Looking For Alaska – John Green

Looking for AlaskaFirst friend, first girl, last word

Looking For Alaska revolves around Miles Halter, a teenage boy from Florida with a love of people’s last words. Quiz him on any American president, or a multitude of other famous people, and he will be able to tell you their last words.  Miles decides, for his junior year, to explore the ‘Great Perhaps’ (François Rabelais’ last words) and hence enrolls in Culver Creek boarding school, in another state.

Before the ‘Great Perhaps’, Miles lived a rather solitary life in Florida. However with the new school, Miles also gains a roommate, The Colonel, who becomes Miles’ first real friend, teaching him all about the etiquette and pranks of the school.

The Colonel also introduces Miles to Alaska. Alaska Young is a beautiful, mysterious girl who Miles can’t help but fall in love with. Her intelligence, wit and mood swings all add up to make her fascinating to Miles.

Together Miles, The Colonel, Alaska and their other friends make a fantastic prank team, as is tradition within the school. They regularly break school rules – smoking, drinking and sneaking out

Miles has survived, and enjoyed, the majority of the school year – learning a lot, not just in lessons. However, one tragic events changes all of this. He is left to try and recover his happiness and make it through until the end of the academic year.

I loved this book. Miles was a great character – he was so realistic. His opinions and thoughts are all relatable. On the other hand, Alaska annoyed me, but her character was written to be annoying, she was a self absorbed and confusing character.

John Green’s characters are all intelligent which is my favourite part of his books, the characters are not the stereotypical teenagers which are so common place in the media. In my opinion, he has the correct view regarding teenagers, seeing them more intelligent and mature than many other writers. I believe this is an important factor in John Green’s immense popularity.

The plot begins rather slowly, however this allows readers time to begin to understand and relate to the characters which I feel, retrospectively, is an important element of the book.

The story also features important issues which teenagers face and therefore I feel a lot is to be learnt from this book.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I do feel that other John Green novels are better. Although, I would still recommend this book to all.

I now only have Paper Towns of John Green’s books to read, which saddens me as I find his books so enjoyable. I hope he writes many more books to continue my enjoyment.


Wonder – R. J. Palacio

WonderYou can’t blend in when you were born to stand out…

My name is August. I won’t describe what I like look. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

When I recently attended a Malorie Blackman talk, she recommended this book… and recommendations don’t come much better than that!

I had been meaning to read the book following it’s nomination for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards. When Malorie mentioned it, the audience responded positively which acted as the catalyst to me reading it. I am so glad I did!

Wonder follows August Pullman, an eleven year boy who has ‘lost’ in the genetic lottery. He has a one in four million facial syndrome as a result of which he has suffered through countless operations.

August knows his face marks him as different, although his parents have tried to protect him from the world. However, now they have decided it is time for August, or Auggie, to start school.

After years of homeschooling, August is reluctant to leave his comfort zone. However he is soon persuaded after meeting some of his classmates and touring the school.

The book then follows his journey through the fifth grade. During this year he learns a lot about friendship and life skills as well as the more common place academic knowledge.

The book is written from several characters point of views, however it is clear when the perspective changes. The grammar and writing style subtly changes as well as a title page for each new character – I think this demonstrates the skill of the author. It was really interesting to read the same story from several perspectives as it furthered my understanding of the characters and the plot line. The characters include August’s sister, her boyfriend and August’s friends.

One element of this book I really liked were the Precepts. August’s English teacher has a precept for every month, an inspiring phrase which he uses to encourage and educate his class. He also instructs his pupils to write or find their own precept over the summer holidays, which are then listed in the appendix. I thought this was a really great idea and one which I found very thought provoking. I will definitely be more interested in finding my own Precepts now.

I really enjoyed this book, the subject matter is so unique; I have never read a book similar which furthered my enjoyment. The book was also inspiring, not only was August a character full of determination, courage and kindness, but his friends and family were also inspirational.

