Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishing Info: November 2018 by Walker Books, Special Collector’s Edition (first published 2017)  

Pages: 480

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give is an outstanding and powerful novel. I bought this book last year but I don’t read much contemporary. Fantasy and science fiction are much more my thing. So even though I’d heard so much about it, I still hadn’t read it months after buying it. Then, two weeks ago, George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in the US, and Black Lives Matter protests started up all around America and in other countries too. This prompted me to finally pick up The Hate U Give, and I’m really glad I did. 

As a white person, I can’t possibly imagine what it is like to experience racism and live in fear of the police in the way that black people do. But in The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas put me right in Starr’s shoes. I felt her fear, her pain, her sadness, her frustrations. Reading articles and non-fiction is a great way to learn, but fiction can be so impactful. It can really place you in someone else’s shoes and show you what their experience is like. Not only does it show police violence and the injustices of the American justice system, but it also provides an insight into day-to-day racism and microaggressions that black people sadly have to live with.

Starr is a brilliant character and I loved reading her and Khalil’s story. This is a book about a young woman who has witnessed a terrible crime and who finds her voice to stand against racism. Starr grows so much over the course of the book. At first, she is afraid. She witnessed the death of her best friend and she goes through so much dealing with what she witnessed and she’s afraid of the repercussions of speaking up. But she’s also angry with the way Khalil is being talked about by people and portrayed by the media, and angry that Khalil’s murderer could escape justice. Alongside this are Starr’s relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, which are masterfully woven through the novel. I loved every character and loved seeing her family interact. This book is full of so much emotion and heart.  

The Hate U Give is well-written, well-paced and has so many brilliant characters. While reading it I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the injustice. All the elements that make a great book just come together perfectly. I had no hesitation giving it 5 stars. This is one of those books that will stay with me forever. It’s important because of the subject matter it tackles so well, but also because it’s just such a good book. I really think this is a rare, flawless novel. Although it’s about police brutality, it’s also full of love and hope. The Hate U Give is a book that everyone should read.

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I feel kind of mean giving this book 2 stars. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It started out well and had me engaged at the beginning, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much the further it went along. It just ended up being kind of, well, boring.

To begin with, I was excited to read a book set in college rather than high school. It made a refreshing change to read about characters embarking on a different part of their educational and life journey. Although I can’t imagine sharing a dorm with someone. We don’t really have shared rooms in accommodation much in the UK. I liked having my own private space to retreat to – it would have been weird to have a roommate! Reagan – Cath’s roommate – was a great character and really different to Cath. At first they don’t really get along and mostly ignore each other, but eventually they become friends in a way that seemed genuine and not forced by the author.

One thing positive I do have to say is that I really related to Cath. She’s anxious about being in a new environment she isn’t familiar with, and Rainbow Rowell managed to describe those feelings really well. I liked how Cath and Wren’s relationship evolves over the course of the book. As twins, they’ve done everything together. Then suddenly Wren wants more independence, but Cath is so used to having Wren around, she feels lost without her. There are lots of ups and downs in their friendship over the course of the book.

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Book Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishing Info: August 2015 by Usbourne Publishing

Pages: 434

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

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?

I met Holly Bourne a couple of years ago at a talk and got this book signed. She wrote ‘Normal = overrated’ and I am so thankful to her for that message. I have only just got round to reading this book. I’ve been catching up on all the books I didn’t have time to read during my degree, and I wish I’d read this one sooner. A few times I picked it up, read the first page, and put it back on the shelf because I wasn’t sure it would be for me. I don’t very often read contemporary books, I’m more of a fantasy person, and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the writing style. But here we are, and I finally read it, and I’m so so glad I did.

The writing style is quite conversational, which is what put me off reading it, as I’m not always a fan of this style. However, I ended up very much enjoying the style of writing. Holly Bourne captures the voice of the main character brilliantly and the style works well for the book. At time the writing got a bit rambling but I didn’t mind too much.

