Monday 14 October 2019

Review on Solitaire

Tori Spring is starting her first year of sixth form, another year of needless, boring education and spending too much time on her blog, or so she thinks. When Solitaire makes itself known through a series of post it notes, Tori discovers she isn’t the only person at this school with a blog. Solitaire appears to be a prank blog, with different pranks happening in the school every week in what seems to be an attempt to make things less boring. Tori doesn’t care about Solitaire, but as the pranks continue, Tori’s new classmate, Michael Holden starts to notice a pattern, a pattern that just might point to Tori. Tori is soon determined to find out who is behind Solitaire, and why the pranks seem to be based around her.

I’ve wanted to read an Alice Oseman book for a while now,so I was happy when I found a copy of Solitaire in my local library. Solitaire is Alice’s debut novel which she wrote when she was just seventeen, which is a huge achievement all on it’s own! I’ve heard a lot of good things about Alice’s books, so I was eager to read one.

The book follows Tori, a girl who has attended an all girls school throughout high school. However, her sixth form (basically the last two years of school that are optional for any confused Americans!) allows boys to attend, which causes all kinds of problems for Tori, including awkward interactions with her ex best friend Lucas, and Michael Holden, a boy with a bad reputation who for some reason is insisting on trying to make friends with Tori. Oh, and there’s Solitaire. The Solitaire storyline was probably my favourite part of the book. I loved the mystery and how the prank aspect was based around Tori, such as playing songs she loved over the loudspeaker and getting revenge on her enemies. Although I did correctly guess who was behind Solitaire around the middle of the book, it still made me want to find out what pranks would be pulled next, as each prank became more extreme to the point that they eventually became dangerous. I loved how Michael and Tori teamed up in an attempt to learn more about Solitaire, and find out who was behind it.

I loved the main characters, particularly Michael. He was such a sweet character and I felt bad for him that most of his classmates thought he was weird, and how he didn’t have many friends. Something I completely adored about Michael was that he never defined his sexuality and refused to label himself. Society is so obsessed with putting people into boxes and I loved that Michael refused to put himself in a box. Honestly life would be so much easier without all the unnecessary labels we’re expected to conform to.

I found Tori relatable, especially with her mental health problems. Tori is a huge pessimist and always sees the worst in herself and other people. She feels as if she is unworthy of having Michael as her friend, and questions why he is even bothering with her, which is honestly something I do when someone talks to me. I loved that Michael didn’t just give up and realised how Tori was feeling, and made her realise he wasn’t just being nice to her because he felt sorry for her. I did however find Tori’s friends more relatable overall, especially with all the fandom references! I loved that Drarry and Destiel were brought up, as it reminded me of all the hours I used to spend on Tumblr reblogging gifsets of my favourite ships.

I adored Nick and Charlie, and I think I found out about halfway through the book that these are the characters who Alice’s webcomic Heartstopper is based on! I am definitely planning on reading Heartstopper as I would love more stories involving these two. Apart from Nick and Charlie, I didn’t really care too much about the rest of the side characters and found them pretty two dimensional. There is one point in the book where Tori has an argument with her best friend Becky, but I found it strange that she stopped talking to the rest of her friends too. I think I would have preferred if Tori had kept some of her friends instead of pretty much abandoning them all to hang out with Michael. I’ve had friends stop hanging out with me once they get a boyfriend, so I felt a little bad for Tori’s friends, as it seemed like that was what she was doing to them.

Speaking of the romance between Tori and Michael, I didn’t really care for it. The cover tells us that “this is not a love story,” so I was expecting little to no romance. I spent the majority of the book believing that Tori and Michael didn’t have romantic feelings for each other, and that there was going to be a cute platonic friendship between them. I was 100% ready to praise the book for having such a lovely friendship between a boy and a girl with no romantic feelings involved, something that seems to be rare unless one of the characters is gay. Honestly I don’t think I’ve been more disappointed about a kiss happening before, and I had to throw all the praise I was going to give this book for not turning their relationship romantic out the window. Not every story needs to include romance, and this ruined the idea of friendship being just as important as romantic relationships.

Apart from the romance I enjoyed this book overall and thought it was a fantastic debut novel. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Alice’s books in the future!

