Book Review: Scarred / Willow by Julia Hoban

Seven months after the car accident that killed her parents, Willow is struggling to cope. She blames herself for the accident, as it was she who was driving that night when the car lost control in treacherous weather conditions. Now living with her brother, his wife and young niece she feels alone and racked with guilt. Her relationship with her brother is also under strain, as she believes he also thinks the accident was her fault, and that he doesn’t want the responsibility of looking after her when he has his own family. The only release from the pain inside is by cutting her self. Then she meets Guy, and for the first time since her parents death, Willow feels she has someone who really cares for her. But can she allow herself to care for him in return?

From the moment I heard about this book I was intrigued and wanted to read it. Self-harm is a subject that is very rarely talked about at any time, let alone in a Young Adult novel and I was interested to see how the author would tackle it. I have personal interest in the subject of self-harm and I am often shocked by the general lack of understanding and support available to people who are harming themselves.

Julia Hoban captures Willow’s feelings perfectly. It’s difficult for people to understand why some people would do this to themselves, and the author explains through Willow in a way that will enlighten. I thought that despite being quite difficult to read, it was written very sensitively. I found it easy to identify and empathise with Willow’s anguish. She remains a strong character, and her emotions come across as very real. I think it’s a real achievement that she doesn’t come across as self-pitying despite her problems and I do believe that Willow’s experience does shed some light on what is a misunderstood and taboo condition.

The relationship with her brother was particularly well portrayed. As each presumed what the other was thinking without ever talking and the gulf between them widened, the tension and unspoken words between the two can be felt through the pages. But it’s the budding friendship and then romance with Guy that is truly beautiful. The relationship is difficult but tender, brutally honest yet breathtakingly magical. With Guy, Willow goes on a journey to accept her grief and discover herself in the new life she has found herself in.

My one complaint is that I did find the present tense a little distracting at times. I’m not sure why, but reading in the present tense often irritates me. It’s a credit to Hoban’s writing that this was only an occasional distraction rather than a major annoyance.

There are some pretty graphic and disturbing scenes throughout the book, which are uncomfortable, but I think necessary. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend Willow to younger readers and think it's probably better suited to over 14’s only. I’d also say this is not the book for someone who IS harming themselves, as the descriptions of Willow’s cutting could be a trigger to them. This isn’t a criticism of the author in any sense, but something I feel worth mentioning. I do think this is a great book for gaining an insight into self-harm and for a strong emotional read. Willow/Scarred is intense, sad, emotional, tender and beautiful all at once, and while I can’t say I enjoyed it, I’m certainly glad I read it.

This book is titled Scarred in the UK and Willow in the US. I bought the US cover because at the time Scarred was out of stock.

Book Review: Stunt Bunny: Showbiz Sensation by Tamsyn Murray

Meet Harriet Houdini, a young rabbit with lots of attitude, as she settles into life with her new family. Never destined to be a boring bunny, Harriet finds herself scouted by the producer of hit TV show Superpets and starts her career on the showbiz ladder. From daring backflips to thrilling escape attempts Harriet really is a Stunt Bunny extraordinaire! (from Goodreads.com)

A few months ago I read Tamsyn Murray's debut novel for Young Adults, My So-Called Afterlife and was struck by how fresh and original her writing was. Tamsyn's latest book, Stunt bunny: Showbiz Sensation, aimed at five to nine year olds is no different. It's fun, refreshing and unique and pitched perfectly to the age group.

Harriet Houdini is a bunny with attitude. Finding her way from the pet shop to her new owner Susie, and her family, she amuses and entertains readers with her hilarious observations and antics. The mutual dislike between Harriet and Susie's dad (nicknamed Evil Edward or EE for short by the cheeky little rabbit) makes for great comedy, especially as EE comes off the worst time and time again. Harriet will appeal greatly to children as she outwits the grumpy grown ups, and will have them in fits of giggles.

