pregnancy

Review: Countless by Karen Gregory

Countless
Countless by Karen Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

I’ve been excited for this book for a while, and thank you goes to the publisher, Bloomsbury (Hooked on Books) for sending me a proof copy!

Hedda is struggling with anorexia, and then she discovers she is pregnant. She’s scared and in the grips of an eating disorder, who she calls Nia. Hedda suddenly has some difficult decisions to make.

This isn’t an easy read, and might be triggering for some readers. This is an account of an eating disorder from inside the mind of Hedda, and I believe this is an OwnVoices novel in regards to anorexia. We see flashbacks to when Hedda was in hospital with her eating disorder, and Hedda talks to her friends who are still in the grips of eating disorders themselves.

I liked how this book was raw and didn’t have any easy, fairytale solutions. This was a really unique book, with an interesting living situation and backstory, and I liked the structure of the story. We see grotty flats and dysfunctional families, a love interest who isn’t some fairytale prince come to sweep Hedda off her feet. Hedda has to face her problems head on throughout the book, which I really liked.

This book took me two days to read – it was complelling as it was a welcome addition to the UK YA landscape.
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annalsie

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Review: How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

How Not To Disappear
How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah, this book. I loved it.

Hattie is a teenager, who has just found out she’s pregnant with her best friend’s baby. And she’s not sure how to feel about that. A distraction comes in the form of her long lost aunt Gloria, who’s losing her memories, and so Hattie takes her on a road trip of places that mean a lot to her so she can remember them one last time.

I really love books about teen pregnancy and the issues faced by pregnant teens, and this was such a heartwarming coming-of-age story that read like an adult novel, with complex and diverse characters who almost jumped off the page. At times, this book has dual narrative, which I loved, and the author doesn’t shy away from difficult and complex relationships and conundrums where there is no ‘right’ answer. This is a heartbreaking and heartfelt novel that I couldn’t put down.

If you’re looking for an emotional rollercoaster with a strong focus on family, HOW NOT TO DISAPPEAR is a top choice.

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annalsie

On *THAT* Telegraph Article – Portrayal of SEX in YA

This morning (afternoon?), Twitter has been ablaze with talk of an article that was published in the Telegraph attacking the Zoella Book Club choices because of their portrayal of sex.

If you haven’t given it a read, you can find it here.

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The gist of the article is that these books are BAD for teenage girls because of the way they portray sex.

The article labels all YA literature as ‘fluffy, joyful escapism’ when, in reality, a lot of the books on the list deal with mental health issues, and are a little more serious and well researched than a smutty romance novel. The idea that YA readers are reading absolute fluff is an outdated one – the genre is incredibly diverse and pioneering, and many recent books have been a little harrowing. While ‘sick lit’ has been demonised in the press, the explosion of books surrounding mental health issues and including LGBT characters has simply, to my knowledge, not been echoed in the wider fiction market.

A lot of the books I’ve recently read in YA are not fluffy romances – they’re tackling difficult issues, ones that simply aren’t discussed in mainstream education.

That’s not to say that the author of this article is wrong. The portrayal of virginity and slut-shaming in YA still has far to go, but the problem doesn’t lie with any one individual book. Just like the ‘dark romance’ days of YA normalised the idea that a dark, mysterious bad boy  is probably a secret sweetheart who will win your father’s affection and then also turn you into a vampire, portrayal of virginity as a whole as a ‘gift’ and something you can ‘lose’ to someone else – the idea that your sexual identity is something someone else can alter and take away from you – is still problematic.

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Again, it isn’t the fault of just one book, but when the media, your culture, even your religion is telling you that virginity is something you shouldn’t consider losing lightly, and that you should only give to someone special (despite the same sources telling boys the opposite), it’s no wonder many girls make a huge deal out of it. That isn’t YA’s fault (and it isn’t necessarily a problem), but YA could do more to change the rhetoric. It’s an uphill battle against pretty much all other forms of media, but if YA is anything, it is progressive.

