Review: Holding Up the Universe

28686840“Holding Up the Universe” does not stand out as a particularly good or bad novel. The two main characters grow and become more accepting of themselves by the end of the novel. However Jack’s repeated use of “broken” to describe himself as someone affected by prosopagnosia is unnecessary and out of place. Although it’s interesting and educational to understand challenges faced by prosopanosiacs and those deemed “fat”, the characters often seem to be infatuated with and reduced to these issues. Niven intends to show that Libby isn’t defined by her weight, yet Libby is defined by her weight in the book. She is bullied, thinks about it constantly, everyone else thinks about it constantly. Although it may be good to show weight-related bullying and make the audience empathetic, Niven talks about weight to an extent that it becomes Libby’s defining feature.

There is very little other than these issues in this book, except from romance and family problems. Furthermore there is a vast, faceless cast of supporting characters- friends and foes- who lack proper characterisation and differentiation, other than “friendly”, “bitchy” or “bully”.

The book is not slow paced, but could have been shorter and at times, it is melodramatic. However, my main issue with the plot is that it seems incomplete. The ending was incomplete, somewhat anti-climatic (although there wasn’t that much of a climax towards the ending) and utterly predictable.

Another problem: the first half of the book is almost wholly about weight-issues/prosopagnosia, but then the two main characters get into a car together- and BAM- they want to make out. I feel like the chemistry between the two main characters feels forced and sudden sometimes, but as the book progresses it does improve, although some of the romantic lines verge on the creepy or just weird (Niven has yet to master the prose of romance and the use of metaphors), however, at times the romance and friendship in the novel is sweet.

The book is also dotted with cliches from head to toe, although at times it does manage to cleverly incorporate cliches into its message. I also appreciated the diverse cast, especially in contrast to “All the Bright Things”.

tl;dr: book mainly about the protagonists’ defining issues (weight and prosopagnosia) with romance. This is not a terrible book, but there are better books out there.

Review: I’ll Give You the Sun

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NoahandJude are inseparable twins. Jude is a daredevil who surfs and wears dark lipstick and short skirts against her mother’s wishes. Noah gets lost in art and is in love with the boy of his dreams. Their relationship becomes tense as they struggle for attention from their mother, the same friends and a place at a prestigious art schools. A tragedy occurs. The twins stop speaking to each other. The twins only have one half of the story each, if only they could come back together…

The first chapter is hard to get through. It sounds like something I’d write when I was 12. But trust me, the prose gets better. Noah and Jude jump off the page as realistic characters with their own voices, dreams and fears. The writing is pleasant to read, although punctuated with potentially annoying features such as Noah’s mind paintings and quotes from their dead grandma. Noah and Jude alternate as narrators at different points of time, and despite this, Nelson manages to make the story flow very well.

This is a book about secrets and revelations. It’s about 70% revelation and 30% actual action. At first, I admired how much Nelson was able to tie her characters and plot together. But by the end I felt that there were too many coincidences. The last few pages felt very rushed and the ending can be interpreted as uplifting. Or as I would put it: the ending was too happy.

I’ll Give You the Sun is ultimately a book about siblings, love, guilt, family, recovery and art.

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Ari is angry and self-doubting. Dante is confident and poetic. Ari’s household is locked in silence as his older brother remains locked in prison. One fateful day, Dante teaches Aristotle how to swim, and the two boys who have struggled to make friends until this point, create a friendship that will change them.

This book had sweet prose and well fleshed out characters. The family dynamics and the individual struggles of Sáenz’s characters felt real. Although the book isn’t fast paced, it manages to keep you interested through little twists and turns before reaching the climax. The last part is quite fast in contrast to the rest of the novel.

The book explores topics such as sexuality, growing up, family and identity. Although the book is well-written overall, I don’t think all the themes were tied up neatly and some characters seemed random and their purposes in the novel weren’t clear.

I was glad to read this book and learn more about the Latinx community since I have only know properly known 1 Latinx person in my life (there aren’t many Latinx people where I live). I enjoyed the sincerity of Aristotle and Dante’s relationship as well as the tensions and developments within each family.

Review: Radio Silence

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Hello.

I hope somebody is listening.

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Frances has always lived as “School Frances”- the perfect headgirl, the robotic high achiever devoid of personality. But when she meets Aled, the ingenius creator behind her favourite podcast, she feels free to be herself for the first time. But when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is forced to confront the past. She has to confess why Carys, Aled’s twin, disappeared. And she has to rescue Aled from Universe City before it’s too late.

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A fast paced, contemporary YA novel that explores relationships in a digital age. On one hand, Radio Silence revolves around an Internet mystery- an anonymous Youtuber who creates a popular podcast series called “Universe City”, and on the other hand, it follows a group of stressed and tired sixth-form students who are about to make the most important step in their lives- go to university (or so they think). When these two worlds collide,  everything explodes: fandom, the effects of fame, friendship & trust, sexuality, the thin veil between reality and fiction, the ‘real’ person vs how they appear, expectations vs staying true to your self.

At the heart of the book is two things: Alice Oseman’s wonderfully diverse and fascinating characters, and a discussion about going to university- something that’s become a rite of passage for British teenagers (or should I say, new adults?). Alice Oseman has no difficulty getting her message across, doing it succinctly and with style.