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

38167114Internment 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.

There were so many threads and characters, Oliver did a great job of weaving them together, and showing how Sam doing a different thing on the next iteration of the day impacted on something that happened to another character. The concept of repeating the day over is so interesting and I think the author did write that aspect of the book well.

I did like how scenes are really fleshed out. Often scenes are skimmed over in books where there is a more fast pace, but in Before I Fall Oliver took the time to paint scenes and make them really pop.

While I like ambiguous endings and think they can be really effective, with this one I was disappointed there weren’t more answers. I didn’t know what to think or feel at the end. It’s the sort of book where some ambiguity would work, but it was as ambiguous as you can get and for some reason I was left feeling unsatisfied. There wasn’t really any explanation of what is happening to Sam, where she is, she’s dead but where is she and why is she reliving this day? For redemption of some kind perhaps, but why, how? Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for an ambiguous ending.

I’m not sure if this is science fiction or supernatural or spiritual sub-genre or something else entirely, but I liked that it wasn’t a straight contemporary, that its focus was on issues explored in YA contemporary but used the repeating day to explore those issues.

I’ve seen it compared to If I Stay and Thirteen Reasons Why, and I can see why. The comparison of life-after-death with If I Stay is obvious, and it tackles bullying and high school culture like Thirteen Reasons Why. But for some reason, I didn’t like it as much as those two. If I Stay is one of my favourites, it turned me into an emotional wreck because it was an amazing book but so sad and gave me so many emotions. Thirteen Reasons Why, although very different, also left a big impression. Before I Fall isn’t as memorable for me. Although, I think maybe I’d enjoy it more if I read it again, that I would fall in love with it more if I returned to it in a few years time. Like If I Stay and Thirteen Reasons Why, it is thought-provoking and moving, but it didn’t have as much impact and I think I need it to re-read it to fully appreciate its nuances.

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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