Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Pages: 286 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Books

The Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience and the power of lifelong friendship.

The Review

Turtles All the Way Down is a brave novel.

I say this for many reasons. The first reason being that this book is the first release from John Green since the epically successful The Fault in Our Stars; comparisons are bound to happen. People may have been expecting another gut wrenching tearjerker or to be completely emotionally immersed into the characters world in the same way as before. The second reason is that John Green has chosen to tackle a topic that is so on trend at the moment – this being mental health – that the worry is that he isn’t going to do it justice. Other writers’ may do it better. However, John Green needn’t have worried.

Turtles All the Way Down, as I said before, is brave. Having read many stories based on mental health I can genuinely say that I felt Aza’a compulsions. Her obsession with things that she cannot control became oppressive and you found yourself feeling both sorry for her but also understanding her need.

Furthermore, what John Green did (which is often missed out of the stories I have read previously) he discussed how hard mental illness is on those around the sufferer. He didn’t make the story evenly balanced because essentially it is Aza’s issue but we saw how the people who cared about her struggle – her mum not wanting to lose her, her best friend Daisy always feeling a few steps behind and her would be boyfriend Davis who can’t get as close as he would like to Aza.

So, Turtles All the Way Down is nothing like The Fault in Our Stars and if you are expecting it to be the same or similar then you may be disappointed. Taken as a separate entity, then John Green has written a really impressive and stark story about mental health.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green is available now.

For more information regarding John Green please visit www.johngreenbooks.com.

For more information regarding Penguin Books (@PenguinTeen) please visit www.penguinteen.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

The Life and Death of Sophie StarkTitle: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

Author: Anna North

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Group/Blue Rider Press

The Blurb

Gripping and provocative, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a haunting story of fame, love, and legacy told through the propulsive rise of an iconoclastic artist. Sophie Stark begins her filmmaking career by creating a documentary about her obsession, Daniel, a college basketball star. But when she becomes too invasive, she finds herself the victim of a cruel retribution. The humiliation doesn’t stop her. Visionary and unapologetic, Sophie begins to use stories from the lives of those around her to create movies, and as she gains critical recognition and acclaim, she risks betraying the one she loves most.

Told in a chorus of voices belonging to those who knew Sophie best, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art. It is “not only a dissection of genius and the havoc it can wreak, but also a thunderously good story” (Emma Donoghue).

The Review

Well, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark was a curious little read. The eponymous character doesn’t narrate the story. Her life is told from the perspective of those who loved (and at times, hated) her and we get a full bodied picture of this strange and creative character. One thing I got from the descriptions of Sophie Stark is that her art was more important than the people around her. She would go to lengths to get what she wanted and her destructive path often came at a cost to the people she loved the most.

The clever way in which the story unfolds is almost documentary-like. If this were made into a film you could see it being told that way which then kind of becomes art imitating fictional life imitating art which then makes my head hurt.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a really good read if you like your literature like independent cinema, quirky but memorable.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North is available now.

For more information regarding Anna North (@annanorthtweets) please visit www.annanorth.net.

For more information regarding Penguin Group (@Penguinusa) please visit www.penguin.com.

For more information regarding Blue Rider Press (@BlueRiderPress) www.penguin.com.

35 Stars

ned-vizziniTitle: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini

Pages: 448 Pages

Publisher: Hyperion

The Blurb

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life-which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job-Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping-until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbours include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it’s definitely a funny story.

The Review

Mental health amongst teenagers is a subject of much contention. It is frequently debated in the news and more and more we are seeing young adults becoming a victim of depression and other mental health diseases. Sadly, even though it is more common now, the stigma attached to mental health issues is still rampant.

This is why novels like It’s Kind of a Funny Story are so important. Furthermore, it is writers like Ned Vizzini who have drawn from personal experiences that make novels like It’s Kind of a Funny Story have a level of authenticity to them. A verisimilitude off what it is actually like to suffer from depression.

I, myself, suffer from anxiety. I am fortunate enough to know the root of my anxiety. It comes from my medical condition Ulcerative Colitis. Being away from available bathrooms is mental torture. I won’t travel long distances by car for fear of getting stuck in traffic thus causing panic about lack of bathroom availability which ironically causes the need for bathroom availability. Walking is a nightmare; a 13 minute walk from my house to a relatives house is as near to mental torture as you can get as it feels like you are walking the distance of a marathon.

All of this is irrelevant really but if you have never felt anxiety or mental health worries then maybe this has just given you a brief window into what it is like. If you want an honest and more insightful view then you need to read It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It is warm, funny, sad and strangely uplifting.

A sad fact regarding the book is that Ned Vizzini sadly succumbed to his depression by committing suicide. His book gave so much hope that it is really heartbreaking that he couldn’t stave off his own demons.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini is available now.

For more information regarding Hyperion Books please visit the Twitter page (@HyperionTeens).

35-stars

hello-me-its-youTitle: Hello Me, It’s You

Author: Hannah Todd

Pages: 112 Pages

Publisher: Amazon Media

The Blurb

Everyone says being a teenager is CRAZY. But do they mean crazy hard, crazy fun… or just plain bonkers?

Roughly three people in every class have some kind of mental health issue, but most of them have no idea what’s going on. They think they’re just weak, or shy, or bad, or completely, irreversibly, writing-on-the-walls ‘insane’. But they’re not. They have some form of depression, anxiety, eating disorder or other mental health issue and they will come out the other side.

This is a book of advice, from young people who made it through, to their sixteen-year-old selves.

Do you ever feel like the apocalypse is coming, and it wouldn’t be that bad? Like bed is as far as you want to get today? As though your heart is going to beat right out of your chest and your legs have turned to jelly, at the thought of leaving home or talking to another human being? Or maybe you just feel like when you start worrying, you can’t stop.

Whatever form it takes, this book can help you through it.

The Review

Hello Me, It’s You is a collection of letters sent by anonymous writers to their younger selves. The common denominator of these writers is that they have all suffered with various forms of mental health issues. From anxiety to depression to everything in between the letters featured in this book are heartbreaking. The young writers have been through so much and had to deal with issues way beyond comprehension that you cannot help but feel empathy.

However, the overriding feeling from these letters, that bare so much sadness, is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. The letters are so full of hope, resilience and success. This collection is the perfect gift for the people in our lives that we know who suffer from this invisible illness. Mental health issues among teenagers is on the rise and there is a need for positivity for people who are suffering. They need to know that things get better. And that is the message found in Hello Me, It’s You.

Hello Me, It’s You by Hannah Todd is available now.

3-stars