THE FALL OF LISA BELLOW BY SUSAN PERABO – $29.99
This book actually piqued my interest because of the great title and cover (yes I do judge books by covers some of the time!) so I took it home one weekend when I knew I would have time to kill between two shows. A few hours later I was hooked! Perabo opens up her story not with the main premise of a kidnapping which is documented on the blurb, but instead cleverly establishes the backstory of middle grade narrator Meredith and her interactions at school and home. She is not part of the cool clique, has her own assortment of typical teen of anxieties as well as sharing how her family are struggling to cope with a serious sporting accident that saw her older brother lose an eye and any hope of a baseball career. But life takes an even more serious turn when a seemingly random hold up sees her safe yet emotionally scarred but popular girl and locker neighbour Lisa Bellow is taken by the madman – shaking the small community to its core and leaving Meredith with severe survivor trauma.
I liked how this intelligent story evolved and wasn’t sure of where it would meander at times but was more than happy to go on the ride. Meredith’s voice is authentic and you feel invested in her journey. This aftermath focus then widens to include the voice of Meredith’s mother Claire and presents another adult perspective of coping with the aftermath of this tragedy. Her struggles that she cannot always be there to protect her children was raw and realistic, and provided a good insight into another character psyche.
This is an interesting insight into PTSD and perfect for fans perhaps of Liane Moriarty who like deeper domestic dramas.
KILL THE FATHER BY SANDRONE DAZIERI – $29.99
Well known Italian author and screenwriter Sandrone Dazieri’s first English translation Kill the Father is a fantastic thriller that begins with a mind twist hook that creates intrigue and uncertainty about the direction but in a good way. Detective Columba Caselli and former kidnap victim Dante Torre each reveal their own stories and then combine when a murder and new kidnapping of a child seems to have links to Dante’s abductor that may have returned after a decade underground. Dante is a fascinating character because his time in captivity has enhanced his sensory abilities and makes him extremely helpful to the case. The chemistry and banter between the two men is realistic and engaging. A great book that never lets up – its easy style and darker story threads kept me constantly engrossed, and at times, almost breathless. Highly recommended.
THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES BY JOHN BOYNE – $32.99
John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a heart-achingly tragic but beautiful book, full of heart and humour, full of moments of sadness and moments of greatness, that together weave in and out to tell the incredible tale of Cyril Avery over the span of 70 years. A man faced with prejudice and bad luck yet who always manages to find ways to redeem himself, whether by chance encounter or purposefully sought… a man who remained constantly humble and genuine on his quest for happiness, regardless of what challenges he faced as a gay man in homophobic (and sexist) 1940s Ireland – both within and outside the Church – to the expressive society of Amsterdam and to AIDS-affected New York City.
Like The Nix, The Heart’s Invisible Theories felt like a number of novellas narratively strung together, which allow the reader to experience the various stages of Cyril Avery’s life – his experiences, the places he visits, the people he meets – each point in time as important as the one before. I read the final line and simultaneously cried and smiled – this novel was an incredible joy to read.
GOOD ME BAD ME BY ALI LAND – $32.99
This book was a crazy read from the beginning. Annie’s mother is a serial killer that preys on small children. When she gets arrested for her crimes, Milly is sent to a foster home and prepares for trial. The book is set as a letter to Annie’s mother in the perspective of Annie/Milly, and as the book progresses we see the impact of the trauma she went through. Her character develops slowly, at first she is the victim, nervous, unsteady and traumatized. But as we begin to learn more, a sinister side of Milly reveals itself.
This book delves into many controversial topics, such as sexual abuse, child murder and a murderous mother. The ideas of nature and nurture are really prominent within this novel, causing constant questioning on the motives of Milly, is she like her mother? The court scenes and the slow countdown to the day of the trial show the strain on Milly’s mental health. On top of this is her high school experiences with her foster-sister Phoebe. The build-up of stress and the slow reveal of Milly’s past create a story that is quite difficult to put down.
I really enjoyed this read, it is different to expectations and like nothing I have read before. The character development of Milly and the constant uneasiness felt with her narration was intriguing and gripping. The ending leaves me hungry for more, but at the same time I am almost frightened by the possibilities of what Milly can do.
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles – $16.99
Zoe and X are from two different worlds. Zoe inhabits earth, while X lives in the lowlands, destined to hunt evil souls to please his masters. The two collide and what follows is a very unconventional love story. Zoe is broken after the loss of her father. After Stan threatens her life, and that of her brother Jonah, Zoe comes face to face with X. Jeff Giles explores what it means to be human. He uses characters such as X and Zoe to outline what it means to really live, love and experience loss. Giles includes a diverse range of characters. From her wacky Mum to her colourful best friend, there isn’t one character I truly disliked (except maybe Stan and Dervish) Despite thinking it would lead to the typical love story ending, I am pleased to report that this novel steered away from the usual. Giles offered a great twist at the end, one that made me gasp! I couldn’t take myself away from the last 100 pages; I just needed to know what happened. I must say that I was very satisfied with the outcome. The ending seems to lead to a sequel – yay! With any luck, I’ll be reporting on Jeff Giles next book in only a matter of time. A great sci-fi/fantasy inspired romance.
THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS BY EMILY BARR – $19.99
Contemporary young adult is not my usual genre of choice but ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ by Emily Barr stands out as a lovely tale of bravery, adventure and, strangely enough, polar bears.
Flora has anterograde amnesia, meaning she cannot make new memories. She can remember events from before age ten but apart from that, she has to constantly assess who and where she is, and what she is doing. That is, until one day she kisses a boy, and keeps the memory. She must make a break from her over-protective parents to trek to the Artic in order to reunite with the boy who helped her remember.
The romance might sound a bit cliché, but it is actually a fairly minor element of the novel. The plot revolves far more around Flora’s own journey and her determination to live despite her mental illness, and the certain bravery it takes to do amazing things in the present even though she will never be able to revisit them. I really admire that the author is committed to writing an amnesiac character. Apart from the initial shtick of the “true love’s kiss,” there aren’t any convenient loopholes for Flora. The harsh reality of life without memories is fully explored by the author, which makes it more authentic than most stories using memory loss as a device. Flora is an achingly real character – she has both a childlike wonder and a grittiness to her which gives her a lot of depth as a protagonist.
Barr deals with mental illness in a way that isn’t normally tackled in mainstream YA, where the main character herself is the one living with the illness (Flora shows signs of mania and depersonalisation as well as amnesia). Some of Flora’s actions seem “crazy” to outsiders, but because it’s written in first person we see the particular logic of them in her own mind. This insight is really useful in better understanding and empathising with the world of someone suffering from these disorders.
Of course, because Flora does lose her memories, there is a lot of repetition in the novel which could put some people off; sometimes we read the same thing over and over again. Personally I found it fascinating to note the subtle shifts in what kind of things Flora prioritises each time she tries to remember over the course of the novel. Besides the repetition, the style is very fresh and simple. Recommended for ages 15+.