They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

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When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…

Some books are great. Some books are heartbreaking. Some books have you crying at work, and some books have you thinking about them all the way walking home and into the evening.

This book fits into all four categories.

We all played the game when we were younger, in the years between thinking we were immortal and realising we were not. The what would you do if you had a day left to live game, where you pretended the world was at your fingertips and the impossible became possible for twentyfour long hours. Some would say they would travel far and wide, others, that they would say goodbye, give memories back to the people they loved.

In this book, that game is reality. You get a call around midnight telling you that at some point in the next 24 hours, you’re going to die. You don’t know how, or when, but it gives you time to sort everything out, say goodbye and get ready.

Because of this knowing, things have cropped up to give you a good last day; experience centers, apps, discounts….  The app Last Friend is how the two mains meet, and is the whole reason for their day of adventures.

But the app, their friendship and day – all that actually made me think more about fate. I love how, in this book, all these side characters stories get brought together, how the random person on the street is someone important to what you are doing, how the person you might have met is the one you cross the road with later in the afternoon, and how, really, all the small decisions you make are the ones that bring you to why you die.

If Mateo hadn’t have reached out on Last Friend, he would have done various things, but then Rufus wouldn’t have met him and the day might have ended differently – but we will never know, because all those factors did bring around their deaths. Would they have died anyway – if Mateo had never left his house, would he have died sooner, or in a different way?

See, told you this book made me think. I finished it two days ago and I’m still thinking about it. (At least the tears didn’t last as long)

It’s a clever, simple idea that is pulled off effectively – you watch (read), over the whole day, as the two main characters grow and change, even when they know there is nothing to do with that change. You follow them through grieving and trying to work out how to help their friends and help each other, and even though you know how its going to end (spoiler alert, they die) you still mourn for them when it does happen.

I shouldn’t be surprised at the mourning – I’ve read one other book by Silvera and that one got me as well, so I knew already that he was a good storyteller and puller-of-the-heartstrings, but he’s improved with this book, I think. He just knows how to tell a story, and how to make the characters emotions feel just as real as your own, he pulls you up and drags you along with the characters, and with this… I know I say it a lot with character deaths, but I wish they hadn’t died, because I wanted to know what the two main characters could have become – would Mateo have gone back to hiding at home and being careful, or would he have learnt to live?

We will never know.

four stars

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One of us is Lying, Karen M. McManus

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Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.
Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.
Bad body Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.
Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.
And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.
He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.
Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.

I found a murder mystery type book that I enjoyed. Wow.

I’d heard a lot about this book by the time I actually picked it up, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mainly started reading because I ended up getting a signed copy at YALC and thought I better read it.

And I was pretty impressed; I loved how so many characters had the motive to kill Simon, I loved how all their relationships changed throughout the book, I loved how, while I had guessed the ending well before hand, it still kept you guessing throughout.

When you have books with multiple narrations, you often find that a few have been only half baked to make way for the ‘big’ character, or that all of them fall flat and are unconvincing. But each of the main characters in this book felt fleshed out – you were rooting for Bronwyn and Nate, you wanted to stand by Addy and shake her because she didn’t see what her sister did. Each of them was real in their own rights, and each of them carried along the story, and even at half way, you wanted all of them to be innocent because you felt for all of them.

Don’t get me wrong; this book isn’t perfect.

One of the plot twists may upset some people – it’s understandable and in terms of the character, it is believable, but it’s something you wouldn’t want to be used as a ‘shock plot twist’ (I thought it was written well for what it was, but it will still upset some people)
Mental illness can also be argued as being handled not very well in the book, especially at the end.

But the problems with it don’t counter the fact that I did enjoy reading it, and it was a good book over all. It’s also one of the few books I’ve read where the character arcs are done really well; the characters are not the same at the end as they were at the start, mostly for the better.

four stars

Whisper to Me, Nick Lake

Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely.

Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand as well as she now does how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all.

I am conflicted.

I’ve been sitting on this review for like, two days, because I don’t know what I feel or think about this book.

Thing is, it’s interestingly written. It’s an email, from Main Character to Love Interest (For once I’m justified in calling him LI since he doesnt have a name.) detailing her life in the run up to meeting him, then her knowing him, and a bit afterwards, explaining why she did a bunch of stuff and why she broke his heard. So it’s different to most things I’ve read before.

Even other first person books aren’t as chatty as this one, because the narrator isn’t assuming you don’t know anything, but assuming you are the person the email would be going to. This isn’t something I’m sure I liked, but it didn’t annoy me so much that I couldn’t read it, and I got used to it after a while.

I probably would have liked it more if Mainy wasn’t as… irritating as she was, but all books (and characters) have their flaws.

Ughh so I’ve just realised that I liked this book more before I started thinking about it. Oops. Bare with me.

okay:

  1. My biggest issue with this was that it opened with a question. The whole book was about the question. AND THE QUESTION WAS NEVER ANSWERED. Seriously don’t set a book up and never answer what you started to write it for. Did LI forgive mainy? Who knows? Not me (though I really hope not)
  2. Mainy is just…. Nope. No. No sorry. I get that a lot of what made her look like a self-absorbed bitch was The Voice demanding she not talk to people and her basically keeping it secret but the whole point of LI was that HE MADE THE VOICE GO AWAY so WHY WAS SHE SO AWFUL TO HIM. Like really really really….
  3. HE DESERVED SO MUCH BETTER THAN HER.
  4. she makes this email to LI saying how it wasn’t all her and it was The Voice but all the stupid mistakes were… just her…. being a dick.

Which brings to nicely to ‘I really really hope LI said fuck this and didn’t forgive her, because I’m sorry, but she was awful. She made his life hard, had a go at his father for no reason, then kissed another guy because she knew he was watching like ughhh if I were him I would have read the email and just probably gone to punch her because no reason or email in the world would excuse that kind of behavior.

So basically…. I did enjoy reading the book, but I also didn’t like the book. Logic.

three stars

 

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren James

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I’ve read in one go, in the middle of the night. I mean, part of me wishes I hadn’t because it really creeped me out (I have a wonderful imagination which decides that clearly when I’m reading disturbing things, it makes my room feel terrifying. I actually had to turn my fan on because the silence was getting to me.)

So… lets start with that blurb. Think you’re going to be reading some cheesy romantic thing, right? Lonely girl finds love in deep space, everything is perfect, yay? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO.

This book is fucking creepy. Lauren James managed to perfectly spread out everything that happened – from dropping hints of what happened in the past to what was happening currently. You were never quite sure who to trust – from Romy herself (who, lets be honest, can’t exactly be sane after so long ago and only TV characters really interact with) (TBH that was my theory for most of the book), to the emails she got from Earth, to the person on the other ship. Or maybe you could trust them all.

It was so cleverly done. Not just the storyline but what it says. Not just in the whole ‘dont trust the random dude you don’t know’ rule, (which I kinda stand by, but at the same time, I’m a random girl online who has a lot of online friends so I can’t really talk) but in the fandom sense of things. I think a lot of people will relate to Romy because she uses her love of a show and fanfic to help her through things. She writes her emotions into the characters. When she feels lonely (which, face it, is a lot) she buries herself in the fanfic she has – and a lot of us do that too. Maybe not with fanfic, but with fiction. Words, shows, fandom is a big part of life nowadays and a lot of us do travel to it when we need comfort.

From start to finish, I loved this book, even if it creeped me out. I want more. I want to know what happens next.

four stars

Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

I have a confession. Wonder Woman, the film that came out this year, was the first ever DC film I’ve watched. I had no idea who she actually was or what her story was, as I’m not a comic book lover (I think they are cool, but I find it impossible to read a story like that). However, the film is already a favourite of mine, and this book (kind of unsurprisingly) is one as well – and not just because it’s written by one of my all time greatest authors.

