Susan’s Bad Poetry competition

Ireland: May 26. UK: July 14.

Ireland: May 26.
UK: July 14.

In memory of Annabel.

Last night I dreamt about Sylvia Plath again.
I wanted to float away from the earth,
not be tethered to this mortal coil.
But now I’ve seen you up close, Grim Reaper
Now I see your ugliness, truly revealed.
I don’t want that for myself any more.
Not after seeing her there, the empty shell.
She could have been anything.
A pilot. A teacher. A doctor. A zoo-keeper.
A mother. A CEO. An archaeologist.
A painter. An actress. An accountant.
Instead she chose to be thin.
Instead she chose death.
Now I choose life.
I choose life.
I choose life.

So in my new book, Annabel, our narrator, is a snarky ghost who spent some time in hospital, and has rather irritatingly served to be an ‘inspiration’ or catalyst for the recovery of her fellow patients. Annabel is Not Impressed (she’s very rarely impressed with anything, to be fair). As someone who gets to hover over – but not communicate with – the people she knew in life, Annabel gets to witness therapy sessions but also terrible poetry-writing and collage-making.

Susan is someone Annabel dismisses as a ‘tourist’ (to mental-health trauma) – let’s keep in mind Annabel is not the kindest or most empathetic human/ghost, and poor Susan does engage in a good bit of self-injury – but let us be fair, writing earnest poetry in memory of someone who was not actually a friend of yours in any shape or form is a bit much, especially if it’s dreadful.

I love Susan’s Bad Poetry and I want there to be more of it. So, for the grand prize of a signed copy of Nothing Tastes As Good plus a selection of other recent YA titles, write and share a Bad Susan-esque Poem in the comments of this post.

Deadline: 11.59pm Friday (GMT), 27th May 2016. Multiple entries fine. Entries welcome from all over the world. Judging by yours truly and Courtney from the Internet, whose Susan-insights are kinda epic. If not posting from an existing account, please leave email address with your entry so we can get in touch!

The A-Z of books

Borrowing this from Aoife

Author You’ve Read the Most Books From
Ann M Martin.

Best Sequel Ever
Prized, by Caragh M O’Brien – sequel to Birthmarked. It’s the best second-in-a-dystopian-trilogy I’ve ever read.

Currently Reading
The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan.

Drink of Choice While Reading

E-Reader or Physical Book
Both, both, both!

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School
Draco Malfoy. (I’m not saying it would have been a healthy choice…)

Glad You Gave this Book a Chance
Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic – made me realise how brilliant and funny and sharp her books really are.

Hidden Gem Book
Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue.

Important Moment in Your Reading Life
My first Marian Keyes book.

Just Finished
Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi (proof – it’s out in July).

Kind of Books You Won’t Read
High fantasy is just not my thing.

Longest Book You’ve Read
Aidan Chambers’s This Is All, I think.

Major Book Hangover
I do not know if I experience these.

Number of Bookcases You Own

One Book You’ve Read Multiple Times
One? ONE?! Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy.

Preferred Place to Read
In bed.

Quote that Inspires You/Gives You all the Feels from a Book You’ve Read
“Do I dare disturb the universe?” from TS Eliot’s The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock.

Reading Regret
Not learning to abandon blah books earlier in life.

Series You Started and Need to Finish
Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy. I loved the first one so much, and own the second, so… yes. Must get on that.

Three of Your All-Time Favorite Books
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Unapologetic Fangirl For
Most things. The Babysitters Club. Harry Potter. Malory Towers. The Wells & Wong mystery series. Marian Keyes.

Very Excited for this Release more than All Others
What’s A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne, the third in her Spinster Club series.

Worst Bookish Habit
Buying ALL the books and then not reading them.

X Marks the Sport: Start on the Top Left of Your Shelf and Pick the 27th Book
Girl Up by Laura Bates

Your Latest Purchase
In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass – next title being discussed in YA bookclub.

Zzzzz-Snatcher Book (Last Book that Kept You up Way too late)
I am a boring human, I need my sleep!

