If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If you know anything about lgbt+ YA books then you will have heard of this book. It has been everywhere the past couple years, with a huge reason behind that being that this book was part of the Zoella book club. This is why I will never say anything bad about Zoella’s book club because she is bringing books like this to teen girls who either aren’t huge readers or just may not have heard of this.

content warnings: transphobia, homophobia, sexual harassment, suicide attempt discussion, forced outing

If I Was Your Girl follows Amanda who is a trans teen who has moved to a new school. She wants to start off at this new school on a whole new leaf, without anyone knowing her history. She makes friends with a few people but she is always concerned that they will find out and all her new relationships will fall apart. On top of all that she has a fragile relationship with her dad.

Right off the bat, I am not trans, I am a cis woman so I don’t pretend to know about the representation in this book or the challenges that trans people go through. I tried to find an own voices review to link to but struggled, and I don’t have much time on my hands right now but if you know of one please send me the link and I will edit this review to include it.

This book was so easy to read. Now when I say easy I don’t mean the subject matter was easy to read because it 100% was not but the way it was written it just flowed and was unputdownable. I had to know what was going to happen next. I ate it up. Sometimes I had to put it down for a minute just to gather myself because it’s intense, but so worth it.

I adored Amanda, I just wanted to take her under my wing and look after her. She’s just a poor wee soul and deserves all the love. The rest of the characters are so well developed as well and it makes reading really tough content a joy. You hope Amanda’s new friends are accepting when they find out because they’re just so nice in the course of their friendship with Amanda and are so welcoming. You want Amanda to have friends who will be friends with her no matter what.

I’ve read a few reviews talking about the fact that Amanda gets forcibly outed and how they hated reading that and they wish that it had happened for Amanda a different way. And I totally get that, I felt so uncomfortable reading it and I could tell from the way it was being written that it was going to happen, there was this kind of gloomy feeling building up (great technique by the way). But I feel like marking the book down for that isn’t the right way to go about it, as it is an own voices review. Yeah sure if it was from a cis writer I wouldn’t be happy because it wouldn’t be their place to have the discussion, but this is Russo’s lane and she felt that this was this discussion needed to be had i the literary world from her own experiences.

Overall I think this book tackled the trans issues so well, now of course every human is different and every experience is different so if you are going into this thinking that this is the epitome of the trans experience it is not and nothing ever will be. The author herself is trans and the cover picture on the US edition also features a trans girl which is so damn important. Russo has 2 authors notes at the end of the book, one for trans readers and one for cis readers. The one for trans readers nearly had me in tears and the one for cis readers was really important for highlighting to readers what I have just said about this not being THE experience of trans people.

Also I just want to highlight how disrespectful I think it is that whoever wrote the blurb did not include that Amanda is trans just that she has a “secret” like that completely alienates the people that this book is for.

This book does tackle a lot of really intense issues and I just want to make it clear that if you are interested in reading this book now but are worried it may trigger you and you would like to have a discussion with me to see if it something you can read my inbox is always open, my contact email is listed on my about page and my twitter is listed below.

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Truth or Dare by Non Pratt – Interesting concept, not sure about the representation.

This was a really interesting book. It’s one of those books that’s kind of not really had a lot of buzz, so I didn’t know what I was going to get going into this.

Content warnings for: neurodisability, thrill seeking, sexual harassment, ace/aro-phobia, mental health problems, racism.

This is a book split in 2 halves, 1 side you read completely from Claire’s POV then it switches to Sef’s before alternating for the end.

The best friend of the main character is ace! She also then clarifies that she is also aro later on and I had no idea before going in and I was so pleasantly surprised. There is little to no representation of people who are ace/aro in books. I am pansexual/romantic so I am not the person to speak about the representation but I found this review on GR from someone who is own voices. I’m in 2 minds about the fact that it’s the side character rather than the main character, I wish there was more of a focus on representation in books but I also feel like sometimes it’s better for that to be more in the background so that it just slowly gets embedded into normal thinking. But, like I said, I can’t really speak on it. But for me I felt the representation was really good as it differentiated between ace and aro and it kind of subtly taught the reader about what that means. If you are ace or aro or both and feel like it wasn’t good representation please let me know and I will link to your review!

There was also representation as Sef is British Pakistani, but I really wasn’t sure about the representation. This review I found from Kamalia talks about their wish for the representation to be less westernised and I can 100% see why they were let down in that respect, but I’m also aware of many 2nd/3rd/4th generation Pakistani people living in the UK who have taken on board a lot of British traditions etc. But again I am white, I can’t speak on it.

I honestly just didn’t really like Sef, he reminded me a lot of the boys I went to school with who would be one person in private then a complete jerk with friends. I am very aware that he had a lot to deal with so I can’t fault him because we all deal with stuff in or own ways. From working with teenagers for my placement it’s become even more apparent to me. I think that’s one thing this book did deal with really well, was showing just the general life struggles that so many teens go through on a day to day basis. I felt that in that respect it was pretty realistic.

There is a lot of sexual harassment in this novel, and it’s shown in a negative light as well it should be, but it kind of reminded me of my experiences as a kid in high school of the things that felt like nothing at the time that now thinking back on I realise could be considered sexual harassment. Kids are absolutely awful to each other and I think this showed that better than a lot of novels have done, as many just show run of the mill slut shaming or boys being mean to girls. This book really went deep into how conniving teens can really be.

I read this book pretty quickly, it was paced well and felt super easy to get through and for the most part I enjoyed what I was ready. There were a few scenes that made me uncomfortable but that was on purpose.

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard – A book all about female friendships

I really enjoyed Barnard’s sophomore work A Quiet Kind of Thunder so I was eager to read her debut. It was a good book but I can definitely tell her writing has improved.

Content warnings for: abuse, attempted suicide, manipulative relationships and slut shaming (which is called out on the page).

A new girl has moved to town and threatens the friendship between Caddy and Rosie as Suzanne goes to Rosie’s school and spends more time with her. However Caddy starts to hang out with Suzanne due to jealousy but that morphs into a strong friendship, but even though Suzanne has a tough and carefree exterior there is so much more going on beneath the surface.

This book is pretty harsh; it shows the ugly fleeting side of friendships in teenagers that are harmful but just as important as lasting friendships in our development as humans. Some of the decisions made by these young girls made me want to jump into the page and shake then because they were behaving so rashly. But that is what youth is.

I felt like the voice of the MC came across a bit young when I was reading. At times she read more like a 13/14 year old than a 16/17 year old, apart from talking about sex.

One of my least favourite tropes exists in this: overprotective parents who do not listen to their children and are super over the top about it. Of course I understand where this comes from, but it drives me wild. I wish they would actually listen to their children. Yes parents “know what’s best” for their children, but just because they’re younger doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make their own decisions.

What I absolutely loved about this book is that this is very much about the friendship between 3 friends. There’s some mentions of relationships and flirting, but it is never the main focus. There’s a couple arguments because of boys but it’s always just something that is a catalyst for further arguments rather than the sole focus.

The difference between this book and Barnard’s second book is very obvious so I’m pretty excited to read her next book to see how she’s came along.

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Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Thank you to edelweiss and Harper Collins for sending a me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vanni had always planned to leave her small home town that everyone else gets stuck in, but then her dad get’s diagnosed with Huntington’s, which can be passed to the next generation. So her fear of also being diagnosed stalls her in her plans so she spends her summer working at a water park and flirting around with different people.

So I really liked the exploration of being bisexual in teenagers and whilst the MC does eventually identify as being bi, I really liked that for a while there is a lot of talk of fluidity and a lot of it just kind of happens. Which felt really realistic to me, because it is such a complicated thing to go through. And I liked that it was in a majorly hispanic community as I feel like the majority of novels I’ve read with a bi MC have been very white and it was refreshing to read from another point of view.

As well as there being bisexual representation there is also a character who struggles with their gender identity, and as I am cis myself I didn’t really pick up on it properly until the end, but I think people who themselves have struggled with it would pick up on it much earlier. When I realised it was very much like “oh yeah of course”. I tried to hunt to see if any genderqueer people had reviewed it on goodreads but came up blank, and obviously I’m not going to ask people what they identify as for sake of a review. But yeah I’m cis so I can’t say if the rep is good but it felt good.