My five year old daughter is at an age where she is reading a little bit for herself, but still thoroughly enjoys being read to. We've been venturing away from our usual picture books recently and trying out books in the 5-9 age range. I have noticed that sometimes books with more complex stories and texts are at times difficult to read aloud well, but this isn't the case for Stunt Bunny. The writing and pace makes it effortless to slip into the characters and an absolute joy to read aloud. Harriet's cheeky attitude and evil magician The Great Maldini were both fun and a breeze to get into. I enjoyed reading this to my daughter as much as she enjoyed listening.

With it's well paced, snappy sentences and short chapters this is also a wonderful book for children who are confident enough to read alone. I like how Tamsyn's writing doesn't patronise or speak down to the younger reader. Harriet is conspiratorial in her narrative and I think children will enjoy and appreciate the more 'grown up' tone. It's also one that will appeal to both boys and girls alike, and an excellent book for the more reluctant reader too. I'd also like to mention the brilliant and funny illustrations by Lee Wildish which feature regularly throughout. My daughter loves stopping to look at pictures as we read, and these were nicely detailed and really helped to bring the characters to life.

Tamsyn Murray is a natural story teller with a fresh, humorous and original style which works equally as well for children as it does for teens. Stunt Bunny is fun, clever, mischievous, fast paced and exciting and children will just want to devour the story. It had both my daughter and myself laughing out loud! In fact, it was enjoyed so much that she was forcing her little eyes open just to hear more.If you know a child aged between 5-9 years old then this is the ideal book gift for them and an absolute must for any little readers book shelf. We can't wait for the next installment due for release February 2011!

You can find out more about Tamsyn, Stunt Bunny and her other books here

Thanks to the publishers for sending this book for review.

Guest Post: Nicola Morgan author of Wasted

When I read the brilliant book Wasted by Nicola Morgan, it really got me thinking about luck, and whether people are 'born lucky' or do they make their own. So when asked for a topic for Nicola's guest post today, I asked about how much luck does play a part in our lives.

Thanks for letting me stop by at Rhiana Reads and hello to your lovely readers! You asked me to talk about luck and what part I think it plays in our lives and I must say that the more I think about it the less I know the answer. Which is pretty much why I delayed and delayed writing the post – it all kept going round in my head and getting more confused instead of clearer. I’ve talked about aspects of it – such as making our own luck, and luck in publishing, but I’ve not really unpicked it properly. So, here goes!

We think we know what we mean when we say something or someone was lucky. But when we look at it closely, everything can boil down to luck. But if everything boils down to luck, then we can’t take responsibility for anything – and we can’t be blamed for anything either. And that doesn’t seem right. What would be the point in trying at all if everything was luck? If Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler were only different because of luck, what would be the point of anything?

Let me explain. Take getting published. We would probably all say that an amount of talent has to come into that, as well as some luck – for some people more luck than others. (For example, I worked hard for 21 years to get my first novel deal, which doesn’t feel very lucky…). But what about the bits we call talent and hard work – aren’t they based on luck as well? After all, having talent depends on a load of things happening to you when you were far too young to make good choices, including genes and environment, perhaps tiny things like a teacher praising you at the right time, or winning a writing prize when you were nine. And hard work? Well, you could say I’m lucky to have the personality that makes hard work likely; lucky to have a husband who could support me while I tried for so long; lucky to have the health to do it; lucky that I don’t live in a country rife with civil war; lucky that I don’t have a very sick child to look after; lucky in a million ways that have allowed me to work hard for many years.

Then there’s the luck of thinking of the right idea – after all, if it was mechanical and controllable, I could sit here now and deliberately conjure up the fabbest idea and make myself a fortune. There’s the luck of thinking of exactly the right words to express the idea. You think that’s not luck? Well, imagine I wrote a story; then imagine I lost it in a computer data-loss; and imagine I tried to write it again. Would I come up with the same words? No, nothing remotely like them. Because inspiration is fuelled by something that feels as uncontrollable as luck. The words that come into a writer’s mind at any one moment are controlled by something that feels far more like luck than application.

