Monday 30 April 2018

Review on Goodbye, Perfect

Eden McKinley shares all her secrets with Bonnie, her best friend who she's known since they were eight years old. Eden is shocked when Bonnie suddenly decides to run away with Jack, her boyfriend which Eden has never met, and who she knows nothing about about from his name. Eden soon finds out there was a reason for all the secrecy, as Jack is actually Mr Cohn, their music teacher. Eden has promised Bonnie that she won't reveal the fact she is still in contact with her to the police, or help to lead them to her, but Eden soon starts to wonder if she is doing the right thing. Should Eden stay loyal to Bonnie, or should she tell the police what she knows?

 So before I start this review, I have a confession. This is the first Sara Barnard book I've ever read. For years I wasn't a huge fan of contemporary YA, so I somehow managed to avoid the hype over Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder, but over the last couple of years I've read some amazing contemporary YA which has changed my opinion towards the genre completely! Sure there's plenty of sappy, cliché love stories in contemporary YA, but it's books like Goodbye,Perfect that have made me fall in love with the genre.

The book follows Eden McKinley, a teenager in her last year of school. The week before the GCSE exams are due to start, Eden's best friend Bonnie runs away from home with Mr Cohn, their music teacher. One thing I found interesting about this book was that it followed Eden rather than Bonnie. I have read similar books about teenagers who run away from home, but they have always been from their point of view. I thought the story being told from Eden's perspective was unique, as we got to see the repercussions on Bonnie's friends and family.

A few years ago, there was a similar case in the UK where a fifteen year old girl had ran away to France with her maths teacher. Like with Bonnie's case, it was all over the news, and the pair were eventually caught by the police. I felt that writing a fictional version of something that could and has happened to a teenage girl made Goodbye,Perfect a powerful story, and there were no instances where I thought a part of the plot was unrealistic. It was easy to see the difficulty of Eden's situation, as she was torn between her loyalty to Bonnie and doing what she thought was right.

One thing that I loved about this book was Eden's family. Eden and her younger sister, Daisy, have been in and out of foster care for years, until one of their foster families decides to adopt them. I loved the family bond between them all, and it showed that family isn't about who you are related to, it's about who you love. I loved that although Eden initially didn't get along with Valerie, her adoptive parents biological daughter, she soon discovered that there was more to Valerie than she thought, and she wasn't just the perfect, straight A student that Eden thought she was.

The theme of not truly knowing what is going on in the life of someone who you think you know well runs throughout the book. Eden thinks that all Bonnie cares about is getting good grades, and assumes her family life is perfect, even though the reality is that Bonnie had been having problems at home. It showed the importance of having someone who you can talk to about personal problems, as I felt as if Bonnie turned to Mr Cohn because he listened to her, which gave him the opportunity to gain her trust. I think the scariest part was that Mr Cohn seemed like a nice person, and I think we all had that one teacher in their 20's who seemed to have more in common with us than the older ones, which just shows that anyone could groom a minor, even if they have no previous history of doing so.

I loved that romance wasn't a huge part of the plot, but the romance we did get was sweet and unproblematic. It's true that teenage romances can often be dramatic, but sometimes that's not the case. When I was Eden's age, there was a couple in my class who started dating who are still together now. I loved that Eden and Connor were together before the start of the novel, and they never had any drama between them that didn't involve Bonnie. We rarely see this side of teen romances in YA fiction, but they can and do exist. I loved that Connor constantly supported Eden, even when he didn't agree with her ideas. Honestly, we all need a Connor in our lives!

Exams come up quite often in the book, and something I loved was Eden's feelings towards them. Some people just don't cope well in an exam environment, and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Getting bad grades in your GCSE's isn't the end of the world. University isn't for everyone, and you don't need a degree to do well in life, as there are alternatives, such as apprenticeships. Having to make a decision on what you want to do with your life when you're a teenager is difficult, and although Eden decided grades weren't important for the job she wanted to go into, it's often not that easy. There is no time limit to decides what you want to do, and when I was in University, there were multiple older students in my classes who had families. Just because you feel pressured to decides on a career at sixteen, doesn't mean that you have to stick with that decision for life

Something that I loved and felt was completely honest to real life was how it showed that people change over time, and even people who you have been friends with for years can change beyond recognition. Life goes on, and I myself am no longer friends with anyone that I went to school with, and I'm pretty sure that if I were to meet up with them now, I'd have nothing in common with them anymore. Life is full of temporary friendships, but sometimes if you're lucky, you find a friend who sticks by you no matter what. I didn't actually meet my best friend until I was eighteen, but I'm sure we will be sitting in our rocking chairs talking about Harry Potter in fifty years.

I overall loved this book, and although it dealt with serious and important themes, it also had themes of the importance of family, friendship and love. Finally I have discovered what an amazing author Sara is, and I will definitely be reading her other books ASAP!