As with the genderqueer rep, I don’t have Huntington’s so I couldn’t tell you if it deals with that well but I really appreciated that it was part of the novel. It’s not a well talked about disease and it’s not as famous as things like MS.

I think the one thing that made this read not a favourite was just that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable. And when I say that I don’t mean like they were all awful people and I hated reading them. They’re well developed characters and have their own driving forces. I just got annoyed with them a lot, but hey teenagers can be pretty annoying so they definitely felt realistic.

I think if you’re looking for a diverse summer contemporary with a wide range of issues this is the book for you.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Thank you to netgalley and Penguin Random House Children’s for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Flora Banks has no short term memory and her parents have had to leave the country to look after Flora’s dying brother. However Flora has one recent memory, and that’s of kissing Drake. So she leaves England and goes to Norway to find Drake at his uni on a tiny island in hopes that it will help return her memory.

Ugh this book. Every problematic trope you can think of to do with mental health is in it. And most trigger warnings to do with mental health you can think of are also needed. This was one of those books I somehow ended up hate reading about halfway through and I had to know the ending so kept reading it despite not liking it.

Most of the characters were just terrible people. The main love interest refused to own up to the mess he made. The best friend got so mad that she just left her best friend to fend for herself even though said best friend had a literal memory problem. And do not get me started on her parents. Her parents literally left her alone when they left the country to care for their other child, despite the fact Flora has short term memory loss and mental health problems. Which in my mind is just terrible behaviour from parents.

Even the end was such a disappointment that I wish I hadn’t read that far. Yes the writing definitely hooked me in but in the bad way. I knew what was going to happen but I just wanted to keep reading in hopes that I was wrong, but I wasn’t. The writing style is really different, it’s really repetitive but that’s because it’s told from Flora’s POV so whenever her memory reset itself she had to read notes to herself to remind her of what she was doing. I wouldn’t have had an issue with this because I understand it’s plot purpose but it was so focussed on Drake that I just rolled my eyes every time.

Another thing I really didn’t like was that this book kind of gave off the idea that pills are bad. That they turn you into a different person if you take pills for mental health reasons. I’m not sure if that’s what Barr intended but that’s what it read like to me. And I’m on anti depressants so I really hate reading that kind of thing.

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Kasie West and was really excited to read a book by her.

Caymen works in her mothers doll shop and they are struggling pretty hard with money. In walks Xander who Caymen instantly knows is rich and she wants nothing to do with him. But Xander just wants to get to know Caymen.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t hugely into this book. It felt very white. Like the characters had such white troubles. Which sounds like a weird complaint but all the problems just felt so over complicated and pointless. It was pretty predictable as well.

I did however like Xander, the love interest. He was a sweetie and it often felt like Caymen was being horrible to him just because he’s rich and like he can’t help that. I also enjoyed that a lot of the novel was set in the doll shop that Caymen’s mum owned. Though it did make the book slightly creepier than it needed to be.

The pacing was really good, I sped through the book. Apart from the problems I had with it I did enjoy reading it. I just wanted more from it.

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Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Thank you to netgalley and Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow when scheduling my posts I missed this one so I’m sorry if my review isn’t great because when I read this it was still May and now it’s September.

Alice buys her best friend, and crush, a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday and somehow it’s the winning ticket and Teddy comes into more money than you could even imagine. Then they have to navigate the new rich world they live in.

This kind of read just like any tv program where a young person comes into a lot of money. They go silly spending a lot of money, their friendship suffers, then they realise what they’ve done. And I’m sorry if you thank that’s a spoiler but I mean it’s the same story every time. The writing was good though, so I’d definitely be open to reading more stuff from Smith as I think she would be good with a less cliche story line.

There were 2 love interests in this book, though it wasn’t a love triangle it was just the main character trying to explore new people. Honest to god though Teddy was the worst guy ever, like honestly. He was just such a dick for the majority of the novel and I really struggled to feel sympathetic to Alice when her best friend was an arse and she knew it but continued to be upset by it. I get that they had a long history but my god I just wanted to slap that boy.

