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.
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.
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?
I'll have a guest post up for you tomorrow, so do please check in and leave lots of nice comments to come back to! And if anyone feels like tweeting it... (hint hint ;-P )
One good thing about not having access to the internet is having lots more time for reading, I'll be back with some reviews of fab books I've been reading next week...take care all!
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
This is a vibrant, deeply romantic and unmissable debut. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...
I spotted this already out on the shelves in WH Smiths (which handily is next door to my new job...dangerous maybe?) though it's not due for release until 7th june. I hadn't realised how different this books was until I picked it up, I love the diary style look to it !
My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die. I counted.
It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, “What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?” and my father said, “Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,” and that was the last thing he ever said. (Full synopsis here )
After reading amazing reviews at The Crooked Shelf and Wondrous Reads this jumped right to the top of my wish list, and this week it arrived!
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
It's almost the end of Miranda's sophomore year in high school, and her journal reflects the busy life of a typical teenager: conversations with friends, fights with mom, and fervent hopes for a driver's license. When Miranda first begins hearing the reports of a meteor on a collision course with the moon, it hardly seems worth a mention in her diary. But after the meteor hits, pushing the moon off its axis and causing worldwide earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, all the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to disappear. Food and gas shortages, along with extreme weather changes, come to her small Pennsylvania town; and Miranda's voice is by turns petulant, angry, and finally resigned, as her family is forced to make tough choices while they consider their increasingly limited options. Yet even as suspicious neighbors stockpile food in anticipation of a looming winter without heat or electricity, Miranda knows that that her future is still hers to decide even if life as she knew it is over.
Again, bought after reading a fantastic review by The Bookette. Thanks Becky!
Swapped By A Kiss by Luisa Plaja
When Rachel's on/off boyfriend David goes to a music festival in England, she jumps on a plane to surprise him - but she gets a shock of her own. Not only does she find David kissing someone else, but it's their friend Jo! Super-lovely, super-loved, all-round-perfect Jo.
Rachel runs away, wishing she could leave her life behind - and she suddenly finds herself in Jo's body! Can she keep this swap a secret? Can she unravel what's really going on? Can she get to grips with Jo's out-of-control curly hair?
This is a 'sort of sequel' to Lusia's previous book, Split by A Kiss. I haven't read it yet, but both sound brilliant!
The teenage world of Jess Jordon is looking characteristically chaotic: Mum has joined an online dating programme and has recruited Jess as advisor, while Jess' best friend Flora has a rich new boyfriend who Jess can't possibly keep up with. Then Jess' own boyfriend, Fred, does something unbelievably treacherous and spineless. Jess is becoming completely fed up with the male sex, and is beginning to think that the only reliable form of male is e-mail ...Never mind, there's Valentine's Day to look forward to. Fred is sure to make amends then. Isn't he? Full of Sue Limb's very funny take on teenage life and problems, fans of "Girl, 15" will be thrilled to have available a new Fred and Jess story. It's only when you've stopped laughing that you realise that, in addition to writing with wit and warmth, Sue Limb has also dealt effortlessly with bigger and important themes of friendship and loyalty. (Bloomsbury)
I was sent a proof copy a few weeks back, but this week I received a finished copy. I do really like the sound of this, although I'm a bit worried that I haven't read any of the previous books in the series (if anyone knows whether I definitely need to or not, that would be great!)
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.
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.
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)
Thank You to the publishers, Walker Books, for sending me this book for review.
Check out the WASTED blog for fascinating posts about the book, luck, chance and fate.