If you’re looking for a novel for teen and young adults which deals with real-life issues in a realistic, fun and respectful way, look no further!
Read my honest review here.
Purchase the book here.
A Work of Art by Micayla Lally (She Writes Press)
Review copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Genres: Drama, Women’s fiction, Romance
Letting go after her abrupt break-up with Samson is harder than Julene thought it would be, especially since her ex has wasted no time in burying himself in the local dating scene. But during an extended visit to her parents overseas, Julene rediscovers her love of art, and a burgeoning career develops. Samson, on the other hand, after trying valiantly—and unsuccessfully—to forget Julene, has settled instead on his own new career. When Julene returns home to Australia, a coincidental meeting leads to an emotional reunion—but her love and patience will be tested when she finds out just how busy Samson has been in her absence. Yes, they have both made mistakes they can work through and move past—but when a spectre from Samson’s past looms, Julene wonders: Can she trust him again?
This is one of the most frustrating novels I’ve read in a long time, and the reason for that is simple. The story is great, but the telling is distinctly not. The novel is very fast paced, but there is little detail in any of the scenes. What’s more, when there is detail, it seems to occur during the most inane occasions. There are some quite dramatic moments in this novel which have the potential to be extremely emotional and involving, but they are written about with the air of an afterthought. The most important aspects of the story are glossed over, whilst mundane conversations about rice pads are dealt with in great detail.
Now that I’m at the end of the novel, I still don’t feel that I have a good grasp of who the characters really are, what their motivations are and how they feel about anything that’s happened in the book. I think part of this is down to the dialogue. The conversations don’t seem realistic, and the writing style brings the phrase ‘hoity-toity’ to mind.
Focusing on the more positive aspects of the novel, the story is a very relatable and realistic. What happens in this novel could easily happen to anyone, and yet there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Unfortunately, you don’t have to guess for very long.
For example, the beginning of the novel is involving, as the two main characters, Julene and Samson, have ended their relationship but we don’t know why. Rather than use this as a way to keep readers interested, the tension is broken a few chapters later when the author reveals the reason for their break-up. I would have loved for her to have drawn this out a little more, as the majority of the book is much less interesting. 70% of the novel could perhaps could be entitled ‘the Sexcapades of Julene and co.’, but sadly this is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. In some cases, her circumstances actually make it feel a bit ‘icky’.
If I could turn back time and read this novel again, I’m not sure I’d bother. I did read it until the end (the story was interesting enough for me to persevere through the bad writing) but maybe it would make a better movie?
A Work of Art is released on 2nd May 2017.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Penguin Random House UK, Children’s
Review copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Genres: Romance, Teen, Young Adult, Coming-of-Age
Molly is on the cusp of womanhood, though she doesn’t feel like it. She’s never been to a house party, never had alcohol, and never kissed a boy. That’s not to say she hasn’t wanted to; in fact, she’s had 26 unrequited crushes in her 17 years. But no matter what advice her twin sister Cassie has for her, Molly never has the courage to speak to boys. In fact, the only one she can speak to is the nerdy guy at the store where she works, but she doesn’t crush on him so that doesn’t really count, right? When Cassie begins dating Mina, Molly is pushed into a circle of friends she’d never normally hang out with, and she makes a pact with herself to let go of control and be daring. Speak to the boys. Especially Will, who might be the coolest guy Molly’s ever been friends with.
The Upside of Unrequited is a delightful look at the trials and tribulations of an almost-adult. It’s never easy to find love, but that doesn’t mean it won’t find you, in the most unexpected of places.
What strikes me most about this novel is that it made me remember. I’m 25, which I admit is not very old, but 17 still feels like a lifetime ago. Molly’s story reminded me about that time in my life, where everything was more emotional, more dramatic, more important. When I look back on my memories I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe, but I expect both is in order. Becky Albertalli has managed to successfully inhabit the teenage voice without being patronising, minimising or childish. Molly was someone I could relate to, and I understood her struggles.
As well as being a great example of how to write for teenagers, about teenagers, The Upside of Unrequited also reads like a love-letter to nerds. Being a self-proclaimed nerd myself, it’s nice to see them win every once in a while. Pinterest lovers will enjoy the crafty side to Molly’s personality, whilst LOTR geeks like myself will also find nods to their particular brand of interests.
