Welcome to this month’s ‘What I Read’ post! In May I read 13 books, only four of which were Harry Potters…
I decided for research purposes of my own book, that this month would have a young adult theme and I have to say, if this list of books were an album it would be the YA greatest hits. I mean – The Fault In Our Stars, All the Bright Places and Fangirl? That’s basically the Holy Trinity of young adult books. Because I read so much this month and I’ve got lots to say about each book I’ve split this post into two parts, I’ll post the second one tomorrow 🙂
So let’s start with maybe my favourite YA book of all time, ‘All the Bright Places,’ by Jennifer Niven, a book that’s really important to me. I first read it in 2015 when I was in hospital; I read it all in one go and loved it instantly. The story follows two teenagers, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey who meet on their school’s bell-tower. Together they help each other find the hope and love for life that they both found themselves lacking; Violet was involved in a car crash that killed her sister and is wracked with guilt for surviving when her sister didn’t, and Finch shows all of the signs (although it’s never explicitly mentioned) of bipolar disorder.
I recently reread it and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did the first few times I’d read it because I was much younger but I really, really did. It’s just so beautifully written, in fact it was the first book I ever highlighted (I used to think highlighting books was basically a criminal offence…) but there were just so many incredible quotes that I felt needed recognizing for how lovely they were. And to top it all off the author is possibly one of the nicest people ever. You just know that Jennifer Niven appreciates every single reader – the day she followed me on Instagram is now going to be celebrated every year as a national holiday 😀 This book was everything I needed at a really rough time in my life, I related to so many of the characters (Finch in particular) and I will always be grateful to Jennifer Niven for writing it. Below is an extract from a letter I wrote to her just in case you needed anymore persuading of how much I love this book.
“I didn’t know anything about it or the story when I picked it up. I ended up reading it all in one go and then living in a kind of trance for the next few days. Never before had I related to characters before or felt quite SO much because of a story. It was just so beautifully written and so close to home that I didn’t really know what to do or think. The only thing I knew for sure was that this was now my favourite book.
Thank you so much Jennifer Niven for your words. Yours are my favourite, the loveliest, my bright place.”
As you may have expected I give ATB 5 out of 5 stars!
The next book I read was Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, a (sort of) sequel to Simon Vs the Homo-sapiens Agenda. I’m still not really sure how I felt about this one to be honest, I think I’m going to have to read it again to decide! This book is about Simon’s friend Leah who wasn’t exactly one of my favourite characters in the first book – as a person she’s super moody and sullen and just not particularly likable. In her own book however, you do get a lot more context to her story and she does become much more likable and easier to relate to. Leah is bisexual (yay for bi representation!) and without giving away toooo many spoilers, so is another character from the original book. That was the part that I was undecided on though because it felt a little forced. I’m all for representation and queer characters but the fact that both characters were presented as straight in the first book and then both turn out to be bi AND fall for each other? It just didn’t really feel that believable. On the other hand, much like Simon Vs, it was pretty darn cute (especially towards the end) and so I did still enjoy it. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Next is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I don’t really think this book needs an introduction because I think I’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t read it these days or at the very least hasn’t heard of it But just in case you’re one of those few and far between people that hasn’t read it then the story is told from nineteen year old Hazel’s perspective and begins with her mum making her go to a support group for fellow cancer patients and it’s there that she meets Augustus Waters aka everyone’s favourite fictional boyfriend. It’s a story about cancer but it’s not about cancer. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, the kind of story that will make you laugh one page and then drip salty tears onto the next page (I’m fairly sure one section of my copy is warped from all the water damage…) I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. The half a point missing is just because it didn’t feel completely believable, Augustus is amazing but a little over pretentious at times which definitely gave me some unrealistic expectations for real teenage boys…
The penultimate book for this post is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. They’re currently making this into a film that’s set to be released this year (featuring Jennifer Aniston no less) and I’m so excited! I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t perfect but it did have a kick ass body positive message that I loved. The story follows Willowdean (dubbed Dumplin’ by her pageant queen mum) who is a fat teenage girl and, as she should be, completely unapologetic of that fact. Willowdean decides to enter her town’s pageant along with a group of other girls to reclaim their self-confidence and show the world that there is more than one right way to have a body. As Dumplin’ says, the way to have a bikini body? Put a damn bikini on your body. I loved the diversity of characters in the story and so I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The one star is missing simply because I didn’t love the ending, I wanted more closure for everyone, I felt like there was a chapter missing or something. I will still be recommending it for its super lovely message though!
And finally the last book of this post is ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart – another re-read along with All the Bright Places and TFIOS. This is always a really difficult book to explain but I’ll give it a go! The story centres around the Sinclairs, a ridiculously privileged family with dark secrets aplenty. The narrative is split into two parts, the present tense and flashbacks that lead up to the biggest secret of all, all told through Cadence’s perspective – the eldest Sinclair grandchild who sustained head injuries in an incident she can’t remember. The style of writing is so beautiful with the tragedy of the story really seeping through every line and the story is truly gripping. On the surface it doesn’t seem like that much actually happens but the way it engrosses you and reveals just enough information to keep you hooked. The first time I read it I think I had a slight inkling of what was going to happen but it was somehow still a shock when it actually happened. And rereading it was enjoyable even though I knew what had happened because I noticed lots of things that I didn’t the first time around and so I’m still giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Okay, I shall see you tomorrow lovely humans for the second installment of ‘what I read in May’ – bye!