Review of The Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James

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(Walker Books kindly sent me a copy of this book for review. My thoughts on the book haven’t been affected as a result though.)

Lauren James, as you probably know if you know anything about me as a reader, is one of my favourite authors. She wrote The Next Together series, which I’d say is a little like science fiction meets historical fiction – it’s about a couple named Katherine and Matthew who are destined to fall in love with each other over and over again throughout history. I definitely recommend it. When this book was first announced, I was, as you could probably imagine, really excited for it. I expected big things from it.

I did, however, think a lot about it before starting it. This book focuses on Romy, the only person aboard The Infinity, a spaceship bound for Earth II, with the mission to inhabit the Earth. She finds out about another ship that’s been sent along with her, The Eternity, upon which J is aboard. They can only communicate via emails, and slowly she finds herself falling in love with J, despite the fact that they’ve never met one another and they’re light years away.

As a concept, I thought, this book needed to do a lot of things to work. I remember thinking that dialogue was going to be difficult, because there is no one but Romy on the ship. She communicates with all other humans via email that takes ages to get to where it needs to be. The only living characters we know about (at the start at least…) are herself, Molly (on Earth) and J.  She’s aboard the ship by herself. Would this story work?

It absolutely did. I almost feel ashamed for ever doubting it if I’m honest!

Firstly, let’s talk about the cover. I remember seeing this for the first time and being surrounded by bloggers at Walker Books, and everyone gasped when they saw it, simply because it’s stunning.

Because there’s only a few characters, you really get to know Romy as a person. There’s a really intrinsic backstory which I won’t get into because it will definitely spoil the entire book for you, but once you start understanding a lot more about the book lots more unravels. It’s a mystery what’s going to happen on the next page.

I love the way that the emails were used as part of the book, and chapters are divided in a more unique way, that I don’t think I should reveal either because of fears of spoiling it, but both are unique touches.

Lauren’s way of writing from her first two books are back, of course, and it’s such a unique story. I think you will absolutely love this story, and I think it’s such an amazing book. Go read it!

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Review of Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

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I remember first reading Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places perhaps a year, maybe two years ago, and I loved it. It was one of my favourite books immediately, and Jennifer had a way of writing that was really special, for me personally anyway. I had no doubt that Jennifer would be back with a new book, and Holding Up The Universe is that book. I read it recently and I’m finally getting round to reviewing it!

For this book, I’m going to provide you with the blurb from Goodreads, because I think it describes this book the best.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game–which lands them in group counseling and community service–Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

One thing that stood out in particular to me again in this book, which is common with All The Bright Places, is the characters and the level of detail paid to each individual character, their backstory, the hidden parts of the character that we get to see from reading in this book. I love this – one of the things I always love if I can see it is the ability to get to know the characters in a book. Jack and Libby, as well as being main characters, feel real when you read this book.

It’s also interesting to see that the romance that grows between two seemingly totally incompatible characters is a common theme across both books too, and I think this works too in Holding Up The Universe too.

The courage that Libby as a a character has is really inspiring at points to read about and I think that there are many emotions you’ll feel reading this book.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I took a long time to read it, mainly because a lot of my time has been consumed with exams recently, but this isn’t a comment on the quality of the book, more of a comment on my lack of time. I think this book is definitely worth your read, and I’m a little unsure of whether it will be a book everyone likes, but I liked it, and I think you will as well.

Review of The State Of Grace by Rachael Lucas

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I’ve been waiting a while for this one! Rachael posted the news of this book being acquired a while ago and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. I read it over the #SundayYAthon at the start of this month and I’m very excited to finally be reviewing it.

“Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more. Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own.”

This isn’t a particularly long read, but I anticipated it being an amazing one. Rachel, who organised the #SundayYAthon and runs #SundayYA, actually said, when I asked whether it was too late to add this title to the Readathon title:

The State of Grace is brilliant and I would recommend abandoning your #SundayYAthon TBR in favour of this.”

