Reviews for Young Adults – October 2020

This month we start with a fantastic review of Loveless, a new book from the author of Heartstopper. We're pretty big fans of the series - and you too judging by the hold list! Loveless explores asexuality, a sexuality that doesn't appear too often in LGBTQIA+ literature. We've also got some recommendations for fans of Sarah J. Maas, The Hate U GiveOne Of Us Is Lying, and fantasy. Check out the graphic novel and manga section for some interesting reads - my pick is Dancing at the Pity Party, a really touching story about mothers and grief. 

Fiction

Loveless

I first heard about this book in a YouTube interview with the author and immediately put it on hold; I just had to read it! Over the years, Alice Oseman, along with many other authors, has written LGBTQ+ fiction; it’s definitely a growing genre both in terms of what is being written and in its popularity. But as Alice pointed out in this video, there are few books with asexual characters let alone asexual main characters and that need for representation was the inspiration in writing this book.

Georgia Warr is the quiet, kind of lost friend in her very small friend group and, when she attends a party following her senior formal, is pulled into a game of truth or dare and unwittingly reveals that she’s never kissed anyone, or had a relationship. Suddenly she’s faced with the harsh truth: that society finds this strange and abnormal. Going from here straight into the beginnings of university, Georgia's life spirals from one anxiety-filled mistake to the next as she begins to realise that she’s not really like everyone else, despite the fact that that’s exactly what she wants to be.

With the help of her new room-mate Rooney, Georgia begins exploring herself and trying to understand her sexuality. So much goes spectacularly wrong in this story that the ‘be true to yourself’ message is pretty much jumping off the page and slapping you in the face. Finally, Georgia begins to accept and own the truth she’s known, to some extent, all along. She is aromantic asexual; she does not experience either romantic or sexual attraction to anyone. She’s not just a 'late bloomer' and it’s not that she 'just hasn’t met the right person yet'.

Almost every character in this book has some kind of moment of realisation or self-discovery, sometimes about their own sexuality, other times about their friendships, or just about who they are as people. Every character is relatable at some point in time; I’ve known people exactly like Rooney, Pip, Jason and Sunil and at times, I almost could have sworn I was reading about my own life. Now, more than ever, our world is changing and adapting in all kinds of ways and it really excites me to see this kind of positive representation being put into the world. We need a great deal more of it, but it always has to start somewhere. More than anything, this was a story that needed to be told, both for the author and for so many other people who are finding themselves and just trying to be themselves and be 'normal' in a very abnormal world because Georgia’s story is the story of so many people.
Monique - Fendalton Library 

28 Days

What would you do if you found your life suddenly turned upside down, your friends and family no longer safe, just because you're a Jew? This is the situation Mira finds herself in when the Germans take over Poland in the early years of World War II. Without everything that she had taken for granted, Mira must decide what is important - to stay peacefully with her family and not cause trouble in case it draws attention to them, or to stand up and fight for what she believes in.
Ky - Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Clap When You Land

I love Elizabeth Acevedo’s books! If you haven’t read a book in verse yet, don’t be put off by the fact this isn’t written in normal sentences. Once you start, you are so caught up in this story of family, culture, and friendship that you don’t even realise you’re reading poetry.
Ky - Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

SLAY

Wow. What a powerful read! If you enjoyed the gritty reality and social issues of The Hate U Give, this book’s for you. If you are a gamer, this book’s for you. If you enjoy books told from different viewpoints, like What If It’s Us, this book’s for you. If you liked solving the mystery in One of Us Is Lying, this book’s for you. Seriously, just read it.
Ky - Te Hāpua: Halswell

La Belle Sauvage

Take a death-defying ride on the La Belle Sauvage, the most trusty of canoes, through Philip Pullman's fantastical world of daemons, dust and collegiate Oxford. The brave characters and the vivid descriptions make for a wild adventure and a thoroughly gripping read. A great entry to Pullman’s oeuvre if you haven’t delved in before. The book is perfect for any person with a keen curiosity and eye for detail. The storyline follows a small crew of three whilst they manoeuvre themselves between meeting lifelong friends and dodging grisly enemies. Who can you trust? Who will survive? Find out in the pages of this stunning story.
Hazel - New Brighton Library and Parklands Library

Felix Ever After

Not only is the cover of this book gorgeous, the story is a real treat too! It’s about Felix, a teenager living in New York City studying art at a summer school. He’s transgender, and when he’s outed to the school by an unknown person, he goes out of his way to find out who it is. Gritty and sweet, Felix Ever After is a book about love and friendship and not getting in your own way to seek out success. It’s also a really educational read about the way one person’s different identities can intersect in unexpected ways. I loved it!
Ray - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

The Shadows Between Us

Alessandra is a girl with a plan: woo the prince, marry him, kill him and take over. But the more time she spends with the Shadow Prince, the more she loses sight of the plan, which rapidly begins to unravel. This isn't a great book, but I immensely enjoyed reading it. It's definitely good to read if you liked the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas, featuring a dark romance, devious characters, and a slew of extravagantly made clothes. While ordinarily I'm not one for overdramatic plotlines, this book was exactly the right read at the right time for me.
Claire - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

Manga and Graphic Novels

Solutions and Other Problems

I think a book review has to be a little bit more than me smashing my hands against the keyboard in delighted glee, but everyone listen: I’m just that excited about Allie Brosh’s new book, Solutions and Other Problems. I was already a fan of Allie’s work when her first book, Hyperbole and A Half, came out in 2013. I was so certain I would love it that I preordered my copy, as well as two extras for my best friends. Since then, there have been rumours of a second book, but my preorders always got cancelled when the book was delayed, postponed and eventually cancelled. But! Now! It’s coming! My order has shipped! Of course I have ordered three copies again. Hyperbole and A Half is hilarious (actually laugh-out-loud funny), surreal (and yet entirely relatable) and heart-breakingly hopeful. I thought I’d recommend one of her posts to check out, but I can’t choose one. Check out the “Best of” section of her website.
Rachael C - Upper Riccarton Library

Dancing at the Pity Party

This is a beautifully illustrated, easy to read, and surprisingly funny graphic memoir about the author’s experience of grief when her mum dies. We get a wonderful, clear idea of who her mum was, and while the subject is horribly sad, this book is a lovely, tender, eye-opening story of family and resilience. Well worth a read if you have a friend going through a tough situation and want to know how to support them, or if you’re going through grief yourself and want to feel less alone.
Ray - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

Perfect World

A bitter-sweet romance! When Tsugumi reconnects with her high school crush Itsuki, she is shocked to learn that he is wheelchair-bound after an accident, but not at all surprised that he still chases his dream of being a famous architect. This story follows their budding romance, while also serving as a nice introductory tool explaining what life as a paraplegic is like. It also covers more complex topics of prejudice, risks and whether it’s possible to ‘accept’ having a disability.
Claire - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

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