Archive for the ‘YA literature’ Category


Burned; charred, scorched, parched.

In Book Reviews,CannonballReadX 2018,YA literature on April 22, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , , ,



I adore a young adult novel that is well written, well thought out and makes me think – Burned did all of that and more. This novel is written in free verse which, at first, can feel daunting, but is a refreshing way to have a story told. Communicated in first person we really get inside the protagonists head, we understand her motivations on an intimate level, we relate to her drive and her desperation. Pattyn’s story is not lost in verse, if anything it serves to make us connect with the story more effectively. Hopkins creates an opportunity for us to invest emotionally in our protagonist Pattyn’s struggle, her voice is authentic, powerful and the story is utterly original.

The textual layout is constantly changing, visually striking and deliberately provocative at points, Hopkins highlights thematic words and phrases to enhance them within our train of thought – I’ve added an example ( pg. 90 in edition 9781442494619 ) so that you can better understand what the hell im talking about;


               my way out of the house.


               certain punishment.


               moments with Derek


               every waking thought


               every dream.”

Burned is Pattyn’s story but it is also the story of her family, her father, in particular and the way in which he functions within their society. Pattyn is damaged, she is broken by the way she is brought up, by her father – by his upbringing, by his military involvement, by his very damaged past. Pattyn is thrown out of home for committing transgressions against her Mormon faith, she is driven to the middle of the Nevada dessert to find salvation and redemption whilst living with her Aunt Jeanette.

Hopkins has painted the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints ( Mormons ) in an atrocious light, very early on ( p. 26 ) she depicts the church as teaching that women are second class citizens – “the message came through loud & clear: Women are inferior and god likes it that way.” and this is perpetuated by the way the LDS bishop behaves towards Pattyn, and by default, her mother. I wonder, if perhaps the message Hopkins was trying to convey was that domestic violence can happens everywhere, it is disturbing and it is horrific but if it can happen is a very tight knit community like the one depicted then it can happen absolutely anywhere and that is a message I can get behind.

One final part of the narrative I would be remiss not to mention is a controversial underlying theme – the defiant beauty that is Nevada’s Yucca mountain range and the devastating Nuclear testing that occurred there during the latter part of the 20th Century. Hopkins mentions the test watching parties held in the 1950s and the effects they had on her characters family, the surrounding area and indeed the nation as a whole. ( Time Magazine details the party craze ) – Burned is Ellen Hopkins love letter to the Yucca Mountains and her passion for the Nevada area shines through.

Pattyn’s experience is an emotional roller coaster ride, she makes one mistake after another the whole way through the narrative. We see her loneliness, her rebellion, lust, domestic violence, anxiety, peace, acceptance, love. . . I won’t spoil the ending for you. . . just read it. Burned ( 2007 ) is the first in a duology – the second book Smoke was published in 2013.




In Book Club Pick,Book Reviews,CannonballReadX 2018,Celebrity Endorsed,Feminism,Fiction,YA literature on April 8, 2018 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

20180408_190609.jpgLouise O’Neill is an accomplished Young Adult writer with two award winning novels under her belt, Almost Love is her first foray in Adult fiction. ( Her third YA book; a feminist re-telling of the little mermaid – The Surface Breaks is due out in May 2018 )

Almost Love follows Sarah Fitzpatrick; Then: In a toxic and manipulative relationship with Matthew and now: Sarah can be found mistreating her current boyfriend Oisín and longing after a man that made her nothing but miserable.

O’Neill is an unashamedly feminist writer and that shines through in her work. Once again she breaks through barriers in women’s fiction, she continues to write about topics that are shied away from, not talked about, brushed under the rug. . . She believes that even toxic people deserve to have their stories told, once again, she has written a ground breaking novel that everyone should read.

Almost Love shines a light on the painful, debilitating and isolating toxic relationships that women allow themselves to be a part of. O’Neill writes a compelling, thought provoking drama that encourages young women to consider the choices they make, to value the genuine friendships they create and most of all to value themselves.

