11.22.63 by Stephen King

  
I read 11.22.63 alongside watching the Fox/Hulu TV series earlier in the year. I actually started the TV series before the book and loved the promise so much I immediately had to go and order the book from the library. They only had the large print version, hence why it’s so huge.

The book is a bit of a break away from Stephen King’s horror books and an introduction by him talked about how big a project it was to write in terms of research. Historically, it’s good, and I was completely drawn into the 50s/60s political paranoia vibe. But there was obviously still elements of the occult and the end of the world; with Jake’s diner rabbit hole taking him back in time and and butterfly effect of his time in the past.

What I liked about the time travel element of the story was the idea that Jake, the main character, can only travel back to a specific date and that each time wipes away the previous. He can’t just do over if it goes wrong. It added an intensity to Jake’s relationships with people from the past and made the ending that much sadder.

I really, really need to read more Stephen King books. I’ve loved everything of his that I’ve read so far and more and more I’m realised the scope of his writing ability goes far beyond horror and scares. This one is probably a gateway book for those people who are out off by the idea of him only being a horror writer and I’ve been recommending both the book and the TV series!

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

  
Oh my goodnes, it’s been how long? I’ve completely let life get in the way of reading recently… And my book slump has been really getting me down. I have read some wonderful books over the past few months and I will get round to reviewing them, but I thought I’d talk about my most recent read to get started… Mainly because it’s a quite fitting book about a girl who doesn’t speak.

So, I was originally drawn to Unspeakable because the blurb reminded me of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, one of my favourite books as a teenager. But, also, because of the concept of female relationships. Unspeakable was more of an uplifting read than I was expecting. It was sad in parts, and Abbie Rushton does a really good job of putting across Megan’s frustration at not being able to speak, but it didn’t leave me feeling bleak.

Also, Megan’s trauma and relationships are almost exclusively centered around other women and how she feels about them and it was nice to read a book where those relationships are at the forefront. I do think it’s important that Young Adult books span a breadth of possible teenage experiences and the importance of books that include LGBT relationships is one I feel quite strongly about. Unspeakable does a really good job of portraying female relationships, both in friendship and romantically, without tokenisation.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and found it a to be a hick but powerful read. There’s nothing like an easy Young Adult read to get over a book slump and I immediately picked up my next book after finishing this one.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

  

I picked his one up despite jellyfish being my one true fear mainly because of how pretty the cover was. I think it glinted as I walked past it and I am secretly a magpie. Technically, I believe it was in the children’s section of Asda’s books (next to a Minecraft book and the most recent Diary of a Whimpy Kid book) although like the best Children and Young Adult books I felt like it was appealing to adults too.

The Thing About Jellyfish starts when twelve year old Suzy goes back to school, silent after hearing that her best friend Franny has drowned. Eventually, she decides that Franny must have been stung by a jellyfish as there is no way such a strong swimmer would have drowned otherwise. Every few chapters we get an insight in to what Suzy’s life was like before Franny drowned; how they met and became friends, how they drifted apart and how Suzy’s social issues made it difficult to communicate how she was feeling about it (I am fairly sure that Suzy’s character is on the ASD spectrum as she presents remarkably like other autistic girls I’ve worked with).

Suzy is a really interesting character in that the way the book is written I felt completely like what she was doing was reasonable. You’re inside her head completely and it was wonderful to see the thought processes that went behind her strange behaviour. She wasn’t just the weird kid at school, her actions had definable rationale behind them. It made her seem a lot more rounded and a lot more sympathetic, I really felt for her.

I thought this was a gorgeous little book. It didn’t take me long to read but it was written beautifully.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

  
My final Rereadathon book! This was one of my favourites when I started secondary school. I think I was starting to edge towards more politically inspired novels at that point and this was the perfect bridge for me!

Noughts and Crosses is set in an alternate timeline where racial prejudices are essentially switched and black people are superior to white people in society. It was necessarily uncomfortable reading for me as an eleven year old white girl and I think that was exactly the point: to show a distorted enough version of the real world to illustrate to people who have never experienced those prejudices and violence a fraction of what is must have been like.

The second time round I definitely got more of the undertones than I did originally. Some of the darker aspects, such as suicide and abortion, probably went somewhat over my head before. And I wouldn’t have really picked up on the real life historical implications of Callum’s anger that no important nought person is mentioned in their history lessons.

I never read the sequels to Noughts and Crosses, mainly because I was so upset by the end of it, but I feel like I should now. Malorie Blackman is definitely a staple YA author and I’m glad I still see her books on the shelves at school! 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling


I will preface this by saying that I am eternally mystified by the hype around Harry Potter. If it’s your thing, great, but I kind of feel like I grew out of it round about Goblet of Fire.

That being said I didn’t hate this one. It was sweet and nostalgic and what I kind of wish the Harry Potter books had stayed like (ostensibly for children). I had a few issues going in to the second chapter but actually, I dare say I enjoyed reading it. I still don’t get the hype, I may not read the rest of the series, but it was a sweet little book. I feel like I liked the dialogue more than the narration and that the characterisation of adult characters was a lot better than the children (which in a way makes me want to read the adult books she wrote under a pseudonym).

Overall, I still don’t care what Hogwarts house I’m in, but yes, I enjoyed it.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  
I’ve been meaning to read a Patrick Ness book for some time, having seen his quotes floating around the internet. Last week I rejoined the library for the first time in maybe eight years and realised that ebooks are now a thing and I could therefore get a book out without leaving my bed… And promptly downloaded his bibliography.

A Monster Calls was the first one I read and I wasn’t sure what to expect, having not read the blurb beforehand. I was pretty sure I would be moved… I was right and then some. I never would have thought that a book about a story telling tree monster that appears at midnight would actually be the one story on the topic of grief that I identified most strongly with.

In between snippets of tales about apothecaries, evil queens and nightmares Patrick Ness weaves in complex feelings on losing loved ones, right and wrong and whether such a thing exists, truth and love. It’s not a happy tale, but the Monster never promises one. I adored it.

Personally, I feel like in a few pages I had my feelings around losing a parent validated, in a way. Not that, at nearly 25, I needed them to be… But it’s still nice to find a book that shows you exactly how you felt and how it was ok to feel that way.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

  
This was one of the books that immediately sprung to mind when I signed up for the Rereadathon. Like Wise Children I read it for an actual academic assignment, this time Ethnic American Literature in the second year of uni. Life outside of university in my second year was an unmitigated disaster, so much so that I ended up taking the year twice, and The House on Mango Street was probably the only book I read the whole of that first attempt. 

I enjoyed it a lot more without the pressure of university (like all books) and also with the benefit of nearly six years of online communication with people who aren’t from the same town as me. For all my lecturer’s enthusiasm I don’t think I fully got the beauty of this book aged nineteen.

I still love the way the book is written, not in chapters but in vignettes. There’s something lovely about a vignette that can be taken in isolation but that also comes together with others to paint a broader picture. Although it’s short, the book deals with a lot of aspects about Esperanza’s life and the specific ways in which being Latina in Chicago affect her. There’s almost a fairy tale quality to the way Esperanza narrates stories about the others on her street too.