Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: A Book Review.

Simon Spier is a sixteen year old boy who has not come out to his friends or family and is in a relationship with a sixteen year old boy online, named ‘Blue’. Simon goes by the pseudonym, ‘Jacques’ which is a reference to ‘Jacques a dit’ and translates to ‘Simon Says’ in French. He is a smart student who is fond of theatre and takes part in one of the school productions.

The novel follows his journey of finding himself, coming out and accepting who he is. Along with dealing with his sexuality, Simon has to juggle high school drama. His two best friends, Nick and Leah, who he has known for a very long time are struggling with crushes; Nick likes a girl named Abby and Leah likes Nick and Martin likes Abby who blackmails Simon when he screenshots his emails.

Martin holds the emails over Simon’s head, basically saying “if you don’t get me a date with Abby, I’ll out you to the whole school”.

The book is witty and smart, you grow to like the characters, aside from Martin, that Simon interacts with. The mystery surrounding who ‘Blue’ is, is something that catches your attention. He goes to the same school and is in his year and they share classes. Simon thinks it’s Cal Price, someone who Simon had a crush on, who comes out as bisexual when Simon is outed by Martin.

The book also deals with homophobia and the bullying that follows when Simon is outed, his shock and horror that his choice was taken from him; he should have been able to come out on his own terms, to decide when and how he told the people he loved who he loved. That choice was taken when Martin creates a Tumblr post and everyone at his school saw it, including his sister.

He’s lucky to have a supportive family, to get the guy in the end and force Martin to deal with his actions. Simon’s given the happy ending that everyone should have. Sadly, that is not the case for some children, especially LGBTQ+ teenagers who don’t have supportive families.

But what this book did provide, was a glimmer of hope.


Where You Are by J. H. Trumble: A Book Review.

Where You Are was one of those books that deal with the trope of forbidden romance. I was apprehensive to read this novel due to the element of the age gap and the fact that Andrew is a teacher, albeit a young one. Regardless, he falls for his student who is just shy of turning eighteen.

Aside from the fact that he is a twenty four year old teacher and if seen from an outside perspective looks like an abuse of power, not to mention the fact that Robert, though consenting, is still not seen as an adult for another couple of months, the prospect of reading another book with this kind of age gap (the last one I read was Call Me By Your Name where the laws on consent in the country it was set in is far lower), made me feel a little uneasy.

Call Me By Your Name was written in a way that beguiles you and makes you see that the relationship is fully consensual, it isn’t forced, nor is it acted out on Oliver’s part with malicious intent, so even though the age gap makes the reader feel out of place, conflicted and squeamish, you come to see their love as what it is, love.

I was worried that this novel would not follow the same pattern.

I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Reading topics like this are quite strange for me and if dealt with in the way that I’ve had personal experience with, i.e., teachers at my school preyed on young girls, it is very triggering. The book opens up with Robert struggling at school due to his home life. His father is terminally ill and his aunts are constantly invading his space, pressuring him into going to medical school once the year is over and are always bad mouthing his mother. It is no wonder that he prefers school to going home. And that’s saying something.

He bonds with his teacher, Andrew at first as a person to confide in, a friend. Already lines are being crossed when Robert starts to message Andrew out of school hours and when they start a relationship, the reader knows where the story is heading. While reading, I was on high alert in case the relationship was turning into something abusive, but I didn’t see red signs. Instead, Andrew truly cares for Robert and even says to him to wait until he’s finished school and has turned eighteen. Their love, a taboo and rightly so, cannot begin until Robert is in the clear.

However, the path does not run smoothly and things take a turn for the worse. I finished the book in two days. I thought that the writing was sharp and witty, their friendship seemed pure and real, and even though it made me uncomfortable in the beginning and still would if in real life, a friend of mine when I was seventeen said she or he was dating someone older than them, especially if they were in a position of power; the writer manages to show us that Andrew is not an evil character and Robert is not being swayed or coerced into the relationship.

I’m also a sucker for happy endings which this one had. Robert turns eighteen and graduates, starts helping out at the veterinary clinic while Andrew finds a new career path. They reconcile and are finally able to be open about their love.

Still, until you’re eighteen or older, stick to dating people your age. Or better yet, don’t. You’re too young for that shit. 

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman: A Book Review.

Call Me By Your Name is a book I will treasure forever. It took me by the heart and kept me there until I finished it and was crying tears of sorrow and bittersweet love. The ending of this novel is both happy and sad and painful and I am a sucker for happy endings. I was surprised by the way it ended but it was beautifully written. André Aciman is a master of the written word; his prose moves and captivates you, pulling you along with Oliver and Elio skilfully until you never want to leave them.

Continue reading “Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman: A Book Review.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: A Book Review.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas follows the life of Starr Cater, a sixteen year old girl who witnesses the murder of her childhood best friend, Khalil. He was unarmed, young and full of life. Until the white police officer thought he was dangerous and shot him three times in the chest. Why? For being black. It’s a terrifying thing that black people in America face, something they see time and time again. 

