Top Ten Young Adult Novels

I’ve had quite a strange relationship with Young Adult books this year.

As I started my yearly reading challenge, I was aiming to break away from books written for people much younger than my age and read more adult books. Although that aim was semi successful, there’s something about Young Adult books that make me keep clawing my way back into the pit of nostalgia. Since I am clinging onto my teenage years, and my twentieth birthday is rolling around fast, it’s time for another list! This time: My top ten Young Adult books. (In no particular order, because I can barely decide on an ice cream flavour let alone any sort of hierarchy)

Also, feel free to check out Wordery’s latest campaign as they are currently on the hunt for the top ten books in a range of categories, and this time it’s the Young Adult Genre’s time to shine, and all that jazz.

And now, we shall list things.

  1. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard. I wrote a blog post about this a while back because I was so pleasantly surprised by it! At the time I was very reluctant to read YA because I didn’t feel I could relate to it as much but I was so very wrong. Also I love the fantasy and historical elements to this, which made it an original and interesting concept for me!
  2. The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. Again, I’ve mentioned this book before in previous novels, but Jandy Nelson has mastered the art of talking about delicate issues in a way that makes it comforting but still brutally real. It’s very much a book that teens can relate to nowadays, and it’s a beautiful read.
  3. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. I devoured this and all the sequels in my early teens, and I can’t hear She’s So Lovely by Scouting for Girls without thinking of that iconic scene where Georgia runs down the street in a giant olive costume. It was such a light-hearted book, and I was gutted when I heard about Rennison’s death back in February. Your legacy will live on in my generation.
  4. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. I’m incapable of writing a list like this without mentioning my favourite author. She’s captured the magic of fanfiction while keeping it grounded and relatable, and I like the fact that it’s set in University rather than in High School. All her other books are great too, I can’t praise her enough.
  5. Jinx, by Meg Cabot. This was another book I reread to death in my early teens, and I fell in love with it like Jean fell in love with Zack. I think it will be one of those books that I’ll read now and feel really old, but I absolutely adored it, and it’s underrated.
  6. Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare. This is the final book in the Infernal Devices series, and although I have a thing about love triangles now the amount of angst and brooding made me love it. I was invested in all the couples and all the possibilities and it took over my life, along with the main series. (The Mortal Instruments)
  7. Anne of Green Gables, by L M Montgomery. This is more of a classic novel, but I remember my Gran collecting classic novels for my brother and I, and I read this and then raced my way through the sequels. I remember finding it hard to get into the first one, but once I was hooked, I was HOOKED.
  8. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. Sure, his writing style can be cheesy at times, but all my knowledge regarding Greek and Roman mythology comes from these books, and I like the fact that there are so many main characters and not just one sole protagonist. AND THE SERIES ISN’T OVER. MORE BOOKS. YAY.
  9. Divergent, by Veronica Roth. The third book left me heartbroken, and many can say it’s similar to The Hunger Games, but I liked the fact that everyone had struggles and that there was no perfect easy option. This book is not for the faint hearted.
  10. Looking for Alaska, by John Green. This is my favourite John Green book, and I just adore his writing style and his original quirky characters. His other books are also well worth a read, and I’m glad he’s getting the recognition he deserves as an author and not just as a YouTuber.

Hit me up with opinions, and don’t forget to do the facebooking and the tweeting and let the world know your favourites!

 

The Thing About Home

Wordery have launched another new campaign recently about embracing local history and encouraging people to explore their roots. If you want to check that out you can swing by here. Now, I’m going to talk about Home.

Home, for me, is South Wales. I was born here, and I grew up here. Even though my welsh isn’t fluent like many of my friends, Wales is pretty much ingrained into my soul now. Home is described as the place where one lives permanently, but as a university student I spend more time in Chester than I do in Wales. Sure, I have a soft spot for Chester and I may digress into that in another post, but my little Welsh town will always be home.

To other people, Wales is a novelty. It’s unheard of, or only known by TV programmes like Gavin and Stacey. Also if I had a pound for every sheep related joke I had heard, I’d be able to pay off mine and my friends’ student loans. There’s mountains and fields everywhere, and my friends I went to school with are there. My friends’ pets are also there. Darcy is there.

