Book Reviews 

Differently Normal – Tammy Robinson

 

 “For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love. Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .”

“If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love”

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Differently Normal is set in New Zealand and is told from two different perspectives; Maddy, our main protagonist and Albert, the boy she eventually falls in love with.

Both Maddy and Albert have difficult lives, Maddy, due to (along with her mother) being a full time carer for her autistic sister Bee and Maddy finds that she has no time for complications in her life, but this also means no time for friends, no time for herself – not even for her own dreams.

Maddy knows that this is it for her, this is her future, she has no way out.

Albert, also has a challenging home life, his father is emotionally abusive, his brother is misogynistic and his mother copes with the dysfunctional family dynamic by drinking.

Working at the stables is his only escape, it’s his way out, save up enough money and leave.

When Maddy and Albert meet at the stables during Bees’ riding lesson, Albert immediately feels something for her, and is soon trying to convince Maddy to date him.

As Albert slowly breaks down Maddy’s walls he teaches her that she is capable of loving and capable of being loved, and the pair grow closer together, sharing their hopes and dreams with one another, learning that there is that person out there for everyone, the person you should be sharing your life with, the person that gets you, and for his story, Maddy and Albert are clearly meant to be, and the relationship blossoms the way only first love can, that is until everything comes crashing down around them.

The lyrical prose that Robinson so deftly weaves, crawls it’s way into your heart and grips on tight, ultimately crushing it.

The characters, especially Bee are so perfectly portrayed, showing how life with a family member on the autistic spectrum can be, both the good and the bad.

The characters get under your skin, they start to feel like family, their hopes and dreams become yours and their pain is felt so acutely

Is as though their heartache is your own.

This is the first of Robinson’s books that I’ve read, but I fell hard and fast, and like first love, this ultimately broke my heart.

This should definitely be on everyone’s to read list this year, because even though this will completely devastate you, it conveys the message that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope.

*I received a copy of this book to read via netgalley from Little Brown. All thoughts are my own*

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I Stop Somewhere – T E Carter

“Ellie Frias has never wanted to be popular, she just wants to blend in, to be accepted. But then Caleb Breward tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it.

Ellie loves Caleb, but sometimes she’s not sure she likes him – the possessive way he touches her, his harsh tone, how he ignores her one minute and can’t get enough the next. And one black night, she discovers the monster her boyfriend really is.

Ellie wasn’t the first girl Caleb raped. But she was the first girl he murdered.

Now, trapped, she witnesses him shatter the lives of other girls. Powerless and alone, Ellie tries to keep hold of the happier memories, always waiting – hoping – that someone will find her.”

I Stop Somewhere by T E Carter is without a doubt one of the most heartbreakingly harrowing books I have ever read.

Told from the point of view of Ellie, giving the book a feel of The Lovely Bones, the reader is taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

The writing is unflinchingly raw and honest and doesn’t shy away from the brutal subject matter it discusses. The sensitive topic is handled extremely well, and your heart shatters for all the girls in the book, and equally any person who has themselves dealt with this in their own life.

Everyone out there knows an Ellie or has been, or felt like an Ellie at some point in their lives – I know I certainly have.

The author has the psyche of the teenage girl so on point which is what makes this electrifying debut relatable to so many people.

This book is one of those that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page. The story will touch you in such a way that it’s like it’s gotten its hands tightly wrapped around your heart and just won’t let go.

A must read for 2018.

Demon Road with Derek Landy this August

LoveYA

We can’t wait to be part of Derek Landy’s UK tour this August! Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Derek Landy, creator of Demon Road Coverinternational sensation Skulduggery Pleasant, in an intimate event in our Attic for the launch of his mind-blowing new supernatural thriller Demon Road. To celebrate the announcement of this event we gave 14 year old Sophie Ellison a sneaky peak at the new novel, here’s what she thought.

“Most teenagers have a fractious relationship with their parents, but 16 year old Amber Lamont’s mother and father are in a different league.

Amber always felt that there was something different about her parents and their friends, she just didn’t realise how different until one night a family secret shatters Amber’s world, changing her life forever.

Amber is forced to run.

One epic road trip.

21 days.

504 hours.

Can Amber outrun vampires, demons and un-dead serial killers before…

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BOOK REVIEW: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Fab review by Jenny

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Seven Stories Learning and Participation Assistant Jenny Rohde reviews The Honest Truth by Dan Germeinhart (Chicken House, £6.99)

The mountain was calling me. I had to run away. I had toThe honest truth

The Honest Truth is a tale of adventure and determination from debut author Dan Gemeinhart. The book begins with protagonist Mark, who appears to be taking a bag of few possessions, his camera and his loyal dog Beau and running away, looking to the mountain on the horizon. He leaves a note for his parents, buys a bus ticket and is on his way.

The story then cuts to chapter 1 ½ – told from a differing perspective. A frantic phone call from his mother, and hints that perhaps we should be more concerned about Mark than we first thought. Hints of illness are dropped, of doctors, treatments and struggle.

We learn that Mark has had cancer-…

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Love is in the air….

LoveYA

Hi!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we have been thinking about our favourite couples from YA literature. Whether your are Team Gale or Peeta, what you think the future holds for Eleanor and Park or whether you think Magnus and Alec can overcome their difference and end up together… we want to hear from you!

