Scythe By Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 22nd November 2016

Blurb:

A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death.

In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes’ apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019)

Review:

Scythe is a novel that is an uncomfortable look at a possibly utopian future, where life is now infinite and the resolution for stopping overpopulation is Scythes. Scythes are professional killers. More disturbingly Scythes are only ruled by themselves. Years of being ruled by themselves has lead to corruption and a lack of humanity in some Scythes. So in some ways this novel is dystopian.

We follow two teenagers who have been selected as Scythe apprentices. So we follow the the pair as they learn about killing and why it must be done. But soon they learn that only one will be chosen and they are pitted against one another, to the death.

This is a fast paced novel and in some ways time passes too quickly for relationships to feel as fully formed as they could be. This is a thrilling novel with mystery and high stakes. We read from the journals of various Scythes and learn the different schools of thoughts regarding Scythdom. Those that get a thrill from the kill vs those who understand the full gravity of what they are doing.

This is a chilling novel that takes turns that you don’t expect. The themes of corruption, morality and power play throughout this novel.

Scythe is the first in a series and sets the scene for change. Change that could go either way. It makes you question if utopia is ever possible and the importance of mortality.

A thrilling young adult novel with a unique premise and a great start to what I imagine is going to be a very impactful and lasting series. This series will be great for discussing and debating the topics and themes that it tackles. A great book for young adults to enjoy and discuss.

4 out of 5 stars.

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On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5

The Future of Us By Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Title: The Future of Us

Author: Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

First Published: 21st November 2011

Blurb:

It’s 1996 and very few high school students have ever used the internet. Facebook will not be invented until several years in the future. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD. She and her best friend Josh power it up and log on – and discover themselves on Facebook in 2011. Everybody wonders what they’ll be like fifteen years in the future. Josh and Emma are about to find out. (From Goodreads, 25th July 2013)

Review:

This is the second book I have read by Jay Asher, the first being Thirteen Reasons Why. Unlike Thirteen Reasons Why I had not heard many reviews of this novel, I had seen it mentioned in hauls and such but other than that I have stayed away from reviews as all the hyped reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why led me to be disappointed.

The Future of Us is so much better, in my opinion, than Thirteen Reasons Why. This is a fun novel which tackles some coming of age issues in a unique fashion. Imagine connecting to the internet for the first time at home and seeing your future. Seeing your future spelt out in short sentences and an online profile. Facebook is on the screen. But what happens if you don’t like your future? What happens if you find out small changes lead to big changes in your future?

I loved the unique way this novel looked at learning how to let yourself love, and be honest to your friends, whilst mixed with the teenage drama that never changes, no matter what year it is. A flashback to the years before the normality of the internet and social networks. A nice mix of the past and the future. A quick and witty story, that keeps you entertained the whole way through.

This is a definite read for young adults and for those who enjoy the young adult genre and remember life before the internet.

4 out of 5

Thin Space By Jody Casella

Title: Thin Space

Author: Jody Casella

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: 10th September 2013

Blurb:

Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead. (From Goodreads, 7th July 2013)

Review:

I was really looking forward to this book, but it was disappointed. I worked out what was going on very close to the beginning, basically I kept reading to make sure I was correct. The writing was a bit repetitive and just wasn’t my type of book.

We meet Marsh, dealing with his twin brothers death by frantically looking for ‘thin space’ in which he can slip into to talk to him. He is tortured by the loss of his brother and we see into his mind as he narrates the novel.

Maddie moves into the house next door, she has her own issues to deal with but befriends Marsh despite the perception of their fellow school students that he is ‘crazy’. The relationship builds but do they find their answers? Can they make peace with their pasts? That is what this novel is about, two teens struggling with loss, finding friendship and trust when they both needed it.

I just couldn’t connect to this book, I found it quite bland. I am afraid to say. I don’t like giving negative reviews but I felt like I have read too many books like this before. Maybe not the ‘thin space’ aspect, but just the general formula.

Maybe a good book for 13 to 15 year old’s in understanding death and some other issues, but it wasn’t deep or gritty enough in my opinion, and didn’t deal with such issues in the way that felt that relevant in helping teens fully understand such situations….

I don’t know. I feel conflicted writing this, but I am being honest. It was a short book, and honestly if it had been a bit longer I probably would not have managed to complete it…

2 out of 5

The Sea of Tranquility By Katja Millay

Title: The Sea of Tranquility

Author: Katja Millay

Publisher: Atria Books

First Published: 5th September 2012

Blurb:

live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to. (From Goodreads, 7th March 2013)

Review:

Well the above blurb gives you a good idea about the books content so I will not summarize as I often do. This is a very well written book which flips between Nastya and Josh’s point of view. Both are damaged and you learn what has happened to them at a good pace, along with what happens between them. Friendship, love, pain, hurt. It is all there. This story gripped me. Nastya’s silence and Josh’s wish to be left alone bring these two damaged characters together. You will feel for them, and you wish for them to be okay. If you like ‘issue’ books this is one that you should buy and not regret.

