teenager

Review: One by Sarah Crossan

One
One by Sarah Crossan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was recommended to read this book by #SundayYA, during a twitter conversation about disability in YA. I’m planning on reading more books which feature disability, so if you’ve got any recommendations, send them my way!

Tippi and Grace are conjoined twins, and at sixteen years old, are much older than they were expected to live. As the medical bills money worries pile up, their parents can’t afford to home school them anymore, and they must adjust to starting high school (and the real world).

The book is written in free verse, which is unlike any other book I’ve read before. With only a few words on each page, I sped through this book in about two hours. While I did really enjoy the book, the format has both good and bad sides. The book is easy and quick to read, and I felt the emotional parts of the book were emphasised through the format. However, speeding through the book meant it felt like it lacked some depth for me. Tippi and Grace’s day-to-day lives aren’t really explored in too much detail, which is something I would have liked to see.

The book is also written from the perspective of Grace, which I liked, although maybe a dual POV would have felt more natural.

I loved the family, if only because they were dysfunctional, with their own problems and lives. The characters felt fleshed out and realistic, and I enjoyed the side stories following the other characters. I felt the problems facing conjoined twins were explored in a satisfying, although predictable way.

The reason I can’t give this book 5 stars is simply because there’s no real resolution. Like a lot of YA books I’ve read recently, it comes to this great crescendo, and then the last few pages are just confusion. More epilogues please! That being said, the ending was really well done (except for the confirmation of what actually happened).

I’m really looking forward to reading more books that tackle disability in an interesting way, and this book certainly does that.

View all my reviews

Have you read this book or another about disability? What did you think? Tweet me at @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

 

Annalise x

Review: Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

 

Mind Your Head is the kind of book which makes me want to invent time-travel just so I could go back and hand out copies to 14-year-old me and friends. It’s the kind of book I’m recommending to all of my friends now, even though I’m older than the target audience. And it’s the kind of book which may even save a life.

After some wonderful Twitter chats concerning Disability (#SundayYA) and Mental Health (#UKYAChat), I wished I could read a book which would guide me through the different terms and types of mental illness. Weirdly enough, I realised I already knew of one – Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson. After nipping down to my local bookshop, I devoured the book in one night – and felt more educated as a consequence.

Mind Your Head is a book I think teenagers have been crying out for. It’s non-fiction, written in a friendly and funny way, with fun illustrations and personal anecdotes throughout. It reminded me of a Horrible Science book (which I loved when I was younger) – it’s fun, informative, and you forget that you’re actually learning.

We all have mental health – you really don’t need to be diagnosed with a disorder to read this book.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t think much at all about mental health. I knew of a few girls who suffered from panic attacks in lessons, but I didn’t understand anything about them. As with all teenage girls, I was very conscious about my weight, and I did get bullied a bit. I also read a lot, watched a lot of TV – which I think helped as I navigated through exams, exams, more exams and an incredible amount of friendship drama. I probably wouldn’t have though I needed this book – but there’s something for everyone. Everyone’s bullied or been bullied (often both). Everyone’s felt sad or anxious or nervous. Everyone’s experienced some kind of emotion.

When I got to university (still a teenager, but an older one), mental health became a much bigger deal. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say all of my best friends have mental health issues of some flavour – I have close friends battling depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm… you name it, I know someone who has experience with it. Reading this book helped with understanding my friends (some of whom do not like to discuss their issues) and my own mental health. Did my friends problems start at 18? Some of them did, but most of them came to university with years of mental health issues under their belts. It wasn’t that my friends when I was at school didn’t have mental health problems, it was more that it wasn’t talked about.

Books like Mind Your Head make mental health easier to talk about. It’s easier to talk about what you read in a book than open up about your own feelings sometimes.

  • Highlights for me:
    Mentioning that the first doctor you see might not be the right one for you – in my experience, this applies to all health problems. You’ll be much more likely to get healthier (both mentally and physically) if you can get on with your doctor and get the help you need.
  • Support – it’s acknowledged that support comes from different places. It doesn’t have to be from a doctor or therapist, it can be as simple as talking to friends and family or reading.
  • There’s a really great section on academic success. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at a top university (such as my own), mental illness is of epidemic proportions – and academic success is a huge source of stress for teenagers (and students of all ages).