You jump straight into Diana’s story in this book, but you don’t feel like you miss anything, and from a relatively new fan’s point of view, you’re never confused about who the characters are, or the background of Diana and where she grew up. And, just like every superhero film, the book is full of action.

The main characters are all brilliant and well rounded – each one stands out on their own and is clearly well thought out. Their relationships with each other were well thought out, and one of my personal favourite things were that out of the five mains, three were female and had fantastic friendships with each other (wow that’s such a small thing to care about but it’s needed.) 

The writing itself, was, in true Bardugo style, full of warmth and humour and a hell of a lot of emotion, and some absolute gems of dialogue (which I can’t wait to talk about, but I’m writing this before the book has come out, so…)  and plot twists – one of which was so much of a twist that I wasn’t expecting it and actually had to stop reading to remember how to breathe. Which kinda sums up how brilliant the book is.

I just… I love this book. Really, with every book she writes, Bardugo doesn’t only get better but shows exactly why she’s one of my absolute favourite authors.

five stars

The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertalli

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Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I like this book. Just as Albertalli proved with her first book, she can write cute and write well, and write relationships well.

I think thats my favourite thing about her books. Every relationship around the main character is brilliant. A lot of YA falls down with parents – either they don’t expect, or they don’t care, or something around that idea – but in this book, not only do the parents act like parents, they have good relationships with their children. And siblings are done well too – the two mains are twins, and the book shows how both of them change as they gently grow up and both start to fall in love. They snap at each other but forgive easily and I could just see my sister and I inside them (when we were younger, at least. Now we communicate by text only!) though Cassie was not the best sister in the world.

The only downfall with this was that the main few were so well done that most others fell flat. The sister’s girlfriend fell a bit flat and Will, one of the apparently Love Interests was… well, to be honest, just an asshole. With no personality other than the ability to steal alcohol.

It was still cute though, apart from that. It’s set around the time gay marriage was legalized in America, so the story builds towards the fact that Molly’s mums decide to get married, so basically the entire book is about love and happiness and cheesiness.

I didn’t like it as much as I liked Simon but it was still a light, easy read that made me smile. Basically one of those books you would be happy to spend a summer morning reading.

Also, added bonus. Main character was explicitly fat, didn’t have to change for a happy ending and found someone who didn’t want her to change. so…

three stars

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Please don’t hate me but I didn’t like this book. Confession: I DNFed it around half way after realizing that it wasn’t the Narrator of Death that was towering over me, but the literal one, holding up my hourglass with a glint in his eye as he watched me waste hours reading something I was bored of. (Literal Death seems very much like Discworld Death)

Okay let me get this out of the way first – Zusak can write. He is a good writer, actually. The story was wayyyy too slow for my taste, but it was well written.

But.

It was so… cliche? One thing that made me interested in reading it was the fact that Death narrated it, and Death had an interesting voice. But it couldn’t hold up for that long without getting boring, and repetitive. There were too many times when Death broke in with facts that were then repeated in the narrative on the next page. And the fact that Death ‘spoilt’ certain things ages before they happened (I’m guessing its meant to make you go AHH WHEN IS THAT), when it did happen, I just didn’t care (that was when I gave up. When he revealed something that would happen and my reaction was ‘meh’)

Added to all of that is the fact that while Zusak is a good writer, the writing in this is so overdone it was often… painful. Seriously, I  normally like that kind of writing, where it dances off your tongue when you speak it aloud. Hell, its my main style when writing short stories. But there comes a point where you just want to hit your head against the page because you cannot take it anymore.

There were many other things I didn’t enjoy about it – but I actually read the book last year and have been sitting on this review for months but everything added together just meant I didn’t care about the characters, didn’t care what happened, and just… couldn’t finish it.

two-stars