After various lists, back to the actual thoughts on books! Mostly YA, plus the latest Wimpy Kid.
Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7: The Third Wheel
The seventh Wimpy Kid book sees Greg as scheming and yet sort-of endearing as ever, this time in a series of events leading up to a school dance. Things don’t go quite as planned (when do they ever?) but as always, the humour of both the text and illustrations here keep you reading all the way through.
Ilsa J Bick – Drowning Instinct
I knew I would love this from very early on. It’s about two very damaged people – our narrator, a sixteen-year-old girl from a messed-up family, and her new chemistry teacher, who is haunted by his own demons – and what happens when they connect. It’s the kind of book that has the potential to be very cliched or hopelessly melodramatic, but in Bick’s hands it’s shaped into a very satisfying story that resists easy categorisation and finger-pointing. It is pretty darn dysfunctional, and one of the best YA books I’ve read this year.
Caragh M O’Brien – Promised (Birthmarked #3)
The final book in the Birthmarked trilogy sees Gaia, Leon and a number of inhabitants of Sylum set off towards the Enclave, looking to set up their own town of New Sylum. In order to do this, though, they need to strike a deal with the Enclave and its rulers. Things have changed since Gaia left, however, and a new ‘baby factory’ set-up and compulsory genetic testing for the anti-haemophilia gene mean that issues of female reproductivity are at stake alongside the quest to share water and other resources. This is like The Handmaid’s Tale for a YA audience, in some ways, although it’s not at all sugar-coated. The society is plausible, the stakes are high, and the characterisation is just gorgeous. Both Gaia and Leon are flawed in all kinds of ways, but they’re fascinating to read about. A really strong finish to a great trilogy.
Gareth Russell – The Immaculate Deception
This sequel to Popular is immensely, immensely entertaining. Focusing on the scheming, twisted plots of the in-crowd at Mount Olivet, it’s chock-full of delicious pop-culture, social, historical, and religious references (JMJ, you guys). At one point Meredith (the Queen Bee) and Mark (self-appointed knight in shining armour – except in situations where his own heterosexuality might come under question) are discussing ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, and it is a delightfully apt comparison to the tangles these teenagers find themselves in (or create). As with the first book, I adored Imogen an awful lot, and Peter also wins a lot of points for being the best bromantic hero ever. This is Gossip Girl for the Northern Irish set – crazy and glamorous and witty and compelling.