Books that adults should read, YA, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

Fierce Fragile Hearts is the stunning companion novel to Sara Barnard’s YA bestseller Beautiful Broken Things, which was selected for the inaugural Zoella Book Club. It is about leaving the past behind, the friends who form your future, and learning to find love, in all its forms.

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?

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I finished reading this book about two weeks ago.  Mental Health Awareness week was just round the corner. A week where we are encouraged to talk about mental health, raising awareness and remind each other that it’s okay to talk about these things.  So here I was with this book in my hands. This beautiful book  about three friends and the pain of growing up in a world that only seems to deal in sorrow and heartbreak, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A wonderful example of how we can find truth, friendship and support through reading novels such as this.

As the synopsis  said Fierce Fragile Hearts is a companion novel to Beautiful Broken Things where events unfolded through the voice of Caddy.  A story that culminated with a suicide attempt (unsuccessful) by one of her closest friends.  Suzanne survived but she left Brighton and her friends Caddy and Rosie in an attempt to heal.  To continue to survive.

It is now two years later and Suzanne has left her foster carers and is returning to Brighton; a place filled with memories and also the two people she loves most in the world –  Caddy and Rosie.  This time we hear through Suzanne’s voice. A voice that has suffered in her childhood in a way that has left it’s mark far more than any physical scars may show.  My heart went out to this young woman who, so desperate to let the past go, was still suffering and yet was filled with a steely determination.  When Caddy and Rosie leave for University, Suzanne is left alone but she gradually begins to adjust to her new life living alone in Brighton.  I was drawn into this tale and it made me feel.  It reminded me how lonely life can be, even when you are surrounded by the people you love.  It also reminded me how precious it is and how important it is to allow people into our lives.  It’s easy to build a wall. To avoid the chance of being pushed away, beaten or unloved. Yet then we miss out on so much.  This we can see not only through Suzanne’s relationship with Caddy and Rosie but also the new relationships she builds with the most unlikely of people.  Sometimes it’s okay to need people and accept help… and oh how I would like to meet someone like Dilys!

The thing with mental health is that there is no quick fix.  It’s something that takes time, effort and support.  Sara has touched on this beautifully in Fierce Fragile Hearts.  We can see how fragile Suzanne is but how she longs to be better.  The steps after the counselling, after medication, after the world goes back to normal… that’s when we can feel lost again.   As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety one of the things that amazed me, when I came out of my own personal fog, was that some days you still feel bad.  Yes you are ‘better’ but it can be a little scary when you suddenly feel the shadow again.  There will always be bad days.  Everyone has them.  It’s what we do to cope with them that matters.

Suzanne’s story reminded me that it’s okay to have bad days.  It’s okay to not always get it right. Suzanne has shown me that it’s our experiences and how we react to them that makes us who we are.   She tried to make herself unlovable, because the alternative frightened her and after all, why would anyone want to love her? Right? But those who truly know you will always be there for you on the other side.  Life is about give and take and Suzanne finds what she has to give the world along her way.   It’s about accepting you for who you are, good and bad, and making the very best life for yourself.  This is a story full of hope and light to help chase out the shadows and remind you that you’re never alone and that you are enough… just the way you are.

* This is a YA novel and although I feel it will be suitable for older teens please be aware that there are themes of mild drug use and sexual relations within the story line.  It is never crude or unjustified though.

About the author

Sara Barnard

61Nms7+3oZL._US230_Sara Barnard lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the ‘on’ switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of second-hand book shops at a young age. She is the author of Beautiful Broken Things.

You can follow Sara on Twitter at @saramegan

Fierce Fragile Hearts was published by Macmillan in February 2019.

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Thank you to Macmillan for providing a review copy via Netgalley.  This is one that I didn’t hesitate to buy in for the school Library. 🙂

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Blog Tour, Books that adults should read, Debut, Fiction, Teen, Time to talk, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction

The Burning by Laura Bates

NEW SCHOOL.

TICK.

NEW TOWN.

TICK.

NEW SURNAME.

TICK.

SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES?

ERASED.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life.

Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks.

Until the whispers start up again….

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So today I am thrilled to be hosting the Blog Tour for The Burning, the first YA novel by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.  Laura is the author of three non-fiction titles exploring gender inequality and the difficulties still facing girls and women in the world today.

Last week I was invited along to the launch of The Burning and to listen to Laura in conversation with Anna James at Foyles Bookshop.  She was incredibly inspiring to listen to, especially after reading The Burning just a few days before.

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This book is incredible and as a piece of YA fiction very, very important. The Burning is not only a great piece of fiction, but will also help others who suffer from any similar form of abuse and bullying.  Anna is a character that sadly many girls and women will be able to identify with.  In the author’s note at the back of the book Laura yells us that ‘almost everything that happens to Anna is based on the real-life experiences of students I have worked with in schools, or young people who have contacted me online.’  I find it absolutely shocking and this book, I hope, will give those who face such experiences the courage to speak out and, at the very least, to know that they are not to blame. There are SO many discussions that this novel can inspire. I urge you to read it, no matter what age or gender.

