Horned Winged Blessed by E.L Croucher review

Hi everyone! Today I’m reviewing E.L Croucher’s second novel, dystopian Horned Winged Blessed. Our protagonist is Joan Wood, the daughter of the founder of the Silver Party, a political party in Britain which has remained in power since the end of World War III. Joan’s privileged lifestyle means she believes the society her mother created is indeed a utopia. However, she is in for a rude awakening when her house is attacked by underground rebels. After discovering the truth about the society the Silver Party has created, Joan must decide whether to join the rebels in helping bring down her own mother.

Croucher’s worldbuilding is excellent, and the reader is thrown into the midst of this Britain instantly. Admittedly, it takes a few pages to navigate this different society but once I understood it, I was gripped. There is great attention to detail and the world Croucher depicts is very rich. Croucher evokes the sights and smells of London expertly, reminding me of my times visiting the city. It was fun exploring a world familiar to our own, but also a different society within it.

The character of Joan is also nicely portrayed. She goes through quite a transformation, essentially starting out as a spoilt young girl to becoming a free-thinking young woman rebelling against an unjust society. Her character development throughout the story was very well-written, and Croucher balanced the action of the plot with quieter moments of character study really well. I also liked how the book opened with Joan’s mother, or Joan’s memory of that day. It gives the reader some understanding of why she started the Silver Party, and her motives for creating this ‘utopia’. This helped to stop her from being a mere, throwaway villain, but someone who wanted to change her society for the better. Whilst it is hard to agree with her actions, by revealing her motives they become (somewhat) understandable.

Horned Winged Blessed is a fun, action-packed YA novel with some great characters. In a market crowded with young adult dystopian fiction – spearheaded by The Hunger Games – Croucher has delivered something fresh to the genre. Teenagers and young adults will find plenty to enjoy here.

Horned Winged Blessed is published independently and you can find more information here.  

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas review

Hi everyone! So continuing my Reading Women Challenge 2019, I picked up YA sensation The Hate U Give. Between the massive success of the book and a movie adaptation released just last year, I’m sure the plot is fresh in many people’s’ memories. Our protagonist is teenager Starr Carter who seems to live in two worlds. She lives with her family in the predominantly black area Garden Heights, whilst attending Williamson High School, whose pupils are mainly white and feels she needs to act differently in both. However, her world is turned upside down when she is the sole witness to her friend Khalil’s murder at the hands of a police officer.

Thomas really gets into the mindset of Starr and narrates her story convincingly. It doesn’t feel like an adult trying to mimic a teenager’s mannerisms and language; it feels natural and makes the story feel more immersive. Also Starr serves as an excellent window into the story; she is a relatable character in the sense we have all had friend/boyfriend/parent troubles as a teen but she is thrust into a complex, potentially dangerous situation which allows really interesting discussions of race and identity to occur. As a reader you experience and learn the same time she does. Perhaps because I live in the UK and Black Lives Matter is most commonly known as an American movement (if I remember rightly all the founders are American) but I found this book really eye-opening and I think seeing the story through Starr’s eyes was a very effective way of narrating it.

However, there were some moments of THUG that dragged a little. There is a sub-plot featuring domestic violence, which can be upsetting to some, but I felt that it wasn’t explored enough. Whilst it does serve a purpose in pushing the plot forward, that felt like the only reason to add it in and so it became a bit unsavoury (in a sense the characters involved aren’t really seen in the novel until the end so it is hard to connect with them) and I couldn’t help but think Thomas could have handled that topic better. Also that plot wrapped up a bit too easily for me at the end. I just wanted more. Another thing I wanted more of was character development. Apart from Starr and maybe a couple of other characters, not a lot of people evolve in the story. This might be due to seeing events from Starr’s perspective but I would have liked to have seen more of the supporting characters and their thoughts and feelings.

Overall, I think The Hate U Give is a great YA novel. It is great starting place for young people to explore difficult topics such as racism and police brutality; if I were in its target audience I probably would have loved it. But I’m no longer a young adult (sob!) and I accept the book wasn’t written for me. However, I did enjoy the character of Starr and I think Thomas’ writing is very good; very accessible and clear but with a lot of heart and emotion woven within. Although I did have some issues with the book I can see why The Hate U Give has appealed to YA audiences and achieved critical acclaim. An important, if slightly flawed, novel.

The Hate U Give is published by Walker Books and you can find more information here

 

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill review

There are some minor spoilers in this review.

As many may have noticed I don’t tend to read much YA. To be honest I don’t know why I stopped as I used to devour it when I was younger (many, many years ago). So I decided to try it again in the hopes of rekindling my interest. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill seemed a good choice. It is a dystopian world where girls are raised to be the perfect companions to men. When the girls are sixteen the ‘Inheritants’ come to the School to pick their favourite and if they aren’t chosen, the girls become concubines. Our story follows best friends isabel and freida who both seem to be on the verge of self-destructing.

O’Neill tackles some very heavy topics; sexism, body image, mental health, eating disorders. She writes about these with sensitivity and compassion. The novel never feels gratuitous or exploitative; these are just simply a part of the girls’ lives. Some scenes can be upsetting or uncomfortable but are necessary for the plot.

However, I did have a couple of issues with the book, the first one being pacing. I worked out what the big secret was about 100 pages in, meaning the remaining 300 dragged. The repetitiveness of the book reflects the monotony of the girls’ lives but I found it frustrating. I just wanted O’Neill to get to the point. There seemed to be a lot of filler and the plot could probably have worked in a novel half the size.

Also some aspects of this world didn’t make sense. Why are only female babies genetically engineered but not males? We are made to believe that previously girls had died off, presumably murdered. But why only them? The book seemed to raise more questions than answers and at points I wasn’t sure I understood this world.

Another thing was how language was used. The girls refer to chickens and eggs as ‘chick-chicks’ and ‘eggies’. Having them talk in this cutesy way is supposed to infantilize them but it seemed completely at odds with other aspects of dialogue. They use words such as ‘probation’ and ‘Vomitorium’ but not simply ‘eggs’?

Overall I found Only Ever Yours a disappointing read. The plot is certainly intriguing and I believe there is a good book somewhere amongst the pages. But certain aspects didn’t work for me or I didn’t understand why O’Neill made those choices. However I know many people love this novel so I’m probably in the minority. My quest to find a great YA read continues!

Only Ever Yours is published by Quercus and you can find more information here.