There Will be Lies – Nick Lake

there will be lies

This is also on the Carnegie Shortlist for 2016.

Now, this book is a game of two halves – to use football parlance. On the one hand there is the story of Shelby Cooper. She is home schooled by her slightly eccentric (and cross stitch/ Scotland obsessed) mum and lives in a small town in America. Once a week she is allowed to go out, have an ice cream dinner with her mum, hit some balls at the batting cages (it’s a baseball thing apparently) and go to the library. There is a boy at the library who she fancies called Mark, who is part American Indian. Her mum has this thing about her not standing too close to the edge of the pavement in case she gets knocked over by a car. Basically her mum is super over protective and doesn’t let Shelby out of her sight unless she is going to ‘safe’ places like the library where she gets a cab and her mum picks her up at precisely eight o’clock. So as you can see, Shelby and her mum have a few issues.

Ok, so lets go back to the boy in the library. Just before she leaves one night to wait outside for her mum, he asks her if he can meet her after work. She says she can’t but is a bit flustered and as a result is early to meet her mum. She is also standing too close to the edge of the pavement. You can guess what happens next – she gets hit by a car. That’s when all the weird stuff starts happening. She sees a coyote who tells her that there will be two lies and then the truth, then she is transported into this dream world were she sees Mark (the boys she fancies) who also turns out to be a coyote. He is telling her that she is the chosen one and that they need to go and rescue the child from the Crone. (huh?) Shelby has had a recurring dream for years that she is stuck in a hospital and she can hear a child crying. She gets to the child (who is carrying a grey toy rabbit) and then she wakes up.

I’m going to be honest and say that if this book had been written just using the narrative about Shelby and her mum it would have been a thoroughly entertaining book. They go on the run after Shelby is released from hospital and Shelby soon realises that something is up. The truth comes out but she needs to decide which bits are lies and which bits are the truth. The whole coyote/ crone thing was just a bit weird and unnecessary. The road trip, the man they meet and her mum seduces (if the description of her mum is anything to go by, this man is very lonely!) and everything that happens afterwards would have made a really good, life affirming story. The whole American Indian myths thing would have also made a nice story. I see the connection – the metaphors were pretty strong, but the two connected were a little disjointed. I freely admit that I skipped through some of the coyote story.

On the whole an enjoyable, well written, pacey book that I would recommend. It might have suffered in that I needed to read it quickly for the Carnegie so tried to get through it in a day or so. But it’s good – just don’t take up cross stitch.

Also, riddle me this: How did she do the thing in the climbing shop at the end?? Answers on a postcard please. Or just comment at the bottom…

further reading – On The Road by Jack Kerouac  (just because you all need to read it), Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov or The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed. All are really good American road trip books.

further watching – Thelma and Louise (when you’re older!)

The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

This is the blurb for this book; I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘that’s lazy. Normally she writes it all out but this time she’s just cut and pasted’ well, you’re right, I have. But that’s because I suspect that most of you have read this book already so there’s really no point in me going over the story line again!

Needless to say, this won the Hounslow Teen Read Award 2016 and probably will win lots of other awards as well. That’s because it’s fab. I know that there is a wealth of books about LGBT out there at the moment and this one stands out as one of the best. David is a really likable boy who is just trying to get through life and Leo is the same. But both of them have secrets that they want to keep hidden. In the case of Leo I was genuinely surprised by his secret though, the writer writes so well from a boys point of view. I suspect that there are loads of other teenagers out there struggling with exactly the same thing; maybe not as conclusively as Leo and David but varying degrees. Leo’s relationship with Alicia was really well done as well. I think that the Alicia’s reaction to what happened was probably standard but it also challenges what other teenagers would do in these circumstances.

Mainstream YA books that tackle this extremely emotional and difficult subject are to be applauded and there should be more like them so that young people can feel more comfortable about making these kinds of choices. In an age where it is more acceptable then ever to be whatever you want, and at a time in your life when you are already struggling with growing up and all the feelings associated with it, more should be done to explain and assimilate.

What I get from this book is that everyone is trying to get on and doesn’t need any hassle from anyone just because they may not fit in to your perception of normal. It also reminded me that school is a pretty hellish place and that if we aren’t kind to each other then what the heck are we all doing?