I have heard neuroscientists and philosophers argue that there cannot be any such thing as free-will, that the act of moving our hand up and down is not fully in our control, that David Beckham’s brain instructs him to kick the penalty before he thinks he’s making the decision about direction, that many external influences come to bear on our ability to decide to do the smallest thing. The arguments are sometimes powerful. And yet it is impossible – and would be terrifying – to take the view that there is no free-will. Then we could claim no credit for anything good we did, nor blame anyone for anything bad. Mother T and Mr Hitler would be equally to be admired or abhorred.

So, for society, for our overall happiness, for everything good in the world, we must believe that we have at least some control and therefore that although much is luck, much can be achieved by hard work and talent and that talent can be nurtured (though not created) by hard work and choice. We have to make some judgements, very human ones rather than purely logical ones, about what is luck and what is not. So, if you have an idea for a story and spend many hours agonising over it and crafting it into a book, I believe that was not luck but hard work and the application of your nurtured talent. If you accidentally leave your manuscript on a train and it is picked up by a hungry agent who happens to be looking for just that wonderful sort of book, I believe that was luck. But if you drop it at the feet of a hungry agent and while you are picking it up manage to spin a brilliant five second pitch, I believe that is the beautiful application of talent, hard work and wisdom.

And you then deserve all the luck that comes your way!

Copyright © Nicola Morgan 2010

"Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author for teenagers, with successful titles such as Fleshmarket, Deathwatch, Blame My Brain and Sleepwalking. She prefers to forget that she also used to write Thomas the Tank Engine Books... When she's not writing, she loves speaking in schools, and at festivals and conferences in the UK and Europe, She also enjoys messing around on Twitter or her blogs. Nicola blogs for writers at http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/ and has set up a special blog about her brand new book, Wasted - you can join the activities and contribute in lots of ways at http://talkaboutwasted.blogspot.com/

Thanks Nicola for dropping by and for a really interesting post!

You can read my review of Wasted here and I highly recommend it!

Make sure to join Nicola on the next stop of her blog tour tomorrow at This Counts As Writing, Right?

Book Review: The Named (Guardians Of Time Trilogy #1) by Marianne Curley

Imagine if you were able to change history. By altering one tiny thing you could start a chain of catastrophic events. Ethan is one of the Named, fated to stop this ever happening, although the forces of chaos have other ideas and Ethan is finding it more and more difficult to stay one step ahead. He is also a normal schoolboy, whose life is rapidly becoming far too confusing. So when Isabel arrives on the scene she is only going to make matters worse or is she? This is history in the making - literally. (From Amazon.co.uk)

When this book first dropped through my letterbox, as well as adoring the cover, I thought it sounded pretty interesting. However, it’s so much more than what the brief synopsis on the back reveals. The Named is the first book in The Guardians Of Time Trilogy by Marianne Curley and has just been re-jacketed and re-released by Bloomsbury UK this month. In all honesty I'd never heard of the books prior to receiving this one for review. I’m so glad I did though and I’ll certainly be making sure I read the rest (The Dark, The Key)

Ethan lives a split life. He juggles being an everyday schoolboy with being a Guardian Of Time, a secret group of warriors fighting against The Order Of Chaos. Initiated as a very young child, his duties include time travelling into the past to stop The Order meddling with events and disrupting the future. When Ethan is given his first apprentice to train he is thrilled with the honour, until he realises his apprentice will be Isobel, sister of his sworn enemy in school. They don’t have long to prepare for their first dangerous mission, and things are becoming more and more and complex.

At first I was a bit confused. The reader is thrown pretty much in at the deep end and I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I felt like I’d missed some vital information. This is quickly remedied though and swiftly becomes a thrilling and completely engrossing story.

The book is told in a split narrative between Ethan and Isobel in alternating chapters and worked beautifully. I like this method generally when done well, and Marianne Curley certainly pulls it off here treating us to an insight from both the main characters as well as allowing us to be in different places with each one. Singularly, I liked both characters enough, but felt that it was the two together that really gave the book strength. There are other fascinating characters, who I’m really hoping to find out more about in the second books, and a terrifying villain who is literally the stuff of nightmares.

The plot is packed full of action and adventure, mythology and fantasy, and runs at a breathtaking speed. There's also a little bit of romance, however this is a subtle undertone and doesn’t wholly consume the plot as you might think. It’s also unpredictable and took me by surprise!

