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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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Trouble by Non Pratt – Book Review

On Saturday as part of UKYADay I read Trouble by Non Pratt.

I expected it to be a UK version of Juno and what I got was a nuanced and clever read. This was told from the alternating viewpoints of Hannah – her trouble being her teen pregnancy, and Aaron – his trouble being his dark past which has bought him to a new school in the middle of his GCSE year. They are drawn to each other, and not in the way you’d expect, when Aaron agrees to be her fake baby daddy.

I’m so dense I’ve only just realised that the split into First, Second and Third relate to trimesters of pregnancy. Doh! Each entry is also dated, not in a diary way but just for locating the action in time.

I love how Non keeps us guessing, both about who the real father is and about what Aaron actually did.

Aaron in particular is such a vividly drawn and complex character, he’s clearly trying to have a fresh start but he is eaten up with guilt. His parents actually go along with his plan to be the fake father which indicates how damaged they believe him to be. He loves books, he truly cares for Hannah and he volunteers at a residential home, striking up a friendship with a older man called Neville who delights in beating him at cards. But, he thinks so badly of himself you really do want to reach into the book and give him a hug.

I loved seeing Hannah’s growth when it is her turn to care for Aaron. She experiences the range of emotions and reactions that come along with teen pregnancy, probably the most shocking is from her mum who actually works in family planning. The book takes us all the way through the pregnancy to the labour and it doesn’t shy away from details. It’s certainly got me fearful of ante-natal classes and the actual delivery – yes please I’ll take all the pain relief please. I loved that it shows Hannah still attending school and working hard to complete her GCSEs.

As well as the two leads there are a host of supporting characters that are so well rounded. In fact I think we get an insight into each of the named characters and all through the views of the two main characters. This is no mean feat.

In the blogging community recently there has been a lot of discussion about the handling of LBGT characters in YA fiction and Non does address this in Trouble, but it is dealt with in such a subtle way. It would be great if Aaron’s reaction to being called gay could be adopted more widely – as a bit of a non issue.

The characters we quickly grow to like in this book are flawed, and there are occasions where you want to tell them to take a different viewpoint on certain issues, but this is what makes this book great, it represents real people and real issues but it still remains an easy read, it’s almost as if life goes on even when Trouble strikes.

This is a 5 star read for me – and yes I did need tissues one or two times.

#UKYAday – Take your pick

Today has been #UKYAday, a day organised by the wonderfully committed Lucy Powrie @LucytheReader over at Queen of Contemporary.
UKYA day is about promoting Young Adult literature by writers who were born in or now live in the UK. Lucy also runs @ProjectUKYA, hosts #ukyachat on twitter and has many many other fantastic ideas for continuing to promote UK Young Adult literature.

My blog post comes a little late in the day because I’ve spent the day reading a book cover to cover – what a perfect way to spend Easter Saturday. The UKYA book I chose to read, thanks to @YAyeahyeah and @kimmiebells was Trouble by Non Pratt. I adored it – glowing review to follow. 

The topic of my post today though is – Take your pick

One of the issues often with the label Young Adult is that it isn’t all that helpful as a genre category apart from seeming to indicate to some people that those books are for teens and if you are a few years past the voting age then they aren’t for you. Of course that attitude is changing, I hope, and it certainly isn’t one that I subscribe to with YA providing the majority of my reading material over the past couple of years. One of the benefits though of YA all being lumped in together is that it has certainly introduced me to more genres than I might have read otherwise. UKYA is so varied, from contemporary to dystopian, fantasy to horror and many others in between. 

As a ‘very much older than teen’ YA reader I have enjoyed reading books that reflect my experiences of school. We don’t have prom or cliques in the same way as the US so there are some experiences in US YA books that I have found it tricky to relate to. However, Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Aeroplanes, published last year is set in the mid 1990s and was a book that I could directly relate to. I’m looking forward to her follow up Goose. 

The quintessential teen angst books were the Adrian Mole series, the first of which was published in 1982 when I was four. Last week sadly their author Sue Townsend passed away –  Below is a picture of my collection and I’ve just discovered there are even more that I can read in Sue’s memory. 

AM

I’ve already raved about Holly Smale the author of the Geek Girl series which I’m so excited has been extended, so instead of the initial three books we’ve been promised we are to get five or even six tales of Harriet Manners Geek turned model. Here are links to my reviews of the first two books of the series. Geek Girl and Model Misfit

Horror/Thriller wise I’d recommend James Dawson – I read three of his books back to back last summer – Hollow Pike, Cruel Summer and a very welcome non-fiction book Being a Boy. I am anxiously awaiting the publication of his next book Say Her Name which is based on the Bloody Mary Urban Legend that had me petrified as a schoolgirl. I will need to save that one for a sunny day.

JD 

Other reads I’ve read and can recommend:
Fearsome Dreamer by Lauré Eve
Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
Gemini Rising by Eleanor Wood (reviewed here)

Reads I’m looking forward to from my TBR pile:
Acid by Emma Pass
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Lexiland by Suzi Moore
The Savages by Matt Whyman
Slated series by Terri Terry
Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

I have booked my ticket for YALC – the Young Adult Literature Convention this July. Just check out the list of authors that will be there – http://www.childrenslaureate.org.uk/yalc/. Even more UKYA to find (although I’m aware we have some international authors coming too).

As an aspiring UKYA author I have to say that Lucy’s work to bring all of this together today has been inspiring and certainly helps with the hope that there is a market for a range of UKYA genres – now I just need to finish my books. 

One thing I must complain about though is that following all these UKYA bloggers and authors on twitter has really expanded my TBR piles! Avoid the hashtag on twitter if you are already in danger of being crushed by your pile? But just in case you think you can balance a few more check out #ukyaday #ukya or #ukyachat. And if you have any recommendations for me then please post them below. 

 

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