It’s a great book that will get you really thinking about how other people feel and what they are going through. The author writes really well on the subject and I can’t wait for her next book. I was also interested to find from my fellow librarians that this was a popular book with boys as well.

Another Day – David Levithan

Another Day is the companion novel to Every Day and it is narrated by Rhiannon, the girl that ‘A’ falls in love with in Every Day. I loved Every Day; the whole concept of a soul that is neither male nor female falling in love with someone and then every time it jumps to another body tries to convince her that it loves her. The nice thing about this book is that you already know the story and you know something about the main characters. It’s nice to revisit all the other characters from Rhiannon’s POV and see what she thought of them. The book also explores the concept of how Rhiannon feels about Justin – which kind of lead me to ask what she was doing with this guy in the first place. We know what’s going to happen at the end because we’ve read Every Day but it still made me sad.

But…. I do have a couple of issues with the book. Firstly, it’s too long. If you read these two books back to back then you would find it boring because you are basically going over the same ground twice. If Another Day was a short novella maybe then it would have been better – all the author had to do was re use the notes he had made from the previous book so it left me feeling a little cheated. David Levithan writes really well and I enjoy his books but I wanted more from it. Rhiannon seems like a nice girl with nice friends, she has a bit of a strange relationship with her parents which never really got explained (or maybe it did and I didn’t notice!) but the thing that gets me in the way that she allows herself to be treated by Justin.

This book is essentially a love story with a twist. It’s telling us to fall in love with the whole person, their looks are almost secondary to their personality and the way they make us feel. That is the message that the author wants us to take away here. That’s why ‘A’ is a boy and a girl and a jock and a geek and a Chinese girl and a religious nut, but, and it is a big but, Rhiannon is already in a relationship with someone who destroys her self-esteem, has social issues and generally makes her feel worthless. We do get to look at why he is the way he is a bit but that doesn’t excuse his behaviour towards her and why she stays with him, hoping it will get better.  In this age of social media Rhiannon should know that she shouldn’t have to put up with being treated the way she is; I know that she loves him and we all do stupid things for love but she annoyed me a little bit!

All that said, it is a well written, thought provoking book and a nice visit back to some characters that we already know – which is always nice. There are some other books by him that I would like to read but I think that Every Day is ground breaking stuff that really makes you think about why and who you love and that that decision is up to you. The control that ‘A’ tries to take at the end left me feeling sad and frustrated with him for trying to manipulate two other people’s feelings. At the end of the day, it’s all up to you to make your own choices and then work around them. If you loved Every Day then read it, it is worth it.

Never Evers – Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

Ok, so firstly I am going to confess to a slight bias when writing about this book; it is written by one of my friends so I am bound to be positive about it. This book is not aimed at people like me, and by that I mean old people! Yet I found myself really enjoying it. It is essentially a book about miscommunication and the awkwardness of first love – set in a ski resort.

Mouse was a talented dancer and was attending a selective dance school where she hoped to achieve fame and fortune. She went to the trials with her friend Lauren (who is now the queen of mean); she got in, Lauren didn’t. Fast forward a few years and Mouse has been told that she no longer cuts it and must leave the fancy dance school and return to her old school with all her old friends who had waved her goodbye. Two of them; Keira and Connie, accept her back no questions asked and the three become fast friends. Lauren and her gang of cronies on the other hand, pretend to but then bitch about her in the toilets. In her wisdom, her mum has signed her up for the school ski trip so she can get used to being with the others again before she returns to school. She also tells them a big whopper of a lie which she will need to sort out before the end of the book.

Jack and his two friends are just looking forward to meeting some girls. None of them have even so much as kissed a girl so their aim for the trip is to get some action. This may prove difficult as none of them seem to know what the heck to do! These two worlds collide and Mouse and Jack, through a series of unfortunate events, end of spending more time together. Drop in a French teenage heart throb and you have a recipe for some cringe worthy times!

