Farewell Tour of a Terminal OptimistTitle: Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist

Author: John Young

Pages: 288 Pages

Pubisher: Floris Books

The Blurb

Quick-witted, sharp-tongued Connor Lambert won’t take it any longer: the bullying, the secrets, the sympathy. He’s been dying from cancer for years, but he’s not dead yet. He’s going down fighting.

Forming an unlikely friendship with fellow juvenile delinquent Skeates, the pair stage a break out and set off on a crazy tour across Scotland — dodging the police, joy riding and extreme partying — to find Connor’s dad, an inmate at Shotts prison.

But Connor’s left two things behind — the medication he needs to keep him alive, and the girl who makes living bearable.

A fresh and bold debut novel full of heart, guts and raw emotion. Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist is a brilliantly funny, thrilling exploration of friendship, identity and mortality populated with witty, sharply drawn characters.

The Review

One trend in YA fiction is to give the main character a medical condition. It’s not new but it has been happening a lot. In John Young’s Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist his protagonist Connor Lambert has cancer. It is never going to go away, he is just managing it.

This isn’t the only thing that Connor has going on with his life. His father is in prison and no one will tell him why. His mum works all the hours of the day and his younger sister was killed when he was younger. Basically, his family life is in a mess.

Connor and the school bully Skeates go on a wacky adventure to try and find Connor’s dad in prison. It is the first time in his life that he hasn’t allowed his cancer to dictate his life. This, for me was the most relatable thing about Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist. I have a chronic condition and I often let it control my life. Young really got that right.

Unlike some books of the YA/illness genre the book isn’t set to pull at your heartstrings. It celebrates friendship and making the most of life. It is a really uplifting read.

Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist by John Young is available now.

For more information regarding John Young (@jonhyoungauthor) please visit www.j-a-young.com.

For more information regarding Floris Books (@FlorisBooks) please visit www.florisbooks.co.uk.

35 Stars

Planks LawTitle: Plank’s Law

Author: Lesley Choyce

Pages: 179 Pages

Publisher: Orca Books Publishers

The Blurb

Trevor has known since he was ten years old that he has Huntington’s disease, but at sixteen he is informed that he has one year to live. One day while he’s trying to figure stuff out, an old man named Plank finds him standing at a cliff by the ocean. It’s the beginning of an odd but intriguing relationship. Both Trevor and Plank decide to live by Plank’s Law, which is “just live.” This means Trevor has to act on the things on his bucket list, like hanging out with real penguins, star in a science fiction movie and actually talk to Sara—the girl at the hospital who smiles at him.

With the aid of Plank and Sara, Trevor revises his bucket list to include more important things and takes charge of his illness and his life.

The Review

Plank’s Law is a novella in the style of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and In Bloom by Matthew Crow. It is the story of a teenager dealing with terminal illness. Plank’s Law embraces the reality of friendships formed through mutual illnesses and also looks at the concept of making every moment count. Furthermore, it explores how on the surface people can seem happy but we each have our own battles to deal with whether it be a physical illness or a mental one.

Plank’s Law is a quick read and is a great novella to introduce you to more heartbreaking stories of a similar ilk.

Planks Law by Lesley Choyce is available now.

For more information regarding Lesley Choyce (@LesleyChoyce) please visit www.lesleychoyce.com.

For more information regarding Orca Books Publishers (@orcabooks) please visit www.orcabooks.com.

3 Stars

Maddie & SayaraTitle: Maddie & Sayara

Author: Sanjyot P. Dunung

Pages: 152 Pages

Publisher: Full Circle Media

The Blurb

Two girls growing up in very different cultures, driven to fight for what is right . . .

Maddie and Sayara are from very different cultures and meet while on holiday. They quickly forge a close friendship as they discover their similarities—their families, attitudes, dreams, and hopes. Their time together is cut short when Sayara is called home because her favourite cousin has been unexpectedly jailed by powerful forces. Maddie is both surprised and shocked and resolves to help Sayara free her cousin, Themi, from jail.

Maddie wonders why girls are treated differently just because of where they are born. Naïve, but hopeful, Maddie cannot understand why her friends should live within unequal and unfair rules, and she is determined to fix the problem.

Stealthily arriving in Sayara’s home kingdom, Maddie finds she is less prepared than she thought to navigate local powerful forces, culture, and unfair rules. With the help of a local family, Maddie finds Sayara and her spirited cousin Themi. But can Maddie and Sayara persuade the king to change the unfair rules against women?

This is not only a compelling story that young adults will relate to, but it’s also an inspiration for girls everywhere to fight intolerance and repression. A perfect book for anyone interested in making the world a better place.

The Review

Oh boy.

Ok, so I hate it when I read a review book and I don’t like it and I swear I really try to be diplomatic with my reviews; I’m going to try and do the same with Maddie & Sayara but I think it is going to be hard.

Maddie & Sayara is the story of a friendship formed by the two eponymous characters. Both come from very different worlds. Maddie has the western freedom that she naturally takes for granted. Sayara on the other hand is from a country that forces girls to be covered from head to toe with ‘tents’ – we can assume writer Dunung means a burka. Girls can’t drive cars, they have to follow the rules put forth by men and basically they have no rights.

So far, so interesting. Having a story that looks at the disparity between these two worlds and the unfairness of one seems pretty interesting. I comment Dunung for approaching an interesting topic.

