After Corazon’s mother catches her kissing her older female teacher, Corazon is sent to the Philippines to live with a half brother she barely knows. There she learns more about loss and love than she could have ever imagined.
Corazon Tagubio is an outcast at her Catholic school. She’s attending on scholarship, she keeps to herself, and her crush on her teacher Ms. Holden doesn’t help anything. At home, Cory’s less-than-perfect grades disappoint her mom and dad, who are already working overtime to support her distant half brother in the Philippines.
When an accident leaves her dad comatose, Cory feels like Ms. Holden is the only person who really sees her. But when a crush turns into something more and the secret gets out, Cory is sent to her half brother. She’s not prepared to face a stranger in an unfamiliar place, but she begins to discover how the country that shaped her past might also change her future.
This #ownvoices story takes readers on a journey across the world as Cory comes to understand her family, her relationships, and, ultimately, herself.
Title : My Heart Underwater Author : Laurel Flores Fantauzzo Format : eARC Page Count : 288 Genre : YA contemporary/LGBTQIA Publisher : Quill Tree Books Release Date : October 20, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
Micky’s 3.5 star review
This was a gritty LGBTQIA coming-of-age story that moved from the US to the Phillipines. If you like messy family drama, this one will fulfill that remit. It had an inappropriate teacher-student relationship which I struggled with somewhat but there was a satisfying developing in the main character’s understanding over that element which helped how I felt.
It was a story of two halves for me, a more gripping first half, full of drama but a slower-paced second half that was wonderfully rich with Filipino culture. The main character Cory was bounced around out of her control, forced to travel back to the Phillipines but it proved an positive experience in the end. I have no personal experience of the Phillipines however, but it was brought to life with description for me.
Family drama was the core context to this story and I can’t say I liked any of her family but Bea slowly did grow on me. I felt like almost no-one was fighting Cory’s corner or trying to understand her evolving sexuality or personality. The catholicism was strong in this story and not often viewed in a favourable light.
My Heart Underwater was an interesting read and a solid debut. I welcomed this story’s Manila context and enjoyed a fresh voice from this author.
Please also check out own voices reviewers on this title.
Thank you to Harper 360 YA for the early review copy.
In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.
At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.
On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.
But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.
Filled with authentic details and the textures of day-to-day life in Argentina, heart-soaring romance, and breathless action on the pitch, Furia is the story of a girl’s journey to make her life her own.
Title : Furia Author : Yamile Saied Méndez Format : eARC Page Count : 368 Genre : YA Contemporary Publisher : Algonquin Young Readers Release Date : September 15, 2020
This was a fantastic feminist YA, with coming of age themes all set in the context of futbol in Argentina. I love a sporting context book, especially those empowering women and if you want a YA that strongly empowers young women, then look no further. There is a romance in this story but it is pitched well and doesn’t overpower the story or the amazing heroine Camila ‘Furia’ Hassan.
Set in the barrios of a city in Argentina, the background for FURIA was rich, vibrant, dangerous and varied. The environment was one where women were oppressed but fighting for equality, rights, a life and dreams. There were background story lines that painted a picture of life for all females especially children and young women, that were chilling.
Our family was stuck in a cosmic hamster wheel of toxic love, making the same mistakes, saying the same words, being hurt in the same ways generation after generation…I was la Furia, after all. I’d be the one to break the wheel.
Camilla ignited my interest like a flame with her hopes of becoming a professional futbol player and going to the USA where there were more possibilites. In fact, Camilla had familial credentials in professional football but no-one was championing a young women like Camilla, no matter how talented she was.
Camila however, had drive for her dreams and played secretly in a team. I loved the scrimmage and match play narratives, the description was excellent and I truly felt like a spectator watching ‘Furia’ come alive. Camila’s dream and life was complicated by Diego, her childhood friend returning for a visit from Juventus. Sparks ignited between these two and it was something real and beautiful.
This story took a direction that made my feminist heart sing for Camila. The decisions and sacrifices she made; the fights physical, verbal and emotional were all worth it to have hope. This was a read of excitement, with beauty in the barrios and characters to feel truly wrapped up in, but most of all it conveyed an empowering message for young women.
“There are too many people whose opinions control how you perform. Let them go. Be yourself. You’re la Furia, but remember, the game is beautiful.”
I highly rec this book, it’s going to be a favourite of the year. FURIA, FURIA, FURIA…(in football chanting song).
Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for the early review copy.