We unfortunately live in a society which teaches girls that sex should be painful for them, that they won’t enjoy it, and the only thing that matter is that the man ejaculates. That isn’t the fault of YA, it’s a problem with society itself.

On the other hand, we often see dream-like portrayals of sex in contemporary romance (fantasy romance like ACOMAF gets a free pass in my book) where first-time sex is a brilliant unity of souls culminating in an explosive (but definitely not sticky!) simultaneous orgasm. This, again, is problematic, but in a different way.

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(I’d also like to say that virginity is an interesting concept when it comes to non-heterosexual couples, which are often ignored in the general media, but I do feel YA is getting there with LGBT representation. It isn’t perfect, and I would LOVE to see virginity dealt with in a book about LGBT characters – if you know any books that do deal with this, let me know!)

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Back to the article, I agree with Emma Oulton’s comments that teenage girls are being failed a proper sex education (in fact, I feel like PSHE itself is completely lacking – we need better mental health education, better political education and better health education in general – especially women’s health, periods and the like) and Young Adult literature is an art form that can help tackle this chronic miseducation. The Zoella Book Club choices are a little narrow (in that they tend to focus on mental health issues, and there is no inclusion of LGBT characters, for example), but I do honestly feel that future book clubs could diversify, and there would have been outrage against these books if they dealt with some of the more controversial topics that often feature in YA (for example, Louise O’Neill’s brilliant Asking For It).

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At the end of the day, Zoella  has a brilliant opportunity to bring books to the masses of teenage girls that focus on some hard-hitting issues. The books she has chosen aren’t ‘fluffy’, and it’s improper to attack the authors of these books for one sentence in their work – but on the other hand, we as a genre need to be addressing the issue that is the portrayal of virginity ( as well as many other important portrayals), and we have a brilliant opportunity to fight back against the lack of education on these topics.

What are your thoughts on the article? Have you read any of the Zoella Book Club choices? Tweet me at @annalisebooks or comment below!

Annalise x

Review: Trouble by Non Pratt

Trouble
Trouble by Non Pratt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I have the UK (Teal) edition, and whereas I do really like it now, I know teenage me would have cringed to have a book with sperm so prominently featured on it! The US version is a little more subtle, and the German version (Fuck you Leben!) is quite… to the point? Despite the sperm, this book actually really fits in colour-wise with the rest of my bookshelf (teal is REALLY popular at the moment) so I’m happy.

Trouble is written in dual-narrative between Hannah and Aaron. Hannah is a troublesome 15 year old who has just discovered sex and booze, and Aaron is a student who’s just transferred from another school. Hannah finds herself pregnant unexpectedly, and the book follows her pregnancy (it’s split into three trimesters) as she battles the bump, family issues, and her ex-best friend. She finds a friend in Aaron, who, despite never having slept with Hannah, suggests that he pretend to be her baby’s father.

Trouble is a thought-provoking, and at time, shocking book (in a good way). It’s rare to find teenagers written about honestly and realistically, living in the UK and not off at boarding school/fantasyland. I love unconventional families, and Trouble also features elderly people and parents as real people and not just plot devices to control our main characters. The juxtaposition of Hannah and Aaron is interesting, and there’s a really good cast of supporting characters, from the friendly Gideon and Anj, to angsty older stepbrother Jay.

This is no idealistic teenage fantasy – these teenagers drink and sleep together and fail exams. They lie and keep secrets and make mistakes.

The writing is really good (I read the first page on Kindle then knew I had to get the book), and the story has twists and turns. Overall, a really engaging novel that I read in a few days.

My only issue (and what stops the book getting the hallowed 5 stars) is that it ends quite abruptly (something I’ve found quite common with my reading choices lately). There’s no real resolution of a few plot lines – an epilogue would have been really nice here!

If you’re looking for something realistic from UK YA fiction, you can’t go much wrong with Trouble by Non Pratt.
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