Dumplin’

Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1)

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mum) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked… until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant – along with several other unlikely candidates – to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Apparently it is possible for a book to be really feel-good as well as kind of heartbreaking. Let me explain: Will really resonated with me as I was also a plus-size teenager that struggled with how people saw me and just wanting to feel comfortable in my skin. So seeing Will struggle with self-esteem issues and worry about being in a relationship with someone who is thin felt pretty real to me. There were so many nice aspects to this book as well though. Like the many Dolly Parton references, drag queens and watching a pretty kickass girl get her confidence back. I think Dumplin’ is for anyone who needs that little boost of confidence and it portrays some pretty important points about body issues. It also highlights the importance of having good friends to support you in everything you do.

Rating: 7/10

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give, #1)

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

For a debut novel, The Hate U Give had an incredibly powerful voice. Unintentionally I ended up reading this when the riots and black lives matter protests began to appear all over the news. It really resonated with me how depressing it was for people’s rights to be completely ignored like that in this day and age. Starr’s perspective in the book feels so real and at times I almost could have sworn I was witnessing everything right there with her. As heavy as the issues The Hate U Give portrayed are, there are so many well developed and loveable characters that you can’t help but feel a glimmer of hope too. I definitely think this book is a must read for all young people, especially now we start to delve further into the anti-racism movement.

Rating: 10/10

The Paper Girl of Paris

The Paper Girl of Paris

*New release – May 2020*

  Now:

Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked away for more than seventy years.

Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realises there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.

Then:

Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognise Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises – to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.

Starting this book, I thought I wasn’t going to like it. I didn’t understand why it was written in two points of view: Alice seemed so boring and underdeveloped whereas the story really seemed to come alive with Adalyn. It took me about halfway through to understand what the author was getting at. I loved Adalyn’s story and following her through the French resistance against the Nazi’s in Paris. And slowly Alice started to become a bit more interesting as she embarked on solving the mystery of her grandmother’s family as well as a pretty cute romance. So, surprisingly, I found myself actually quite loving this book. It was the author’s debut novel and you did get the sense in parts that is wasn’t as well finished as other books but wow the story is so worth the read, especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction.

Rating: 8/10

Turtles All the Way Down

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.

Turtles All the Way Down is most definitely recognisable as a John Green book, however it portrayed a voice that I would say is a lot more raw than in some of his other books. Green explores the depths of anxiety and how it can really make you your own worst enemy. Aza’s story feels very real. There’s no magic cure that will make everything okay but there is true power in help from those around you and, most of all, yourself. While it felt like not much really developed in the way of plot, I really liked the insight into what living with life-impacting anxiety looks like. This might not be the right book if you’re looking for a story to dive into and get lost in, but I believe it does explore the important reality of being an adolescent struggling with mental health.

Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

THE DREAM CHOOSES THE DREAMER, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

I’m not a huge fantasy reader so there were parts of this book I struggled with. The main reason I picked it up is because I love the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and generally when I love an author’s work I’ll check out their other books too. I guess the difference between this book and DoSaB is that Strange the Dreamer is very much set within its own world, as many fantasy novels are, and personally I like that little link to reality in the books I read. But that’s just personal preference. The book itself was well written, as is standard for Laini Taylor. The beginning started off a bit slow but once Lazlo reached Weep and met Sarai things definitely picked up. The romantic themes were definitely comparable to DoSaB with the very much Romeo and Juliet relationship between Lazlo and Sarai. And I don’t think I’m spoiling it too much because you get a pretty strong sense what is going to happen as you’re reading. I’m still trying to decide whether I’m going to continue the series or not. I don’t know if this is a bit unfair but the ending suggests there is going to be a fair amount of hardship for the characters to go through in the next book, which puts me off a little I’ll be honest. I’d be really interested to see what the real fantasy fans thought though cause it could be just that this isn’t quite my genre.  

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Enter a vanished world: Jackson Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver… There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

For some reason when I bought this book I didn’t think I would enjoy it that much. Maybe I thought it would just be another To Kill a Mockingbird. Been there, done that. I was wrong. There are so many amazing things about this book. As someone born a fair amount of time after 1960s America ended, this book detailed experiences of the South I knew pretty little about. I could feel the tenseness of the characters and the fear of what speaking up at the time meant. When I studied To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, my English teacher argued the somewhat unpopular opinion that the book being written by a white author with a white ‘hero’, while still talking about racism and segregation, only cemented further the white man being the one with morals. I’m sure Kathryn Stockett must have felt an element of that when she wrote The Help. I don’t believe that was the message in this book at all though. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny were all portrayed as being incredibly brave for what they achieved. And Skeeter would never have had the power to make a difference without the stories from those black maids. I definitely think this book is worth a read for everyone, if only to remind us about the things worth standing up for.