Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen
by Val Emmich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I’ve listened to the Dear Evan Hansen broadway soundtrack several times a week for the last year so when I heard it was being released as a YA novel I was desperate to get my hands on it. It was the only ARC at YALC I was desperate to go home with and sadly I didn’t manage to win the raffle. I was lucky enough however to be granted access via Netgalley AND my husband bought me a copy of the final published book (can you tell I went on about it a bit?!)

I find this story really sad. My heart hurts for Evan and the struggles he faces and the situations he gets himself into. Reading the book was more emotional than the musical because the novel format allows you to delve further into Evan’s brain and really expand on the emotions and issues he experiences. This also makes the book far heavier than the musical as there are no lighthearted catchy tunes to raise the mood. With no light relief the book is a really intense reading experience which is incredibly immersive.

The author’s writing is captivating and very believable. I imagine it was extremely hard to write this story without making it sound preachy- how can Evan learn his lesson without making it sound like a cheesy cautionary tale?
The authors managed to tell the story with compassion and through it all Evan remains a sympathetic, lovable character.

I recommend curling up with this book with the soundtrack on in the background. You can never have too much Dear Evan Hansen!

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Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exhange for an honest review.

I would find it very hard to say I enjoyed reading this book given the subject matter, however, I can say that it is a very powerful, engaging and important book.

Always Forever Maybe tracks the relationship between Betts and Aiden, from the first head over heels, love at first sight moment, to the intense puppy dog love stage and beyond into more toxic territory.

Anica Mrose Rissi charts the rise and fall of this abusive relationship so realistically it is very difficult to read in places. Although Aiden does become more psychically abusive towards Betts as the book goes on, much of the story focuses on his emotional abuse- alienating his girlfriend from her friends, trying to change her behaviour and making her apologise for insignificant things so that she keeps the peace and avoids his dramatic mood changes.

The intense fast-paced nature of this relationship is so common in abusive relationships. It’s a way of gaining complete control over a person and making them feel as if they need the relationship and can’t leave. Even with the support of her friends, Betts still found herself trapped, feeling as if Aiden was the only thing that mattered.

I loved Betts and Jo’s friendship, and the unwavering support Jo showed for Betts even when she was being a bad friend to her. Jo also provided some much needed comic relief in this book and was probably my favourite character for this reason.

Although it was difficult to read, I’m glad a book like this is out there. This type of toxic behaviour in relationships can be so easy to explain away when you think you are in love. Hopefully, this book will help some people realise that they shouldn’t be subjecting themselves to such treatment.

Whilst it’s incredibly well written, I only recommend this book to you if you feel you can handle the topic. If you are at all senstive to the subject of domestic abuse I would advise reader discretion.

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Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book from beginning to end. I wish I’d had it to read as a teenager because Bluebelle would have been my absolute hero.

Big Bones is written in the form of a diary, written by Bluebelle (who also goes by BB) after her nurse tells her she needs to lose weight. But this isn’t a depressing diet and punishment book. This is a true celebration of food, body positivity, confidence and family. Bluebelle navigates her summer trying to work out what to do with the rest of her life whilst she juggles her friends, her adorable sister Dove, the on and off marriage of her parents, her part-time job and a mammoth crush on her co-worker.

It was so refreshing to read a book where the main character is an overweight teenage girl totally at ease within her own skin. I loved Bluebelle’s sassy attitude towards the adults in her life who think they know what she wants better than she does.

Possibly my favourite part of this book were the mouth watering descriptions of food. I can tell that Laura Dockrill is someone who really appreciates good food. Every single thing Bluebelle ate in this book made me hungry. Do not try and read this book without snacks at hand.

This book was fun to read from beginning to end, I cared deeply about every character and I loved feeling like part of Bluebelle’s family for a short while. I would recommend this book to anyone who has been a teenager concerned about their body (so probably most people!). Bluebelle’s confidence is infectious and inspiring.

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was provided an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I’m not sure what I expected before I picked up this book but whatever I thought I was going to get, this wasn’t it. From the beginning of the book I felt like I was wrong-footed and that feeling didn’t really go away until I read the last page.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black follows a teenage girl with a dark secret as her parents one day whisk her away on a supposed holiday of a lifetime in an attempt to keep their own dark secret hidden. It’s actually very hard to discuss the plot of this book without spoilers as so much of the story revolved around the unknown, with secrets slowly being revealed to the reader as the plot progresses.

What I will say is I found something lacking with this book. On the surface the plot is gripping but the reading experience didn’t quite match up to the expectation I had for this book. I badly wanted the pace to pick up but I found myself almost becoming bored in between sections where secrets were being revealed and action was happening. None of the characters were likeable, which I feel could have been purposeful, but more than that they often didn’t seem like realistic people. Their speech and behaviour wasn’t fully fleshed out and I didn’t feel any kind of strong connection to them at all which always lessens my enjoyment of a book. If I’m not going to like a character, I at least want to dislike them. Feeling nothing about them leaves me disinterested.

My biggest issue with the book is Ella’s love interest plot. It seemed so unbelievable that she would meet her dream boy in the way she did and have him fall head over heels in love with her without so much as a word being uttered that I kept expecting him to be part of the bigger storyline. I was hoping he would turn out to not be as he seemed and have more sinister intentions. In the end, I felt his inclusion in the story just served to pad out the plot and lengthen the book unnecessarily.

Although my review may seem largely negative I have to say that I did read this book very quickly and found that I didn’t want to put it down. I did want to get to the climax and find out what was going to happen and overall I was satisfied with the ending. I do think it would have benefitted from developing the characters somewhat more, and focusing less on describing Ella running around Rio and hiding from everyone and more on her discovering the details of her parent’s secret as that was the part of the plot that was really gripping.

I think I would recommend this book to friends in the future, for the fact that the unfolding mystery is so original and it is a compelling depiction of mental health problems but my recommendation would come with caveats.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black is published 11th January 2018.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We Were Liars is one of those books that is made to be gulped down in one sitting. From the moment I sat down to read to the moment I reached the last page I was completely enthralled by E. Lockhart’s beautiful writing.

The novel is centred on a well off family who holiday every year on their private island in Massachusetts and is narrated by a young teenage girl, Cadence Sinclair, one fourth of the group of cousins who make up the holiday club “The Liars”.

Cadence (Cady) takes the reader through a history of the family and of their summers, every now and then mentioning “an accident” that took place on the island not long ago but which she cannot remember much about.

Much of the plot of the story is hard to explain from here on out, so inherently entwined is the mystery and twist of this novel. The marketing campaign for We Were Liars has succeeded in building a complete frenzy around the ending of this book and keeping it secret and unspoiled for readers worldwide, even going so far as to set up a dedicated hot line for people who finish the book and need someone to discuss it with.

I would advise you to take this hype with a pinch of salt. I loved the book, I loved the writing and I believe that We Were Liars does deserve the acclaim it has been receiving; however, I guessed the twist half way through. It was abundantly obvious to me. Ordinarily this wouldn’t spoil my enjoyment of a book, but considering the great hype placed around this particular twist, I was more than a little disappointed in that regard.

Twist ending aside, We Were Liars is one of the most cleverly written Young Adult novels I have ever read. E. Lockhart beautifully achieves a realistic tone when depicting the realities of family life set against the fantasies that most families project to the outside world. Her teenage characters are wonderfully vivid and haunting in their teenage angst, which will be familiar to everyone reading this book.

I highly recommend this book, but again urge you not to get hung up on the excitement of the ending and concentrate instead on E. Lockhart’s wonderful words.

This review was first published on and Goodreads on 30th May 2014.

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