Review: Sara Bernard – Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Bernard

Eden can depend on Bonnie for being there and holding her up. But now Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, and Eden doesn’t know which secrets she should be keeping. As Bonnie gets further and further away from Eden, Eden is forced further into her lies. Can Eden bring Bonnie home without betraying her trust?

I’m not sure how convinced by this novel I was. I wanted to get more of a sense about Eden’s background, but I appreciated that the author didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because the whole novel was really about how far you would go to keep a secret. There were touches of romance between Eden and Connor, and attempts to explore the sometimes complicated nature of families, but most of the novel was focussed on Eden’s stubbornness. I never felt a real breakthrough in her personality, despite the softening she displayed later.

There could have been more action to keep my attention in the first part of the novel. I never felt like Eden was going to tell, so I didn’t feel much of a problem as Bonnie got further and further away from her home. I got to page 36 and commented to my partner that nothing seemed to have happened yet.

Something that you are told about frequently in foster care training, or as a psychiatric patient, is that you have to warn people that you can’t actually keep things a secret – if keeping the secret will harm them, or others, you are required to tell someone who can act to keep the person in question safe. Teenagers find this hard to understand, probably due to peer pressure & influence.

I felt pretty betrayed at the end honestly. I don’t know how I felt about the whole Jack-Bonnie situation either. I agree that he was in a position of power, and that he shouldn’t have abused that power. How could Bonnie be so naive? She seemed to have plenty of book-smarts, but no common sense. Not to mention the lack of responsibility of the school. Oh! And I wasn’t convinced that Jack was ‘grooming’ Bonnie. I agree that he probably didn’t feel the same star-struck love for her, but he might not have been a paedophile. Consent is a tricky thing – make sure you are both consenting ADULTS before doing anything…dodgy.

I’m giving this 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 13th February 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Angelo Surmelis – the dangerous art of blending in

the dangerous art of blending in
Angelo Surmelis

Evan has been trying to fit into society and his family his whole life. But with violence at home, and the knowledge that he kissed a boy in summer at Bible camp, Evan is probably never going to manage it. As his life goes from barely tolerable to horrific, Evan has to decide how he is going to shape his life from here.

I didn’t understand the obsession with money, except as a way of having more control over Evan. Evan’s father seemed like a sensible enough man, even if he was trapped by what the Greek community told him was normal.

Oh Gods. This novel ripped me apart. While reading it, I felt like my heart was going to break, and when I finished it, I felt like I needed a cuddle from my own partner to remind me that not all of the world is filled with idiots.

This novel powerfully tackles domestic abuse (from a female perpetrator, no less) and coming out as gay in a community that doesn’t understand it. It brought back memories of my own high school years, and the experiences I have heard from many other Queer people. I loved the authenticity of this novel, which came from it being written based on the experiences of the author. That a person had to go through that as a child, well, it brings me to tears.

How much actually happens in this novel? I spent a lot of the novel anticipating what Evan’s mother was going to do to him next, and not as much paying attention to the action. That anticipation and climax is what lets me give this novel 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 12th February 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Shivaun Plozza – Tin Heart

Tin Heart
Shivaun Plozza

Marlowe has been lucky enough to get the new heart she needed, but blending in with a campaigning vegan mother and a costume wearing little brother is almost impossible. Not to mention having a little crush and ongoing feud with the boy next door… it’s a pity he’s a butcher! Who is she now that she has someone else’s heart?

Plozza’s debut novel, Frankie, was excellent, so I was looking forward to another novel from her. I was not disappointed by this one! Marlowe isn’t what you expect out of a YA/teenage protagonist, and that refreshed what could have otherwise been ‘just another teenage romance’. Marlowe is struggling with real issues, just like Frankie, and Plozza’s dialogue and scene setting lights the way for an engrossing story.

I always wonder if authors feel like writing a parallel/sequel hybrid novel of the supporting characters. I’m sure that there could have been a lot more explored following this novel with Zan/Kari as a protagonist. Then again, I think I’d just like to see more unlikely protagonists. I’d be interested to see this author’s take on a same-sex relationship.

Another novel I recently read,also concerns a heart transplant person (funnily enough). In Out of Heart, the heart recipient comes and sits in the lounge room of the donor family. The heart is known by science to carry memories and inclinations with it, and it of course holds a lot of sentimental value for organ donors.

Anything that promotes organ donation is a positive for me. Funnily enough, my partner’s boss at work needed a lung transplant, and his gift of life happened during an unexpected rain storm too. There were two false alarms (the lungs died in transport) before he finally got his lungs. A warning to all – be careful driving during unexpected weather, else you may give up your life by accident, although you might save other people by doing so.

Get your hands on this novel for yourself or your YA reader. 5 stars from me, it’s going straight to my re-read list. Now, if only I had time…

Penguin Random House | March 2018 | paperback

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Review: Gregg Hurwitz – Last Chance

Last Chance
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain has made it through the last gasp of their plan to kill the Queen and free their home town. Too bad that the aliens can simply replace her with another. With the impregnated kids ready to hatch the next generation of invaders, Chance might be able to stop it – but it will cost him his life.