And this book truly is wonderful.

First of all, I’m always excited when #ownvoices novels are published, as I’m excited that there are stories written by the people that experience the things that they are writing about, if that makes any sense! Rachael herself is autistic, and I think with that came a level of depth and understanding that shines through in this book.

Grace is a character that you really get to know and empathise with throughout the book, and Rachael’s written a really heartwarming tale really exploring Grace’s character. I love the fact that we get to know Grace, as she feels like less of a main character of a novel and almost more like a friend.

Along with Grace’s challenges that she may face day to day that come with being autistic, this book also explores growing up and relationships with other people, and it does so very nicely.

Yes, the story’s not a long one, but it is a poignant one. One that will stick with you. It certainly has for me.

There’s a lot of positivity flying around the internet for this book from bloggers and reviewers and authors and everyone generally, so anything positive I can say (and there’s a lot!) has probably already been said, but do know this: I highly recommend this book. It’s easily one of my standouts for 2017 and is a book set to be remembered for a long while after it was published earlier this month.

(Also, as a quick plea to Rachael, please keep writing YA!)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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(Walker kindly gave me a copy of this book to read and review. My opinions haven’t been affected.)

I knew about this book a while before Walker announced their Christmas blogger event. Then I went along and spotted that copies of this phenomenal book were sitting in the goody bags and I was very excited about it. This book is picking up a lot of attention and for very good reason too.

Starr lives two lives, one that fits her neighbourhood and one that fits her life at a private school. The system carries on, until the day she becomes the sole witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil by a police officer. Now, anything she says could destroy her community and even get her killed.

The quote on the front of the UK cover at least is from John Green, who you’ll see above called it “Stunning.” Don’t read it as a flippant comment, as this book is incredible, gripping, heartbreaking for all the right reasons and just astounding. In fact, you’ll hear many people talking about this book as it gets set to publish here in the UK and you’ll hear a lot of people calling it a breakout, the most important book you’ll read this year, a standout debut and you might be inclined to dismiss it. Don’t. 

This book confronts so many themes that we just don’t confront enough as a society and as individuals, racism of course being a huge theme, but confronting not just the fact that it exists, but the effects that it has and how damaging it can be to those affected.

This book might make you feel uncomfortable, but in the best way. The way that will almost certainly make you think a little differently, and I think some of the best books do just that.

There isn’t much on this book I can offer that hasn’t already been said, but rest assured if you buy this book you are most definitely not going to be disappointed. It’s a worthwhile and necessary read. And, most importantly I think, when people tell me that this is a standout book of 2017, they are 110% accurate.

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

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(I was sent this book in exchange for a review. My opinions haven’t been affected in any way!)

Lisa’s debut was the incredible The Art Of Being Normal, which still stands out in my mind as one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was fantastic. When I heard Lisa was writing a new book, I was of course very excited and eager to get my hands on a copy. Lisa’s first book really stands out in my mind as one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, so I think the excitement is warranted.

One family, three sisters.
GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student.
AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion.
And MIA, the mess in the middle.
Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers.
When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves.
But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.

Where do I even start with this book?

First of all, I loved it. I felt like I’d become a small part of the Campbell-Richardson family after reading if I’m totally honest.

This book is a really honest look at relationships between siblings and family life as a teenager. Mia is a different character to her two sisters and the book looks at the kind of expectations she feels she has to live up to as a middle child, considering her younger sister is a swimming champion and Grace is a straight A student.

Mia’s a really fun character, and whilst the book sometimes gets serious, laughs are to be had too.

As well as the family relationships, the book takes a really good look at how relationships exist between friends and what to do when they go wrong, and how sometimes everything can go wrong but it’s still OK. Mia’s friend group are great, and they’re just as great to read about too.

I won’t ruin what Grace’s shock announcement is to you, or else I’d ruin a really important part of the story for you, but the story plays out alongside it, which I think works perfectly, and eventually, there’s a conclusion I think a lot of people will like.