I really enjoyed reading this book. I became completely absorbed in the story and couldn’t put it down, finishing in less than a day and left wanting more. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next instalment of this trilogy. This is a book I’d recommend to both males and females alike (perhaps one downside to the beautiful cover is that it may be passed over as more of a girls book?), although because it is quite scary and a little violent I’d be cautious about giving it to children under eleven years.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Book Review: My Single Friend by Jane Costello

For 28-year-old Lucy things are going well, mostly. She has a fabulous job, two great friends Dominique and Erin, and shares a flat with her best friend of twenty years, Henry. But prone to embellishing her talents and interests to potential love interests, her dates usually end up in disaster.

With her own love life going nowhere fast, Lucy decides that loveable but geeky Henry needs some help with his and takes it upon herself to give him a make, transforming him into a love god. Success isn’t as sweet as she imagined though. Now Henry is officially the most eligible bachelor in Liverpool with women queuing up for a date, Lucy wonders what she’s done. To top it all, someone also seems to have it in for her at work and not only is she at risk of loosing her oldest friend, but her career too.

I haven’t read any of Jane Costello’s previous books, but My Single Friend caught my eye and I thought it looked like a light, cute and fun read. And that’s exactly what it is!

Lucy is an adorable character and I liked her straight away. The exaggerating she does on her dates is outrageous but hilarious! I wanted to scream stop now! at her before she went too far, but each new ‘embellishment’ lead from one lie to another ending up cringe worthily funny. One particular scene had me roaring with laughter, as I could absolutely see it happening in real life too. I think what is so funny about Lucy is that there is something recognisable in her. We’ve all wanted to make ourselves seem more interesting or talented at times, and we’ve probably also been caught out once or twice too, though granted there are probably few as extreme as Lucy! We know Lucy needs to just be happy and ok with just being her self and so she becomes immensely appealing.

I also really liked Henry (I wish I had a friend like him!) and enjoyed the relationship between the two. In particular I liked the frequent flashbacks to their childhood. This gave a real sense of depth and history between them and made their friendship all the more believable. It also gives us more of an insight, as to begin with, their adult relationship seems all one sided and the feeling is that Lucy may just be taking advantage of his good nature.

As well as these two fabulous main characters, there’s also a host of other minor characters that, despite playing a smaller role in the book, have their own little stories. Lucy’s mum really interested me. Rather than the slightly ridiculous and shallow middle class stereotype, often reserved for the role of main character’s mother in this genre, she’s down to earth, hard working and slightly resentful. I thought that even though she played a very small role in the book, she was solid and authentic. I really liked her, and could see beyond the huge chip on her shoulder.

My Single Friend isn’t the most original book out there. I knew before I even started how it was going to end, but the journey there is fun and with enough twists to make me wonder if I would be proved wrong after all. Jane Costello’s writing is easy, entertaining, funny and engaging. I thought the beginning was a little on the slow side, but after a few chapters the pace really picked up and the pages flew by. I was worried that Lucy’s interest in Henry’s appearance would make this really shallow, but the message I got from the book was more about not realisng what you have until it’s gone. It ticks every box for a great girly read and is ideal for by the poolside, lazy weekends or when you just want to read something fun and light. I’d certainly recommend it and will look out for more from Costello in the future.

Guest Post: Keris Stainton Talks About Her First Week As A Published Author


Today I'm thrilled to be the latest stop on Keris Stainton's blog tour to promote her fabulous debut novel Della Says: OMG! As well as reading and loving said book, I've been following Keris and the build up to her launch on twitter, and her excitement has been contagious! Today Keris talks about her first week as a newly published author.



My first week as a published author


6 May 2010 was the publication date of my first novel. (Yes, it was also the date of the UK general election. Guess which I was more interested in? At least to begin with...) The book had actually sneaked out a couple of weeks early, particularly online, and friends had been texting and emailing and tweeting me pictures of it on various bookshelves for days. So even though there wasn't a big Publication Day Ta-Da!, some lovely flowers and presents arrived from friends and we marked the occasion by going out to dinner.