I know where everything is at home. I know where my nearest shop is. I know how long it takes to get to the station, I know how long it takes to go to my best friend’s house, or to get on the train to visit my boyfriend. I can see my Grandparents in minutes and I know good cheap places to hang out with my friends. I also know Arriva Trains Wales can be absolutely awful even if it does get you from A to B.

I reminisce a lot when I’m home. I used to walk to college and pass the park where I practiced for a talent show in year five, where I attended Sports Days, and where we drank terrible 35p energy drinks in the bandstand one summer. It’s comforting when you’ve lived in the same place for 18 years.

The singing is wonderful, the atmosphere at the rugby is incredible, you feel the cold and you embrace the rain when it pours.

That is the thing about home.

Reading, escapism and distractions

A Level Results Day is tomorrow, and for the first time in two years it’s not me that’s receiving them. This time last year I was lying on the floor in my bedroom using all my willpower to avoid looking at grade boundaries and frantically trying to distract myself.

This year, Wordery have launched a new campaign called Around the World in 80 Books, and there’s nothing like a book to distract you from real life. Looking at it, I’ve realised I’ve only read a pitiful amount of books on here, so I’m going to talk about some of the ones I have read, and the ones that I am definitely adding to my wishlist.

Let’s visit Denmark, the home of Lego and my favourite Shakespeare play, Hamlet. Not only has it influenced my favourite Disney film The Lion King, but Hamlet is such an interesting and complex character that it’s earned the prize of being the only written work that I truly enjoyed when studying works for my English Literature A Level.

Travelling not too far across, in the pretty land known as the Netherlands, we find the setting for John Green’s most well known novel, The Fault in our Stars. It deals with the very delicate topic of cancer, but I feel like it’s important to address these things in novels in a way that doesn’t only show the illness itself. Hazel is a likeable, funny, intelligent person and it goes to show that your illnesses and problems don’t have to define you. A good book to read if you missed the bandwagon when the film came out a couple of years ago. John Green’s other books are cool too.

Lastly, I’m going to head to the homeland of some of my family: Germany. This country is the backdrop to The Book Thief. What’s interesting about this book is that it’s told from the perspective of Death, and the personalisation of death itself makes it feel more surreal, witty and intriguing. If you’re a fan of history, people growing up and complex relationships, then you’ve come to the right place.

There are also many books on this list I want to read. Coincidentally 100 Years of Solitude (Colombia) is on my booklist for one of my modules in University next year, and Evita (Argentina) interests me as I saw the musical many years ago so it would be interesting to go back to the roots of the story. What I love about this list is that it gives people the opportunity to experience stories from all over the world, and not just British and American books.

Long story short, if your summer reading isn’t going to plan, here’s a thing that might kickstart a reading binge. You’re welcome.

PS: Shoutout to Wordery for including a Welsh book in their list. I’m a patriotic soul.

Room for Thought // Room Review

This is a post I wrote for Wordery, which you can view here: https://wordery.com/blog/room-for-plenty-of-thought-574d4c888955b


This book was one that had been sitting in my wish list for a long time before I bought it. I’ve always liked books that were loosely based on a true story, and this one was no exception.

So here we have the story of 5-year-old Jack and his Ma, who live together in Room, a world which had been all Jack had ever known. What makes this books fascinating is not the fact that it deals with this confinement and the horrors that come with it, but the fact that it also deals with the after effects of this kind of emotional torture.

The way that this book is written helps us to see the story from Jack’s perspective, as everyday items like chairs and lamps are written as proper nouns, like they have feelings and emotions too. We are reminded of how confused we were as children when our parents would answer our questions with explanations that boggled our mind. The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny aren’t real? Nothing is free? You don’t have to restrict cereal to breakfast time? Incredible. Now try telling your child that everything they’ve constructed in their head is actually a lie and that there’s a whole world out there he’ll never be able to truly fathom.

This story is loosely based on the Fritzl Case that emerged in 2008- a case which blew people’s minds. This story will shock you in a similar way, and will make you feel empathy for something that you will struggle to comprehend. The fact that a story like this is actually based on truth adds a new dimension of horror to this story, a horror that can never be desensitised.

