Monday, 21 April 2014


Having loved Rainbow Rowell's offbeat love story Eleanor & Park, I was thrilled to find out she had just released a new book, Fangirl, and of course had to read it immediately.

Cather and Wren are identical twins, both starting as freshmen at UNL. Their unusual names are a kind of private joke by their mother, who was not expecting twins and had only one name, Catherine, picked out.

Cath and Wren have always done everything together, even writing fanfiction for their favourite book series, Simon Snow. But now Wren doesn't want to room with Cath at college, goes out to parties every night and won't answer Cath's calls. She even seems to have distanced herself from Simon Snow, something they once both loved. To top it off, Cath has to share a room with Reagan, a rather brusque junior who doesn't seem to like her and whose boyfriend Levi is always around, in Cath's physical space and headspace.

Cath is an unusual but compelling character. An extreme introvert, she finds adjusting to college life hard, and retreats into the safe world of her Simon Snow fanfiction, while worrying about her dad's health. Cath and Wren's world is soon complicated further by the reappearance of the mother who abandoned them when they were small. Wren is interested in reconnecting, but Cath is decidedly not, which causes even more friction between them.

Although labelling herself as ‘weak’ and ‘broken’ for not being able to interact well with people or dive so lustily into freshman life as her twin, in the end it turns out that Cath is in fact the stronger one. She seems to know herself better than Wren, who behind all the partying and drinking to excess is just as lost as Cath. Despite trying her best to be an island, Cath does manage to make some connections at college: beneath the tough exterior Reagan does actually like her, and it seems love might actually be closer than Cath thinks - stealing her power bars and pestering her to read him her fanfiction.

One of the highlights of the story was reading the scattered fragments of the Simon Snow series and Cath's fanfiction throughout the novel. Simon Snow seems to be an interesting mix of Harry Potter and The Magicians; not entirely a children's story. I'd be interested in reading more!

Currently Reading: The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Cat Patrick's second novel, Revived, centres on Daisy, a teenager who has died five times since she was five years old. Daisy is part of a top secret medical experiment testing a drug called Revive, which can bring people back from the dead. Unfortunately, dying so many times means many new towns and new names, in order to keep the Program a secret. Daisy doesn't have many meaningful connections with other people her age, until in their latest town she meets the McKeans, Audrey and Matt, and begins to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding the Program.

One part which I really enjoyed about this story and which I thought was handled well was Daisy's best friend Megan, a fellow Program kid, who is transgender. I loved that this was treated in a matter-of-fact way and accepted by all of the characters as totally normal and not worth commenting on further. I really wish there were more young adult books where LGBTI youth were presented like this, as no big issue - just part of the scenery. Kudos to Patrick.

Ultimately though I was a little disappointed by the story. I loved the concept of the Revive drug, and the mystery of the motivations behind the program, but I felt the delivery fell a bit flat. The 'big reveal' at the end felt a little anticlimactic, and didn't answer all of the questions raised in the book. I think it would have felt more true if it had used more 'show' rather than 'tell'.

Daisy was not the strong character I'd hoped for, as she spent a lot of the story reacting to things and being dragged to one place or another by someone else. Her friendship with Audrey however, was quite moving, and her romance with Audrey's brother Matt was quite a lovely illustration of how those in a relationship support each other through trauma. The genuine affection shown by her handler-cum-parent Mason was a highlight of the book as well.

In the end it didn't quite live up to the expectations raised by Cat Patrick's previous novel Forgotten, but is still a very enjoyable read.

To Read: Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, Wither, by Lauren DeStefano and Red Rising, by Pierce Brown.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Anna and the French Kiss

As one of my favourite YA authors, Stephanie Perkins is definitely worth a reread. While eagerly anticipating the long-awaited third book in the series, Isla and the Happily Ever After, I've been drawn back into the world of Anna and the French Kiss.

Despite the seemingly innocuous title of this book, I was persuaded to read it on the recommendation of one of my favourite authors (John Green) and I was not disappointed. Exiled to the School of America in Paris for her senior year, Anna Oliphant is feeling pretty sorry for herself, until she meets Etienne St Clair. I dare anyone not to fall in love with the charming yet all-too-real Etienne and his hilarious group of friends as they learn to take control of their own lives, while exploring the beauty of the city of lights. Although shy at first, Anna's love of film draws her out to explore the cinemas of Paris, while trying not to fall for a boy she knows she can't have. Anna and Etienne are the most realistically drawn couple I've read in a while, and as their love develops so slowly and gradually, with the attendant misunderstandings and hurdles, the reader cannot fail to be swept along with them.

To Read: Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, and Revived, by Cat Patrick.