I’ve been pretty awful as of late at getting around to reviewing the books I’ve read. To the point where there are even some books I read last year, the reviews of which are sat, gathering dust, in my drafts. Unfortunately bad life events have taken precendence over blogging in general. I’ve also been reading some pretty meaty fantasy books and not making my way through them quite as quickly as I might usually. It’s both a good and bad thing; I’m savouring the stories nestled in the pages that little bit longer, but I’m also becoming pretty tardy with a blog I had thought I’d become quite good at escaping into. So, long story short: I’m here to try and give some quick and snappy reviews of some books I’ve read, both recently and not quite so recently, and offer up the praise they deserve (try being the optimal word — I am a certified rambler. Point and case.).
‘The Sun is Also a Star’ by Nicola Yoon
(Published by Corgi, ★★★★★)
Natasha and her family are illegal immigrants in America. They are about to be deported back to Jamaica. But Natasha is pragmatic; she is the type who takes matters into her own hands and is prepared to give it one last shot for her father’s American Dream. Daniel was born to his Korean parents in the United States. He, amongst many things, is a poet and a bit of a hopeless romantic — neither things of which particularly fit into Daniel’s parent’s aspirations for their second best son. On Natasha’s final day in New York, the two teenagers from two different worlds, two different cultures, meet. Natasha would say logical steps brought them together; Daniel would tell you it was fate. But the real question is: Can Daniel make Natasha fall in love with him? And will Natasha and her family get to stay in the place Natasha has come to call home?
I think after quite the perfect, finish-it-off-with-a-neat-pink-bow ending of ‘Everything, Everything’, ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ was quite refreshing. The not quite “happily ever after” and Natasha’s pessimism, or, perhaps, ability to be realistic and not get carried away with the notion of love, rubbed me completely the right way. As much as I love romance and being swept up in it all, sometimes it’s that little bit more reassuring to read about something that, if only for a moment, was lovely and tender but that, ultimately, didn’t last forever. It’s the way things just go sometimes and there’s a part of me that gets a little kick out of watching a character experience one of those nuisances we call ‘almosts’.
‘Unconventional’ by Maggie Harcourt
(Published by Usborne, ★★★★)
Conventions pretty much take centre stage in Lexi Angelo’s life. Her dad, Max Angelo runs the show at Angelo Events, a business that organises popular fan conventions for all things fandom; books, films. You name it, there’s probably someone out there cosplaying it. But, when convention season comes around again, and Lexi gets caught up in the hustle and bustle, and downright stress of it all, she doesn’t expect to become a fan of Aiden.
There’s a part of Lexi that is afraid of the prospect of falling for Aiden. Not only because she might not fit into his glamorous author life, but because perhaps he won’t fit into hers; a life of which she is still trying to figure out. I really appreciated seeing this side of a potential relationship. Often in YA we see how the main character and their romantic interest come to be, challenges and all. However, many of the obstacles in their way of getting together are far more complex, sometimes more dramatic, than the simple matter of being afraid, which, I think, Lexi was. Falling in love is scary. Giving yourself over to a person, all your cards on the table, is a kind of vulnerability people do every day, sometimes without thinking. But likewise, for some the idea of it is almost crippling, to the point where it puts an end to anything before it can truly begin. I related to Lexi and her fears a lot in that sense, because she wasn’t entirely certain where she was at with her life, who she was when so much of her was wrapped up in running Max Angelo conventions. And I think it’s admirable that she needed, on some level, to carve out an identity for herself before she could allow someone else to be attached to who she was. That happens in relationships, I think. It becomes another label; it sinks into every aspect of you. And I liked that Lexi wasn’t about to let that happen before she was ready and settled in herself. For me, that was the most important thing I took away from ‘Unconventional’; that, and loving and enjoying something unapologetically. Being a fangirl of something is cool.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood
(Published by Vintage, ★★★★)
I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I was about fourteen or fifteen. In Drama, we’d been studying ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and pulling the strings of our own dystopian societies, and my lovely, wonderful teacher talked, with such enthusiasm, about a book called ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. The synopsis she gave seemed so frightening and barbaric that it’s been sat primly on my mental TBR for all this time. With the release of the TV series dawning on me (which is so incredible and haunting so far that it probably deserves a post of its own), I finally got my hands on a copy and swept through it.
Admittedly, it wasn’t as gripping as I expected to be, but I think that partly has to do with its complete subtlly in regards to using fertile women as passive vessels. My preconceptions were that it would read a lot more violently, but it was so subtly wrong, which made it that bit more chilling. Atwood doesn’t offer a huge sense of historical context either, placing the society in a specific decade, which only adds to the horror of it, because you could so easily apply it to right now or our future, especially with the political climates right now across the world; there was an unmistakable closeness to our reality and, with an ambiguous ending, there was a level of honesty in what was a pretty bleak turn of events. I realise this gives away absolutely nothing, but just… go read it. And then watch the TV adaption, obvs.