What I’ve Read / We Come Apart, The One Memory of Flora Banks & Unconventional

What I've Read / We Come Apart, The One Memory of Flora Banks & Unconventional
Here are reviews of three books I’ve read this year!

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
One is one of my favourite novels ever (seriously, read it). Like One, We Come Apart is told in free verse but, unlike One, we’re introduced to two narrators. Jess’s home life is tough and Nicu recently emigrated from Romania. When they’re both arrested for theft, Jess and Nicu become unlikely companions. And Jess’s friends – who throw racist remarks and abuse at Nicu – won’t let them forget it.

We Come Apart is very current. It’s not about bullying or racism or abuse – it’s about Jess and Nicu – but we see how these affect the two teenagers’ lives. We Come Apart is also incredibly sweet. I love books about friends and We Come Apart sees a close friendship develop at different rates. Nicu wants to know more about Jess once he first sets eyes on her whereas Jess needs a little more convincing about Nicu. Due to the free verse and the book’s length, the story is fast-moving and we quickly become wrapped up in the lives of these two underdogs.

If a dual-perspective, in my opinion, is done well, we should be able to tell who’s speaking without checking. In We Come Apart, there’s no need for character headings; it’s always easy to tell Nicu’s passionate broken English apart from Jess’s indignant thoughts. I loved switching between them seamlessly. Poignant, beautiful and captivating, We Come Apart is a short hit straight to the heart.

Credit: Visit Norway

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Svalbard, Norway. It’s somewhere I’ve never been, but somewhere that’s been etched in my mind ever since reading The One Memory of Flora Banks.

17-year-old Flora suffers from anterograde amnesia, meaning she’s lost the ability to create new memories. She doesn’t know she’s 17. She doesn’t know her address. And she doesn’t know that her best friend’s boyfriend kissed her. Except that she does, this time. Flora is determined to find out how this one boy managed to unlock her memory and so sets off alone to the Arctic.

Whilst reading Flora Banks, I constantly felt the chill of lost memories. But I perhaps wanted a little bit more from the mystery itself. I understood why Flora was so desperate to cling onto this boy – it’s the first time she’s able to remember something since the damage to her brain – but I was also resistant because Drake is a severely unlikeable character. And yet Drake moving abroad meant that Flora was able to embark on a journey for herself, meeting fascinating people along the way. If you enjoyed Elizabeth is Missing, why not give Flora Banks a shot?

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt
If you want the UKYA Fangirl, here it is. Unconventional is pure fun. Lexi Angelo has assisted her Dad with the running of popular film and comic book conventions ever since she can remember. And she’s pretty good at what she does. But debut author Aidan Green doesn’t think so. He’s rude and sarcastic and has made fun of Lexi’s clipboard several times. So why does she find herself falling for him?

Unconventional is adorable. I’ve attended YALC at LFCC (London Film and Comic Con) and volunteered at London Comic Con, and so could picture the busy, sweaty and geeky atmosphere of conventions. As soon as we meet our teenage duo Lexi and Aidan (aka Haydn Swift), we can see there’s going to be something between them. But that’s because they’d also make pretty excellent friends. They play off each other really well and I adored their conversations (and many arguments). I also enjoyed seeing the complicated father/daughter relationship. Lexi’s frustratingly under-appreciated by her frantic and somewhat intimidating father, who’s in the middle of planning his wedding. I desperately wanted Lexi to stand up to her Dad but it was great to see a parent feature so prominently in a YA story.

Unconventional is super sweet and lots of a fun – stupendous a love letter to UKYA fandom. I sort of want Lexi’s life.

(Plus, I squealed upon seeing my authory friends, Non Pratt and Mel Salisbury, mentioned in the story!).

…And a little bonus:

100 Hugs by Chris Riddell
Thank you to my housemate, Charlie, for gifting me this lovely book to cheer me up! It’s exactly what it says: Chris Riddell has sketched 100 different hugs, accompanied by poignant literary quotes. Perfect for when you’re in need a hug yourself.

What I’ve Read / Wing Jones, A Quiet Kind of Thunder & …And a Happy New Year?

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Here are three heartfelt reviews of contemporary novels, written by some of my favourite voices in UKYA, that I’ve read recently!

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Wing Jones had been on my wishlist ever since it was first announced over a year and a half ago, written by one of my marvellous Twitter buddies, Katie. Set in 90s Atlanta, Wing Jones is the spirited story of one girl trying to fit in, the joy of running and the complexity of family. Wing doesn’t feel at home at all when it comes to fitting in, sport or family, but when tragedy strikes and she loses the one person in her life who just gets her, she is left to find herself on her own.

I’m not a runner, but ever since reading Wing Jones, I find myself wondering what it would be like to fly as gracefully as Wing does – running in the dark, with only the sound of her footsteps and the thoughts in her head. (It’s something I’d love to give a go, but living in inner-city London holds me back!). And in Wing Jones, we rediscover the love-hate relationship with family, from Wing’s grandmothers (one Chinese, one Ghanaian) to her homemade family: brother Marcus, his girlfriend Monica and best friend Aaron (not to mention all the glorious time they spend in their favourite diner, eating southern chicken and waffles). I especially enjoyed the comical relationship (note: lots of bickering) between the two grandmothers.

There’s lots to admire about Wing Jones and it’s one UKYA novel one you won’t want to miss. Sporty girls ftw!