This book is different to their last collaboration; Lobsters. The target audience and characters are younger for a start. They are all in year 9 and this is their first experience of love. The trick is that both authors write so well about what it was like to be that age that it reminded me what it was like; the awkwardness, the way that you really wanted that boy/ girl to just notice you but when they did you had absolutely no idea what to say… It’s hard being 14 and knowing that there will be loads more of this to come and wanting to experience it but at the same time wanting to hide under the duvet and eat a jar of Nutella (or was that just me?)

The split narrative is really good as well, who wouldn’t want to know what the other side is thinking? There is even redemption in the form of Mouse telling Lauren at the disco that she shouldn’t give up on her dreams – I for one would have happily punched her on the nose!

Loved this book and can’t wait for the next one. It’s a great combination that gives us girls an insight into what is going on in the male mind and boys will hopefully see that girls pretty much think the same thing as them – with more lip gloss.

Say Her Name – James Dawson

This book is another entry for the Hounslow Teen Read Award; I think we put this in second place. I’m going to classify this is as a horror – based on the fact that it is about a creepy urban legend where if you say ‘bloody Mary’ into a candlelit mirror five times then you summon the ghost of Mary and after five terrifying days she will take you off to the afterlife (or wherever). The book centres around the character of Bobbi Rowe, a teenage girl attending the incredibly posh and slightly spooky Piper’s Hall boarding school. She is hanging out in the local graveyard on All Hallows Eve (as you do) with some other girls from her school where she meets the hunky (I am a child of the eighties!) Caine. He seems to be already taken by the slightly horrible Grace, not that he seems to know that. Another of the mean girls tell them about the story of Bloody Mary and dares everyone to do it. They all back out except for Bobbi, Caine and Bobbi’s best friend, sassy Naya. This is where the book starts to get interesting. The book is cleverly interspersed with news articles about other girls who have gone missing from the school in previous years, making the whole thing seem a bit more believable.

Strange things start happening to Bobbi. Things written on the mirror, doors slamming etc. then she gets a visit from Caine and he confirms that he has had the same experiences. Then another girl in her dorm goes missing and the police get involved – it’s starting to get serious. Bobbi and Caine make a trip to see an old pupil who is now is a mental institution and they start to realise that the stories may all be true. They do manage to get some kissing in while they are scared witless so all is not lost.  This book deserves it’s horror classification as the book gets more and more creepy as it goes on. When we discussed it in book group a couple of the girls said that they struggled to read it at night. I wanted to see how the author would end the book, I couldn’t believe that there was really a ghost and not someone playing tricks but the finale is pretty spectacular. A really good old fashioned horror that left me hoping that no one actually goes and tries this at home –  the romance was a little off key with the rest of the book though; I understand why it was there but it kind of took away the suspense a bit.

Don’t try this at home kids!

My Second Life – Faye Bird

This book is one of the nominations for Hounslow Teen Read Award 2016. Faye Bird is a local author, and the book is set in and around Twickenham and Teddington. I kind of enjoyed that because I kept trying to guess where she was and what school she went to!

Anyway…. The book is about a teenage girl called Ana who believes that she lived a previous life as a young woman called Emma. She keeps getting flashbacks where she is involved in the death of  a child that she knows – near a river. Her relationship with her ‘mum’ is complicated because she remembers her previous parents so clearly that this woman who thinks she is her mother isn’t. A bit of a complicated concept as the woman obviously gave birth to her. Ana feels that she cannot share any of these previous memories with her ‘mum’ and, to me this is the most frustrating part of the book, she doesn’t tell anyone what’s going on all the way through.

Ana goes to visit her nan in hospital (who she is close to but still doesn’t tell any of her secrets) and the lady in the next bed is connected to her previous life. She starts talking to her and she unlocks some more memories about what happened before. She goes to visit this woman and learns more about her past life, eventually unlocking all the events and bringing the book to its conclusion.