Tweet us @7stories #loveYA, comment below or email lauren.regan-ingram@sevenstories.org.uk with who you think the most perfect couple is and why (including the book title and author) and see if your suggestion makes it onto our Top Ten list which we will post on Valentine’s Day.

All entries will be entered into a prize draw to win a £10 book token for the Seven Stories Bookshop where you can discover shelves of the best new YA fiction titles.

Lauren x

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Say Her Name – James Dawson

Book 3 on the #yabookprize shortlist is James Dawson’s Say Her Name … Here’s why I loved it.

Drip…Drip….Drip…

The story is set at Pipers Hall Boarding School for Girls where a Halloween dare sets off a series of chilling events.

The dare is simple, stand In front of a mirror and say the name Bloody Mary 5 times and Mary will appear….. Only problem is those brave enough to Say Her Name seem to disappear without a trace.

Drip….Drip….Drip…

Not one to back down from a dare Bobby agrees to do it along with her best friend Naya and the hot local boy Caine.
5 Bloody Mary’s later nothing happens…. Or so they think…..

But the countdown has begun
5 days….

5 days is all they have before she comes for them can they stop the curse before the curse stops them?

Truly chilling from the very first page this really did keep me awake at night.

Are you brave enough to Say Her Name……

Drip…Drip….Drip…

Say Her Name certainly deserves its place in the short list, and so far, for me is holding the number one spot.

Hope you all love it as much as I did.

Salvage – Keren David

This week sees book 2 – Salvage, being championed for the #yabookprize.

“Not everything that’s broken can be mended”

“Aidan Jones was my brother. But I couldn’t really remember his face. I couldn’t remember talking to him or playing with him. He was just a gap, an absence, a missing person.

Before she was adopted by a loving family and raised in a leafy Home Counties town, Cass Montgomery was Cass Jones. Her memories of her birth family disappeared with her name. But when her adopted family starts to break down, a way out comes in the form of a message from her lost brother, Aidan. Having Aidan back in her life is both everything she needs and nothing she expected. Who is this boy who calls himself her brother? And why is he so haunted?

I glance at the paper. There’s a big picture on the front page. A girl with dark red hair. A girl with eyes that might have been green or they might have been grey. I sit down and stare at Cass, and it is her, it is. My stolen sister.

Aidan’s a survivor. He’s survived an abusive step-father and an uncaring mother. He’s survived crowded foster homes and empty bedsits. His survived to find Cass. If only he can make her understand what it means to be part of his family. . .”

Separated ten years earlier, half brother and sister Cass and Aiden are now back in each other’s lives.

The story is told from alternating view points, Cass who was adopted by a good middle class family, sent to a good school, and is heading for Oxford, appears to have it all. That is until her dad has an affair and leaves the family.

Aidan was never adopted, instead he was bounced from one foster home to another, left school with no qualifications and then at the age of 16 has to stand on his own two feet with no one to support him.

After Aidan sees a picture of Cass in a local newspaper, he tracks her down via social media and thus their story begins.

David weaves many intricate plot lines into the narrative, but the main focus is all about nature v nurture. The impact your upbringing has on you and how it shapes you.

This tale is emotionally raw and very gritty, it will leave you with questions and make you see things in a different light.

I can see why this book made it onto the shortlist, and I think it will appeal to teens everywhere as there is something in there for everyone to identify with.

This contemporary certainly packs a punch, and stands a very good chance of winning the #yabookprize !

Next week – Say Her Name by James Dawson.

A Song For Ella Grey – David Almond

As the #YAbookprize gets underway bloggers across the country will be blogging about their favourite title(s) on the shortlist. So for the next 9 weeks I’ll be blogging about the titles and telling you why I think they should win!

First up is A Song For Ella Grey by David Almond.

“I’m the one who’s left behind. I’m the one to tell the tale. I knew them both…knew how they lived and how they died.”

“Claire is Ella Grey’s best friend. She’s there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world. This is her story – as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final. ”

Almond has such a distinctive style to his writing that you, the reader can not help but be pulled into the worlds he creates.

Ella Grey, a retelling of the myth Orpheus & Eurydice, is probably Almonds best to date. ( Although I will always have a soft spot for Mina)

The writing is poetic, and lyrical and spellbindingly romantic and brings to life those intensely heartfelt feelings of first love.

For me, this was not only the tragic love story of Ella & Orpheus, but also a story about Claire’s love for Ella, and David Almond’s love for the North East, his depictions of the Northern landscapes are just stunning. And of course I was overjoyed that Seven Stories was mentioned too!

Alluring, beautifully written and completely captivating.

It’s no surprise this book was shortlisted for the #YAbookprize.

Stay tuned for reviews of the other shortlisted titles.

Paperweight by Meg Haston

“Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.”

My first read of 2015, and what a read it was.
Haston takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster, in this her debut Young Adult novel.

Stevie is lost, in more ways than one. She’s completely convinced that the only way to end her pain and suffering is to end her life.

As the anniversary of her brothers death approaches, Stevie feels that it would be fitting that she ended her own life on the same day. Only she wasn’t counting on her dad sending her to a treatment centre for the eating disorder that is completely consuming her.

Presented with no option but to face her demons, Stevie has to make a choice. Fight for her life or just give up.

Will Stevie realise that she has something to live for before it’s too late.

A heart-wrenching, beautifully written novel that is undoubtedly going to be one of the most talked about novels of 2015.

S

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