The protagonist, Sarah Fitzgerald is so utterly unlikeable it is very hard to keep rooting for her, we are given little opportunity to love or even like our heroine. She is petty, nasty and about as cruel as they come – but for some reason I just kept wanting the best for her. O’Neill paints Sarah in the context of her relationships to others and that connection is nearly always negative, she doesn’t appear to know how to love anyone, especially herself. We’ve all had tunnel vision about someone we’ve loved, we’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all ignored advice from friends and family – Sarah isn’t unique but O’Neill’s portrait of her is so raw, and so honest – it is at times uncomfortable.

The antagonist in this cautionary tale, Matthew Brennan, is a rich, successful, handsome older man but he comes across as an odious, repugnant excuse of a human being – he treats Sarah as a plaything, he affords her no respect, no dignity and no humanity. He finds comfort, even pleasure, in her neediness. O’Neill’s depiction of his behavior almost eclipses how absolutely horrible Sarah is – there is an underlying question that will not leave me alone. . . Does Brennan treat Sarah badly because he is a knob-end or because Sarah allows herself to be treated that way?

O’Neill forces us to confront the parts of ourselves we want to keep hidden – the vulnerability, the obsessiveness, the irrationality and the desperation, that uncontrollable drive to be loved. She forces us to ask why are we not enough? Why are we so preoccupied with being loved and why does society mold young women to compete for that love? Sarah espouses the idea that she is not interesting enough or not sexy enough to keep Brennan interested. . . Why do we teach young women that they need to be either? Or both?

This book broke me, it had me in tears wishing for years of my life back. It was powerful, moving and utterly heartbreaking. For me relating to Sarah wasn’t actually that hard – I was her or some form of her, for quite a number of years. I fell entirely, obsessively in love with someone who treated me no better than the dirt on the bottom of his shoe. I loved him so unconditionally, I failed to see that it was to the detriment of everyone and everything else in my life. My hope with Almost Love is that it stops one girl from falling down that rabbit hole.


it would have been better for him if he’d died. . . . .

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Short Stories,YA literature on June 25, 2017 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , , , ,

This title is only 80 pages long and can easily be read cover to cover in one sitting. It is aimed at older teens and is a psychological thrill ride wound up in a short story. It is part of a collection of Dyslexia friendly titles produced by Barrington stoke. ( ) What makes a book dyslexia friendly you ask? Well, the typeface, the layout and the colour of the paper stock all make it much much much easier for someone with dyslexia to read.

Jon for short is the story of a 14 year old boy recounting a grizzly hospital visit in which he faces confusion, turmoil,  malevolence and even amputation.  Whilst in hospital he is sedated and under sedation he repeats the same dream, his dream gets progressively worse throughout the story and the chapter is repeated whilst revealing a little more each time we encounter it – an utterly brilliant story telling device!

Blackman’s writing is superb, the right amount is left unsaid building the horror through until the last page. The writing is eerie, its fairly dark and probably not for the fainthearted, but her ability to create an un-put-down-able suspense filled short story is second to none. The sense of foreboding, the out of left field plot twist, the creepy way in Jon’s choice of words helps us create those characters in our minds and the amazing illustrations that exist throughout the story, ( Vladimir Stankovic ) make it something that teens with a penchant for horror really should pick up.

The reason Jon is in hospital will chill you to the core. . . if you’ve never read a short story or a YA title then this could well be the one for you!


The aliens are invading silently. . . should I care?

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Childrens Chapter books,YA literature on May 28, 2017 by mrsdillemma Tagged:

silent invasionThe Silent Invasion – spores from space, plants, animals, humans all becoming part of a vast alien intelligence, 2 girls fleeing to the zone – this all sounded like fun, wrapped up in a neat little bundle, packaged in a YA wrapper. I hadn’t read any science fiction recently and I thought this could be a nice little foray into the genre which could lead to more. . . . or it could put me off forever.

James Bradley has produced a post apocalyptic tale following Callie, and her younger sister Grace, fleeing authorities across eastern Australia in an effort to reach the mysterious zone. We are told that Grace has become infected and according to law should be immediate quarantined, we know she and Callie are running from this quarantine but we are never really told why, or what they are hoping to achieve. This lack of direction hampers Bradley’s storytelling and the narrative is very slow moving, I would not hesitate to call it tedious in parts.