Hollis’ 3.5 star review
I was | | close to rounding up on this one because there are aspects of this story that are so strong, so wonderful, but I can’t quite boost it.
In my barrio, most of the people didn’t know my name or even that I existed. To them, I was only Pablo’s sister, or Andrés and the seamstress’ daughter — my mom, too, was nameless. But I was determined to leave my mark.
If what you’ve always wanted in life is a YA version of KULTI by Mariana Zapata but with a heavy dose of feminism and very relevant, and present, topics of life in Argentina, you absolutely have to pick this up. This story is both empowering and heartbreaking and sometimes those conflicting feelings are rooted in the same moment.
Fútbol could do that — make people forget about the price of the dollar, the upcoming elections, even their love lives. For a few hours, life was beautiful.
There were many triumphant moments both for our protagonist, Camila, and for her team. But not every triumph was due to winning. I loved how the author made a point to balance this group of women’s ambitions, including that of the coach, but constantly remind the team — and through them, us — to play for themselves, for joy, no matter the score. I feel like if you take away nothing else from this story, particularly the younger readers, that would be enough. But there are even more powerful messages within the pages, too.
I’d leave the house the first chance I got, but not by chasing after a boy, including my brother. I’d do it on my own terms, following my own dreams, not someone else’s.
I think what really took away some of the enjoyment for me were the family dynamics. I have no doubt it is more common than not but some of it just felt a little OTT or extra and while much of it shaped Camila, drove her, to be something else.. I don’t know, I just wanted those moments over with. So that’s definitely a personal thing. As for the romance, I initially thought it might have been the weaker element of the story but I was pleasantly surprised to have been wrong and, also, surprised by how that turned out. No spoiling!
Overall, I think this is definitely a book worth picking up, even moreso as it’s #ownvoices. And, I mean, did you read Micky’s review? Even I wanted to award this five stars after reading her thoughts — and even though I’m not, I would definitely read this author again.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine American who loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Méndez is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors. Furia is her first novel for young adult readers.
Furia By Yamile Saied Méndez Algonquin Young Readers Publication Date: September 15, 2020 | ISBN: 9781616209919 $17.95 | 368 pages www.algonquinyoungreaders.com
The fourth novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most authentic and talked-about voices in contemporary YA.
It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.
As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.
Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
This wise, warm and witty story of identity and self-acceptance sees Alice Oseman on towering form as Georgia and her friends discover that true love isn’t limited to romance.
Title : Loveless Author : Alice Oseman Format : eARC Page Count : 320 Genre : YA Contemporary Publisher : Harper Collins Release Date : July 9, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3 star review
I’m keeping this brief because I want to let the own-voices reviewers shine on this one.
LOVELESS is the story many have been waiting for, welcome representation for aro-ace readers with a character discovering their sexual identity and it was a complex unfurling of realisation for Georgia. Georgia had this screaming desire to fit in, get her firsts under her belt until she was faced with actually doing that. The story was an opening up of consciousness of identity.
There were lots of first year uni experiences in here that were fun. Georgia was surrounded by a bunch of friends, two of whom made an uncomfortable triangle of bubbling rivalry, a bit of sparring but also friendship goodness. It was about the experience of trying to fit in and not quite succeeding; it was also about the fear of revealing yourself to others.
Overall, this was a read that revealed an experience that is important and I valued being able to read this greatly.
Thank you to Harper Collins for the early review copy.
Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.
What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.
Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…
Title : Chasing Lucky Author : Jenn Bennett Format : eARC Page Count : 416 Genre : Contemporary YA Publisher : Simon & Schuster Children Release Date : June 11, 2020 / November 10, 2020
What Jenn Bennett does to my reading soul is simply the best, I can rely on her that her books will hit the spot, make me happy and smile. CHASING LUCKY was no exception and this story of old friends getting to know one another as teens was gorgeous. There was an eclectic story that had Bennett’s characteristic uniqueness and whit; I got wholly wrapped up in all of it.
Lucky was Josie’s best friend until she left town with her mom, age 12. Returning at age 17 was a different experience with Lucky 2.0, family issues, a mom who frankly was hard to fathom and the grandmother matriarch from hell. Lucky 2.0 though, was the kind of puzzle worth fathoming.
“Whoa,” Evie says, leaning over the counter to peer out the window with me. “Got to admit. Phantom cleans up real nice. He’s the male Medusa. Don’t look into his eyes. Might get your pregnant.”
