Review: All About Mia (Lisa Williamson)

27016992_UnknownTitle: All About Mia

Author: Lisa Williamson

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Release: February 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? For me, I would say this book is a chameleon. Chameleons can be extremely colourful and can be multiple different colours through their life, but are all the same animal of course. In the same way, this book covers multiple issues and storylines within the same 363 pages. However, a chameleon can also be plain, and it can blend in with ‘boring’ surroundings by becoming one shade of green or beige etc. I think this book is extremely colourful in the level of depth and various storylines it has, however I think that this level of depth varies person to person. For example, someone who can relate to the pregnancy aspect more would get more from that plot line, but someone who can relate more to the middle-child-loneliness aspect would take more from that.

The blurb says: 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.

God this book is funny. It’s so very funny and sarcastic that it had me laughing throughout. The story isn’t a particularly humorous one, and it has its problems for the characters, but the irony and the dry humor is just so good that you sort of forget that the characters’ lives are falling apart. I love when a book has you concerned for the characters but also laughing as you go.

I love how individual each character was; I adore Mia. She’s clumsy, she’s not the brightest in the decisions she makes and she’s sarcastic. But she’s real and we’re all a little bit of Mia. I make the worst decisions and I’m also quite sarcastic. I envy her hair and wardrobe but I don’t envy her family. I think anyone with siblings knows how she feels though; it always feels like they’re better than you at something. It doesn’t matter if you’re the eldest, middle or the youngest.

I think the best thing about this book was how genuine the story is. This could happen in a family similar to Mia’s and it would probably end a lot like this one does. It’s realistic to have a jealous, left-out middle child, an uptight, goody eldest child, and a shy, modest youngest child. It would make sense they would all behave just as Grace, Mia and Audrey do, and watching the story unfold was infuriating but it was real. I could see it happening in my own life or in a friend’s life, and that was the best thing about it.

I love how family-oriented it was; there was no dramatic love triangle, n20160804_163103o tragic boy drama and no high school bullying. It was almost exclusively about the family and how they live. There aren’t many books that do this, and do this well. It’s heartwarming, funny and also quite tense at times. A really good, very gripping read. 10 out of 10 paw prints from me!

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Review: The State of Grace (Rachael Lucas)

file_000Title: The State of Grace

Author: Rachael Lucas

Publisher: Macmillan (mykindabook)

Release: 6th April 2017

Genre: Contemporary, mental health (Asperger’s)

Which animal is similar to this book? Okay this one’s a little bit of a stretch but just go with it please…For me, I would personally say this is a greyhound because for anyone who knows greyhounds, they are one of the breeds people are likely to say they can ‘relate to’ because they’re full of those traits which people often joke about or see in themselves. Greyhounds like to sleep a lot, enjoy food and like attention so there are quite a few greyhound owners who will say they’re like their dog. In the same way, anyone with Asperger’s or autism will really feel like this book ‘gets’ them, just as a greyhound ‘gets’ me, and since I do have Asperger’s, I feel like that about it. I can relate a lot to Grace and to the emotions she experiences, so this book is my greyhound. Greyhounds are also a very fast animal and so compare to this book in that the story is quite fast-paced. Also, greyhounds make exceptional therapy dogs and I feel like this book is kind of a ‘comfort’ book in the same way a greyhound would comfort someone who was having a bad day. I will be reading this on bad days or days I want to feel connected to someone similar to me, so I will be treating this book as kind of a go-to, comfort-read and I would advise anyone similar to me to do the same.

The blurb says: Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost. 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. Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

I want all my friends to read this. I want to give this to anyone who looks at me like I’m stupid/rude, to anyone who thinks I’m a freak, to anyone and everyone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with Asperger’s. I feel like this is definitely one of the most important books of 2017 and I want everyone to know. The way it’s written just makes me realise how not-alone I am and I want to know Grace in reality so badly because I know we are one and the same (except for the part where she loves horses and I have quite a substantial fear of horses because they’re big and could probably kill me with their eyes).