Friday 4 October 2019

Review on Beautiful Broken Things

Before her seventeenth birthday, Caddy wants to have achieved three things. Get a boyfriend, lose her virginity and experience a "Significant Life Event." However, Caddy gets more than she bargained for when Suzanne comes into her life, a girl who has recently moved to Brighton, and goes to the same school as Caddy's best friend Rosie. Suzanne is spontaneous, adventurous and a troublemaker, everything that Caddy isn't. The more Caddy learns about Suzanne and her past, the more she wants to help her. As Caddy spends more and more time with Suzanne, she realises that not all Significant Life Events are good.

When I learnt that this book was about friendship I was thrilled! I often don't tend to enjoy contemporary romance, so I loved that this book focused on friendship rather than romance. Teen girls can often be quite mean to each other, so I loved that this story was about a group of girls who would do anything for each other, and supported each other no matter what.

Caddy was an interesting character, and I related to her throughout the book. I particularly related to her near the start when Suzanne first started being friends with Rosie, making Caddy feel like the third wheel. Caddy feels that Rosie is replacing her with Suzanne, and feels unwanted and left out. I understood this feeling completely, as on a few occasions I have introduced two of my friends to each other only for them to become better friends with each other than with me. It's upsetting to see friends constantly hanging out together and never inviting you along, and it's easy to feel unwanted. It was interesting to find out that all the girls felt this way at some point, as Rosie was jealous when Caddy started going on adventures with Suzanne, while Suzanne was jealous of how long Rosie and Caddy had been friends, and how they knew everything about each other.

Feeling unwanted is a theme that runs throughout the book, as we soon learn about Suzanne's traumatic past and uncertain future. Suzanne was physically abused by her dad, giving her no choice but to move in with her Aunt Sarah. As Suzanne tries to cope with what happened to her, her behaviour becomes more erratic and unpredictable, with her constantly sneaking out the house in the middle of the night, drinking and smoking weed. Things go from bad to worse for Suzanne, as eventually, her Aunt decides her behaviour is too much for her to deal with, making Suzanne feel even more unwanted. Although this was an upsetting storyline, it was heartwarming to see Caddy stick by her friend no matter what, even when her parents tried to stop her from contacting her. When it seemed like everyone else had given up on Suzanne, Caddy was still doing her best to be there for her and do anything she could to help. Caddy went above and beyond to help Suzanne, and if saving the life of a friend isn't a significant life event then I don't know what is!

I adored the setting of this book! I've never actually been to Brighton, but Suzanne's love of Brighton's beach has made me want to visit. I thought Caddy was lucky to live so close to the beach, and like Suzanne, I would probably end up there all the time! I also loved that Caddy got to visit Suzanne's home in Reading. Although we don't see much of Reading, it's obvious that Caddy is out of her comfort zone, and isn't used to such a big city. I loved that we got to see where Suzanne used to live, and learned how different her life was to Caddy's. Whereas Caddy finds herself boring and hates that nothing interesting has happened to her, Suzanne has been through some terrible experiences. After going through a horrifying experience herself, Caddy seems to realise that nothing happening is far better than something terrible happening.

I have to talk about the mental health representation, which I thought was dealt with perfectly. Fortunately, I can't relate to Suzanne completely, but something I did relate to was the panic attacks.People experience panic attacks differently. It's not always the case that you start hyperventilating, but you always want to get away from the thing that is causing you to panic and go somewhere quiet while you calm down. Suzanne's panic attack caused by seeing her dad was practically identical to what happened to me once in a busy pub. Even though my parents had already ordered drinks, the number of people in the bar and the noise made me feel trapped, and as my anxiety got worse and worse, I just had to get out of there, which is how I came to have a panic attack while sitting alone in the middle of Leicester Square. Even though some people who have experienced panic attacks may not relate to Suzanne's experiences, I found it to be very real and believable. 

I overall loved this book and felt that it dealt with Suzanne's mental health perfectly. It's rare to find a contemporary YA book that focuses on friendship rather than romance, and I honestly wish there were more books like this! Sara Barnard is quickly becoming one of my favourite contemporary authors, and I can't wait to start Fierce Fragile Hearts to read more about these wonderful characters I've come to love!