The truth of police brutality is not new. Every time I check the news, I read another report of another black person killed because the police officer “thought” they were up to no good. And always on the end of the barrel of a gun is a young, old, middle-aged person, who in the article or inquest that comes after is called a “thug”, a “gangster”, a “troublemaker”, “armed”, a “drug dealer”, as if they deserved to die.

Starr finds herself in a position that puts her at the centre of attention. If she speaks out, she could endanger her life but if she doesn’t, Khalil’s memory will be ruined by the biased news stations. In the end, she decides that she will not be silenced. She will not sit by and let them get away with it. She speaks up for Khalil. For Emmett Till. For Philando Castile. 

She removes the toxic people in her life. She merges her two worlds together, the one where she goes to school surrounded by a majority of white people and her home, her neighbourhood where she lost her best friend Khalil and before that, Natasha.

When the police officer that killed Khalil is found not guilty, people take to the streets, protesting, a coverage follows Starr, voices speak out. People are marching. They’re moving.

#BlackLivesMatter began in 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted after the shooting of Trayvon Martin. It became nationally known after the street demonstrations in 2014, following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

People are moving.

It won’t bring them back. It won’t turn back time.

But hopefully, someday, we can live in a world where the colour of your skin is not a death sentence.

The Dry by Jane Harper: A Book Review.

The Dry by Jane Harper has all of the quirks and devices that a crime thriller needs. Set in the small country town of Kiewarra, Australia where the heat is exhausting and water is scarce, a tragedy shakes the community to its core. It seems, on the surface, to be a textbook case of murder suicide, Luke Hadler murders his wife and six year old son, before turning the gun on himself.

The problem is, Luke was an upstanding citizen, a family man and a hard worker. Sure, he had a dark streak to him that often annoyed and frustrated his friends while growing up. Jane Harper manages to set in motion a trail of events that led up to a face paced, anxiety driven climax, and from the very beginning, she is able to plant the seed, the question, for the reader – Luke was many things, but a murderer?

Aaron Falk comes back to town for his best friend’s funeral and it is clear that being home is something he hadn’t ever wanted to do. He’d made a life for himself in Melbourne, when his father had moved them there twenty years ago and being back on familiar soil, a place that he and his father had been chased out of, is a unnerving feeling.

Harper’s narrative is inviting and gripping, once you’re in, you’re in for the rest of the novel. Smooth writing, along with imaginative prose and an ability to craft eccentric and down to earth characters, is definitely something Harper pulls off. As the town turns on its self, questioning friend, father and neighbour, the reader too begins to question every one Falk comes into contact with.

At first, it seems clear – Luke was a strange child who lived for the fast exhilaration of taking risks, he had caved under the pressure of drought and poverty, killing his family and himself. But as stated, Harper is quick to take the reader away from that assumption.

The town of Kiewarra has its dark secrets and many come out of the woodwork the more Falk and Sergeant Raco investigate, which forces Falk to think and come to terms with something that had happened in his childhood; the death of one of his friend’s and a girl he had fallen in love with, perhaps before he knew what love was, Ellie Deacon. Her death was pinned on him and his father, due to a note found in her pocket when her body was discovered, it read Falk. She had been bright faced and determined to escape the shadow of her father and his vile ways, but her journey was cut short when she drowned the lake she and her friends used to hang out at.

Most people believed it had been a suicide but there were those, particularly, Ellie’s father and her cousin, Grant Dow, who believe it was Aaron. Harper manages to convince the reader that it was Mal Deacon and his nephew who had killed Luke Hadler, due to their hatred of the Hadler family – perhaps out of revenge for what happened to Ellie, the Deacons’ were quick to blame Aaron, but also, Luke, who’s alibi at the time of Ellie’s death, was that he was with Aaron, shooting rabbits.

We are so invested in believing this that when Aaron confronts Mal Deacon, an old, sick man, the reader fails to see the other signs, we fail to see who the real murderer (of Luke, Karen and their son) is. In a shocking twist, Aaron uncovers the truth as to what happened the Hadler’s and Luke’s name is cleared. The town start to view Aaron differently, embarrassed by their actions – having driven him out of the town when he was younger, spreading rumours about him and making his stay in Kiewarra horrible – showing just how fake, delusional and narrow minded the town’s people are. And a couple of gruesome pages later, we find out that Mal killed his own daughter.

As much as I enjoyed this book, there was one part that bothered me. The abuse that Mal subjected his daughter to. The use of sexual violence was put there, in one scene, towards the end, as a plot device. Ellie was beaten by her father and that was enough for us to understand her hatred towards him, it was enough for us to see that he was a disgusting person, it was enough for us to understand her actions and her planning to leave.

However, there was one scene where he invades her space, climbing on top of her in her bed. She wakes and manages to push him off, but it is implied that he has, in her sleep, though she woke up, sexually abused her. This scene felt as though it was added last minute, as something to horrify us, which of course it does, but that is all it is there for – shock value.

