Archive | July 2016

#YALC Weekend! – – Top 10 YA Reads

It’s #YALC Weekend this weekend!

I’m not going (unfortunately) but the whole concept of YALC is super exciting to me, firstly because I love YA fiction and secondly because when I did my first bout of work experience we were preparing for the first ever YALC which I loved!

So as my own personal tiny contribution to this year’s YALC, I’m going to count down my top 10 YA reads (and trust me there could be fierce competition) with some honourable mentions below. These are in no particular order, but feel free to fight it out in the comments below.

1. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green 

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

This book is the single biggest reason why YA books should not and cannot be dismissed as something lesser or only for young adults. John Green’s writing is so ridiculously powerful and clever and important that I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. And I would recommend you read it twice, because you get so much more out of it the second time, noticing the nuances and brilliance in Green’s writing. When people ask me ‘Why do you love YA so much?’ this is the book I will throw in their faces.

2. Elsewhere – Gabrielle Zevin 

Liz is killed in a hit a run accident and her ‘life’ takes a very unexpected turn. At nearly sixteen she knows she will never get married, never have children, and perhaps never fall in love. But in Elsewhere all things carry on almost as they did on earth except that the inhabitants get younger, dogs and humans can communicate (at last) new relationships are formed and old ones sadly interrupted on earth are renewed.

A criminally underrated book in my humble opinion. I’m still devastated I can’t find my copy anywhere because I love love love this book. It’s such a thoughtful and deep book, with a really interesting concept and quite complex themes. It’s kind of a YA version of Mitch Albom’s Five People You Meet in Heaven but for me was a lot more uplifting and cathartic. The writing is simple and pleasant but the Benjamin Button style narrative really packs a punch and leaves you with a poignant sense of the importance of life, relationships and redemption.

3. Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver 

They say ‘live every day as if it’s your last’ – but you never actually think it’s going to be. At least I didn’t. 

The thing is, you don’t get to know when it happens. You don’t remember to tell your family that you love them or – in my case – remember to say goodbye to them at all. 

But what if, like me, you could live your last day over and over again? Could you make it perfect? If your whole life flashed before your eyes, would you have no regrets? Or are there some things you’d want to change…?

Whoops, another book about death. But totally different concept. Reliving that last day over and over again, it’s kind of magical and beautiful and offers another view on introspection. Sam is allowed to see herself through other peoples’ eyes and her Groundhog Day reveals the most intimate things about her life: the people that matter, the people whose lives she has affected whether inadvertently or intentionally, and the very core of her being. Even if Sam can’t change her own destiny, maybe she can change the fate of the people who will live beyond her. Lauren Oliver is basically a genius writer and if you only know her for Delirium you’re seriously missing out on this brilliance.

4. All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven 

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them.

But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

I have reviewed this book before on this site, which you can read here. What I really love about this book is that it does not shy away from the difficult stuff: the depression, the anxiety, the painful parts of life that do exist, and exist quite painfully and almost heightened for young adults. There is so much more pressure on young adults than adult adults really realise and the burdens carried by young adults can often become too much. But in a book that can be so heartbreaking and dark, the characters are some of the most vivid and alive characters I’ve ever read. I think Theodore Finch has rightly taken his place as a YA hero alongside Peeta Mellark, Augustus Waters, and Etienne St. Clair.

5. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell 

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life.

Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, and a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world.

Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible . . .

Another book I have previously reviewed, with another boy that I totally fell in love with. It’s a total coming-of-age story about how growing up and growing apart can sometimes be the hardest part of ageing. Rainbow Rowell is a completely brilliant writer who just gets how to be a young adult, and what I really like about this book is that it’s not set in high school. Because sometimes we do have our first loves and first get to know ourselves at university. Not everything in a young adult’s life happens in high school. She’s created really vivid and loveable characters that exist on and off the page because they’re understandable and relatable. I’d love to read what happens next in Cath and Levi’s story, even though I know the demand is more for Simon and Baz.

6. Hopeless – Colleen Hoover 

Sky meets Dean Holder, a guy with a promiscuous reputation that rivals her own. From their very first encounter, he terrifies and captivates her. Something about him sparks memories of her deeply troubled past, a time she’s tried so hard to bury. Though Sky is determined to stay far away from him, his unwavering pursuit and enigmatic smile break down her defences and the intensity of their relationship grows. But the mysterious Holder has been keeping secrets of his own, and once they are revealed, Sky is changed forever and her ability to trust may be a casualty of the truth. 

Only by courageously facing the stark revelations can Sky and Holder hope to heal their emotional scars and find a way to live and love without boundaries. 