I received this, and then I literally gobbled it up for 3-4 hours. I knew that it would be good, having loved The Rains so much. I love the amount of thought that has gone into this novel. The stages of the invasion, the stages of the invaders themselves. The action happened so fast sometimes that I couldn’t breathe.

Alex, you two-timing teenager. I know there is an actual phenomenon of there being more marriage proposals after major catastrophes, due to emotions running high. But at the same time, Alex, didn’t anyone teach you about the rules of dating? You don’t shag two people at the same time, let alone two brothers.  

I hate to think of what happens next though. A population filled with kids no older than 18? All over the world? I mean, a lot have died off, but even the smart ones haven’t necessarily survived. Not to mention – how are all the countries to be saved, when originally the spread was via lots of meteors landing? So many skills would be lost.

I actually had this discussion with a Professor last night. Despite what the media says, many countries are now having negative population growth. This, combined with an aging population that needs more care, means that despite robots potentially taking over the world there will be plenty of jobs left. Humans have creativity, which might be our savior.

Go get your hands on this novel. I think I would even reread it, that’s how attached I got to the characters. 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Samira Ahmed – love, hate & other filters

love, hate & other filters
Samira Ahmed

Maya hides behind a lens, capturing life going by her. With her strict Indian Muslim parents guiding (and watching) her every step, is there any way she will be able to follow her own passion?

Hmm, where to start with this novel. Maya had a unique viewpoint, but one that anyone could relate with. We all have friends that our parents hate, or hobbies that they don’t approve of, and of course bullying to contend with. I started empathizing with Maya so much that at one point of the novel I was really worried for her safety!

This reminded me strongly of the vegan warrior with the butcher living next door (again, I can’t remember the name of this…). Maya should never fall for a non-religious football jock… But she does, of course! I wanted her to get the things she wanted out of life, even if it seemed impossible

If you loved 10 Things I Hate About Me or When Michael Met Mina, you will likely also love this novel. This novel is a worthy addition to the fears that Muslim people face around the world when they are constantly, unfairly, being tagged with the title of ‘Terrorist’. If you would rather read slightly less non-fiction, but still with a Muslim protagonist, may I also suggest The Truth About Peacock Blue or A Different Kind of Daughter?

I’m giving this 4 stars. Not enough intrigue for 5 stars, but an enthralling one nevertheless.

Allen & Unwin | 24th January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Anne Cassidy – NO VIRGIN

NO VIRGIN
Anne Cassidy

Stacey Woods has been emotionally raped by someone she trusted. She has also been physically raped by his brother. After the perpetrators try to write it off as ‘adult fun’ she knows that she needs to do something to prevent others being hurt. This novel is her story.

Most people will know Anne Cassidy from Looking for JJ, which I gave 4 stars. The second in the series, Finding Jennifer Jones, I gave 3 stars to. I feel like such a betrayer for not really loving all of the writing, and not loving NO VIRGIN either. I can’t believe that this has a second novel. Perhaps the fact is that Anne Cassidy’s writing style doesn’t agree with me, no matter how compelling a circumstance she puts her characters in.

Shouldn’t I have more respect and love for a character who decides to get off her butt (eventually) and do something about having been raped? Rape is still something where the statistics are woefully under-reported. What I hate is that it’s almost always men raping women, and very few cases of same sex, or female perpetrator abuse. This novel doesn’t fail there for me, it fails because I never connected with Stacey or her best friend and I always felt distanced from the situation. Distancing yourself from reality is often a response to rape, and this could have been a deliberate choice by the author, but for me, it just didn’t work.

I am sure this is the third time I have reviewed NO VIRGIN (WordPress seemed to eat the other two?!?). I now can’t remember nearly enough details to properly review the novel. However, what I do remember is that it felt unsatisfying and upsetting, but not in a redeeming manner. 3 stars because I finished it, but it will be leaving the house ASAP.

Allen & Unwin | 3rd January 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Jenn Bennett – Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett

Bailey has just moved in with her dad, in the town that her online heartthrob just happens to live in. After she gets a job at the only local job place, she instead finds herself trying to deal with the most irritating boy alive, with no time to stalk down the enigmatic Alex.

This novel just wasn’t breathtaking. It’s a typical love story where the girl moves cities to near her online boyfriend… without telling him. Then she wants to stalk him to find him in real life. Instead, she happens to meet the most annoying boy in the world. Then of course, it all turns out exactly as you would expect with no cliffhangers or doubt.

I like this novel because it covered some important topics as well as just fulfilling a typical teenage romance. It touched on cyber safety and not giving away your private details online. It also covered sexual activity safety, and the proper (although awkward) interactions to make sure that each partners is ready for sex. That really made up a lot of the humour of the novel since Bailey blushed so easily!