However I did feel like I read the book pretty quickly, so if you’re wanting a light read this might be the one for you. If you haven’t seen to many shows/films with a kid coming into a lot of money give it a shot because it was ok, but I’ve just seen it too many times.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Thank you to edelweiss and Harper Collins for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After reading History is All You Left Me this was one of my most anticipated reads. Knowing that Adam had been working on this for such a long time as well had me super hyped up.

Obviously the title itself is a huge spoiler so you can’t hate me for talking about the characters dying, and if you have triggers to do with death, violence and suicide do not read this. Now I’m one of those heathens who sometimes reads the final page of a book so this didn’t really bother me, though I felt like I actually read a bit too fast at times because I was so desperate to know how they died. So I might reread this book soon and change my feelings about it because I was definitely aware of reading things a bit faster than I normally would out of sheer impatience.

I actually feel like my enjoyment of this book was a little bit diminished because it was just so unfair that the characters had to die because you got to learn about their lives and how bad a hand they’d been dealt and knowing they were going to die just left me feeling kind of hollow because of how unfair it was. As someone who has grown up dealing with the loss of young relations things like this really effect me.

I don’t know the technical term for it, but Mateo has anxiety that manifests itself in a kind of agoraphobia and Adam wrote it so well, even though I don’t experience these feelings, sometimes I do have times where I feel close to it and I related to it a lot.

Like in The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon you get snippets of other people’s lives  as they are involved in the lives of Mateo and Rufus and I loved getting to see that and see how the Death Cast would effect people and how they tried to set the world to rights.

The idea of the book and living in a world where you get phoned the day of our death is really interesting to me and I think is actually a really good discussion piece for teenagers and adults alike. Would you want to know if you were going to die that day? Would you rather just live your life without the presence of that knowledge in the back of your head?

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Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Juliet writes letters to her mother and leaves them on her grave. One day someone writes back.

Honestly this just felt like your classic YA novel about grief. I didn’t make any notes to myself when reading it so clearly I didn’t feel like there was anything of note. It was fine. I didn’t love it didn’t hate it. I will have to say though that even though it’s not exactly anything new the writing style really pulls you in and you can’t put it down. I think part of what drew me in was that the were writing letters to each other and didn’t know who they were writing to and it reminded me of You’ve Got Mail which is one of my favourite romance films.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Juliet as the main character. Her voice kind of annoyed me and at times she was super self indulgent and had really bad reactions to things, but I had to remind myself that she’s a teenager and teenagers are dramatic. I kind of had a soft spot for Declan though he wasn’t the greatest guy ever. They were both pretty flawed characters, which of course makes it good writing because they’re human.

I think mostly what annoyed me most, and this is a bit spoilery, was that a character finds out who the other is way earlier than the other and then didn’t communicate with that person and let them know. So half the novel is just a lack of communication, which is ok if it’s only a small part of it but I got pretty frustrated.

The book was well written and I liked reading it but it didn’t feel like anything new, it was like I’d read it before. Which is fine for someone who doesn’t read a lot of contemporary novels, but I do and it just didn’t bring anything memorable to the table. But if you’re a fan of You’ve Got Mail definitely give this one a shot.

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Aw this book is honestly so sweet. It was one of the books I was super excited for this year and it did not let me down.

It surrounds a convention for all the youtubers and geeky types like us lot where a group of friends travel from Australia to LA for the weekend of their dreams.

The book is pretty short and whilst I really liked my time with the book I felt like there isn’t much for me to say.

This could’ve easily been a 5 star read for me as the style was so easy to read and the representation was on point. There was Asian Rep, aspie rep, anxiety Rep, chubby Rep, bisexual Rep, lesbian Rep. However I felt like there was just something a little lacking and it’s not something I could ever pin point but it just wasn’t quite in the favourites position for me

The book follows 2 blossoming relationships and it was honestly just really sweet to read. There was little miscommunications and classic tropes from YA romance that just makes you squeal with delight.

Even though my review is a bit thin on the ground I do hope you read this book because it just made me really happy when I read it and I can’t wait to read the next Jen Wilde book because I feel like it’s going to be a 5 star.

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