Furthermore, because it is written in this way, it makes me feel strange when I say I enjoyed it. I don’t enjoy thinking about how these kinds of things actually happen in real life. Emotional torture is not something to be taken lightly, and especially when reading about a young child being corrupted in this way. The emotions of a child are so raw and blunt that, combined with Donoghue’s writing ability, it’s not surprising that this story is so poignant and heart-breaking.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster, there are episodes that made me smile. Jack’s innocence and brutal honesty made me laugh, the loyalty and love he has for his mother warmed my heart, even when she “betrays” him by telling him everything she ever told him was a lie to protect him. I also can’t forget the fact that there was a character in the book that shares my slightly obscure first name, with the same spelling. Amazing.

This is a book that parents can relate to, and that mothers can cry over. A book that can make young girls overly cautious, and that can make everyone aware of the horrific crimes people can commit for their own amusement. It is also an incredibly well written book, and a book that makes you think, learn and appreciate what you have.

 

The Precarious Topic of Mental Illness

This is another blog post I wrote for Wordery, which you can also view here: https://wordery.com/blog/all-the-bright-places-mental-illness-56dd4d4e91d43

I’m going to dive straight in: mental illnesses are delicate.

I finished All the Bright Places the other day, and I loved it. Part of me loves how authors are trying so hard to include more diversity in mentality, thus making people more aware of “illnesses” such as Anxiety, Depression, OCD and a gazillion other things on the gigantic spectrum.

It also terrifies me.

What I loved about All the Bright Places is that it was almost brutally realistic. It’s so easy to romanticise these issues which leads to people thinking they’re “cool” and “in fashion”. If you are suffering, or have suffered, you would know that you would never want to wish something like this on your worst enemy. We see that in Finch. We see how he will isolate himself in order to protect other people. We see, as readers, that there’s only so much friends and family can do to help, no matter how close to them they might think they are.

As I said before- it’s delicate.

Another book I believe addresses mental illnesses well is “The Rest of us Just Live Here”. The fact that Ness shows the problems that come with supporting someone with a mental illness as well as the comfort makes us see both sides of the story. Mikey has OCD, and you can see how he gets more and more frustrated by the pity, and how he pushes people away, and how people in return get bored or frustrated by the vicious cycle embedded in his brain. It’s not a competition as to “who has it worse”, but it must be understood that it’s not all about sudden explosive breakdowns and your many best friends obediently trotting to your side every single time. Otherwise, there would definitely not be as many people suffering today.

I worry that certain illnesses are going to suddenly have even more stereotypes and labels, due to authors describing them in a certain way. A point I want to illustrate is that EVERY MENTAL ILLNESS IS UNIQUE. You may see two people with an anxiety disorder, but those two people may think very differently, and may get triggered by different things. Therefore they need to be dealt with very differently. In general, some people like to be comforted whereas others like to be left alone, and more serious mental illnesses are no different. How you- as a friend, parent, or even sufferer, addresses this depends on YOUR BRAIN. Not everyone with depression is always grumpy, not everyone with anxiety is a constant jittery mess, not everyone with a social disorder is almost crippled with shyness.

I worry that people are going to try too hard to relate to the issues the characters are going through. As someone who has never lost anyone close to me at an age where I can comprehend it, I will never be able to truly relate to a character who’s lost a sibling, or their mother, or a best friend, and I’m okay with that. (I’m thinking of Jandy Nelson’s books “I’ll Give you the Sun” and “The Sky is Everywhere“, which are also books I’d recommend) You can continue to sympathise with them, but people try too hard to pick out random symptoms and then sloppily diagnose themselves with something. If you think you do have a mental illness, see a doctor, or talk to someone close to you. You are not a character. You are real. (As much as it pains me to say characters in books are purely fictitious)

Like characters as a story progresses, you are growing older, and you are changing, and as Dumbledore once said: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.

Ease your way in // A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Review

This is my second post for Wordery, which you can also view here: https://wordery.com/blog/a-knight-of-the-seven-kingdoms-56b8a40183f36

I’m going to start with a confession. I’ve only read the first two Game of Thrones books. Not out of lack of interest, just because I’ve been scrounging them from various friends. I’m working on it. Being a poor University student, spending £50 on the entire collection of Game of Thrones books sounded incredibly daunting, but then fate decided that I should come across the prequel novellas in a stunningly illustrated edition called The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Speaking of fate and destiny, this set of novellas tell the tale of Dunk, the tall hedge knight who lacks experience but looks threatening, and his squire and companion who is secretly in line to the Iron Throne: Egg.

