Book Review: Girlhood (Cat Clarke)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Quercus

Pages: 342

Release Date: May 4th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can’t escape the guilt of her twin sister’s Jenna’s death, and her own part in it – and she knows noone else will ever really understand.

But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels…loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died.

Then Kirsty’s behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper’s? And why is she so obsessed with Harper’s lost sister? Soon, Harper’s closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity.

How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her?

Review:

I received a copy of this via NetGalley, then a physical copy arrived in the post too. Result: I read it twice as fast and sped through it in just two days. It just kept me turning the pages, so if I wasn’t glued to the actual book I was racing through it on my Kindle app.

Harper’s haunted by guilt from her twin sister’s death, and despite her tight-knit group of friends at her new fancy boarding school, she knows they can’t understand. But when new girl Kirsty turns up and admits she’s lost a sister too, Harper feels she’s finally found someone who can relate to her. But something about Kirsty doesn’t quite add up.

This was a real page turner. I’m not sure what it was that got me so gripped – the excellent characters, who were diverse and relatable, or the mystery behind Kirsty, or the guilt and sorrow in Harper’s relationship with Jenna and her death – but whatever it was, I just really enjoyed this book.

I did have a few gripes with Harper, as she did seem a bit naive when it came to Kirsty: I feel my warning bells would have gone off a lot sooner. But Kirsty was a very good manipulator. I also felt Harper didn’t behave great towards her friends, even though I saw where she was coming from with the whole privilege and not coming from money thing. At least she did eventually recognise she was being a bit of an arse.

Despite that, the friendships in the book were really lovely: the opening scene where they’re having their start of term midnight feast was a really excellent display of their relationships. I loved the boarding school setting too: like Harper, I always wanted to go to St Clare’s, twin or no twin, and I’m jealous she got to go!

The thing I enjoyed most was the ending. The climax was really tense and I had to read it in one sitting as I just needed to know what was going to happen. It surprised me too, in the best of ways. Without saying too much, I’m glad that Kirsty wasn’t just treated as a villain who gets her comeuppance: it was a lot more complicated and heartwarming than that and a real highlight of the book.

This is the first book I’ve read by Cat Clarke but I’ll be sure to check out her other works now. Her characters are rich and complicated and she writes the kind of thing I’d loved to have read as a teen.

4

Book Review: I’ll Be Home for Christmas (by lots of awesome YA authors)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 384

Release Date: September 22nd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

The UK’s top Young Adult authors join together in this collection of new stories and poems on the theme of home. Contributors include: Tom Becker, Holly Bourne, Sita Brahmachari, Kevin Brooks, Melvin Burgess, Katy Cannon , Cat Clarke, Juno Dawson, Julie Mayhew, Non Pratt, Marcus Sedgwick, Lisa Williamson and Benjamin Zephaniah. GBP1 from the sale of every book will be donated to Crisis, the national homelessness charity. To find out more about Crisis, see www.crisis.org.uk

Review:

This was the perfect book for me to read at the moment as I’ve got super excited for Christmas, way too early this year! I’m a big Christmas fan normally but this year will be Little Moore’s first Christmas which is doubly exciting. Christmas has always been a family affair in my house and I know I’ve been lucky to always be surrounded by them at this special time of year.

For most of the people in this book, they’re not so lucky at Christmas, and it’s good to be reminded of that. The book is made up of short stories by some of the top UKYA authors, plus a competition winning entry. I normally struggle to remember all the stories in a collection like this when it comes to reviewing, so I made little notes as I went along, which I’ve put below, with a few additions. It’s a little bit different than a normal review but at least I can say something about each story.

Benjamin Zephaniah – Home and Away Poem made me very nostalgic at first, then sad. Very thought provoking.

Non Pratt – Ghosts of Christmas Past I really connected with this story. I wish I could revisit some of my old houses. I can still picture my first house at Christmas

Marcus Sedgwick – If Only in my Dreams That was a weird and creepy space story. I kind of wanted it to be longer, was very intrigued.

Cat Clarke – Family You Choose That was really uplifting in a sad kind of way. I love the idea of having a Christmas meal for people who don’t have other people to spend the day with.

Kevin Brooks – The Associates Mm, that one didn’t really do anything for me.

Holly Bourne – The Afterschool Club I love Holly Bourne’s writing. Can’t believe it ended that way, I want to read more.

Juno Dawson – Homo for Christmas A sweet story but I felt like I didn’t connect to the character much. I didn’t like the language but not sure if it’s because I’m too old or too southern.

Sita Brahmachari – Amir and George That was painfully sad. A real punch in the gut. Very topical at the moment too.

Tracy Darnton – The Letter I can see why that was the winner. Great voice. Look forward to seeing more from her.

Tom Becker – Claws Awesome little Christmas horror. A favourite so far.

Katy Cannon – Christmas, Take Two A sweet story, enjoyed it a lot.

Melvin Burgess – When Daddy Comes Home Interesting story but I’m not a fan of the monologue style.

Julie Mayhew – The Bluebird A very poetic fairytale

Lisa Williamson – Routes and Wings Sad but with an uplifting ending. Lovely to see more writing from Lisa Williamson.

This will be a perfect Christmas present, or great to read in the run up to Christmas too, to get you all excited. Plus £1 from each book will be donated to Crisis, the national homelessness charity, so you can’t really go wrong.

4