I know not everyone loves this story and it certainly does have its problematic moments; however, again, I enjoyed this book because it deals with intense and difficult themes that do exist in life such as trust, heightened emotions and damaged pasts. It also has an element of mystery in it as the reader explores Sky’s life and history, which she doesn’t fully understand. Even my mum loved it, which is proof that YA doesn’t always mean YA. The relationship between Sky and Holder is so deep and so moving that I challenge you to not read this in one sitting. Because I know I would’ve found that impossible. It’s a story that can be read over and over again and still be brilliant.

7. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger 

Holden Caulfield is a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Navigating his way through the challenges of growing up, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.

You might argue that this book isn’t YA, but to me, it is the quintessential YA novel. A novel (previously reviewed here) that deals with issues related to growing up such as identity, loss, alienation, and the desperate attempt to keep the young innocent. Again, like TFIOS, it’s a book that must be read twice to really get the most of out it, in order to really understand Holden and the desperate loneliness and pain of a teenager who could easily be dismissed as cynical and pessimistic. But the reality is that Holden is only pessimistic because life has let him down. I still think this novel is as relevant today as it was in post-war USA, because when we read novels like All The Bright Places that deal with depression and pain, they’re reminiscent of Salinger’s earlier work, but without (forgive me) Salinger’s depth and complexity of writing.

8. Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins 

Anna is less than thrilled to be shipped off to boarding school in Paris, leaving a fledgling romance behind – until she meets Etienne St Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all… including a girlfriend. But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with a longed-for French kiss?

I love this book. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. It’s an easy read full of love, light, humour, and French cinematic bliss. And it doesn’t hurt that Etienne St. Clair is dream boyfriend material. Anna is just a really relatable character that doesn’t take herself massively seriously, and Stephanie Perkins perfectly captures the agony of having a crush on someone else’s boyfriend and not being able to do anything about it. It’s light, it’s fluffy, and it won’t break your heart. So yeah, this makes my top ten purely for being gorgeous. (And no, I’m not just talking about Etienne).

9. Every Day – David Levithan 

Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with – every day . . .

My previous review of this novel is available here. And as I checked that review for comparisons with this, I realised I was about to start this one in exactly the same way. But it’s true, this is a genius idea for a novel. Levithan uses a new and exciting concept to analyse themes that do appear frequently in YA novels: identity, human emotions and relationships, and of course, love. But how can you love someone when you don’t know who they’ll be the next day. My heart broke for Rhiannon and A because theirs is a love story that literally has the world against it. With each new body A inhabits, Levithan has a chance to explore new characters and new nuances, like depression, homosexuality, self-loathing, sibling relationships, themes that often appear in YA but here are touched on and explored in an interesting way because they only last for a beat whilst A inhabits that body. It’s a hugely unique and impressive work that I truly recommend.

10. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

SUCH a complex and challenging book. Combining the privileged world of Gossip Girl and 90210 where actions seem to have no consequences, with the hostile suffocation of Lord of the Flies and the summer that seemed to destroy everything. E. Lockhart is a brilliant writer who writes about love and relationships and privilege with a wise and thoughtful view. The Liars’ story is captivating and enthralling which keeps momentum until the end and explores with depth the impact of tragedy on teenagers.


Honourable Mentions: 

SO HERE’S MORE GREAT BOOKS.

The following three are honourable because I just couldn’t fit them in the top 10: 

  1. I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson
  2. Delirium – Lauren Oliver (the first book is great, but the series does go downhill afterwards)
  3. Paper Towns – John Green

The final three are honourable because I don’t truly believe they can be counted as YA, even though they may at first have been marketed for younger audiences: 

  1. The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
  2. Asking For It – Louise O’Neill
  3. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

THERE YOU HAVE IT.

Thoughts? Feelings?

Share below!

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Mini Reads Vol. V

And we’re back. With another round of Mini Reads, I’m about to recap the final five books I read on my summer holiday this year (which was almost a month ago now – that’s crazy!!). So without further ado…

1. For One More Day – Mitch Albom 

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This is a great novel, and Mitch Albom is certainly a brilliant writer. He has such skill with language and crafting sentences that his words lift off the page and his characters and their relationships seem to come alive.

The novel is primarily about Chick and his relationship with his mother, Posey. In the fleeting moments between life and death, Chick is granted ‘one more day’ with Posey and sees his life through her eyes.

It was a great read and the way Mitch delves into character study and personal analysis is beautiful. However, by the end of the novel I couldn’t help but feel that it was incredibly similar to another of his brilliant novels: The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

I felt that the premises were very much alike: man dies or nearly dies and revisits his past through the eyes of other people in his life. This was very much another story separate to the one told in The Five People but the concept was nearly identical.

Though I really enjoyed reading For One More Day, ever since I read it, this thought has stuck with me. I would still recommend reading it, purely for his brilliant development of character and depth of character, but if you’re looking for a new plot, you’re in the wrong place.

