Book Review: Goodbye, Perfect (Sara Barnard)

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

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 384

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild – what am I? 

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

Review:

I do love Sara Barnard’s ability to create complex, compelling and realistic characters. She really is the queen of contemporary YA right now! I’ve loved her previous books and this one was no exception!

When Eden’s steady, dependable best friend Bonnie runs away with a teacher, Eden is left to pick up the pieces. Secretly in touch with Bonnie, Eden has to decide whether her friend really is as happy as she says she is, or if she should tell the police where the runaways are hiding.

This was such a fascinating read and I loved that it was from Eden’s point of view rather than Bonnie’s. If it had been Bonnie’s, it would have been similar to Me & Mr. J, which is a fantastic book but I don’t want to read a rehashing of that. Having it as Eden’s point of view gave a whole different message and feeling.

Bonnie drove me nuts in this. I definitely have a different perspective on this, being an adult rather than a teen, but I just thought what she did was really selfish. I’m not exactly blaming her, as she was obviously groomed by her teacher, but I felt it was really unfair to put pressure on Eden to keep her whereabouts a secret. While I understood Eden’s need to be loyal to Bonnie, I did want to scream at her that she wasn’t helping by keeping her secret.

I love that this is another book that focuses on family and friendship rather than teen romance. Sure, Eden has a boyfriend and they have some great moments together, but it isn’t about them. It’s refreshing to see a YA book where someone’s in a stable relationship and nothing goes wrong! I felt the book tried to steer clear of the usual tropes like this: it was also great to see sisters who are adopted and happy in their adoptive family.

My favourite parts were the ones with Valerie, Eden’s adoptive older sister who she’s struggled to bond with. While we see Valerie through Eden’s eyes – smart, perfect, dull – it’s easy to see why they haven’t got on, but as the book goes on it’s clear there’s more to Valerie than Eden’s first assessment. I loved their arguments as well as their bonding and I think Valerie was just an overall amazing character to read.

This is a powerful, emotional read which tackles some difficult topics really well. I thought it got the message right while being true to the teenage characters and not be being patronising. It’s another hit from Sara Barnard and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

4

Book Review: I Have No Secrets (Penny Joelson)

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

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 336

Release Date: May 4th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can’t tell anyone.

Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change…

 

Review:

This book was so easy to read, I sped through it in a couple of days. The mystery is gripping but it was the character development that really kept me reading.

Jemma has severe cerebral palsy and is unable to communicate in any way. When her carer’s creepy boyfriend confesses to a murder she can’t tell anyone. But when someone comes up with a way that might let her communicate, Jemma realises she’s in great danger.

I loved Jemma as a character. It must be so hard to not be able to communicate at all and rely on other people to look after you and know what you want and need. When she’s ill she can’t tell anyone, she can’t say when she wants to go to bed or if she wants to watch TV. She has a great carer in Sarah and her foster mum and dad are perceptive and caring but they can’t get it right all the time and there’s a lot going on in the family. I’venot read a book like this before and it really made me think about what it must be like to be Jemma and how I’d behave around someone like her.

This was an emotional book but one section really made me tear up: when Jemma uses some new technology to communicate with her Mum for one of the first times. I had tears in my eyes for the whole scene. I thought it was written really well and it carried the weight and importance of that moment and it was a stand out scene in the book. I’d recommend people read it just for that moment alone.

This book was different to anything I’ve read before and I think it’s a really important read. The attitudes of people towards Jemma – the carer who treats her like a baby even though she’s a teenager, the policeman who thinks she’s making things up, the people who talk about her as if she’s not there – it all makes you think about how you’d behave in that situation and I think it’s really eye-opening to see things from Jemma’s point of view. This is a stunning debut and I’d recommend you all read it.

4

Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder (Sara Barnard)

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

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 12th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

Review:

I loved Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her new book. I’m writing this in November 2016 and can’t believe I have to wait til next year to share this with everyone!

I adored all the characters in this book. Steffi has selective mutism as well as extreme anxiety and the way she explained these and described the symptoms were really effective. I’ve not experienced either of these things myself so can only imagine what it must feel like, but others who have similar issues have said they’re spot on. Rhys, who is deaf but can talk and lip read, was the sweetest guy until he got in one of his moods. I found it really fascinating to think of him filtering everything he signed in a way that people don’t do when they speak. It’s not something I’ve thought of before and it added so much to the character. I also loved Tem, Steffi’s best friend who sticks by her through everything, even when she’s being ditched for the new boyfriend.

I love that Beautiful Broken Things centered around friendship rather than love, and was unsure how I’d feel about this book being quite a lot about the romance. But there was so much more to it than that, and I really saw Steffi and Rhys’s romance as an extended friendship rather than some terrible insta-love. I had some worries about Steffi’s mutism being fixed by finding a boyfriend, or ignoring her problems because she doesn’t have to talk aloud to a deaf boyfriend, but Barnard was way ahead of me and these things weren’t an issue.

It was really interesting to see the different worlds the two lived in. Together, they had a perfect little bubble where they could talk and sign to each other and be comfortable. But when Steffi was around school friends etc she didn’t sign as she spoke and it made Rhys feel out of the loop and wonder if she was ashamed of him. And when Steffi was with his friends, she found her sign language knowledge wasn’t really that good and struggled to keep up with him. I used to look after some of the younger deaf children in my primary school and know a little sign language but I can imagine I’d feel out of my depth like Steffi if I tried to have a conversation with people who sign everyday. It’s like using your GCSE French knowledge on an actual French person: limited and slow.

This book is rich with emotion, friendship and romance and just hit all the right spots. I think it’s definitely one to watch out for in 2017.

4

Book Review: Not If I See You First (Eric Lindstrom)

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

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Pages: 321

Release Date: December 31st 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Parker Grant doesn’t need perfect vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances.

When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there’s only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem.

Review:

What I loved about this book was that it had a protagonist with a disability – and that wasn’t what the story was about. Sure, it’s mentioned a lot, obviously, it’s part of who she is, but it’s not all she is, and that’s perfect. If it was about Parker’s accident or her learning to cope afterwards then it would be a different book, and possibly not as good in my opinion.

I get that Parker wasn’t always the easiest protagonist to like. She was cagey and blunt, even a little rude sometimes. But those are my favourite protagonists: the ones with flaws, who feel real. I think she would have been a lot less likeable if she’d always been cheery and sunny and full of trust and love, as that’s just not realistic. I don’t like anyone all the time, and I didn’t like Parker all the time, but she felt real to me.

I also loved the realism of the relationship. Too often in stories, especially in YA, a main focus is some idealised, unachievable romance between the teenage protagonists. I have a general problem with too much emphasis on romance in YA anyway, and the idea that you can find your one true love and perfect romance when you’re that age just doesn’t sit well with me (okay I know it can happen but it can’t be as common as books make out!) The romance in this book is understated and there isn’t a definite ‘we’re going to be together forever’ feeling, and nor is it the plain sailing that we’re used to. Trust is a big issue with the two involved and that has to be earned back: it doesn’t just happen in an instant, which I appreciated.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and it’s great to see a differently abled main character. I’d definitely recommend you giving this a read, especially if, like me, you want to see a different kind of romance in YA.

4