Goodbye,Perfect is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Friday 6 April 2018

Starfish Blog Tour

Hello and welcome to my stop on the Starfish blog tour! So today I want to talk about a topic that comes up in the book that I really related to, which is social anxiety. In Starfish, Kiko suffers from anxiety, stopping her from doing things that her classmates are doing such as going to parties, and making it impossible for her to go to new places alone. Kiko's friends and family don't seem to understand why she can do certain things but not others, and Kiko finds it difficult to explain it to them. I was so happy to find a book that dealt with social anxiety as the mental illness that it is rather than a cute character quirk! Anxiety is not a quirk, it's something that affects the way you interact with the world. It's something that stops you from doing things that you really want to do, and it isn't something that you can just “get over.”

Everyone who has anxiety suffers from it in different ways, and of course have different experiences, but I just wanted to share a little about how it has affected me personally. Some of the things Kiko went through were quite similar to what has happened to me, and I particularly related to the party scenes. Like Kiko, I try to make everyone happy and try to push myself to do things I'm not comfortable with to try to please others. Kiko only has one friend near the start of the book, and she decides to go to a party with her friend who will soon be moving away for college. Kiko sees this as an opportunity to spend time with her friend, and get away from her abusive uncle. However things don't go to plan, and Kiko ends up immediately regretting her choice to attend. Like Kiko, I don't drink alcohol. I shouldn't have to explain why, but if on the rare occasion I find myself in a place that serves alcohol, I get asked why I'm not drinking, often by complete strangers. The last time this happened was at a comic con after party, and I made the mistake of telling them that I didn't like the taste of alcohol, which obviously wasn't a good enough reason, as they then started trying to get me to try various alcoholic drinks to see if I liked them. As the night went on and the people around me became more and more drunk, I ended up being more and more uncomfortable. I didn't want to talk to people I'd never met, I didn't want to try this drink, and I definitely didn't want to dance to nineties music. When I followed my acquaintances to the dance floor, I felt like everyone was staring at me. I felt like I was getting judged and if I danced people would laugh at me. But of course it turns out that awkwardly standing on the dance floor gained me more attention than dancing would have, and when the girl I had arrived with left to go to the bathroom, I had people asking me if I was okay. I wasn't okay, and all I wanted was to go home, but even that was difficult. How did I tell the people I was with that I was going to go home early? What excuse could I give for doing that? What I ended up doing was miserably waiting until the end. Until the bar had closed and the music stopped and my acquaintances were planning on going to get pizza. Only then did I excuse myself and leave.

This was kind of a bi annual thing that happens after the comic con I volunteer at, and the next time comic con came around, no one invited me to the after party. No one wanted me around this time. I didn't drink alcohol and I was probably really boring anyway, and even though I was a little hurt that I hadn't been asked, I was also relieved. Relieved because I didn't have to try to make an excuse for not going, or let myself be talked into going. Like Kiko, there are places I'm comfortable going, and places that I'm not. Comic Con itself is actually busier than the bar I was at, which would obviously make it more difficult for me right? Well actually that isn't the case, as like Kiko with her art, Comic Con is something I'm passionate about. I'm proud to be a nerd, and talking to actors is easier for me than talking to complete strangers. Having something to focus on, a topic I'm familiar with, and knowing a little about the person can work wonders on me. My mum finds it strange that I can talk to actors but not your average person in the street. I can't do small talk. I will immediately let any conversation die, and will do my best to get out of talking to someone. One of the most difficult things for me in answering the phone. Seeing an unknown number on my phone makes my heart race, and I will stare at it in horror until it stops. You would think talking to someone in person would be harder than talking on the phone, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes anxiety doesn't seem to make sense even to the people suffering from it.

Something that Kiko mentions that I really related to was having to take a break from people to be able to recharge. I think introverts without anxiety can probably relate to this too, but would probably seem really strange to extroverts. There is only so much social interaction I can take in a day, and even if I'm with someone who I love spending time with and am completely comfortable around, I still eventually hit a point where it's too much and I need to spend some time alone. Having somewhere I can retreat to when it gets too much is important to me, and when I'm out in public, sometimes I'll lock myself in a bathroom stall for a few minutes just to try to get a bit of headspace. Some things that I do to try to cope with day to day life does seem strange to any onlookers, but I have things I do to cope, and try to avoid having a full blown panic attack. One thing I wish was that people would understand mental illnesses more, and treat them as an illness rather than something you can easily get over. I have had anxiety for years, and sometimes it feels as if people think I'm faking, or that I want to have anxiety and I'm not helping myself. I would do anything to not feel like I was going to die from calling the dentist to make an appointment or for my heart not to race when I walk through a crowd of people. Things that most people don't think twice about doing can seem like the most difficult thing in the world for someone with anxiety.

There are of course several other important themes in this book that I thought were dealt with really well, but as anxiety was the one that I related to personally, I felt as if I would focus on that! I adored Starfish and will be posting a review on it soon!

The Starfish blog tour is running until 14th April, so check out the posts by all the other amazing bloggers!