Review: Bad Apple by Zoje Stage

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I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m attempting to read at least two books per month this year. I’m doing okay so far considering its early March and I’ve just finished book number 11. Book number 11 happened to be ‘Bad Apple’ by Zoje Stage. I’ve not really read much adult fiction, I prefer to stick to Young Adult but I was staying the night at my brothers and wanted something to read. After scanning the shelves of ASDA this book seemed relatively promising so I picked it up.

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.

The basic plot of the book is that Suzette and Alex have a daughter named Hanna who puts on an innocent front for Alex but with Suzette acts differently. Suzette starts to worry that her daughter’s bad behaviour will turn into something far more sinister. Is Suzette in danger of harm from her own daughter?

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I don’t even know where to start with this book. Before I bought it I gave the first page a quick read and it sounded okay but as I began reading I started to get increasingly irritated. Although the story was told in third person it flipped between the point of view of Suzette and Hanna and God this just really didn’t work. I know Hanna is supposed to be super sinister but ultimately she is still a child and her chapters didn’t seem like anything a child would think or do. Also it took away a lot of the suspense – knowing what Hanna was doing and why she was doing it didn’t leave any mystery.

Hanna is mute and at one point decides to torment her mother by finally speaking and pretending to be someone called ‘Anne-Marie’, the last woman to be accused of witchcraft in France and burnt at the stake. I feel like this would’ve been interesting but because we can read things from Hanna’s point of view we knew she was only pretending to be Anne-Marie and how she’d found out about her and everything. I don’t know. It just really didn’t work for me.

Also Alex was just fucking ridiculous. His daughter had been kicked out of three schools, cut off Suzette’s hair, MADE A FUCKING COLLAGE OF DEAD CORPSES OF WOMEN WITH A PICTURE OF HIS NAKED WIFE IN THE MIDDLE and was like “Aw my little girl is just misunderstood”. I’m surprised Suzette could stand him by the end of the book to be honest.

To be honest though Suzette started to get on my tits towards the end and I could not figure out her relationship with Hanna for the life of me. One minute she’s giving Hanna the finger, basically calling her a little shit and generally acts like she hates her – then Hanna literally tries to burn her alive and then Suzette gets seriously concerned because Hanna may have sprained her wrist? If someone literally tried to set me on fire, child or not, I would not give two shits about what happened to them. One minute Suzette couldn’t stand Hanna then the next she loved her and was willing to do anything for her; regardless of the fact Hanna literally tried to kill her twice. Her attitude kept flipping and I couldn’t keep up with it.

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The book, thankfully, eventually ends and I imagine it was supposed to be all sinister and creepy but it was just stupid. I don’t even care. I hope Hanna does go home to her parents and finishes the fucking job; they’ve been so stupid throughout that they almost deserve it.

Also maybe I’m thick but I couldn’t get to grips with Suzette’s beef with her own mother? She kept making references to how her mother was really crap and I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, like at all. Maybe I’m just an idiot, I don’t know. I did skim over a lot of bits to be fair ‘cos this was a difficult read – difficult in the sense it was a bit fucking boring.

In terms of storyline, there doesn’t even really appear to be one. Hanna is trying to kill her Mom… That’s the entire basis of the book. There’s no suspense, anything… Hanna doesn’t even creep me out because she just seemed so unrealistic throughout the entire book.

The one redeeming quality was that I did finish this book quite quickly and was eager to see what happened at the end – I was disappointed with what did happen ‘cos it was a bit dull but like… Yeah.

I was hoping this book would be similar to ‘Orphan’ or ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ but it wasn’t, it was just dreary. A really dreary read.

Overall, I don’t really recommend this book because the entire plot is written on the blurb. Hanna is evil. It upsets Suzette. That’s the whole plot. Feel free to leave a comment on what you thought of the book!

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Review: S.T.A.G.S by M A Bennett

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I mentioned briefly that I’d challenged myself this year to read at least two books per month. As I’m trying to spend less time on my laptop I managed to read two within the first week of 2019 so I’m going to just read 24 books and if I achieve that pretty quickly then I’ll just up my goal to something else. I’ll still be able to tick the 24 books off my bucket list and if I read more then great!

