Book Spotlight | I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

iwbft

I love Alice Oseman. Radio Silence and Solitaire are both books I wish I’d had when I was in high school. Instead of trying to look at them from the perspective of the current young adult audience, these books resonate with Younger Me in a big way, and it’s both heartbreaking and pretty therapeutic.

I Was Born For This is both completely different and exactly the same.

It’s the story of how pervasive and consuming pouring your heart and soul into something can be. A band, a TV show, a book…it’s an authentic look at how how important, and how destructive these things can be when they become everything. It’s also a testament to the friends and communities that build up around things can be to someone who’s lonely or struggling. It can save lives.

So why only four stars?

This didn’t resonate with me in the same way the previous two did, which is not a fault of the book. Most of my fandom adventures were solitary, borne of loneliness in school and mental illness, and I didn’t have anywhere near the experiences of Angel and Juliet. If I’d been more heavily involved? Hell yeah, I can see another version of me in this book.

Overall, not my favourite Alice Oseman book because it didn’t hit my buttons in the specific video-game-puzzle-solving order like the previous two, but still a gr8 book. Alice Oseman is one of the very best YA authors around, and I have absolutely no doubt that pretty much everyone who’s ever used the internet will see themselves in the pages.

Rating: ****

The Notebook

I found something on the train a few weeks ago.

I’d been deliberating on my way to the station about whether to buy a new notebook – I’d had an idea for a story, and it had taken hold like a limpet. It seemed like the fates had aligned to make a decision for me when I found one down the side of a seat.

When I flicked through it, I saw it wasn’t newly-bought,  an escapee from a plastic bag. It was full of what looked like study notes, tiny doodles of creatures I didn’t recognise, and intricate, swirling letters, scripted over and over again in various shades of ink.

It was suddenly awfully heavy in my hands. I was holding someone’s notes, sure, and it’s awful to lose them midway through a semester, but it was more than that.

I felt like I was holding someone’s soul as well.

notebook

I’ve got more notebooks than I really need, all because I thought I needed blank pages to be the conduit for what I felt. Most of them are half-filled, bought for some project that never came to fruition, one burst of creativity that moved me so fiercely that I felt I might die if I didn’t transfer it to paper.

I tend to want to keep them pristine. One smudged line or poorly formed letter and it takes me out of the mood.

This is why I mostly write on the computer. Mistakes are clean.

But in those scribbles on the train I saw more than just notes and doodles from a dry class. I saw that place where things come from, a place deep in your soul. Whoever owned that notebook had bared themselves on the pages, moved by some force that I can’t explain or even adequately describe, a force that transcends brain and mouth and motor function. And mistakes.

I’d forgotten what that felt like.

*

Looking in that book was like being caught in someone’s bathroom when you’re not supposed to be there. But it reminded me that those notebooks that I have stuffed in drawers aren’t just taking up space. I bought them because something was in me that was fighting to get out, something bigger than I am, and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. I was too bothered by making sure it was a work of art. A sign of one of my biggest flaws: if I don’t do it perfectly first time, it isn’t worth doing at all.

Which isn’t the way this game works. So thank you, whoever lost it, for reminding me of the beauty of filling a notebook, of carrying one around for when I need to catch my feelings.

I’ve got mine.

Swim Until You Can’t See Land.

What if I’m never thrown that rope?/And what if that tear in my side just pours and pours and pours?

Scott Hutchison’s songs are intertwined with miserable nights I’ve spent disassociated from the rest of the world. Yes, I Would when I thought things would never get better. Candlelit when I thought I’d never be loved again. Swim Until You Can’t See Land when I’d come out into the sun like some newborn baby animal, blinking at the future. The Twist when it was all too much.

The songs were a revelation in times of trouble, a twanging cord of kinship between me in my bedroom and this man who was able to articulate every nuance of emotion I was feeling but couldn’t speak.

It’s a lonely experience when you struggle with your mental health. It hurts in places you can’t put your hands on to heal, places you can’t even pinpoint, leaving you chasing ghosts. I’ve spent the past two days thinking about all the times I’ve listened to the same Frightened Rabbit song on repeat because they’ve spun my feelings into a fine silk thread and used it to stitch up my wounds.

I’ve feel like I’ve lost a friend. I never met him, but Scott Hutchison knew me better than I knew myself. He told me what I was feeling when I couldn’t unravel it, helped me lay it out and work through it. I hope that, wherever we go after we die, he is at peace now. And I hope that somehow he’ll know that everyone who listened to Frightened Rabbit carries a tiny piece of his music in their soul. I know I do.

And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.

Book Spotlight | The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

Do you ever read a book that you just know you’d have LOVED in high school? The Sun Is Also A Star is one of them. The journey of two teenagers over the course of one day, brought together by fate and rippling their way through New York City, it’s one of my. favourite reads so far this year

Normally the “instalove” trope is one of the things that makes me want to peel off my own face in frustration, but TSIAAS made it work, through science and poetry. It was the epitome of the heady, intense love of teenage years, when the world shrinks to the point of two people. It should have been tacky, but it wasn’t. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

There were a couple of scenes that I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because they seemed unrealistic to me and kind of pulled me out of it, but the rest of it was pretty spot on. Full of hope and joy and the real tugging sadness of growing up. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Shelve it under “Books I’d Give My Kids To Read”.

Plus Natasha listens to Nirvana and Soundgarden. MY GAL.

Rating: ****

Book Spotlight | The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. 

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights..

northern lights

Confession time: prior to this month I hadn’t read any of this series. I’d picked up bits and pieces of this book, and I’d seen the film (which put me off completely for several years, that shit was BAD), but everyone from Twitter to my mum has been telling me to read it for years so THANKS UKISA BOOK CLUB for giving me the push I needed.

Thus I borrowed my mum’s copy (which I’m pretty sure was mine, once upon a time) and read it, and boy do I have thoughts.

First of all, I want to know exactly what Philip Pullman is.

I like to think I’ve got a vivid imagination. Fantasy authors in general blow me away but this was on another level. Books like this make me feel like a dribbling mess. The worldbuilding so deep and the characters are so deliciously evocative that I’m led to the conclusion that Mr. Pullman either isn’t human or can see some otherworldly shit that mere mortals cannot.

Second of all, this is the darkest effing book. They kidnap kids and rip away their souls so they can make a magic bridge to a hidden world? They keep their souls in a room in little cages?

Damn.

Lyra is a great heroine, not least because she has no superpowers, she’s “The Chosen One” but she’s not allowed to know it, and therefore neither are we. It makes a change from Harry Potter, for example, where we find out bits and pieces of Harry’s fate at the same time he does, but there’s a nice little undercurrent of menace on top of all the other dark stuff because we know something Lyra doesn’t. DELICIOUS.

In conclusion: disgustingly creepy villains, an incredible world, ARMOURED POLAR BEARS and a flawed heroine. I loved it. Now I want a daemon, although god knows I’ve got a cat with separation anxiety so I have some idea what it’s like. I bet Pantalaimon doesn’t rip up carpets or pee in Lyra’s washing basket though.

Final thought: Iorik Byrnison is a BAMF and I love him. Please come back in a later book Iorik.

Rating: ****