Blog Tour & Aus Giveaway: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

a-quiet-kind-of-thunderPublisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release date: January 10, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Welcome to my stop on the A Quiet Kind of Thunder blog tour! I’ll be doing a short review of the book and including some questions that Sara Barnard was kind enough to answer, before ending with a giveaway for a finished copy of the book.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of Sara Barnard’s debut novel, Beautiful Broken Things. But I felt the exact opposite about A Quiet Kind of Thunder. It was a beautifully diverse novel that explored selective mutism and deafness really well.

The novel follows Steffi who suffers from severe anxiety that causes her to be selectively mute. She has a hard time making friends at school and it’s been especially tough now that her best friend has left to go to college. But she’s introduced to Rhys, who is deaf and new to the school and the two form a strong friendship that later blossoms into a romantic relationship. I’ve only read one other book about selective mutism, which was The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier, but this one takes it to the next level with a non-hearing male protagonist. It was interesting seeing the two main characters interact with each other in their own special mix of British Sign Language, lip reading and instant messaging. I thought the book gave me really good insight into what selective mutism was through plot points and Steffi’s explanations to Rhys. I did feel that there were some sections that were a bit info-dumpy and I would’ve liked it to have been incorporated in a more sophisticated way. Having said that, I thought it was done well and I got a good sense of the difficulties that come with being selectively mute. My only other slight bit of criticism was that we were told what the difficulties were and we didn’t really get to see them in the story. It was like seeing her struggle without really seeing her struggle.

I also enjoyed Rhys in the novel a lot and got a really great sense of the difficulties that he faces everyday. It was extremely interesting to see what he goes through and to see his insecurities even though he’s such a confident and easy-going character. The novel included a lot of great information about being deaf and special education and I felt that my awareness definitely increased after reading this novel.

I really loved the themes in this book. It had strong friendship and family elements, as well as a fantastic relationship between Steffi and Rhys. I really enjoyed the slow development of Steffi and Rhys’s relationship and how they were able to find support from each other. It was really great to see how comfortable Steffi felt around Rhys and how she found her own special language and way of communication that worked for her. I thought the family dynamics in the book were really interesting and I appreciated that there were differences between the families and how they handled Steffi and Rhys’s conditions.

Overall, I thought A Quiet Kind of Thunder beautifully explores selective mutism and deafness and does a great job of increasing awareness and knowledge of these conditions.


Q&A with Sara Barnard

Do you have any rituals or requirements that you need to do/have before writing?

To be honest, no – I just have to sit down and do it. That’s hard enough without adding rituals!

What do you believe were the most important moments in A Quiet Kind of Thunder?

I think Steffi meeting Rhys’s family was a turning point for her and their relationship, and also when she goes to the Halloween party with Tem and actually manages to enjoy herself. And of course the Thing That Happens near the end is very important!

About the author

sara-barnard

Sara Barnard lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the ‘on’ switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of second-hand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach thirteen with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Website || Goodreads || Twitter || Instagram


GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia, I am giving away a copy of A Quiet Kind of Thunder. The giveaway is open to Australians only.

Rules:
  • This giveaway is only open to Australian residents
  • Giveaway will end on Sunday 22nd January 2017 at 11:59pm. One winner will be randomly drawn and contacted through email. If I don’t receive a reply within 48 hours, I will choose a new winner.
  • You will be required to provide me with a shipping address. If you are under 18, please make sure you have parental permission to share your address.
  • I will be checking all entries so no cheating please.
To enter, click here or the image below to enter through Rafflecopter! 

a-quiet-kind-of-thunder-giveaway

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Review: The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

the-unlikely-hero-of-room-13b

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: March, 2015 (Originally August 27, 2013)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He’s determined to protect and defend her–to play Batman to her Robyn–whatever the cost. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that’s not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam’s mother has started to receive . . .

