One to introduce important ideas to younger readers, and it explores timeless concepts, though its blunt approach feels unnecessarily heavy-handed.
Set in a not-too-distant future America we are put in the situation where we watch Layla and her parents taken to a camp specially set up to house Muslims. There they are subject to appalling racism and inhumane treatment simply because of their religion.
We read open-mouthed as people are separated by skin colour, beaten for refusing to follow camp rules and ‘disappeared’ for daring to challenge the Director. We hear of external disagreement with what’s happening, but nobody seems keen to challenge orders from up high.
Layla is a rather immature teen at the start. She becomes a rather more interesting character as she’s forced to confront her new reality and consider the extent to which she’ll challenge it. She decides to (risking) place her trust in one of the guards and there’s hints of romance that get subsumed by the need to advance the plot.
I’d love to say the Director was a caricature; that nobody would believe someone so blatantly racist, sexist and generally unpleasant would ever exist. Sadly, that’s not the case.
And it is the parallels we might draw between contemporary events and those of the book that show just why this is a necessary thing. Personally I’d have liked a more nuanced read, with some focus on the build-up to these events and the reactions of those on the outside. However, for what it is the story is paced well and delivers its message with force.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to read in exchange for my review.
For what feels like years I’ve been told I should read this modern classic. The rave comments on the cover were enough to make me reluctant to read it…and now I can say I have, indeed, read it though I can also safely say it won’t go down as one of my favourite reads.
I like the fact that, from the beginning, we know that a key character ends up murdered. This lends a creeping tension to the pages showing the build-up to this event and yet I couldn’t help but feel slightly non-plussed once I’d finished.
Our narrator is Richard, a young man on scholarship who ends up studying in a rather out-of-the-way college. He becomes infatuated by a rather eclectic group of students. They keep themselves to themselves, studying under a rather odd professor of Classics. In this group they read and converse in Greek, examine little-known texts and seem to bask in their own sense of superiority.
None of the group are likeable. Henry is a bully; Charles and Camilla (yes, really) are twins who also have an incestuous relationship; Francis is a closet homosexual, determined not to let his family know the truth about him, and Bunny (the man who ends up dead) is a boorish character who spends everyone else’s money and finds himself a lot more appealing than he is. I can’t understand why Richard is so keen to ingratiate himself with this group or why, on the numerous occasions he has to walk away from them, he remains entangled in their mess.
My overwhelming sense with this was of a writer trying very hard to be clever, writing about people who like to show their superiority at any opportunity and then crumble once they realise they have to live with the consequences of their actions.
Once we’ve learned why the murder comes about, we then focus on the decline and fall of this once great group. It takes a long time. We know it’s coming, but have to watch every slow and painful moment. As the fall-out becomes more brutal I couldn’t help but think we’d have been spared a lot if they’d been a little less selfish in the beginning.
I know my comments may seem harsh. There was a lot about it that I liked, but just not enough to offset the things that irritated me. Now I just have to ‘fess up to those friends who rave about this and have been encouraging me to read it…
An unsettling read.
Our story begins with young student Mei, an outsider in her dormitory, hearing her roommate drunkenly come home. She goes to classes and when she returns later the next day realises that her roommate is still asleep. Nobody knows why, and there isn’t anything the medical staff looking after her can do, but slowly the town succumbs to this bizarre situation.
One by one people drift off. They sleep, their heart slows and there are signs of them dreaming. There’s no explanation for this scenario, and nobody comes up with any answers about how to deal with it.
All too soon the town of Santa Lorna is placed in quarantine. Nobody can enter, and nobody can leave. Everyone is treated with suspicion, as nobody can tell who might have the virus.
We follow a number of characters through their experience.
Initially I felt the writing was atmospheric and there was a stifling feel to what was described. Sadly, the scenario doesn’t lend itself to a sustainable one for me. There’s a limit to how many people can fall asleep and how many dreams can be described before I lose interest.
This was a beautiful opening that promised much, but felt like it fizzled out. With no explanations offered for what took place and no real advancement in many of the characters I had a rather detached reaction to the closing section. Shame.
Laurel Mack has a seemingly perfect life. Loving husband, three beautiful children and a sense of enjoyment. Then her youngest daughter, Ellie, doesn’t come home one day and the family are launched into a nightmare that has some considerable impact, even years later.
When we’re introduced to Laurel it’s ten years since her daughter went missing. The family have split and she has become a shadow of the woman she was. Then she meets Floyd in a cafe and things seem to be looking up.
Not surprisingly, things are not what they seem. When she’s introduced to Floyd’s younger daughter, Poppy, Laurel cannot get over the similarity between her and Ellie.
As a reader I felt I was a little ahead of the characters. The key plot details were signalled, and at times I wondered whether things really would take the turn I expected. Often, they did.
As we start to unearth details – not long after Ellie’s bones are discovered – we gain a new narrative voice and this helps delay the inevitable, creating tension that we expect but also welcome.
Some of the details surrounding the key players felt unnecessary. They often felt like an attempt to misdirect or divert our attention from what we really wanted to focus on.
A Slayer is born into every generation…for people of a certain age, you know what’s coming next…and this is the start of what can best be described as a Buffy spin-off series.
Athena and Artemis are twins. When we first meet them they are young girls, caught up in a fire and only one of them is saved. We only see this event through the eyes of the mysterious Hunter figure. Someone who we know is close to the girls, someone who wants to carve out their place in history by destroying a prophecy and someone that we only hear from periodically throughout the book.
Much of the book focuses on Nina (as Athena prefers to be called) learning that she has – after the hellmouth was closed – been given the power of a Slayer. She’s not happy about this as it goes against everything she believes in as a healer. She takes it upon herself to start investigating the appearance of demons, kill the odd hellhound and generally get caught up in all manner of strange events. All while suffering angst over her crush on old friend Leo, now returned as her watcher.