If you’re familiar with Jenn Bennett’s male characters, you’ll be pleased to know that Lucky was one of her most excellent beta male creations. I loved him in every way; he was genuine, with personality in bucket loads. Josie’s journey to friendship and more with Lucky was worth every page turn.
Josie’s family relationships made for avid reading. The family was truly dysfunctional but not beyond help in most cases. Josie’s relationship with her mother was probably the most frustrating but I felt pretty annoyed with Evie too at moments. The family was able to make me laugh though.
“Be careful”is all Mom warns me very seriously. I’ve got this. It’s only grandmother. Not an actual weapon of war.
I read this book with a smile on my face some of the time. That’s all the recommendation that you need. Go forth and enjoy.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the early review copy.
Hollis’ 3 star review
I went into CHASING LUCKY with a little bit of trepidation as my last few forays with Bennett post-STARRY EYES haven’t been great. Some I liked ish, others I didn’t at all, so when the first 30% of this book was both not wow’ing me and also veering into not great, uncomfortable, directions? I was anticipating the worst.
But this did, eventually, level out for me.
This story does give off a bit of a STARRY EYES vibe in the sense that Josie and Lucky were friends as young’ins and then something happened to split them apart and now they are trying to reconnect and understand, and navigate, the whys of what happened. And also maybe what could happen if they got close again. I’m still not quite sure I feel we got any real closure, or explanation, as to why they couldn’t continue their friendship from afar but, honestly, that’s the least of my complaints (don’t worry, I really did like it, but yikes). Overall I do think there maybe was a bit of a pacing issue? Or maybe it’s just that we were thrown into a town, and a world, where there’s so much history and so many pre-existing characters from the backstory, that you’re kind of left playing catch up, and not always getting as much time spent on some things, giving them their due, and others have too much time spent on them or spent on nothing much at all? It did sorta give me the Stars Hollow vibe of Gilmore Girls, mixed in with a non-magical Practical Magic-esque family, so that gave it some feeling of familiarity but also the book was also nothing like those things, so. Samey but not?
One of the main components of this story deals with side-bar relationship between Josie’s cousin and an on-again-off-again boyfriend, who causes a lot of drama outside of his stalking and drunken nonsense, and that whole thing? It’s good to see it on page for the younger readers, to understand it’s not acceptable, but yikes how I hated it. So that’s a personal thing for me. I can handle uncomfortable subject matter, have read heaps of things worse than this, but it just rubbed me wrong. And it’s supposed to. Again, I don’t know. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace to deal with it, because we also have lots of lies and miscommunications amongst all sorts of characters, and that ontop of the toxic BS? It was just a lot.
But there was also a bunch of good, too, a bunch of sweet, a bunch of gentle fun, mixed in there in the middle. We had a few big revelations that turned the tide for both the main character and her family and it was around that time where this story just really worked for me. I love that moment where you get the payoff and things come together. I don’t know that I quite liked Josie but I could feel for some of her baggage. And I really liked Lucky. And, as a pair, I really liked when they were sweet on each other and to each other; even when they bickered. Maybe especially then? This story is a bit strange in that so much happens and also not much, it’s both loud and kind of quiet. I did get to that like stage for CHASING LUCKY but this won’t be a favourite. But if not for that goodness, that sweetness, this wouldn’t be a three. So it was something of a close call.
If you’re a Bennett fan, and can withstand some of the messy bits within this read, I think you’ll be very happy. If you’ve yet to read this author and are looking for more good YA contemporary, you definitely need this Bennett on your radar. This might not the smoothest ride but you don’t have to go too far back into her backlist to find pure greatness.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Hi everyone! Today we’re excited to participate in the bookstagram & creative blog tour for Aix Marks the Spot by Sarah Anderson organized by MTMC Tours! Sent to live with her estranged grandmother in Provence, 16 year old Jamie finds her parents’ old love letters – and clues to a secret treasure hunt that could save her family after the accident that tore them apart , the full synopsis is below. This YA Contemporary Travel Romance releases on June 16th, 2020 from Seabreeze Books!
One of the things I wanted to talk about is how hungry this book made me. The French are known for their delicious food and viewed through Jamie’s novice taste buds, I just wanted to eat EVERYTHING.
I’m talking croissants (of course), brioche glacee which I wanted to taste myself so much, saussisson with a white gravy, barbecue skewers of meat and veggies…oh and a bit of champagne!
SYNOPSIS Jamie has been dreaming of this summer forever: of road trips and intensive art camps, of meeting cute boys with her best friend Jazz. What she didn’t count on was the car accident.