Teresa Toten sets some tough and topical issues against the backdrop of a traditional whodunit in this engaging new novel that readers will find hard to put down.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

Where do I even begin with these 270 pages of goodness? It was a harrowing look into OCD and the effect it has on not only those suffering from the disorder but those around them too. But even though it was an emotional book about serious issues, there’s an abundance of humour and wit that made it an absolute delight to read. This is my favourite book about OCD that I’ve read so far and I cannot recommend it more highly.

While the book ostensibly is about the romance, there was so much more to it. In fact, I think the romance was the least important aspect of the book. It’s really a book about OCD and the struggles that our main character, Adam, has to go through and the impact OCD has on his daily life. It’s about the friendships that he forges and the relationship he has with his family members. It was a truly beautiful book and a very honest and accurate depiction of OCD and the extent to which it can significantly affect a person’s daily life. I really loved that the novel really focused on this debilitating effect that compulsions can have on a person and their ability to go about their day to day activities. I feel as though most OCD books that I’ve read have focused on obsessions with cleanliness or perfection and haven’t really addressed how people suffering from OCD aren’t able to do a lot of things that others would consider normal because they spend so much time performing rituals to make themselves feel better. I thought The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B dealt with this exceptionally well, along with other ways OCD can manifest. If you want something that’s very impactful, while remaining genuine and realistic, you can’t go wrong this book’s depiction of OCD.

“I sweat terror, Robyn! I’m scared every single second about every singled goddamned thing. I worry obsessively about being buried under an avalanche of fear. Jesus, Robyn, I’m scared like only the truly crazy can be.”

“But that, you dope, is the definition of courage: you go on, despite the fear.”

But even more than the accurate portrayal of OCD, I loved the characters in this book. If you love a character-driven story, you will really enjoy this book. Adam is now one of my favourite protagonists of all time. He was so endearing and sweet and I loved him to bits. It’s just almost impossible not to love him and be swept into his life from the very first page. He was so relatable and, despite him having to deal with his crippling anxiety, he was supportive of others around him and took care of those who needed help. His voice was unique and wonderful to read from. I felt like I completely understood him and was with him every step of the way. I also absolutely loved the side characters. There was such an eclectic set of characters all with their own little quirks. Adam attends a weekly support group with other teenagers and young adults who suffer from OCD. Together, they take on superhero alter egos and it’s just so crazy adorable and funny. They take their alter egos so seriously as well, purchasing merchandise to wear and styling their hair to match. I just really enjoyed the group dynamic and how they really supported each other inside and outside of their support group. It was just so wonderful to see them develop friendships and look out for each other (I love Thor so much!). There was no judgment and only understanding between them and I really appreciated that they gave each other space to deal with their own issues. My heart was just swelling with love for those characters. If you’ve read this book, I think you’ll understand.

I also really loved seeing Adam’s family and the role they played in this book. They all have their own problems too and it’s not always the case that they’re supporting and caring for Adam; he does the same for them too. When his 5-year-old half-brother struggles with his own anxiety problems, Adam is always there to soothe him, take care of him and be his superhero. When his mother receives some terrifying and threatening letters from an unknown source, Adam is there to give her reassurance and act as a semblance of normality in their household. He’s there to help her with her own hoarding issues. I really loved all of the relationships in this book but it was the way that Adam and his family interacted that really had me emotional.

And of course, there was the romance between Adam and Robyn, which was simultaneously a massive part and a tiny part of what the book was about. From the very first page of the book, Adam is in love with Robyn. He thinks she’s perfection in every single way and wants nothing more than to marry her and be with her forever. He’d do anything for Robyn, including saving her from her OCD and fixing himself so that he can be the best person he can be for her. There were times when Robyn came across as a little bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but I never ended up minding that she was portrayed that way. Sure, she was put on a bit of a pedestal but she had her own flaws and the way that her and Adam’s relationship unfolded was so realistic and genuine. Their relationship progressed at the perfect pace and it was just so, so adorable and sweet. I loved that they were really there for each other and that they were able to be honest with each other and push each other to be better.

I have so much more that I want to say about this book but this review is getting out of hand. Just know that I absolutely loved this book and will now recommend it to everyone for the rest of my life as one of my favourite books of all time. The plot was great. The characters were great. And the feels were so, so real.