What Bourne did so well is show Evie’s thought processes. Evie has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which has sadly been very stereotyped in our society and a lot of people have misconceptions about this condition. Bourne didn’t fall into clichés and it was clear she had done a lot of research. It was eye opening to see the thoughts that might go through the mind of someone with OCD, and also how that can spiral into relapse.

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Book Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

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Internment by Samira Ahmed

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: March 2019 by Atom

Pages: 386

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Having seen the description for this book, I just had to buy it. The idea drew me in right away because of its relevance. Negative attitudes towards Muslims have sadly become more prominent lately, which is completely unfair. This book imagines what could happen if the situation in America escalated, and shows how quickly things can change. I wanted to love this book. It had so much promise, but I was a little disappointed. Although I felt it could have been better, it was also incredibly shocking, as well as moving and heartbreaking.

Rather than being set in a far-flung ultra-futuristic setting, Internment is set in a near future that unfortunately you can really believe could actually happen. I think it being near future makes it more terrifying. So many dystopias are set in a distant future that feels a long way away, like something that wouldn’t happen for a while. But sadly you can imagine this happening now. The book tackles big issues such as Islamophobia and illegal detainment, and it’s so good to see serious subject matter explored in young adult fiction.

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Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

23664731Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Corgi (first published 2015)

Pages: 308

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I have very conflicted feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was really interesting to see the world from a different perspective in YA, but on the other I’m not sure about how Yoon handled the subject matter. The novel is told from the perspective of Maddy, who has SCID and has not been able to leave her house since she was a tiny baby. The house is adapted with air filters and she has a nurse stay with her all day.

In the first section of the book I really felt connected to Maddy’s character and got a real sense of her isolation from the rest of the world. Despite this isolation, she wasn’t unhappy. She gets on well with her nurse, Carla, and has a great relationship with her mother. I liked seeing her interactions with these two characters in the first half.

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Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

beforeifall_movieeditionBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver   

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: Kindle edition (first published 2010)

Pages: 484

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

After I finished reading this book I really had no idea how I would approach writing a review for it. I went through so many different emotions as I read it. There were times when I hated, times when I loved it, times it made me sad, times I was frustrated by it. It was a rollercoaster.

The main character, Sam, was really irritating. At first I found that annoying, but then I realised she couldn’t be a nice person at the start, could she? How could there be a redemption arc (which is what Oliver seemed to be going for) if Sam was a good person from the start? So I accepted that I didn’t like her character, thinking that she would grow on me as she developed.

However, for most of the book she was still annoying. She was just so selfish. When she realised she was living the same day over and decided to do something good it wasn’t because she wanted to help the other person, it was because she thought it might be her ticket out of this endless loop. And even in the last section of the book, although she didn’t seem quite as selfish, I didn’t get the feeling she was doing the ‘good’ things totally selflessly. Maybe that’s the point though. Maybe if her character had done a complete arc from popular mean girl to selfless good girl in seven days I would have thought she changed too quickly or would have found it too cliché.

All of the characters were painted really vividly, even if I didn’t like all of them. Even characters who featured only a small amount felt like real people not just anonymous faces. The friendship between Sam and her friends was portrayed especially well.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday looks at popular books that lived up to the hype. I could name quite a few books that didn’t live up to their hype, but here are the ones that I think did. We’ll have to leave the ones that didn’t for another day.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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Mid-year Reading Round Up 2018

33154647We’re already halfway through 2018! So today I’m looking back at what my best books have been so far this year and looking ahead at what novels I want to sink my teeth into in the second half of 2018. According to Goodreads I’m on track to reach my 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, having read 12 so far this year.

Two books that I loved were Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray and The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Defy the Stars had me hooked all the way through and I loved the darkness of The Young Elites. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass was also a highlight.

I finished Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy but unfortunately was disappointed by the final book, Ruin and Rising. The series is still a favourite of mine though. Other books that didn’t live up to my hopes were The Girl King by Meg Clothier and S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett – both had great concepts and potential, but could have been much better.

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