4 out of 5

The City of Bones By Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd

UK Publication Date: 2nd July 2007

Blurb:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing — not even a smear of blood — to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . . (From Goodreads, 13th February 2013)

Review:

This is the first book in The Mortal Instruments Series and I am so glad I have invested in the first four books when I saw them. I am kicking myself for not picking them up sooner! One thing that put me off slightly was the fact the cover I got has a quote from Stephenie Meyer. I read the Twilight Saga, I liked the story but there was just a bit to must relationship stuff for me! But I’m glad I didn’t let that put me off!

The novel has twists and turns all the time, you are unsure who to trust, and when you finally decide to trust them something happens and you are unsure again! There is a lot of layers and unanswered questions which I hope the following books bring more light too.

Clary is brought into a world that she is unaware off and soon becomes entwined. There is fights, history of wrong doings and return of a powerful Shadowhunter whom Clary is learning is no good. Vampires, warewolves, warlocks, demons, there is everything. Along with the action there is past stories, love, affection, families, secrets, deception, trust. A series which has begun well and I look forward to getting deeper into.

Also is you haven’t started this series and are a bit slow of the mark like me, my advice is get it! The film adaptation is coming out in August 2013 (UK) so get reading before then!

4.5 out of 5

My Dead Friend Sarah By Peter Rosch

Title: My Dead Friend Sarah

Author: Peter Rosch

Publisher: Createspace

UK Publication Date: 1st April 2012

Blurb:

Mere months into recovery, Max, an alcoholic with twisted control issues, meets Sarah – the same woman that for years he’s habitually dreamt will die after a botched abduction. “Doing the next right thing,” a popular AA phrase he’s picked up in the rooms, means befriending Sarah long enough to warn her and hope she takes him seriously. But when Sarah falls in love with Max, his newly sober thinking drives him to choose his overly devoted wife, and he abandons Sarah – even when it condemns her to death. When Sarah goes missing, the NYPD suspects Max’s dream may have been a pre-crime confession. The truth, all of it, lurks inside of Max, but only by drinking again does he recapture the nerve and clarity vital to free his wife, sponsor, and himself from a life imprisoned by lies. (From Goodreads, 22nd January 2013)

Review:

When I read the blurb for this novel I was excited. I thought this would be a book I would love. However I was wrong. And it pains me to say so. I so wanted to enjoy this book and pushed myself to keep going but it just never clicked for me. Reading through other reviews and the authors note at the back it seems that he is a ‘Marmite’ type – either love it or hate it.

At the beginning we meet Max –  he is being questioned by police about the disappearance of Sarah. A disappearance he forced them to take note of before it happened. Max has placed himself in a sticky situation and is now caught in a situation making him rethink his sobriety and life in general.

We take a step into the past, alternating between Sarah and Max, but both are talking from slightly different time points. Both characters have their faults and prolificacy to lie. Max begins to stalk Sarah after he see’s her and recognizes her as the woman from a long standing dream. The build a relationship over a month, which Max puts off, guilt ridden or lying to his wife.

Max lives a life of an alcoholic, visiting AA meetings and lying to those who care for him. We see more of this side of Max in the second part of the novel which is entirely from Max’s point of view. I preferred this half of the novel but was not overawed by it. We wonder about Sarah, what had happened? Will they find her body? Who did it? but to be honest I just felt we were dragged around as Max got himself more and more inebriated and he isolates himself once again.

For me it lacked the excitement the blurb had placed in me, it fell short. I wanted a case, with twists and turns, looking for Sarah, but what I felt I got was the quick spiral back into alcoholism and very little adventure or intrigue.

I’m sorry I didn’t get it.

2 out of 5.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Publisher: Harlequin (UK) Ltd

UK Publication Date: 5th October 2013

Blurb:

Ive left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you dont, put the book back on the shelf, please.

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions? Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Review:

Having heard so many good reviews of this book I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I am glad I did. The only thing I regret is not reading it sooner, and not reading it just before Christmas. This novel is set at Christmas time which is captured beautifully, and why I feel reading just before Christmas would have made it even more magical. Dash’s dislike for the holiday and Lily’s love of it. Both characters are well developed – slightly bizarre characters and extremes but both loveable and intriguing.

This book takes us on the journey of the two teenagers journey to find out about one another through the red notebook which the communicate with. The dares are amusing, and not the typical dares you would imagine. You will find yourself flipping the pages waiting to know what happens, anxiously awaiting them to meet. To find out if they could be friends, more than friends.

A well developed novel that will capture the interests and emotions of many readers.

5 out of 5

Luke and Jon By Robert Williams

Luke’s Mother has just died in a car crash and his Father can no longer afford their house and they are forced to move to a decrepit house on a hillside in a dull town that neither have heard of. Luke has a love for painting and a propensity of accepting those who are usually rejected.

Jon has a photographic memory and lives in the house, with his grandparents, further down the hill side. He is bullied at school but begins a friendship with Luke before school starts by appearing unannounced at the door early each morning.

Both have adult issues to deal with and find friendship and a mutual understanding of one another.

This is a novel that has several ‘big’ issues in it yet to me seemed to lack a real plot to push you along to the end. I was interested in the fact Lukes mother was Bipolar, yet it was only brushed on a few times.

If you want a gentle book to read this is for you. It is well written but does not have a driving force pushing you through and fails to take an in-depth look at the issues presented in the book.