I was going to write a review for each book but although I enjoyed the first two they didn’t leave a longing impression of me. I decided to write a review on the third book I read which happened to be S.T.A.G.S because boy did I have some opinions on this book.

I’d been having a browse on Amazon at the end of 2018 and this book had caught my eye. I’d mostly been adding books to my Wish List but I decided this was a book that I wanted to read straightaway so I bought it along with a couple of other books. The book is told from the point of view of Greer, a girl who won a scholarship to attend the most prestigious school in the country, S.T.A.G.S. One weekend she receives an invitation to the most popular boy in school’s house with a promise of a Huntin’ Shootin’ Fishin’ weekend. Feeling socially isolated Greer accepts but sinister things begin to happen over the weekend and Greer begins to think there may be more to this weekend than she bargained for.

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My description isn’t amazing but you get the basic idea. A girl goes to a rich boy’s house (well, mansion. Estate? A big fucking house anyway) with five of his friends and two other social outcasts and they begin to wonder if maybe they’re the ones getting hunted, shot and fished.

I’m going to warn you now that this review does contain spoilers.

When I started the book the expression ‘show, don’t tell’ immediately came to mind, an expression I’d heard tossed around but had never really understood until now. The first couple of chapters set up the story and we’re immediately slapped in the face with long descriptions of the school and how Greer got there.

Then we’re introduced to the ‘medievals’, the group of prefects in the school, the group who invite Greer to the weekend away. There are three boys and three girls. We get a long description about Henry de Fancypants who’s basically the ringleader then the other two boys get a short paragraph each. The three girls are all described in the same paragraph and are basically interchangeable – they’re all blonde, rich and bitchy and that is pretty much their entire personalities summed up.

We’re then sort of introduced to the two other misfits and by this point I’m getting a bit bored. I’m getting introduced to too many people at once and they didn’t feel like real people from the way they were described. I couldn’t connect with any of them and found it difficult at first to remember who was who from how awkwardly they were introduced. Also the long descriptions of the school were a bit boring – I’m someone who prefers action and dialogue so I usually skip past long descriptions, something I found I did a lot in this book.

I was a bit confused because the book sort of started by saying Greer tried to make friends with certain people, for example Nel and she mentioned she spoke to Shafeen (the other two misfits who were invited on the weekend) but then when she received her invitation suddenly she had no friends whatsoever and hadn’t so much as spoken to anybody in months. Upon receiving her invitation she doesn’t find it even the slightest bit suspicious that the person who’s spent months not talking to her now wants her to go to his house for the weekend.

Now I’m no expert but if someone I barely knew, who had barely spoken to me in school was like “Hey, wanna come to my house for the weekend for some Huntin’ Shootin’ and Fishin’?” There is no way in Hell that I’d go. But because Henry de Fancypants is supposedly cute Greer agrees to go – despite the fact a girl from her old school literally pulls her to one side and warns her not to go. Greer’s reasoning for not going? She doesn’t want to spend the weekend with her Aunt Karen. Why? Because Aunt Karen has twins. So instead of going to Aunt Karen and the twins, she goes off for the weekend with a group of strangers despite being warned not to go.

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Greer then spends the weekend ignoring every suspicious thing that happens and basically falls head over heels in love with Henry de Fancypants within the space of two minutes. Maybe I could’ve gotten over this but on the last night she’s finally convinced that something bad is going on and that Henry is manipulating her so comes up with a plan with her friends on how to stop him. Then the next morning Henry carries on manipulating her, just as she knew he would, and she was like “Oh maybe he does like me? Maybe every suspicious thing was just an accident despite the three of us finding proof literally last night?”

Also, I hate a book that gives away too much especially if what actually happens is very anticlimactic. The book opens with Greer claiming she murdered someone. She then goes on further into the book to say who else was there and who the victim was. I don’t need to know this from the get go. I hated it when Lemony Snickett wrote in Book 2 of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’  something along the lines of “Klaus did not die, it is Uncle Monty who will die but not yet.” But I can forgive that ‘cos at least the book was good whereas S.T.A.G.S was a let down.

