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Floored by The UKYA Super Seven – Book Review

Ever since I got a sampler of this at last year’s YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) I’ve been desperate to read the whole thing and see if I could work out which author wrote which character. See below for my feeble guessing attempts. YALC 2018 is a mere week away with the Floored 7 speaking/signing on Saturday so I’m looking forward to getting my copy signed by these wonderful women (and also taking part in the Floored quiz on Friday night – I wonder if we can get last year’s #QuizYA winning #TeamBarnard back together).

Synopsis

When they got in the lift, they were strangers.

Sasha, who is desperately trying to deliver a parcel; Hugo, who knows he’s the best-looking guy in the lift and is eyeing up Velvet, who knows what that look means; Dawson, who used to be on TV, used to be handsome, and is sincerely hoping no one recognizes him; Kaitlyn, who’s losing her sight but won’t admit it; and Joe, who shouldn’t be here at all, but wants to be here the most.

And one more person, who will bring them together again on the same day every year.

Every day told seven ways in this unique collaborative novel.

Authors

I have read and loved books by each of these authors. Instead of giving you a bio I’ll link you to their Twitter where they hang around being funny and awesome and tell you which one of their other books is my favourite… so far.

Sara Barnard – @saramegan

A Quiet Kind of Thunder

Holly Bourne – @holly_bourneYA

Am I Normal Yet?

Tanya Byrne – @tanyabyrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise

Non Pratt – @NonPratt

Trouble

Melinda Salisbury – @MESalisbury

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Lisa Williamson – @lisa_letters

The Art of Being Normal

Eleanor Wood – @eleanor_wood

Gemini Rising

A nod also to the illustrations by Laura Callaghan. I especially loved Kait’s illustration progression.

What I Thought

Back in 1994 Sandra Bullock’s character Annie in Speed told us that “relationships that start under intense circumstances, never last.” That film starts in a lift and so does the action in Floored, and it seems from the book’s dedication that so did the inspiration for this story. Clearly Annie is a master of reverse psychology because it seems intense circumstances can bring people together and indeed here it creates a story that I’ll happily keep with me.

This is a contemporary young adult read with common themes such as teen pregnancy, feminism, growing up, deciding where you fit. There’s also diversity in terms of sexuality and disability as well as young characters facing morbidity and mortality.

Each of the six teen characters gets their own chapters and there is an overarching narrator. I don’t think that was meant to be the seventh person in the lift but I could be wrong.

I liked the comedy in it especially the morbid humour in naming their messaging group. The use of text statuses between the group when they weren’t physically together also worked well to advance the story.

I thought it explored friendships really well in terms of how within groups of friends people pair off or create subgroups based on commonality or connection. The time jump forward to the next year reminded me a little of the film Beaches in terms of tone. The shock incident, and meeting, happens early on and the story is then about how they stay in touch or drift apart. It didn’t feel slow paced though and this structure allowed a range of experiences to be explored over time.

Not all of the characters are likeable but all of them are interesting and hold your attention during their narration. I didn’t find myself wanting to skip ahead to x’s bit but was fully immersed.

I enjoyed the nods to some of the author’s other books. Melinda’s character Luvian Fen from State of Sorrow is mentioned in Dawson’s chapter, as is Rhys Gold from Sara’s A Quiet Kind of Thunder. What other Easter Eggs did people find?

And reverse long bottoming as a concept is genius. Harsh, but also sadly true in some cases.

In short I really loved this and if you love contemporary I have no doubt you will too. I’d love the authors to considered coming back to these characters 10 & 20 years in the future too. More please.

Who wrote who??

Original guesses after the sampler to which Mel replied Interesting?!

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Holly

Hugo – Tanya

Velvet – Eleanor

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Melinda

Guesses when re- reading first chapters

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Holly

Hugo – Melinda

Velvet – Eleanor

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Tanya

Guesses after finishing

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Tanya

Hugo – Melinda

Velvet – Holly

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Eleanor

In other words I have no clue. I can’t even really fully justify why these were my guesses. Feel? I suspect I am totally wrong.