Anna’s world  falls apart when she shares an intimate photograph with someone she trusts.   To use something so intimate that has been shared with trust is an even greater betrayal and yet she is the one who is vilified.  This isn’t a simple girl against boy story.  It shows the power that rumour has and the effect it can have over people.  ‘A rumour is like a fire.  You might think you’ve extinguished it, but all it takes is one spark…’ Girls, boys and adults are seen as behaving in a terrible, unacceptable manner but we also see great courage and support within the pages of this story too.

‘The Burning tells the story of fifteen-year-old Anna who has moved to a small Scottish village with her mother.  There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.  At least that’s what she thinks… until the whispers start up again.

Desperate for a distraction to escape the brutal bullying at school, Anna finds herself in a history project about a young girl, Maggie, who was accused of witchcraft hundreds of years before.  Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a girl whose story has terrifying similarities to Anna’s own…

The Parallels between the persecution of medieval witches and the social burning of modern day Anna become unnervingly apparent.  the reader will be left in no doubt: it’s time to extinguish society’s sexist attitudes.’

I found this book deeply unsettling and I believe that parents, teachers and adults in general should read this story. It gives us an insight into what our young people face. It stirred certain memories hidden in my subconscious. Those moments growing up that we ignore and try to bury. Yet in comparison, back in my teenage years, we had so much less to contend with.  Social media has moved the goal posts dramatically and opens up the possibility of being mercilessly hounded and bullied at any time of day or night to an ever growing audience.  We need to sit up and take notice now.  With an ever growing online-presence,  our past and experiences really never leave us. They are there for all to see and the level of abuse possible through these mediums is scary. The dual time frame brilliantly shows us that the problems girls face aren’t a contemporary problem and that even after years of feminist campaigning things haven’t changed, there are simply new ways for women to be persecuted and mistreated. The term witch-hunt for so many girls and women is still very real.  This snowballing form of abuse at times can feel like a form of torture. The constant ping of social media notifications gradually pushing them to the limits and offering no escape or peace of mind.

As a parent I will look to inform my son. As a Librarian I will make these stories accessible to my students and teachers. As a book blogger I will share the word as much as I can. This book has made me stop and think. I was shocked at how those who should have been protecting Anna were simply not equipped to do so with either experience or understanding.  It has made me so much more aware. Feminism isn’t just about equality. It’s about a woman’s right to feel safe. To not be used and abused simply because she is a woman.

About the Author

Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, an ever-increasing collection of over 100,000 testimonies of gender inequality, with branches in 25 countries worldwide. She is author of Everyday Sexism, Misogynation and the Sunday Times bestseller Girl Up. Laura writes regularly for the Guardian, New York Times and others and win a British Press Award In 2015. She is a prolific commentator, appearing regularly on Newsnight, The Today Programme, Woman’s Hour, Channel 4 News, BBC News, BBC Breakfast and others. She works closely with politicians, businesses, schools, police forces and organisations from the Council of Europe to the United Nations to tackle gender inequality. She was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2015 and has been named a woman of the year by Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Sunday Times Magazine. Laura is a contributor at Women Under Siege, a New York-based project tackling rape in conflict worldwide and is patron of SARSAS, Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support.

You can follow her on Twitter: @EverydaySexism and Instagram @laura_bates_

To find out more about the Everyday Sexism Project or to add your voice visit the website here.

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Fiction, Teen, Young Adult

New books…

Today I came home to some wonderful book post kindly sent to be by lovely people at Walker Books. All three titles look amazing and I can’t wait to read them.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

A sharply wrought satire of art, truth, and colonization, from the award-winning author of Feed.

We were all surprised when the vuvv landed the first time. We were just glad they weren’t invading. We couldn’t believe our luck when they offered us their tech and invited us to be part of their Interspecies Co-Prosperity Alliance.

Several years on, jobs are scarce due to the rise of alien tech and there’s no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine. Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, must get creative to survive. Since the vuvv crave “classic” Earth culture, recording 1950’s-style dates for them to view seems like a brilliant idea.

But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to murmur sweet nothings when they hate each other more with every episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice.

Published 1st February 2018.

Flying Tips For Flightless Birds by Kelly Mccaughrain

Life is a Circus. Don’t miss the Show.

Friendship, romance and accepting who you are… that’s a lot for two confused clowns to juggle.

Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school.

Can clowning around in the ring help them deal with real life – and face up to how they feel – outside the spotlight?

With the offbeat charm and feel-good glow of an indie rom-com, Kelly McCaughrain’s debut novel explores themes of sexuality and identity with a light and funny touch.

Published 1st March 2018

White Rabbit Red Wolf by Tom Pollock

This Story Is A Lie

An electrifying thriller about murder, maths and the mind.

Published 7th June 2018