Anne Fine – The Road of Bones
Nifty book set in a vague version of Soviet Russia – very fable-like in some ways (reminded me of John Boyne’s stuff for kids) but with an appropriately dark edge to it.
Neil Gaiman – Stardust
I haven’t read nearly enough Neil Gaiman. This one is a sort-of pastiche of Victorian fairytales, and very fun, particularly when it alludes to the goings-on that we don’t see. The world of Faerie is a dark place where transformations and manipulations and trickery and treachery abound, but also where heroes can do the right thing. I liked this one a lot, even though I’ve been advised by Those In The Know that it’s not his best work.
Lauren Oliver – Delirium
I’d been looking forward to this one for ages – Lauren Oliver taking on a dystopia? Fabulous! It didn’t disappoint – like Before I Fall, the fantastical elements are grounded in the very authentic and thoughtful relationships between the characters. In many dystopias, it’s love – the power of love, the appeal of love – that helps protagonists see the flaws in their society, and (particularly in YA) gives them the strength to rebel. The society portrayed here takes it one step further – love is seen as a disease, something dangerous to be cured. (This makes a lot of sense, actually.) How and why this began isn’t something that’s explained in enough detail (though as this is the first book in a trilogy, we may see more explanation in later books), but how the world is now, and the genuine beliefs that its inhabitants have, are conveyed wonderfully. Looking forward to the next instalments of the trilogy, without feeling as though the first book needs them in order to make sense – it’s nicely done.
Jonathan Kebbe – Noodle Head
Really funny, poignant, thought-provoking book on incarceration, juvenile deliquency, and medication – described as a ‘junior One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest‘. Marcus is a cool dude – so cool that he’s found himself in the Dovedale institution in order to be reformed, a process which consists mostly of hard labour and drugging up the inmates. The story moves along quickly and even though the ending is an upbeat one it’s not entirely cheerful. The possible benefits of medication are touched on a little too briefly, though the book does generally avoid an all-out attack on prescription drugs. Worth reading.
Sheena Wilkinson – Taking Flight
This wins many, many bonus points for being a) a Belfast book that is not about the Troubles and b) a dual-viewpoint book where the two opposite-sex characters don’t get together (they’re cousins). Declan is a tough guy who finds himself drawn into his cousin ‘Princess’ Vicky’s world – including her horse, Flight – after his mother ends up in hospital. Tensions ensue, and the characters are genuinely horrible to each other at times. The often troubling backstory isn’t sensationalised, and it’s a great piece of dramatic realism.
David Levithan – The Lover’s Dictionary
Levithan’s first adult book is told via dictionary entries – attempted definitions of significant words which explains the history of a relationship. It’s frustratingly short in some ways, and at the same time this works for what it’s trying to do. We’re not getting a direct chronology, more like a series of telling snippets, and while that works in a lot of ways it may raise more questions than it answers. Nevertheless it’s definitely worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of his YA stuff.
Siobhan Dowd – A Swift Pure Cry
Cheerful, uplifting… no, wait. Grim tale of a girl who gets pregnant in a small Irish village in the 1980s, is benevolently ignored by the community, gives birth to a stillborn baby, and is then accused of murdering her own child when another body is found. Even though it’s based on true events it felt a little far-fetched, particularly how things turned out, and Shell’s mix of naivety and knowingness didn’t quite work for me. Also, unless a character has psychic powers, I am sceptical of them just ‘knowing’ things. It is a good book, a moving book, but I suppose like so many others, when it’s been hyped up and deemed extraordinary it’s difficult not to be disappointed when it’s not quite as wow-worthy as expected.
Stephenie Meyer – Twilight
Vampire baseball. I have no words.