Author: Corinne O’Flynn
Published: 16th October 2014
Goodreads Rating: 4.20 out of 5
Reviewed: November 2014
The Expatriates is the first book in the Song of the Sending young adult fantasy series by Corinne O’Flynn. Seventeen-year-old Jim knows he was not originally from this modern world. He can tap into animals’ minds and has friends with other abilities. Brought up to believe that his original world had been destroyed, Jim is shocked when he receives a message saying he is needed back home. Jim’s life is completely turned upside down, and he finds himself running for his life with his two friends, Sam and Charlie.
After discovering how to return to his homeland, he quickly learns that he has been told lies all his life. He never realized he was such an important person, nor that this put him in serious danger.
Jim’s story is fast-paced and exciting as things go from the relatively normal to the completely unexpected. O’Flynn has done a great job of contrasting modern California with the fictional medieval world, Bellenor. Not only does it seem like the three friends have stepped back in time, but the place becomes gradually more and more magical.
As well as his two friends, Jim has a tiger called Bak as a companion. He can connect with Bak’s mind, and it is clear that they share a close bond. Readers will fall in love with Bak and his toddler-like sentences as he converses with Jim. This was a nice touch to the general story.
The reader is only introduced to a couple of mythical creatures. Although one is familiar by name, they are a reimagined concept rather than the way they are typically portrayed in existing fantasy fiction. This uniqueness helps this book to stand out amongst others within this genre.
There was a romantic aspect to the story, but it felt a little unnecessary, although it may appeal to some readers. The pace of the book made it quick to read, which, by no means a bad thing, resulted in a lack of depth in some areas.
Overall, The Expatriates is a brilliant book. It appeals to people’s sense of adventure but also plays on emotions. Having an animal as a key character and being able to get into its thoughts is an interesting concept. It will be intriguing to discover what happens next.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Published: 20th March 2012
Goodreads Rating: 4.04 out of 5
Reviewed: December 2014
Recently brought to the big screen starring Academy Award Winner Reese Witherspoon, Wild is a true account of Cheryl Strayed’s epic hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). For three months, Cheryl treks from Mojave, California, through Oregon before finishing at the Bridge of the Gods.
Wild is a compelling story that reveals a young woman’s determination and bravery to complete her impulsive walk of eleven hundred miles. Ill-prepared and still struggling with her mother’s death a few years earlier, Cherly sets off, unaware of the strength she would need to complete her challenge.
As Cheryl writes, the reader learns how she survives the severe changes in weather conditions, her lack of food and money, and her damaged feet, including missing toenails. Cheryl Strayed’s story is an inspiration to readers as she proves that a human being can go above and beyond expectations in extraordinary circumstances. Despite having the truth laid out on paper, it is impossible to imagine the emotions and physical exertion Cheryl must have gone through.
A good thing about this biographical tale is that Cheryl’s narrative does not solely focus on the PCT but refers back to events of the past that have made Cheryl who she is today and influenced her decision to begin the trail. The reader begins to know the real Cheryl and understand what she is feeling and thinking at different points in the book.
Although reading about someone going for a long walk may sound unappealing, it is so beautifully written and full of raw emotion that it will be enjoyed by many readers.
All Fall Down
Author: Ally Carter
Published: 20th January 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.85 out of 5
Reviewed: April 2015
Ally Carter has become well known for her Gallagher Girls series and Heist Society series and is now back with a brand new young adult series: Embassy Row. After witnessing the death of her mother three years earlier, sixteen-year-old Grace is shipped off to Adria to live with her ambassador grandfather at the United States embassy. Well known for her daredevil, rebellious history, she is now expected to settle down, become more ladylike and attend international balls. Grace, on the other hand, has other plans.
Grace is convinced her mother was murdered and that she knows who the murderer was. The only problem is no one believes her: not her grandfather nor the many psychiatrists, and even her friends have their doubts. So, Grace does what any “self-respecting mentally unbalanced teenager” would do and takes matters into her own hands.
It is exciting to read about Grace putting pieces of the puzzle together by investigating underground tunnels, tailing a scarred man around the city and behaving like James Bond. As the plot begins to climax, it is difficult not to rush through the novel to discover how it ends.
As well as the mystery storyline, Ally Carter also explores the theme of mental health. Naturally, Grace has had issues since the death of her mother and finds herself, time and again, trying to convince people she is not crazy. Readers who have experienced mental health problems may relate to not being taken seriously and understand Grace’s frustration.