It’s written in past tense so at the end of almost every chapter the author’s like ‘little did I know it was going to get darker’. It’s almost like the author is begging me to stay with them because honestly for three thirds of the book… Nothing really happens? I was getting so impatient because everything that did happen was just so underwhelming. Even the big reveal at the end was just so… Dull.

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Basically, Greer almost drowns but escapes and Henry chases after her, makes a massive villain style speech about how him and his family have been murdering/injuring/traumatising kids for centuries and it turns out Nel has filmed the whole thing on her phone and she threatens to expose it to the world. So Henry jumps off the waterfall and kills himself. This is the murder that Greer is referring to. We’ve spent the whole book getting worked about this murder and it turns out it was actually suicide but Greer feels bad so she’s saying she and the others murdered him. Good grief Greer, I thought I had a guilty conscience.

The friends decide not to leak the footage because it might make Henry’s family ‘look bad’. Yes, we’re now being asked to sympathise with the family that have been literally hunting students for thousands of years just because they’re rich and can get away with it. Despite the fact Henry literally said to Greer “I am going to murder you”, after his death Greer turns into the biggest Henry sympathiser ever?

I kept hoping the book would end by this point but alas it did not. The three get back to the school and have a sudden realisation – the school’s a cult and all the teachers also took part in these Huntin’ Shootin’ Fishin’ weekends as students, and every student is in on it and lets them get away with it. At this point I would be running for the hills, ringing my parents to pick me up, leaking that damn footage, calling the bloody police but no, the three friends decide to tell the head teacher. I just… This is meant to be some really smart school, like Greer is meant to have been smart enough to have received a scholarship to this school and yet is still just so thick.

I feel like I’m just ranting at this point but I can’t stop! The Head believes them and makes certain changes to the school, like firing all the current teachers and promoting our three misfits to Prefect status and stripping the medievals of that title. But then one day Greer spots twins who have Henry’s face – oh my gosh, it’s his twin cousins. And oh my gosh the clearly evil twins have invited the only black student in their year for a weekend away. And oh no, the head teacher is wearing a ring that everyone in the cult had been wearing. Oh no, the guy literally in charge of the school is the guy in charge of the cult.

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Then the book just ends. I can only hope the events that take place after this is that Greer finally decides to upload the bloody footage. I mean there is a literal sentence in the book that says ‘Henry’s Dad is clearly a prat but his Mom might be okay’ – they use that as a reason not to expose the blood sports. I just, I just can’t.

Overall, I wasn’t a fan of this book – if I hadn’t made that clear from the review. I was so excited to read it but it just let itself down so badly. None of the characters were particularly likeable and the whole thing was just dull. Really wouldn’t recommend this one.

Review: The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen

The Unpredictability of Being Human

This is the book from my book haul earlier this year that I was annoyed about because it turned out I already owned a proof copy of it yet went out and bought another copy in the store. However it did look good so I was immediately drawn to it.

The book is told from the point of view of Malin who knows she can’t fix the big stuff in her life like her Dad’s yelling, her brothers lie and her Mum falling apart. But at least she makes friends with Hanna to help her out. Because life is getting complicated – learning how to kiss, what to wear to prom, and what to do when you upset the prettiest, meanest girl in school. It’s tough fitting in when you’re different. But what if it’s the world that’s weird, not you?

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This book broke my streak of not wanting to read new books. You know where you go through that phase of not being able to get into a new story, you’d rather read ones you’ve already read that are comfortable ‘cos you already know the characters and the outcome? I was going through that but forced myself to pick up this book and give it a read because I’m sick of buying new books and not reading them. I was hooked almost immediately.

I think the best thing about this book is Malin herself. There doesn’t really seem to be a firm plot because if I sat down to tell somebody what it’s about I would kind of struggle. It’s more about Malin herself and how she struggles to cope with what are sometimes relatively mundane things but sometimes she finds herself with bigger issues that are more complicated. Malin is autistic but this is never said outright in the book and as another reviewer pointed out although this is great representation the fact that her autism is never diagnosed or mentioned is quite irritating as some people may just misinterpret her as immature or clueless. Although of course this could be part of the point as girls are not diagnosed as much as boys are and it’s mentioned a few times that her Father is in denial about Malin needing support. However, having read some reviews it’s clear that some people definitely don’t understand Malin’s character at all.

