Book Review - Five Feet Apart

Book Review: Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis

Do you want to cry some big ugly tears and feel all the feels? Then this is the book for you. A novel following two Cystic Fibrosis patients, both with a very different view of life and their illness. While Stella likes to be in control, Will is fed up with regimens and trials. When the two meet the unthinkable happens – they begin to fall for each other but how can you fall in love when you have to be five feet apart at all times?

So, Five Feet Apart has been everywhere in the last few months because of the film that came out (as of writing this I still haven’t seen it) and I decided to read it because of the hype. To put it simply, I’m really glad I did.

I will admit that when I first started reading I did find it quite slow, I could put it down and walk away but something kept me coming back to it. I wouldn’t say it’s a book that you devour quickly, it’s more of a slow burn but once you’re in, you’re in. I fell in love with these characters and I was rooting so hard for them, as well as having a soft spot for side characters too.

Now, I can’t say how accurate it is from a CF perspective BUT I have watched a few YouTube videos to see what people who do have it think. They really thought it was a good representation, which gives me hope. Also, it’s worth mentioning the two co-authors on this book both have CF which I think is a bloody excellent idea and something we should see more of in books.

I gave this a 4.5 stars. A really emotional read and one I, personally, learnt a lot from. Have you read the book and seen the film? How do they compare? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

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Torn between the life her parents want for her, a job as a successful lawyer and a ‘suitable’ husband and her dreams to attend NYU to pursue a career in filmmaking, Maya thinks these are her biggest problems. That is until a terrorist attack completely shatters her world, sharing the same last name as the suspect is enough for her to face anger, hatred and violence all because of her religion.

This is Ahmed’s debut novel and if this is just the start, I can’t wait to see what comes next. An own voices novel, Ahmed makes 17-year-old Maya come alive within a few pages, presenting the struggle and expectations of a first-generation American. From the very first chapter, we see Maya fed up with the idea of a ‘perfect Indian daughter’, instead, she captures the world through a camera lens with hopes and dreams of making this a career.

This wasn’t a typical rebellious teenager character. You can see and feel the frustrations of trying to balance the two worlds. While she loves her parents and her Indian heritage, she was brought up as an American and struggles to balance the two. Particularly when her parents arrange for her to meet ‘suitable’ Kareem, a potential match, while she’s finally getting her crush to notice her at the same time. What’s a girl to do?

While a large chunk of the novel is taken up by love interests, there are serious undertones even before the disruption of the terrorist attack on Maya’s life. Luckily, Maya has people around her who can and will support her dreams of working behind the camera. I loved the relationship between Maya and her Aunt Hinda because it showed another perspective, it didn’t make Maya’s parents the only Indian characters and therefore a stereotype. The relationship between the two was incredibly special and moving.

I feel the need to point out that I am not Muslim, I am a white woman, so I feel that my experience of this book may be different to those who have lived it. That said, Ahmed tackles Islamaphobia head-on in this novel and I can only applaud her. It is something that so many will shy away from and pretend it doesn’t happen in today’s society. In that, the novel makes you think, it made me upset and angry that this is happening to innocent people, that Maya and her family face cruelty and hate because of another person’s actions.

As I was reading, I was worried about what the ending would be. I didn’t want this to be a formulaic ending and I’m pleased by what Ahmed did with the character. That is all I can say without spoiling the ending or rest of the plot, but it was worth mentioning.

Overall I gave this 5 stars. I really enjoyed the novel and can definitely see it becoming a bestseller. This should be handed out in schools as a tool to talk about Islamophobia and the impact it has on young people as well as discussions about culture. The only thing I would change is I’d like to have heard more about Maya’s filming and passion but that’s all!

Thank you to Netgalley, Hot Key Books and Samira Ahmed for this in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: One of us is lying – Karen M McManus

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The Brain. The Beauty. The Criminal. The Athlete. The Outcast. A Murder. 

Six students enter detention, all claiming that they are innocent of what lead them there. What appears to be a seemingly normal day ends in murder, suspicion and a bond that can never be broken.

Now, before I start, does that line remind you of anything, anything in particular? If you’re a fan of anything eighties related, like me, it will. Yes, part of the draw for me was that this was reminiscent of The Breakfast Club, one of my favourites. I was lucky enough to be approved by the publishers to get this as an early release and I’m glad I did.

The novel is very much aware of the fact it has all the ingredients for a YA cliché and gets that out of the way pretty early. Each chapter is from the perspective of one of the group, alternating and showing varying perspectives. I did feel, towards the end, that the story focused more on two particular characters and evolved more into their story, which wasn’t a bad thing but I wanted more info on all of them rather than just two.

In terms of the actual mystery itself, I actually found it really clever when it was all pieced together and didn’t see it coming. Obviously, I’m not going to spoil it for you, what kind of reviewer would I be?! I’m not going to lie there were some elements that I worked out before they happened but they were done in such a way that I enjoyed reading them.

Overall, I gave this four stars. I actually read it within a mere few hours, it has a perfect pace and interesting plot. I was genuinely invested in the characters and just wanted to know who the murder was, who was lying? There were some points were I felt it was a little close to The Breakfast Club, however, I’d definitely recommend this novel.

