THE SAD GHOST CLUB by Lize Meddings

Ever felt anxious or alone? Like you don’t belong anywhere? Like you’re almost… invisible? Find your kindred spirits at The Sad Ghost Club.

This is the story of one of those days – a day so bad you can barely get out of bed, when it’s a struggle to leave the house, and when you do, you wish you hadn’t. But even the worst of days can surprise you. When one sad ghost, lost and alone at a crowded party, spies another sad ghost across the room, they decide to leave together. What happens next changes everything. Because that night they start the The Sad Ghost Club – a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don’t belong.

For fans of Heartstopper and Jennifer Niven, and for anyone who’s ever felt invisible. You are not alone. Shhh. Pass it on.


Title : The Sad Ghost Club
Author : Lize Meddings
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 208
Genre : YA
Publisher : Hodder Children’s Books
Release Date : January 21, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s star review

Headlines:
Cute
Perfect for young people experiencing anxiety & depression
Stunning non-gendered illustration

I’m a buzzing after reading this book in an hour today. I felt tired after work and picked it up just to see what it was like and didn’t look up until ‘THE END’. I have a family member with anxiety & depression and so much of this book resonated with me, especially the thought processes in a young person. Less is more with this review, so here’s a few words.

The Sad Ghost Club is a beautiful story of uncertainty, self-doubt, sadness, anxiety, friendship and feeling valued. There’s a cat and frog to further reel you in, if my review alone doesn’t do it. It covers themes of study anxiety, low mood, peer support

This graphic novel will help readers feel seen and for me that’s such an important focus. I loved that the ghosts were ungendered in naming and appearance so that no presumptions could be made about mental illness and gender whilst also encompassing any gender.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I totally felt the range of emotions SG was going through and I think this book has the potential to validate these experiences.

Thank you Hodder Books through the vine programe for this review copy.

CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman

A powerful and captivating novel about mental illness, Challenger Deep is a tour de force by New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behaviour.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn. 


Title : Challenger Deep
Author : Neal Shusterman
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : August 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

I started this a while ago and picked it back up today, powering through to the end. This was an ambitious and brave project by Neal Shusterman as it plunged the reader from page one into a teen’s mind amidst a psychotic episode as he experienced severe mental illness.

The protagonist, Caden thought he was on a ship with a mundane task as part of the crew, at the same time, there was some awareness of family life, school life and someone who was out to kill him. It was a confusing start, if I’m honest, I didn’t know up from down and the chapters were really short, adding to that abrupt feeling. However, I did settle into the read more the second time I picked it up.

Having some professional experience of delusional states, I realised very quickly how well Shusterman had assembled this character, his delusional world. The world on the high sea was actually quite engaging after a while, but I was constantly looking for the chinks of reality in his sea-life, what might be analogy for what was going on in real life. I did find some ideas of reality in his imagined world; it was all pretty tragic.

I have to say this was discomforting reading, seeing a young man in crisis like this was not easy. Shusterman did not shy away from this theme and I commend him for this. I did however find the pacing slow and difficult to keep going with at time. There were chinks of hope though that helped me push through.

I don’t think this is a read that everyone will appreciate but I do think some will identify with or be curious about this experience that some young people go through. I also think this could be triggering for some readers, so do look closely at the blurb and reviews if you have experienced significant mental illness.

Thank you to Walker Books for this early review copy.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS by Wren Handman

Sylvia is a normal girl with huge, normal problems–her mother’s attempted suicide; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long-awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to attack the other Court. All while she’s trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men–with their own agendas.


Title : In Restless Dreams
Author : Wren Handman
Series : The Phantasmer Cycle (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 293
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : The Parliament House
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

If you read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and wanted the same magical discovery of Fae, not to mention the exploration of a fantasy world that abuts our own, but wanted content that actually stayed YA? This might just be the book for you — or the book you should buy for your teens and/or young people.

This book opens up with very traditional YA elements, like starting at a new highschool, navigating rocky social waters, and all that drama that ensues with both, then some not-so-traditional (and a might heavier) elements, like how to process your mother’s mental health issues and connecting with an absent father. And then, halfway through, tosses you into a whole new ocean; a purple one!

Sylvia isn’t perfect; she struggles like all sixteen year olds do, like all humans do, and that’s compounded by discovering she has a magical heritage that is dangerous and seems impossible, and meeting a boy (or two!) from that magical world — a boy (or two!) she isn’t sure she can trust. Because that dashing knight might not be the hero, and maybe that stranger made of shadows and darkness is as kind as his eyes; maybe they are trapped in archetypes that should mean one thing, but are in fact something else. Or maybe not. But aside from the romance, there’s also wonder and magic and Handman’s unique and brilliant way of describing.. well, magic and wonder and emotion.

The high point of this story, for me, is just experiencing said magic, the unusual, the very interesting take on a Chosen One trope (in every generation a Phantasmer is born.. or, in this case, every few centuries..) and, more than that, what this Chosen One can do and how they are woven into the very fabric of something so much bigger than them. And what it means to choose for others and what it means to make decisions with the best of intentions. Where she starts out, lashing out at bullies, arguing with her younger brother, is not quite where she ends up, burdened not only with power and responsibility, and coming out the other side intact. Mostly.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS will give you a new perspective on imagination, creativity, emotion, fear and loneliness, the burden of memory, and of the longing to change who you are. This is a solid series opener and I think it’s only going to get better from here.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane

How much can a family forgive?

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.


