‘History Is All You Left Me’ – Adam Silvera

History is all you left me

One of the things I love about being part of an on-line reading community is hearing from other readers about books that I might not have otherwise picked up. Adam Silvera’s novel – published in January 2017 – is my first read by this author and, based on my feelings after reading this, it won’t be the last!

Our story focuses on seventeen year-old Griffin, and how he feels after the death of his ex-boyfriend and first love, Theo. Griffin is definitely finding it hard to accept the loss of someone so important to him, and we see him being torn apart by his obsessions as he tries to adjust to life without the person who remained so important to him.

This was one of those books that snuck up on me and has left me more than a little stunned…in a great way…and there were a number of reasons for this.
First, let’s deal with the fact that Griffin is gay and celebrate that this book doesn’t treat it like anything other than part of who he is. Yes, he has relationship difficulties. Sometimes he acts like a jerk. His relationships have touching moments that I felt privileged to be allowed to witness. Sometimes it’s painful. Whatever we’re witnessing, it’s part of him.

Second, the structuring of the story was something that I found immensely satisfying in revealing the characters we were introduced to. Splitting between History and Today to show the memories Griffin has and how he’s dealing with the aftermath of Theo’s accident was, initially, rather confusing but it makes perfect sense as we draw closer to Griffin and see just what he’s living with.

There are so many things I liked about this story. It explores a painful event in anyone’s life, but learning to live with loss and first love will be relevant in some way to most readers. The closing pages – as we see Griffin finally coming to accept, in part, what he needs to do to forgive himself – were emotionally hard to read.

The final line really intrigued me as it suggested Griffin might not be quite as reliable a narrator as we were led to believe. Who can judge whether you have a shared history wrong? I’ll be puzzling this over for some time.

‘Scythe’ – Neal Shusterman


A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

When we first meet Citra and Rowan it is clear that they are no ordinary teenagers. Their behaviour makes it clear that each has certain attributes that would make them a good scythe. Neither wants the role – and this is a good thing – but they are each taken on as apprentice to the indomitable Scythe Faraday (who I think has to go down as one of my favourite mentor figures in Literature).

It definitely makes for a better read to know little more than the information we are given prior to reading. We are quickly immersed in this futuristic setting, and also get a real sense of a microscope being held up to our contemporary world to scrutinise our own beliefs.

There is a lot of political intrigue behind the scenes, and it’s not giving anything away to tell you that after a series of unfortunate events Citra and Rowan end up pitted against each other in possibly the cruellest competition ever. There’s a truly wonderful cast of characters here, and though there is a lot of violence it is not out of place.

Personally, I cannot wait until book two is released…

‘Monsters’ – Emerald Fennell


The first thing I have to wonder is how this passed me by when it was released in 2015.

The second thing I have to say is that this is a children’s book that will probably appeal just as much to adults.

Monsters…it’s an evocative title. When we’re told that this story focuses on two children you would never want to meet it seems they are the monsters referred to. Our female narrator has a morbid fascination with murders, and Miles is a sociopath whose macabre behaviour hints at something very odd going  on under the surface. However, things are not quite as clear-cut as they seem – and thought they’re not particularly likeable characters, I came to feel something akin to sympathy for our narrator which made me rethink exactly who the monsters of the title were.

The two children meet when they both end up in the same seaside town for their summer holidays. Our narrator spends every summer in the hotel belonging to her aunt and abusive uncle, and Miles is on holiday with his overbearing mother (whose relationship with Miles appears to owe a lot to that of Norman Bates and his mother). When bodies start to appear in the otherwise quiet town, it seems a serial killer is at large and the two children are desperate to investigate further. It is inevitable that they will get themselves into trouble.

The cover drew me to this initially…and it sounded vaguely creepy, but in the style of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events. It was certainly creepy, but nothing had prepared me for just how darkly humorous this was. This might not sit easily with some readers, as the humour to be found in a book about murder- where animals are injured and people are treated with casual indifference – is never going to appeal to everyone’s tastes. I have to admit that there were some scenes that had me laughing out loud: the demise of Fuka the cat, the ingenious way in which rival Mary is removed from the annual festival and the judgements on Mr Queen’s artwork to name but a few. Finding such humour in these circumstances might seem odd, but the two children were fascinating in their depiction.

While I was thoroughly enjoying this as I was reading, the ending took it into realms I really wasn’t expecting and which made it go from simply a good read to one that I will be urging people to try. The hypocrisy of our ‘polite society’ -which only comes to the fore with this shocking ending – really left me questioning just who the monsters were.

‘My Ladybird Story’ – Magus Tor


My Ladybird Story

In this novel Tor focuses on the story of John, a young teenage boy who feels different but can’t identify why. We follow him through school as he becomes friends with the new girl, Aureus, a force to be reckoned with.

As soon as these two become friends it’s clear they have found their own support network. Together, John and Aureus find ways to cope with the demands and stresses of high school. Yet John remains quiet, prone to periods of intense depression and nobody can work out why.

The novel takes us on John’s journey as he comes to terms with his identity, eventually recognizing that he has gender dysphoria and undergoing therapy/counseling as part of his gender reassignment.

Novels exploring identity and transgenderism do seem to be becoming rather popular at the moment. That’s no bad thing – certainly for those who are living the experience and need all the support they can get. However, though this novel was positive in its affirmation I couldn’t help but feel there was a sense of earnestness about this that made it feel a little less effective.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in advance.

‘The Future of Us’ – Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us

Published in 2011, this is a romance that is unashamedly set in the past while trying to explore attitudes to what – in our contemporary world – has become the norm. What I felt throughout was that something always felt slightly off-kilter.

