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This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey – Publication Day Review


About the Book


The year is 1998, and like any other teenager, Jess Flynn is just trying to get through her junior year without drama… but drama seems to keep finding her.

Between a new crush on her childhood best friend, and her younger sister’s worsening health, the only constant is change – and her hometown of Swickley, which feels smaller by the day.

Swickley is getting weirder by the day too. Half the population has been struck down by a mysterious flu. Conversations seem to end awkwardly when Jess enters the room. And then one day, a tiny, sleek black device – with an apple logo on it – falls out of her best friend’s backpack and lands at Jess’s feet.

But the first iPhone won’t exist for another nine years.

Suddenly Jess has more questions than answers about her own life. And as she races to uncover the truth about her family, her friendships, and her town, one thing becomes clear: we all have our own version of reality.

Black Mirror meets My So-Called Life in this fast-paced, timely novel about separating fact from fiction – and the lengths one girl will go to live on her own terms.


About the Author


Anna Carey is the author of Blackbird, Deadfall, and the Eve trilogy. She lives in Los Angeles.


What I Thought


It is quite hard to review this book without spoilers so you may not wish to read my review until you’ve read the book.


A quick summary is that this is a pacy young adult satirical thriller with a focus on real relationships.


First up let’s talk about the title. “This is not the Jess Show” sounds exactly like something a parent would say to their self obsessed teen. But what if it was the Jess Show?


The blurb describes this as “My So Called Life” meets “Black Mirror” and – spoiler – I would add in meets “The Truman Show” (the book has already been optioned for film too). I am a huge MSCL fan and a teen of the 90s so I very much got all the references, e.g. Party of Five, Dawson’s Creek etc (although oddly enough no Jared Leto fangirling appears in this book – did anyone else copy Angela in trying to drink their coffee black with 3 or 4 sugars because he did? …No…just me!).


The flu that is mentioned in the blurb is only a small part of the story so if you are sick of reading about pandemics then thankfully you don’t need to avoid this book. As a medically inclined person I googled the condition that Jess’ sister has mainly because I wanted more detail about what issues it causes. I won’t tell you what I found!


Jess’ circumstances provide a platform for a critique of social media/influencer culture, reality versus portrayed reality, and it also explores what bringing children up in the public eye is like. I think I’d have appreciated a little more subtlety in some of the character portrayals but in having more stereotypical characters the satirical message is made clearer.


I was surprised how calm and non-plussed Jess was throughout much of the book – she definitely did not take her teenage angst lessons from those 90s shows.

At its heart though there is a strong focus on true relationships and Jess and the two main characters she connects with do have you rooting for a happy ending for them all.


But if this is the Jess Show how easy is is it to turn off?


Thank you to Black Crow and Quirk for the gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review.

Snakeskins by Tim Major – Blog Tour Book Review

Synopsis

Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.

Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Posperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.

About the Author

Tim Major has authored You Don’t Belong Here, Blighters and Carus & Mitch, The YA novel Machineries of Mercy, the short story collection And the House Lights Dom, and a non-fiction book about the silent crime film, Les Vampires. His shorts have appeared in Interzone, Not One of Us and numerous anthologies including Best of British SF 2017. He is co-editor of the British Fantasy Society’s journal, BFS Horizons.

What I Thought

This book has such an intriguing premise. A proportion of the population have been “given” special abilities as Charmers. Every seven years they shed like snakes and rejuvenate their original bodies meaning they live longer than ordinary humans. Usually the skin lasts only a short time before disintegrating into ash. But Caitlin’s skin stays, is clearly displaying human emotion and is taken away by the government…

The very government who have cut the U.K. off from Europe, call themselves The Great British Prosperity Party and appear to be Charmer led. Russell works for one of the ministers and gradually starts to uncover the truth.

Gerry is a journalist who is also working to tell the real story and Caitlin is just trying to come to terms with what being a Charmer means and why much of society is against them. Suspicion and lack of understanding, thinking all Charmers are the same!

A biting social commentary, a mysterious thriller and engaging characters to root for. Tim Major has created something pretty unique. I don’t think we’ll ever look at politics the same way after the last few years and this book contributes to that unease.

Thank you to Lydia at Titan for gifting me a copy of this book for the purposes of an honest review.

Snakeskins is out now.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson – Book Review

Synopsis

We were all surprised when the vuvv landed the first time. We were just glad they weren’t invading. We couldn’t believe our luck when they offered us their tech and invited us to be part of their interspecies Co-Prosperity Alliance.

Several years on, jobs are scarce due to the rise of alien tech and there’s no money for food, clean water or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine. Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, must get creative to survive. Since the vuvv crave “Classic” Earth culture, recording 1950s-style dates for them to view seems like a brilliant idea.

But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to murder sweet nothings when they hate each other more with every episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice.

Author

M. T. Anderson is the author of Feed, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavia Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party and it’s sequel, The Kingdom on the Waves, both of which were New York Times bestsellers and Michael L. Printz Honor Books. He is also the author of Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dimitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Lenningrad. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

What I Thought

This is a short book of around 160 pages with short sharp chapters. It is a social satire and comments on inequality in healthcare (especially relevant to the American healthcare system), advances in technology and how that affects the job market, the meaning of art, and even the concept of programmes like the current smash hit Love Island.

Although told from Adam’s perspective I didn’t really connect to him all that much. He’s clearly in a bad situation, living in crowded accommodation, having to pretend to love his girlfriend for the entertainment of others. At his heart he’s an artist and in the story he enters a competition where he ignores advice to sugar coat his art. He uses it as a protest.

He did describe his mother in a way that made me feel for her. Desperate to be employed but with jobs so scarce there is too much competition.

For the vuvv Love is a commodity. It is something outside their experiences so they crave examples of it. But only the positive side of it. Filtered love. I would have liked to perhaps get to know the vuvv a little better but they are kept at quite a distance within the story.

This is a clever book but unfortunately it was too bleak for me and I therefore didn’t find it a particularly enjoyable read.

Thanks to Walker Books for the free copy of the book for the purposes of this honest review.

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