Review | The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: 24th July 2017 

 

Gorgeously written and emotionally charged, The Secret History of Us explores the difficult journey of a teenage girl who must piece her life together after losing her memory in a near-fatal accident.

When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was. 

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.

A quick, breezy read that I need every now and then to escape reality.

The story follows Liv, who miraculously survives a fatal car accident but has lost her memory of the last four years of her life. Her journey to recovery after the accident made me question how I would react if I woke up with the realisation that I’d lost the last 4 years of my life and whether I’m happy with the person I am today. After creating a quick summary of things I would change vs things I would like to remain the same, it turns out if I were to lose the last 4 years of my memory, there are definitely things in my life that I would do differently.

The message I took from The Secret History of Us is that we shouldn’t care about what other people thinks of us or what society expects us to do. Do what you want.

“You gotta go with what seems right to you, not what you think you should be doing because it’s what you’ve been told. You’re allowed to change. We all are.”

We spend half our lives living in fear that we’ll get judged for doing something unconventional or un-us. But who cares about what other people think? Life is short, do what you want for yourself.

Jessi Kirby continues to be on my list of authors to look out for every year. I can’t wait for her future books!

3 Reasons Why ‘All The Bright Places’ Wasn’t My Cup of Tea

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All The Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
Published by Penguin Australia 
on January 6th 2015

As soon as I saw the cover and read the quote “This is the next Fault in our Stars” I had a feeling All the Bright Places wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I should probably listen to my gut feeling more often haha. While I didn’t find All the Bright Places life-changing or soul-crushing – in fact, I found one third of the book particularly boring – I’ll admit that the last one hundred pages were rather memorable and I would highly recommend it to my friends/anyone who liked The Fault in our Stars i.e. 99% of the population but definitely not me.

The main reasons why All the Bright Places didn’t work for me

  • Couldn’t connect with the characters

This is a it’s not you it’s me thing, but I felt there was no intimacy between me as the reader and the characters I’m reading about, and that’s a very serious issue for me. If I can’t connect with the characters on any level, then there’s no point in continuing with the book.

The story is told from alternating perspectives of Finch and Violet, an approach that was executed terribly. I couldn’t distinguish between the two voices as they sounded exactly the same. On more than one occasion, I started reading a new chapter thinking it was from Violet/Finch’s perspective, only to later realise that it was actually from the other character’s POV. Violet and Finch had the same dull voice and that truly frustrated me as a reader.

  • The characters didn’t have chemistry

Violet and Finch had no chemistry, in my opinion. I realise this is probably a result of feeling disconnected from the characters and the storyline, but the fact remains: I didn’t feel any chemistry, which made it infinitely more difficult for me to root for them.

  • The constant references to dead poets and statistics

I’ve always hated poetry. I can’t wrote poetry nor can I analyse them. I’m sure there are readers out there who appreciated the references to dead poets and the death related statistics, but I wasn’t one of them. It ruined the flow of the story for me because I had no interest in the information and skipped most of it.

I considered giving up after 100 pages but forced myself to continue reading because I make it a point to always finish books that I paid for. (Otherwise I’d feel like my money was wasted) . I ended up skimming almost 260 pages until FINALLY after page 260, Mr Embryos/Finch semi-explained what was wrong with him. As soon as I discovered Finch’s possible ‘diagnosis’ – or since Finch hates labels so much, the possible explanation for his erratic and uncontrollable behaviour – I developed a newfound interest in the book. I wanted to know more about Finch and what this illness could do to a person if untreated.

As I mentioned before, the last 100 pages were extremely memorable; Finch’s condition was heartbreaking and I wished someone had noticed what he had been going through for so long. I didn’t understand how everyone just brushed off his behaviour as “it’s just Finch”, like it’s completely normal for anyone to just up and disappear for months and then come back as if nothing had happened. I didn’t understand how Finch’s older sister Kate was aware that he was away from school for months but didn’t care enough to see what wrong with him? I especially hated Finch’s mum; how could she be completely oblivious to everything that was going on under her roof?

All in all, All the Bright Places wasn’t for me but I would recommend it to all contemporary readers! I think I’ll give Jennifer Niven’s books another go sometime in the future, but I’ll be approaching them with caution and low expectations.

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Review | Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 30th May 2017 

 

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimonaand Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Eliza and her Monsters is by far, my favourite YA book of 2017. It’s not a spur of the moment decision either – I’ve had a couple days to sit on it and yes, as of June 2017, it’s my favourite 2017 book.