However, the story becomes too farfetched. Maddie – a thirteen year old travels across the world by herself without her parents noticing, the uplifting ending and the crazy adventure she gets herself in. It was all too implausible.

Maddie & Sayara is meant to be YA Fiction and I think that Dunung hasn’t given her audience enough credit to be able to see through a plot that just wouldn’t happen.

A very disappointing read.

Maddie & Sayara by Sanjyot P. Dunung is available now.

1 star

And Were OffTitle: And We’re Off

Author: Dana Schwartz

Pages: 261 Pages

Publisher: Razorbill Books

The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather. It’s a no-brainer: Nora is in!

Unfortunately, Nora’s mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip. She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter—and her opinions haven’t gone unnoticed. Nora couldn’t feel more unsupported by her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, the women are as disconnected as they’ve ever been. But seconds after saying goodbye to Alice at the airport terminal, Nora hears a voice call out: “Wait! Stop! I’m coming with you!”

And . . . they’re off.

The Review

Oooh, it isn’t rare that a book will get me incensed but usually it is because I am screaming at the choices the characters make it is not usually because of an individual character. This is exactly what happened when I read And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz.

The set up of the story is that protagonist Nora Holmes is going away for the summer to study at an art institute in Ireland. She is travelling through Europe for a few days before and after her course and it will be her first sense of freedom. There is only one problem though – Nora’s overbearing mother.

I can’t honestly recall a time when a character has angered me as much as Alice Parker did. I love my mum, she is my best friend but if I had planned a holiday and she announced that she was tagging along and she then started changing my plans I would be fuming. During this book there were very few redeeming features of Alice Parker. I felt so much sympathy for Nora who had to endure her mother’s antics. My anger was tangible.

There were some things that I would have liked from the book that I didn’t get. I wanted to see more from Callum at the end and I also wanted the crazy wild goose chase to find a café in Paris explained but overall And We’re Off was a one sitting read and I really, really enjoyed it.

And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz is available now.

For more information regarding Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) please visit www.DanaSchwartzDotCom.com.

For more information regarding Razorbill Books (@RazorbillBooks) please visit www.razorbillbooks.com.

4 Stars

Beautiful Broken ThingsTitle: Beautiful Broken Things

Author: Sara Barnard

Pages: 337 Pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

The Blurb

Here’s my theory on Significant Life Events: everyone has them, but some have more than others, and how many you have affects how interesting you are, how many stories you have to tell, that kind of thing.

I was still waiting for my first one.

After yet another typical summer where nothing of any significance happens, Caddy vows that now she’s sixteen this year will be different; she’ll get a boyfriend (a real one), lose her virginity and experience a Significant Life Event. If only Caddy knew what was just around the corner – a whirlwind of wild spirit and fury with a dazzling smile and sad eyes by the name of Suzanne – and a significant life event that no one could have predicted.

Caddy and Rosie have been BFF’s since they were little girls, but when enigmatic and beautiful new girl Suzanne starts at Rosie’s school, Caddy allows her insecurities to threaten her friendship with Rosie. Caddy wishes she were more like Rosie and Suzanne – confident, funny and interesting – but beneath the make-up and bravado lies a secret side to Suzanne that intrigues Caddy. Despite their differences very soon the three girls are inseparable, and things get a whole lot more complicated.

Under Suzanne’s influence, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But climbing out of bedroom windows for forbidden midnight walks on the beach begins to lose its shimmer as Suzanne’s troubled past is revealed and her present begins to unravel. The course of friendship and recovery is rougher than any of the girls could have imagined, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

Beautiful Broken Things is a heart-stoppingly beautiful debut novel from emerging UKYA talent Sara Barnard. It’s a love story without romance, about what it means to be a friend when your whole life is falling apart. For all the arguments, misunderstandings, fallouts and tears, there’s no love quite like that shared between teenage girls. A beautiful tribute to the friendships that bind when you’re a teenage girl and still learning about life, and about yourself.

The Review

Ooh, three way friendships are tricky little things, aren’t they? It is the friendship between Caddy, Rosie and new girl Suzanne, this is the basis of Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things. When Rosie and Suzanne become friends, Caddy – Rosie’s best friend – becomes unbearably jealous. However, as the girls all get to know one another the dynamics of the group shift and the girls all form roles within their cohort.

We have all been there, haven’t we? All had that tricky friendship group and have fallen out with your best friend. It feels like the end of the world (when, it happens at the age of 29 it is much worse, trust me) so you really feel that Barnard is portraying a universal story. The emotions that come along with friendship are harsh, they are real and they go deeper than anyone would ever imagine.

You can’t help but feel for our young protagonist, Caddy; equally you find yourself screaming at the book when you know she is making bad decisions. Rather cleverly, Barnard has managed to portray ‘bad influence’ Suzanne in a heart warming way. Your heart breaks for her the same way that Caddy’s does. Yes, she keeps doing messed up things but she is so self destructive that you can’t help but want to fix her.

Beautiful Broken Things is one of the best books that I have read about the dynamics of friendship and the real life dramas that take place among teenagers that should never be taken lightly.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard is available now.

For more information regarding Sara Barnard (@saramegan) please visit www.sarabarnardofficial.com.

For more information regarding (@panmacmillan) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.

35 Stars