I didn’t really have expectations for this book, maybe because I had read some of his works and it was a pretty safe choice. The good news is, these aren’t the only three prequel novels! If you are like me and have read these for the first time in this collective edition, you can buy the rest once you’ve grown emotionally attached to the characters! Also, if you have already read them before and own them, you can get this edition and marvel at the illustrations! I mean, who doesn’t have a weakness for pretty hardbacks? I highly recommend you ease your way in with these prequels. People are often intimidated by the size of the Game of Thrones books and struggle, and maybe even give up on them. Dunk is also a much more endearing character, with flaws that we can relate to (to some extent, I can barely pick up a sword let alone wield one), whereas in the main series it’s really hard to find someone likeable that doesn’t die a few chapters later.

Furthermore, you need no prior knowledge about Game of Thrones to read this, and you don’t get any spoilers for the main series. Despite this, you do see tiny hints of the series creeping through. Having watched all 5 seasons of the show, I appreciated the little references, which is one of the perks of writing the prequels after having established the main storyline. If you have already read some of his works, the writing style is familiar but the take is new, fresh and exciting. It may not be as gripping as the main series, and it’s a lot less dramatic, but maybe it’s a good thing that he hasn’t killed off everyone left right and centre. However, you don’t lose track of characters, and it’s a lot easier to find likeable characters that don’t die a few chapters later. We get a chance to see more development, and I assume there will be a lot more to come when I read the rest of the collection.

Finishing books is always poignant to me. I’d just finished my German exam when I finished this book and was waiting to return to class, and as I was reading the last few pages, totally immersed, I forgot I was sitting on the floor in the corridor of the languages department. Three people asked if I was okay. Long story short: If you’re waiting for the next series of Game of Thrones like me, then you’ve found a good book to bide your time.

Binge Reader? Read on. 

This post was a blog I wrote for Wordery: (https://goo.gl/vsqVPY)

How you know you’re a binge reader, and why this is definitely not a bad thing.

So, you’ve just woken up, and the first thing you do is reach for your book. Maybe you have to actually get a degree somehow by going to university, or go to work like those “proper” adults do. Maybe you end up taking a book with you amongst the folders you need for your classes, perhaps even a spare one just in case you finish the first one. Maybe it’s 3am and your chances of having a decent sleeping pattern have ended, just like the book you’re holding in your hand.

“Sure, I’ll lend you the book because you read so fast”, a friend said just last week. I have been in university for three months and I have already built up a reputation.

“You’ve finished it?!” A different friend comments after I finish ‘All The Light We Cannot See when I started reading it after her and yet finished it before her. (Very beautifully written, if I may add.)

“Do you spend all your time just reading?” My mother asks on FaceTime one night, knowing that I’ll probably have finished all the books I received for Christmas by the end of January.

If these symptoms sound relatable, you are most definitely one of us.

Since college, I have demolished any sort of structure to the type of books I read, or when I read them. Sometimes it feels like I spend more time choosing a book than actually reading it.

It’s serious business.

Can I commit to a whole series right now? I think, glancing at the Hannibal series stood neatly in a row. Maybe a different book from an author I know I love? I wonder, as I notice ‘Another Day obediently nestled in line. What about a book everyone seems to be into right now? My gaze rests upon ‘All the bright places’. Or maybe, something completely new all together? 

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a binge as: A period of excessive indulgence in an activity. I wholeheartedly agree, as I read more beautifully woven sentences that form a story that I will dwell on for a while after. Although reading is generally a solitary hobby, I can’t help but enjoy discussing a book with my best friend, especially when she’s read it too. Book exchanges are what I live for- while a problem shared is a problem halved, a library shared is in fact a library doubled.

In my defence, a book doesn’t run out of battery, it doesn’t involve some sort of subscription, the words don’t change. Your perception of a story will change as you grow (I used to be OBSESSED with the Malory Towers books as a kid and now I cringe at the language used), or maybe you can relate more to it as you experience life (Calling all angst-ridden teens, there’s a whole demographic out there for you).

I see binge reading not as a problem, but as a SOLUTION. A solution that may lead to a little less sleep, but a lot more wonder. And wow, it is wonderful.