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!

The Poet X

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Oh my god, I love, love, loved this book! It deserves every medal it has won and I’m just about to order a copy for my former students’ at HHT. Weirdly it’s the third book written in verse that I read over the holidays, but each of them was exceptional. This tells the story of Xiomara, a Dominican girl born and raised in the US by a very, very religious mother (although her father was apparently a major player before she and her twin brother were born). Xiomara has what would be described as a bangin’ bod and much of the book deals with the sexual harassment she constantly faces, including the way her mother slut shames her for things she simply can’t control. It’s a beautiful, intimate piece that grabs your heart and doesn’t let go till the final word. Stunning.

The Crossover

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By sheer coincidence, this book is also written in verse, much like ‘We Come Apart’. However, the starting chapters of Crossover are in rhyme and I must say, it’s very, very cool. Apparently you can get the audio book and it’s amazing, but once I got into the rhythm of the writing I found it really soothing to just read it. The story is told from the point of view of Josh, a star 13 year old basketball player, who has an equally talented twin brother.  Their father was once on his way to becoming the next Michael Jordan, but an injury saw him leave the game before really hitting the big time. The story centres on Josh’s concerns about his father’s ill health, as well as the loss of his brother to a new romance. It’s a fast paced, easy read, which really hits you in the emotional guts!

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.

Milk and Honey

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This is the second incredible book given to me by a student, one I also cannot recommend highly enough.  It is a very easy to read collection of poetry by the Indian-Canadian poet, Rupi Kaur. It contains very short but incredibly insightful pieces that I think will really appeal to young women finding their feet in life and love. It has small snippets like this:

how you love yourself is

how you teach others

to love you

… and slightly longer pieces that tell more of a story. It’s a gorgeous collection and absolutely worth having on the shelf, especially as something accessible to pick up if you’ve got a reluctant reader. Delightful, so thank you my thoughtful students for teaching me something new every day.

Phenomenal Woman

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Nothing more to say than this:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise….

…Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?