Review: How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

how-it-feels-to-fly

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 14, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 368
Goodreads || Book Depository

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

This compelling story from Kathryn Holmes examines one girl’s efforts to overcome her worst enemy: herself.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

How it Feels to Fly is a beautiful coming-of-age, mental health story about overcoming anxiety and other barriers to become the person you want to be. It deals with body image, self-confidence and other anxieties that performers may suffer from.

This was such a relatable story. Our main character, Sam, is a ballerina and wants nothing more than to be a professional dancer. However, in recent years, she’s developed curves and her body is no longer the ideal body of a ballet dancer. This has led her to develop body dysmorphia and she’s unable to stop her inner voice that’s telling her she’s fat and unworthy. She finds herself at a summer therapy camp for performers, where she meets 5 other teens dealing with various anxiety issues. What I enjoyed most about this book was that it wasn’t only about Sam’s problems. The book also dealt with the issues that the other campers had and focused on their treatment and development throughout the book too. And because of the variety of anxiety issues that were explored, it’s impossible not to relate or feel connected to the book because we would have all experienced some of the same uncertainties or anxieties at some point in our lives. I also really liked that the book wasn’t about ballet. It was about Sam’s insecurities and the mental struggles she was having, rather than about ballet or the ballet world itself. The book was set almost entirely at the therapy camp and I loved that about it.

I thought the way Sam’s anxiety and body image issues were represented was very realistic. I felt extremely uneasy at times because her negative thoughts and the way she saw herself was very relatable and believable. Body dissatisfaction is probably something that everybody has dealt with at some point, including me, and it was so upsetting to see Sam taking it so hard and working so hard to get the perfect body. I thought her character development was wonderful and the progress she made was so heartwarming and inspiring. I didn’t always love her as a character but I really enjoyed and appreciated the journey that she took. The author has done a magnificent job at thoroughly addressing all of the issues and factors involved in Sam’s anxiety. I did, however, think that the problems she had with her mother were resolved a little bit too quickly at the end and I wanted it to be a bigger focus of the book.

There were a lot of great side characters in How it Feels to Fly. Even though I didn’t always like Sam’s character, there was always somebody else to latch on to and that made it a very enjoyable reading experience. The relationships between them were also great and there was just such a wonderful group dynamic. The only relationship that I didn’t like was the romance (if you can call it that) in the book between Sam and Andrew. The relationship between them made me feel uncomfortable from the very beginning and it started to go in a slightly “love cures all” direction. I really did not like the idea that you need a guy to tell you that you’re beautiful in order to believe it, and I felt that the book started to go in that direction a little bit. But I really appreciated that the author actually addressed this later in the book and made Sam’s development and progress about herself, rather than Andrew or any other guy.

Overall, I think this was a really emotional and powerful read that a lot of young adults would get a lot out of. There were a couple of things that I thought could have been delved into a little bit further and developed more. But as a whole, I thought it was a wonderful story with lots of relatable characters and issues.

Review: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

girl-against-the-universe

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: May 17, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 382
Goodreads || Book Depository

Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away may be harder than she thought.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I enjoyed this contemporary novel so, so much! It was a really fun and uplifting read that’s also kind of perfect for summer. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships, romance and character development in this story.

Girl Against the Universe follows Maguire, a girl who may be cursed. Bad things tend to happen to people when Maguire is around. As a result of a few too many incidents, including one that killed her father, uncle and older brother, Maguire has distanced herself from the world and developed OCD. She’s unable to take public transport or be in public/crowded areas without feeling anxious and typically avoids being around people by staying in her own room. However, when her grandmother decides to hold an event to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of the death of Maguire’s family members, she decides to take treatment seriously in order to overcome her fears. She ends up joining the school tennis club, which opens up a lot of opportunities for Maguire, including forging new friendships and a relationship with cute tennis star, Jordy.

