Pearl is a naive and dreamy girl who has lived all her life in the cult of SEED. SEED is a commune and farm made up of a few families, who are cut off from technology and the outside world. It is run by the the enigmatic and sinister Papa S. When newcomers arrive – in the form of Linda and her teenage son Ellis and daughter Sophie – Pearls feelings for Ellis, and the things he tells her about the outside world, plus all the secrets that she gradually discovers about the cult, start to make her question everything she has believed in, and her whole way of life…
SEED reminded me of so many other great cult stories, both cinematic and written. Drop City, Sons of Perdition, Louis Theroux and his visits to the Fred Phelps Cult. I find cults are a fascinating subject, because they are a microcosm of the worst human behaviour. They are the most extreme example of the fearful and delusional stories that societies and families and religions create to control people, and they can be startling in the way people buy into them in order to survive, or perhaps because they know no different. This book takes all that cult craziness and builds it to a thrilling crescendo as the characters struggle to free first their minds and then themselves.
Lisa’s writing is so beautiful and elegiacal, and locates us so strongly with Pearl and her joyful, upbeat unquestioning character voice, and yet she still manages to make clear to the reader that there are dark motivations behind everything going on at SEED. It’s a fine balancing act and it works to add an extra layer of fear and revulsion to what it already a strange and engrossing story.
I loved the opening with Mouse sitting in the bath – it reminded me of the opening of I Capture The Castle – ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’. Lucy and Tom’s books feel like modern updates of those classic romantic comedy stories, both literary and filmic.
There’s a such a good depiction of the bitchiness of girl gangs, and lots of stewing animosity between Mouse and her ex-best friend Lauren, who are both after the same guy, the clueless, somewhat dorky Jack. He and the boys gang of Max and Flynn, get up to a lot of gross-out or stupid inbetweeners antics, but it’s clear that Jack is the one with the good heart. Jack and Mouse meet the effortlessly cool French popstar and Bieber-alike Roland, will he be a possible love-rival to Jack or a new found friend to them both? I love the way all the character’s attempts to get it on – i.e. get a snog – end in disaster and all their social interactions come off as disjointed. None of them can read situations at all and everything requires a lot of thought and second guessing. The boys are especially clueless and are constantly putting their feet in their mouths.
This is a hilarious book for young teenagers, full of great gags and real relatable characters. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Lobsters for me, I think because the mystery of whether Jack and Mouse will kiss in the end doesn’t quite have the tension of the older storyline that Hannah and Sam have in Lobsters – navigating your first time, and what may be a deeper connection. So it felt like a lighter book, for a younger crowd, which it most definitely is, but still a lot of fun to read, with many more of Lucy and Tom’s trademark laugh-out-loud moments.
I loved this book and its beautiful poetic writing. It’s a fantastic island setting, where you can practically feel the muggy tropical heat, and where local folk tales and superstitions are bubbling to the surface once more. I loved the central friendship between the narrator Isabelle and her friend Lupe both come across as strong hearted individuals. I loved how they work together in so many scenes and in their own way both become the rescuers and heroes of the story. The book made me think of the Earthsea quartet in some parts but has a strong flavour of South American magic realist literature also and a classic fairytale feel. Overall an exciting and lyrical adventure with two strong girls at its centre.
More Of Me revolves around the newest of many clones, Teva. Teva is sixteen and trying to lead a normal life, and yet time is running out for her…
Teeva’s mother, and various past-versions of herself, have been hiding out for years behind a high wire fence and a locked coded gate. Meanwhile, inside their suburban home, an insane reality is playing out. Once a year Teva splits like an ameoba into an identical other – a replacement for her older (yet younger) self. In six months, it’s due to happen again. To Teva Sixteen.
This weird premise feels fantastically unique, yet Kathryn Evans treats in such a matter of fact and human way that you totally buy into it. All the differently aged Teva clones are vividly drawn and it is a brilliant metaphor for the idea that our personalities are constantly growing and in flux. As the story moves on, Teva tries to solve the mystery around her being, but she must still go to school, cope with the interest of two different boys, one of whom is still in love with a previous clone – Teva Fifteen, and keep the secrets of her home life from her best friend Maddy.
Like each clone before her, Teva colludes with her mother to hide the rest of her selves, which creates strong feelings of guilt. More of Me is also about how alien you feel as a teen, and how frightened you are of your peers finding out you’re not what might be considered normal. This comes across very strongly in Kathryn’s writing, especially with the bittersweet quality of the ending. The set up also made me think of stories where paranoid parents lock their children up – like the movie The Wolfpack -but perhaps that link is a little more tangential!
