UK

Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The One Memory of Flora Banks
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Advance Copy received from the Publisher from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

The One Memory of Flora Banks is the story of Flora, who suffers from anterograde amnesia. She can remember everything from before she was 10, but every morning she has to read her story to find out who she is. Flora’s life is confusing for Flora, as she is creating no new memories – that is, not until she kisses her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, which she remembers in all its vibrancy. When Drake moves away to the North Pole, Flora believes she must follow him as he is the key to her gaining her memory back.

Flora’s story was incredibly vivid and realistic for me – it felt like I was in her thoughts and the entire story is written in a really compelling way. The world was also superbly described and vivid, and this makes a perfect winter read. All of the characters in this story are understandable and easy to empathise with, and that’s what really made this book realistic and relatable for me.

The writing here is clever in that Flora’s voice is very young but it’s not for everyone – due to Flora’s condition, there are parts of the novel which feel very repetitive and can easily be glossed over.

One thing that did leave me a little uneasy was this whole trope that the love of a teenage boy can cure you, and I was worried in this book that that’s where it was going. Although it didn’t in the end, opening that entire narrative (when it’s really common in other YA novels) is dangerous, and there are too many books on the market that end in a character being ‘cured’ of their mental illness. This is something that really irks me as it suggests that disability is something that can be and should be cured. I’d love to read more novels where a disabled character simply carries on – and personally, I feel we should have more disabled characters in novels where disability isn’t their entire story.

Overall, a book that perhaps isn’t for everyone, but one that transported me into Flora’s world and kept me reading until the grand reveal.

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annalsie

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YALC Reading List Part 5!

It’s Part 5 of the YALC Reading List!

You can find parts one, two, three and four on the other side of those links.

The YALC Reading List is published every Sunday evening, but I am currently on a semi-official hiatus (thesis writing!) until the 10th June, so the next few parts may be slightly delayed…

Let’s get started, shall we?

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36. Natasha Carthew

Book to read: Winter Damage / The Light That Gets Lost

Natasha’s first novel Winter Damage was nominated for the 2014 Carnegie medal and shortlisted for other awards, including the Branford Boase award. Her second novel, The Light That Gets Lost, was released in October last year, and focuses on a small boy who witnesses his parents’ murder, and years later, ends up at a camp for troubled teenagers. Unfortunately, both of these books have Goodreads ratings in the 2-3 stars range – it appears these books are a real love-em-or-hate-em deal, with an interesting style of prose that some people can’t get through. I try not to read anything with a Goodreads rating less than 3.5, so I think I’ll be giving these a miss.

37. Cat Clarke

Book to read: The Lost and the Found

Cat Clarke has win the Lancashire Book award, the Redbridge Teen award, and was nominated for the Branford Boase award. Her latest novel, The Lost and the Found, came out last July, and is about a girl, Faith, whose sister was abducted at a young age, and whose abduction took over her family’s life. When her sister returns, Faith becomes isolated and paranoid. This book sounds really interesting, so definitely an addition to my TBR list.

38. Keren David

Book to read: Cuckoo

This book is a slightly different addition to the YALC reading list because it comes out on August 4th, but I’m hoping there will be copies of this at YALC (to get signed!). Cuckoo is the story of a boy, Jake, who is a household name due to his starring role in a soap, but whose character has been off air for a while. With family life hitting boiling point (with a father with anger issues, a severely autistic brother and the family finances in bad shape), Jake doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. This is one I am definitely looking forward to!

39. Ben Davis

Book to read: The Private Blog of Joe Cowley series

Apparently an older version of Wimpy Kid, these books look really funny, written as the blog of 14-year-old Joe Cowley, who wants to draw comics, and is a self-confessed ‘serial repeller of girls’. These books look like the encapsulate what it feels like to be a weird teenage boy (something I guess I have no experience of).

40. Juno Dawson

Book to read: Mind Your Head

Juno was one of my personal highlights of last year’s YALC in her fabulous Daenerys Targaryen outfit, and I’m so glad she’ll be in residence once again this year. Mind Your Head (review here) and Spot the Difference (review here) have been great reads this year – Mind Your Head is a non-fiction guide to mental health and being a teenager, whereas Spot the Difference is a fiction novella about a girl with severe acne. I’ve been meaning to dive into Juno’s other books (written as James Dawson) so will perhaps pick up one or two at YALC.

41. Catherine Doyle

Book to read: Vendetta/Inferno

The Blood for Blood trilogy (third book coming soon) has rave reviews on GoodReads and has been described as Romeo & Juliet meets The Godfather, set in modern day Chicago. Vendetta is on my TBR shelf (along with pretty much every YA book ever) but after reading some amazing reviews, I think it needs to be bumped up a few spots. As well as (apparently) being gritty, funny, and full of warring families and forbidden romance, the covers of these books are also to die for.

42. Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

I remember Tom and Lucy from last year’s YALC – Lucy is a school librarian and Tom is a journalist. They also used to date. Their first novel together, Lobsters, is about two friends, Sam and Hannah, trying to find their ‘lobster’ i.e. The One, whereas Never Evers, their second novel, is about a French ski resort, where Mouse goes after being kicked out of ballet academy, and where Jack stands in for a famous popstar who happens to be the spitting image of him. Both these books have good reviews, so I’ll probably pick up one or the other soon.

