Category Archives: Children’s Literature

Children’s Literature

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

‘No one measures a life in weeks and days. You measure life in years and by the things that happen to you.’

Jill’s father has just died and she feels lost, no longer herself without her best friend; then her mother informs her she’s going to adopt a baby…

Mandy is 17 and pregnant. She’s run away from home, and the only thing she wants is to make sure her baby doesn’t have life like hers.

‘I don’t want this to be a baby from fear and sadness. I want this to be a baby from cornfields and Ferris wheels and stars.’

I was expecting this to be a cheesy predictable ‘family’ story. Well, it’s fairly predictable, but not cheesy, and definitely deeper and more significant than I had imagined. I can see this being a book that ends up on a school reading list. It touches on some key subjects: death, loss, grief, abuse, adoption and teenage pregnancy – all of which are important topics that teenagers should be exposed to in the literary world. The fact that it’s modern and relatable is always a bonus for reluctant readers.

‘Mandy smiles at me and touches her belly. “Thanks”. Her eyes are ice blue, light and clear, the kind of eyes you see on certain sheepdogs. Her smile makes me uncomfortable.’

I had no idea that I would be so unnerved by the character of Mandy, presumably it was Sara Zarr’s intention to give her this psychopathic air about her, and there are significant facts about her past that – without explicitly stating in the novel – perhaps give us an insight as to why she’s become the sort of person she has.¬†The ending is no surprise, but Zarr’s writing is engaging and her characters (perhaps with the occasional exception of Mandy) are relatable. I would definitely recommend it, especially to read during winter given the lovely book cover. ūüôā

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone & Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone & Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

‘Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.’

Karou lives two lives, she’s a 17 year-old art student living in the beautiful city of Prague, but she’s also an errand girl collecting teeth for a monstrous creature called Brimstone, the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in the human-world, and half in Elsewhere, Karou is plagued by the sensation that she doesn’t really know who she is. Suddenly she is no longer safe, a war is starting in Elsewhere and Karou needs to find the answers…

‘She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.’

Initially I was quite¬†sceptical¬†about reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don’t often read fantasy/sci fi, and my least favourite genre is ‘dark romance’ with the usual vampires, angels, werewolves etc.¬†
After reading this book for a little while, becoming more and more engrossed, suddenly angels appeared in the story, and I panicked! I thought for a horrible moment I’d picked up one of these awful dark romance books, having been lulled in to thinking it was great by the masses (the fifty shades effect, yuck!), but fortunately, this was not the case. This is the good sci-fi, the great sci-fi, the Pullman/Gaiman kind of sci-fi, and I loved it. Who doesn’t want to read about a girl with blue hair collecting teeth, finding wishes, and talking to a half-woman half-snake creature everyday? It is safe to say that the angels play an important role but there are many more creatures besides, including incredible ones Laini has seemingly just plucked out of her imagination.¬†

‘Revulsion roiled like snakes in the pit of her belly, and from within the deadness of her shock she was lit with fury – at the universe, for this newest cruelty. At him, for being the one left alive.’

The first book is very exciting; starting off with much adventure and many unanswered questions. It turns slightly more romantic towards the end but with a nice big twist to finish it off avoiding that sickly sweet scenario you get with some fantasy books. The second book – Days of Blood and Starlight – amazingly, I found it infinitely better than the first. It was so much darker, more adult, more extreme. There are even more twists, more pain and heartache, but it is brilliantly executed. So often you get the feeling that the ‘middle’ book in a trilogy is just to waste time, just to spread out the story out before you get to the big finish. I definitely did not feel that way with this book. Ultimately it does lead to another cliff-hanger, and sets the plot up very well for the third book, but I didn’t feel cheated. I absolutely loved it.¬†

I highly recommend these books; whether you read lots of sci-fi, or only a little, this is a fantastic new trilogy, and Laini Taylor is definitely one to watch out for. 

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

‘It seemed like forever ago, like we’ve had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.’

As a big fan of John Green’s novels, it might seem strange that I haven’t reviewed any his books on my blog, yet.

In fact, after I read The Fault in Our Stars, I was so blown away that I never quite knew how I could review such a fantastic novel, and I didn’t feel quite right discussing his previous work before I talked about my all-time favourite. I continued to put off writing this review in the hopes that I could find the perfect way to describe the book, but the fact is, you can’t describe it, you can only read it and fall in love with it the way I and millions of others did.

‘But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‚ÄėThe fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.’

