Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen: excellent YA historical fiction

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What it’s all about…

Orphan Monster Spy is the story of 15-year-old Sarah, who lives with her mentally unwell mum in Germany at the time of Hitler and the National Socialists. Sarah is a Jew and experiences the racism and isolation that this involves. An attempt to flee Germany ends in her mother being shot and killed at a checkpoint but Sarah’s Arian appearance – blond hair, blue eyes – enables her to escape. On the run, she encounters a mysterious man, the Captain and together they realise that working together could be their way forward in this dangerous world they find themselves in. The Captain sends Sarah on a mission to a National Socialist elite school for girls, where she is to befriend the daughter of a scientist, who has the potential to destroy Germany’s enemies. It’s a story of survival, of deep-rooted inner strength in adverse circumstances, of flawed human beings and the complex dangers of power.Untitled design (4)

Plot wise…

It is a satisfying, page-turning spy thriller with that boarding school element, which is always a great setting for narratives of intrigue and mystery.  I was totally gripped throughout. However, there is so much more to Orphan Monster Spy than its plot alone.

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I loved…

Matt Killen really captures the German setting, the National Socialist period in history, in an accessible and engaging way. I like a book that fully and authentically draws you into a place in time and this book certainly does that!  With my German family background, a German Studies degree and a whole lot of reading about World War 2 behind me, both fiction and non-fiction, it takes a lot to win me over and Killeen definitely did.

The relationship between  Sarah and the Captain is brilliantly written – there’s a real spark there, a genuine raw and equally complex connection as well as a passion to change the horrific world they live in.

The elitist fascist school for girls is a really interesting concept and isn’t something I have really given much thought to before, nor have I come across much about these schools until now. Such schools did exist, though there were only a few girls’ schools due to the juxtaposition of an academic education with the Nazi belief that women were destined to be wives and mothers and should therefore be given an education to reflect these roles. I’m really interested to find out more  – I love a bit of research!

The exploration of loyalty and betrayal is a powerful theme running throughout the narrative. I especially liked that Sarah’s response to her life in Germany is complex. Although she is a victim of Nazi ideology and experiences horrific things, she also considers herself German first and foremost and wants to be loyal to her country. She thinks long and hard about the consequences of her actions, whether her work with the Allies is for the greater good.

The appeal of belonging is equally well explored, Killeen shows that life is not black and white, that powerful regimes play on the human need to belong and that it can be an immense struggle to stay true to your beliefs in the face of what is offered: Sarah recognises how easy it would be to give in, to belong to the German Youth Movement due to her looks, how appealing the choreography of the Nazis movement is and especially for young people who are still trying to figure out their place in the world.

A real-life scientist of the time called Lise Meitner makes a significant appearance in the story based on her contribution to the discovery of fission and again, I learned something new. I hold up my hands and admit I know little about science throughout history and I certainly hadn’t come across this fascinating woman, who was part of changing the world forever but who was denied a Nobel Prize for Chemistry as she was forced to flee Germany and also  because she was a woman in a man’s world.

I really appreciated  Killen’s author note at the end where he explains his own experiences and motivation behind writing this book. He writes of summers spent with his mum’s German best friend and family, who he describes as gracious, loving and intensely pacifist and the challenges of getting older,  learning about the Holocaust and wondering, “Exactly how could these gentle people allow this to happen?” The message that human beings are incredibly complex and that history also depends on who’s telling the story, comes across with passion.

In the same end note, Killeen tells the reader of the amount and depth of research involved in writing Orphan Monster Spy and the quality of this is evident throughout the book. Yes, Sarah’s story is fiction but its fiction with a lot of sensitivity and a sound factual structure.

There is an abuse story line and I tend to disconnect with such content because of personal reasons, plus I also find that they are generally rarely written well/with meaning. In his note, Killeen talks about how Sarah’s world lives on today in insidious ways, how children and vulnerable people are still abused, how it is still so often concealed and even dismissed. I can see why Killeen has included this subplot (he has handled it well) and I stress that I think it’s an important topic to tackle, to create awareness of.

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And finally…

I love that there is so much yet to be explained and discovered and I can’t wait for the next in the series: Devil Darling Spy, published January 2020.