Review by Chloe Metzger

If I Stay – Gayle Forman

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After a fatal car crash that leaves 17 year old Mia barely alive, she has to make a choice to live or die, after being certain she has lost both of her parents. As she watches her family and friends come to terms with the disaster as she separates from her body she needs to decide. Will she let go and follow her parents into the unknown or fight to come back

As with many other people I became aware of this novel because of its film release, at the time it hadn’t been released and I haven’t seen the movie as I write this. I’d heard good things about the novel and so I decided I’d pick it up and give it a go. It’s certainly a difficult novel and at times can be slightly graphic. We’re guided through the novel by Mia herself as she struggles to watch the rest of the day unfold. All she can do is watch and listen. Her family, friends and boyfriend are all willing her to come back and it’s up to Mia to decide if that’s enough for her.

Although I like the idea, the novel didn’t particularly stand out to me. The novel is fairly short and sways between the present and past and gives us a good insight into Mia’s life before the accident. I found it hard to connect to the story, of course it made me sad, but I didn’t feel a deep rooted connection to Mia or the characters around her. That said, I did feel an incredible connection in relation to how she felt about her music and the prospect of being a musician and this added to the sense of tragedy. If anything I would have loved more insight into her love of music and her hopes and dreams, although maybe this was intentional.

Forman questions something that few of us will even consider thinking about, would you chose to live after losing so many people you love, if you had the choice? Many of us would instantly say we’d choose life, but would we? This is not the first novel of its kind, however, it is the first for young adult readers, it makes them think. I makes the reader consider a life without their loved ones and the choices and sacrifices that are made every day. I wouldn’t say that the novel is morbid in that respect but it deals with death in quite a straightforward way, for Mia it appears to be more of an escape. It also raises the question of  life after trauma. We have no idea how Mia will be affected by her injuries if she decides to live. Will she play Cello again? Will her dream of going to Juilliard be snatched away from her as her parents were? Is her younger brother Teddy, whom she adores, still alive? As I said it is a novel full of questions and what if situations.

If anything I’d say that the book could have been longer. Although well written, there was so much crammed into the book that at times I felt rushed through. I wanted to know the smaller details, memories and possibly more about more minor characters in the novel to give them a bit more life within the novel. Also what about afterwards? If she decides to die, does she meet her family? If she lives do her dreams come true? I guess to an extent this leaves us to make up our own minds but I wish this was included in the novel.

I give this novel 3 stars ***. I liked the idea and found Mia to be a nice character but failed to interact with her as a person. I also found that I was hungry for more at the end of the novel and felt that it could have had a better ending or more to it maybe? If you’re looking for a shorter read that raises questions then If I Stay may well be for you but I simply found that there was too much left unanswered at the end.

 

Review by Chloe Metzger

Book Review: The Accident Season – Moïra Fowley-Doyle

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‘It’s the accident season,

the same time every year.

Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.’

The Accident Season has been hailed by many, as an incredible book, my local Waterstone’s had a particular fondness for it, so I thought I might as well pick it up. The novel focuses on the ‘Accident Season’ a time of cuts, bruises and at times even deaths. Moïra Fowley-Doyle takes suspicion and fear and sets it right in the middle of modern day Ireland. Our protagonist, 17 year old Cara, is an ok narrator, at times I got frustrated with her simplicity and would much rather have followed her older sister Alice, who seems a lot more interesting to me. Added to this is Cara’s ‘ex stepbrother’ Sam and her best friend the witchy Bea’ The Accident Season is a tale of secrets and makes you, at times, question what is real.

I think my biggest gripe with this is that for about ¾ of the novel it moves very slowly. There are twists in the book but the problem is that some of the biggest ones I managed to work out fairly early on, which was a shame. It sits in this strange thriller, horror world but at the same time tries to follow the normal lives of four teenagers. I really struggled to believe in the season itself and all the terrible things that are meant to have happened. To me it just seemed like they all had a bit of a terrified mother (which later makes much more sense than for most of the book) who wanted to wrap her kids up in cotton wool.

As well as the kids dealing with their mother’s fears, there is also a mystery to be solved, in the form of Cara’s classmate, Elsie. While looking through photos Cara soon realises that Elsie is in each and every one of her photos, even though it’s impossible. While Cara enlists the help of Bea and Sam to work out if Elsie is following her they make a starting discovery, Elsie has disappeared and no one seems to know who she is. I can say with absolute certainty that the Elsie part of the plot is definitely the most interesting and I wish there had been even more of it in the book. At times it feels a little like there are other issues that are just there to pad out the novel rather than to add to it.

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There is a big element of fantasy and folk tales throughout, which is something I really liked. I wish it had been bought into the plot earlier as the first few chapters just seem a bit strange without it, you don’t really understand why a sane person could come up with the idea of an ‘accident season’. There are a lot of accidents, but I think I sided more with Alice’s rational thinking too much to really enjoy the novel. It is not in any way that this novel is badly written, Fowley-Doyle does have a knack for story telling, but I couldn’t help but feel throughout that this would be better suited to a film script. I’m saying it now before it happens, this would make a kick ass film and I expect it to be picked up sooner rather than later.

I’m giving The Accident Season three stars ***, like I said before it wasn’t badly written, I just lost the excitement at quite a few points throughout. I need a book that is impossible to put down and for most of The Accident Season, it was easy to walk away from. That said I think if you are into a bit of mystery and horror this is worth a read.

Review by Chloe Metzger