Title: My Friends Are All Strange

Author: Margaret Lesh

Pages: 230 Pages

Publisher: Margaret Lesh

The Blurb

My friends are all strange.

Right now I’m living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I’ve met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can’t be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me.
I’ve always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don’t seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I’m hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don’t sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you’re trying to escape your own mind? I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I’m smart. I’m nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange… Like me.

Dark, funny, snarky, seventeen-year-old Becca struggles to cope with mental illness in MY FRIENDS ARE ALL STRANGE, the gripping contemporary young adult companion novel to NORMALISH.

The Review

There has been a growing trend over the past few years to write stories that have mental health at the heart of it. This is a great thing. Without examples of how people are struggling, how are people to learn when to be compassionate. Sure, people should be raised to show compassion but as someone who works with adolescents I can assure you that it isn’t always the case. Therefore, YA fiction that tackles the issues of mental health awareness really is making a difference.

My Friends Are All Strange tells the story of Becca who has always teetered on the edge with her mental health but since the loss of her father her actions have grown more and more manic until she is institutionalised to try and help her come to terms with her condition and also learn to control it. At her mental health facility she meets a plethora of people who have a variety of conditions and we watch Becca and her friends dealing with the hand life dealt them.

Lesh run the risk of having the setting as a mental health facility of creating a competitive nature of look my mental illness is worse than yours. Equally, it could have gone the opposite way of becoming a bit saccharine – I saw all these other people with mental illness and I realised my life isn’t so bad. Fortunately, Lesh did not do this. She handled the topic with dignity and the message that I got from it was that mental health problems can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate.

My Friends Are all Strange is a powerful book and every library needs a copy.

My Friends Are All Strange by Margaret Lesh is available now.

For more information regarding Margaret Lesh (@MargaretLesh) please visit www.margaretlesh.com.

Title: Always Second Best

Author: Elodie Nowodazkij

Pages: 216 Pages

Publisher: Victory Editing

The Blurb

Sometimes being first isn’t what you expected.

Seventeen-year-old ballerina Emilia Moretti is tired of always being second best. And she’s going to prove the world she deserves to be first. In her upcoming School of the Performing Arts showcase. In the eyes of her birth parents. And in the heart of the guy she loves. She spends hours rehearsing, hours dreaming about becoming number one, hours imagining how her entire life is about to change. But when nothing goes the way she planned, she’ll need to realize what it really means to be first.

Eighteen-year-old Nick Grawski doesn’t want to follow Daddy Dearest’s rules any longer. He’s going to prove he’s meant to be a dancer—not a lawyer—and he is not going to stay away from Em just because his father demands it. He needs to show Em that—this time around—he’s there to stay and that he won’t break her heart again. Even when her world goes down to shit, even when he finds out his dad may have been trying to protect him all along, even if being there for one another is harder than falling in love.

ALWAYS SECOND BEST is a novel of hope and heartbreak and broken dreams. It’s a novel about falling in love and discovering that being first isn’t always what matters.

The Review

Ooh I do love a good romance and in Elodie Nowodazkij’s novel Always Second Best we get a damn good romance. It is the will they/won’t they tale of Emelia and Nick and how they have decided to not be together but nothing seems to be able to keep them apart. Not their potential futures, not other partners and certainly not their families.

Always Second Best is only a short novel but it is packed full of drama. I couldn’t put it down as with the turning of each page I became more and more desperate to know what would happen with this young couple.

Always Second Best by Elodie Nowodazkij is available now.

For more information regarding Elodie Nowodazkij (@ENowodazkij) please visit www.elodienowodazkij.com.

For more information regarding Victory Editing (@VictoryEditing) please visit www.victoryediting.com.

Title: Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me

Author: Mary McKinley

Pages: 252 Pages

Publisher: Kensington Books

The Blurb

When Beau transferred to our school. I thought: “Good; fresh meat.” Because I knew he would be tormented the entire time he was at Baboon High. Like I am. All day. . .every day.

Growing up is a trip. . .

In high school, there are few worse crimes than being smart or fat. Lucky me, I’m both. But when Beau Gales blows in to town, it takes about two minutes for the jackasses at our Seattle school to figure out he’s gay, and that makes him an even bigger target. Have you ever heard the saying: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’? There’s something to that.

When the bullying gets violent and Beau decides to run away to San Francisco to ask his Uncle Frankie for advice, we all go. Beau, me, Leonie (designated class slut), and a scruffy rescue dog called The Bomb—a tribe of misfits crammed into my mom’s minivan. Throw in a detour to the Twilight town of Forks, armed robbery, cool record shops, confessions, breakups and makeups, and you have the kind of journey that can change the way you look at the whole world—and yourself.