What I really liked about this novel was that it wasn’t a ‘love cures mental illness’ kind of story. Sure, Jordy plays a huge part in bringing Maguire out of her shell, but its through her own efforts and determination that she was able to overcome her anxiety. I liked how supportive Jordy was and how supportive all of Maguire’s new friends were, but she really made the effort and had the intention to get better. I loved the mental health aspects of the book and thought that it was nicely incorporated and well-researched. I did have a few problems with the therapy sessions because the way that Maguire’s therapist went about it goes against the most popular and effective method of treatment for anxiety, but Paula Stokes did acknowledge in the author’s note that she took some liberties with it. Overall, I thought anxiety was really well represented in this novel.

What I liked most about this book were the relationships between the characters. There were so many different relationships explored in this book and they were all wonderfully developed. I enjoyed her friendships with the girls from the tennis club and how they supported her through all of her therapy challenges and never judged her for her fears. I also really loved Maguire’s relationship with her mum and stepfather. It was really nice to see her open up to them and express how she was feeling. And I also really loved seeing them open up to her about their own fears and how the accident has affected them. And of course, I really loved Maguire’s relationship with Jordy. It felt very honest and realistic and I loved the way that she supported him during his struggles as well. Nothing feels better than reading about a relationship that goes both ways. I thought their romance developed at the perfect pace and while it did feel slightly insta-lovey at the beginning, there was a strong focus on the friendship between them that wasn’t eclipsed by the romance.

In terms of the characters, Maguire was a character who was extremely easy to like. I was rooting for her from the very beginning because she was so likeable. It was a little bit painful to read about her constantly second-guessing herself and everyone around her but that made it even sweeter when she was able to overcome her anxiety. Her character definitely developed a lot throughout the book and I appreciated how realistic her character growth was. There were definitely setbacks but her strength was definitely evident throughout the story. As for the side characters, there honestly wasn’t anyone who I didn’t like. They were all wonderful and unique from each other and I loved all of them.

This book was uplifting, funny, and adorable. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up or something that will bring you out of a reading slump, this one would be perfect!

Review: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

highly-illogical-behavior

Publisher: Dial Books
Release date: May 10, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 256
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Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Solomon.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I knew after reading 15 pages that this book was going to be a 5-star read. John Corey Whaley really knows how to write in a way that connects with readers. He’s definitely a master at moving people with his words.

Written in alternating chapters of Solomon and Lisa, Highly Illogical Behavior explores the friendship that blossoms between them and what a little bit of kindness, companionship and love can do for people. Solomon suffers from agoraphobia, which is the fear of open and public places that are deemed to be dangerous because it may be difficult to escape when a panic attack occurs. After an especially embarrassing panic attack when he was 13, Solomon has stayed inside his house for 3 years, not even stepping outside into his backyard. But Lisa thinks she can fix him. She desperately wants to become a psychologist and in order to get into the second-best psychology program in the United States on a full scholarship, she needs to write an essay on her personal experiences with mental illness. Curing Solomon of his agoraphobia will give her the best chance to win the scholarship with her essay. And she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants.

What initially drew me to the story was the beautiful writing. There’s just something about third person omniscient that gets me every time. The writing was so full of heart and emotion and it was really impossible for me not to feel touched and love the story. But it was the characters and their interactions that kept me reading and invested in the story. Solomon was a fantastic character and I loved the way that he was portrayed in the novel. He was just a normal kid and wasn’t portrayed as disabled or abnormal in any way. He’s just a kid who has anxiety. We’re all scared of things and his fear just happens to be public spaces. I also loved his family and how supportive they were of him and his condition. They acknowledge that the situation is tough but they don’t force him to change when he’s not ready and they’re there for him when he needs help and support. Their acceptance of who he is was really moving.

He felt it. It was small and it was complicated, but he felt it all the same. He wanted to follow them. He wanted to walk outside and follow them into the world.