43. Natasha Farrant

Book to read: Lydia, the Bad Bennet girl

Natasha Farrant’s newest novel is a re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice (which I really should get reading, now to think of it), focusing on Lydia, the youngest Bennet sister. This book is out in September, so I’m hoping for some early copies floating around YALC!

That’s it for this week’s installment in the YALC Reading List!

Which books are you planning on reading? Which books should I definitely pick up? Tweet me at @annalisebooks or comment below!

Annalise x

 

Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

First off, a huge thank you to Jim (@yayayeah) for the copy of Radio Silence – it genuinely has been one of the best books I’ve read this year (and I’ve read some brilliant books!)

Radio Silence is an important, well-needed book in the YA genre, touching on topics that have never been touched on before – or if they have, only fleetingly. I’m 100% sure this book will be up for some big awards next year, and I’ve genuinely heard nothing but praise for this book. I’ve already given the award of ‘If you have to read one book this year, this is it’ to Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It (review here), but this is a well-deserving close second place.

Radio Silence is a tale of friendship (and yes, platonic friendship between a male and female character, because that is so unheard of!), fandom and the fear of not being perfect.

The characters are well-developed and diverse, with a range of different sexualities and ethnicities featured, never feeling forced or out of place. The parental figures, in particular, are developed and have their own motivations and feelings, something rarely seen in YA fiction.

The main topic that spoke out to me, the reader, were the themes of having to be perfect, the pressure to go to university, and also the pressure to enjoy university. I particularly liked the characters of Frances and Aled, and their differing perspectives brought on by their (small) age gap. Carys also was refreshing and interesting.

About halfway through the book, I started noting down the quotes that really spoke out to me, so here are a few:

‘…obviously not everyone enjoyed university. I knew I would though… I was study machine Frances Janvier. I was going to Cambridge and I was going to get a good job and earn lots of money and I was going to be happy.’

‘“How about we go to the cinema this weekend?” she said. “Just a little break from all this Cambridge stuff.”
“I don’t have time. Maybe after my interviews.”’

‘I loaded up an episode of Universe City to listen to but couldn’t bring myself to press play, because I had work to do, and that was more important.’

‘“But now… I’m just… when you get to this age, you realise you’re not anyone special after all.”’

There are some others, but they’re a bit spoiler-ific, so I’ll leave them out – but Alice Oseman may well have written this book whilst peering into my soul. A lot of the points she makes on the topic of university and the pressure to be successful are valid and relatable, and the idea that even if you are bright, you can hate university and it may not be the path for you, is one that isn’t talked about enough.

A truly brilliant second novel, that should be read and discussed by prospective university applicants (and everyone, ever). (Also the cover is bloody brilliant and looks fab on my bookshelf).

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How did you find Radio Silence? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks!

Annalise x

Review: V for Violet by Alison Rattle

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V for Violet by Alison Rattle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: Review copy received via netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.


Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe – an auspicious start, but now she’s just stuck in her family’s fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn’t look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck. But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all…

V for Violet is the story of Violet, a working-class girl in the early 1960s, stuck working in her family’s fish and chip shop. Her life is shadowed by the loss of her older brother during the war, and her arrival into the world a year later largely went unnoticed – the loss of Joseph still hangs over the family, 16 years on.

Violet is also drifting away from her best friend, Jackie, who has a new job at the sugar factory, and with it, a new gaggle of friends.

And then there’s Beau – the rocker who Violet can’t help being attracted to.

First off, I loved the setting – I loved all the little historical details, and this book really does feel like a fresh addition to the YA market. This is a book which makes you feel like you’re immersed in the 1960s, and the plot involving Joseph was really well executed. I loved the murder mystery element to the story – it really adds a tone of suspicion to most of the characters, and again, it feels different to a lot of YA novels today.

Most YA characters tend to be middle-class, with no money worries or a care in the world – but not Violet. Still being bossed around by her parents, she rebels with rocker Beau, your typical bad-boy and suspected murderer. Even though the bad boy rhetoric has been done a thousand times before, Violet’s attraction to him in understandable, and the murder mystery aspect of the novel adds a darker edge which makes Beau stand out.

I also enjoyed the sub-plot with Jackie – both Jackie and Violet are growing up – and apart – which is a story that I think most people can relate to but is rarely touched upon in YA. Often the heartbreak of losing a dear friend can be more than losing a love interest, and the difficulties in Jackie and Violet’s friendship are realistic and relatable.

If you’re looking for a new UKYA novel that will sweep you off to the swinging 60s, V for Violet is available in all good UK bookshops from 7th April, 2016.

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Annalise x

Review: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

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The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It’s a little bit like a black hole. It’s a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she’s hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone’s heart is about to be broken.

Firstly, I would like to that NetGalley for the preview of this book.