Exiled away from her family as her mother slowly learns to walk again, Jamie is sent to Provence and trapped in an isolated home with the French grandmother she has never met, the guilt of having almost killed her parents, and no Wi-Fi. Enough to drive a girl mad. That is, until, she finds an old letter from her father, the starting point in a treasure hunt that spans across cities and time itself. Somehow, she knows that the treasure is the key to putting her shattered family back together and that whatever lies at the end has the power to fix everything.
Armed only with a high-school-level of French and a map of train lines, she must enlist the aid of Valentin, a handsome local who’s willing to translate. To save her family, she has castle ruins to find and sea cliffs to climb; falling for her translator wasn’t part of her plan…
Title : Aix Marks The Spot Author : S.E. Anderson Format : eARC Page Count : 380 Genre : Contemporary YA Publisher : Seabreeze Books Release Date : June 16, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
This was an engaging coming-of-age story of an American-French teen, Jamie. Set in Provence, it gave me Love & Gelato vibes but it floated my boat so much more than that book did. That said, I do think fans of that series would be drawn to this story.
Jamie arrived in Provence on a rush, sent by her parents to stay with her rather eccentric Grand Mere she had never met. It became immediately apparent that there was a language barrier and one of the things I liked about this book was picking through the french and translated dialogue peppered throughout. I liked guessing and testing my school French but I was always left understanding what was being said. Jamie was left to her own devices and had to explore the local village where Valentine took pity on her. What ensued was a crazy adventure, a treasure map set by one of her parents nearly twenty years ago and a colourful few weeks of fun.
A cute, nerdy French boy wanted to show me around a castle and knew exactly what cheeses I was going to like. Talk about a fairy tale…
Except this really wasn’t a fairy tale, underpinning this whole story was a terribly dysfunctional family, long in the making, that needed to communicate. Grand mere was frankly a little scary, intimidating and giving mixed (French) messages all over. The situation back home was complex and Jamie was stuck in a rut with regards to her thinking about it all.
They say the opposite of love is hate, but it really isn’t, it’s indifference.
AIX MARKS THE SPOT was a fun read, a cute read even but it had serious tones with a solid plot line and great character development. It’s the kind of book to be demolished in a day or weekend with truly summer vibes which I really appreciated on a hot day locked-down in my garden. Rounded up to 4 stars.
Thank you to MTMC Tours and the author for the early review copy. You can hop over to Micky’s bookstagram for a better look at the book .
About Sarah Anderson: S.E. Anderson can’t ever tell you where she’s from. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because it inevitably leads to a confusing conversation where she goes over where she was born (England) where she grew up (France) and where her family is from (USA) and it tends to make things very complicated.
She’s lived pretty much her entire life in the South of France, except for a brief stint where she moved to Washington DC, or the eighty years she spent as a queen of Narnia before coming back home five minutes after she had left. Currently, she is working on her PhD in Astrophysics and Planetary sciences in Besançon, France.
When she’s not writing, or trying to science, she’s either reading, designing, crafting, or attempting to speak with various woodland creatures in an attempt to get them to do household chores for her. She could also be gaming, or pretending she’s not watching anything on Netflix.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance-and Papi’s secrets-the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Yahaira and Camino are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.
In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Title : Clap When You Land Author : Elizabeth Acevado Format : eARC Page Count : 432 Genre : Contemporary YA Publisher : Hot Key Books Release Date : May 5, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Micky’s 4.5 star review
CLAP WHEN YOU LAND is a compelling and poignant story of loss, deceit, finding lost relationships and coming of age. This book hit me in the feels almost straight away and kept me emotionally connected to the characters and story all the way through.
This captivating story is told from the POV of two teens Camiro and Yahaira who were 16, going on 17. They lived in New York and the Dominican Republic respectively and their lives were a complete contrast both financially but also in terms of freedom, access and prejudice. The story was told in normal narrative with elements of beautiful poetic prose. These aspects weren’t choppy, they wove beautifully into the unfurling story.
I am beautiful like a dark-skinned girl that is right here. I’ve always preferred playing black on the chess board. Always advancing, conquering my offending other side.
I really was gripped by life in the Dominican Republic and how Camino conducted herself, her life and her relationships. I admired her as a character so much. When Camino and Yahaira finally connected, it was a lot, brimming over on the page.
This is one of those books that you just have to read. You will lose yourself and emerge the other side affected. This is a book I will remember and as an already fan of Elizabeth Acevedo, I can confirm that this is my favourite of her books yet.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for the early review copy.