I also really, really liked Clark. He was a great best friend to Solomon and I wasn’t expecting him to be as great a friend as he was. But I fell so quickly in love with him and he was such a nice and genuine guy who knows right from wrong. I think his presence really made the book. There were so many hilarious interactions between him and Solomon and it was just so beautiful to see the friendship come to life. Now, Lisa on the other hand, I really did not like at all. She was very pushy and manipulative and I couldn’t really stand how self-centred and egotistic she was. She’s a very confident young woman who believes that there’s nothing she cannot do, even if it means using other people to get what she wants. Her character definitely developed throughout the book and I eventually did start to like her, but for most of the novel, I couldn’t really stand her. But what I thought was really great was the fact that the friendships in this book helped not only Solomon, but also Lisa to become a better person who treats those around her with more care and love.

There’s really not much more that I can say besides “read this book”. It’s a short book that is really quick to read and you’ll definitely laugh and cry with the characters.

Review: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

ill-meet-you-there

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: February 3, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 388
Goodreads || Book Depository

If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing separating Skylar from art school is three months of summer…until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach.

Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.

What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.

Compelling and ultimately hopeful, this is a powerful examination of love, loss, and resilience.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I honestly have no idea why I waited so long to read this book because it was absolutely amazing and is now one of my favourite contemporary YA novels ever. It had a good balance of romance, family and friendship elements, which is a formula for success when it comes to contemporaries for me.

This book is set in a very small town in California. Skylar lives in a trailer with her mother who is an alcoholic and won’t stop drinking, even though her husband died in a car accident while drunk driving. Skylar has just graduated high school and cannot wait for the summer to end, when she can finally go to art school in San Francisco and escape her suffocating small town. But when her mother is fired from the only job she’s ever had, things go downhill and suddenly Skylar’s future is no longer clear. Enter Josh, a previous colleague of Skylar’s at her job at the Paradise motel. He’s back from fighting in Afghanistan, with one less leg than he had when he left…

It was like the whole town was swimming in failure, but no one realized they were drowning.

I was very impressed with how many themes and elements Heather Demetrios managed to explore in this book. And none of these themes were glossed over. Each and every one of them were given enough page-time to be thoroughly explored and I really appreciated how well it was done. I’ll Meet You There explores some very common YA contemporary themes, like alcoholism and small-town-suffocation (I totally made that up, but it’s now a thing), in a completely novel and different way. I never got the sense that I was reading something that I’ve read a million times before. It felt very unique and special and I enjoyed every single page of the story. The novel also explores PTSD, which is something that we’re seeing increasingly often but I have to say that this was one of the best PTSD stories that I’ve ever read. It felt incredibly realistic and even though I don’t know what it’s like to be have PTSD or be in a situation where everyday things could trigger panic attacks or high anxiety, I felt like I knew Josh and I knew how his experiences in Afghanistan have affected him.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book. Skylar was a wonderful protagonist and I couldn’t believe how strong and resilient she was, in the face of everything she was going through. She’s pretty much taking care of her mother, who is on the path to self-destruction. They’re both relying on Skylar’s income from working at the motel and Skylar just wants to make sure that her mother has a job and is able to take care of herself before she moves to San Francisco. Skylar definitely surprised me with how resilient she was. If I had to go through everything she went through in this book, I would’ve broken down much, much earlier. Her mother behaved in ways that I couldn’t imagine any mother behaving and she just didn’t seem to have her daughter’s best interests at heart. The family arc in this book was incredibly hard to read and honestly pretty upsetting at times. I was really proud that Skylar decided to take some time just for herself and put some distance between herself and her mother’s problems. I really admired her maturity when it came to making decisions.

Josh was a character that I also loved. There were short chapters that were written from his point of view and I thought they were really interesting. They allowed me to get to know Josh a little bit more and I loved that we got to see into his head and get a sense of how his experience in Afghanistan had affected and changed him, physically and mentally. I also thought it was interesting that Skylar and Josh knew each other previously and that Josh used to be a bit of a jerk and had a reputation of being a player. It really added a different dimension to his character and transformed him into a really complex character.

