Jeffrey writes beautifully. There’s no way around that. She has a smooth and languid style; her ability to play with all the different plot threads and bring them together is a pleasure to the reader. How is it that the life of a silkworm, fashion, divorce and religious cult all work together in Jeffrey’s pattern?
The only time I wasn’t completely immersed in Jeffrey’s world was during the love interest scenes. It wasn’t that her writing changed (aka didn’t remain absolutely beautiful) or it didn’t fit into the rhythm of the plot. It was that I couldn’t get over the initial premise (Barry was in love with Ruby’s twin sister, Sally, who was lying unconscious in a hospital bed). I had reservations that this particular thread was sufficiently seamlessly woven into the larger tapestry of the novel.
But this is a minor concern in an otherwise sublime novel! Every teenager will identify with the way Ruby feels and deals with her loneliness, isolation and awkwardness. There’s so much of that family pain that we all feel at one time or another.
Travis engaged with me as a reader. He wasn't a romanticised Romeo, or a wise-cracking Stifler (American Pie). He moved through the plot with the whole range of emotions and he felt them in a unique and characterising way. I appreciated his honesty, even when I was put off by it (sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, who is currently his brother's girlfriend, whilst in-like with his first crush).
His relationship with his mother was a highlight for me. It was really honest and one of the few books I've read where the complexity of mother-son relationships was focused on.
Something Like Normal is not a soldier's story or PTSD story, it is the story of Travis, who happens to be a soldier with PTSD My only complaint is that it ended too soon. I liked Travis and was sad to see him go. I was left feeling that momentary loss of friendship and understanding.
I appreciated Jessica’s humour and skepticism about herself and her origins. That’s what made Fantaskey’s novel stand out from all the muddle: it was real and honest. There was also some female empowerment messages that a girl just can’t go past!
Jessica Rules the Dark Side is a unique sequel. The main character and love interest are married. The conflict comes not from the emotional investment in the romantic couple (they’re already married, matrimonial bliss does not make a plot for UST), but from Jessica herself.
Jessica’s character, in a way, is beginning again. She’s been taken from all she knows – high school, America and mucking stalls – to the royal vampire courts. Jessica’s journey is about what happens after the happily ever after. She’s surrounded by men (befanged men) and politics, and in the way of most people starting a new life, needs to find this ‘new’ self. Is it all of the old self, just in better attire? or is it parts of the old self, with new thrown in?
The secret to LfaDG compelling nature is the utter silence surrounding child on child abuse. Knowles has taken it upon herself to to explore this silence.
I think in a way we train ourselves to look away from certain depravities. Our lives perhaps cannot take looking too closely at such pain. We like to live in a state of denial. Out of sight out of mind. Knowles book is a little like a car accident metaphor: horrible and disfiguring but you can’t look away.
What impressed me most was the nuance to each character, none were never truly black or white in a subject that you imagine can only be black or white, good or bad.
Abuser, bad. Victim, good. Surely?
Knowles doesn’t allow you to rest on preconceived laurels. The victims and abusers are the same people. Devastation and hope part of the same sad cycle.
I admire Knowles for her work. She looks at little hidden, kept in shadows and secrets, parts of our teenage culture and makes sure to shine a beacon of light. I cannot offer high enough praise for an author who writes with such hurtful beauty and fearlessness.
A powerful book that, in the right hands, could open up their lives and stop their own sad cycle.
I was interested by the varying opinions and attitudes of the deaf characters towards the deaf community and towards the hearing community. I wasn’t surprised by their desire to form an exclusive community. I understood Stella’s quest for isolation from the hearing world, having been exposed to constant prejudice, I understood Demi’s need to remain balanced in both worlds. I liked that Demi’s mother struggled between holding on to their old life and the slow acceptance in to the new.
To my eye, language and writing style is essential when you’re dealing with character driven novels. You can get away with average writing in high adventure, plot driven books as the constant activity doesn’t ask the reader to dwell. Novels, such as Broken, hinge on the character’s accessibility and the reader’s ability to connect and empathise. It takes a strong writer to keep the reader engaged with a single character.
I liked the bridging of two genres; graphic novel and traditional story telling. Admittedly it still fared better as a traditional story (it isn’t a fifty-fifty split) then a graphic novel, but beggars and all that. It is a unique concept, which worked well with the underlying plot, with fleshed out characters and a strong writing style. It’s a strong book dealing with the effects of kidnapping without being explicit in detail.
When talking or reading about YA Urban Fantasy or YA Paranomal Romance, I think we’ve all become a little leery over the last few years. There came a time, for me, where I was beginning to get derisive of the genre. I felt maxed out, like there was nothing fresh or new coming through. This, of course, is a heinous lie. There’s always the good, I was just sick of wading through the bad. Upon reflection I have been more than a little unjust.
There are some great books and series out there, you just have to know where to look, or more importantly, who to trust. Not to mention, I think the genre is actually fighting back. You have talent like Laini Taylor with her rich, electrifying and beautifully written, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Courtney Summers (YA contemporary issue-based writer), who has forayed into the zombie apocalypse with a suicidal teen protagonist with This is Not a Test.
We also have home grown talent, which is where the real gems often lay. I originally had little intention of reading Shadows by Paula Weston, but something began to gnaw at me. There were great reviews beginning to trickle through, people who I liked and trusted were giving it five star ratings, so I said ‘well heck, just go for it.’
Shadows works. It has managed the knack of creating plausibility in an unreality. Fallen angels and their offspring aren’t hanging out on Earth fighting each other and demons, I know this. But if you’re going to write a book about it then you need to make me believe, at the very least, that the dialogue is authentic and the characters could be someone you know. Paula Weston gives us this. She gives us a main character that moves through the book; Gaby isn’t passive and woebegone, too much is happening, she doesn’t have time to laze about! Her reactions to situations weren’t extreme, she took to The Rephaim with the appropriate amount of cynicism and skepticism. The characters felt present and engaged in their own storyline.
Shadows plays into some tropes of the paranormal romance genre, there’s a love triangle technically, but the circumstances around Gaby and her memory add a unique twist to the situation. I also thought it was one of the better written fighting and action scenes I had read in YA.
All in all, Shadows is a fast-paced, page-turner with likable and believable characters. I would advise caution as there is several instances where there is severe language (the F word being the offender) used.