Book Review: Flight of a Starling (Lisa Heathfield)

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

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 320

Release Date: June 29th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rita and Lo, sisters and best friends, have spent their lives on the wing – flying through the air in their trapeze act, never staying in one place for long. Behind the greasepaint and the glitter, they know that the true magic is the family they travel with.

Until Lo meets a boy. Suddenly, she wants nothing more than to stay still. And as secrets start to tear apart the close-knit circus community, how far will Lo go to keep her feet on the ground?

Review:

I’ve really enjoyed Lisa Heathfield’s last two books – Seed and Paper Butterflies – so I had some pretty high expectations going to this one (no pressure!) Thankfully I enjoyed this one as much as the others. Her lyrical prose is gorgeous and I could eat up her words for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still want more.

Rita and Lo are sisters who perform in a travelling circus. They’re a close-knit family, at home with each other as they travel from place to place. Until Lo learns a secret that shatters her world, and meets at boy who makes her want to stay put. As her life unravels Lo does everything she can to keep things together.

I wasn’t sure about the description at first, as a teen meeting a boy and wanting to change her whole life for him irked me a great deal. It happens a lot in YA and I know when you’re a teen a new romance can feel like everything but I don’t like that whole ‘I must die or be with the one I love’ type plotline.

I felt there was more to this than that though. I didn’t really feel the romance connection with Lo and Dean – he felt a bit muted to me – but I did feel everything that Lo associated with him that made her want to stay with him. After learning an awful secret that could break her whole family apart, Lo feels like Dean can keep things together for her, keep her grounded even if that means staying put with him.

I was a bit annoyed that the secret Lo discovers wasn’t resolved at the end. I wanted her to tell someone, I wanted some kind of explanation or revelation, but there was nothing. I guess that’s truer to how real life goes though: there’s not always an explanation and everything tied up neatly. You just have to get on with things.

As with Heathfield’s other books, the ending packs a real punch. It wasn’t what I was expecting so when things took a turn for the worse it was a real blow. Even though I knew things couldn’t work out happily, I kept wishing some kind of miracle would come along and change things. It was a devastating lesson in what an action at your lowest point can mean for the rest of your life. It hurt most to see Lo’s family dealing with the fallout of what she did and my heart broke for them.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance aspect of the book, I loved the sister relationship and Heathfield’s evocative prose keeps you reading late into the night. Don’t expect a happy ending, but do expect to enjoy the ride.

On a final note, and I said it at the end of my last review too, I really hope there’s a Seed sequel in the works somewhere! 🙂

4

Book Review: All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven)

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Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 388
Release Date: January 8th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. 

Review:
This is another of those heart breaking books á la The Fault in Our Stars and The Last Leaves Falling where the subject matter is tragic but a beautiful love story comes out of it. 

What I loved about this book more than anything were the characters. They really just sang to me, and I felt really connected to both Finch and Violet equally. While I tend to lean towards female charcters (being female myself) there was something about Finch that was just infectious.

This book deals with a lot of heavy issues and is not for the faint hearted. Violet’s survivors guilt after her sister’s death was a real driving force in the story and it was uplifting to see her slowly come to terms with it and learn to start coping, however painfully it might be, without her sister.

Finch, on the other hand, goes the opposite way, and gradually gets worse throughout the book. Even though I kind of knew where it was going, it didn’t make it any less painful. I wanted to shout at him to get help and sort things out, but it’s not always easy for people to do that (and definitely not easy for Finch). I loved his quirkiness and the fact that it was all weirdly rational, rather than just being another quirky YA hero who’s there to save the female from herself.

That said, I wasn’t sure about that aspect of their relationship sometimes. I loved the way it grew and how it seemed so natural for them to become friends (at Finch’s insistance) and then slowly more. But I don’t like the idea that it just took a good man to help Violet find herself again and start living after her sister’s death. I’m simplifying a bit there but there seems to be a bit of a trend towards that these days and it irritates me.

When all is said and done though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. When it came to the climax and I found myself speeding up reading because I was desperate to know what happened, and when it hit me what did I was left with such complicated emotions, I dwelled on them all day. It’s always so good to see mental health issues discussed in an honest way in books for young adults, and this is one of the better ones.

My Verdict:


OMG GEE WHIZZ How have you not read this yet?!

Check out my soundtrack for All the Bright Places here

If you enjoyed this, you might like It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Book Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini)


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Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 444
Release Date: May 1st 2006
Summary (From Goodreads):


Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.
Review:
I made the mistake of Googling this book before I read it and found out the author committed suicide not long after the book was published and it made it all the more sad and poignant to read.

I struggled to get into this at first because of the dialogue, but I put this down to the fact that I have never been an American teenage boy. And after the first few pages of boy talk, when Craig is on his own, I found myself connecting better.

Craig’s illness is really relatable and it really shows that depression isn’t something abnormal or not understandable: it’s an illness with symptoms like anything else, and more people need to realise this. It’s also easy to see how life puts on these unnecessary pressures as well. My younger sister is 14 and cries every day about her GCSE exams, because she thinks if she doesn’t do well she won’t go to uni and she won’t get a good job and that’s her life over. It’s similar to Craig’s fears and I find it heartbreaking that she’s worrying about that at that age.

I thought the book started a little slow: I was expecting the majority of the book to be set in the hospital, but it took a while to get there, and I didn’t understand the significance of some parts (it came to me later though). I enjoyed Craig’s point of view as a narrator but didn’t find it easy to connect with him sometimes: his obsession with getting some girl action was a little annoying, especially considering his mental health position and where it got him.

I thought the characters were all very fleshed out and colourful, especially the ones inside the hospital – although this sometimes worked against them, as I felt they could be a little over the top some time.

The ending gave me conflicting feelings. I thought it did suggest a little that with a positive attitude and a new girlfriend you could make your depression better, which isn’t really something I believe. But I liked the fact that Craig wasn’t ‘cured’ as such, just getting into a better place.

Once this book got going, I really enjoyed it, but all the way through I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad it is that Ned Vizzini lost his own battle with depression. I hope his light hearted but poignant book has helped others with their own battles.

My Verdict:



Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!