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 / The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, What Light & I’ll Be Home for Christmas

What I've Read / The Twelve Days of Dash Lily, What Light & I'll Be Home for Christmas
Here’s what I thought of three festive books I picked up over Christmas!

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is one of my favourite YA festive novels. I’ve read it three times, over Christmas 2011, 2013 and 2016, so I was elated to discover that there would be a sequel.

Dash & Lily
The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily
is sadder, more melancholy than its predecessor. Lily’s grandfather is sick and she’s unable to appreciate her favourite season. For this new Lily, there’s no magical Christmas tree and no festive reindeer skirt. She is depressed and grieving, insecure about both her relationship with Dash and her place in the world. It was tough to see Lily going through such a hard time – quite different to the bouncing, positive and enthusiastic girl we’ve all come to know and love – but it was important to see a different side to her. And that goes for Dash, too. He joins forces with her older brother to cheer Lily up. It was lovely to see his romantic and thoughtful side (even though he can be a bit clueless at times!).

I cannot say that I preferred the sequel to Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – it didn’t fill me with as much festive glee as the first book did, but it was an unexpectedly complicated journey for the two teenagers. Even though it can be read as a standalone, I’d suggest reading the books in order to get the full experience of how Dash and Lily came to be.

Books On My TBR / Winter

What Light by Jay Asher

What Light is a contemporary story set on a Californian Christmas tree farm, a setting that has intrigued me ever since I discovered that Taylor Swift grew up on one in Pennsylvania (because I know you’re all dying to know that). As it’s set in California, I had to keep reminding myself that the weather probably wasn’t as cold and frosty and picturesque as I was imagining. I’ve seen The OC. I should know better.

Sierra has spent her life living in California for the Christmas season and the rest of her time in Oregon. She’s away from her East Coast friends and back with her other best friend, Heather. And she meets Caleb, who buys Christmas trees for impoverished families and has a family secret that she’s desperate to unravel. As someone who has small friendship groups, it was interesting to see how Sierra was torn between them. (Although I wish she had spent more time with Heather, who only gets to see her a month out of the year!). Caleb was really sweet and I enjoyed his banter with Sierra about peppermint mochas.

What Light is a cute, quick read if you’re looking for something Christmassy!

Behold the Pretty Books! / August Book Haul

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Various

As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a huge fan of short story collections, but I was curious about I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Festive YA is a favourite of mine – and I’m happy to report that I’ll Be Home for Christmas is the best collection I’ve read so far!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas features many of my favourite authors – Lisa Williamson, Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and more – all writing about the theme of ‘home’, with each copy of the book sold supporting the charity Crisis. Because there’s so many to talk about, I’ll pick out four favourites.

Cat Clarke’s Family You Choose – a super cute story about Effie, hiding from her family and discovering a whole new one in the process (plus delicious food) and Lisa Williamson’s Routes and Wings – a bleak story about Lauren, who travels around East London on buses, keeping her homelessness a secret from colleagues. I also enjoyed Juno Dawson’s Homo for Christmas – the cheeky and surprising story about Duncan, who is on his way home to tell his mother that he’s gay – and Tracy Darnton’s The Letter – a short but poignant story of Amber, who is living in care. Tracy was the winner of the short story competition and I’m looking forward to her first full novel in 2018!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a wonderfully diverse collection of stories and one that I’m sure to return to year after year.

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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!