Bradley’s story is a little cliche, Callie becomes romantically involved but it seems somewhat pointless, if that portion of the text and the unnecessary violence ( especially the scene in which a dog is tortured ) were removed it could make a great adventure sci-fi read for a slightly younger age range. The Silent Invasion is just trying to hard to be relevant to young adult readers, the writing is clunky and overly wordy, the characters dreary and the plot; all to familiar ( the 5th Wave anyone? )

Perhaps if Bradley had written the Silent Invasion as a standalone title and not the first in a trilogy I would have enjoyed where the story could go, but as it stands, I do not care enough about the characters or the story line, to read volumes 2 and 3.


There is no such thing as Perfect. . .

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Feminism,Fiction,YA literature on April 16, 2017 by mrsdillemma Tagged: , , ,

Perfect is the conclusion of the duology which began with Flawed, it is their author Cecelia Ahern’s first time writing for a Young Adult audience.

The narrative is set in the not-too-distant future, in an unnamed European country where anyone deemed to have transgressed the social rules is branded – literally – as Flawed. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been on the run. Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. Can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?

Ahern’s writing is crisp, well paced and packs an emotional punch. Her take on a done-to-death YA genre is fresh and refreshingly simple. All of the classic YA story-lines are there but they are not over stated; yes; the good girl goes bad but she’s not really bad after all. . . Celestine’s story is so so much more than that – her character growth and development are superb.

Ahern provides us with what I would call a YA futuristic thriller – there are enough nail biting scenes and out of left field plot twists to keep any thriller fan happy. Perfect is often described as dystopian but Ahern has said she doesn’t regard it as so, whilst it does appear to meet the definition of said genre, I see her point. She has said she sees it as part social commentary on how our global society is becoming more and more judgemental, as a reaction to society’s finger pointing culture.

I think this is a work young ( and not-so-young ) readers should devour and then discuss – I think it is a ‘perfect’ book club read. I think Ahern’s message; That there really is no such thing as perfect, we all make mistakes – is one that needs shouting from the rooftops.


off to bed with a good book. . . .

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Fiction,what i'm reading now. . .,YA literature on April 9, 2017 by mrsdillemma


It’s 8:45 on a Sunday night and I am off to bed with what I hope will be a good book; Perfect – the second in what I imagine is a trilogy from Irish powerhouse Cecelia Ahern.

The trilogy opened with Flawed – the world in which the series is set is defined simplistically ( in Flawed ) through this quote from the protagonist, Celestine; “Before I was born, there was a great recession in this country, banks folded, the government collapsed, the economy was ravaged, unemployment and emigration soared.” In addition to the criminal code there is a moral code by which society lives, the moral code is in response to what was believed to be the moral causes of the great recession. If you break this code you are branded; flawed.




young women with no voice, can you hear them yelling?

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Feminism,YA literature on February 11, 2017 by mrsdillemma

Until Friday Night / Speak by Abbi Glines / Laurie Halse Anderson

I seem to have chosen a number of titles that relate to young women with no voice, not physically, but after suffering some form of unimaginable trauma they choose not to speak. . . . Am I trying to tell myself something?

Speak – a YA classic from 1999 details the first year at high school for Melinda. Our heroine is isolated from her peers, she doesn’t engage or communicate with her family or school community, but can’t hide her pain at being excluded. Her exclusion and her choice to cease speaking is something she also finds comfort in, it is her self inflicted coping mechanism.

Until Friday Night – the first in a connected series from Abbi Glines. Maggie has suffered terrible trauma and doesn’t speak. West, the school jock, is suffering but hasn’t told anyone. When their worlds collide and they fall ( predictably ) in love, They find each others voice and discover their own inner strength.

The difference in the quality of writing between the two is marked, Speak is a beautifully written piece, whilst written for a young adult audience any lover of quality fiction could read and enjoy it. Until Friday Night is stylistically a little simple and left me wanting more depth of story and character development. Having said that both titles would work well for teens who need to grow their self confidence and coping skills, the slow healing process in both novels is honest and compelling, readers will want to cheer out loud for both heroines.