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Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

With London Pride being yesterday I thought that time was right to finally review this Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash.

Synopsis

Maggie is fifteen and has basically spent every summer of her life at one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, where her days are full of a pleasant, peaceful sort of nothing. Until one confounding moment of innocent physical contact catapults her into gut-twisting love with Erin, an older, wiser, and surprisingly – at least to Maggie – female counselor. When it seems as if Erin might feel the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for either Maggie or Camp Bellflower to endure, let alone understand.

Author

Maggie Thrash is a staff writer for Rookie, a popular online magazine for teenage girls. This is her first book. She lives in Delaware.

Honor Girl was first published in 2015 and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.

What I thought

This is a non-fiction book, based on true events and is presented as a graphic novel. It is about a girl discovering her sexual attraction to another, older girl at summer camp.

I thought it was excellently done and a great use of the genre. The book is illustrated in watercolour pencil and pen images which were finished digitally and even the font was designed by Maggie. The art is fairly simplistic but there’s something powerful in its simplicity especially in the close up images like below.

I’ve seen some criticism of the ‘ending’ but I really liked the fact that is was realistic. Nothing against fictional coming out stories but the happily ever after they often portray does not often represent the stories of many teens in this situation. I also thought Maggie’s confliction was represented powerfully.

I read some of the one star reviews of this book on goodreads and whilst I agree with some of the concerns highlighted over this being about a relationship between an older 19 year old camp counselor and a 15 year old girl I can’t help but wonder how vehemently those concerns would be expressed if the counselor had been male and the 15 year old female. In fact I’ve seen many older boy/younger girl stories like this fictionally and in real life that are seen as ‘part of the norm’.

This is set in a summer camp in southern America a ‘few’ years ago so usual camp activities take place including shooting guns and the safety around such activities is more lax than I think it would be now. This was again a criticism I read from others, though I think we need to take care to read stories in their context not just applying today’s standards.

I liked the use of humour and ‘silliness’ when describing the typical teen girl behaviour such as lusting over the backstreet boys, being mean to each other and scaring the younger girls. As such I do think that teenagers will relate to the story whatever their sexual orientation. It’s about growing up, discovering yourself, falling in love and heartbreak. What is more universal?

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher Walker for the purposes of an honest review. I read it a year ago so apologies for the delay in reviewing.

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#FromDaughtertoWoman by Kim McCabe – Blog Tour Guest Post

Goodreads link

Guest Post – Social Media Safety

by Kim McCabe, author of From Daughter to Woman, parenting girls safely through their teens

My daughter’s phone died.  I braced myself for her panic at being disconnected.  It didn’t come, she quite liked having a social media ‘holiday’… for a few weeks.  Then she needed to get back in the loop, she was missing conversations, photos, gatherings.  But after not having a phone for a while, she was a bit more aware of how easy it was to lose time on it and how it didn’t always make her feel too brilliant.

Teen depression.  We all like to blame social media.  We’re a bit afraid of it when we see the hold it has over our kids.  We’re right to be cautious, it’s definitely having an impact on teen mental health. We don’t want our girls to be basing their opinion of themselves on how many ‘likes’ they can earn.  Or ending up exhausted before the day has begun because they were messaging until 2am.  Or doing things for the boys because that’s what they’ve all seen online.

Our children are growing up in a world that’s populated by digital delights that we never knew.  We’re going to have to learn about how they work before we can teach our kids how to stay healthy in this new culture.  This is nothing new, parents have always struggled with whatever’s the latest craze.  Kids love it and we tend to see the downsides of it.

If you want to be able to influence your child’s social media habits you can’t be completely down on it.  Think about it from your child’s point of view: if you don’t have control over your home, own a car, or have much money and here is a device which puts you in touch with your friends and a world that you don’t have easy access to any other way. What’s not to like?

Here’s the way forward:

• Ask her to teach you about the platforms that she likes.

• Sign up to some yourself so that you can see what’s going on.

• Find out what you need to teach her to stay safe (like turning off location functions, not giving personal details and not meeting people you’ve encountered online; there’s more, find out).

• Ask her what she sees online that bothers her and discuss it without being judgmental or she’ll clam up.

• Find out what happens to everything digital, so you can explain it to her.

• Give her the 1-second-check idea, suggesting she pause before pushing send to ask herself what would my granny or boss think of this?

• Show her videos of how photoshop changes what we’re shown.

• Reassure her that it’s normal to be curious but if ever she sees or hears anything she wishes she hadn’t, she can come to you, no blame.

• Have a night-time parking place downstairs for phones.  No phones at bedtime; buy an alarm clock.

• Suggest a ‘mood check’ after time spent with social media so she’s aware of when it’s doing her good and when it’s not.  Encourage her to notice what feels positive (the connection, the fun) and what doesn’t (comparing, mean comments).

• Set a good example yourself.

Our duty as parents is to take care of our children and gradually to hand that job over to them.  So, when she’s little you install software safeguards and set rules.  As she gets older, the safety filters are going to have to come from inside her, so your job turns into how to help her do that.  First. She’s going to need to understand why she’d want to.  Then, you’ll need to guide her how to use social media safely.

