Category: ya contemporary

Author: Sara Barnard

Rating: 5/5

I’m not generally a fan of contemporary YA novels as series. I think stand-alone’s are far more satisfying, and far less drawn out. So you can see why I was reluctant to pick up a sequel to a book I loved (Beautiful Broken Things review here) which I thought would be unnecessary at best, a waste of time at worst. 

I was so wrong. This book was beautiful. It focusses in a girl named Suzanne, who was a victim of child abuse and, at the beginning of the novel, is in the foster care system. We follow Suzanne as she gains her independence in a very big and very complex world which is moving on faster than her. Whilst I’m not an abuse survivor, I find Barnard’s narration endlessly relatable; the way Suzanne reflects on the concept of death, her description of feeling you’re on the edge and being too tired to do anything about it, and so many other moments. 

The relationships between Suzanne and her friends are so raw and real. Caddy and Rosie are far more developed than in the first instalment, and I love the different directions that Barnard took these three in. That said, my favourite relationship is between Suzanne and her retired musician neighbour, Dilys. Dilys is the perfect example of the good in this world that Suzanne had been so deprived of, and their friendship was pure and benevolent.

Finally, I want to talk about Suzanne’s family. Her brother plays a complicated role in her life, having never been a victim of their father’s wrath. It’s both heart-wrenching and disgusting how his childhood was so opposite to Suzanne’s, and how that affects their sibling relationship. Her mother is also beyond complicated, and this book gave me an insight into why child abuse is so rarely reported by family members. It’s so much more difficult than I could ever imagine, having such a loving and supportive family myself.

So, as if you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. I loved it more than Beautiful Broken Things. One of my new favourites for sure.

Author: Sara Barnard

Rating: 4/5

Until the ending, this book was very so-so. Developed enough characters, advancing plot, very readable writing style. I solid 3-4 star read.

BUT WAIT. I cannot tell you how perfect the ending was. I was crying in my library! That lifted it to 4.5 for me.

Overall, I had problems with ALL of the characters, but that doesn’t mean thy were badly written. Caddy (the narrator) was ungrateful and spoilt – and pitied herself for it. And whilst this was annoying, I think it was meant to be. I see Caddy in so many people I know – people who are jealous of others’ trauma because it’s more exciting than their boring life. And, if you are inexperienced in how ruining and scarring trauma can be, you might see where she’s coming from. Rosie was more difficult to dissect; she doesn’t take anyone’s bull, but she’s also judgmental and controlling. Finally, Suzanne. I think she could represent how some people deal with their abusive past, but I don’t think in the slightest that she represents the majority – and that’s why her characterisation could be considered “damaging” to some reviewers.

I think you were meant to have your own opinion on the character’s actions, and that’s why they were so frustrating. Bernard creates a chasmic ironic gap in which the reader can fully understand situations the narrator can’t, which is difficult to do well.

As I’ve said, the ending truly made this book for me. For that alone, I would recommend Beautiful Broken Things.

Author: Alice Oseman

Rating: 4.5/5

Buy: Amazon US

         Amazon UK

Such an interesting read! I picked up this book based on the plot: it follows our two main characters, Angel and Jimmy. Angel’s life revolves around a band called The Ark who have become her life. They have given her all of her internet friends, a purpose in life, and hope that love exists. Jimmy is the lead singer; he has severe anxiety and paranoia and is deeply insecure in his profession. He loves music, but hates fame. The story revolves around their own growth and change, as well as how their paths meet.

As a huge member of the bandom, it was fascinating and shocking to see the effect that fans have on their idols. It’s opened my eyes to the pressure of being so depended on by millions of people who don’t even know who you really are. But, as someone who has been kept alive by the music of twenty one pilots, Pierce The Veil and the like, it breaks my heart that some musicians are overcome by fear and hatred of their fandom. I never thought about how stressful it must be, having all these strangers fawn mindlessly over them (or the strangers’ image of them, which is worse). For that reason, I’m thankful that this book has given me the chance to be more mindful of my irrevocable adoration of bands and their members.

Saying that, it was also scary how much of myself I saw in Angel. She puts The Ark before everything else in her life and, as someone who would willingly die for Brendon Urie, I can now see how distressing that is. There are fans who are nothing except the people they idolise, and I now see that I can be a fan without selling my soul.

Disclaimer: I FULLY respect anyone who’s life revolves around a band/tv show/celebrity if it gives you happiness. My opinions are only as a response to my own personality, and the fact that it was beginning to cause me unhappiness.