This is R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, which I find shocking considering how well the book is written. Surely, with a debut novel as good as this, R.J. Palacio will go on to write many more books – all of which I hope to read.

I recommend this book to everyone – adults and young adults alike. Although the main characters are all children, there is a lot for everyone to learn from August and his story.

The Killables – Gemma Malley

The Killables

Evil must be identified

Dystopian novels are becoming more prevalent within Young Adult literature, after reading Ally Condie’s Matched Trilogy, I became disinterested with the genre. I didn’t enjoy this series as I felt removed from the characters and I didn’t understand the relationships between the characters.

However, with The Killables I was reintroduced and will definitely be reading similar books in the future.

The Killables tells the story of Evie, a 16 year old, living in The City. The City is the home to those who have had the ‘evil’ part of their brain removed, in a supposedly utopian city. The City is under the control of The System, which is responsible for labelling all the citizens based on how evil they are.

Evie strives to be good, yet she fears she is turning evil due to a recurring dream and the secrets she is keeping.

She has a job within The System, programming label changes. This job enabled her to meet Lucas, a senior programmer, who she is engaged to. However, she doesn’t like Lucas, convinced he is a ‘robot’, lacking in emotions; Evie prefers his brother, the disgraced Raffy.

Raffy sets off a chain events which causes startling changes for The City and Evie…

I really enjoyed this book, the topic was really interesting and thought provoking. The characters were all realistic especially Evie, I found it easy to relate to her which furthered my enjoyment of the book.

This book was real page-turner; I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next! My only criticism is the ending, however I can understand the reasoning behind this as there is a sequel – which I aim to read soon!

Ultimately, a book I would recommend to those who enjoy dystopian novels or those looking to try out the genre.

Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

Everybody has those ‘lighter’ books they read – the easy, light-hearted reads which require little concentration. Just Listen was to be my lighter read.

Having heard praise of Sarah Dessen I was happy to be finally reading one of her books. However, I have to say that this book did disappoint me.

Just Listen follows teenage part-time local model Annabel in a new year of her High School. Her summer was life-changing for her, she fell out with her best friend which meant a new life style. Instead of partying every weekend and hanging out with the popular crowd, she now spends most of her time alone.

Or she does, until she begins talking to Owen. Owen is a mysterious figure, little is known about him other than rumours. Annabel begins to befriend him and find out the truth behind the rumours.

Annabel’s character was a large factor of my disappointment in this novel, I didn’t like her as I found her selfish and self absorbed. I also disliked Owen though, he was too intense and unrealistic to me.

The book was written with extended flashbacks to earlier events which made reading confusing sometimes, because it wasn’t always clear when the scene was occurring.

The book also deals with challenging issues which makes it less of the light-hearted novel I was expecting. Perhaps this is ultimately where my disappointment lies, it wasn’t what I anticipated which made me passive towards the characters and plot line.

However there were also elements of the book I enjoyed, the ideas Owen presented were original and there were deep thoughts sprinkled throughout the narrative which I found intriguing.

Ultimately it is a book I had to finish and whilst it was not a favourite of mine, I hope to try Sarah Dessen’s which will hopefully be more enjoyable for me.

I encourage others to read this book to make up their own minds and please share your opinions with me.

Fury – Elizabeth Miles

Sometimes sorry is not enough…

I love the Percy Jackson series, so when I heard this book was a modern version of the tale of the Furies (greek mythological creatures), I knew I had to read it.

Fury is set in a small American town, Ascension, during the school winter break.

The book closely follows Em and Chase. Em is a the stereotypical teenage girl, self-absorbed and majorly crushing on a boy. However her crush is her best friend’s boyfriend, Zach. Whilst Gabby (the best friend) is abroad on holiday, Zach finally starts to pays attention to Em…

Meanwhile, Chase lives on the otherside of town. He is the star basketball player of the school who puts on the perfect act yet feels his life is spiralling out of control. He is being haunted by his conscience following a cruel joke he played.