I liked the idea of this book; it was clever. The blurb kind of sells it like, ‘has anything happened to you that you feel you have lived before?’ which I think has happened to everyone (or maybe just me?!). The character herself annoyed me because I wanted her to be more open about what was going on, I also felt that she was a bit harsh with her ‘mum’, it’s not like it was her fault! It was interesting to think about what I would do in her situation though, I suppose if someone told you that they had lived a past life and gave you intimate details about it, it would freak you out slightly and you would probably find it quite difficult to believe. A good read that stretches your imagination. At the end I couldn’t work our whether it was actually a past life experience or just a confused girl who wanted a bit of an adventure! You decide.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Cath and Wren (Catherine – get it?) are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to be an individual. Speaking as a twin myself, I know how this feels! It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes. Cath and Wren were obsessed with the fictional character of Simon Snow. He a little bit like Harry Potter (goes to a posh boarding school, has magical powers…) but the twist is that he shares a room with a vampire (Baz). Cath (magicath) writes a blog with over 10,000 followers which she updates every day. She used to do this with Wren but now Wren has joined the real world there is pressure on Cath to keep it going.
The blog follows a parallel story where Simon and Baz are secretly in love with each other but show their affection by trying to kill each other!
I really like Rainbow Rowell’s writing. She is funny and honest and fleshes out her characters so that you really get them. The interesting thing about this book is that she has two sets of stories going on, but by using the fictional world of Baz and Simon, Cath and Wren’s world seems more real. Cath’s moody room mate Reagan has a boyfriend called Levi, who is the total opposite of Reagan. It’s not really clear what their relationship is throughout the book but the romance building between Cath and Levi is lovely to read. Interestingly, Cath is marked down in her fiction course for writing fan fiction; the lecturer accusing her of plagiarism. This debates interests me. If you are using the characters and situations of an already published author, is it plagiarism if you are writing new conversations? In Cath’s blog, Simon and Baz are gay but in the original series they are not. Does that count? Something to think about…
I love these books, I love the characters and the story and the way nasty Nick gets his comeuppance – I even love the romance and I’m not a slushy person! She could have explored the girls’ relationship with their parents a bit more but the whole point of the book was that they were going to college so I see why she didn’t. It also opened my eyes to the whole fan fiction thing. I knew it was out there and what it was about but, I didn’t realise how popular it was and how dedicated some people were to it. Unless Cath is an extreme case of course! I found it fascinating that Cath was so obsessed with these fictional characters that that was all she could think about; putting her real life on hold. Great book – go read…

The White Rose – Amy Ewing

Sorry for the long delay, I was too busy reading!
So, The White Rose is the second in the Jewel Series. The Jewel ended with Violet and Ash getting caught and Raven raving (!) The beginning of the White Rose sees Violet and Ash in prison and in trouble. Violet has decided to save Raven so her escape plan that she has hatched with Lucien is transferred to Raven. They all somehow meet up in the mortuary and escape. Garnet is the best character for me, he has a bit of wit and charm about him and his emerging relationship with Raven should be explored in the next book.
This book didn’t have the same feel about it as The Jewel. The Jewel has more of a dystopian feel about it whereas as this one is a bit more camping in the woods. Ash and Violet’s relationship feels a bit staid to me, like something else needs to happen. Violet is a little bit too whiney for me in this one, and Ash has this whole ‘I’ve been used and abused my whole life’ thing going on. The real stand out characters for me are Garnet and Raven. Raven slowly emerges from the madness that operations on your brain will do to you, and she is a likable, sassy character.
The old lady is a good addition as well, and there is a bit of a Lucien back story which explains a bit more about his involvement and why he is doing what he is doing. The surrogates growing use of magic and the power that it has, and what they can do with it, is good. Violet seems to be a bit more powerful and it leads nicely into what she will need to do in the last book to change the world.
I’m sorry to say that this book feels a little bit like a filler. Usually in a trilogy I enjoy the second book because it answers some questions, explores the characters and sets everything up for the finale, but this one just felt a little flat. I didn’t like Violet as much and she was less of the strong female heroine and a bit more of the girlfriend who isn’t get enough attention from her man! On the whole though, a well written sequel that promises much in the final book. If you are a fan of books like The Red Queen and Divergent then this will satisfy your craving. Until the next time…

Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

am i normal yet

“Everyone’s on the cliff edge of normal. Everyone finds life an utter nightmare sometimes, and there’s no ‘normal’ way of dealing with it.” Sarah sighed. “There is no normal, Evelyn. There’s only what’s normal to you. You’re chasing a ghost.”