Hazel is a 16 year-old terminal cancer patient whose parents force her to attend a support group to get her out of the house, and socialise with other children her age. There she meets 17 year-old Augustus Waters, an amputee in remission from osteosarcoma – they become friends, and she introduces him to her favourite book: An Imperial Affliction. The book is about a girl with cancer who lives an interesting life, that is until the book ends mid-sentence. Hazel has tried countless times to contact the author but to no avail. However, Augustus has a plan…

‘Tell me my copy is missing the last twenty pages or something.

Hazel Grace, tell me I have not reached the end of this book.

OH MY GOD DO THEY GET MARRIED OR NOT OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS‚ÄĚ’

I loved the plot-line with the unfinished novel, which ultimately creates a brilliant – although somewhat painful – adventure for the teens. The descriptions of Holland are enchanting, and coming from someone who lived there for 3 years, they are also fairly accurate, and for me felt wonderfully familiar.

‘”Do you see that?” I did. There were elm trees everywhere along the canals, and these seeds were blowing out of them. But they didn’t look like seeds. They looked for all the world like miniaturized rose petals drained of their color. These pale petals were gathering in the wind like flocking birds – thousands of them like a spring snowstorm.’

This story may be about children with cancer, but really, it’s not at all: it’s about life. Hazel is a normal teenage girl and Augustus is a normal teenage boy; they just happen to suffer a lot more than most. The characters that John Green creates are so unbearably realistic, and feel so real, that when the book ends you will just be sitting there, wondering what on earth just happened to you.

‘I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.’

Ultimately this is a funny, painful, realistic and altogether wonderful book, John Green has truly outdone himself. His style is so unique, it isn’t really comparable to any other YA authors. However, it stands strong alongside my other all-time favourite YA book(s), The Chaos Walking Trilogy. I absolutely cannot wait to see what he brings out next.

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

This is a fairly short but utterly engrossing read.

The Vanishing Act is narrated by 13 year-old Minou, as she tells us the story of how her mother disappeared from the deserted island that they live on, a year previously. It is both magical and tender as we join Minou in her search for the truth.

‘Suddenly it was the loneliest night, and it was Mama’s voice, and it was the saddest song I had ever heard. It sounded as if she was singing from the depths of the frozen sea. My breath was not my own and everything felt wrong.’

Much like ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, this story is told in a very simple childlike format, which makes you feel all the more for the young naive Minou. She and her father live on the island, and the only other two people also on the island are ‘Priest’ and ‘Boxman’ the magician, and a dog called ‘No Name’. While she is adamant that her mother is still alive and has simply run away, the others on the island are certain she has been drowned at sea. Minou decides to use her logic and compile as many facts as she can to prove her mother is still alive.

‘It is in the heart and not in the words – not even in the most beautiful ones – but in the heart, in the skeleton bird pushing against your chest, wanting to fly, that we know for certain who and what we love. That is all we have, and all there is.’¬†

The characters are wonderfully written, and at the same time, both lots and very little happens in the duration of the story.  It is a real gem of a novel. Short, intriguing and ultimately heartbreaking, you will be glad you took a moment to read it. 

It is classified as adult fiction, but I would say it’s very much a crossover book. There’s nothing inappropriate for a younger reader, so I’d suggest it’s suitable for age 13+

Love From

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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke Up is a book I had been eager to read long before its publication date. Written by Daniel Handler (otherwise known as Lemony Snicket, well known for his fantastic ‘Unfortunate Events’ books), and being discussed as a new alternative for fans of John Green, I decided that this was a story I was not going to miss.

Why We Broke Up – Illustrations by Maira Kalman

What first caught my eye – the fantastic illustrations by Maira Kalman. It’s so rare to find an illustrated teenage/young adult book these days, and in this case, it really gave that little something extra to the story. They were wonderful, touching, and felt very personal.

‘When I look at this ripped in half, I think of the travesty of what you did and the travesty of how I didn’t care at the time.’

The story could be described simply as just one long letter. Min is writing to her ex-boyfriend Ed explaining why they broke up, delving back in to their past to discover what really happened.¬†There are sections where Min loses her train of thought, becomes a little rambling and goes off on a tangent, but that’s partly what makes this story so wonderfully realistic.

‘This is what I stole. Here’s it back. I thought, my goddamn ex-love, that it was cute that you carried this around to help you map out your thinking. Cute in your pocket all the time. I’m not a cuckoo, either. I’m a fool is what.’

The concept, and the story in fact, is straightforward and simple. It is this simplicity and normality that makes this book what it is: oh so relatable. Handler writes Min in such a way, that she could be relatable to anyone, male or female, young or old. Her highs are your highs, her optimism is your optimism, her faults are your faults. Thy hit the nail on the head when they wrote on the back cover “Min and Ed’s story of heartbreak may remind you of your own”, it will indeed.

‘I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. And the truth is that I goddamn loved you so much.’

Why We Broke Up – Illustrations by Maira Kalman

Despite having a nice proof copy of this book, I went out and bought myself a lovely hardback version. Those illustrations are worth it, and the story too. Plus, it looks great on the bookshelf! ūüôā

Suitable for age 14+

Love From 

Original Book Girl

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Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant

‘One minute the teacher was talking about Civil War.
And the next minute he was gone. 
There.
Gone.’

Suddenly all the adults and children over the age of 15 have disappeared; there one minute, gone the next, just vanished into thin air. Sam, Astrid and Quinn must try to work out how to survive in a world turned into chaos. Cut off completely from the outside world by a giant barrier, they’re trapped, and a new order is rising. Some of the survivors have power, a mutant power…

I LOVED this book. Yes, I needed to use capital letters to express my strong feelings. I’d been putting off reading the Gone series for quite a while, mainly because of all the comparisons to The Hunger Games. I felt the need to take a¬†leisurely¬†break from the world of dystopia (more reviews coming up about what I read¬†in-between).
After reading Gone, I didn’t actually feel it was remotely similar to The Hunger Games – other than the idea of a dystopian future – and frankly, it deserves to stand on its own as a brilliant novel rather than riding on the back of all the HG success.

I really like Michael Grant’s writing style; there is no singular viewpoint, while there are a number of clear ‘main’ characters, there are in fact so many characters, that you become far more emotionally attached to them as a group.¬†

It’s so fast-paced and action packed that it felt like watching a film or a tv series, and would in fact, be an instant hit if made into one (should it stay loyal to the novels). The twists and turns, the mix of sci-fi with dystopia, well, it just makes for a highly entertaining and gripping story. I can say with great pleasure that I will be going out to buy the following four novels (Hunger, Lies, Plague and Fear), and continue to read them until the end of the series. In a way I’m glad I waited so long to read them; now I can take my time enjoying them while everyone else waits on the edge of their seat for the sixth (and final) book ‘Light’ to be released!

We’re sitting in the dark willing to sell our souls for another peppermint with enough uranium to give a terrorist a wet dream.’

If you like thrilling, gripping novels, or have a taste for the dystopian or exciting sci-fi, you will relish the Gone series. 

Contains a fair amount of violence and cruelty, so more suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

‘Niles offers me the syringe. I position it over the vein in my neck, insert the needle, and press the plunger. I barely feel the pinch. I am too charged with adrenaline.’

I couldn’t help myself, having just finished the second in the Divergent trilogy, I felt the need to discuss.

I was over the moon to receive an ARC of Insurgent, and resisted (with quite some difficulty) the temptation to drop the book I was in the middle of reading in favor of this gem.

After discovering she is Divergent – which almost cost her her life – Tris along with the rest of her faction need to abandon their home to keep themselves safe. Wracked by grief and guilt from the attack, she becomes ever more reckless struggling to accept her future. But someone is still keeping secrets, and Tris needs to be strong if she is to uncover the truth behind her society.

Part of me forgot how much I loved reading Divergent, as it was the middle of last year when I first picked it up as a longlist judge. The main character, Tris, is not particularly likeable, which is something that makes the story a little more interesting.
In this second novel, we learn a little more about the other factions such as Amity and Candor – if you haven’t taken the faction quiz on facebook, you are missing out! I liked the introduction of more characters specifically from the other factions; it really gave a bit more variation to the plot, and to the character personality types.

Of course, Insurgent is a very ‘inbetween’ novel, as is generally expected with the second in a trilogy. However, I wasn’t disappointed because there was lots of new information, and an unbelievable cliff hanger at the end. I’m not quite sure where Veronica is headed at this point, because it seems like thew final part of the story will be utter chaos, but perhaps that is the point.

If you liked Divergent, you will not be disappointed by Insurgent. If you haven’t even read Divergent, but love either The Hunger Games or dystopian fiction, then definitely give this trilogy a go – it’s worth it.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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