The big Publication Day Ta-Da! actually took place on the Saturday when I made the trip down to London for my launch party. I'd been worried about having a launch party. Part of me wanted to celebrate my achievement while another part of me hates parties and just wants to stay home watching 30 Rock DVDs and eating Tangfastics in my pyjamas. But I was so glad I overruled my slobbish side, because my party was amazing. So many lovely people - old friends, new friends, people I'd only "met" on the internet - came and I chatted and giggled all night. I had a brilliant time.

When I woke up the next morning I was still on a high (and my husband was still snoring) so I took myself off out for a walk. I walked down to the Thames and stood looking out at the London Eye and thinking about how things have changed for me. I lived in London for eight years and it wasn't my happiest time. Since moving back to the north, I've got a degree, had two gorgeous sons and written four books. Oh and, yes, had one published (with another to follow next year). I allowed myself a little wallow in my achievements and a little cry. (And I sent a few tweets about it all, obviously.)

Once I'd had my fill of the freezing wind off the river (in May!), I wandered up to Starbucks and bought myself a mug in the same shade of green as the cover of my book. And then I bought a hazelnut latte. I usually drink plain lattes, but I decided to have a hazelnut one so that whenever I have one in future, it will remind me of my book launch. Is that weird?

This week has been mostly back to business, i.e. faffing about on Twitter and avoiding writing (although I did give myself permission to take it easy this week - back to work on the new book on Monday), but tonight I have yet another launch party. This one in Manchester. I think I'll pick up a hazelnut latte on the way...

--
Keris Stainton


Thanks Keris for taking the time to drop by. Hope you have a wonderful evening tonight and I will be looking forward to the next book! Well done on such amazing achievements, you're an inspiration!

You can read my review of Della Says: OMG! here
Find out more about Keris, her book and her blog tour here
Check out the next stop at Novelista tomorrow here


Book Review: Impossible by Nancy Werlin


Lucy has nine months to break an ancient curse in order to save both herself and her unborn daughter. 
Inspired by the ballad “Scarborough Fair,” this riveting novel combines suspense, fantasy, and romance for an intensely page-turning and masterfully original tale. 
Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child’s birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won’t be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents and her childhood friend Zach beside her. Do they have love and strength enough to overcome an age-old evil? (From Goodreads.com)

I signed up to receive this book as part of International Book Tours because it sounded interesting. I probably should have taken a closer look at it and done a little investigating first, because the truth is if I had, then I probably wouldn’t have joined this particular tour.

Lucy has been brought up by loving foster parents after her biological mother gave birth to her very young and then proceeded to go insane. But having been brought up so well by her foster parents, Lucy’s future is bright. Until she is raped on the night of her prom and discovers she is pregnant. Not only that, but it appears an evil Elfin Knight is responsible, and like many Scarborough women before her, to break the curse Lucy must complete three seemingly impossible tasks. If she fails, then she faces the same fate as her mother and the curse will be passed down to her unborn child.

The problem I have is that I’m uncomfortable with such a serious sexual assault being used the way it is in this novel. It’s not because I don’t feel it’s an appropriate subject for a young adult novel, if it is done sensitively. I just didn’t feel it was at all necessary in this book. The assault itself is only really hinted at thankfully, and isn’t graphic or particularly violent. What I really hated was how it somehow made the whole thing sound some how romantic. Lucy seems largely unaffected by it, determined to have the baby, is lucky enough to have another handsome love interest prepared to rescue her, an evil but beautiful knight, ancient curses. It just seemed very distasteful to me, and an insult to women who have suffered the brutal reality of rape.

This happens quite early on, and I was prepared to find it a real struggle from then on in, but was actually surprised to find the rest of the book a compelling and intriguing tale. The whole story is set around the old folk song ‘Scarborough Fair’, adapted by the author to fit the story. I loved the old folklore and mythology that sprung up. It’s sufficiently creepy and mysterious to ensure that I kept turning the pages and wanted to know how it all ends, and I really enjoyed the research and efforts that went into each task to be completed. I also really did like the romance between Zach and Lucy, despite the criticisms I made in the previous chapter. By the end I was on the edge of my seat, routing for them both against the evil Elfin Knight and didn’t want to stop reading.

