Title: All Of The Above
Author: Juno Dawson
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release: September 2015
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, mental health.
Which animal is similar to this book? This will be difficult to explain so just bear with me… I would compare this book to a milksnake since they’re colourful and have a lot going on within their bodies, without being ridiculously ‘out there’. They have a purpose to being so colourful (it warns off predators, not that that’s relevant to this), in the same way that this book covers a whole multitude of issues (and I’ve seen some reviews be negative about this) which I personally think are necessary and important to the story. Both the snake and the plot pull off their bright colours well, but for me, I respect snakes and I understand the appeal, however that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them draped around my neck. To translate, I understand the need for a book like this, and I see its good points, but I feel this book isn’t fully for me.
The blurb says: This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Grand arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who’s the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the ‘alternative’ kids take Toria under their wing. And that’s when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band – and it’s instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there’s Polly…love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.
I can say so many good things about this story (and trust me, I will) but I think it’ll be best to get the negative aspect out of the way first. Without spoiling much, I really feel like the asexual character was poorly misrepresented. I resent the idea that to be asexual, you have to have some kind of dislike in your body and that’s the message put across here. I like that there was an asexual character, and aside from that, I really liked that they were shown to be ‘normal’. However, I didn’t like the self-conscious link that was made there, so maybe if you wish to read a book with an asexual character, maybe try another.
However, if you’re looking for a realistic, jam-packed book filled with fun, drama and friendship, then look no further. All Of The Above manages to pack in so many typically ‘teen’ issues into just 326 pages. There’s emotional moments that make you want to cry, times you’ll laugh and instances you’ll wish were happening to you in real life. In real life, there’s often a lot going on at once, so it makes sense for so much to happen at once for the characters in the story. I feel it tackles sex in YA well too, not over-describing, but presenting it realistically in a way I think a lot of teen girls would be able to relate to.
I love the way all the characters have such hugely distinctive voices and personalities, with Polly so outgoing and Alice so not, Beasley is shy and Daisy is friendly. I love that throughout the whole story, despite the many crossed paths and plot lines, the voices remain distinct and strong.
Seriously so much happens in this story that I feel like anything I say is a spoiler…So if you like fast-paced, realistic stories with some good diversity (especially in terms of LGBT+), then give this a go! 8 out of 10 paw prints from me!