The romance was probably my favourite aspect of the book. There was so much to love about this book but I thought the relationship between Skylar and Josh was just so realistic and moving. They become attracted to each other quite early in the book but the romance itself was a bit of a slow burn. It developed at a very natural pace and nothing felt rushed or dragged out. Everything just happened in a really realistic way and it was impossible not to feel connected to Skylar and Josh as they figured out their feelings for each other. I loved how much they relied on each other and supported each other throughout the book. Josh helped Skylar through her issues with her mother and was just there to listen when she needed to talk. And in return, Skylar helped Josh come to terms with his traumatic experience in Afghanistan. She never let him use the war and his experiences as an excuse, which was exactly what Josh needed.

And of course, there were a lot of great friendship elements. Skylar and Josh’s relationship wasn’t just a romantic one. Their relationship was first and foremost a friendship that turned into something more. But this book also explored Skylar’s friendships with her best friends, Chris and Dylan. They were always there for her when she needed a friend and needed advice. I loved their role in the book and I thought their friendships were so heartwarming.

I wanted to have the perfect words to tell him how he’d been family, how I wouldn’t be who I was without him and how my life was a collage of memories and he was in every one.

And finally, I absolutely loved the writing in this book. It was very impactful and I could quote from this book for days and days. Heather Demetrios just writes the most wonderful stories and I’ve enjoyed both her contemporary and fantasy stories because of the beautiful writing and storytelling.

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Release date: September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 433
Goodreads || Book Depository

CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words…and she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

This review is based on a reread of the book.

Fangirl is a book that I’ve wanted to reread for a very long time, because I enjoyed it so much the first time I read it. And it was just as good the second time around. This book is so relatable and I think all readers will be able to find something to connect with, whether it’s being part of a fandom, starting college for the first time or having a slightly dysfunctional family.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and thought it had a really good balance of romance, family and fandom goodness. Both times I’ve read this book, I was completely immersed in Cath’s story and everything that was happening. There’s something that’s just really addictive about this book. Because I saw so many similarities between Cath and myself, I was really rooting for her and wanted to see what was going to happen next. It was definitely a hard book to put down. I read Fangirl in one sitting the first time, and two sittings the second time. I also really liked the pacing of the book. It progressed at the perfect speed for me – nothing felt rushed but the story didn’t drag either.

The book also included extracts of Simon Snow, as well as Cath’s Simon Snow fanfic, Carry On. The first time I read this book, I skimmed over and pretty much skipped all of the Simon Snow extracts because I was just so keen to see what would happen to Cath next. But having now read  and loved Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, I read through all of the extracts and little snippets more carefully this time and really enjoyed them. I still would have preferred if there were fewer of these extracts because they sometimes broke up the main storyline, but I liked that they were included and I liked the role that they played in the book (and Cath and Levi’s relationship).

I enjoyed Cath’s character so, so much in this novel. I saw so much of myself in Cath and it was just impossible not to love and care for her. Her worries and insecurities were so relatable and I definitely felt like I was on her journey of self-discovery with her. I also loved Levi in this book. He’s not really my usual type of book boyfriend but he was so caring and adorable and just all the good things. He complemented Cath really well and I loved him to bits. I also enjoyed Reagan a lot and thought she was the perfect friend for Cath. She was tough but also kind at the same time, which was exactly what Cath needed to come out of her shell. And finally there’s Wren, Cath’s twin sister. I hated her the first time I read this book, and nothing has changed since then. I wrote in my notes “Wren is still a cow”. She came across as very self-centred and annoying, and I hated how she treated Cath for most of the book. She did redeem herself at the end by being the sister she should’ve been but I’m pretty sure that I’ll still hate her the next time I reread this novel.

If you’re looking for a book with characters you can really relate to, I highly recommend Fangirl. It was sweet but serious, and explored so many themes that I love to read about in YA.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Every Budding Psychologist Should Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the group over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week I thought I’d feature some books about various mental illnesses that I think are very well handled.

1. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

This book deals with depression and teen suicide very well. It was one of my favourite YA releases of last year and just one of my favourite mental illness YA novels.

2. When We Collided by Emery Lord

The main character in this book suffers from bipolar disorder and I thought the disorder was very well represented in this novel. Both the depression and mania aspects were handled well and it’s probably the best novel about bipolar disorder that I’ve read so far.