It really is a great book. I had a lot of fun reading it, speeding through it in a couple of days, and I highly recommend it.

 

Mind The Gap by Phil Earle

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(The lovely people at Barrington Stoke sent me this book in exchange for a review, but my thoughts on the book are unaffected as a result. There may be spoilers ahead!)

This is the second book published by Barrington Stoke that I’ve read, the first being Non Pratt’s Unboxed, and I really enjoyed that book. When I got my hands on a copy of this book, I was very excited to read this too.

It wasn’t just Mikey who lost someone when his dad died.

I lost Mikey.

It’s not a competition and I know I sound like a complete git. I mean, it’s his dad for god’s sake.

But Mikey’s my best mate.

And I miss him.

This is a really poignant tale, a short one but a striking one. Towards the end of the book you may recognise the story that this book is themed on, the tale of the woman who lost her husband, who announced the stations on the Underground and when it was announced his voice was to be phased out, the woman fought and he can still be heard announcing the stations at Embankment in London.

This has always been a tale that I’ve liked, and it really comes through in Phil’s novel. The theme of friendship really shines through in this book, all about the (unnamed) narrator’s mission to get his best friend back.

Many, many people will enjoy this book so I definitely think it’s worth your time giving it a read.

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

I remember back at YALC in 2016 that the cover for this book was revealed in front of a pretty big crowd at the Walker Books stand. This book has been highly anticipated by a lot of people (including me!) for a very long time now, but on the 5th January 2017 it officially came out here in the UK. I actually ran into Katherine at the Walker Christmas Event in December, and whilst I was particularly awkward in that conversation, Katherine is absolutely wonderful to meet and speak to. Does this translate into Wing Jones? Absolutely. 

There may be some gushing ahead.

Fifteen year old Wing Jones lives in 1990s Atlanta, and she’s often caught between two worlds, with one grandmother from Ghana and another from China. But tragedy strikes one day in the form of an accident that affects her brother, and it’s when this accident happens that Wing finds out she has a talent for running, a talent she never knew she had before. It “could bring her family everything it needs. It could also keep Wing from the one thing she wants.”

Let me start off by saying that there is so much praise for this book floating around the internet right now that I’m not sure I can contribute anything original to it at all because, as if there’s a reserve of praise in a bank somewhere, the funds seem to have been used up. I’m going to give it a go though, because this book definitely deserves all the praise it’s getting.

As you might expect, this book is incredible. As you might expect, it was the type of book that had me shaking it after reading it in sheer admiration at how brilliant it was. As you might expect, the story is as brilliant as everyone has said it is and as you might expect Wing is as amazing a character as you would expect.

This book did make me realise something else that I’d never really acknowledged before though as well.

I like a lot of books I read. I love a few of the books I read. This might be the same for other readers too, but there’s also that top category of books that keeps you gripped right until the very end, really quite desperate to read more. Not a lot of books are in this category, but Wing Jones definitely is for me.

The story plays out along a plotline that will keep you on the edge for so many characters. There’s an incident involving LaoLao towards the end that sticks out immediately to me, and I won’t spoil it or say what happens but I think many readers will know which part I’m talking about. The characters are incredible, as I’ve already said and will most likely continue to gush about in the future, and the attention to detail with this book will astound you as well.

The cover, for instance, was very positively received at YALC (I think it’s perfect) and there’s even the purple to pink sprayed edges on the book too.

Like I said, anything positive that could be said about this book has probably already been said. But, if you’re in two minds about reading this book, let me put it this way: Wing, her mother, her grandmothers, Aaron, Eliza and the team, they’ll all stick with you long after you read this book. Katherine’s really knocked it out the park with her debut novel. It’s slick, beautiful and may even remind you there’s always a silver lining to every situation.

And America: I know you haven’t got this book just yet, you’ve still got a few weeks to go, but if you’re reading, trust me. It’s well worth it.