Secondly, I’m going to start with a disclaimer. I kept on falling asleep reading this book. I don’t know whether that’s because I had an exam this week (hence the short hiatus from reviews), but I’d guess it has something to do with the fact that the pace of this book is extremely slow (almost whimsical) and so don’t be fooled by the fact that this book is ‘only’ 300 pages – it took me a lot longer than usual to read (perhaps due to the aforementioned nodding off problem).

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Gottie Oppenheimer is a prospective physics student, who loves science. Last summer she had a summer romance with her brother’s best friend, Jason (her brother doesn’t know), and then her grandad died, and it took its toll on her. This summer, her childhood best friend is moving back home, and Gottie starts uncontrollably time travelling. Cool, huh?

I loved that Gottie loved science (a LOT of characters seem to love English Lit, hmm) and that science was theme through the book. STEM subjects are way underrepresented in YA literature, often because female characters are a little stereotypical – artsy, creative, usually not unlike the author themselves. I also loved that Gottie was in that AS/A2 gap (similar to Frances in Radio Silence, review coming soon) and trying to decide what to do with her life.

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I was also surprised to learn this is set in England (i’m too used to US-centric YA) and I liked the setting and backdrop to the story. The little droplets about UCAS applications, etc. really appealed to me, and I’d love to read more UKYA in the future (especially when they’re definitively set in the UK rather than some nameless place).

Something I find a lot of novels lacking is period talk. There’s a scene which I really appreciated – Gottie gets her period unexpectedly and stuffs her knickers with toilet roll to avoid a leakage. It’s a short and sweet passage, but there are no ramifications – periods are often only mentioned when they’re missed and a surprise pregnancy occurs. Please can we have more candid period/body talk – it’s something a lot of people experience and which is never discussed in literature (perhaps it doesn’t need to be explicitly).

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I loved the character of Gottie’s father – particularly that he was German, a real live parent with an interesting story. Firstly, often parents in YA novels are mysteriously absent, and they rarely have a backstory of being an immigrant – they tend to appear to have lived where they do their entire lives.

On the story of parents, it appears being the parent of a YA protagonist has a very high mortality rate. This isn’t necessarily a problem with the book, more of the genre in general – parents are always mysteriously absent (and often conveniently dead) and Gottie’s mum is no exception.

I also found that Gottie had a severe lack of actual friends – especially good female friends – as she shut everyone out. I’d love to see more female friendships featured in YA.

The love triangle didn’t feel forced or unnatural, and it was dealt with really well. Love triangles (or chevrons, as they should be called) are cliché, but this was different, and realistic.

Plot-wise, the time travelling got a little confusing – sometimes I’d imagine the characters one place, and then it’d turn out they were somewhere completely different.

Overall, a sweet time-travelly read which made me feel like it was actually summer (but it’s still March).

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The Square Root of Summer will officially be released May 5, 2016 (in the UK).

Annalise x

Review: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

How Hard Can Love Be?
How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How Hard Can Love Be? is the second book in the Normal trilogy/ Spinster Club Series) by Holly Bourne.

HHCLB follows the story of Amber, a 17-year-old sixth-form student who heads off to California for a summer working at a summer camp for children. There is a twist however – the camp is run by her recovering alcoholic mother and stepfather, who abandoned her with her father and stepfamily, and who she hasn’t seen for two years. As Amber faces the prospect that she may never truly get along with her mother, she also starts to fall for your typical all-American Prom King god-in-boy-form, Kyle – despite her head telling her not to.

HHCLB is quite different in theme to Am I Normal Yet? (review here), the first book in the series. AINY followed Evie, Amber’s best friend, and her battle with OCD and anxiety. I really enjoyed the family setup here – parents are often weirdly absent in YA, and here their explanation for being absent is dealt with in a way that has obviously impacted on the character and her behaviour. Her mother and stepfather are well rounded and important parts of the story, a feature which rarely appears in YA (when your parents are often a huge part of your life!).

Many of the supporting characters are fleshed out with back stories and interesting traits, and the characters and the situations they get into feel realistic and logical. Not everything in YA romance has to be sparkles and rainbows, and Amber has to face some tough decisions and situations herself, but they never feel unrealistic.

It should be noted that this book has content that is ‘not suitable for younger readers’ – there’s at least discussion of drinking and sex, which is unusual and refreshing in young adult literature. Many characters in YA don’t even think about drinking or having sex, at least until the last book of the series (quite the polar opposite of real life!).

I love the format of the series – I’ve read way way too many YA books which were obviously written as a standalone and then unnaturally forced into a series. Here, each book could be read as a standalone, but they fit together beautifully – there’s no need to read the first book (although you definitely should, because it’s great!) to understand what’s going on. Holly traverses the line between standalone and series here so well – three books that are (almost certainly) wonderful that can be read alone or as a set.

As with AINY, there are ‘Situations Destined to Fail’ pages at the beginning with each chapter, which are a fun break and eases the read. Bourne’s writing is wonderful, and even though the book is nearly 500 pages long, I read this in a few days.

I love love love love love this series, and if there’s one YA novel you have to read this February, it should be How Hard Can Love Be? I can’t wait for the third book to come out.

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

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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