2. I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

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Firstly, I love Jandy Nelson as an author. I think her writing is so brilliant and beautiful and she captures living as a teenager, whilst allowing her characters to be so mature and whole at the same time.

The novel tells the story of twins Noah and Jude and how their once indestructible twin-bond is shattered by complexities and tragedies. What I loved most about the novel is the dual narrative (anyone who knows me knows I love a dual narrative) but Nelson really steps up her game with this one. The novel is told in part by Noah aged 13 and the other half by Jude aged 16. And brilliantly, though both narratives take place three years apart, they help each other to tell the story, they make the other better, they enhance the narrative as a whole.

This is a masterpiece of a novel. For one that is supposedly YA, it has so much depth and thoughtfulness of character – which I suppose proves just how important YA is in literature and how it shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. It is a story of grief, relationships, and finding yourself when your identity has been taken from you.

If you like Jandy Nelson (or haven’t heard of her – shame on you – but like REALLY GOOD YA – think John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han), then you won’t be disappointed.

3. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark – Anna North 

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I loved the premise of this book. The life of an enigmatic and mysterious filmmaker told not by her, but by those most important in her life: her lover, her brother, her husband, her college crush, her producer, all interweaved with the critic who followed her career from the start.

The story of an unforgettable antiheroine is developed and unpacked by a series of characters who see her through their eyes, and the only way Sophie’s own thoughts and ideas are revealed are through her films.

This is a story of a woman who is admired and unattainable: she is a grungy, broken, artistic Daisy Buchanan – the green light. Whilst Sophie’s filmmaking focus is on observing other people and other lives, this novel observes her and her life.

It is a startlingly unique novel, brilliantly presented. Like Albom’s character studies, North perfectly captures the importance of relationships: seeing one remarkable character through various unforgotten eyes. This is a deeper and more painful depiction of character though, and North does it superbly. I really recommend this novel to anyone looking for a moving, unmissable and truly poignant view of a life through vignettes.

4. Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

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If you loved Anna and the French Kiss (which I did) then you won’t be disappointed with Lola and the Boy Next Door. It tells a similar (if a little predictable) love story of Lola, whose life is going along perfectly with her rocker boyfriend Max, until her former crush Cricket Bell moves back in next door.

I found Lola harder to relate to than Anna, mostly because I think I have more similarities to Anna than Lola, and I think I preferred Etienne to Cricket. Perhaps it was also the excitement and glamour of Paris that made Anna and the French Kiss superior for me (I was on my own Study Abroad when I read it) but I still thoroughly enjoyed Lola’s story. It built to a crescendo at the end which was extremely satisfying and it made me want to read Isla and the Happy Ever After, so I guess Stephanie Perkins did her job!

If you’re a hopeless romantic and looking for a great read about agonising teen love, then this is definitely the novel for you. Perkins knows perfectly how to capture that pain of confusing crushes, especially when you’re meant to like one boy but can’t help your feelings for another. It was also brilliant to have Anna and Etienne as secondary characters, meaning their story is never too far away. Gotta get my hands on the next one now!

5. Every Day – David Levithan 

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What a genius idea for a book. Each morning, A wakes up in a new body, with no warning or idea whose body it will be. And A is used to this, it’s always been this way. So A follows the rules: don’t get involved, don’t get attached, and don’t interfere.

And that’s all been fine, until the day A wakes up in Justin’s body and falls in love with his girlfriend, Rhiannon.

It’s a brilliant, brilliant concept that analyses human emotions at their most basic. From here, I will refer to A as a male, though there’s no clarity on ‘his’ gender throughout the book, I always imagined him as male. David Leviathan is absolutely gifted at understanding relationships and feelings and personal identity crises. And in this novel, he does it perfectly.

He gets you rooting for A and for Rhiannon and hoping that, even though it’s almost impossible, one day they can be together. It’s a story of love and loss and heartache, perfectly normal for young love, that coincides with the tragedy of instability and loss of identity, which is a typical YA theme that is dealt with so ingeniously and so originally.

Because it’s not only A’s story, it’s Rhiannon’s story, and Justin’s story, and every body that A inhabits, you get a glimpse into what so many different teenagers lives are like.

It’s an absolutely fascinating read and I do really recommend it. In fact, I might just have to read it again it was that good.


So those are the last of my holiday reads! I’ve now finished The Fever as well, so I’ll be writing about that soon. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books in the comments below.

Musing Mondays – Monday 11th July

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Happy Monday! Here’s another Musing Monday, courtesy of Books and a Beat.

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Name a book that was turned into a movie, and completely desecrated (in your opinion).

 

So, this week I blogged about something really important to me, which is the trials and tribulations of working or looking for a job in publishing. I’m right in the midst of applications and each rejection is extremely upsetting and disappointing, especially because I’m so ready to kickstart my career.

