I read this book with the help of Netgalley.com and I’m so glad I took the chance.

mccarthy-You Were HereThe Goodreads blurb reads…

“On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favourite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.”

This is a book with really dark themes and though the topic is heavy, Cori executes her ideas in a respectful, heart wrenching manner. I loved the combination between using graphic novel, graffiti art, and traditional book formats, depending on which character is narrating at the time. Each voice screaming to be heard and each making you care about their plight.

You’ll find yourself cheering from the sidelines as the story arc rises to its pinnacle, and I promise there’s a roller coaster to make it through to the end.

Well worth the time and money for anyone who thought John Green’s books were a little too tear-inducing, but still want to step outside their comfort zones.

http://www.corimccarthy.com/

Hardcover, 400 pages

Expected publication: March 1st 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire

ISBN 1492617040 (ISBN13: 9781492617044)

 



anderson_speakMelinda Sordino is an outcast. No one will talk to her at school. No one will eat with her during lunch breaks. No one will sit with her in class.  It wasn’t always this way. Before she called the cops at a party during the summer, she had friends. Ivy, who now hangs with the artists and thespians; Jessica who moved away; Nicole who hangs out with the Jocks. And Rachel Bruin, Melinda’s best friend, who she thought would stick by her no matter what.

She’s trying to fly under the radar. Has almost completely lost the power of speech. However much it may feel that her life is spiralling out of control, though, she is going to have to find her voice before it is too late.

Speak has been out for almost seventeen years now, and is still a book that crops up on recommendation and best YA reads lists. Mostly because in 2016 Speak is as relevant as it was in 1999. In 2004 the book was adapted to a film of the same name, starring Kristen Stewart.

While Speak has conquered a slew of awards, including the Golden Kite Award and the ALA Best Books for Young Adults since its publication, it is not without its critics. Some have referred to it as ‘soft porn’ and campaigned – sometimes successfully – to have it banned in schools. It’s kind of ironic since the novel is about an issue that girls and women, more often than not, feel silenced about. The fact that the events of this novel are seen as sexual rather than criminal, and that people are campaigning against a novel that might open a dialogue on things that are too often ignored, indicates how important this book and books like it are for young readers.

Rather than a social problem novel, Speak presents as a story about Melinda who is struggling to deal with various problems in her life. Like many teens, she doesn’t have the luxury of a ready support network. Her parents are too busy fighting with each other to notice that she’s not coping. Even when they finally realise that her grades are slipping, they consider it to be due to rebellion or laziness rather than because she’s struggling.

It’s interesting to see how Melinda gains strength as time passes. While she doesn’t have people to turn to, she creates pockets of safety in the world around her. Finding an abandoned janitor’s closet at school, she turns it into a refuge. Art becomes another one. As she finds ways to reclaim herself, she begins to find people that she can trust as well. David Petrakis, the boy who fights for the freedom-to speak as much as Melinda fights to remain silent, is one of them. Her art teacher, Mr Freeman, is another.

The message in Speak is an important one. Not only for the girls this novel is aimed at, but for women too. Without preaching, it explores a world in which a teenage girl needs to find her own source of strength to overcome the obstacles in her life.

 

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Square Fish (October 22, 1999)

ISBN: 97031267497



casey-how to fallSixteen-year-old Jess Tennant has never met any of her relatives, until her mom suddenly drags her out of London to spend the summer in the tiny English town where her family’s from. Her mom’s decision is surprising, but even more surprising is the town’s reaction to Jess. Everywhere she goes, people look at her like they’ve seen a ghost. In a way, they have–she looks just like her cousin Freya, who died shortly before Jess came to town.

Jess immediately feels a strange connection to Freya, whom she never got to meet alive. But the more Jess learns about the secrets Freya was keeping while she was alive, the more suspicious Freya’s death starts to look. One thing is for sure: this will be anything but the safe, boring summer in the country Jess was expecting.

Beloved author Jane Casey breaks new ground with How to Fall, a thrilling and insightfully written mystery.

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published August 26th 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin (first published January 31st 2013)

Jess was one of the most determined and opinionated protagonists that I have read in awhile. She not only stated her mind, she was clear with her intentions up front, which is why I found it surprising, at times, how open others were with her. I mean, expecting her to keep something secret was never going to happen.

The similarity she bore to her dead cousin was so close that when others looked at her, it brought all their memories to the forefront. People became hostile or sad whenever she was around. She, in contrast, seemed to feel very little empathy, especially when it came to the matter of her cousin’s death.

Overall, the novel maintained pretty constant pacing throughout. Jess got to know the community and found a comfortable summer job and, of course, met the cute boy next door. There were times in the story when Jess was wise beyond her years.

I really enjoyed the setting of the story as well. It had a terrific atmosphere and a variety of character types. There is still a lot more I would like to learn about Jess, and I am looking forward to the next book. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy suspense and mystery. I liked it and I think you will to.



 

senior-The Winter IslesThere are books that take some time to get into. Others manage to captivate from the very first page. For me The Winter Isles is the latter.

It opens with a boy stranded on a rock. Sea laps at the edges of this remote outcrop and the boy, sunburned and starving after four days of hoping and praying for rescue, swears loudly at a seal who is dipping and gliding about in the ruffled waters below. He is Somerled, the son of a chief, 13 years-old and unable to swim. Should he die on this rock, Somerled thinks to himself, he will leave no legacy behind. No songs. No name to skip down generations.

In twelfth-century Scotland, far removed from the courtly manners of the Lowland, the                             Winter Isles are riven by vicious warfare, plots and battles.

            Into this hard, seafaring life is born a boy called Somerled. The son of an ageing chieftain,            Somerled must prove his own worth as a warrior. He will rise to lead his men into battle and claim the title of Lord of the Isles – but what must he sacrifice to secure the glory of his  name?

Although it feels lazy not to use my own words, I can’t help but think this book’s blurb gets it so perfectly right when it describes The Winter Isles as “an astonishingly vivid recreation of the savage dynastic battles of medieval Scotland; an authentic, emotional, and powerful read.” If I were to add anything, I would say this is historical fiction at its best.

Young Somerled is, of course, rescued from the rock. He returns to his clan knowing that his first task must be to learn how to swim. Gifted with both intelligence and strength Somerled soon overtakes his father as the clan’s leading warrior. It is his depth of feeling, however, that will captivate the reader. A keenness to understand the workings of his heart as much as those of his head, in a time when ‘the way of things’ was simply the dictator of life, makes Somerled so much more than we expect. The great love that he finds with the fascinating Eimhear is beautiful and tragic and complex. This was my favourite part of the book.

Each and every character within this book’s pages has a poignance to them: Ragnhild, the great beauty who has been raised to live inside her appearance and who therefore spends her days suppressing all that rages underneath; Gillecolm, the smiling soft-hearted bastard son who Somerled fails to see; and then there is Somerled’s faithful advisor and confidante, Father Padeen. These are but a few.

The battles raged by Somerled and his men are brutal and highly evocative of the time. The clan’s intricately depicted settlements, the unforgiving landscapes… every aspect of this story is injected with authenticity by the author. Her prose, which has strong poetic leanings, is simply a joy to read.

 



wanga-my heart and black holesA stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. 

Hardcover, 302 pages

Published February 10th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

original title

My Heart and Other Black Holes

ISBN

0062324675 (ISBN13: 9780062324672)

It’s expected that a novel focusing on a plan to commit suicide is going to be depressing and melancholy. There is not much that the story brings plot-wise that is not described in the synopsis. It’s a story that focuses on two characters: Aysel and Roman. They meet on an Internet suicide site and make a pact to commit suicide together.

I had a hard time trying to figure out what to say in my review of this story, as the book cover pretty much summarized the whole book. What I figured I would do was discuss my feelings about the story. It is hard to know whether the actions and feelings that the characters experience are enough to consider suicide. People lose themselves in emotions, become blind, lost, panicked, content or happy on an individual basis. It’s such a personal issue, how can  I judge whether they were justified in their thoughts?

Aysel is having a hard time at home and school. She feels constantly judged, eyes on her at school and also in her own home. She has a hard time expressing her emotions. Roman, on the other hand, feels that a part of him is missing. His actions caused harm and the guilt weighs him down so heavily that he’s lost his way.

This story is mostly about working out your feelings. Sometimes you find your way through them, but sometimes you don’t. The decision to follow through with your intentions, or finding a way to release them becomes the main objective of the book.

I personally agree that the best way to really understand how you feel is to open up. Conversation really does wonders, and when things are brought to light, the majority of the time you feel better. Since I am a strong believer in honesty, releasing emotion through conversations is the best thing for you emotionally. It depends on who’s around you though. Often releasing through writing, drawing, exercising is a good start, and both of these characters seem to have fallen into a place where they block out using that kind of release.

The message I got from the book was… don’t be afraid to talk, ask the hard questions, get to know yourself and others. I’m not going to say it was an easy book to read, or that I would recommend it to everybody. But I think that it was well presented and could really connect with some readers. There is a message here and taking some time out to really think about it, or discuss it with others, might give some people comfort.

 



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