*We Were Liars is my favourite stand-alone of all-time and the fact that I get to review E Lockhart’s new book before it comes out is completely insane to me, so THANK YOU Hot Key Books for sending me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*
If you saw my most anticipated reads of 2020 post, you’ll know that this was one of the books I was most excited for this year. So I’m really excited that it lived up to my (maybe unfairly high) expectations.
I have never been so captivated by an author’s writing style as I am by E. Lockhart’s. ‘Again Again’ returns to the style of writing- somewhat poetic, metaphorical and at the same time, often very simplistic- that she uses in ‘We Were Liars,’ and it is a style that never fails to impress me.
This story is about Adelaide and a summer spent at Alabaster Prep, navigating through life in a variety of different ways and discovering who she truly is and what she is looking for from life. The different paths that her life takes in this time vary from minutely different to entirely life-altering as she finds herself falling in and out out love, grief and happiness in a variety of scenarios.
The content of this story is incredibly simple and realistic, to the point that it maybe shouldn’t have been as captivating as it was, but I found myself desperately turning the pages to keep going and find out what happened next. I cared about every alternative possibility as much as the first and found that the changes between universes were perfectly timed to keep me interested. I also found that the short chapters and ‘parts’ of this book kept it very fast-paced and easy to read.
In terms of the setting, I was thrilled when I realised that it’s the same school that appears in ‘The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.’ The various subtle references to this book reminded me that this is a setting that has been explored before and that I am now desperate to revisit. And the characters, though obviously entirely different to those in Lockhart’s other book, fitted into this setting very well.
This book is very intelligent in a lot of ways, but I think I was most impressed by the character development, which was certainly one of the most important parts of the story. Although I found the majority of the characters to be fascinating, Toby resonated very strongly with me. His voice is so clear, even in short message threads, and when he speaks about how he feels about his former self, it is raw and believable to the point that it is almost painful to read. Adelaide herself similarly speaks with raw honesty and it makes her one of the most accessible protagonists I’ve ever read. When Adelaide falls in love in this story, you can’t help but believe that it’s real. And when she realises her mistakes, you realise them too. I felt very much in tune with her, as though I was living her story, rather than just reading it.
There are so many words I could use to describe this book that I find it difficult to sum up. ‘Again Again’ is somehow both beautifully poetic and painfully realistic, with poignant, comedic and heart-breaking moments scattered throughout. I can tell that this is a book that I’ll be forcing everyone I know to read and, despite only finishing it an hour ago, I’m already considering picking it up and starting again.
I’m super excited to talk about this book because it’s the first of two five-star reviews that I’m posting this week! I’ve read so many amazing books recently and this is definitely one of the best.
‘The Rules’ is described as a a gripping thriller for fans of One of Us is Lying, We Were Liars and A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder so, after giving all three of those books 5 stars, I had really high expectations for this one. After reading the summary, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of how close this book would be to those and whether it would be completely in my comfort zone, but I knew that it had the potential to be a new favourite, and it absolutely didn’t disappoint.
Amber is a young girl who has spent her teenage years making her way through care homes and foster homes, after running away from her somewhat delusional, prepping-for-the-apocalypse father. When she finds out that he has tracked her down, she makes the immediate decision to run away from the first place she has ever felt settled in order to self-preserve. What follows is a story of intelligence, planning and survival instinct, both on her part and on her father’s, as we get an insight into just how troubled he is and just how much that has scarred Amber.
I enjoyed every aspect of this book. I liked both Amber and Josh as characters and I loved that, despite their very different outlooks on life, they both found themselves at least a little dependent on one another throughout the story. There was no forced romance at all but it was beautiful to watch their relationship develop as they both figured out what they were doing on their journey and how they ended up together on the run.
As well as having strong characters, I found the story to be so compelling that I just couldn’t put the book down. The chapters are very short and abrupt, and I found it incredibly easy to keep going and get through this book without even realising it. The story is fast-paced and permanently exciting, with both the flashbacks and the present day constantly building up tension and setting the reader on edge. I knew throughout this entire book that it was building to a grand conclusion, and I wasn’t at all disappointed with the ending.
A combination of likeable, strong characters, an intense plot, and an enjoyable amount of twists and turns made this book one of the best YA thrillers I’ve read in years, and I will absolutely be grabbing every Tracy Darnton book I can get my hands on from now on.
If you’d like to read this book, you can pre-order a copy here.
I only just realised that I wrote this review months ago and never posted it so… here you go.
‘Meet Me at Midnight’ is the story of Asher and Sidney, family friends who spend every summer together in neighbouring lake-houses. From the offset, we learn that they ‘hate’ each other, in a friendly sort of way, pranking each other at every opportunity and basically making each other’s lives miserable. The reader, along with the other characters, is perfectly aware that there is some kind of romantic interest underlying these pranks, but for the first part of the book, we simply watch them competing to outdo the other person’.
They’ve been doing this for years, but when they finally take the pranks a step too far in the summer before college, they decide to make a truce and work together against a whole new target. Of course, this truce then turns into a summer fling, and the two re-evaluate their friendship completely, facing a new set of challenges along the way.
I did enjoy this book, but I had a couple of problems with it. In terms of the characters, I really loved Asher’s character and how consistent he stayed throughout the book. It became obvious to me early on that he wasn’t as on-board with the hate-relationship between himself and Sidney and that he had other intentions all along. His humour was amusing, his motives were believable and some of his romantic gestures were really adorable. Sidney, on the other hand, wasn’t so likeable for me. I found her to be irritating and irrational, jumping to conclusions without giving others a chance to explain themselves and generally struggling to manoeuvre other people’s feelings. The redeeming factor for this is that multiple people in the novel, including Sidney herself, appear completely aware of how dislikable she is, and many times she is called out for her behaviour.
I found the story to be sweet and I did like seeing their relationship develop, but I also feel as though some moments were a little unnecessary. There are some parts of this book that I loved and raced through, but these were interspersed with moments that I feel the book could have done without. This wasn’t really an issue because I still happily made it through the entire novel, but I do think that the book was dragged out a little more than it could have been.
The writing itself was really impressive and I loved how well Jessica Pennington differentiated between Asher and Sidney’s voices. Her style of writing was extremely easy to read and I feel as though this is one of the reasons why the book is so quick to get through. I will definitely have a look at the author’s other work because I feel that her ideas and writing are very enjoyable, even though parts of this book specifically just weren’t for me.
Overall, despite the issues I had with this book, I loved the premise and think that this would be a good, easy summer read. Some of the romantic moments really warmed my heart and parts of this book did leave me laughing out loud so, if you’re looking for a sweet YA contemporary, you might really enjoy this.