Overall I really enjoyed More of Me, it’s beautifully written and I would categorize it as a mix of teen-drama and uniquely original science fiction.
2015 is not quite over yet, and I might get one more book read if I’m lucky, but for now here are all the books I read in 2015. Looking at them all, there is quite a lot of Middle Grade, a bit of YA and one or two adult SCIFIs in there.
It’s a tough call but my favourite books of the year were probably.
In Middle Grade: PHOENIX, ROOFTOPPERS being a close second.
In YA: SABRIEL
And in Adult fiction (of which I barely read any!): THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.
Read all four and you will not be disappointed – they are all amazing!!
And to be honest, most of the rest of the year’s read were pretty amazing too…
This is a great fun middle grade book about girl friendships, navigating the new world of secondary school, and finding your hidden talent. Cassidy is such a strong character with a distinct twelve year old voice and a funny outlook on her changing life: new friends and social groups at secondary school, and a growing family (her mother is pregnant with twins). It reminded me at times of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4ths. There are also some hilarious gags – especially in the reply letters Cassidy get from the various organisations she writes to trying to discover her talent. View all my reviews
Beautifully written. It made me tear up a couple of times. Both Hannah and Aaron felt so real – a mass of contradictions, bad decision, stupid bullish or bravado teenage logic.
Hannah at first was grating in the extreme. But then her character really grows in a subtle way across the course of the book. It is brilliantly done – and it doesn’t feel like a character ‘arc’ – more like, as she moves away from her old life, another side of her personality comes out. I did feel there could be a little more about her actual pregnancy and her worries about being a mum, but in a way it is kind of a character trait that she’s not thinking so much about the future only about the things going on now.
Aaron was a lovely character too, trying to atone for his past by being the perfect guy to Hannah. At points he comes over a little too perfect, like the hero Hannah needs, rather than how he might behave considering his own self doubts. I totally loved him and believed him as a character, but I wanted Hannah to confront his oddness a bit more, and I get why she wouldn’t – because she doesn’t want to spoil things. But he is like a cuckoo child a little bit, adopting someone else’s family, and this creates a conflict near the end.
Both characters are so likeable and full of depth. I love how the book ends, and I would definitely read a sequel to see how they deal with parenthood and their mixed up friendship/relationship. The nature of which is something created out of both their needs in that short space of time, and how would it develop when the rules changed? All this is so interesting that at the end I wished there was more. I so wanted to know how Hannah dealt with being a mother in her unique, sometimes insightful, sometimes scattered way. There’s just so much potential for looking at that in the way she oscillates between being teenage and more mature in her handling of things. And how Aaron dealt with the truth being out there about him and the potential of a shift in his relationship with Hannah and her family, and how he’d be with the baby. And I would’ve loved to see how all the kids at school would be with Hannah as a mum. All that made me wish for a sequel and I hope one gets written one day!
Dido Twite is a great heroine, all mouthy action, sharp elbows and ideas, and this is the first of the series I’ve read where she’s the main character, but I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as my other two forays into Joan Aiken’s many books – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and Black Hearts in Battersea – which I thought were both brilliant. Somehow the plot here is not as strong, it feels as if there’s too much beginning and not enough end, because the denoument has brilliant possibilities, but is dealt with rather fast. Also the biggest disappointment for me in the book, there were no wolves, despite the fact the book starts with a big coach crash and Dido spends most of the time wandering round the countryside. It still has a lot of fun stuff though – including another of those outlandish and nefarious villainous plots that the baddies in Joan Aitken always seem to come up with.
A beautifully written story, filled with zingy one liners which made me laugh out loud, and had to be underlined for later.
Sophie is a spirited girl, who was found as a baby floating in a cello case on the ocean, one of few survivors from a shipwreck. Now, age twelve, and on the run from the British authorities, who want to put her in an orphanage, she travels to Paris to search for her mother, because ‘you should never ignore a possible’. With the aid of Charles her absent-minded but loveable long-legged guardian, and three rooftop living children – gruff Rooftopper Matteo and tree-dwelling sisters Safi and Anastasia – she gradually finds clues to her cello playing mother’s whereabouts.
It reminded me in elements of Peter Pan and also of Baron in the Trees as well as many other stories, and it has that classic timeless feel in spades, but packed with modern pithy humour in all the dialogue and description, a lovely middle grade book, that already feels like a classic.
Brilliant, a page turning fantasy with an amazing kick-ass magical heroine in Sabriel, and a sarcastic talking cat. The book is also amazingly plotted, especially at the end which manages to somehow bring things almost full circle to the first few moments of the story and tie up all the elements in a personal way, which is such a hard thing to do in such an epic sweeping fantasy.