Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A Review of Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat is a book by Becky Albertalli, and is a companion novel of sorts to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Leah Burke and her friends are entering senior year. With college applications and prom fast approaching, she's worried about her friendship group, which appears to be fracturing. However, she starts to realise she has more feeling for one in her group than she wanted to have.

Under a cut because I doubt I can talk about this book without spoiling it. It's hard to even write a summary without spoiling.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A Review of Theatrical

Theatrical is a book by Maggie Harcourt. Hope Parker has loved the world of theatre ever since getting glimpses of her mother's glamorous career as a costume designer. Getting a student placement at the Earl's Theatre is a dream come true, for the girl who wants to work in stage management. The opening night of a huge production is coming up, but there's also a budding romance with a student actor for her to worry about. But, as always, the show must go on.

At the end of the book, I was just confused, because I couldn't quite work out what hadn't worked. On paper, it should have been good for me. I love theatre, and I love reading about passionate characters. But something in this one was just slightly off. I always do like to start with the good, and I have a few positive things to say about it. The theatre stuff was good!

I did a bit of amateur dramatics acting as a teen, and the descriptions of the excitement and tension of backstage were spot on! I felt like I was there with Hope, costuming, counting props and cuing lights. I also really did connect with her love of theatre, and they're right up there with some of the most magical places in the world, to me.

Theatrical does capture a feeling I've felt quite a lot in my adult life. When you're new at a job, and everyone else seems to know what they're doing, and you're expected to know even though it's your first day, and people just roll their eyes when you ask where something is. When you know that if you ask for help with something, you'll be treated like you're stupid, but if you go ahead and do it, you'll make a mistake. When you feel like you just can't do anything right.

We are told that Hope is experienced and is determined to prove herself, but she comes across as mostly irresponsible and unprofessional. She's late quite often and misses cues because she's too busy daydreaming about her love interest. A few mistakes would be understandable - she's a teenager, and she's still learning. But things like being late aren't something I expect from someone who is trying to prove she can make it without her mother's help.

The romance was bland as vanilla. I'm sorry, but it was. I would have preferred her with George, because we do need more Asian love interests in YA and her family background provided an interesting parallel with his passion. I also liked seeing a boy with more feminine interests who wasn't gay. I know we need more LGBT characters, but I also feel like we need more straight characters (especially men) with interests associated with other genders.

Also, why was a girl who wants to work in theatre doing chemistry and maths as an A-Level? Maths I can possibly see, since it may come in handy for calculating things, but there is no earthly reason to do chemistry if it doesn't directly relate to what you want to do at University. It is that hard, and I know from experience, since I did it. Even if we take out Drama (Hope's not into the acting side so much) and Textiles (too much like her mother's line of work) surely English, Art and Graphic Design would have made more sense? Or a foreign language or a humanities subject? The A-levels a character takes should be somewhat linked to their personality. For the confused, most places only let you take a maximum of five, and most people will only do three or four. Also, taking any time out of school during your A-levels so close to exams seems to be not only foolish but also something most schools wouldn't let you do.

I would recommend this one for theatre lovers, especially those who have does any sort of community theatre work.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A Review of Puddin'

Puddin' is a novel by Julie Murphy, and is a sort of companion book/second novel to Dumplin'. Millie Michelchuk is sick of being held back because of her weight. This year, instead of going to fat camp, she's going to apply for broadcast journalism school. Cassie Reyes, on the school dance team, is upset when their sponsorship by a local small gym is dropped. After vandalising the gym, she winds up working their to pay back her damages, spending more time about Millie during her time there.

I loved it! I've been hit-or-miss with Julie Murphy so far. I loved Dumplin', wasn't overjoyed by Side Effects May Vary and am still not sure what to think about Ramona Blue. The only thing I was disappointed about is that there wasn't a romance between the two girls.

But I think their two personalities were what made the book. They're both very different people. Girls can be bitchy, they can be nice, they can be complex. I'll say it - I feel that the YA genre has been a goldmine of women as well-rounded characters with interesting personalities lately. Two very different girls can become friends. Add to this the supporting cast, again mostly female, and you've got a novel that's very character driven, so it's a good thing that it's a very strong cast of them.

I loved Millie! She's a sweetheart. You know how I often say that my favourite YA protagonists are those with some sort of dream or goal? She wants to be a news anchor, and my word is she working to make that happen. There's no reason why you should have to wait until you are an adult to start studying what you are interested in. The fact she's got an extra barrier with her size is not going to stop her.

Cassie may take someone longer to warm to. I had a sense of where the character was going, so I was waiting to see with her. She's a masterclass in how to write a mean girl without it turning into girl-hate. Her POV means we get her reasons, and her character development shows through in the end.

I admit I wasn't sold on the idea of a sleepover between the girls from Dumplin' at first, because I found it wasn't the strongest chapter, but the second one where Millie brings Cassie is rife with drama. These girls are very different, and adding one more member upset their fragile balance. Amanda has a discussion on asexuality with the others, which I loved, plus she's also disabled. I would like a third book in this series centring on her, actually. Hannah comes across as only being there because she has to be, but deep down I think she really does care. Willowdean and El are each others best friends, so if their group fell apart, they'd be okay if they had each other. Millie is the one who cares the most about their group.

Another thing I really like about this book is the Texas setting! I've been out to Texas several times to visit friends, and I love (most things about) the state! Especially the food, and the description of a Texas BBQ place made my mouth water.

Recommended for those who like their cute contemporaries with complex characters.