3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This one is an absolute tear-jerker. But it’s completely worth it. Like if you want a good punch in the feels, read this one. But there are a whole heap of trigger warnings: self-harm, suicide, rape, emotional abuse, child abuse… the list goes on.

4. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey is about a 14 year old girl who suffers from severe anxiety and depression. Despite its heavy themes, it’s actually quite a funny and lighthearted read. It’s super relatable and a highly enjoyable read.

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This novel is confronting but so well written and conceptualised. It’s dark and hard-hitting but so worth the read. It’s written in epistolary format and definitely one that you should dive into and experience for yourself.

6. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

This novel deals with schizophrenia and is a great one to read if you’re looking to transition from YA to adult. The writing is impactful and you get a really good sense of schizophrenia and how it affects those suffering from it from just the main character’s voice.

7. Paperweight by Meg Haston

Paperweight is about eating disorders and is set at an institution for eating disorders. The author herself has previously battled an eating disorder and I thought the setting and how eating disorders were represented were really authentic.

8. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

This is another one of my favourite books about depression and suicide ideation. I really liked the characters in this novel and connected with them straight away. I liked how suicide ideation was explored in this book and it stood out from all of the other books I’ve read that deal with teen suicide.

9. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

I wasn’t enamoured by the first half of this book but it came home really strongly. Another book about depression and suicide (gosh, I just love these sad books), I thought it was really unique and I enjoyed the combination of LGBTQ+, mental illness and sci-fi elements in this one a lot!

10. Dreamology by Lucy Keating

This one isn’t really about mental illness but I liked the dream and consciousness aspects of Dreamology a lot. It wasn’t the best and I’d say that it was halfway there because most of those dream elements weren’t actually resolved. It felt like the author didn’t know where to go and didn’t want to do the research so she took the easy way out and decided not to explain ANYTHING. But I still thought it was a unique and interesting concept.


Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Review: This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

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Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: March 21, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 304
Goodreads || Book Depository

Janie and Micah. Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been since they were children, when Janie Vivian moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship – as long as no one finds out about it.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing a review copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I first heard about this book last year at HarperCollin’s BTCYA event and I fell in love with it after hearing the pitch that was given. It was one of my most anticipated books of the first half of 2016, so I was a little bit scared and hesitant after hearing some mixed things about it from other bloggers. However, I found the story and plot to be wonderful and insightful, and I highly enjoyed it. What I wasn’t as big of a fan of were the characters, but I’ll go into that a little bit more later in my review.

This book is written in dual perspectives and from two different timelines that alternate with each chapter. I highly enjoyed this non-linear format and thought it was very reminiscent of I’ll Give You the Sun, which is my favourite YA novel of all time. From Micah’s perspective, we learn about the present (or the ‘after’) and what happens when he wakes up with no memory of something big that happened in his small town. From Janie’s perspective, we learn about the ‘before’ and the events that occurred in the months leading up to the big incident in town. Through the alternating chapters of past and present, we’re able to put together the pieces of the puzzle and figure out what happened. I really enjoyed this process and thought the format of the book was very successful in creating an atmospheric and suspenseful story. There were a couple of things that I thought were a bit predictable but they didn’t impact too much on my enjoyment of the book and its plot. I have to admit that for the first half of the novel, I wasn’t sure where the book was going and felt slightly apathetic about it, but something happened near the halfway point of the book, which pulled me into the story and gave me a better sense of what the book was trying to explore. I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book much more.

The writing in this book was wonderful and I was amazed by how well Amy Zhang can write. She uses some interesting syntax that added to the impact of the story. The writing was lyrical but easy to read, and I just loved how she was able to make me feel so many emotions with the way she put sentences together. The book also had some fairytale influences, which gave it a slightly magical quality. These were accompanied by beautiful illustrations/doodles, which brought the story to life. I thought it was highly creative and imaginative (and I recently found out from Aentee @ Read at Midnight that Amy Zhang did the illustrations in the book herself, which makes me admire her even more).