Overall, All Fall Down is a fantastic and exciting story to read. The air of mystery and the feeling of suspense keeps the reader on their toes as they race through the book. It is also refreshing to read a young adult novel that does not focus on a teenage love story.
Author: Robyn Schneider
Published: 26th May 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.94 out of 5
Reviewed: May 2015
Extraordinary Means is a coming-of-age novel by Robyn Schneider that promises to live up to the expectations of John Green and Stephen Chbosky fans. Set in the near future, Lane Rosen has spent his seventeen years studying and ensuring he achieves his best at school. With high hopes of getting into Stanford, he is distraught when he is sent to Latham House, a sanatorium in the Santa Cruz Mountains, after contracting tuberculosis.
Although in today’s society tuberculosis is curable, Schneider has invented a total drug-resistant TB, which is highly contagious and needs to be contained. Lane finds himself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other teenagers with the incurable disease. Here he meets Sadie Bennett, with whom, after a shaky start, he develops a close relationship.
Ironically, whilst suffering from an illness that could kill him, Lane learns there is more to life than school. With his new friends: Sadie, Nick, Marina and Charlie, Lane becomes more adventurous and starts to relax and have fun whilst they wait for scientists to come up with a cure. The only trouble with this waiting game is that the odds of some of them not living long enough to see this cure is very high.
Narrated by both Lane and Sadie, Extraordinary Means is a love story with a heartbreaking ending. Readers feel for the teens as they are separated from their families and forgotten about by their friends. Unlike other potentially terminal illnesses, they cannot have support from their loved ones because of the risk of spreading the disease.
There is an underlying sadness to the novel, as the reader knows that no matter how much fun the characters have and no matter what their hopes and dreams are, the chances are something dreadful could happen. With this in mind, the story becomes much more powerful and moving as Sadie, Lane, and friends are determined to keep on going and enjoy their lives on a day-to-day basis.
Schneider is an excellent writer who has created a contemporary romance with a unique setting. The imagination involved with tuberculosis could almost describe the novel as dystopian, minus the science fiction aspect. Extraordinary Means is the perfect novel for young adult fans, but a warning: it could break your heart!
Author: Robert L. Anderson
Published: 22nd September 2015
Goodreads Rating: 3.53 out of 5
Reviewed: July 2015
“Dreams come true. So do nightmares.” Dea Donahue has spent her entire life travelling from one state to another, starting school after school and walking other people’s dreams to survive. Dea, like her mother, is a dream walker, but she must keep this a secret from everyone else. She must follow the rules: do not walk a person’s dream more than once, and do not let the dreamer see her; otherwise, the monsters will find her. Or so Dea’s eccentric mother says.
Dea’s mother is very paranoid, afraid of many things, particularly mirrors, and has a strange obsession with clocks. At any moment she may decide they need to pack up and leave, but Dea has had enough. Especially now that she has met Connor, the first boy to ever treat her nicely, the first boy she could call a friend. But when Dea’s mother goes missing, Dea needs to take a closer look at her mother’s obscure fears to track her down. At the same time, there are rumours going around suggesting that Connor may not be the nice guy Dea thinks he is.
Dreamland is both a fantasy novel and a murder mystery. It is as though Robert L. Anderson has written two different stories and then seamlessly merged them. The main narrative focuses on Dea’s predicament, but Connor’s life is constantly present underneath it. The real-life quality of the storyline makes the incidents Dea experiences all the more creepy.
Part three of the book becomes more fantasy-like, which is a little confusing, and it is difficult to see the setting in the way the author perceives it. The narrative eventually returns to the real world and progresses with Connor’s story. It is not until this point that the reader realizes that Dreamland is part murder mystery.
As a whole, Dreamland is a gripping read that is difficult to put down. Readers are plagued with questions and anticipation as they wait to discover why Dea can dream walk, the significance of the mirrors and clocks, and what happened to Dea’s mother. Once these are resolved, a whole bunch of new questions crop up.
The ending is mostly satisfying, although it is not completely clear what happens next. Although the reader knows where Dea and Connor both end up, it is up to the reader to interpret what their lives are like once the story ends. Yet, Dreamland is a worthy young adult book to read. It is different to other novels in the genre and brings a whole new concept to the table.
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