Quickie book review #6 Rainbows with Park

RAINBOW ROWELL – Eleanor and Park

“What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that… someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back?”

Eleanor is the new girl at school. She can’t really fit in and blend into the background, what with her crazy red hair, mismatched fashion sense spanning old mens shirts and patches of coloured material covering the holes in her pants, and her curvaceous figure.

Park wears black, and tries to ignore the idiots at the back of the bus, but it’s hard when one of them is his neighbour. His home life is actually happy and normal, and his family stick out majorly in a town where broken marriages are the accepted norm.

Then one day, Eleanor sits down on the bus next to Park… and the rest is history.

So let me first say this… Eleanor and Park… oh, my heart. 💖

If you had told me that the blooming love story of an out-of-control red-haired scarf wrist-wearing girl and a half-Korean all black wearing eye-lined teenage boy would make me cry, I would have laughed out loud and suggested you go back to listening to your Joy Division, or something. 😉

But oh God, Rowell does good here, like REALLY good.

This immediately grabbed me from the first two pages, and had me dissecting and planning how I would reconstruct my own YA with odd clarity. It’s sharp, so honest and raw, while oddly maintaining a beautiful sense of naivety and sweetness when it comes to their blossoming relationship. I loved how the music was a soundtrack for their journey, and the references to uniquely high school things (being embarrassed for the over-the-top teacher’s antics) took me back in time and made me LOL.

Pros: Everything. Emptying out all your batteries in the 90s so that you can give them to your almost girlfriend who doesn’t have batteries for her Walkman, well if that isn’t love, then I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.

Cons: I wanted more! I totally got the ending though. I cried happy and sad tears (note, not bittersweet) because the ending was so perfectly imperfect, it’s kind of exactly what I want to emulate repeatedly with my own work, and for that I 100% respect it… but I still want more!

This is a beautiful coming-of-age novel, and balances the real with the raw, so, so well.

‘Need to know where the characters are’ rating system: 10/10.

This, is YA “with the volume turned way up.” 😊

Quickie book review #2 Amelia in all of us

ERIN GOUGH – Amelia Westlake

“Bios are bullshit.”

For my next ‘quickie’ book review I bring to you a former winner of the coveted Hardie Grant Egmont award, the Ampersand Prize, and with it her second book, Amelia Westlake.

Will Everhart and Harriet Price couldn’t be any more different. Will goes against the mainstream, battling against the establishment as much as she does symmetrical haircuts, while Harriet is the picture perfect high-achieving student, as blonde as she is bouncy on the tennis courts.

A sudden shared goal brings them together to shed light on some unfair treatment being dished out at their prestigious all-girls school.

But they need a ruse, and they can’t use their real name… enter their personal work of fiction, Amelia Westlake, a so-called student at Rosemead Grammar.

It’s a high school whodunnit, only we know whodunnit and we’re waiting for the penny to drop for the powers that be. I love being part of the know. And they go from girls barely able to stand each other, to working well together, to really working well together!

Gripes: Very few, this book was superbly written and grabbed me at every chapter. Minor things like a Nancy Drew/Jessica Fletcher type reveal when the secret is revealed and we get a massive info dump, kind of made me cringe, if only a little.

Continuity piqued my interest when Harriet needs to look up Will’s house address from the school contact list, but the thing is, she’s already been there. Compare pages 192 and 236. I’m a stickler for details.

Pros: This book has so much character. Will and Harriet are so varied in their life, personalities and styles, that it’s impossible to believe you will love them both… and yet you do, so so much. This YA explores so many teenage issues and topics of class, race, same-sex relationships, discrimination, and world issues, while maintaining that really teen-centric vibe and keeping it light and on the pulse all the way through. Very current, and very diverse. I can see the lengths gone to tie up every possible loose end, and the work apparent in doing that makes me stand up and do a standing ovation.

Also, Gough’s ability to write herself out of difficult situations without relying on the deus ex machina, is impressive indeed. I was scratching my head thinking, how will she get from here, to there?

But she did.

One more quote, I can’t leave it at just one.

“Star signs are a loud of crap, but I’m willing to bet she’s a Leo.”

Must read for context. 🤣🤣

Quickie book review #1 Unexpected and expected things

MORGAN MATSON – The Unexpected Everything

For my first of my ‘quickie’ book reviews I bring you this YA novel from Morgan Matson.

Andie is a 17 year-old whose life is planned to perfection. At the surface level all seems ideal – she has a pre-med summer program lined up at a prestigious university, her future career prospects look good, she has the best friends a girl can have, and her Dad is a prominent congressman.

But when a scandal rocks their world, she has to readjust her entire way of seeing out her summer, the people around her, and her world. Insert the most amazing and happy-go-lucky season of her life… but as it ends will all the good around her end too? Will she revert back to her old self, or take her learnings into her new future?

Gripes: There is heavy overexplaining throughout, teenage cringy/typical at parts and some chapters, particularly the first half of the book, were sooo long, I wondered how the hell they weren’t divided up into two.

Pros: It deals with the whole gamut of teenage experience, from broken down family, friend conflicts, boy lust and love, issues of identity and fears of failure. It has it all, and it has real heart too.

This YA novel aligns itself with the type of books I used to read growing up, but despite the happy and hopefulness present, it is also surprisingly real, not everything tied up in a neat little bow. This initially impressed me, but pondering on it I felt there could have been more closure with some plot points, especially seeing as it isn’t a series. Maybe that’s why it bugs me, I want to see them again, to check in and see what they’ve done since.

BANG. When you like the characters, you know it’s a win.