Emma and Josh are next-door neighbours, who have been friends forever. Naturally (this is a romance) Josh has made a move and Emma has panicked…so they’ve not really spoken for a while. This would be awkward enough, but throughout the novel we can see that the whole focus is on them trying to work out they are meant to be together.

While this might seem infuriating, the cast of friends surrounding them are interesting enough to stop it all getting too much. What irritated me was the premise used to get them to see the true state of their feelings for each other. Set in the past – way back in 1996 when teenagers had to do things like page each other if they wanted to speak or, heaven forbid, actually meet up – we are led to believe that when Emma is given a free AOL CD she finds a mysterious page called Facebook that seems to tell her the future.

Part of me really wanted to stop reading. Emma and Josh acted more like olden day peasants facing witchcraft rather than savvy teens on the cutting edge of their world. Still, it was mildly entertaining but more than a little unforgettable.

‘Caraval’ – Stephanie Garber

In the world of Caraval, nothing is quite as it seems.

Scarlett and her sister, Tella, have never left their tiny island. They obsess over the annual festival that is Caraval, an exclusive ticket-only event where the audience participates in the show. For both girls, the event symbolises escape from their abusive father and, though they are desperate to participate in the game, they stand little chance of being able to get there.

When Scarlett learns that their father is playing his own game, and has promised her hand in marriage it seems their chance to escape is well and truly dashed. Then, mysteriously, tickets to the game arrive…and a young man turns up at just the right time to help the sisters get to the island.

Once Scarlett arrives on the island, I felt the book came into its own. The world of Caraval and the mystery surrounding Legend was absorbing. Scarlett’s determination to help her sister – while also finding time to develop her own romance – was not particularly justified, but as long as you don’t question some of the details too much you won’t be disappointed.

Since starting this I’ve heard it’s to be made into a film…seriously, can’t wait! This was a cleverly constructed book that will, if you buy into it, completely dazzle you.

‘Freeks’ – Amanda Hocking

Sadly, this just didn’t get me as I’d like it to have done.

Mara is a necromancer and she travels as part of a Traveling Circus that has fallen on hard times. She dreams of living a normal life, one where she doesn’t have to worry about strange events. When the circus moves to the small town of Caudry it looks as though she’ll get her wish…at least initially.

The world of the circus was well-depicted and the characters we were introduced to intrigued me. They were a close-knit group thought it was clear that many of them were hiding secrets, sometimes for reasons that made little sense.

I couldn’t understand the haste with which characters occasionally fall for each other, and Mara’s relationship with local-boy Gabe had me on edge from the start. I’m pleased I was so off in my thoughts on where it was going with regard to the relationship, but the supernatural elements to this felt rather like they came out of nowhere.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance read and though it wasn’t exactly leaving me desperate to encourage others to read it, it will have its fair share of fans.

‘Coming Up For Air’ – Miranda Kenneally

Coming Up For Air

Due for publication in July 2017 I think this is a novel that will strike a chord with its intended audience.

Maggie is determined to be a professional swimmer. She trains hard, and doesn’t have time for much else in her life. As she draws closer to leaving for college, Maggie can’t help but feel she’s missing out on something-the opportunity to have a relationship.

What follows is, let’s be honest, all rather transparent. Maggie and her best friend, Levi, spend the novel trying to work out what we assume will be obvious from the start. However, in spite of its obviousness, this is still an entertaining read.

No major dramas, nothing that will offend anyone and it all ends as we expect. Safe, but it left me feeling a little flat. Thanks, though, to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in advance of publication.

‘Two Boys Kissing’ – David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing

The Valentines Reading Challenge seemed the perfect opportunity to get round to reading this novel by Levithan.

Inspired by a misremembered Walt Whitman quote, a real-life attempt to break a Guinness World Record and a need to chart some of the ways in which the attitudes to homosexuality have/haven’t developed over time this is a novel that gets under your skin.

The story is narrated, in the main, by a Greek style chorus representing the voices of gay men of the past. The idea of older men – whose lives have been affected in every different ways by their sexuality – narrating the tales of the younger gay men in this novel is an interesting one. There is a real sense of history here – putting certain events in context and showing just things have changed. Sometimes for the better; but, often, nowhere near far enough.

The central characters – Harry and Craig – are ex-partners who have remained close friends. Their attempt to kiss non-stop for over 32 hours becomes the focal point for many younger boys who are coming to terms with their identity and how it will impact on their lives/relationships.

There’s a lot of characters here, and we get little more than a superficial insight into their lives, but it’s enough. I’d urge you to read this if you haven’t already.

‘Behind Her Eyes’ – Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her Eyes

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

Having been entranced by ’13 Minutes’ I’ve gone through Pinborough’s other novels and had some mixed reactions. They’re well-written and there’s usually an element of mystery to them – and, on occasion, those twists you just don’t see coming. Having finally decided I had a clear enough run to read this without needing to keep stopping, I feel this is the same.

As with other reviews, this really is a book you need to know no more about than you’re given before you start.

The three main characters of David, Adele and Louise are all unlikeable to a degree. Their weaknesses are all too obvious, but this accurate depiction of them is, I think, what makes the premise of this work.

From the start it was all too clear that there was more to Adele and David’s relationship than we were being told. I spent most of the novel trying to second guess just who was playing whom…and I was getting there, but then the extra layer of oddness was drafted in and it totally bamboozled me.

Clever, very clever, but after I’d finished I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been conned. The ominous tone of the final scene also had me very uncomfortable!