The Burning by Laura Bates and The Furies by Katie Lowe; a double review

I’ve been in the mood for a bit of YA recently and it just so happened that two books with very similar themes (though completely different in content and writing style) crossed my path. A promise of witchy elements, an exploration of what empowerment can look like, insights into what it means to be a teenage girl today and the complexity of female friendships, plus a touch of history thrown in for good measure – needless to say I dove right in. You might want to get yourself a cup of tea before you read on, I’ve got a lot to share with you 😊

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The Furies by Katie Lowe

(thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the arc. Publication date: 2 May 2019)

What it’s about: This is the story of Violet, looking back at the mysterious death of a girl she knew in her school days in the late nineties and her life leading up to this event. In a run down, quiet coastal town, the teenage Violet starts at the sixth form of a private girls school. She is befriended by a group of girls and also becomes part of their secret club, which is led by a very intriguing, charismatic art teacher known as Annabel, who is following a centuries old tradition. And incidentally, the school’s history is connected to the witchcraft trials that took place there in the 17th century – the exploration of magic is something these girls are fascinated by. I won’t say any more than that 😉

Some of my thoughts…

*I loved the premise of this book and especially its exploration of intense anger and its consequences,  the potential of female power- both liberating and destructive as well as the question of what lengths a person is capable of going to in order to find a sense of belonging.hand*The Furies has some absolutely stunning descriptions; really vivid, evocative settings and character insights.hand*For me, it captured all the angst and intensity of being a teenager really well (and a touch of 90s nostalgia in the process as I was a teenager then too). Beyond the mystery and the possible witchcraft there are four girls trying to make sense of themselves and their world. I think there is a lot to identify with for YA readers and Lowe knows her audience well.hand*I really liked how art, folklore and the history behind the school were interwoven with what happens to the characters in the narrative. Three of my favourite interests all in one book, each contributing their own layer to the story being told.hand*The witchy element made me smile as I adored The Craft and the like when I was younger (still do if I’m honest)  and can totally see why The Furies is being described as its successor.hand*Katie Lowe makes Violet (the narrator), and therefore the reader, constantly question what is going on and that uncertainty works really well. What is in fact real? Is there magic involved? Are there mental health and alcohol/drug abuse issues at play? In fact, is Violet reliable as a narrator?

What didn’t work for me…

The following is based on personal preference and I feel like I need a disclaimer stating that I am also not the target audience – but I do read quite a bit of YA.

*The sections of lectures given by teachers were really interesting and relevant to the plot but they were often lengthy and felt disjointed within the narrative. It pulled me out of the story at times and I wonder what a younger me would have thought about these sections.hand*The animal sacrifice. There are just certain things I cannot read about and this is one of them. Yes, it is part of ritual in this narrative but no, I still don’t think it needs to be there.hand*The mother daughter relationship. This felt flat to me and I personally would have liked more depth – it is clear how important this relationship is for understanding Violet as a character, and I know that the girls are the focus of this narrative and not Violet’s home life, but I still feel there was just much more potential for development there.hand*There was an amount of repetition in terms of descriptive character phrases, of imagery and behaviour. This niggled, especially as I can see the writer is capable of much more.hand*I was really disappointed that the art teacher, Annabel, was not explored further as a character as she was one of my favourite elements; the Miss Jean Brodie-esque figure with her select group of girls. For me, she remained too distant as a character and her story rather fizzled out when there was so much more to explore.

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The Burning by Laura Bates, published by Simon & Schuster

What it’s about: This is the story of Anna, who has just moved to rural Scotland with her mum, completely leaving her old life and everything associated with it behind. A horrendous social media experience and the death of her father have had huge impacts on Anna, and this is the chance for a fresh start. But social media is never truly erased from existence and human behaviour is never that straight forward. As Anna tries to work out what true friendships look like and how she can deal with the soul-destroying challenges she faces on a daily basis, she gets drawn into a history homework project. She is drawn to the story of Maggie, accused of witchcraft centuries ago, who was also targeted for not conforming, and suffered the consequences of other people’s views and actions.

Laura Bates is well known for being the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, which you can find more about here and her feminist non-fiction Everyday Sexism and Girl Up ( both of which I have heard such high praise for but haven’t read yet).  This is her first adventure in translating her work into a YA fiction format, a new way to reach audiences and start those all-important conversations. I had a feeling it would be a fierce, intelligent and engaging read and I wasn’t disappointed!

I think this is an incredible book; powerful, thought provoking and compelling all at the same time. Here are my thoughts…

*Anna: I was utterly engaged with Anna as a character. I was routing for her throughout, worrying about her, feeling proud of her – you name it, I felt it! Bates has written a character that I believe teenagers from all walks of life can relate to and connect with. And do to this well, isn’t as easy as Bates makes it look! I also thought the friendship that develops between her, Alisha and Cat was gorgeous and genuinely captured the essence and complexities of teenage friendships. A younger me would have longed to be part of such a friendship group.match*Maggie’s story is equally as engaging. It is beautifully told and interweaves brilliantly with what Anna is facing in the present day. The witchcraft aspect has clearly been thoroughly researched and I like that a teenager could go into this knowing very little of this part of women’s history and truly learn something through the narrative. I read an interview with Laura Bates on the Bookseller website, where she speaks of the message she wants to put across through these two young women separated by time, When I talk about the reality of what girls are facing in UK schools, people have a tendency to shake their heads sadly and bemoan all the problems the internet has caused for young people. But looking at Anna and Maggie’s stories side by side, I hope it becomes clear that these are not new or ‘technological’ problems: this is the way we have always treated women and girls and it won’t change unless we act!match*Bates tackles the dark side of social media head on – once Anna’s photo has been posted without her permission it is beyond her control as the image takes on a life of its own, fuelled by viciousness. The portrayal  of online abuse and real-life bullying is raw and real. Those who bully either don’t care about their impact or are there for the thrill of the ride regardless, or just don’t stop to consider the impact they are having. Here it is worth noting that, because of the issues this book addresses, the language and imagery is honest, sometimes brutal and explicit. It has to be. But I think it is only fair to warn you if you are giving this as a gift so that you are aware of the content and are prepared to address any arising questions.match*The handling of grief is explored so well: how loss winds its way into every aspect of your life, the vacuum that is left when someone you love dies, how difficult it is to find a way forwards and how easy it is to get lost along the way, how hard it can be to communicate grief and especially  if others are hurting too.match*The ending: It is very much a statement ending, a couple of rich scenes that really leave a lasting impression in different ways. Some reviewers have said how this may not have been the most realistic of ways to end the book, but I disagree. Reading this ending is inspiring and inspires action, it is positive without a sugar-coated happy ending, it gives hope and will hopefully help young women to not feel so alone. I think it is also a disservice to young women, to assume they are not capable of Anna’s determination and strength at the end because there are incredible young women out there.matchTo finish, here is a quote that pretty much sums up this reading experience for me:

‘The Burning lights a fire in you – one that makes you want to fight for change and ignite sparks in others so the fire spreads and spreads.’ HOLLY BOURNE 

 

Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias; dystopian fiction or a very possible future?

Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias is set in a future Britain where Brexit has indeed happened; the country is governed by The Party, a deeply conservative, right wing, authoritarian government. The Party’s prime focus is on the creation and implementation of the Immigration and Residency Act: anyone not born in the UK, who has been resident for fewer than twenty-five years, does not have an automatic right to remain. There is a points assessment system as well as forced deportation and it is law to report anyone you believe not to be BB (British Born). As you may gather, this book packs quite a punch and takes its YA target audience incredibly seriously. It is equally a wonderfully written love story between two teenagers, Ash and Zara, who are forced to navigate their lives together within this extreme, political context.1413431402

The main reason I picked up Night of the Party is the political element, which is actually so frighteningly close to the present reality that it feels more real than futuristic. I am an immigrant and all the fears I have for my future, should a hard Brexit go ahead, are all explored in this story. Sometimes it even got to the point where I had to stop reading for a little while as the storyline felt so very immediate, so very personal. Powerful stuff indeed.

flag peopleThe concept of nationalism and how this is used by politicians to manipulate thinking is brilliantly interwoven throughout the book. There are so many echoes of fascist governments of the past as well as the prevailing idea present today that all was better in the “good old days of Britain”. World War 2 films are produced en masse and are highly popular, the National Anthem is played at the end of each film. Churchill is once again an icon and his image displayed in cafes and restaurants. A strong emphasis is placed on all things traditional and the word itself crops up over and over again – how subtle the manipulation of language can be and how effective when it is part of everyday life! Pubs have signs that say that non-British Born are not welcome; the segregation is blatant and ordinary practice. There is talk of “duty” to report “Illegals”. There are also Neighbourhood Watch volunteers patrolling the streets and the presence of The Agency, which runs surveillance- everyone is watching or being watched. And all of this is wrapped up as a “necessary defence of national resources, security and culture” by the prime minister. Frightening.

flag peopleWithin this context, I loved the exploration of what “home” means as part of nationalism and the persecution of immigrants. Zara has lived in the UK for most of her life, for her, Romania can never be home even though she was born there. She wants to study English Literature at university; everything she knows and loves is here. Her roots are here. Home is about so much more than where you are born.

flag peopleI also think Mathias’ writing is exceptional in the way she threads current political viewpoints clearly throughout the story in a very genuine, accessible way, inviting readers to challenge their own perceptions.  An example of this is a very well written conservation that takes place between two of Ash’s friends, each on the opposite side of the political divide; whilst The Party supporter Lewis talks about the UK being a small island with limited space and resources and how non-BB are placing too much demand on the NHS, on housing etc, Chris talks of the deportation being an infringement of basic human rights.

flag peopleIn connection with this, one of the most powerful sections of the book focus on the scenes in a detention centre, where non-BBs are awaiting deportation. I don’t want to give the plot away but do want to mention how perceptively and sensitively written these scenes are. Dignity is stripped away, basic needs are not met, human rights are abused and for all intents and purposes it is a prison for those that have not committed a crime other than not being born in the UK. However, within this dark, soulless world there are kind individuals, other detainees who provide hope and solidarity; Mathias shows how things can happen for the good when women unite – this highlights a defying, resilient humanity, which can prevail regardless of the odds and that hope is so very important for our future.

flag peopleIt is of course much more than a political comment, at the heart there is an intense, genuine and beautifully written love story. Ash has experienced a terrible loss in his recent past and then he meets Zara. Though the two have not met before, their history is interlinked. Ash is BB, Zara is Romanian. I realise this sounds very vague, but it is hard to say more without giving away the mystery that unravels throughout the book! The story is told by both Ash and Zara’s perspectives in alternating chapters – this works brilliantly because we not only get to see into the hearts and minds of both characters – and I was emotionally engaged with both characters as if I personally knew them, but we also see in great detail how different their experiences of living in the UK are and how different their futures look. Ash and Zara’s belief in each other, the depth and sheer resilience of their relationship was so very lovely and also reminded me what teenagers are indeed capable of even though they are often portrayed otherwise.

flag peopleAsh and Zara are forced to deal with fundamental life questions as part of their relationship, questions that everyone needs to ask themselves in the world we live in. For instance, Ash’s dad tells him it is best to avoid friends who aren’t BB as soon as the law takes affect and his mum adds, “You don’t want to have to choose between reporting someone or breaking the law.” What would you do if it came to the crunch – do what you know to be right and follow your heart or adhere to the rules? And it is this humanity that absolutely shines through in the book, the message that each life matters because each one of us is a human being with emotions, needs and dreams.

This book needs to be read. It needs to be shouted about from the rooftops. It needs to be promoted in schools. It needs to be read by those adults in our world who are either unaware by choice or circumstance of our current political situation.

Two magical reads: The Disappearances and The Memory Trees

I came across both The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy and The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace through my monthly Book Box Club subscription. These boxes full of bookish loveliness are imaginative and incredibly well thought out. If you want to find out more, have a look at their website here and their blog is a great place to have a look at past unboxings.

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I read the books one after another as I’m really enjoying a themed reading approach this summer. And here the theme is magic -but not in terms of witches, wizards and spells – more of a subtle magic embedded into our world and an element of mystery thrown in for good measure.

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I adored The Disappearances in so many ways. It is the story of Aila and her younger brother Miles, who go to stay in the rather mysterious, remote town of Sterling. As their mother has recently died, and their father is called up to serve in the second world war, they go to live with their mother’s best friend and her family. Every seven years something disappears in Stirling such as people’s reflections, the stars and the ability to dream.  Aila realises that this is all somehow connected to her mother’s past and sets out to find the truth and stop any further disappearances from happening. There is a rather lovely romance too.

I loved…zinc-wire-star-garland-nkuku

…the gorgeous characters, especially Aila. Each character is individual, there isn’t a trope in sight and there is also a complexity to the characters that makes them feel very real and easy to engage with.

…the World War II setting. The period fitted into the narrative beautifully, the subtle details adding to the richness.