Title : Ask Again, Yes
Author : Mary Beth Keane
Format : eARC
Page Count : 390
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Penguin Michael Joseph
Release Date : August 8, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


3.5 – 4 stars

ASK AGAIN, YES is something of a heavy read with challenging topics; I felt like I had completed a marathon when I’d finished but I mean that in a good way. The book had wrung me out emotionally and I needed time to rest my mind and think afterwards.

This is a complex story of two families across two generations. Their lives were so interwoven and yet they were not close to one another. Through proximity, circumstance, tragedy and then attraction, they were repeatedly brought together and pushed one another away.

The storyline starts with the parents of these two families but over the whole of the book, it felt like the story centred on Peter and Kate. I held my breath over these two and I didn’t feel a completion at the end; I don’t think the reader is supposed to. Anne was incredibly difficult to like as a character and I admire the author for where she went with mental illness and this character. We rarely see books that will go to the extent of exposing the psychology and behaviours of someone with this level of illness. I liked Francis, I found him solid, reliable and real. George was the unsung hero of this book.

Most readers will feel the heaviness of the topics expored in this book, which include acute psychosis, addiction, cheating, first love, the effect of trauma on the psyche, grief and loss and abandonment. It’s a lot but it didn’t feel unrealistic for the timescale, the range of characters and the narrative gently and sometimes bluntly led you into these issues with skill.

This was an impressive, memorable and epic story. I felt a lack of completion overall and needed a bit more in terms of closure. Mary Beth Keane wrote the complexity with simplicity and I would read her work again.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the early review copy.

LET’S CALL IT A DOOMSDAY by Katie Henry

There are so many ways the world could end. There could be a fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety — about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones — the two girls become fast friends. As Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, she learns there are secrets Hannah isn’t telling her. But with time ticking down, the search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? How do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

Katie Henry, the author of Heretics Anonymous, delivers an engrossing and thoughtful tale about how people survive — with some faith in family, friends, and maybe a few prepper forums.


Title : Let’s Call It A Doomsday
Author : Katie Henry
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : August 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I toyed with the idea of not writing a review for this book. Which might give you some initial insight as to why it’s unrated. Hopefully the review itself will explain why but also might explain why you might still want to read it yourself.

First of all, our main character has pretty severe anxiety. It manifests in constant doubt, internal criticism, and almost-constant fatalism; and we get to read that internal narrative as she hears it. Her anxiety also manifests itself in a worry about the world ending. Not necessarily fire and brimstone, though it’s not ruled out, but.. nuclear war. Natural disaster. The list goes on. She’s a prepper, though she doesn’t love the word, and she’s actually rather open about it; even if she’s constantly bracing for judgment or disbelief from those she tells.

Survivalists have skill sets. Hunting and fishing and living off the land and I can’t do any of that. I’m a prepper. I have supplies, not skills.”

All this to say that this book is basically an anxious person’s worst nightmare. Add in a somewhat fraught family dynamic, with Ellis’ parents and sister struggling to deal with her anxieties, constantly having to accommodate her, and not always able to be calm or kind about it.. yeah, this was hard to read for me.

Em was always the Golden Girl, from the moment she was born. What choice did I have but to be the Perpetual Disappointment? Every family needs one. So I’ve fallen on my sword. It’s actually very noble of me.

There’s also a whole (unexpected) plot, or rather emphasis, on the LDS church and community. Ellis is LDS, as is her family, and there’s a lot of narrative surrounding the lifestyle, belief, values, etc. I thought it an interesting choice for someone who believes the world is going to end but there were moments when some in-dialogue discussions were fascinating.

However the main plot is Ellis’ new friendship with Hannah, a girl she meets outside her therapist’s office, and hoo boy. If the anxiety didn’t get me going, this friendship did. Hannah’s whole existence is this book is stringing Ellis along with vagueries. She’s seen the end of the world, she says, and Ellis is there with her. But she needs Ellis’ help to decode the visions. So they have to find this man, this homeless person, who calls himself Prophet Dan. Except he’s not who Hannah makes him out to be. But overwhelmingly I just hated Hannah’s role in this story. I hated the vagueness, I hated the frustrations she inspired, the agonies she would encourage in Ellis and then step back from.. I feel for Hannah, I do, I can be sympathetic — mostly in hindsight, but it was present in certain moments, too — but oh god I hate this kind of character. I found it really difficult to see how strong they were in the end, too, this friendship enduring everything it did. I would’ve preferred it to fracture or.. maybe just quietly be let go, considering everything that came to pass. I 100% do not condone the connection.

Trying to Be Cute, Accidentally Implying Cannibalism : The Ellis Kimball Story.

I did, though, enjoy Tal. He was a sorta expected (but also not) love interest and he was everything Hannah wasn’t. He had a connection, an understanding, with Ellis and also offered her something new. I liked that quite a lot. Plus, his group of friends, and their Quiz Bowl Guess-A-Book-In-Five-Words was hilarious. Easily the highlight for me.

I really want to make a sex joke right now. But you’re ruined it. You’ve ruined it with the apocalypse.”

There was a lot of therapy positive, heavy but groundbreaking, discussion — in fact all interactions with Ellis’ therapist were another highlight for me — and I found the writing to be pretty smart. I loved the word games, the guessing games, and some bits of dialogue were outrageously funny. But this was not the book for me. If this wasn’t an ARC, I probably would’ve DNF’d. And thus here we are with this unrated review. This book was a lot of things and I think many people will enjoy the journey and feel for the main character. I just felt too much of the wrong (though accurate to Ellis’ anxieties) things.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **