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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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

‘I was warm, and the ground beneath me was soft with moss and fallen leaves. I could not believe that only this morning I had woken in Peleus’ palace. This small clearing, the gleaming walls of the cave within, were more vivid than the pale white palace had ever been.’

Madeline Miller writes a beautiful modern translation of the events leading up to the Trojan war, and then the war itself. Narrated by Patroclus, (Achilles’ close friend, and in some texts, this one included, lover) the life of Achilles, Patroclus and those close to them, is shown in a new and particularly accessible light.

I have always adored reading about Greek Mythology, and loved reading the Iliad, the Odyssey and Metamorphoses back in my university days, so ‘The Song of Achilles’ went straight to the top of my list of books to read. Miller did not disappoint. She writes a beautiful and engrossing translation (taken mostly from early texts) of Achilles’ life, and paints some fantastic imagery with her descriptions. I was not at all surprised to learn that this novel took her nearly 10 years to write; it is an absolute masterpiece, and I too would have voted it the winner for the Orange Fiction Prize 2012.

‘Her mouth was a gash of red, like the torn-open stomach of a sacrifice, bloody and oracular. Behind it her teeth shone sharp and white as bone.’

The pace is steady yet gripping, and I suspect this will soon be added to school reading lists – both educational and a fantastic read. I very much look forward to reading her next novel, and hope that there is much more to come from her as an author.

Contains a couple of sexual scenes, so I’d say 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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The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

“There are certain things you should never have to see in life. A crying tree standing beside your son’s grave was one.
That was one.”

The Crying Tree is the tragic story of 15 year-old ‘Shep’, murdered in his family home in Oregon, and the events following his death. Nineteen years on, the superintendent of the state Penitentiary is preparing to execute Shep’s murderer. However, as his mother tries to come to terms with her grief, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of secrets, and begins to wonder how well she really knew Shep, her husband, or herself.

Initially I was put off by the front cover of this book; very reminiscent of a Jodi Picoult novel. Fortunately it goes a lot deeper than that. This is a compelling plot, especially considering the entire story takes place over the period of just one month.

It is a story about forgiveness, and the¬†fallibility of the human condition. It wasn’t quite what I expected, and there was a twist about two-thirds of the way through which surprisingly caught me off guard (unusual for me). I liked the way Naseem dealt so carefully with the emotions of Irene; they felt alarmingly realistic and I found myself compelled to keep reading.
I’m not familiar with the community of either Illinois or Oregon, but I was quite surprised by the opinions raised later in the story, especially for something set as late as 2004. I can only assume that living in such a culturally sensitive environment as London, I am just unused to these sorts of reactions¬† – perhaps that was or is the norm for that generation in that particular part of America, and I applaud Naseem for attempting to tackle such a controversial subject. Not only is her writing beautiful, but I was pleased to note that the plot lines surrounding the US legal system and capital punishment went into so much detail, shedding light on the flaws and inconsistencies in that form of justice.

I highly recommend reading The Crying Tree; an eye-opening and brilliantly realistic story.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

‘I’m a sliver-thin light, diamond sharp, that can slip through gaps in the world we know. I will come into your dreams and speak soft words when you think of me. There is no happy ever after – but there is an afterwards.
This isn’t our ending.’

After a local school is set alight, Grace races in to try to save her daughter Jenny from the fire. The story begins while they are in critical condition in the hospital. Even though she is unconscious, Grace decides she must find the arsonist in order to protect her children.

I really wanted to love this novel. I adored her first book Sister, and had heard that they were quite similar in style.

The problem is, this style didn’t work for me with this particular story. Rosamund packs a lot of emotion into her writing, and you really do feel for her characters. For me, the problem was that I didn’t find the concept believable. A mother and daughter are unconscious in the hospital, and the entire novel is narrated while they are having out-of-body experiences. This time, instead of the emotional language and stubborn main characters making me relate, I became bored. I can honestly say I only finished this book because I made myself. The emotion felt forced and over the top, and I found myself shudder at the mother’s obsessive nature.

Having said all that, I think Rosamund is a wonderful writer, and if the story had been one that felt realistic to me, I’m sure the language would have had an entirely different effect (as it did when I read Sister). I look forward to the next book she brings out, and hope that I like it as much as I did her first novel.

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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Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

‘Sometimes I feel like if you just watch things, just sit still and let the world exist in front of you – sometimes I swear that just for a second time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt. Just for a second. And if you somehow found a way to live in that second, then you would live forever.’

Imagine that love is a disease, and it must be cured by all costs. The disease turns you crazy, you can expect a rapid heartbeat, a flurry of overwhelming emotions, the inability to think rationally, and often the patient would rather die than be healed of this terrible ailment.

I thought the concept was very imaginative; using love as the main problem in society brings a slightly new twist to what is becoming a fairly common dystopian scenario – there’s a government trying to control the population by taking away individuality. Well, we’ve seen this many times before, and in many new YA dystopian novels, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Delirium. I wasn’t quite as gripped as I was with something like The Hunger Games or Divergent for example, but I do like Lauren Oliver’s writing, and I was a fan of her previous book Before I Fall.
I will be reading Pandemonium (the second in this trilogy) when I get the chance, although I think these constant YA trilogies will very soon wear me out!

If dystopian futures are your bag, then you may want to give Delirium a try.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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