Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Book Review: How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle

How to Be BadTitle: How To Be Bad
Author: E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle
Series:  n/a
Pages:  288
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Date of UK Publication: 4th June, 2015
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads:
When you're tired of being good, sometimes you gotta be a little bad ...

Jesse, Vicks and Mel couldn't be more different. Jesse, a righteous Southern gal who's as thoughtful as she is uptight, is keeping a secret that she knows will change her life forever. Vicks is a wild child: seemingly cool, calm and collected on the outside, but inside she's furious at herself for being so anxious about her neglectful boyfriend. And Mel is the new girl in town. She's already been dismissed as just another rich kid, but all she wants is to get over some of her fears and find some true friends.

But for all their differences, the girls discover they've got one thing in common - they're desperate to escape. Desperate to get the heck out of Niceville and discover their true 'badass' selves! Even if it's just for the weekend ... One 'borrowed' car later, it's time to hit the road and head for Miami. Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything.


My Thoughts:
Ever since I read We Were Liars, I've been a big fan of E. Lockhart. I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks last year and loved it, so I had high hopes for more of the same from How To Be Bad. While it wasn't at all what I wanted, it was still enjoyable and I'm glad I've read it.

Three girls, Jesse, Vicks, and Mel, work in the local Waffle House and they've all had enough of their lives and decide to go on an elaborate road trip to escape. The novel is narrated in alternating POV, with each of the three authors taking a character each. I think Mel was the most relatable, but Jesse was the hardest for me to get used to.

However Jesse was also the character that I found most interesting, with her strong Christian views affecting everything that she does. I liked seeing such a steadfast and unashamed faith in a character as it's not something I've ever seen in a YA novel, but I do think that she was overexaggerated and her faith was portrayed negatively, which I didn't think was very fair. She fell into the pushy, close-minded Christian stereotype and for the most part (or at least in my experience), Christians are not like that. In Britain at least, perhaps it's different in America? I don't know, but I did enjoy her discussion of VeggieTales. You should watch them if you haven't. They're very silly... Anyway!

The novel's a lot more character driven than plot driven (at times the plot is rather ludicrous, and at others just plain not-that-interesting), but I didn't mind that. At the beginning none of the characters were particularly likeable, but by the end their friendships grow and change and they develop into better people which is always nice to see. I enjoyed watching their friendship blossom, even through their fights, and it's always great to see a novel whose main plot is the development of female friendships. Yes, there are boys involved but only secondarily - go girls!

While How To Be Bad did not deliver everything that I wanted from it, I did enjoy it and was quite happy to sit and read it almost all in one sitting. If, like me, you're looking for something as good and individual as E. Lockhart's previous titles, We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, perhaps look elsewhere, but I'd recommend it more if you're a contemporary enthusiast and for fans specifically looking for a good YA road trip.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Book Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet?Title: Am I Normal Yet?
Author: Holly Bourne
Series:  Normal Trilogy, #1
Pages:  434
Publisher: Usborne
Date of Publication: 1st August, 2015
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?


My Thoughts:
Ever since I read a proof copy of Soulmates back in 2013, I've been a big fan of Holly Bourne. I devoured Soulmates in only one day despite it's 500 pages, and The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting was probably one of my favourite reads last year. Therefore I was super excited to get my hands on a copy of Am I Normal Yet? at YALC and I couldn't wait to get started.

Mental health is a big issue today, but to be honest I've never really thought too much about it because it's not something I've seriously ever encountered or considered, until reading Am I Normal Yet?, which now that I've written it down is really bad, I know! However, now that I've finished reading the novel, which is so honestly told from Evie's POV as she returns to school after first becoming ill and throughout a relapse, I feel like I can understand much better what she went through and how real sufferers are thinking.