…the theme of searching for belonging and how it feels to be an outsider. Each of the characters searches for their place in the world in their own way; they are united in their longing for human connection. This theme was beautifully explored and really invited the reader to see events and characters from different perspectives.

…the interweaving of Shakespeare and his texts as clues for the mystery. I thought this was brilliant, using snippets from his works to guide the mystery of the disappearances. What a great way to entice young adults into reading Shakespeare!

…the exploration of how much we take for granted in the world we live in. This wasn’t done in a preachy and obvious way, more like gentle nudges to notice the world around you. Imagine not being able to see the stars at night, use colours to create or hear music.

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I had more of a mixed reading experience with The Memory Trees, absolutely loving parts of it but also feeling rather confused at times. This is the story of Sorrow Lovegood set against the background of her strong female line of ancestors, who settled in a rather unusual apple orchard many years ago. Sorrow’s mum leads a very alternative lifestyle and struggles severely with her mental health, but Sorrow has her older sister Patience to look out for her until one day Patience dies in a fire. Returning to the mysterious orchard when she is 16, having lived the intervening years with her father, Sorrow is determined to rebuild a relationship with her mother and unlock her memories to find out the truth about Patience’s death.

I loved…zinc-wire-star-garland-nkuku

…the premise of a mysterious family legacy with strong female ancestors. This really intrigued me. There is a beautiful family tree image at beginning of the book to refer to as the ancestors emerge in the book and linked with this is the presence of the orchard, almost a character in itself,  which leaves mysterious trinkets for Sorrow to find.

…the exploration of what home is. Sorrow searches for belonging, a theme I always identify with. She feels compelled to return to the orchard and her past, to the memories of her sister, yet this home is also an incredibly difficult place, full of challenges. Sorrow is also very much an outsider, looking in and this aspect was written with great insight.

…the mother/daughter relationship. This is very much influenced by her mother’s mental health and Sorrow’s response to it. The portrayal of Sorrow’s mother is incredibly well developed, she really comes across as a complex character. A character who you can see is ill and who is constantly dealing with her mental health, whose thought processes and emotions you want to understand and empathise with, yet, at the same time also feeling such anger for some of the choices she makes in her role as a mother. It is Sorrow who takes it upon herself/is forced to be the calm and rational one, she is in many ways the parent in the relationship and loses a part of herself in the process. Fantastic character dynamics!

My problem with this book was…zinc-wire-star-garland-nkuku

…that I think the author included too many themes so that many were not developed in the detail I craved. There were parts that I didn’t feel connected or that didn’t have enough information for the reader to reach her own conclusions. The stories of the ancestors for example seemed like separate inserts instead of being interwoven in the story with the contemporary characters, meaning I couldn’t quite see what their purpose was. Another example is the hint of a lesbian relationship – this fades out and almost feels like an afterthought, yet it could have added so much to both narrative and character development.

Three haunting tales to curl up with on a cold winter’s night

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Oh, I do love a good haunting tale led by strong, resilient female characters and even more so if it has elements of mystery and a psychological edge too. I’ve read three of such books recently and want to highly recommend them to you here. They are absolutely perfect for these cold winter days and nights!  I like to sit wrapped up in a blanket, with a cat (or two or three), a steaming cup of tea (I am in love with apple and cinnamon at the moment) and the radiator on full blast. In my perfect world, the radiator would obviously be a cosy wood burner.

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Thornhill by Pam Smy is unlike any book I have ever come across as the story alternates between text and illustration; a totally unique reading experience. The story is of two girls, one in the present day, whose story is told in words, the other back in the 80s (or is she?) and her story is illustrated. I can’t really say much more without giving the plot away but I will say that I loved both characters and that I really felt drawn into the storyline. As well as this, I found the images stunningly effective in their simplicity; I love that each reader adds to the story by what they see in the illustrations.

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My second recommendation is The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. I have to be honest and say that I partly chose this book for the cover alone- truly gothic. And I wasn’t disappointed. A dark, haunting tale of a young widow living in a remote house, who learns about a mysterious ancestor, whose legacy lives on. Moving wooden figures, who have a life of their own, a running exploration of what is real and what is not, who is sane and who is insane, and last but not least, a writing style, which creates such a haunting atmosphere – I loved it and even thinking about it now gives me the shivers.