So, I have a very conflicting opinion of this book. I found the assault and the reactions to it somewhat distasteful and really do wish Nancy Werlin had chosen a different way to carry the curse. It didn’t seem necessary and left me feeling uncomfortable. On the other hand, I can absolutely see that Werlin is a compelling writer who can weave an ancient and mysterious tale into the present, create a passionate and believable romance and produce a gripping and magical story. Perhaps others won’t feel as sensitive about the issues I raise, judging by ratings given on goodreads.com it certainly seems one that people either love or hate and provokes extreme reactions. Personally the discomfort I felt was too much and completely tainted the book for me.

You can check out what other reviewers on this tour think about Impossible by clicking here.

Thanks to International Book Tours for organising the tour and allowing me to take part. 

Book Review: Wasted by Nicola Morgan

When danger, passion and chance collide...Jack worships luck and decides his actions by the flip of a coin. No risk is too great if the coin demands it. Luck brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life. But Jack's luck is running out, and soon the stakes are high. As chance and choice unravel, the risks of Jack's Game become terrifyingly clear. An evening of heady recklessness, and suddenly a life hangs in the balance, decided by the toss of a coin. In the end, it is the reader who must choose whether to spin that coin and determine: life or death. (From Amazon.co.uk)

I had no idea really what to expect from Wasted, other than it sounded exciting and intriguing. And wow, did it live up to that expectation! This is certainly the most unique, original and all round fascinating book I’ve read for a while. From the very first page this book really captured my attention, I just didn’t want to put it down.

Jack believes that after loosing not one, but two mothers, he has pretty much used his bad luck up. He thinks he is lucky, but fate, luck and chance fascinate him and so he decides to test his luck by playing a game. Flip a coin, heads or tails; let the coin make his decisions for him.

Jess is about to finish school and has no idea where her life will take her. She would like to go to Music College, but feels trapped by her needy alcoholic mother. Then by chance, Jack hears Jess sing just as he needs someone to front his band. The attraction between them both is instant, but will Jack’s dangerous game get in the way?

I adored both of these characters. They were easy to sympathise with and the romance between the pair was beautiful. Nicola Morgan captured vulnerability in each of them, yet also made them feisty and strong. Jack is especially endearing and charming, I wasn’t surprised at all that Jess felt so drawn to him!

Wasted is exciting from the very beginning. It’s told in a third person narrative, from an almost disembodied voice which has a personality of it’s own. The narrator discusses with the reader what we can see the characters doing, and also often gives us alternative situations that could happen if just the smallest detail is changed. It’s as if we are looking down observing Jack and Jess and it kind of reminded me of Death’s narration in The Book Thief a little. It made me feel I was completely involved in the story and the tone was conversational and consistently fast and interesting. I loved it!

The descriptions of people and places are incredibly vivid too. One scene at a fairground really stood out, as that creepy, evening fairground that is a little seedy and dangerous was brought to life. The narrators dry wit also provided some very humorous passages too, and not once did I become bored. I wanted to listen keenly and soak the whole thing up. It also keeps you thinking constantly ‘what if’ and wondering about the existence of luck, chance and fate or whether it’s always just a case of wrong or right place at the wrong or right time. The twist at the end in which the reader does become involved is brilliant, and I loved how even after finishing the book, I wasn’t quite!

I thoroughly recommend Wasted; it has strong vivid characters, romance and originality. It’s thrilling and will leave you breathless at times. It’s thought provoking, dark, edgy, very clever, fun and touching. A truly exciting novel you won’t want to put down.

Thank You to the publishers, Walker Books, for sending me this book for review.

Nicola Morgan will be dropping by here on the 26th May as part of her blog tour

Check out the WASTED blog for fascinating posts about the book, luck, chance and fate.

Waiting On Wednesday


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking The Spine which allows us to highlight up coming releases we are eagerly awaiting.