Grace is the best character; she speaks so honestly and bluntly (in her head of course) so that even if you don’t have Asperger’s, the story will still have a good impact on you. I love the way all the characters are so distinctive and separate and I also love that each has their own sub-plot which all make sense at the end. I also love that since we’re seeing everything through Grace’s eyes, everything seems negative and all her worries affect the way the reader will see the story; I think that’s so clever and I wish I could write like that.
The story is fast-paced and at the start, everything is happening quite quickly but by the end, you will be tense, anxious and concerned for Grace as everything speeds along to a nice, relaxing, all-wrapped-up ending. I love that the end of the book actually did wrap up every mini-plot and everything was answered, because I would’ve been heartbroken if anything had been missed out. I also love the two Taylor Swift references, because I am a Swiftie at heart and I love to see references to the old, country, curly-haired Taylor Swift. I also really appreciated the German Shepherd having a good representation; that line about the perception she’s aggressive made me so happy because breed stigmas/representation is where my little animal-student heart lies…

I love that it describes that feeling of being so emotionally drained and physically tired after socialising with people because I feel like that’s an important aspect that people don’t really seem to understand unless they experience it themselves. I also love that it featured an autistic main character who has *shock* a romantic relationship. That’s often not seen as possible since autistic people supposedly have no emotions, don’t want to touch anyone or just aren’t interested in relationships. In this book, Grace is completely ‘normal’ and is a ‘normal’ teenager, just with a mental problem which affects her social skills and thinking, not her desire to date or have friendships. I also love that she’s that ‘normal’ in that she’s not a train enthusiast, can’t do complicated maths in her head and isn’t obsessed with space like a lot of autistic characters seem to be. She’s just an animal-lover who likes Doctor Who and there are quite a few of those who aren’t autistic.

This was honestly such a good book, I can’t say enough good things about it. I will be buying a finished copy, I will be lending it to anyone I can convince to read it and I will be praising it for months to come. This is truly an important read for anyone who has Asperger’s, knows someone who has Asperger’s or simply wants to see what it’s like. I genuinely feel books like this (as well as Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise 20160804_163103Gornall and Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne) should be taught in schools or at least strongly promoted so that they can explain these mental health issues to people who possibly don’t understand it, or who don’t want to feel like a ‘weirdo’ or like they’re alone in the world.

I kind of want a few lines of this tattooed to be honest, and I would recommend this to anyone at all; it’s such a good book and I really hope people read it and feel as connected to it as I do. So, obviously, this gets 10 out of 10 paw prints from me!

Review: All Of The Above (Juno Dawson)

file_000-19Title: 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 lo20160802_160912ve 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!

Review: Wing Jones (Katherine Webber)

file_000-18Title: Wing Jones

Author: Katherine Webber

Publisher: Walker Books

Release: January 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? For me, this book makes me think of sea otters since they’re so beautiful, so funny and so intelligent, but they’re also constantly at risk of being chomped on by the great white sharks that roam in the area…I felt like this book was written so well and with such lovely language, had a funny tone to it and was so cleverly written, touching on subjects which can be written badly or approached wrongly in other books etc. but there was always that feeling that everything could go horribly wrong at any minute.

The blurb says: Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

I loved this book a lot, and I’ve been waiting to read it since I heard about it at YALC in July. Although I didn’t really even know what it was about, I was excited since I’d heard so many good things and I don’t disagree with any of them; this book was seriously amazing. It follows the story of a girl called Wing whose grandparents come from China and Ghana respectively, so she doesn’t fully fit in anywhere. She then has to deal with her brother falling into a coma and subsequently discovers a passion for running.

Okay but this book is beautifully diverse; not only does it cover nationalities not often covered (as previously mentioned, the main character has grandparents from Ghana and from China so that’s a little bit different) but it also covers class differences and financial differences in a way that’s realistic and quite frankly, scary. The main thing I loved about this book is how real it is.