If you think she’s running into difficulties, you need to show that you’re on her side.  If she’s not having a nice time online, chances are she’ll feel like it’s her fault and shame will make it harder for her to tell you.  If she seems to be relying on ‘likes’ to feel good, and then feels low after the high, help her to notice that.  If you think she’s got a bit hooked and you judge her, she’ll just get defensive.  Telling anyone of any age that they’re addicted to something is the last way to get them to stop.  Never make her wrong.  If you want to get through to her, the two of you have to be able to talk to each other without accusing or criticizing.  If you want an easy way to get these conversations going, go on a Mother-Daughter Date once a month.

It’s the way to get real-life ‘likes’ from her!

Wow. What a great post. Thanks Kim. Some useful pointers for social media using adults here too!

Summary:

This book aims to make the adolescent’s journey just that bit safer, kinder, and better supported – so parents and teens can enjoy the teenage years more.

The teen years are tough – for teens and for parents. Many parents dread the moodiness, dishonesty, preference of friends over family, exam stress, and the push for greater independence. Mothers have a pivotal role to play; this is a guidebook for parents and mothers of girls in particular as they navigate the rocky teenage landscape with their daughters aged 8 to 18. It aims to help them embrace the potential of their child’s teenage years by marking this time of growing maturity for girls and celebrating it with them. We celebrate birth, marriage and death, but this important life-transition from child to young adult is nowadays rarely acknowledged within an appropriate community.

Author

Kim McCabe is the founder of Rites for Girls. As the originator and facilitator of Girls Journeying Together groups, she offers guidance to preteen and teen girls and simultaneous support for their mothers. In training other women to facilitate these groups, her dream is that every girl grows up expecting to be supported and celebrated in adolescence. Kim was commissioned to write a section in Steve Biddulph’s latest best-selling book, 10 Things Girls Need Most: To Grow Up Strong and Free.

Kim is a home-educating mother of two boys, one girl, two cats and a colony of aloe vera plants; she is wife to a Kiwi, daughter to itinerant parents, friend to a cherished few, and lover of time alone, too. She lives in the Ashdown Forest in Sussex. She sometimes shouts at her children, accidentally steps on the cat’s tail and forgets to water the plants, but she loves her work, her family and her life. She has always had deep affinity with teenage girls, and by sharing her wisdom and compassion she infects the reader with her enthusiasm for this life stage.

From Daughter to Women is out July 18th published by Little Brown and is sure to be invaluable for those raising teenagers. It includes topics such as puberty, periods, relationships and wellbeing and I love the concept of Mother-Daughter dates.

Do check out the rest of the blog tour.

Thanks to Faye Rogers for also proving a PDF which I’m looking forward to reading.

The Devil’s Poetry by Louise Cole – Blog Tour Book Review

Goodreads Link

Synopsis

Questions are dangerous but answers can be deadly.

Callie’s world will be lost to war – unless she can unlock the magic of an ancient manuscript. She and her friends will be sent to the front line. Many of them won’t come back. When a secret order tells her she can bring peace by reading from a book, it seems an easy solution – too easy. Callie soon finds herself hunted, trapped between desperate allies and diabolical enemies. The Order is every bit as ruthless as the paranormal Cadaveri.

Callie can only trust two people – her best friend and her ex-marine bodyguard. And they are on different sides. She must decide: how far will she go to stop a war?

Dare she read this book? What’s the price – and who pays it?

Commended in the Yeovil Prize 2016, this is an action-packed blend of adventure, fantasy and love story.

Author

Louise Cole has spent her life reading and writing. And very occasionally gardening. Sometimes she reads as she gardens. She can be seen walking her dogs around North Yorkshire – she’s the one with a couple of cocker spaniels and a Kindle. She read English at Oxford – read being the operative word – and hasn’t stopped reading since.

In her day-job she is an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. She writes about business but mainly the business of moving things around: transport, logistics, trucks, ships, and people.

Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate.

What I thought

I loved the opening paragraph which was so evocative.

“I’d never realized war could be so quiet. The National Service letters had whispered through our doors that morning. It seemed such thin pages should have torn under the strain of such a heavy message.”

Initially because of this I thought this was going to be an historical novel – I’d read the synopsis ages before so went into it blind, but then the horror dawned. It was set now. In the days of Facebook and terrorism: National Service – Involuntary Conscription for those eighteen and above was back.

Callie is seventeen so it’s not her time yet but instead she has another battle to face. One night she is handed a book and told not to read it but keep it safe. Then the ‘men’ start coming for her. The Cadavari with haunted eyes.

This reminded me a little of Buffy which I love. There is definitely a chosen one vibe. The book switches between first person POV from Callie and third person exploring other character’s points of view from the Cadaveri to Jace Portman the man who mysteriously gave her the book, saved her life, disappeared, and then turned up at her school as a supply teacher. Callie has two close friends Amber and Gavin who are quickly pulled into the action and her ex Alec who she’d prefer to be far from it.

I really enjoyed Louise’s writing style and the book is quite fast paced. We get into the action quickly. I liked the mix of an almost dystopian near future with the threat of war and National Service with the Supernatural elements. As I said before fans of Buffy, and of Cassandra Clare should enjoy this. And it is great to see a UK based fantasy too.

Thank you to Louise and Faye for the e-copy for review. Opinions are my own. The follow up book ‘On Holy Ground’ will be going up on KDP Select shortly, I’ll definitely be ‘Reading’ it. I just hope the Cadavari don’t show up for me 😜.

Do check out the rest of the tour stops to see what everyone else thought.

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