My problem with this book was that I couldn’t connect with and didn’t particularly like the two main characters. Janie is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the core and I couldn’t really handle her. She’s definitely put on a pedestal by Micah and I just couldn’t see what was so special about her. She was the larger-than-life and interesting character who we were all supposed to admire, but I thought she was quite dislikeable. She was manipulative and a terrible friend to Micah. She forced him into doing things and constantly told him how great they were as friends, but then ignored him when other people were around. And what really bothered me was that he kept coming back for more of this terrible treatment. The characterisation in this book just reminded me of everything that I didn’t like about Paper Towns by John Green.

I actually didn’t mind Micah’s character. For most of the book, he suffered from amnesia and couldn’t remember anything that had happened recently or retain new memories. I liked that he was an unreliable narrator because it added to the story and made me work hard at figuring out what had happened. However, I thought that he was far too passive at times and allowed Janie to push him around again and again. He just seemed like a lost puppy for most of the book and I wished that his character was stronger.

But despite the issues I had with the characterisation, I enjoyed the plot and thought the book explored a lot of issues that are relevant to today’s society, including mental health and sexual orientation. I definitely still do recommend this book even though the characters weren’t to my liking.

Review: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: August 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 1406331163
Pages: 343
Goodreads || Book Depository

Not everyone has to be the chosen one.

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death.

What if you were Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

And what if there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life?

Even if your best friend might be the God of mountain lions…

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

The Rest of Us Just Live Here was my very first Patrick Ness book and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t blow my mind (like I was promised), but I’ve been told that this book is very different from his other books so I’m still looking forward to reading more Patrick Ness.

This novel is about the other kids that appear in YA novels – the ones who aren’t special or have superpowers. They’re the ones who are in the background while the chosen ones or the “indie kids” go and save the world. And they’re the ones with the ordinary names. I really liked the concept of this book and being able to see the ordinary things that go on while the indie kids are battling whatever force is threatening the world. This book reads like a contemporary but has some fantasy/paranormal elements running through it, like zombie deers and the God of cats.

Each chapter opens with a paragraph summary of what is happening to the indie kids, or what the novel would be like if it was written from the perspective of an indie kid. I liked these summaries a lot because we got to compare and contrast what was happening to them to the normality of the rest of the world. We get to see the consequences of what happens in the “indie world” and how it affects all the normal folks. I loved the satire and how the book makes fun of things like the adults being unaware of the strange happenings even though they were teenage, non-indie kids once too. I enjoyed picking out YA tropes and seeing how ridiculous Patrick Ness would make them seem.

This is very much a character-driven book because there isn’t really much of a plot. Our main character, Mikey, just wants to get through the last 4 weeks of school and graduate with his friends. I really liked and connected with Mikey’s character. I thought he was endearing and I liked how ordinary he was. But even though he’s an ordinary guy, he still has his own problems, like the OCD he suffers from. I thought the OCD aspects in this book were handled really well and it felt very realistic. He was a great friend and a great brother – I loved reading about his relationships with the other characters. His relationships with his sisters were my favourite aspect of the whole book.

We share our craziness, our neuroses, our little bit of screwed-up-ness that comes from our family. We share it. And it feels like love.

I loved most of the other characters. Jared was probably my favourite, after Mikey, because he was such an intriguing and unexpected character. Like, come on, he’s the God of cats! He was a really great friend to Mikey, helping him out of his compulsions. There were a couple of things towards the end that I didn’t like about Jared but I still ended up loving his character. I also loved both of Mikey’s sisters. The character that I had reservations about was Henna, the friend Mikey has been in love with since forever. I didn’t really see what was so special about her and what he saw in her. And since a lot of the book is about Mikey and him dealing with his feelings for her, I felt a little bit blah about it.

I think I might have liked the book a little bit more if it had more of a plot. While it was never boring, I didn’t think it stood out in any way (and maybe that was the point, because it’s a book about the ordinary and not chosen). I really enjoyed what I read (enough to give it 4 stars) but I just didn’t think it was particularly exciting.