Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Rarely do I read a book that talks about mental illness in a way that’s both accurate and relatable. Am I Normal Yet? is such a book.

It’s about a girl with OCD. Her name is Evie and she just wants to be normal, whatever that means. She’s been working towards it with her therapist and making good progress since being discharged from hospital, where she’d stayed for a while due to her mental health problems.  Read more

The Changeling’s Fortune by K.C. Lannon

The Changeling's Fortune by K.C. Lannon

A while ago, Christa forwarded me a tweet from an author who was looking for a Romani sensitivity reader. The fact that K.C. Lannon was looking for one in the first place impressed me: while sensitivity reading is a growing field, I’ve never heard of someone using one for characters of Roma descent, and most of the books I’ve read which feature members of the travelling community have been starkly stereotypical (the obvious exception being Miriam Wakerly’s excellent novels).

I got in touch with K.C. Lannon and she sent me her manuscript, The Changeling’s Fortune. I sensitivity read it, which was pretty easy because Lannon had done her research beforehand, so whilst I made a few suggestions it wasn’t like so many of the wildly unaccurate representations I’ve read in the past. The book will be coming out shortly, so I thought I’d do a quick review of it on here.  Read more

The Truth And Lies Of Ella Black By Emily Barr

First of all I should apologise to the lovely people at Penguin who sent me this book to review, because they sent it in mid-December and it’s now mid-February. Sorry about that.

I must also apologise because they asked me to take a selfie with the book in a place that means a lot to me, and I told them I don’t really do selfies but I’d try to do the place thing, and then I completely forgot because January was fucking mental.

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Silence Is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

I really didn’t mean to buy a novel I really didn’t mean to and yes I know I get them in the post for free anyway so why would I bother buying one it’s just that it had a pretty cover and an intriguing blurb and so whoops it jumped off the shelf into my hand and then my bag and then came home (via the till, obviously, I’m not some kind of book thief).

Anyway, I’m glad I bought it, because it was good. And kind of intriguing.

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Book Review: Divergent

divergent

It’s out now in cinemas and people keep saying it’s the next Hunger Games. I’ll go to see it at some point this week, if I manage to tear myself away from my desk, because I like a good ‘action movie featuring a strong female lead’, as Netflix would no doubt put it.

With The Hunger Games, I read the books after I’d watched the second film, Catching Fire. The first movie hadn’t really struck me in any way; I thought it was OK, but not amazing. The second movie was fantastic and I went to see it six times. After that, I read the books. I didn’t massively enjoy the writing style, but I thought they were OK. It’s unusual for me to like a film more than a book, but I’m wondering if that’s also going to happen with Divergent.

I bought the first book because in general I prefer to read things before I watch them. Plus, I was at Victoria station late at night, all the trains were delayed, and WH Smith had a buy-one-get-one-half-price book deal on. And the blurb sounded cool:

Sixteen-year-old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit.

So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.

The hardest choice lies ahead.

Sounds good, right? And it was. A really strong story, great characters, lots of action. Plus, there were some definite parallels with Tris’ life and my own. In Tris’ world, everyone is split into ‘factions’; groups that define how they are going to live their lives. She is born into Abnegation, a Puritanical faction where abdication of self is encouraged, and basic things like mirrors and jumping around are not really allowed. At the choosing ceremony, where she gets to pick which faction she wants to be in as an adult, she chooses Dauntless instead; a faction of black-clad rebels with tattoos, known for jumping off tall buildings and onto moving trains. During the aptitude test, she’s told she’s Divergent, a scary term which means that she doesn’t really ‘belong’ anywhere, because she has too many skills that could be attributed to several factions. She makes her choice by joining Dauntless, but she’s still in danger and doesn’t know who to trust.

I was brought up in a strict religious sect which preached that lack of personal possessions, a focus on others/god, and lack of vanity in any of its forms were the ways to salvation. Higher education was also discouraged, but I went to high school and did A-levels anyway. Whilst there, I was told that the world was my oyster and I could probably do pretty much anything I put my mind to (except, according to the aptitude test I did, chemical engineering). I battled for a while with the parts of me that were still influenced by the religion in which I’d grown up, before becoming a black-clad, motorbike-riding, tattooed adult. In other words, as much of a badass as I could muster from the confused shreds of personality I possessed.

So why didn’t I relate more to Tris? 

This has been bugging me ever since I read the first book. I’ve now finished all three, and I thought they were technically excellent, particularly the ending of Allegiant, the final book in the series. It’s a bold conclusion, and one which many authors wouldn’t dare to write, but perhaps Veronica Roth chose Dauntless in this respect. 😉

But there was something about the books which just didn’t quite hook me in, somehow. I wanted to know what happened. I liked the characters and thought them well-formed. But when a couple of the big sad moments happened, I didn’t even get a lump in the throat, just read past them like they were any other paragraph. And I didn’t really feel any kind of connection with Tris, even though in the back of my mind I kept telling myself that I somehow should.

They’re very good books, and I’d recommend them to anyone who likes good YA fiction. I can’t quite work out what I thought was lacking, but I’m hoping that it gets ironed out in the films.

Verdict: