Orbiting Jupiter

 

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Oh what a heartbreaking, page-turning, perfectly formed little book! I couldn’t put it down and now I think I need some ice-cream to right the world… This tiny gem of a novel is told from the point of view of 12 year old Jack, whose 13 year old foster brother, Joseph, changes his life completely. Joseph clearly comes from terrible trauma, and has had a hideous time in the juvenile detention system, but his heart remains 100% focused on finding the daughter he’s never had a chance to meet, Jupiter.  The story of how the two boys come to love and trust each other is so perfectly told, and every fiber of my being just ached for Joseph…. A fantastic novel, really easy to read – beautifully paced, written like it could have been told by a 12 year old, nicely spaced out lines – and just unputdownable.

What I Lost

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How good is the cover of this book, it gave me total chocolate cravings!  Which is ironic, cause it’s a book about anorexia.   The main character, Elizabeth, has gone from a very normal size down to about 100 pounds in the space of 8 months, so her parents forced her to check into an eating disorder clinic. Well, her doctor and her dad thought it would be a good idea, her mum seemed to prefer Elizabeth at her new size…. The book itself isn’t perfectly written – in places you can feel the author trying to say the right thing and give you the appropriate insight – but overall it manages to paint a pretty grim picture. It definitely gets you into the head space of an anorexic teen, which at times is quite frightening.  Definitely worth a read, although I do worry about the risk of spreading risky eating habits with a book like this; it’s not glamourising, but I reckon there’s a risk it could put ideas into readers’ heads.

Ghost

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This is an absolutely delicious, quick and easy read, perfect for any 10-13 year old boys who might have flirted with trouble in their time! Ghost is the nickname Castle Cranshaw chooses for himself when he accidentally makes the cut for an after school track team.  He hasn’t had the easiest life thus far, and everything seems stacked against him ever getting out of Glass Manor, the impoverished corner of town where he lives with his ‘moms’.   All that seems like it might change the day Ghost meets Coach on the track – but the question is whether he can keep himself out of the principal’s office long enough to actually compete in any races!

My Brother’s Name is Jessica

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I just had a bumper weekend of reading books by the fire in Ohakune, and all three of them were amazing! This story is from the point of view of a 13-year old boy whose soccer-star older brother comes out to the family as transgender. In the middle of the mother’s sneaky campaign to take over as Prime Minister of England.  It’s weirdly hilarious but also devastatingly sad in parts – it reads a bit like if David Walliams rewrote Mr Stink to take on a more serious message. I just loved it and think the author absolutely nailed the family’s denial and rejection of Jason/Jennifer’s desire to transition. We all like to imagine we’d have the right response if our child brought us this type of news, but this book does give you pause to think what might happen if you got it completely wrong!  And how even the most ambitious parents might find a way to try and make it right again…

Every Last Word

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Oh my God I loved this book SO much. I’ve been sneaking off to read it at every opportunity, and as a result I ended up finishing it in less than 48 hours.  My obsessive reading is somewhat appropriate though, given this stunningly put together novel centres on a teenage girl with OCD.  However, it’s not the type of OCD that’s often depicted in books and films, where people have to, for example, wash their hands over and over again.  Instead, Sam has what is called ‘Pure O’, where her obsessions take place largely in her head. She becomes fixated on certain ideas or people and simply can’t move them out of her thoughts.  This is clearly an exhausting way to live, and anyone with even mild anxiety will be able to relate to how the negative thought cycles kick off.  The story is told in a really delicate manner, and the writer doesn’t lean on cliches, nor does she over-dramatise Sam’s problems. It’s also got a really compelling romantic plot line, and definitely didn’t resolve itself in the way I was expecting!

Dear Evan Hansen

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This book left me feeling depressed in more ways than one.  The subject matter – anxiety and suicide – are hardly cheerful anyway, but the main issue was that I’d been holding out to read it and I just… didn’t enjoy it. I’m not sure if I’m the problem, because I don’t cope well when a character totally messes up over and over again and simply cannot see their way out of an obviously stupid situation (see, for example, Mr Bean).  Also, reading about other people’s anxiety does sometimes make my own anxiety just that much worse! Whatever it was, I found myself skipping most of the book as I could see where it was going and knew exactly how it would end. (I was right.) The part I enjoyed most, weirdly enough, was the narrative from the point of view of Connor, the student from Evan’s class who takes his own life, thus setting off the insane chain of events in Evan’s life which are the main focus of the book.  There seemed to be more depth to that character, despite only taking up maybe one fifth of the book itself, and his back story was fascinating. Oh well, perhaps they’ll make one of those partner stories from his point of view and I can indulge myself in that!

We Come Apart

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Wow, talk about a compelling and engrossing read! I polished off this book in about a day, partially because it’s written in verse and thus has a lower word count, but also because it’s just so good.   It’s written as (non-rhyming) poetry from the point of view of the two main characters, Jess and Nicu.  While this sounds like it could be annoying, the poetry doesn’t follow any poetic format, so it’s not awkward to read – it’s more like the lines themselves have simply been arranged to add visual interest.  The two character’s stories are beautifully told: Jess lives with a horrifyingly violent step father, while Nicu is only in England for a short time while his parents save enough money to buy him a wife back in Romania.  His time in England feels interminable to start with, because of the relentless bullying and racism he faces. However, once he and Jess forge a friendship things change, and he begins to dread ever having to leave. The chapters are very short and the two authors don’t waste a single word, leaving me actually breathless by the final page! An excellent, heart breaking read.