This is firmly in the YA category thanks to its frank discussion of drugs and sex. What I wasn’t sure about was how accurate the depiction of Alex and her father was. I get that he’s not a very strict parent but it seems like she really could get away with murder. Likewise, he’s not very observant. Drug use in this novel has an impact on the two main characters, but it had a satisfactory outcome. A very sad satisfactory outcome, but that was just the way it ended up.

I don’t know anything about California but seems like the weather is awesome and the beaches sound at least a bit like Australian breaches, where there is real sand. However, the West Coast versus the East Coast thing leaves me a bit confused. Anyway for a person who isn’t a beach person, the relevant interactions were great.

Guys, I failed miserably at reviewing this novel in a timely manner. I had jotted down some rough notes for myself, but saved them under the title ‘Alex, Absolutely’! So of course, when I went looking for the novel on GoodReads without my hard copy in front of me… well, I couldn’t find it until now. Past me had given it 3 stars, so I’ll stick with that rating.

Simon & Schuster | 1st April 2017 | AU$17.99 | paperback

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Review: Nowhere Near You – Leah Thomas

Nowhere Near You
Leah Thomas

Ollie is out to see the world. Clad in his rock wool beanie to stop himself shorting out every electronic in sight, he’s going to document the stories of every weirdling out there Moritz is getting out to see the world too – and having people accept him, eyeless face and all.

So many lies! So many betrayals! So many twists! So much still unsaid! This novel was filled with excited Ollie chatter, and it filled me with his infectious glee as well. And of course, Moritz’s mainly calming influence. Two boys who grow up (at least a little bit), by facing the world. And just because they are different doesn’t mean that they don’t face the usual teenage problems like falling in love or learning how to deal with school

Oh why didn’t Ollie get to say goodbye? It was already too late after all. Except that ‘Stashe was still trying to hide the truth. Seriously dude, leave it already! The truth always outs, or something like that. That message forum was brilliant. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Why did I wait so long to review this fabulous novel? Well, the problem was that it was the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, and I didn’t have access to a copy! I had started reading this one, but felt completely confused so I returned it. I got a local library membership recently and actually used it to read the eBook.

I want a sequel. Surely there is something for Ollie! It’s so unfair, but when is life? At least he should be able to keep himself occupied a little better… I’m giving this 5 stars, I was so taken by it. I have a friend I am going to lend it to asap as well.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2017 | AU$15.99 | paperback

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Review: Leah Thomas – Because You’ll Never Meet Me

Because You’ll Never Meet Me
Leah Thomas

Oliver and Moritz are two unlikely penpals. One has a strange allergy, yet affinity, to electricity. The other’s heartbeat is maintained by a pacemaker, so they can never meet. Although it takes a while for Moritz to warm up to Oliver, the two friends become fast friends – but will they still be able to share their secrets with each other?

I distinctly felt the two writing styles of Oliver and Moritz, and although at first I was worried about a text that consisted of letters the formatting ended up working well (i hate everyone but you got rejected from my bookshelf due to its text/email correspondence)). Even as the characters mature, the text styles stay different enough that it is obvious who is who.

This novel had me invested in the two characters and how they grew as people. At the same time as Oliver learning to focus, Moritz learnt how to reach out to people. I think more could have been made of the ‘superhero’ aspect, but at the same time, the novel was already well focused on their personal struggles. I kept expecting them to start writing a comic together though!

PS: There is a twist you won’t see coming AT ALL. Do tell me what you thought of it!

I can’t wait to read the second novel in this duo, Nowhere Near You. A road trip will be awesome! I put up with reading an eBook of this novel so that I could read its sequel ASAP. I’m giving this 4 stars for an interesting and intriguing storyline.

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Review: Vic James – Tarnished City

Tarnished City
Vic James

Luke is now a different kind of prisoner – actually imprisoned on an island to await torture and very eventual death. His sister Abi is determined to free him – but who will she end up having to side with to get there? The Jardines are determined to have power, but how many of them are actually interested in it?

This is the same lovely mix of magic and slavery that I enjoyed in the first novel of this series, Gilded Cage. I waited impatiently for this novel, and I was not disappointed. What is it about these novels that draws me in?

I find the method of torture practiced on Luke to be interesting, and it’s great that Vic James has spent a lot of time developing a selection of different story lines. This is one of the few novels in which I actually enjoy the multiple perspectives because each character has a very distinctive ‘voice’.

When I returned to my main bookshelf to install this novel in its rightful place, I wanted to revisit the first novel immediately! But it has now been some time since I read this novel, and of course still more novels vie for my attention. In my opinion, the first novel might have been more exciting for action and daring, but this novel is filled with intrigue.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its gripping and sometimes unexpected plot, and also giving an appreciative mention to the interesting philosophical questions that it raises.

Pan Macmillan | 12th September 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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