Subject matter aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of this novel. It had the perfect conversationalist tone for a YA contemporary without being cheesy or cliched. There was a lot of emotional impact, especially in the scenes in which Jimmy had a panic attack, as well as the shock of the finale. The pacing was perfect, even though what I thought was going to be the main event happened quite far into the book (it worked brilliantly). 

Also, amazing diversity! A male main character with anxiety, a Muslim main character, a trans main character, a gay main character and a bisexual main character!!

The only reason this isn’t 5 stars is because I hated one of the characters with a deep-seated, fiery passion. But that’s okay, since I knew he was supposed to be the object of readers’ hatred anyway.

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Author: Non Pratt

Rating: 4.25/5 (idk I’m really conflicted)

Right y’all – I have some opinions I need to share. Just so you know, Truth Or Dare is a YA contemporary told in two perspectives: you read the first one and flip the book to read the second one. There’s no confusion over perspectives or chronology BUT the chronology is disconnected. But we’ll get onto that.

I enjoyed the story told in this book. It was heart-warming and even a little harrowing at times – and I can’t get over how honest it is. Non Pratt writes about a lot of sensitive/important subjects faced in the lives of the population (e.g. disability, mental health, sexuality, financial issues, rape, family etc.) and, in my opinion, she tackled these topics incredibly effectively. As a survivor of disability and mental health issues, I was quite overwhelmed with the honesty the narrator portrays. It is rare to see these subjects dealt with in such a raw, true and un-romanticized way – and I really respect that. It’s also highlights the absolute importance that is recognizing sexual assault. There is no graphic or traumatizing moments, but it does showcase the kind of sexual assault that is happening all the damn time with people of all ages – and the ‘casual’ attitude that many people have of consent. One quote in this book which crushed my heart was when the girl narrator says something along the lines of ‘I don’t just hate him, I hate the way he makes me hate myself’ which I thought opened my eyes even more to the awful confliction of the victim’s of this horrible crime.

Also, ARO-ACE REPRESENTATION Y’ALL! I’m neither asexual or aromantic but I so deeply need more rep for this group of people who get so looked over or misunderstood. My ace pal said the rep was fab, but I have no aromantic’s opinions yet and I’d love to hear what you think about it (I don’t want to say anything about this book without having all the info from the own voices, so if you weren’t happy with it, please let me know and I would be happy to add your opinion to this review.)

Besides that, the pacing in each section was good, the writing seemed very real and colloquial and generally I really enjoyed it. However, at the point where you spin the book round to read the second section, the pace changes so dramatically and I HATED IT. The end of Claire’s section was so action packed and full of adrenaline and ended on a cliff-hanger… but then I got to Sef’s section and it starts from the beginning again! I was so mad about having to read the whole story again to find out what happened next.

I soon got over that and now, having finished the book, I deeply understand why the author chose to go about the story the way they did – learning the other side of the story is so so important. But I had to knock off 0.75 stars for the aggravation it caused me at the time.

Author: Adam Silvera

Rating: 4/5

Let’s hope I can stop crying enough to write this review. TBDATE is mind-blowing, but also almost harrowing for a YA contemporary. This is the first of Adam SIlvera’s books I’ve read but I’ll be reading ALL of them after this one. I don’t know how, but he was able to balance the scales between heart-warming and heart-breaking flawlessly – I was laughing, crying (with happiness and CRIPPLING SADNESS) and squealing throughout.

The most interesting thing about this novel is that the author decided to take the contemporary route rather than the dystopian adventure it could have been considering the concept. But no – there was no government conspiracy, no rebellion, no discovery of the secrets behind Death-Cast. Instead, it focusses on these two boys living their final day. And it’s beautiful. BUT BE PREPARED TO CRY OKAY.

Something I haven’t seen anyone talk about was how the chapters began when we were reading about a character besides Mateo and Rufus. Each one started with “Death-Cast did not call [insert name], because he/she isn’t dying today,“ and for some reason I really liked that. It was kind of quirky.

This story makes you think too. I’ve found myself trying to work out how Death-Cast works: maybe people only die when they’re called because they think they’re going to anyway?? or maybe it’s a fate reader?? maybe everyone has a set date to die?? maybe it’s rigged and it employs people to kill the call recievers?? Honestly I don’t know, but I kind of like being able to think of theories myself. But, on the other hand, it is awful not being able to know for sure.

A 4/5 from me. The only thing I wanted was a little more depth into the world Mateo and Rufus were living in. We did get quite a bit, but I still had more questions than I wanted by the end.