It was unnecessary, if a writer is to write about such things, then it shouldn’t be used as shock value or as a plot device to push the story forwards, which is what happens here, as it is called the catalyst. But this demeans the victim, in this case Ellie, to nothing more than a ploy in the plot to show how horrible Mal is. We already know that, we already know he was a vile human being.

Sexual abuse is an extremely traumatising thing to happen to a person. In some cases, as Ellie’s is, the abuse ends in murder. It is not something to be taken lightly or brushed away, which is what happens in this novel. It is swept under the carpet as it were, there only for a couple of lines to horrify the reader and used as a plot point, rather than being treated with the importance it should be written with. It demeans survivors of this abuse and their experience, to little importance.

Therefore, as much as I would have liked to love this book a lot more, I cannot with Harper’s treatment of Ellie. When are novelists, script writers and so on, going to understand that rape is not something to be used as shock value?


Nemesis: A Book Review.

Nemesis opens with Min, a young woman, after being killed.

Every two years on her birthday, her murderer who wears a black suit and glasses, kills her. She never knows why, no matter how many times she asks or fights him off, every two years she dies in a horrific way. No one believes her. Who would, after hearing someone tell you for years, since they were eight years ago gets killed by a stranger? That is, until strange things start happening.

Noah, is another young person who suffers with a similar predicament. Except, his psychiatrist tells him that they’re dreams and the ‘blue pill’ he gives him, will keep them at bay. Do they? No. Soon, it becomes clear that the town they both live in is keeping far too many secrets. They can trust no one not even their parents. It becomes clear that a group of officials are planning something. Their headmaster, their psychiatrist, the policeman and the black suit, as Noah calls him.

Noah and Min realise that their lives are far more intertwined than they want to believe. Noah is a quiet boy who suffers with anxiety (understandably) but is also a coward and hangs around with a group of boys and girls who bully and belittle their classmates. However, life forces the two together, along with Min’s best friend Tack.

It’s a fast-paced journey to the truth, full of shocking moments and heart pounding pages. The fate of humanity is at stake and soon, it is revealed that all life is doomed, the face of the Earth is destroyed and the remaining humans are upgraded into a computer system, awaiting further instructions which I hope will be in a follow up novel. The only problem I had with the book is the author’s use of descriptions when it came to characters of colour.

Using the word “dark” to describe someone of colour is something that I have a problem with. As a person of colour, if someone calls me dark skinned, objectifying my skin colour, I would find that incredibly offensive. I even read “different coloured” as a term Brenden Reichs used to describe characters. I was taken aback and honestly, shocked that an editor or agent didn’t pick up on that. The problem is not having characters of colour, that is a great thing and something we need. Representation is so important. But there is a way to do it that is not offensive or objectifying.

Therefore, though the plot and premise of the novel was great, the issues surrounding race and character description was a big problem for me and stopped me from enjoying the novel as much as I wanted to.

The Snow Child: A Book Review.

The Snow Child was an emotive and compelling story about a couple who had seen their fair share of life’s horrible qualities. Set in the depths of a snowy landscape, the couple try to navigate their way through each summer and winter, hoping to push their past away, locking it down in the whispers of their minds. Except, it’s not as simple as that.

One winter, a young girl appears to Mabel. She does not speak and has a fox by her side. Based on a Russian folk-tale, where a young girl made of snow comes to life, the novel proves to be beautifully written and plotted wonderfully. Though it was a retelling, the novel used elements of realism and magical twists, to create a wonderful story, that unfolds as a twist of familial love with a dash of snowy magic. Of all the characters in this novel, Mabel was my favourite.

A woman who had a tragic past, having been unable to have children, after a miscarriage and the loss of purpose, Mabel tried to commit suicide. Suffering terribly from depression, she withdraws in on herself and is unable to forgive her husband, Jack for being emotionally distant. He continues to be this way, even when she needs him and I came to resent him as a person, until the little girl shows.

Faina, the little girl, brings Mabel and Jack together, even though Jack at first doesn’t want to believe in Mabel’s stories of the little girl. He believes that she is lying or seeing things. Yet another reason why I didn’t like Jack as a character. I found Mabel far more sympathetic and sweet in nature, she was more accessible and understanding in comparison to the other characters in the novel.

As the snow melts and the summer arrives, Faina begins to spend more and more time with Mabel and Jack. Soon, months turn to years and she grows up to be a young woman. Beautiful and cold and warm, she allows Jack and Mabel to be her adoptive parents, she falls in love with Garrett, the son of a nearby family and they marry. She bares a child and gives birth.

But just as the snow child Mabel and Jack created out of snow, she melts away. She leaves and does not return and though it is debatable what happens, it would be symbolic of her nature, if she melted away like the snow she came from. Maybe, she returns when it snows again, maybe not.

Either way, she becomes one with nature, as it beings to snow again at the end of the novel.