I find myself quite attracted to Young Adult fiction at the moment. I have avoided it for the most part in the past, finding a lot of the tropes that characterise the genre a little frustrating, but right now it’s exactly what I need and I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by a couple of those that I have picked up. It’s nice escapism, which is exactly why I loved reading as a teenager. I feel like I’d lost that part of reading for a while – I read to appreciate the beauty of writing, to find passages that made me think about the world, about myself – but sometimes I just want to read purely for entertainment and that is why Young Adult has been so perfect for me in the past few weeks.
On a separate note, I’m considering doing these book reviews in video format in the future (or maybe as a podcast?!). I’ve been watching some BookTubers and I love hearing other people talk about books. I think it’s easier to get across enthusiasm and nuance when you can see someone’s face rather than just read their words (is that ironic, given that we’re talking about books here?!). Anyway, watch this space!
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This is the book that really epitomises the adage ‘you should never judge a book by its cover’. So many people have raved about this book, so I picked it up on the Kindle Daily Deals a few weeks back. I was hooked as soon as I started reading, which is really not what I was expecting. It was surprising in so many ways, but I particularly enjoyed the depiction of fan fiction culture, which sat so well against the other storylines. I loved the way the characters gleefully embraced their fangirl natures. This book was really heart-warming and I couldn’t get enough. It made me want to go back to Uni and do research on fan culture, which is the nerdy sociologist in me talking, but I really thought it was an excellent, unusual backdrop for the usual YA story. Definitely worth reading, even if you’re put off by the pastel cover!
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Combining a murder mystery thriller with glamorous teens, this is YA tropes writ large and I am unashamed in having enjoyed it. I think the ending was a little more predictable than I think was intended, but it still had that glorious moment of realisation when you realise your suspicions are true, and the whole story has been turned upside down. Some of the characters were a little bit lazy – the boyfriend, in particular – and I’m sort of over the ‘hottest, richest guy at school dates the protagonist and turns out to be perfect and sensitive’ because it’s so unrealistic, but it the story was tense and the friendship between the two main characters made up for a bit of laziness in the other areas.
Perfume by Patrick Süskind
Something slightly different from all that YA! This is a dark, Gothic tale about Grenouille, a man with an intense sense of smell – which doesn’t sound that dark until he starts murdering women in order to capture their perfect scent. He becomes obsessed with creating a perfume which would cause others to worship him as a God, which goes pretty much as you can imagine. This book is deliciously creepy, and the descriptions of scents are incredibly evocative. I wasn’t in love with this book, but I definitely appreciated the exploration of smell as an important part of humanity and the sinister, but slightly pathetic, character of Grenouille.
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
I absolutely LOVED this book. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, going into it, which made it all the better – it was unusual, surprising and lifted me completely out of my own world and into the chaotic, slightly dingy version of Montreal that O’Neill had created on paper. The story follows Nouschka Tremblay as she begins to navigate adulthood; she’s the daughter of a famous folk singer who exploited her and her twin brother Nicholas for the sake of his career whilst abandoning him to the care of their grandparents and her whole life has been messy, grubby and lacking in stability. Her relationship with her twin brother is destructive, as he goes down a darker path and she tries to cling on to a ‘normal’ life, always teetering on the edge. This is a slightly surreal read – I particularly loved the way she described the many cats that hang around in the novel – and incredibly compelling. I loved Nouschka, I wanted her to have the best, happy ending. You’ll have to read it to find out if she gets one!
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
I couldn’t put this book down; it was absolutely fantastic. O’Neill (no relation to the previous O’Neill, I don’t think…) creates an intense feminist dystopia, where women are ‘bred’ and trained in a special academy to be the companions of men. Only a few can have the coveted wife spots, and there is prestige to be won by being chosen by the richest, most important boys, so they are in fierce competition with each other. A lot of the novel is taken up with their obsession with the way they look, with their weight, with how they compare with each other. It’s society’s body image issues writ large, and it’s both horrifying and fascinating. I’m addicted to this book, I wanted to read it again straight away – if you’re a fan of feminist dystopian fiction (and who isn’t, amiright?) then this is a definite must-read.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Another book which I’ve heard a lot about, and another book which deserves the hype. It took me a little while to get into at the beginning, but by the end I was pacing the house, book in hand, too tense to sit still but desperate to find out the ending. The twist at the end was so surprising; I didn’t see it coming at all, which I loved. The main character, Rachel, was so frustrating but so excellently written – her alcoholism (no spoiler, it’s revealed pretty quickly in the book) is the perfect device to keep you guessing as most of the story is told through her eyes but her blackouts keep you from knowing the full picture until the very end. A lot of people have compared this to Gone Girl, and I can see why, but I actually enjoyed this a lot more so if you’re after a bit of a thriller I would highly recommend this one!
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