Review

I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

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I picked up this book without really knowing what it was about – I loved Radio Silence so much that I would probably read Alice Oseman’s shopping lists. This book is so different and yet so similar in theme to Radio Silence – if you haven’t picked up any of Alice’s books yet, you should. She is one of the few (if not the only) authors talking about teenage fandoms, internet culture, Tumblr, and the soul-crushing and dream-destroying expectations put on teenagers today.

I devoured I Was Born For This in an evening (something I almost never do). The story is told through dual perspectives. Angel Rahimi is a hijabi travelling to London to meet her best ever internet friend for the first time, so that they can both see their favourite band, The Ark. Jimmy Kawa-Ricci is the transgender frontman of The Ark, struggling with anxiety and debating whether to continue with the band. The book takes place over one week in their lives, where they are thrust together in unexpected circumstances.

This is UKYA at its best – distinctly British characters who are both relatable and realistic, dealing with issues such as anxiety, making friends over the internet, being part of a fandom (or being the subject of many fans), and the pressure to succeed. It’s not often you come across these issues, even in teenage fiction – and the diversity of characters in this book didn’t feel forced or tokenistic.
Each character’s voice was distinct, and I was rooting for both of these characters throughout the book.

A unique and incredibly readable read, and one that should be on your pre-order list as it is essential UKYA fiction. If you haven’t checked out Alice’s other books, now is the time.

annalsie

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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The Belles is a book that is completely up my street – it’s a thrilling court fantasy, with mystery and intrigue at every corner. I absolutely devoured this book – the language and writing is deliciously moreish, with vibrant descriptions unfurling the world of the Belles.

The Belles is the story of Camellia, one of six sisters who bring beauty to the fantasy kingdom of Orleans (based on New Orleans). The citizens of Orleans are born grey, and the Belles have the job of carrying out beauty treatments, changing the appearance and temperament of the citizens of Orleans at will. At the beginning of the book, the sisters are assigned a location where they will tend to the citizens – and Camellia is desperate to be favourite, assigned to the Royal family.

I raced through this book, desperate to know more about the Belles – I had (and have!) so many questions and can’t wait for the next book in the series. There are so many mysteries set up in this first book, and yet I still found the ending satisfying and unexpected.

This book wasn’t without its faults though – I’ll let other reviews talk about the treatment of queer characters in this book – and for me some of the characters were a little one-dimensional. For me, I didn’t find the flowery language too much, although other readers may find it a little grating. I must say I’m not the biggest fan of the cover design – I love the cover image and the design inside, but the back cover and title font feel a little childish to me. The blurb also contained spoilers for events that happen quite a way into the book.

If you’re looking for an exciting new court fantasy reminiscent of Red Queen or Everless, this is one for you. If you’re not, you should probably pick it up anyway.

annalsie

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Whew, where do I start with this one? I loved it.

When Dimple Met Rishi has been on my must-have releases of 2017 since I first heard of this book. This is the story of Dimple, an aspiring coder, who finally convinces her parents to let her go to Insomnia Con, a 6 week programme for coders, before she heads off to Stanford in the autumn. What Dimple doesn’t know is that her parents have only let her go so she can meet Rishi, a boy they approve of and wish for her to marry.

First things first, I loved the Indian references in this book – Dimple and Rishi are both Indian-American and I feel like I learned a lot about their culture just reading this book, from Bollywood references to the expectations placed on Dimple and Rishi by their respective families. And talking of their families, this is one YA book with realistic and present families throughout.

Dimple is a great character – she doesn’t conform with society’s expectations of her, shunning makeup and even traditional Indian clothes, and she is confident that she doesn’t want a boyfriend and wants to focus on her career. Rishi is also fully fleshed-out – he’s a hopeless romantic and traditionalist who has his heart set on marrying Dimple before he’s even met her. He’s also destined to study computer science, despite his love for comic artistry.

I loved the fact that this book is the older end of YA – Dimple and Rishi are both spending their summer before college/university at Insomnia Con. I loved the feel and tone of the book; it’s really something special, and it has that summery first-taste-of-freedom element to it.

If you like YA contemporary, this is a gorgeous summer romance that brings something new and refreshing to the YA table, and it has to be one of my favourite releases of the year so far.

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annalsie

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

Review: The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

The Princess Saves Herself in this One
The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and I finally got to read it, and it is seriously beautiful.

Amanda Lovelace crafts some beautiful, relatable poetry from her own experiences. I’m always amazed at how poetry can make you feel *something* in such a short space of time.

My only hesitation with this book is that I read it so quickly. Lightning fast. The art of Amanda’s poetry means that there are actually very few words, and so this book is a very fast experience. It was also fairly expensive (£10 in the UK).

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annalsie

Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

The State of Grace
The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: advanced reader copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

The State of Grace is the YA debut of Rachael Lucas, and it’s an OwnVoices novel about a teenage girl, the aforementioned Grace, who has Asperger’s. It’s been a long time coming for actual autistic representation in fiction, and especially in YA, which is known for tackling different subjects especially around mental health (and disability, to an extent).

As someone with family experience of autism, there were touches here and there which really make this book special, little insights into the life of an autistic person and how autistic people are treated as people. This is what really elevated this book for me – this is a book crafted with care from personal experience and it’s relatable and understandable.

Grace is a realistic character and feels more ‘teenage’ than some YA heroines as she gets to grip with teenage love and deals with school bullies and teachers and being a teenage girl. The romance in this book is sweet and, although I’m tired of every YA heroine needing a swoony love interest, we also need to be aware of the desexualisation of disabled people and that relationships with and between disabled people can, and do, exist and flourish.

I also loved that this book was set in North West England and I’m pretty sure I spotted some of the places from my childhood in this book so it gets a big thumps up from me for that!

The State of Grace is a quick, sweet and funny read that fills a much needed gap in UK YA. A must-read!

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annalsie

Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

If Birds Fly Back
If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: advanced reader copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

If Birds Fly Back is the story of Linny and Sebastian, set in a Miami summer at an old folks home called Silver Springs. Linny is still coming to terms with her older sister Grace’s disappearance and dealing with the pressure her parents are putting on her to become a doctor, and Sebastian has just found out who his father is, and has trekked from California to Miami to finally meet him. And then, Linny and Sebastian’s paths cross.

This book is written in dual perspective between Linny and Sebastian, which I really liked, and it’s sweet and adorable and nerdy – Sebastian dreams of being an astrophysicist and Linny wants to be a filmmaker, and we see physics quotes and film scripts throughout which up the cute factor.

Other reviewers have written about reading this book super quickly – I didn’t, I read this on the tube on my phone in the few moments I could get to a book and found the chapters the perfect length to dip in and out of. I will however say that this book is compelling, and the mystery element works really well here. Both Sebastian and Linny have really interesting premises, and I can definitely understand the addictive quality of this book.

This book also had a good dose of parents and complicated parental relationships, which is something I haven’t seen too much of in YA, and I loved the focus on where the characters will go after school, which is something so important and life-changing for many teens that we don’t always see in YA. I really liked Linny’s flawed friendship with Cass – I’m a big fan of friendships which aren’t perfect and unrealistic and Cass was a really interesting character in her own right. Sebastian also had a great (and realistic) friendship with his best friend back in California.

What I did notice throughout this book were the numerous bird references which were a really nice touch and not overdone.

If you loved Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s The Square Root of Summer, you’ll love this. The perfect summer read and a sure-fire summer hit.

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annalsie