As soon as I started reading this, I was in the story; the writing was so  beautiful and the story was set so well (1990s Atlanta). Being biracial, especially in this time-frame, Wing has a lot to deal with and the story follows her as she tries to get through the difficult time her family is facing since it’s hard to find the money to pay for her brother’s medical bills. Running gives her an escape and I really loved the way it’s described in the book; it makes it a spiritual and mental experience as well as a physical one and I liked that the running aspect was more important than the romance plot.

I appreciate books with a satirical or jokey tone and this book did this well (the Grannies are perfect!) so I just loved the voices of all the characters and how they all entwined to create a realistic spread of personalities. The plot was heartwarming, heartbroken and tense at the same time as having that fun/chilled out undertone that just mak20160804_163103es me connect to characters a lot more.

I shall be forever wishing I knew all the characters in real life (except Heather Parker. She can do one.) so this book gets 10 paw prints out of 10! I’ll be reading more from Katherine Webber in future!

Review: The One Memory Of Flora Banks (Emily Barr)

file_000-17Title: The One Memory Of Flora Banks

Author: Emily Barr

Publisher: Penguin

Release: 12th January 2017

Genre: Thriller, contemporary, YA

Which animal is similar to this book? Okay I think I’ve already used giant pandas for a comparison with another book, but I’m using them again with this book for a different reason. This book broke my heart and it was tense and emotional throughout the entire story, and I was constantly expecting it all to go wrong. In a similar way, giant pandas were steadily going extinct, mainly because they’re so difficult to care for in captivity, and once their homes had been chopped down, there was no going back…However they do not help themselves to survive; for example, there isn’t a specific breeding season, they’ll only reproduce if they happen across another panda of the opposite sex. This is risky as it’s unlikely they’ll come across another. They’re also clumsy; it’s amazing how many have injured themselves from falling out of trees etc. and this again impacts their ability to reproduce meaning they were gradually dying out. To compare it to Flora, we have to watch pandas slowly kill themselves off purely because they don’t understand that they’re harming themselves which is so similar to reading as Flora puts herself in these situations which the reader likely knows is a mistake but she doesn’t see it because of her amnesia.

The blurb says: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Wow. I won’t lie, when I first started reading this, I thought it was too heavy for me and I thought I’d got bored. But once I’d read a little more in, I started to really enjoy it and now I feel connected to Flora because ‘oh my god’ she’s amazing and so so strong. For someone who genuinely can forget when she returns from going to the loo mid-conversation, she’s incredibly strong. I feel like she would be going places in the real world.

Firstly, I loved the way it was written in her voice which was constantly changing. She developed the amnesia at the age of ten, so naturally her voice and her mindset is very immature for her age (seventeen) and being only a year older than her, it was easy for me to see the mistakes she was making and I found myself constantly stressed that she was doing completely the wrong thing. There are times she handled things in such a childish and just plain wrong way, and although I fully understand why she was doing it and where her logic was coming from, I felt very protective of her and just wanted to tell her to stop and think. Every now and then, she’d remember she was seventeen and force herself to think more maturely, and then she’d switch back to the childish thoughts, along with confused thoughts when she often didn’t remember where she was or who she was with. It was incredibly well-written.

The story started off quite normal and quite relaxed (considering the circumstances of the protagonist) but then it quickly became a lot more serious when she jetted off to Svalbard to chase after Drake. It was then that it became a lot more tense and a lot more eerie as she did things she shouldn’t have and was essentially completely alone away from her home and family. The ending was so well put together and tied everything up, but it was still a slightly creepy ending. I did love it though; it was very clever.20160804_163746

If you like thrilling stories, with that element of twists and turns throughout the story, you will love this! It’s so well told, so realistically written and has a good pace. 9 out of 10 paw prints from me!