Both Em and Chase feel guilty regarding these events yet not guilty enough to own up or admit to their mistakes. However this all changes when Chase meets Ty, a mysteriously beautiful girl who he soon becomes obsessed with…

Initially, I did not enjoy this book. The characters all seemed shallow, conceited and naive which stopped me from liking them. The plot also seemed to drag on with no exciting events occurring for stretches of time.

However as I continued to read I began to enjoy the book more. The plot thickens and the pace accelerates,  the characters’ back stories were also explained which added character depth, making the characters more likeable.

Hence, I enjoyed the ending of the book, which ended quite abruptly, encouraging me to read the sequel.

This will never be one of my favourite books yet I shall definitely endeavour to read the rest of the series, in order to learn what happens to the characters following Fury.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our StarsI am ashamed to say that this book was sitting on my to-read pile for months, having been told it was a tear jerking book, I couldn’t quite bring myself to read it.

However, I eventually worked up the courage and I am so glad I did. This is my book of the year without a doubt.

The books follows Hazel Lancaster, a teenage girl living with terminal cancer, following her diagnosis her life changed.

She now attends a Cancer Support Group somewhat reluctantly, her only friend in the group Isaac, a teenage boy with cancer in his eye.

However, one week everything changes when Isaac brings along his friend Augustus Waters, known as Gus. Immediately Hazel and Gus grow close and share their thoughts, including Hazel’s favourite book, An Imperial Affliction – which both Hazel and Gus can easily relate to.

However, the book ends suddenly and Hazel is desperate to know what happens to the characters. Henceforth, Gus and Hazel embark on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the author.

This trip allows Hazel and Gus to grow even closer with some shocking truths being revealed…

From the start of the book I thought Hazel was a brilliant character, as it is written in first person readers immediately grow close to the character and in my case, grow to care for her. (I don’t care if she is a “fictional character”). Gus was also instantly likeable, with his humour and quirkiness I often found myself laughing out loud. Both characters had real depth and showed unusual viewpoints, for example their ongoing jokes revolving around”cancer perks”.

John Green writes this book beautifully, his prose allows readers to truly visualise the scenes which further adds to the emotions felt during the book.

With an unexpected twist that with leave all in tears, this book is  the most tear jerking and heart wrenching novel I have ever read, yet I would not hesitate to read it again.

TFIOS has secured it’s place upon my list of favourite book and the plot and characters will stay with me for a long time. It stands out from other books as it is so different, the characters seem so real and the plot line is so realistic coupled with beautiful prose this book will tug at your heartstrings.

Ultimately, I would recommend this book to all and encourage all to read John Green’s other books.

The film adaption is currently being filmed with a release date set for next year which I am awaiting with excitement, hopefully the film will live up to my expectations following the novel.

I cried and I’m sure you will too, so get your hankies ready…

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie hasn’t cried since it happened.

I had heard many good things about this book, a lot of people had told me it was a “must-read” book so I decided to try it for myself…

The plot follows ten-year-old Jamie and his life after he moves house to the Lake District. Jamie struggles to understand his family and the loss which tore it apart.

Five years ago, Jamie’s older sister, Rose, died in a terrorist bombing. Now, Rose lives on the mantelpiece in an urn; Jamie’s Mum has run off, his Dad has turned to alcohol and his remaining sister, Jasmine, struggles to become her own person.

At Jamie’s new school, he struggles to fit in, but manages to find a friend in Sunya – who he knows his Dad would disapprove of, thanks to her ethnicity.

Throughout the story, readers can’t help but sympathise with Jamie. He is written as younger than many readers which allows them to understand him and his viewpoints.  To this extent, I thought Jamie was a great character.

The central plot of the story is Jamie coming to terms with the move and his family, though racism and grief are also main themes. Its a book which really makes you think – just how would you cope in the situations Jamie faces?

Ultimately, I found it a very moving, heart-warming book which I would recommend for anybody. I was in tears at the end!

I will definitely try to read other Annabel Pitcher books, including her new book – Ketchup Clouds.