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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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

Noah Can’t Even, Simon James Green

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Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos

This book is hilarious.

And before I write a review, I want to convince you to read it in two pictures:

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and

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And if that didn’t make you cackle and cringe, there’s plenty more (of both) in this book that will make you.

It’s awkward. Oh my god, this book is full of awkward teenagers and even more awkward moments that honestly makes me feel like my own teenage years were almost normal.

I mean, the book is ridiculous. It jumps from one ridiculous thing to another, but the best thing is that the main character and his wonderful mess of a life makes it believable. From his panicking talking to anyone else to his attempts to be cool to the numerous plot twists that make everything worse, this book is a masterpiece of bumbling through the awkwardness of teenage years and sexuality and school and embarrassing mothers.

I was laughing (out loud) so much through sections of this book that my colleague ended up grabbing a copy off the shelf and reading it too – half an hour later she bought it.

This book is just a wonderful friesh of breath air. It’s funny and clever and over the top, but it’s also light hearted and good… and an lgbt book where all the lgbt characters survive (wow the fact that my bar is so low for gay characters says a lot). And its also a book with more than one gay character – I’m sure you all know what I mean. In 90% of  books there is just the one lgbt character… which is so not true to real life.

Basically, you should go out now and buy this book and you will not be disappointed. I would talk about this book for ages but I don’t want to spoil anything for people, so please, please, go and read it.

five stars

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

This book is so cute? Like I rarely read YA books where romance/sexuality is the main theme, but after various awful fantasy books, I decided to finally pick this one up (It’s been on my shelves since it first came out.That’s almost two years.) and I am so glad that I did. It was exactly what I needed to read.

It was clearly written for teens- I know it’s YA but there are sometimes books that are written so well and beautifully you forget. But this one was full of references, some that were good and others that missed slightly (eg ‘the Tumblr’ Like I get they are talking about a specific blog on tumblr but there is no ‘the’ in front of it. And even if it was, teens are lazy. We are all lazy. its easier just to say tumblr on its own)

But the awkwardness of some of the wording didn’t make a difference of how warm and fuzzy it was- from the start all the way to the end. It was funny at times, sometimes heartbreaking- when Simon was talking to another character about his choice being taken away from him, it did break my heart- but it was happy. And in a world where most media draw you in with an LGBT+ character only to have them end up broken or ruined or in most cases, dead, happy is honestly the best thing ever.

Despite the happiness, there were parts of it that struck- sadly- true. Blackmail from someone that knows- even if the other person doesnt even get that its blackmail, there is nothing like the weight of a sword above your head, ready to let it drop and announce to the world something you are not ready to say. Being outed online in vicious ways and the gentle, strange terrified feeling when you try to- or do- tell people. And the bullying afterwards. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many people you have around you supporting you, that one person that makes fun is the memory that sticks in your head.

But each part of it was done so well in this. While Simon isn’t my favourite character I’ve ever read about, he was one I understood well.

Away from the romance of the book, there was a lot more I liked about it. Supportive parents! (Oh my god so many YA books have shitty parents like why) supportive friends! Amazing teachers who take no shit! (again, theme in YA seems to be that teachers never believe if someones being bullied?) The awkwardness of teenage years and school.

however….as always, there were a few things I didn’t like.

  1. There seems to be no female friendships in this book? Like the two main girls hate each other because they both like the same guy? Maybe my school was just weird but the very few crushes I did have at school, if anyone else liked them, we shrugged and ended up talking to each other and kinda becoming friends from it.
  2. Simon makes a comment early on that ‘lesbians and bi girls have it easier coming out because guys think they are hot’ which is frankly disgusting. Not only is that basically saying that its fine to be fetishized by men but it also invalidates what those girls go through.
  3. There was also like a ‘dress up as the opposite gender’ day at their school which just made me completely cringe because really really do I need to explain how horrendous that is?

So yeah, this book isn’t all perfect. But its cute and funny and fluffy and sometimes, that is the kind of book you need to read.

*It turns out the author has actually apologized on Twitter for the comment about lesbians, saying its not something she agrees with and that she should have made it be questioned in the book.

four stars