Book Reviews: YA in verse


I have a great fondness for novels and memoirs in verse, which is not often indulged by the UK YA market (Sarah Crossan aside) but certainly catered to by the US one. And as soon as I read one I remember how much I love them and want to read more. So here are three I’ve read very recently:

  • Christine Heppermann’s Ask Me How I Got Here, which I had my eye on because I adored, adored her Poisoned Apples collection a couple of years back. This is the story of Addie, who has an abortion as a teenager and it changes her life – not that she regrets it, but that it shifts her view of the world and her own sense of identity. Her boyfriend seems much further away, while an old running friend offers the kind of understanding – and experience with sadness – that she needs. I particularly loved seeing Addie in her all-girls’ Catholic school – an environment I am very, very familiar with.
  • Samantha Schutz’s You Are Not Here is her follow-up to her memoir in verse, I Don’t Want To Be Crazy, and explores the grief of a seventeen-year-old who loses a boyfriend who wasn’t quite a boyfriend. It’s a thought-provoking deconstruction of teen relationships, and very readable.
  • Eireann Corrigan’s You Remind Me Of You is a memoir in verse about eating disorders and recovery from a suicide attempt, which was published more than a decade ago and has been on my to-read list for almost as long. The poetry is longer and a bit more intense than what we often see in these kind of books, but it’s still accessible and a way of softening – while also heightening – some of the intense topics covered here.

Next up in verse-land I will be delving into Lisa Schroeder’s work, and maybe revisiting Ellen Hopkins (I find her a bit hit-and-miss). Any other suggestions would be more than welcome…

Book Review: About A Girl


Sarah McCarry, aka The Rejectionist, writes what is ostensibly YA but feels a little too intensely mythic and magic-realist to appeal to many readers of that age group. While it starts off realistic – Tally has just graduated high school, lives with an unusual family in Brooklyn, and is agonising over her feelings for her best friend Shane (bonus points for a trans guy as part of the plot just because) – it moves into the realm of fantastical as Tally discovers where her possible-father may be living, and embarks on a quest to find him and learn more about her mother. There she meets another quirky cast of characters, including the beautiful Maddy, who seduces her, all siren-like…

The writing is gorgeous, if at times a bit too dense, and at times it’s not clear how much of this to take seriously and how much should be read as a giant metaphor for adolescence. Or life. Or something. I want to hand this book to teenagers who live and breath classics and mythology, is what I want to do. I wasn’t one of them, but I know there are readers for whom this is the perfect book. If you love Francesca Lia Block (I am fond of maybe half her stuff), this is one to look out for.

Tasty things

So this book is out shortly (end of this month in Ireland, mid-July in the UK) and I had a spare proof copy going, so asked the twitterverse to complete the phrase Nothing tastes as good as… to be in with a chance of winning. Here are some of my favourites…

A fine answer from Juno there, but she already has a proof so my favourite response was this…

Because YES, YES, YES.

Book Review: Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future


Glory O’Brien: seventeen, recent high school graduate, haunted by her mother’s suicide and her father’s inability to use a real oven so that everything tastes of radiation and death. Her best friend Ellie lives in a possibly-cultish commune across the road, and one day they drink the remains of a mummified bat mixed with beer and receive transmissions from the past and future every time they look at someone. For Glory, this means flashes of a world where new restrictive laws are passed against women, where a new civil war splits America apart, and where something terrible will happen in a tunnel years from now.

All this makes this novel sound like an action-packed sci-fi thriller, maybe a little too zany for its own good, but it is mostly a gorgeously-observed, thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl on the brink of her future, a girl who’s never been entirely sure if she even has one. As she pieces together her ‘history of the future’ and discovers her mother’s darkroom and photographic secrets, that uncertainty of almost-adulthood comes through beautifully, and while there’s weird stuff happening it still feels incredibly real.

I loved A S King’s Ask The Passengers and this one is even better – a novel about feminism that never lectures, a story about a girl dealing with grief without getting sentimental. Highly recommended to readers both teen and adult.