11 September 2015

Recent Reads Reviews | #5

Some of today's book reviews are from books I read so long ago, I'm nervous that I might get some parts of it inaccurate. So, I'll try and reflect more on how I felt during and after the read than focus in on characters and plot etc.

Signal to NoiseTrouble

SPOILER WARNING

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Published 2015. Read July 6th 2015, 4 stars.

I think I overhyped this book in my head. So I follow Jennifer Niven on twitter, and bless her heart, she retweets everyone who mentions her book. My feed was full of broken hearts and all the praise. It was enough to convince me to buy the book and read it. I did get a bit teary eyed, yes, but that's because this is slightly based on true life.

The romance was cute once it got going, once Violet was out of her shell. I did like the whole Violet and Finch dynamic, at first. It got a bit unbelievable at some points, but maybe that's just because I can't really relate to a character like Finch. I feel like if I just "went missing" for stretches of time friends and family would show more concern than in the novel - but I'm not Finch. Dates to far off and exciting places always read well, but I'm like what teenager actually does that? Finch was an interesting character, if not a bit of an enigma, and I liked him from start to finish. Violet however was a bit boring at the beginning, opened up and became interesting as she developed but then crash landed as she became obsessed with Finch. It's funny how I'm sitting here thinking about how much I didn't really like her as a character, and how far-fetched some of it was, but still really enjoyed it. It's great contemporary that offers escapism. It's kind of like the story you want to happen to you when you're lonely in school and every one else has boyfriends, like a boy who will skip school to go somewhere exciting, and weekend adventures to exciting places.

For me, it reminded me a bit of Looking for Alaska by John Green, but just better. The writing is easy so it made a great read for when I was travelling between Bristol and Newcastle back in July. Although I have a complicated relationship with the characters, and I don't think I've been making much sense up to this point, this felt important to me. I think Finch's parts captured his condition in a way that makes me still think about it now. 

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia*
Published 2015. Read February 26th 2015, 2 stars.

This is going to be negative, I'm sorry, I really hate writing negative things about books because books are brilliant but I just can't like them all. I should have enjoyed this one. And I did to some extent, I kept wanting to read it and see how it developed because it's interesting. The story flits between present day, when the main character. Meche, is an adult, and the 80's where she is a teen. It's about friendship, music and witchcraft, and if Meche wasn't such an arsehole I probably would have given this a higher rating.

Things that didn't do it for me: a lot of referencing of the 80's, but specifically Mexican 80's music, or Mexican music pre-80's that's the thing I am not sure. From what I remember reading it, I was a bit miffed that I would have to google a bunch of old bands to get the reference so I made assumptions based on the character and other bands that I did actually recognise. Another thing, it's only small but important, was the few spelling errors I found. One of Meche's friends is named Daniela - at one point Daniel was used, so the a was missed off,  and that was a little bit confusing. Then there was a part when the characters were in school but a completely different name was said, so instead of Daniela it was the name of the grandmother - and I'm like, what is she doing there? This makes me think about the writing process, about changing the character names and wondering if, originally, there was a character that had the information and role of the grandmother and Daniela in one but was then split? Or was one of them thought up halfway through? It's not too big an issue, obviously, no book is correct the first time it's typed out, but small errors like that make me question character roles and their importance. 

Meche and her friends are able to tap in to magic with a special item whilst performing rituals to music. A lot of the focus is on the music, but I didn't feel the same pull as I did with novels like Remix, where there is an energy about the music and you're pulled in to that feeling because music is amazing. Music in this was more a tool for the sake of magic rather than the music being something that is magic. I loved the jumps between time, easy to digest, but causing so much conflict in terms of the story. Reading it when what Meche is doing as a teen is the complete opposite to what I'd just read from the future part of the book was my favourite element.  

Trouble by Non Pratt
Published 2005. Read May 18th 2015, 4 stars.

Ah, Non Pratt. How I have come to love dual perspectives because of novels like Remix and Trouble. Trouble is Non's debut and an enjoyable read. It's been so long since I've read it now that I'm scared my details will be a little fuzzy. It's about a girl, Hannah, bright, enjoying teen life (accurately portrayed with parties in parks), who gets pregnant, but is scared to tell her parents, the father and it's kind of a big deal. At the same time, new kid Aaron is trying to run away from his past and settle in to a new school. These two are people that are unlikely to be friends but somehow become such a tight unit as they navigate through an unplanned pregnancy.

I feel like as a 23 year old I can't really justify in saying that the way the characters are written captures teenagers perfectly. For me it did, but maybe the next generation of teens are different, I don't know? When I was a teen, being pregnant was a scary thought - even if it was highly unlikely (and I still get these feelings now like, I'm ill in a slightly new way, shit what if I'm pregnant) but this book shows how life goes on, even if it does get a little complicated. It's not all just pregnancy and the different reactions of said pregnancy but living with decisions and finding out about true characters. That sounds vague, but what I'm referring to is the drama Hannah goes through with her friends and the father. I've seen a few reviews similar to myself where we've guessed who the father was before it was announced, which is down to the brilliantly subtle hints in the writing. As a reader, it's satisfying to work something out yourself instead of being told it, so when it is announced you get that reaction: "called it" "I told you so" etc.

Aaron has a past, a pretty dark one at that, that we slowly learn about, and he's a pretty noble character who Hannah needs. I felt this book was a lot more about Hannah than Aaron, so when I'm thinking back all that stands out to me is Hannah and the pregnancy, Aaron feels almost sidelined even though he's interesting. These were characters I would have liked to continue reading because they were believable, and how excellent it would be to read about these kids trying to navigate through parenthood too. Of course, all books need to end. I feel a bit complicated with it still, I enjoyed this book, just sat and read it over the space of a few days, but I can't really say why it deserved 4 stars over 5. Just one of those feelings. 

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*Received this book for free from the publisher

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