This book, and I’m not going to hold back here, is fantastic. The quote sums up what the book is about – a girl with extreme OCD and Anxiety Disorder who is trying, after a period of time where she has been sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, to fit back in to ‘normal’ life. Evelyn is 16 and has missed a couple of years of school (and her life). She obsessively touches things, thinks that everything has germs on it and will kill her and cannot develop relationships for fear of touching. She is struggling to come off her medication and is seeing a councillor (Sarah) every week to talk about her issues. She has also just started college, made new friends and desperately wants to meet a boy and fall in love – she thinks that this is the key that will bring her back to reality. she is also an obsessive movie watcher as she was unable to leave the house for fear of being attacked by germs in the air.
Sprinkled in with this is her friend Jane – the only one who truly knows what is going on with her mental health. Jane has just met and fallen in love with Joel, the drummer in a band and dropped Evie like a hot potato. She then makes two new friends – Amber and Lottie, who quickly become her besties. The thing is, she doesn’t want to tell them what she had been through and so keeps it from them. Evie is trying to be normal in a strange world but what she doesn’t realise is, we all are. Like Sarah says, she is chasing a ghost.
The way that Bourne talks about Feminism is also really interesting. Her observations about how women can denigrate themselves to keep a man are really interesting. My friend suddenly developed an unhealthy obsession with cricket when she met her boyfriend for example! Jane is the obvious example of this; dying her hair, getting piercings, changing her style because she thinks her boyfriend will like her better – but who did he fall in love with in the first place?
It is an empowering book. It reminded me about all the strong feelings I had when I was that age. The desperate need to fit in, talk about the right things and behave in the right way. But it also reminded me what wonderful friends I had (and still have 20 years later) who supported me as I supported them. And how much I thought I should be doing something to fit in, when really everybody was the same as me. We are all struggling with something and don’t think because you don’t know what it is that it isn’t there.

Be kind, it’s a hard old world out there and we are all struggling to make it. What this book tells us is that there is always people out there who are just the same as you. It is an emotional journey but an enlightening one. It will teach you that OCD is a scary disease and there is no cure, just ways of coping.

My only slight moan is that the portrayal of men isn’t very positive. Especially teenage boys! There are some nice ones out there, they are not all obsessed with sex and drugs and alcohol! I know there is huge dollop of feminism but by doing that she has a bit of a bash at men, which isn’t really fair!

Look out for Rose’s observation about Jane at the end of the book – it’s spot on and sums up what we are all about.

‘Why fit in when you were born to stand out? – Dr. Seuss
‘Abnormality is more normal than normality, therefore abnormality is normal’ – my best friend Lucy!

The Door that Led to Where – Sally Gardner

the door that led to where

I enjoyed this book so much I read it in one day! Then I recommended it to my daughter and she did too! it ticks lots of boxes; time travel, mystery, dangerous villain, romance etc. and it has a great main character. Meet AJ Flynn; just finished his GCSEs and not very hopeful about his future. His mum is a cleaner at a law firm in Clerkenwell and she manages to secure him an interview for a job, this is where the fun begins. He goes to the interview and everyone seems to know who he is, even more strangely there is a connection to his dad who disappeared before AJ was born. AJ has always assumed that he had run off and left him and his mum but it soon becomes clear that there is more to it then that.
To his surprise he is offered the job and given some money to buy himself a suit. He is then given a load of mundane tasks to do, one of which is to clean out the old store cupboard. There he finds an old key with a label on it with his name and date of birth. He meets a mysterious stranger who tells him what the key is for and he ends up in 1830! It’s a crazy ride; AJ is juggling 1830 problems with modern day worries in the form of his evil stepdad and trying to look after his mum and his friends who seem to be making life twice as hard! The main baddie is pretty good too. there is also a good scam going on where people are bringing in antiques through the door and selling them for profit in the present day; the trial that is taking place through the story is linked to this.
I really enjoyed the jumping between two worlds thing; the characters in 1830 seem more real than the modern day ones and you end up wishing that you could live there too. although it probably wasn’t as nice as Gardner tries to make you think! I have read several of her books before and really enjoyed the historical content of them. She really manages to capture what the time must have been like to live in. This one in particular has a lot of detail about clothing and social etiquette – it feels well researched. If you enjoy this book you will also enjoy The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade – these are about the French Revolution and are every bit as good!