Behold the Pretty Books! / September & October Book Haul

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of Thunder surprised me. I thought I would like it. I enjoyed Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things. But as soon as I’d read a few pages, I fell in love. Beautiful Broken Things was one of the most honest accounts of friendship I’d read so far – and A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of the most honest stories of anxiety and depression. Sara’s strength is her ability to describe incredibly intense feelings – the ones that are difficult to experience because it’s a struggle to explain it to yourself, let alone to anyone else – and she does it skillfully and realistically.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the incredible story of Steffi, a selective mute, and Rhys, who is deaf. Sara has done so much research and that’s what makes her story feel authentic. I discovered the meaning of selective mutism – it’s not when someone simply chooses not to speak – and what it’s like to be deaf. Steffi and Rhys are put together because they can communicate using BSL, and it’s one of the best things to happen to them. They embark on an important friendship – which goes a little further than either imagined – and it’s simply wonderful to read.

I’ll be re-reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder soon, even though I only finished it in October. It may be 4th January, but it’s already my favourite book published this year!

Books On My TBR / Winter

. . . And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

What better way to end 2016 than by reading . . . And a Happy New Year? I adore the Spinster Club girls – Amber, Lottie and Evie – and I read all three books in the series last year, so it just seemed right. In this festive novella, we hear from each of the girls as they struggle with the events of the past year: broken friendships, new university lives and old boyfriends (that is, except Kyle, because Kyle is American and adorable and perfect). It’s Amber’s new year’s party and the first time they’ve hung out together since leaving college – and they all have a secret. But how long can they keep secrets from their best friends – even if it might tear them apart for good?

. . . And a Happy New Year? was a wonderful end to the Spinster Club trilogy. It wasn’t as light-hearted as I thought it would be (gosh, being a first year at university is hard), but I love Holly Bourne’s energetic, relatable writing and admirable feminist characters (I’m a cross between Amber and Evie, if you ask me). If you’re looking for some fun yet important UKYA, pick up this trilogy!

What I’ve Read / Super Awkward, How Hard Can Love Be? and Love, Lies & Lemon Pies

What I've Read / Super Awkward, How Hard Can Love Be? and Love, Lies & Lemon Pies

Here are three books I read in September to help me with my ongoing reading slump – I always turn to YA contemporary and these are particularly fun ones! 

Super Awkward by Beth Garrod

Super Awkward was the perfect book to kick off Project Destroy Stacey’s Reading Slump. 15-year-old Bella Fisher is a not-so-academic rendition of one of my favourite funny protagonists in YA, Harriet Manners: geeky, witty and awkward, but failing maths and science spectacularly. She’s been cruelly taken by her family to Wales instead of to her best friend’s house party. (*admits that as an adult she’d much rather go to Wales*). Bella’s even more of a grumpy pants when her ex-boyfriend sends a photo of him kissing a mystery girl. Until she meets (i.e. knocks over) a gorgeous boy called Zac. And tells everyone at school that he’s her older boyfriend and is taking her to prom. Awks.

Super Awkward is a really fun, quirky story, full of teenage romance, devastatingly embarrassing moments and learning to lean on your best friends. I’m all about stories of female friendship – one of the most important things in my own life – and so it was encouraging to see that Rachel and Tegan were always mostly around to support Bella. If you loved Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, you’ll love Bella and her crazy teen voice!

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

After reading Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet?, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, especially as all my friends assured me that I’d love it – and they were right! Even though Evie’s my favourite Spinster Club member, this time it was Amber’s turn.

Amber has left fellow teen feminists Evie and Lottie at home to jet off to sunny California and stay with her absent mum and her detestable husband, working in their trendy summer camp. I adored everything about How Hard Can Love Be? (although I did worry people would think I was reading a self-help book on the train!). Adorable feminist American boy? Check. Complicated family relationships? Supportive female friendships? Check. Fulfilling my dream to visit the USA? CHECK.

I’ve not read many books where mother-daughter relationships are central to the story, but it’s huge part of who Amber is. Holly confronts this fragile relationship in such an honest and relatable way – Amber’s full of resentment for her mum, but wants nothing more than for her to love her. And then we have Amber and Kyle, who I loved as a potential couple straight away; it was a joy to watch them getting to know each other. Plus not forgetting Amber’s Camp Best Friend Winnie and the rest of the gang, who are all suitably outraged when Slytherin is replaced with Dumbledore’s Army – there are so many characters in How Hard Can Love Be? to love!

How Hard Can Love Be? is a superb second book in the Spinster Club trilogy. I want to take it to Yosemite National Park with me.  

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon

As the Great British Bake Off was about to begin, it was the perfect time to pick up Love, Lies and Lemon Pies. Lottie has been struggling with everything since her dad died and the only way she can prove to her school that she is coping is to join the school’s new Bake Club.

Love, Lies and Lemon pies is a super quick, entertaining read that I flew through blissfully. As soon as Lottie and Mac meet, they work together wonderfully (even if not without arguments!). Mac has some disdain for baking at first, but I enjoyed watching Lottie help him through his troubles, right up until their end-of-year competition. It was also great to see Lottie develop a lot of self-confidence and start to believe that she can win the competition, with support from the rest of Bake Club – Jasper, Jasmine, Grace and Ella. Even though she’s not the most likeable character, I’m looking forward to getting to know Grace more in Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines!

Love, Lies and Lemon pies is a delicious young adult contemporary novel to devour – there’s even recipes at the beginning of each chapter to help you on your way!