I’ve never been someone who was desperate to go travelling or otherwise – the only place I want to travel to is London so I can get involved with the publishing life down there and start my new life.

So please, please – if you work in publishing or are looking for a job in publishing and want to read a little exasperated rant, check out this week’s blog post on the hunt.

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Name a book that was turned into a movie, and completely desecrated (in your opinion).

I just realised that the last time I did a Musing Monday, my answer to the Random Question was also a Jodi Picoult book.

To me, the book that was desecrated when they made it into a movie was (you’ve probably guessed it) My Sister’s Keeper.

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Movie

I know lots of people loved the movie but to me it strayed too far from the novel. The novel was compelling and dramatic and had that wonderful twist at the end, which the movie totally did away with and instead replaced it with a saccharine, twee storyline. It was a good film, but it wasn’t the book I read.

What did you think of the movie? Have you read the book?

 


And that closes up Musing Mondays for this week! Check out all the other responses on Books and a Beat’s page!

Updated: My Long Long List of Books

Here you can see the updated long list of books I want to (and intend to) read, and possibly review (now with new books that got in the way!):

Currently Reading: The Fever – Megan Abbott 

 

Time to scrape around in my head and write some reviews before they all blend into one!

Comment below your thoughts on my list & let me know if you’ve read any of these books!

Working in Publishing (Or, Not Being Able To)

Be warned, what follows is a slightly ranty, extremely exasperated, discussion about working in publishing, or rather, trying to get a job in publishing.

Though I don’t actually work in publishing, I consider myself part of the community. I’ve done work experience, volunteering, attended conferences, been to London Book Fair, and regularly natter on Twitter about the industry. I see so many things about the obstacles facing us ‘bright young things’ trying to get into the industry, and trust me, there are plenty.

Yesterday I was rejected for a job because my ‘background’ didn’t match as ‘closely with [their] specific qualifications’. I have a First in a degree in English Literature and Spanish; I’ve done two lots of work experience at Penguin and Hachette; I’ve written and volunteered for the Bookseller (twice); and now I’m starting to wonder what else I can really do, aside from carving ‘I want this job’ into my arm in my own blood.

Previously I was rejected from a job because they chose a candidate with three years prior experience in the industry. How am I supposed to get three years experience if no-one gives me a shot??

I see so many candidates like me who have graduated and have plenty of great experience and then spend a year interning. That’s all well and good, if you can afford to. I’ve said it before on this blog that I come from what I call a comfortable background, but not comfortable enough to support living in London and bouncing from internship to internship.

Am I so wrong to want something a little more permanent? Or am I being ridiculous thinking I can get that straight out of uni?

How much more do graduates or entry-level candidates need to do to prove ourselves?

And is it acceptable that publishing companies can be so dismissive and expect so much from us when we are just trying to do the best we can?

I think the Spare Room Project is a fantastic initiative, but if we’re being honest that’s more suited to work experience candidates than three month internships.

Us ‘young ones’ have so much to offer and are more than often so passionate about getting into the industry. We just want a chance to show our worth, without having to cut off an arm and a leg to do so.

Also, I feel like it’s not enough these days to just have a good degree, and internships, and that ole desire and ambition. Employers are always looking for more. So on our CVs as well as our 3/4 years at uni and work/experience/work experience, we need to have our volunteering, our blog, our Instagram, our YouTube channel, our this, our that, our anything and everything to make us stand out. But if we all have a blog or an Instagram or a YouTube channel, what will we do next to make ourselves stand out? And is this starting to sound a bit ridiculous? Is it not enough that we are so incredibly passionate about publishing that we would do all these things just for the chance at a job?

I may not know everything about publishing there is to know, but I want to. I want to learn, I want more experience, I want to get involved. This is why I believe there should be more training programmes or graduate schemes offered for entry level candidates. It’s not enough to have entry level positions and then turn us down when we don’t have enough experience. Give us an opportunity for experience.

There aren’t that many universities that offer a BA in Publishing (certainly not the Redbricks), so most of us probably have an English degree, where we’ve been learning about literature not how to publish it, and then go on to do a Masters in Publishing. But I’ve been a student for 4 years, I’m ready to go out into the world of work and learn on the job… but is that enough? Do I need a Masters? Or will a Masters just put off doing a year’s worth of internships for another year?

Publishing is a tough industry. I’ve known that since I started thinking about a career in publishing. But when we’re doing everything we can to get involved, the industry should be able to show us some love back. I’m sorry if this comes off as sounding entitled, which certainly isn’t my intention. I’m just exhausted by the process of applications and rejections. My future feels very fuzzy at the moment and I’m looking for some clarity.

Does anyone out there have a success story? Share in the comments below!