The book is set in Norway which felt like a breath of fresh air because generally the only settings for YA books sold in England are either set in England or America. I’ve read the odd book set in Australia but other than that nowhere else really.

Although the book didn’t have much of a solid plot I still ended up really enjoying it. It’s quite emotional and can be quite frustrating when the mean girls are clearly plotting against Malin but she doesn’t know enough about social cues to see this. Similarly her interactions with Hanna were interesting and I wish their friendship had been as solid as the blurb had made it out to be.

Overall I did really enjoy this book and was disappointed when I finished it. It had a similar vibe to ‘Silence is Goldfish’ because I feel like I really connected with the main character and they felt more like a friend than a character. I would definitely recommend this one!

April Book Haul

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I really like watching book hauls on YouTube and since I don’t have a decent camera or the confidence to sit down in front of one I decided write a blog post instead. This haul isn’t technically for the whole of April because I was super broke for the majority of April but I did head straight to Waterstones on pay day and spent way too much money on books so that I could write a haul post. Here’s hoping I actually read these books instead of hoarding them for months and never opening them.

I Let Him Go by Denise Fergus

I Let Him Go

This book caught my eye a couple of months ago because I spotted a hardback copy in ASDA. I nearly bought it there and then but decided not to because of the price. I finally got it on pay day and started reading it that same night.

‘I Let Him Go’ is written by James Bulger’s Mother and is honestly heartbreaking. For those who don’t know who James Bulger is, he was a two year-old child who was led away from his Mother by two children who tortured and killed him. The book is about his life before his murder, what it was like afterwards and honestly it’s a difficult read. I started reading it as I was babysitting two children for a friend and I just… It’s really difficult, honestly. I’m not gonna go on about it because it doesn’t feel entirely appropriate but yeah, I’m most of the way through it and although it is difficult it’s definitely a book I recommend.

Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman

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After reading ‘Lying about Last Summer’ and ‘See How They Lie’ by Sue Wallman I’ve decided that I’m officially a fan of her work. So when I found this book in the store I decided to give it a read.

The blurb says that this book is about Leah who goes to stay with her cousins Ivy and Poppy, and their family friend Jakob once a year and she looks forward to going back. However this year they meet new girl Tatum and discover a body of a teenage girl was discovered in the garden, a secret kept for 60 years.

I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to reading it because I trust that Sue will have thought of an amazing reveal and probably a plot twist but the thought of family friend Jakob did make me feel a bit apprehensive. I’m a bit worried it’s going to be a romance thing and Leah and Jakob are going to get together. I know I sound like a sad old lady when I go on about the romance thing but like… I just wanna read a book about girls kicking ass without having to read about them boasting about their relatively average boyfriends. Romance in YA novels is just everywhere I look and honestly I’m a bit sick of it.

But like I said, I trust Sue Wallman so even if there is some dreaded romance I’m sure it won’t put me off too much!

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

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I actually bought this book towards the start of April from ASDA because ASDA do generally stock cheap paperbacks and it caught my eye. After reading the blurb I decided to give it a go. I started reading it a few weeks ago and it drew me in but unfortunately I haven’t picked it back up since then.

To summarise the blurb, ‘The Girlfriend’ is about Laura who has a son named Daniel who meets a girl named Cherry and Laura suspects she’s not all she seems. Basically.

I am enjoying it but the characters are so bloody posh that it’s a little off-putting. To be fair I’m pretty sure the fact they’re so rich is important to the plot but it’s still a bit annoying. Also Laura seems a bit obsessed with Daniel but like, I think that’s probably part of the plot too. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading it!

Trouble Makers by Catherine Barter

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I feel like I did get to a point where I was snatching up books because Waterstones have a ‘Buy One Get One Half Price’ offer and I figured if I was getting one I might as well get two. To be honest I can’t really seem to tell much about what the book is about from the blurb but it sounded interesting so I went for it. I read a few pages and it didn’t put me off so I decided to buy it. It’s got a sticker on it saying it won a ‘Children’s Book Prize 2018’ for ‘Older Fiction Shortlist’ so must be good! I’ll check it out.

