Book Reviews: Young Adult Fiction

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Now, before I start this book review (or in fact any book reviews), I have a confession to make. I am a book snob. It’s what spending three years doing an English Literature degree does to you.

I used to be a real snob, and would only read classics. I got over that once I went to uni, but still completely avoided the ‘Young Adult’ section of any book shop that I went into. I don’t care what other people choose to read, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick any YA up and take it seriously. I read so much of it as a young teenager that I simply felt too old for it.

I then finished my degree. The one thing that an English Literature degree does is completely exhaust you of reading. The summer began, the time that I usually read as many books as I can squeeze in, and I just couldn’t read anymore. So I went on a hunt for an ‘easy’ read and this finally pushed me towards to YA section.

My first stop was Amy Alward’s ‘The Potion Diaries’. To be honest, I was attracted by the cover (it’s just so pretty!) This was an unusual choice for me because not only was it YA, but it’s also fantasy. The story follows a young alchemist called Samantha Kemi, who joins the kingdom’s Wilde Hunt to find a cure for the princess, who has poisoned herself with a love potion.

It’s a fun read and the tale bounds along, keeping up a high pace but it’s nothing major. I found the characters to be a bit flat and there’s no real sense of time – they just jump from one expedition to the next. However, it was exactly what I was looking for. While the conclusion isn’t exactly surprising (three guesses for how the love interest part of the plot turns out…) it’s an easy read and the story line bursts with imagination. I really enjoyed the magical parts of the plot and the fact it was focused on alchemists – I don’t usually read books like it so that made it really fun and a bit different.

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Next up, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Another YA of course, but this one is more realistic and takes place in a school. It follows the love of Violet and Finch, who meet on top of the school’s bell tower as they both consider taking their own lives. As the front cover says, it’s ‘the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die’.

This book was amazing.Β It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so strongly about a book, and felt really sad when I finished it (that’s when you can tell it was great!) While I thought Violet was a bit of a drip, Finch’s character really made this book for me. He was such a well written character and I could really imagine interacting with him in real life.

I’ve seen really mixed reactions to this book, as it deals with mental illness which is always a tricky and emotionally charged subject. I can see other people’s points that Finch is defined by bipolar, suggesting that he is his illness which is a terrible way to consider people that actually suffer from it. I tried not to get too caught up in this though and just enjoyed the book and Finch for what they were.

So there was my experimentation with YA this summer. I really enjoyed both but I can’t decide what to read next… I know that The Fault in Our Stars is the really obvious choice, and I’ve never watched the film but I’m not really one for super sad books. Once I’ve made up my mind, I will keep you posted!

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