From Katie Cotugno and author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell comes this fierce and feisty exploration of feminism: standing up, speaking out and rewriting the rules.
Don’t be easy. Don’t give it up. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be cold. Don’t put him in the friendzone. Don’t act desperate. Don’t let things go too far. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t blame him for trying. Don’t walk alone at night. But calm down! Don’t worry so much. Smile!
Marin is a smart, driven, popular girl – she’s headed for Brown when she graduates and has a brilliant career as a journalist ahead of her. Especially in the eyes of English teacher Mr Beckett. He spends a lot of time around Marin, and she thinks it’s harmless . . . until he kisses her.
No one believes Marin when she tells them what happened, so she does the only thing she can: she writes an article called ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ for the school paper to point out the misogyny and sexism that girls face every day. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and rewrite her own rules.
Title : Rules for Being a Girl Author : Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotungo Format : Paperback ARC Page Count : 304 Genre : Contemporary YA Publisher : Macmillan Children’s Books Release Date : April 16, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3 star review
RULES FOR BEING A GIRL is a YA contemporary with themes of feminism woven throughout. It is the kind of book that I recommend reading the synopsis before you launch in because there are triggers and difficulties for some in the context. Even though nothing in this story triggered me, I still found the story direction hugely discomforting, probably because I’m a teacher and this got me so mad at the teacher in this book.
Marin, the protagonist was very likeable to me. She was just a genuine young woman, passionate, hard-working and fully taken advantage of. What I liked about Marin was how she went on to handle the events, she wasn’t a sudden explosion of anger, she was slower bubble of fury and injustice. Marin’s experiences opened her eyes to whole host of inequalities.
Now to the other characters in this book. Bex was vile, in fact, vile doesn’t quite suffice to describe him. On top of that, I was furious with Marin’s friend, even in the face of the unfurling of the storyline; I really struggled with this aspect of the story. Gray and Marin’s parents however, were highlights from a character perspective.
I definitely think there are life lessons for the YA age group in this story but I didn’t always love how the story played out. I did love the overall message and feminist themes.
Thank you to Macmillan Childrens/My Kind of Book for this early review copy.
An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.
When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart. Al was special. Al was talented. Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it? Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?
Title : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly Author : Danielle Jawando Series : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly #1 Format : Paperback ARC / eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 368 Genre : YA Contemporary Publisher : Simon and Schuster UK Release Date : March 5, 2020
AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY is the kind of book you do need a snapshot of insight into before you enter, in this case I do recommend reading the blurb. This is a story about suicide, grief, bullying and social media. It is powerful and painful, chilling and stunning. I think it’s a really important book and it’s 100% worth the emotional investment.
The book started and ended with an author note, I had the privilidge of hearing the author read the beginning note and the first chapter at a publisher event. There wasn’t a whisper in the room and I fought tears listening to her. The reading experience is pretty much like that, the story and the characters plunged me into their worlds, wrapped me up in their fraught emotions and spat me out a bit of wreck.
Nathan was the brother, grieving his older sibling and questioning everything; he needed the why to these events, some reason and he was determined. Alongside Nathan were family, other siblings, his mother, his friend, Al’s friend Megan and some nasty characters. This was a intricately woven story, where as the reader you were alongside Nathan, searching for answers.
“My chest goes all tight, knowing that I’ll never see him for real again, that he’ll only ever be this person in a photo.”
Eli’s character was tangibly written, believable in his cruel manipulations and plain bullying. Tara and Lewi were more subtle in their connections to the situation and how events finally wove together was pretty shocking. Social media was the weapon wielded in this book and some of the elements took my breath away.
The picture of grief was palpable, I could feel the anger, despair and sadness rising out of the pages, I’m not an easy crier at books but I was an easy crier at this book. Nathan’s emotions had the power to affect me deeply as did Al’s short chapter starters.
For me, as a Mancunian, this book was gift in dialogue and narrative. It was written as Mancunians speak, quite literally and I found it easy to sink into. I don’t think this element will be difficult for any other readers, but you might wonder for the first few pages as you settle into this.
Danielle Jawando captured the issues in this book with honesty, she didn’t hold back on the difficult stuff, this was an absolute strength of this book. These issues shouldn’t be diluted to make it more palatable, your heart should break as you navigate this with the characters. I am beyond impressed with this fictional debut and I will be watching avidly for more from this author.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for this early review copy.