The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen

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I feel like I’ve heard of this book but I can’t think where from… (Edit: I’ve just figured out why. I already owned a copy and it’s sat on my shelf. Story of my life.) Either way the cover caught my eye so I decided to give the blurb a read. This is another one where I’m not really 100% sure what it’s about but I’m going to read it and find out! I think I read a few pages from this one too and it’s been described as a ‘beautiful, funny and honest coming-of-age story that never pretends life is perfect’. I’m just hoping it doesn’t get tarnished with some boring, hetero romance to be honest. But I’ll definitely give it a go!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

I’ve just Googled this and seen they’re turning it into a movie! I haven’t even read the book yet and I’m excited.

This is the one I’m most looking forward to reading. It’s about a girl named Starr who is drawn to activism after watching her unarmed friend get shot down by a police officer. I’m really looking forward to reading it, it has a ‘Winner’ sticker on it for the ‘Children’s Book Prize 2018’ so I bet it’s good. I’ll definitely be posting a review of it once I’m finished.

So there we go, that’s my book haul for April! I might upload reviews of some of these books, we’ll wait and see! If I buy as many or more books in May (and it’s possible) I’ll do another book haul!

Review: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed

I actually picked up the sequel to this book ‘Perfect ‘in ASDA because it caught my eye. The moment I realised it was a sequel I put it back down and found ‘Flawed’ on a different shelf. I read the blurb and it sounded fairly interesting. Read the first page and it didn’t put me off. So I bought it. It was top of my ‘to be read’ list and for some reason I was really reluctant to start reading it? I was really worried I wouldn’t like it and that it’d be dull even though the idea sounded really good.

The story is about Celestine North who lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter, she’s well-liked by her friends and teachers, and she’s dating perfect Art Crevan – son of Judge Crevan. She stays out of trouble. Until an impulsive decision where she breaks a rule and now faces life-changing consequences. She could be imprisoned, she could be branded, she could be found flawed. Will Celestine back down or could she change everything?

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As I said, I was reluctant to start it… But once I started I really got into it! The book doesn’t waste any time and we’re pulled straight into the action and we quickly learn more about the world Celestine lives in, where you can’t do anything wrong in case you’re branded as ‘flawed’.  To be honest Celestine was a bit annoying to begin with but I grew to like her. I couldn’t stand her boyfriend Art though right from the beginning.

This paragraph contains slight spoilers so beware! One thing that slightly annoys me is that Celestine is so desperate not to be branded flawed yet she still did what she did? She was too afraid to talk to her friend because her Mother had been branded flawed yet ten minutes later she’s doing something that gets her branded flawed herself? And her sister didn’t say anything because she was too afraid yet she’d been dead cheeky to Judge Crevan just the night before? I understand it had to happen to get the story moving but it just seemed really out of character?

Other than that though, I really did enjoy it. It was so much better than I expected it to be and I got sucked into Celestine’s world. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I wasn’t even sad to find out there was a sequel. In my previous review of ‘Songs about a Girl’ I criticised it for setting up a sequel instead of being a standalone book. Now I’m a bit of a hypocrite because ‘Flawed’ did the exact same thing except I didn’t mind at all.

Overall, I really do recommend this book because I thought it was brilliant. Go and give it a read!

Review: Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell

I found out about this book through a Booktuber I’ve been watching for a while. She praised the book highly and it sounded interesting so I bought myself a cheap copy from Amazon.

The story is about Charlie Bloom who’s an ordinary girl who never wanted to be ‘with the band’. She’s happiest out of sight, unnoticed. But then she’s asked to take backstage photographs for popular band ‘Fire & Lights’ and she can’t pass up the chance. Soon Charlie finds herself caught up in drama between the group’s front man Gabriel West and his band mate Olly Samson. And soon Charlie discovers a hidden meaning behind their lyrics that could change her life…

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It starts off well. Charlie’s an okay character to read about and the story’s relatively interesting. I’ll admit it had me hooked. Slight spoiler alert but Charlie discovers that the lyrics in their songs are lyrics her Mother wrote down in a notebook years ago and she tries to find out how this can be when everyone knows that Gabriel writes his own songs. I wanted to find out too and it was enough to keep me hooked throughout the book.