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares


Not everyone believes in the existence of 'the one', the love of our life that we are destined to find, but Daniel knows it's real. How could he not? He has spent centuries meeting and falling in love with the same girl over and over and over again. Life after reincarnated life, generation after generation, spanning continents and dynasties, he and Lucy have been drawn together -- and though he can never tell her, he remembers it all. He has the gift, or the curse, of 'the memory', the ability to recall past lives and recognize the reincarnated souls he has known. The problem is, the force that draws Lucy and Daniel together also always tears them painfully, fatally apart, to the point that he has started trying to protect her from falling in love with him and the heartbreak he knows it will bring. (Released in the UK 24/6/2010 by Hodder & Stroughton, US release 1/6/2010 by Riverhead Hardcover)

Just OMG! How fantastic does this book sound? I really Can. Not. Wait for this. I'm fascinated by memory, and the idea that some people can recall past lives, added to an undying love story...well! I'm also loving the UK cover a whole lot more than the US one (shown below). This book has already been optioned for a movie PRIOR to its release date, which while I never like the movie half as much as the book, has me excited about how good this book might be!

US cover

So what are you waiting for this week?

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

When Clay Jenson gets home from school one day to find a package addressed to him, he has no idea that what’s inside will turn his life upside down. Because the package contains 13 cassette tapes from Hannah Barker, a girl who killed herself a few weeks ago. The rules are simple, 13 people are listed on these tapes and the package must be sent to each one in turn, because there is another set which will be made public if the rules aren’t followed. What is Clay’s involvement with Hannah, and who are the twelve other people incriminated in this young girls suicide?

I really wanted to read this book from the minute I heard about it. Suicide is such a difficult subject and to read from the perspective of someone who is at that point intrigued me. There is possibly nothing more tragic than a young person with their whole life approaching them choosing to end it all, and having suffered from pretty severe depression in my own teen years, I thought that this might be something I would really relate to.

The book begins with Clay discovering the tapes and starting to listen. Then follows the strangest narrative I have ever come across in a book. Hannah’s ‘voice’ is written in italics, with Clay responding regularly in between passages. This annoyed me a little and took quite a lot of getting used to. In one way it was interesting to read Clays immediate reaction to what he was hearing, but quite often I felt it just really interrupted the flow of Hannah’s story and wanted to say ‘shut up Clay!’ It made the whole book a little fragmented and although I did get used to it towards the end, overall I wasn’t that keen on this structure.

I also struggled to really believe in some of the plot. I’ve read some reviews that criticise Hannah’s reasons for ending her life, that it wasn’t really all that bad. I disagree. Jay Asher very cleverly describes a ‘snowball effect’ where a lot of small things build into a really huge thing. Each incident Hannah holds such resentment towards isn’t huge on it’s own (excepting a couple later in the book) but added together they become unbearable. Hannah is clearly suffering from some kind of depressive illness, and as anyone who has also experienced depression will know, small things seem huge and knowing how to deal with even the tiniest of things becomes impossible. I really did get Hannah, and how she felt things were ‘snowballing’ out of control. I thought that this was pure genius on the authors part, and I really admire him for that as its something even now I find difficult to explain.

What I did struggle with believing was that all of these people felt threatened enough to pass these tapes on. The ‘crimes’ these people are guilty of committing against Hannah escalate as the tapes progress, and become very dark. However, while the people at the beginning aren’t very nice, they haven’t done anything illegal and I can’t understand why none of them would be so shocked by the latter stories, they wouldn’t hand the tapes over to the police or an adult. I didn’t really think they had that much to loose by exposing themselves that they would be so easily blackmailed into covering for some pretty horrific criminal acts. This really irritated me to be honest.

By the end of Thirteen Reasons Why I did feel a little disappointed. I thought some of the book was fantastic, and really made the reader think about the way they treat people and how it may be interpreted. It made me sad that Hannah had been crying out for help, yet no one had seen the signs, and Hannah herself was a real and thoroughly believable character. On the other hand I found some of the plot a little too far fetched and the split narrative full of interruptions and distractions. I’m glad I read the book, and it will stay with me, I just can’t help feel it could have been more.

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