Hollis’ 4 star review
Despite what this book made me feel, and the tears, I’m happy I read this book. Not just because it helped to haul me out of a slump but also because this story is so important to read, particularly for teens, and was done so beautifully.
I went into this read pretty unaware, as per usual, and knew only that Micky, blog buddy extraordinaire, has been raving about it for what feels like ages now. I’m so thankful she put this on my radar.
When you’re angry, it takes you away from the pain somehow. Stops it from tearing into you.
I truly don’t have much to say, and certainly nothing to add to my partner’s great review, but I couldn’t not make a point to add something, to repost this, boost it once more, because this story deserves more awareness and, most importantly, deserves your time. It’s heavy but never without hope, without light — just like stars; though they aren’t seen until it’s dark.. they shine so bright.
15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.
Grief Angels is an urgent and heartfelt look at the power of nostalgia and the many different forms of grief. It’s about young men learning how to share their stories, and teens discovering who they are, and who they might one day become.
Title : Grief Angels Author : David Owen Format : Paperback ARC Page Count : 320 Genre : YA Contemporary Publisher : Atom Books Release Date : March 5, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 2.5-3 star review
Let me preface this review by saying that I really felt drawn to this book and its themes of grief. I have a professional and research interest in grief and for me this means that my mind is open, I respect utterly how people grieve according to their individualised needs and nature. I am sad this didn’t work for me in some aspects.
GRIEF ANGELS is an unusual read in many way, I truly appreciated this story that took young adult male friendships, didn’t sexualise them and realistically depicted a compelling story through them. The narrative was told through the two main characters of Duncan and Owen. Duncan was a young guy dealing with depression and toxicity in his long standing friendship group. Owen was a new guy in school, grieving the death of his father and finding himself along the way.
What was unique about this story was that Owen was whisked off in his grief by the ‘grief angels’ (read birds) to a fantastical land where he went on a quest with someone to do something. I remain unclear about some of this, so excuse the vagueness. I do not know if this part of the story was magical realism, analogy, hallucination or what. I feel that by the end I should have known this. I kept reading, kept pushing through with this element, wanting to find out the answer. I can make my best hypothesis about this but this element needed some world building and structure.
It is testement to the great YA story in the contemporary setting that I haven’t rated this book lower. I loved it when the story switched back to life at school and in the friendships. I wanted to stay there.
I’m sad this particular story didn’t work for me but I would definitely read David Owen again. I liked the characters he created and I enjoyed the larger parts of his writing.
A page-turning and immersive YA novel in verse, telling the story of Lily who is mercilessly bullied at school and who turns to boxing in an attempt to fight back; a story of hope and resilience breaking through even the most difficult situations.
Lily turns sixteen with two very different sides to her life: school, where she is badly bullied, and home with her mum and dad, warm and comforting but with its own difficulties.
After a particularly terrible bullying incident, Lily’s dad determines to give his daughter the tools to fight back.
Introducing her to boxing, he encourages Lily to find her own worth. It is both difficult and challenging but in confronting her own fears she finds a way through that illuminates her life and friendships.
Meeting Rose, and seeing that there is another world out there, enables her to live her own life fully and gives her the knowledge that she is both beautiful and worth it.
Title : Gloves Off Author : Louisa Reid Format : Paperback Page Count : Genre : YA Contemporary Publisher : Guppy Books Release Date : March 5, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
GLOVES OFF was a quick but satisfying read of a young person going through a transformation of identity, poor self image and sexual identity told in a backdrop of hideous bullying. The whold book is told in prose and I loved that aspect. I slipped into the style of prose immediately and I found the words powerful.
butterfly bright, dragonfly gold, (their teeth as sharp as fangs their nails like claws.)
Lily was sixteen, living in a household where food and weight were issues and that seemed to be taking a toll on how she was perceived and treated at school. She had no real friends and she was utterly isolated in her misery. As events escalated, Lily’s father called time on what was happening and motivated Lily to fight back in both a psychological and literal sense; she started boxing training.
The story was engaging, the characters were very much so. The story was told mainly from Lily’s POV but there was the occasional Lily’s mother POV. Lily had great character and identity growth. The sexual identity issues were in the background but they were handled well. It was good to see Lily find some friends, a sense of community and something more.
i am going to be the girl who rises up out of the mud out of the gutter out of silence out of a void that has been carved for me
This is not your average story, it is special, especially considering how well the prose was written.
Thank you to Guppy Publishing and Darkroom Tours for the review copy.