Anyway all of these ladies can write magnificently separately and together they have blended so well and created a group of characters you will be happy to meet up with time and time again. In fact I’d love to hear more from them.

If you’ve read the book who do you think wrote who? What reasoning do you have?

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Author/Character Interview – Eleanor Wood/Sorana Salem

Yesterday I reviewed Gemini Rising by Eleanor Wood – today I get to interview both Eleanor and her main character from Gemini Rising – Sorana Salem

 

Eleanor

Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions and to bring your main character from Gemini Rising, Sorana Salem along for the ride. 

Gemini Rising has been published as an eBook by Carina UK, a new digital imprint of Harlequin UK. What made you go for digital and how did the process of submission to publication work for you?

It was more of a natural process than a conscious decision – my agent sent the manuscript out to a few editors, and the one who was most enthusiastic about it in the end was Anna at Harlequin.  We went to their offices to meet her and found that we had very similar ideas about the book.  It seemed like a good fit and I’ve been delighted with the process so far (I especially love my cover!); it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the digital side of things.

 

Which character in your book do you want to know more about?

I love that question!  I’ve tried really hard to make every single supporting character a ‘proper’ person, and I have lots of backstories and information on them that I haven’t used in the book.  I love Sorana’s mum, Lucy, and I’m interested in her wild-child past!  I also have a lot of time for Nathalie and think she has hidden depths that nobody bothers to investigate.  And of course Mel is so mysterious and still fascinating to me.

 

Did you have to fight to keep the pop culture references (e.g. to the Craft, Heathers) in the book? How important was it to acknowledge your inspiration in this way?

Luckily I didn’t have to fight for them – but I would have if necessary, because they are all really important to me.  Throughout the story, music, books and films have a big effect on Sorana, and I think that was really crucial to her character.  I loved writing the scene with the little nod to The Craft and Heathers – obviously they were a massive influence and it just felt like a sneaky little wink.

 

Why do you write?

I don’t know; I just always have!  I am constantly writing, all sorts of things.  I’m not being flippant when I say I think I have some sort of hypergraphia.  I think I would genuinely find it impossible not to do it.  Because it’s such a natural thing for me, I actually can’t really understand people who don’t write!  I’m really evangelical about it – I am constantly trying to get all my friends to write books.  You know, just because why wouldn’t they?

 

What are you working on now? (I read over here http://prettylittlememoirs.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/review-gemini-rising-by-eleanor-wood.html that you have considered writing more about Gemini Rising – I’d love to see what happened at the twins old school – from Melanie’s perspective – and maybe something after the events of the current story too). 

I really like those ideas!  I am working on another Gemini Rising story, told from the point of view of other characters.  I’ve also got some ideas for new novels brewing, some more similar to this one than others.  Also, I would love to write a memoir and have been working on some ideas for that.

 

What advice would you give regarding editing? I found the first draft process quite comfortable but I’m stuck on how to take my story forward into completion.

I’m so sorry I can’t be more help – but I am exactly the same!  I love letting it all out and getting everything down, but then editing is my least favourite part of the process.  Gemini Rising had to go through a lot of editing and it was pretty painful!  I try to cheer myself up with that old saying ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ – at least you’ve got something.  If I have any advice, it’s to know that sometimes you’ve got to rip it up and start again – it’s easy to get too attached to things that you don’t actually need.  I’ve had to learn to be less sentimental.

 

Earth, Air, Fire or Water?

I’m a real-life Gemini, so I have to say air!

 

 

Sorana

 

Sorana, I love your name, can you tell me more about its origins?

Thanks!  Well, officially it’s of Romanian origin and means ‘beautiful aurora’…  In reality, back in her wild days, my mum met a shaman called Sorana at Glastonbury festival in the 90s and always liked the name after that!

 

What name, given to you by bullies, hurts you most and why?