Although it didn’t annoy me too much while I was reading it, upon reflection the love triangle was really annoying. Olly went to Charlie’s school so he knew her and invited her to take photos because he knew how good of a photographer she was. Upon meeting the band Gabriel decides he has a crush on her and so does Olly, and so the love triangle begins.

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As I said, I wasn’t particularly annoyed whilst reading it but upon reflection it’s just a bit stupid. Gabriel had known the girl for all of five minutes before having a crush on her. And it seems stupid that Olly waited until after school when he was in a famous band to go back and decide he had a crush on a random girl from the year below him who he’d only spoken to once. He might’ve liked her photographs but that’s not enough of a reason to have a crush on someone. Tim Burton makes some good films but I don’t have a crush on him. Also I understand there was some unresolved beef between Gabriel and Olly before Charlie showed up but really? They had to argue and fight every twenty seconds over some girl neither of them barely knew?

I’m just about learning to tolerate romance in books but the one thing I can’t stand is a stupid, pointless love triangle.

To be honest, I still think I really could’ve enjoyed this if it had been a standalone novel; I was a bit annoyed to get to the end and find it had been deliberately left unresolved to set up a sequel. We find out the truth about the song’s lyrics, the only reason we need a sequel is to keep reading about some stupid love triangle which was not what I had signed up for. Sure it was interesting but I don’t want to read a whole other book about Olly and Gabriel’s tantrums. No thank you.

Overall I don’t know what to think about this book, I enjoyed it while I was reading it but it’s not a book I’m likely to return to or recommend to a friend. And I won’t be buying the sequel.

Review: Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

Silence is Goldfish

I can’t really remember what drew me to buy this book. I do remember I was shopping for a birthday present for my best friend and ended up buying myself this book… I think the title caught my eye, the blurb sounded interesting and after having a quick read of the first page I thought I’d be able to get into it quite easily. Turns out I was right.

‘Silence is Goldfish’ is told from the point of view of Tess who has just found out some pretty shocking news. She didn’t mean to become mute, it just kind of happened. But discovering your Dad isn’t your real father is a pretty big deal. Tess decides to find out the truth of her identity but she uncovers a secret that could ruin multiple lives… But how can she ask for help when she’s forgotten how to use her voice?

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My friend read the blurb of the book and said “Really, she stops talking just because she found out her Dad wasn’t her real Dad? Really?” All I will say is that it’s much more than that and I really feel awful for Tess, I can see why she didn’t want to talk. The blurb doesn’t do the book justice; you need to give it a go to understand what I mean.

I loved Tess so much. One of the reviews on the front of the book says ‘like a book and best friend all in one’ and that’s what it felt like. It felt like I really knew Tess, like she was my friend and a real person. I felt everything she felt and she’d fill my thoughts when I wasn’t reading. I’ve never had that with any other book before. I was really sad to finish it; it felt like I’d lost a friend.

The one person I can’t stand and will never be able to stand is Jack, Tess’ ‘Dad’. I feel like there was a kind of redemption ark at the end but I really can’t stand him and some of the decisions he made. I can forgive what made Tess hate him but there were so many little things he did that made me hate him so much and if I were Tess then I don’t think I’d have been able to forgive him.

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Do you know who was great though? Mr Goldfish. Because Tess can’t speak out loud she starts having conversations with a goldfish torch that she’s named Mr Goldfish who gives her general life advice and is there for her. This is really sad but I actually checked on Amazon and eBay to see if they had a torch like Mr Goldfish. They didn’t have any and I was absolutely gutted! I’m going to keep an eye out for one.

I really can’t put into words how much I loved this book and how much I recommend it. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while and I can’t wait to read more of Annabel Pitcher’s work. If you find a copy of it then buy it, you honestly won’t regret it!