Sunday 26 February 2017

A Review: Adam Silvera's History Is All You Left Me

Hi, and thanks for stopping by.

Today's review is of one of the most highly anticipated reads for me in AGES. I heard about Adam Silvera's writing about four or five months ago now, and once I'd heard the hype about History Is All You Left Me, I was eagerly waiting for its release date. It's a fairly short book, at just under 300 pages, but I managed to successfully drag it out over a few days PURELY just to make it last a little longer, or else I would've finish it in like two hours and had a major book hangover for a week. So, let's get into the review of this INCREDIBLE story.

"I'll never understand how time can make a moment feel as close as yesterday and as far as years."

So, History Is All You Left me is the story of Griffin, a teenage guy, trying to grieve the death of his first love, ex-boyfriend Theo. At the time of Theo's death, he and Griffin were "just friends" and Theo was in a new relationship with Jackson, away at university in California, where he drowned. 

"That was a dickhead thing to say. I need a condom for my mouth."
(Sorry, I know I usually pick the most beautiful quotes for these parts, but this made me laugh so much it needed its giant, bold type moment.)

The story is split between present day perspective, where Griffin grieves his loss, deals with his increasingly crippling OCD and develops a complicated relationship with Jackson, and flashbacks/recollection, where we learn about how Griffin and Theo went from best friends to boyfriends, had all of their firsts together, and eventually break up. That's when the memories turn to Griffin discovering more and more about Theo getting together with Jackson and oh my god that's when things get painful. For me, the moments where Griffin and Theo's Skype chat is interrupted by Jackson's arrival, Jackson tells the story of Theo saying "I love you" for the first time and Jackson showing Griffin his own cute kissing routine that he shared privately with Theo (the latter two are actually present day moments), are some of the saddest things I've ever read! I don't know what it is about Adam's writing of these moments, but they just broke my heart! Griffin's pain is just palpable.

"Thank you for being there for me when I'm stupid enough to think I'd rather be alone."

What I love most about Griffin as a protagonist/narrative voice is how honest he is; he is flawed, and never feigns perfection. He's incredibly funny (although Theo is funnier, for me) and real, and I just adored getting to know him better throughout his story. Jackson's character too was similar enough to Griffin to create the needed parallels in Theo's taste, but different enough to give him his own edge of individuality (I also felt great pity and pain for him, having to compare to Theo's first love, who obviously still meant the world to him right up until the last moment he was alive). Theo, although we technically never really meet him, is just the most gorgeous character. You can totally understand why these boys were fighting over him!

"We were something, but history isn't enough to keep something alive forever."

I'm gonna get this part of the review out of the way, because I feel like such a miserable bitch bringing it up again, but there was one part of the story that I wasn't massively keen on. SPOILER ALERT, if you haven't already read this one, then please look away now! For me, the Wade storyline was a little jarring. To begin with, it kind of came out of left field that Wade was gay, too, just because no hints had been made at this, and then I wasn't sure how I really felt about him being with Griffin. I wonder if this is just because I so desperately wanted him to be with Theo, still. I talked about it in more detail in my goodreads review here, so check it out if you want to here more of my thoughts, but honestly, I don't want to whine and moan about that little thing, because the rest of the book is so damn good. Besides that, Wade challenging Griffin on his OCD safety behaviours towards the very end of the book made me SO happy and proud (that's one thing that Theo never did, and I questioned why), so maybe he'd be good for him after all. (Of course this is when I need to remind myself that these characters aren't real FFS).

"There's nothing wrong with someone saving my life, I've realised ... people need people. That's that."

The relationship that develops between Griffin and Jackson reminded me SO much of the storyline shared by Lennie and Toby in Jandy Nelson's beautiful The Sky is Everywhere (one of my favourite books EVER), and it's such a clever concept - wanting to be as close as possible to the person who understands the grief you're feeling the most, and sometimes then, growing too close. The way they tried to rediscover the Theo they each didn't know was so sad and desperate and inevitably going to end badly, but so beautifully done, with so much sympathy. I think that sort of storyline could come across as a little too uncomfortable, and whilst there is some of that here, it's just the right amount, as though we as readers are sharing in Griffin's feelings of guilt and awkwardness. My heart hurt for the both of them.