There’s no escaping the obvious love and respect for her source material that White has. There’s numerous references to events fans of the show will remember, and some wonderful characters/dynamics. I was struck by the action of the novel, and couldn’t help but laugh out loud at some of the moments.
There were also moments of exquisite sadness. You’ll know them when you come to them, and the ending certainly had me cheering for our Slayer. Not quite Buffy…but something new, and something exciting.
Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this in exchange for my thoughts.
Thank you NetGalley for giving me a good old-fashioned belly-laugh.
Before I give my thoughts on this, I have to confess to disliking Groundhog Day with a passion. I’m also fairly ambivalent about John Hughes’ movies…though I know them well enough to get the references here.
When Andie’s parents move her to Punxsutawney she spends the summer hanging out at the local movie theatre. Convinced she will find a boyfriend in one of the staff there (whose name has escaped me as he’s not particularly memorable, other than for being totally the wrong person for her) she is understandably nervous about her first day at a new school.
Her first day is a humdinger of awfulness. What’s worse is that she wakes the next day…and she’s back on her first day. This cycle is destined to repeat over and over.
Andie slowly starts to use her rather unusual situation to find out more about the students around her. She acquires new skills and plays some blinders worthy of their own place in an 80s teen movie.
Eventually, the cycle breaks and unless you’re VERY hard-hearted, you’ll applaud Andie all the way.
When Connell and Marianne first meet they are in school, and their lives are worlds apart. There is, however, an attraction between them and though nothing is ever shared with classmates they start a relationship (of sorts).
Each is messed up in their own way. They’re lost and wanting something. Neither really knows what, but we watch them go through time in this on/off relationship.
At varying times each finds someone else. Through university the pair maintain this relationship, but as we learn more about their backgrounds some of their quirks become a little more understandable.
Perhaps this will resonate with some, but I found the self-consciousness of the writing a little off-putting and it was, at heart, quite a miserable read. I can see how the soul-searching might appeal to some, but life is too short to waste on such a miserable situation.
Emma is reluctant to return to Darkwood Academy as her best friend, Oliver, recently died. Emma feels his loss acutely – and this is made worse when it’s announced that six clones will get a place at school. One of the clones is of her dead best friend.
The first part of the book focuses on setting up the group and trying to establish the idea that there’s something weird about this set-up. We spend a fair bit of time learning about the world of Darkwood and the group known as the Ten. Then Emma’s roommate is attacked and she has to work with the Similars to work out what’s going on.
As the story progresses it’s increasingly obvious that those in power know more about the situation than they’re letting on. The ‘evil genius’ behind the scheme has spent a long time planning this, but it’s never going to work when the kids are rather adept at finding out stuff they’re not meant to know.
Emma is a pretty determined character, though some of the scenarios she ends up in don’t really work. The developing relationship between Emma and Levi was intriguing, but the revelations at the end certainly hint at something exciting to come and go some way to explaining the responses Emma has.
Our narrator, twelve year old Jerome, is another voice to add to the list of young black boys killed because of their race.
Bullied in school, Jerome is a good kid who tries to do the right thing. He befriends new boy Carlos, even though it looks like it will bring him problems. He could never predict just how serious these will get.
When the school bullies start picking on Carlos one lunchtime he pulls out a gun. It’s a toy, but realistic enough to scare them off. Wanting to give his new friend thanks for the support, Carlos offers Jerome the toy to play with. Jerome’s decision to take it, and go out on the street to play with it, costs him his life.
The killing of Jerome at the hands of a white police officer happens early on. We’re spared the worst details, but the subsequent preliminary hearings tell us enough to know this was an unjustified action, probably an act brought about by prejudice and totally avoidable.
Jerome’s story is told in two timeframes. The flashbacks to record the last moments of his life and what led to that point, and the present now he is dead.
He can be seen by the daughter of the man who shot him. This allows the author to examine attitudes to race and to raise some of the pertinent issues linked to cases such as this throughout history. Rhodes introduces her readers to names that will, sadly, be all too familiar to many.
A quick read that should resonate with readers, though the sense of injustice and anger you’re likely to feel as you read the book – and the knowledge that it’s not likely to change – is infuriating. Nobody should live their life like this. Nobody should have to experience this horror. Nobody should let such attitudes continue unchallenged.
Given to me by our school librarian this is a great book for younger readers who are, perhaps, not quite ready for the more developed political stance of books such as The Hate You Give.
When their mother needs to be hospitalised to treat her mental health, twins Ellery and Ezra are forced to go and live with their grandmother in Echo Ridge, a small town near the Canadian border. They don’t know her, and their mother never talked about her time there. All the twins know is their aunt was killed and that some years later a young girl was murdered.
On their arrival their journey home is stopped when they discover the body of a teacher, victim of a hit and run. Strange messages then start to appear around Echo Ridge, suggesting someone is preparing another murder. Apart from the obvious questions about why anyone in their right mind would stay in a place like this, events unfold in front of us and we’re given plenty of twists to try and throw us off the scent. Suspects galore, disappearing prom queens, affairs and so on…
Reminiscent of Twin Peaks for me in that lots of people in this book have secrets. There’s so many people hiding things, but with a bit of luck and perseverance the truth comes out. Some of the red herrings were a little obvious, but that’s a minor gripe. You know you’re being manipulated but, for the most part, you don’t mind. I felt the closing moments were rather sprung on us a little quickly, but Ellery’s final revelation of the secret she’ll probably take with her to the grave was chilling. And the Mean Girls reference when Ezra first meets three of our cast – ‘something tells me on Wednesday they wear pink’ – will be one I remember fondly.