Catching up with books I’ve read… not so much recently but recent-ish-ly.

Jeri Smith-Ready – Shift
Absolutely adored this book, the sequel to Shade and the second in a trilogy which will conclude with Shine next year. Despite being a Middle Book, it has a satisfactory conclusion – not everything’s been sorted out, but enough has changed and enough has been revealed for the book to feel complete in itself. (I am wary of trilogies – they ask a lot of their readers and very often what they’re doing is telling one-story-in-three-parts, which bothers me. But anyway.) Shift is set in a world where only young people can see ghosts. The heroine, Aura, was the first person born after the Shift that made this happen, and she and her friend/crush/possible soul-mate Zachary are trying to find out more about the Shift – why did it happen, and how are their parents (who were at Newgrange a year before, at the winter solstice) connected to it? And what does it mean for them – Zachary born the minute before the Shift happened, Aura the minute after (and possibly the cause of the whole thing)? Oh, yes, and Aura’s ghost boyfriend, Logan, is still hanging around, having returned from being a Shade, or dark spirit, which no one’s ever done before. And the DMP (Department of Metaphysical Purity) are keeping an eye on things… I loved this book. The world is completely convincing, and Aura’s voice is compelling. Plus, having heard way too much about Newgrange growing up, it’s nifty to see the way it’s used here. Highly recommended.

Veronica Roth – Divergent
Really enjoyed this dystopian novel set in a world where sixteen-year-olds must choose a faction to be part of for the rest of their lives, each centred on one particular virtue, and then struggle through their faction’s initiation, or risk being an outcast. The writing’s terrific, and Tris faces a variety of tough choices along the way, as she moves from her birth faction of Abnegation, prioritising selflessness, to the brave, wild, and possibly slightly corrupt Dauntless, and tries to endure their brutal initiation procedures, all the while wondering what her ‘divergent’ test result means. The focus shifts towards the end of the book, where faction rivalries and politics play a larger role, and to some extent this feels like more of a set-up for subsequent books than part of Tris’s journey here. Still, an immensely gripping book and definitely worth checking out if you enjoy your dystopias with a dash of romance, rather than vice-versa.

Lili Wilkinson – Pink
Ava moves schools, leaving behind her beautiful black-and-burgundy-clad girlfriend Chloe in exchange for a world of intimidatingly pretty and perky Pastels and geeky Screw (stage crew) types. She wants to be pink – pretty, girly, into guys – but fate seems to nudge her more into the world of misfits and screw-ups, even though she’s not sure she belongs there, either. The new-friends, discovering-identity theme is made fresh by the funny, vivid writing – worth reading.

Gayle Forman – Where She Went
I was wary of this. Oh so wary. It’s the sequel to If I Stay, the hauntingly beautiful if-you-don’t-cry-there’s-something-wrong-with-you tale of a girl, Mia, in a coma following an accident that’s killed everyone else in her family, and recalling the key moments in her life, including the things to hold onto if she chooses to wake up. Her boyfriend, Adam, is on the list of Best Fictional Boyfriends Ever. So learning that there was a sequel, set three years later, from Adam’s POV – an Adam whom Mia had left – just about broke my heart. It changed how I saw the ending of If I Stay, and shifted Adam off the Best Fictional Boyfriends Ever list. But every time I saw in the bookshop, every time I wandered over to Gayle Forman’s blog… I wanted to read it. Just to see. Just in case. Just in case it could possibly live up to its extraordinary prequel. And. Yes. It does. I have no idea how Gayle Forman’s done it. How on earth do you follow up a life-or-death novel? How do you do it well? I have no answers, but this book does it, however it does.

Judi Curtin – Eva’s Journey
First book in a new Judi Curtin series (well, new-ish – she’s also kicked off her Forever Friends series recently), this time focusing on spoiled rich girl Eva whose lifestyle changes drastically when her dad loses his job. It’s nice to see contemporary kids’ fiction dealing specifically with recession-ish changes, and the story – though sweet – thankfully avoids being overly didactic on the issue of money and consumerism.

Erich Segal – Love Story
I remember the film from childhood and knew it was going to be all tragic and horrific, but I wasn’t expecting how sudden it was, or for that matter how short the book is. I can’t quite decide whether the swiftness of everything is clean, pared-back prose or whether it’s frustrating – I don’t get what Jenny sees in Oliver, at all. Still. If you don’t get a little teary-eyed at the end of this, you must have a heart of stone.

Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman
Funny, the laugh-out-loud sort of funny that gets you strange looks when you’re reading in public places. Caitlin Moran takes on a variety of topics – clothes, sex, lap dancing clubs, work, abortion, relationships – and rants, wisely and entertainingly. It is not the next Great Feminist Text, but it does make its points well, and entertainingly. Worth picking up.

About clairehennessy

Writer (mostly YA fiction), creative writing teacher, tea drinker, book junkie. View all posts by clairehennessy

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