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The last one doesn’t need much of an introduction as talk of Jessy Burton’s The Miniaturist is everywhere, especially since Christmas, when the BBC produced the most brilliant tv adaptation of it. The eerie, mysterious presence of The Miniaturist on the outskirts, who fashions furniture and dolls that predict the future of the dolls’ house owner in intricate detail. Feisty Marin, desperate to remain independent in a man ruled world, sticking to all the rules outwardly whilst her private sphere is full of maps, seeds and ornaments from faraway places.  And the wonderful Nella, who tries to navigate her new, complicated, married world and bit by bit, begins to see the world through different eyes. All of this is set in 17th century Amsterdam, a time and a place I knew very little about – of course I researched and loved learning more about Nella’s world.

I would love to hear your recommendations for this genre, my tbr list can never be long enough!

 

 

Two favourite YA heroines of 2017

I love good quality, young adult fiction. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this genre speaks to me for several reasons:

  • I think that well written YA covers important themes, be they society based, emotional or political, in a very accessible way.
  • Often, YA books are written with a lot more honesty and less pretentiousness than adult fiction.
  • I love the trend of strong female leads, prevalent in contemporary YA.
  • Last of all, I do like that reminder of what feels to be young.

I’ve recently read two books, which encompass all of the above and I must add that even readers not too fond of YA should definitely give these a go, as they are so strong in content and language. They also have two awesome female lead characters and I want to share my thoughts about them with you today.

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This is one of the rare occasions where I had actually seen the film adaptation long before reading the book and the even more rare occasion of loving both versions equally!

The story is of fifteen-year-old Daisy, who is sent to spend the summer with her aunt and cousins in present day, rural England (She lives in America). She spends a glorious summer with them, forming intense, loving bonds with her cousins and being free of all adult rules as her aunt is called away for work, where she is part of a political team working to prevent an impending war between the UK and an unnamed country. Life dramatically changes for the cousins when the unnamed enemy country bombs London and takes over the UK. The cousins are separated and must find a way to be together again in this strange, dangerous new world they find themselves in.

What I love about Daisy:

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Her search to really belong somewhere with someone: The relationships she forms with each of her cousins (and I won’t go into detail for fear of spoiling the plot) are honest, deep and rather special. Each connection is heartfelt and intensely personal but without any sugar coating or over the top sentimentality.

Her unconditional love and loyalty for her cousins: Daisy discovers an incredible inner strength and capacity to protect. She knows what matters and is willing to fight for it with all that she has.

Her political awareness: Daisy is intelligent and alert. She questions and sees through pretences. Her analysis of situations, together with her ability to think and act quickly, drives the hope in this story.

She tells it as it is: The book is written from her perspective and Daisy has a very straight forward, truthful narrative style. She shares her faults, she is aware of herself and she doesn’t hide from the truth. She notices and observes with incredible intensity. It feels like she is in direct conversation with the reader and you know you can trust what she has to say.

Her vulnerability: Daisy is not perfect. She struggles with her anger, especially towards her father. She has a very difficult relationship with food. The love she finds is complicated. She is a character to relate to, because of her strengths and also because of her flaws.

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Like How I Live Now, Hollow Pike has a really strong plot, is well written and has some great characters to identify with.

Lis, moves to rural Yorkshire, to Hollow Pike, to live with her older sister and her young family. It is a chance to make a fresh start after having been intensely bullied at school.But then the strange dreams begin, where it appears someone is trying to kill her and Lis doesn’t know whether she is being paranoid or whether the local legends of witchcraft may have truth to them. The story follows Lis’ experiences at school and her search to find the meaning behind her dreams.

Reasons why I love Lis:

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She takes control of her life: Lis doesn’t want to be the victim anymore and is proactive in creating a better life for herself.

She is open to magical possibilities: Lis is able to question events and behaviours; she doesn’t just accept what is happening on the surface.

She  finds some fab, very quirky, very alternative friends: In doing so Lis realises that there is more to life – and more to her – than fitting in with the popular mainstream (who are often not all they present themselves to be).

Like Daisy, love and belonging are very important to her: her heart is wide open.

Like Daisy, she isn’t perfect and her flaws make her easy to identify with: At first, she will do anything to fit in and brushes off any moral implication of this; she doubts her new friends at several points instead of showing the trust they deserve; when the stakes are high she considers running away and abandoning those who love her. I love heroines with flaws.

So, who are your favourite female YA heroines/anti-heroines? What should I read next? Do you have any YA authors, who you would recommend to me?

Until next time,
Milena