The novel centres around Molly’s quest for love, but it also has a strong vein running through it concerning sisterhood, and the problems which can arise between siblings during young adulthood. All siblings grow apart a little as they transition from teenager to adult, but with twins this experience can be even more difficult. Molly and Cassie clearly have a very close relationship, but they are also distinct characters with their own ideals and aspirations. Albertalli handles this with care and realism. I completely feel for Molly when she feels that Cassie is drifting away, but I also totally understand Cassie’s desire for more independence.
I’m very impressed with this novel. What could have been a by-the-numbers story of a teenager wanting to find love is actually a thoughtful and accurate portrayal of what it is to be a teenager in today’s society. I think The Upside of Unrequited can give hope to those who feel like they’re always going to feel alone and unloved. There’s someone out there for everyone. I’ve also got to add that I love the subtle way Albertalli promotes LGBT relationships in this novel. Because it is such an important issue, I think that sometimes authors can shove it in your face a little too much. With The Upside of Unrequited, all the LGBT relationships just seem right. There are no ‘token gays’. It’s just real life.
The Upside of Unrequited is released on 11th April 2017.
Unrequited Alice by Sarah Louise Smith (Crooked Cat)
Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review.
Genres: Romance, Chick lit
Alice was delighted when her oldest friend, Hannah, asked her to be her maid of honour. As the hen party approaches, Alice’s head is filled with her list of duties. One is more important than them all; to fall out of love with Ed, Hannah’s gorgeous fiance.
The wedding fills Alice with a nauseating combination of joy for Hannah and heartbreak that Ed will never be hers. What she doesn’t realise is that the wedding will change not only the lives of the happy couple, but hers as well.
Whilst on the hen party in Canada, Alice meets Toby, a handsome but mysterious man with whom she feels an immediate connection. As they spend more and more time together, her feelings for Toby grow and she begins to think that her love for Ed might not last forever after all. There’s just one problem. Toby is in love with another woman.
Oh, Alice. I think we all know what it’s like to have unrequited feelings for someone else. Most people, I’m sure, have experienced a school-yard crush. It might even have felt like love at the time – everything is more intense during puberty.
It’s an awful situation for her, made worse by the fact that the man is dating her oldest friend and they’re about to get married. She has to watch their happiest day ever, all the while believing her chance at happiness is lost forever. Quite early into the novel I found Alice to be a sympathetic character. During the hen do she was clearly trying to do what was right for her best friend, but at the same time she was struggling to cope with her feelings for the groom.
Unfortunately my sympathy for Alice dissipated fairly swiftly after the hen party. I found she became quite irritating, frequently changing her mind, or claiming she would behave in one way and then do the exact opposite not two seconds later. She repeatedly says she needs to accept that herself and Toby won’t be romantically involved, but then acts like they’re dating and gets offended when he calls her his ‘friend’.
What’s more, there were many occasions where Alice had ‘revelations’ which I as the reader was already well aware of, thanks to a repetitive, detailed description of our heroine’s thoughts and feelings. WE KNOW SHE LOVES ED. I’m not sure it’s necessary to remind us in virtually every paragraph of the first few chapters. She starts developing feelings for Toby, which is very clear from her thoughts and interactions with him, but she doesn’t ‘realise’ this until much later. That just doesn’t seem realistic to me.
I’m also struggling to see Toby as a desirable male character. He’s too moody, manipulative, petulant, stubborn, and he doesn’t respect Alice or treat her well. He’ll call her beautiful but also says there’s no chance of anything happening between them, when he knows full well that she might be developing feelings for him. He wants her around but only when it’s convenient for him, and I am not happy with him at all.
I kind of think Alice can do better. She’d be a lot less irritating if the men in her life would just be straight with her and stop messing with her emotions. The novel revolves around them, and they’re not doing her any favours. I’d much prefer a story where we actually got to hear a bit about her life away from these men. She has a great job at a bookstore, and a promising interest in photography, but these areas of her life are breezed over to get back to what’s ‘important’ – finding love.
As chick lit, it’s a perfectly good novel. There is romance, tension, heartbreak and challenge, but it lacks substance and depth. Although we learn about her family and interests, it’s in a passive way which makes it seem as though there is nothing more important to her than finding a man who loves her back. Sure, it’s not a bad goal, but for a 21st century woman, I’d like to think it’s a bit two-dimensional.
Unrequited Alice is released on 16th March.