What I’ve Read / History is All You Left Me, All About Mia & Radio Silence

I’m obsessed with contemporary YA. I often feel I should branch out and read more adult fiction or science fiction or non-fiction, but I just can’t tear myself away from first loves, boarding schools and road trips – so I haven’t, yet. Here is what I thought of three rather excellent books I’ve read this year!

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

History is All You Left Me is so sad – intensely, honestly, fiercely sad. And I really, really love sad books.

Griffin and Theo are best friends > boyfriends > ex-boyfriends > best friends. And then Theo dies. I cannot know what it’s like to lose a life partner at seventeen, but Griffin does. I often pick up a book without reading the description, or I’ll have read it months before and so won’t remember what the book is about, just that I want to read it. I did that with History is All You Left Me. I couldn’t recall how Theo died and I wasn’t sure what was to come. I was always feeling everything for the first time, waiting for the next emotional hit.

Even though it’s a heartbreaking story, The History is All You Left Me is a wonderful exploration of relationships. I adored the chapter that takes Theo and Griffin to a pub quiz, complete with Harry Potter and Star Wars questions. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. History is All You Left Me is a dazzling story about heart-wrenching love, close friendship and devastating grief. It’s about discovering who you are, now that the one person you were relying on has gone, and about learning more about the people you already thought you knew. You’ll really want to get to know our four boys: Griffin, Theo, Wade and Jackson.

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

I’m an only child. I’ll never know what it’s like to have someone who ‘gets’ your family the same way you do. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with someone always by your side. I had close friends, of course, but sibling relationships always felt otherworldly to me; something I’ll never get to experience. And so I was eager to pick up Lisa Williamson’s All About Mia, just about that very thing.

Mia is the middle child. She has a younger sister, Audrey, who’s a champion swimmer, and an older sister, Grace, who’s perfect in every way. What’s Mia got? She’s great at styling hair and has a feisty attitude… who cares about that? But when Grace comes home with some shocking news, Mia thinks it’s time for her to shine. She’s a fascinating, refreshing character in YA. Mia’s unlikeable, really, but that makes you want to get to know her more. Slowly, slowly I began to see her point of view – when Mia began spiralling out of control, I desperately wanted to make sure she was okay. I adored the Campbell-Richardson family, both loving them and hating them (that’s Mia’s influence rubbing off on me) at the same time. All About Mia picks out everything complicated there is about family and gives us a joyous, funny UKYA read.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

I had been told to read Radio Silence so often over the past year that I decided March was Time. And gosh, do I wish I had picked it up earlier. It really shouldn’t be surprising because she is one, but Alice gets teenagers. She gets, in particular, what it’s like to be a teenager (or a millennial, let’s say) on the interwebz. She understands how social media communities work and how they can go from making you feel comforted and part of something to overwhelmed and suffocated. It’s always incredible to read something and feel like the author gets you.

Frances has only one goal in life: to get into Cambridge University, and then she meets Aled, the creator of her favourite sci-fi podcast, Radio Silence. She has been a fan since the first episode, so much so that she posts incredible fanart on Tumblr. She cannot believe her luck that the Creator was living across the road from her all this time. But Frances is also the only one who knows why Cerys, Aled’s twin sister, ran away all those months ago… and as they become closer and closer, it becomes more difficult for her to keep the secret.

I loved the close friendship between Frances and Aled. It’s an incredible friendship and one that feels so real. It grows through their mutual love of Radio Silence – and Aled loves Frances’ geeky clothes while Frances loves Aled’s bright Vans – and then it becomes so much more. But it’s always just friendship and that’s so, so lovely to read. I adored their hilarious and realistic Facebook messages – they reminded me of the joy those late night conversations with your best friends can bring. I kind of just want to start re-reading Radio Silence right now.

P.S. Radio Silence is also worth reading purely for Frances’ mum. Promise.

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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!