The Review

High school is hard. I know this as a) someone who attended high school and b) as someone who now works in a high school. It was difficult for me and someone who had a fairly typical upbringing but it must be even harder if you are an outsider, or the kids who is considered to be a bit easy or to be the new kid who happens to be gay. These three character types are present in Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me, the sensational novel by Mary McKinley.

The story centres on Rusty (the Outsider), she is your classic overweight girl who just tries to get through high school. Her two best friends Lee (the Easy One) and Beau (the Gay One) are her support system. Without them she would be lost and lonely. When Beau is attacked in a heinous hate crime and decides to leave, Rusty decides to go with him and Lee tags along for the ride.

They head towards San Francisco because Beau believes life will be better for him there. Along the way they discover the delights of driving across America alongside discovering things about themselves.

Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me is a classic coming of age story (which is one of my two favourite types of story and it is a classic road trip story (my other favourite kind). Combined, there was no way I was going to hate this novel. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I bloody loved it. I loved how McKinley created these characters that one the outside, to other people they seemed like a motley crew of misfits but actually it was just the narrow minded attitude of others that needed a reality check.

Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me is a combination of great story telling, loveable characters and history lesson and I would and will recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me by Mary McKinley is available now.

For more information regarding Kensington Books (@KensingtonBooks) please visit www.kensingtonbooks.com.

Title: Alice + Freda Forever – A Murder in Memphis

Author: Alexis Coe

Pages: 208 Pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

The Blurb

In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation – it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiance Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.

Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter – and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiance’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion.

As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail – including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells).

After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later. Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes – painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.

The Review

The history of LGBT rights is so very complex and diverse that you would be forgiven for not knowing everything there was to know about it. With every book that I read that has an LGBT theme I learn something new. This is exactly what happened with me when I read Alice + Freda Forever.

Alexis Coe has created a fictional account of a real life event that took place in the 19th Century in Memphis – a place notorious for its lack of acceptance of anything that deviates from “the norm.” It focuses on the tempestuous relationship between two young women Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward.

When her love was spurned by Freda, Alice attacked and killed her. She was broken hearted and killed Freda in a crime of passion. For her crime, Alice was sent to an asylum where she died a few years later.

Coe has cleverly told the story of Mitchell and Ward in a sensitive way and by doing so has not only looked at the development of LGBT history/rights but also looked at how women were treated and how anything that didn’t fit into society’s strict regulations was seen as a reason to believe a person was mentally unhinged.

Accompanying the story are the real letters sent between the lovers and illustrations to help paint a visual picture. Alice + Freda Forever is a truly fascinating read.

Alice + Freda Forever – A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe is available now.

For more information regarding Alexis Coe (@AlexisCoe) please visit www.alexiscoe.com.

For more information regarding Houghton Mifflin (@HMHCo) please visit www.hmhco.com.

Title: A Pretty Mess (An Astonvale Novel)

Author: Carla Caruso

Pages: 260 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

The Blurb

Sometimes, to come clean, you’ve got to get your hands dirty … The first in the Astonvale series.

Celeste Pretty, a self-confessed neat freak, has found the job she was born to do: a professional organiser, de-cluttering people’s homes and workplaces. Her new business gets off to a cracking start when she lands her first client, health and fitness guru Natalia Samphire, in the well-heeled suburb of Astonvale. But things get messy at Natalia’s mansion when Celeste finds a blackmail note and other mysterious items.

And then there’s Lenny Muscat, the sexy builder renovating the place, whose constant presence is muddling Celeste’s usually organised brain. When things get decidedly suspicious at the mansion, she and Lenny have to team up to investigate. But will Celeste emerge with her heart and professional reputation unscathed?

The Review

After reading a few heavy books recently it was really nice to pick up Carla Caruso’s A Pretty Mess. It is a fun story probably best described as romantic comedy mystery that revolves around the life of Celeste Pretty.

Celeste has recently set up her own organisation business and has landed a massive celebrity client but as she organises her new clients life she discovers that not everything is as it seems. With the help of hunky builder, Lenny, Celeste tries to solve the mystery surrounding celebrity fitness coach Natalie Samphire.

There were times when A Pretty Mess bordered on silly, with coincidental meet cutes and a clumsy Bridget Jones-esque protagonist but it cannot be accused of having no heart. This story is chock full of sentiment and whilst it probably won’t change your life it might just put a smile on your face.

A Pretty Mess (An Astonvale Novel) by Carla Caruso is available now.

For more information regarding Carla Caruso please visit www.carlacaruso.com.au.

For more information regarding Harper Collins (@HarperCollins) please visit www.harpercollins.com.