I have to start this with a hats off to Holly for being able to depict Evie's illness accurately yet sensitively - I can't imagine it was easy! Despite the tough subject matter, Evie's voice was so easy to read and individual and I was able to lose myself in her voice and story. I was really interested in the psychology of her illness, for example her thinking behind having to touch lampposts six times or wash her hands several times, because although it was a totally alien thing to me, it made perfect sense in Evie's head. Equally though I loved the moments that Evie spent at school (though not when she was talking to all the douchey guys - seriously not a single guy in this book is nice! It irked me, sorry - I know it's a feminist book and all but not all guys are bad, and it's good to have a healthy relationship, right?!), and particularly those conversations that she has with her two new friends, Lottie and Amber.

It is during these conversations that Holly manages to integrate discussions of feminism into her novel. They discuss many modern day issues surrounding feminism, such as ever-taboo periods, and the Bechdel test. The girls form a 'Spinster Club' and while sometimes these meetings felt a bit like an info dump, they voiced many thoughts I've had and heard discussed by my school's Feminist Society, while at the same time being pretty laugh-out-loud funny. Feminism is so obviously something that Holly is passionate about and it's so great to see it shining through in her novel.

Am I Normal Yet? was brilliant, and the fact that it is a trilogy and there's more to come in the future is super exciting and I can't wait for the next two books! I think it's such an important read for everyone, to gain insight into what it's really like to live with a mental illness in an interesting and fun way, and for that reason, you definitely need to get yourself a copy, pronto.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Book Review: Lorali by Laura Dockrill

LoraliTitle: Lorali
Author: Laura Dockrill
Series:  n/a
Pages:  208
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Date of Publication: 2nd July, 2015
Source: For review via NetGalley*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Colourful, raw, brave, rich and fantastical - this mermaid tale is not for the faint-hearted.

Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn't exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from.

Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become human.

But along with Lorali's arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory's bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway?


My Thoughts:
Before YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention), I'd heard about Lorali but I wasn't really sure that it would be my cup of tea. I've read a couple of other YA mermaid books several years ago, and while I did really enjoy them, I wasn't particularly interested in reading more. However, after meeting Laura Dockrill at YALC and hearing her talk about and read from the book, I decided actually it was something that I was interested in. And it was one of the strangest and most unpredictable books I've read in a really long time, but I enjoyed it!

The novel is told from three perspectives: Lorali - the mermaid princess who 'surfaces' and washes up on shore, naked and with new legs to replace her tail; Rory - the boy who finds her on the beach; and the sea. Firstly I couldn't get over the fact that the two main characters were called Rory and Lorali (Gilmore Girls, anyone?!), and secondly I was super intrigued by the sea's narrative. I think it was the first time I'd read from the perspective of something that wasn't human or animal! While I think that all of the characters could have taken a little more time to develop (it seemed just a little rushed), they were likeable enough and I enjoyed reading their stories.

I did really like Laura Dockrill's writing style, even if it did take a little getting used to. When Lorali first surfaces and is getting to learn how to form words into sentences, her narrative is stilted and really just a string of words, which sounds kind of confusing and kind of annoying but once I'd got used to it, I thought that it really fit with the naivety and child-like nature of someone who's never spent any time with humans or even on land.

The sea's chapters however were just plain weird. I could never anticipate what on earth would happen next, but this only made them more exciting and interesting. I'm not sure how necessary it was to narrate from the sea's point of view since it mostly followed the movements of a set of sea pirates but it gave a nice overview of everything that was happening in a way that isn't really possible with first person narration, so it worked in an unusual kind of way. Hopefully that makes sense! It was always really clear from the writing which perspective I was reading from, which in a three person (voice?) narrative, is vitally important.

Lorali was nothing at all like I expected but really good nonetheless. Don't be put off by the fact that it's a mermaid book like I was - it's so much darker than The Little Mermaid and mermaid princesses trying to find their princes! Complete with betrayal, wicked but dapper-ly-dressed pirates and lusty sea monsters, Lorali really does have a little bit of everything to keep you on your toes, and with a plot made up of a maze of unpredictable (and often just downright strange) twists and turns, it's not one to be missed.


*Huge thanks to Hot Key Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to this book in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 
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