get some closure on the first. Overall, I did enjoy the story, despite some of the clichés and my better judgment. I gave Fallen 3.5/5 stars, but more specifically I’d say:

Main Characters = 3/5
I liked them enough to want to continue the series, let’s just say that.

Love story =2/5
It hasn’t developed enough for me to feel attached to their relationship, but I am sure that this rating will improve as I continue to read the series.

Other characters = 4/5
I liked the dynamic between Penn and Luce, although it felt like sometimes Luce could have been more appreciative.

Drama = 3.5/5
There was a lot of it, but things were so rushed at the end there they lost their effect.


 

[SPOILER ALERT]

 

 

Penn’s death seemed a little unnecessary, and I was surprised at how impassive Luce was. She did register some sadness, but not enough to cry over her dead best friend’s body, and it certainly didn’t stop her for skipping off with Daniel and doing whatever he told her to do.

Daniel, buddy, with your current track record – which, by the way, we still aren’t fully clued in on – I have no idea why Luce is so willing to trust you. I mean, she trusted Miss Sophia and look what that got her. A dead Penn. Luce must be extremely devoted to Daniel to trust his judgment so quickly and he’s barely told her anything!

I’d say that the characters were way too nonchalant about all the deaths that happen in this book, actually. We may not have known Todd very well, but surely his death would have procured a little more emotional distress.