Eliza is the anonymous creator of the world-famous webcomic, Monstrous Sea. For the last 3 years she has, without fail, uploaded new additions to the comic every Friday. She has constantly stressed how consistency and her top-quality work (she would never upload something that she isn’t 100% happy with) is what her fans deserve. This is a sentiment that as a book blogger, I can relate to. Back when I was more active on Shiirleyy’s Bookshelf I was pushing myself to finish at least several books a week so that I would have at least 2-3 reviews up every week. I didn’t want to disappoint the publishers who kindly sent me books, the same way Eliza never wanted to disappoint her fans. I really admire Eliza for singlehandedly creating this virtual empire that stemmed from her passion for drawing. She is a fighter, a fantastic main character but not without her flaws. I felt that Eliza was so absorbed in her online life that she neglected her family, especially her two brothers. Eliza admitted that she didn’t particularly care about her brothers’ games, which was extremely disheartening since they were siblings and her brothers cared deeply for her and knew everything about her internet fame. I am however, happy with how Eliza matured as an older sister towards the end 🙂 

I liked the representation of Eliza’s parents; her parents always thought this Monstrous Sea webcomic was simply a hobby and were supportive but never truly understood the extent of their daughter’s popularity and talent. I remember an interview I read featuring one of Australia’s most famous fashion icons, Margaret Zhang where she shared that even after almost half a decade, her parents were not aware of what she did. I think the representation of Eliza’s parents was rather accurate and while sometimes I wanted to yell at them for not making the effort to open their eyes and see how talented and successful their daughter is, I agreed with their constant nagging for Eliza to leave her room. 

The illustrations were absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to buy myself a copy to stare at all day! Whether you’re a teenager, or an adult, I strongly recommend picking this up. I went through a roller coaster of emotions in the second half of the book. I was on the verge of tears towards the end because it was so emotionally draining and my heart ached for both Eliza and Wallace – who, by the way is an absolute sweetheart!! Eliza and her Monsters sends a strong message of hope and to pursue your passion. Don’t waste your life doing things you loathe, make the most of your life!

 

5 STARS

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli 

Publisher: Penguin 
Release Date: 11th April, 2017  

 

 Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

 Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.


 There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The Upside of Unrequited 

I’ve discovered that with time and age, my reading preferences have changed. I’m certain 16 year old me would have swooned, gushed and raved endlessly about how cute The Upside of Unrequited is and talked excessively about how adorably slow and perfect the romance between the Molly and Reid is. Unfortunately, 22 year old me thought the whole push and pull between the two was too cute for my liking – I think I can only tolerate small doses of cuteness before I go “Yeah, nah”, onto the next book.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed about The Upside of Unrequited, and then I’ll address the main issue I had with it. I think most people would disagree with

A relatable main character 

The Upside of Unrequited had the ingredients for the perfect YA book. In particular, I found Molly’s actions and the situations she found herself in very relatable. Molly has had 20-something crushes in the past and none of them moved past the ‘crush’ stage because she never communicated her feelings in fear of rejection. Yeah, guess what – same here. The whole time I was thinking “wow….this is so me”. Some other examples of some things I do that I didn’t think anyone else did until I read this book.

“I google the number, but Google doesn’t know, and I feel dumb asking who it is. So I ignore it. “

So yes, when I receive a random call and he/she doesn’t leave a voicemail, or when I receive a random text from someone I always google the number first and then decide whether or not to call back. Usually when they don’t leave a voicemail, I ignore the number.

“It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation.”

This one is so applicable to me when I meet people I don’t ‘connect’ with. I mean, I can keep a conversation going during our first meeting – no worries – but if we randomly bump into each other again, say the next day then sorry, but what the heck am I suppose to talk to you about?! All obvious topics of conversation have been exhausted! Hhahahahah obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but when I read the quote above, I just thought of situations in the past where I had nothing to say to someone I’d just bumped into.

Diversity

I’ve been on and off on twitter over the last few years so sometimes I miss out on important bookish news and trends. Sometime last year/ this year ‘Diversity’ became a top trending topic between readers, bloggers, authors and publishers. From reading a couple of tweets it seems the gist of it was readers wanted more diversity in books. Well, turns out, you asked and Becky Albertalli delivered.

Now, I’m going to say something that may not be well received since after reading a few reviews and general comments on Twitter, I’ve concluded that my feelings belong in the minority. While I appreciate Albertalli’s attempt at creating a world with all types of diverse characters, the impression I got was more of a ‘diversity dump’ or a shopping list of diverse characters. I personally felt it was a desperate attempt to incorporate all these diverse characters into one book to appeal to readers to the point that the characters didn’t feel realistic anymore. They felt like chess pieces brought in for the sole purpose of writing a book about diversity; there was no substance or depth to any of the characters beyond their labels. I remember at least one character was Jewish, and others had different skin colours, religion, sexuality but that was it. The terms were thrown around and then the story went back to the cute interactions between Molly and Reid.

I was slightly annoyed at Albertalli’s representation of Mina. The first time I realized she was Asian I thought “Oh yay! An Asian character, I like this book already!” Then after a few chapters I got the feeling that Albertalli was desperate to reiterate to the readers that Mina‘s A PERSON OF COLOUR, that it felt like she was shoving this fact in my face. Cassie was constantly saying how Mina is “Korean-American” and the whole time I just imagined Mina with a banner above her head with the words LOOK AT ME. IM KOREAN-AMERICAN. A DIVERSE CHARACTER.

So my point is I like books where the author doesn’t tell me once, twice, or five thousand times that someone is pansexual, or Asian or Jewish. Please do your research and show me this information. Having said all that, The Upside Of Unrequited wasn’t bad – it was a quick read and I definitely enjoyed it but I probably won’t be coming back for more.