Amie Bellairs and her friends used to call me ‘Skeletor’ – it might not sound like that big a deal, but something like that wears you down.  It makes you so paranoid, but there’s nothing you can do to change yourself.

 

I have to admit to being more like Nathalie, and refusing to take part when my friends wanted to try a Ouija board at school. What did you expect to happen?

It’s such a weird combination – I didn’t really think anything would happen, but I was still scared.  To be honest, I was not scared so much of spirits and the supernatural – but I was scared of that energy in the room and what kind of stuff might come out from my friends themselves.

 

How do you think the experiences with the twins have affected you – positively and negatively?

It sounds bad to say it, because the after-effects have been so serious and I wish that so much of it had never happened – but I feel like some of the changes for me personally have been positive in the end.  I feel much more confident and like I can just be myself – I don’t care what anybody things of me anymore.  However, having said that, if I could go back and change it all, of course I would.

 

You were shocked by what you read in Melanie’s diary – what part of your diary would you not want someone to read?

All of it – it’s so embarrassing!  Especially the bits about boys – pages and pages of bad poetry about Jago and Vincent August.  Actually, I’d be most embarrassed if anyone read some of the stuff from ages ago when I still had a crush on Josh – it’s such an embarrassment that I ever felt that way about him!

 

What advice would you give your sister Daisy about friendships?

I would tell her: never try to be something you’re not.  Not that she would listen to me!

 

Jago or Vincent August?

Oh my god, that’s such a hard question!  Obviously I love Vincent August and I always will, but I’m going to say Jago because at least he’s actually a real person.  You know what I mean!

 

Earth, Air, Fire or Water?

These days, water – I’d rather put fires out than start them!

 

Great answers from both of you there, now I want to know more about Sorana’s mum Lucy too and I don’t get why people wouldn’t want to write either. Eleanor if you ever want a beta reader for your other Gemini Rising stories let me know ;o)

Gemini Rising – Book Review

Gemini RisingGemini Rising by Eleanor Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In ‘Gemini Rising’ Sorana Salem’s life is changed forever when two twins, Elyse and Melanie, join her all girls school. Sorana’s existing friends Shimmi and Nathalie have different reactions to the twins and Sorana is surprised and delighted when the twins choose to spend time with her over the popular crowd, whose leader Amie’s reaction to this is rather unusual.

This book is very much influenced by the film The Craft (one of my all time favourites – see a Pinterest board of Eleanor’s other inspirations here) but with the action taking place in the UK. There is also less focus on actual magic and more on the intensity of female relationships at that age. This is a contemporary story not a supernatural one.

It reminded me very much of my school experience where friends wanted to try a Ouija board in a mobile classroom – I didn’t take part – they freak me out. There are a number of spooky scenes in the book which raise the heartbeat, many taking place in the dark by a river.

Sorana, the author admits, is a little whiney but she’s still likeable. I wasn’t always sure why she didn’t back away after some of Elyse’s behaviour but that’s peer pressure for you. Sorana’s mum recognises and is exasperated by the fact her eldest daughter is putting friends before herself and her family. Familiar arguments in houses of teens everywhere.

Boys do exist in ‘Gemini Rising’, but they aren’t the main focus, instead highlighting the different personalities of the main group of girls. There is some bad behaviour from all concerned and a scene with Shimmi highlights the vulnerability girls can experience when they don’t look out for each other (Americans’ idea of a sober sister is a sound one).

The prologue does hint at what is to come but the ending might not quite be the one you are expecting.

What stopped me giving it 5 stars – I simply wanted to know more, I think reading series has spoilt me in terms of detail. I’m very happy to hear the author may be considering writing more set in this world. If I’m honest the fact that there wasn’t the supernatural element went against my expectations but I’m looking forward to a future re-read now I know fully what to expect.

Thanks to Carina and NetGalley for the eCopy – review is my own honest opinion.
I hope to interview Eleanor Wood and Sorana Salem soon.

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