TL;DR: This book is bloody brilliant, and I want to walk around handing out free copies (but unfortunately I probably can’t afford to do that).

Annalise x

P.S. I would love to see a similar book discussing things that affect teenage girls in more detail – periods, pregnancy, masturbation (I spent most of my teenage years convinced I had miraculously conceived) – and when to go to the doctor. Being taught about idealised biology (as an example, I was taught that every woman has a 28 day cycle – and I didn’t, so that was a source of stress and worry) can do some harm as well as good. What this books really excels in is being honest and talking about what is normal and what isn’t, and I think this would apply really well to other topics.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Comment below or tweet me at @AnnaliseBooks 🙂

Review: Forever by Judy Blume

Forever
Forever by Judy Blume

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forever is a story about a teenager’s first love and first time (having sex). Katherine and Michael are two older teenagers who meet, hit it off, and start dating. He wants to have sex with her, she’s not entirely sure if she wants to, but then she agrees and they do it. There are no horrific consequences – she doesn’t get pregnant, she doesn’t catch an STD, and she doesn’t die – and this is what sets it apart from other books depicting this kind of story (at least at the time it was published).

The story is a fairly realistic depiction of teenage romance – actual teenage romance without a paranormal element and rainbows and fireworks if and when the main characters have sex. There are scenes where both main characters acquire contraception – something a lot of YA writers leave out, because it ruins the romance of it all. This is where the book really excels – and why it is still a bestseller today – it’s realistic. There’s premature ejaculation and awkwardness and the whole ‘making-a-big-deal-of-it-all’ aspect of high school. Katherine and Michael are not soulmates (although they believe it at the time) and their relationship doesn’t even last the summer. Sure, there are people who marry their first boyfriend and live happily ever after, but it just isn’t the norm in real life (although it seems to be in YA). Michael’s had sex before, and I’d love to see more of this in fiction – real, experienced characters, especially girls. Every YA heroine seems to be an innocent virgin, and every villain is a sexually promiscuous bad girl – and it only reinforces slut-shaming and the idea that once you’ve had sex your personality miraculously changes.

The whole story is pretty progressive. Kath’s parents would rather have her having sex at home that god-knows-where, and her grandmother sends her pamphlets on all-sorts of relevant information – abortion and contraception. There’s a character questioning his sexuality and experimenting. There’s an attempted suicide, due to said questioning. It’s only disappointing that, forty years after this book was first published, so much of the story is relevant today. Teenagers are still having sex (shock horror), but there’s still controversy around non-heterosexual characters, abortion, and even just sex in general in YA fiction. In Kath’s world, there is no shame over having sex, using contraception, having an abortion – they’re seen as sensible, responsible choices. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world just yet.

Forever is known for being teenage girls’ first read of realistic sex. The topics involved (and the age of the main characters) suggest this book is for older girls, but the writing style is simplistic, and I almost felt a little too old to be reading it. The whole plot seems a little undercooked – at only 200 pages long, I would have happily read a book with a bit more padding. Some really interesting sub-plots are touched on briefly – Sybil’s hidden pregnancy, Jamie’s first experiences of love, and Artie’s possible homosexuality – which really would have brought the book into its own had they been expanded on. I think the tone and style of the book is really a remnant of the era in which it was first published – it reminds me a lot of the books I read published in the 1980s and 1990s, like Animal Ark and The Babysitters Club, rather than the high-octane paranormal fantasy romances that dominate YA today.

Ultimately, this is a book written to teach girls about safe, realistic sex. It more than achieves in that aim – and it’s a testament that girls are still reading it today. If it was a little longer, maybe those who don’t normally read, wouldn’t bother to read it.

I would kind of love to see a new Forever on the market though – a cult bestseller written today that portrays sex and being a teenager realistically. I’d also like to see a book that touches on the same theme but is aimed at boys – Forever is told through a girl’s perspective (as many YA novels are), and I’d be interested to read something from the other side for once!

(Also, my 2015 copy has a lovely design (a simple cherry) which isn’t as cheesy as some of the others and has red gilded edges)

Did you enjoy Forever? Do you have any recommendations? Tweet me at @annalisebooks or comment below 🙂

Annalise x

View all my reviews