This book overall is a beautiful LGBT read; I was smiling so much reading about Griffin and Theo's relationship, perhaps most of all because of the much needed normality given to it. I think reading about the struggle of accepting sexuality is amazing, but I loved how quickly Griffin and Theo fell into their relationship with one another, and how it wasn't written as this huge, abnormal thing. Their was written about as every bit as normal (but gorgeous) as any heterosexual YA romance I've ever read, and I just couldn't be happier about that.

"I have one last question for you: I didn't get our history wrong, did I?"

Till next week


Sunday 19 February 2017

A Review: Jennifer L. Armentrout's The Problem with Forever

Hi, and thanks for stopping by.

Today's review is of Jennifer L. Armentrout's The Problem with Forever, a book I hauled post-Christmas. I don't know why I left it so long to read this, but I did, and as soon as I started it, I knew it should've been waaay further up on my January reads list. This book is a beautiful story about Mallory (or Mouse) and her best friend from childhood, Rider. From the outset I want to say I couldn't recommend this book more, I loved it.

(P.S. How GORGEOUS is this cover! Tricky to place on the rainbow shelves, though!)

"Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it didn't really exist."

As I said above, this story follows Mallory principally, as she reunites with her childhood best friend Rider. The two met in foster care, and Rider was a protector of sorts for Mallory against their abusive foster parents. When finally these horrible people were brought to justice, their foster children were separated, Mallory gets taken in by two lovely doctors and she and Rider drift apart. When Mallory is finally ready to start high school, she's pretty surprised to see Rider there and to learn about his life since they were children.

"I learned that even monsters could have a positive impact."

Mallory was a really lovely protagonist to read; she was sweet, insecure and damaged, but I loved how genuine her narrative voice felt. I don't know exactly how to describe her speaking issues (is it a speech impediment, stutter? I'm not 100% sure), but her pain and mortification were palpable. It was heartwarming to see how much better she could speak to her foster parents and Rider, knowing that meant she trusted and loved them, and I was so happy for her when she began to be able to speak to people such as Hector, Keira and Jayden.

"Forever was simply a promise of more. Forever was a work in progress. And I couldn't wait for forever."

Speaking of those three, the rich development of secondary characters (and their storylines) is one of the most successful, rare and lovely aspects of this novel. Hector, Keira, Jayden and Ainsley are all Mallory's friends (Ainsley is already established as her best friend, whilst the other three are  relationships in progress throughout the story), and they are so vivid and imaginable. A real flaw with so much fiction is a total tunnel vision approach; your protagonist and their love interest can be wonderful, but if every other single character is bland and boring, what's the use? Jennifer does a brilliant job at making you love these smaller role characters just as much as her main two. Paige was also a really interesting character to me. In a lot of ways I suppose she might be the quintessential, mean girl cliche, but Jennifer manages to stop that from totally being the case. She isn't super rich, super spoilt and privileged - she too has had a hard life, and whilst that doesn't excuse her behaviour, at least we see a human side of her (we even see her in sadness and in pain - so rare for your typical antagonist characters). In particular, Jayden and Ainsley's individual storylines were SO highly appreciated.

"Life can be all too brief."

Time to take a minute to talk about Jayden. Now, if you don't want spoilers LOOK AWAY RIGHT THIS SECOND!!! Right, don't say I didn't warn you. I honestly could not believe how his story ended up. I was heartbroken! He's such a funny, flirtatious, vivacious character, so for him to be gone by the end of the book was such a loss, and yet I completely understand why Jennifer chose to do it and I think it's one of the, if the not the most, effective parts of the book. Watching the pain and grief ripple through the characters, family or friends, afterwards was incredibly difficult - I really commend her for her handling of such difficult topics throughout this book (grief, drugs, abuse, mental health, violence).

"We've been separated. But we had never really been apart."

The friendship and (spoiler!) romance between Mallory and Rider is written beautifully, too. I love that it takes a way for their relationship to develop into something romantic, because it's so much more realistic that way! In fact, I'd go as far to say that I preferred reading their relationship in the first half of the book, before things turned around for them after kissing, although the second half was wonderful, too.

"Forever was knowing moments of weakness didn't equate to an eternity of them."

The biggest compliment I can give this book is I read the first half in one evening and then spent the entire rest of the next day looking forward to reading the second half. I couldn't wait to finish it! And that's always a good sign. It's just such a beautiful story, with a really satisfying ending, great character development, unique and individual style, impossibly sad moments, funny moments, too. I would HIGHLY recommend it - it's SO worth a read. I'm excited to discover more from this author in the future!! Let me know if you've read this already - what did you think?

"It was me who had to carry myself over the finish line."

Till next week