This week I’ve been mainly reading ARCs from Netgalley again. I requested a lot of them, again. This week has had some absolute gems:
A Change is Gonna Come
A Change is Gonna Come is the highly anticipated collection of short stories and poems from BAME authors. Some authors, I was already familiar with but many were new to me. All the pieces relate to being marginalised or oppressed in some way and show the need for change. I loved that there was an index of issues covered as a kind of trigger-warning for readers and also a resources section for anyone affected by the issues raised.
Everything in the collection is brilliant and has a different take on the subject of change. My favourite in the collection was Aisha Bushby’s Marionette Girl, a story about Amani, who has OCD, trying to negotiate a world with rituals, until one day something happens that forces her to do something brave. I also loved Hackney Moon by Tanya Burne, which offers a different narrative perspective and tells the story of Esther on thr precipice of an important decision. I loved seeing how Esther grew and changed and the ending melted my heart. We Who by Nikesh Shukla was one of the most heart-breaking in the collection, telling a story of friendship and racism that stuck in my mind long after I finished it. Every piece in this collection is wonderful in its own way.
I really can’t recommend A Change is Gonna Come highly enough: every reader needs a copy on their shelf.
Editing Emma by Chloe Seager
I’m definitely not a teenager any more. That ship has sailed, but Editing Emma made me remember so vividly what it was like that I felt the embarrassment of those years all over again. Editing Emma is the story of being a teen whose life is lived out on social media. Her “boyfriend” has ghosted her and gone public with another girl. Emma is distraught. In Emma’s world, relationships aren’t real unless they’re “Facebook official” and everything is about getting comments and likes. The lack of photos of her and Leon, and the abundance of him with his new girlfriend lead her to question her identity. So, it’s no real surprise that Emma turns to blogging as an outlet for her emotions. This might be a world away from my own teen years with our scribbled notes and over emotional paper diaries, but a lot is the same: Emma is obsessing over potential boyfriends, comparing herself to others and trying to be popular. Emma’s emotions are the same “going round and round in circles”. Her friends have their own squabbles and difficulties. Emma also has the usual teenage issues with her mother, whose own dating life gives us a comparison to Emma’s throughout the book. At points, the book makes some really sensible suggestions that I hope younger readers will take on board. My favourite of these was “DO NOT make life decisions that will actually affect your future based around someone you like. Even if you think you may ‘love’ them. It is not worth it.”
Chloe has written a book that encapsulates the difficulty of being a teenager perfectly, and one which makes me feel grateful I was a teen long before social media was a thing.
Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
Forest Dark tells the stories of two people who go to Israel, attempting to transform their lives in some way, shedding their past. It is also about Kafka and Israel. These different stories of metamophosis (presumably a theme tied back to Kafka) run alternately through the narrative. At times, it is very beautifully written. Nicole writes wonderful descriptions of place and some ofher anecdotes in her characters lives are very evocative: the story of selling grandad’s roses ostensibly for charity, but really to buy sweets, and then struggling with the guilt is one that really stood out for me. I can’t honestly say that I followed the threads of the various stories though. For me, the story was often lost amongst deep philosopical prose and historical facts and so I ended the novel not entirely sure what I’d been reading. I imagine someone with a better knowledge of Kafka and more nuanced interest in philosophy would enjoy it more.
Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Daughter of the Burning City is an amazing dark fantasy novel! It is the story of the travelling circus city of Gomorrah and Sorina, a 16 year old illusion worker in the city’s “freak show”. Sorina has no family of her own, except her adoptive father Villem who runs Gomorrah, so she has built her own family from her illusions. Non-traditional family structures in YA fantasy was the topic of my dissertaion and so this is an aspect I found particularly fascinating. Sorina talks a lot in the book about family and what it means to her and it is a big part of the story.
One day someone starts to murder Sorina’s illusions. She befriends Luca, an unusual character from outside the city and together they investigate the murders. But there is something far more sinister at the heart of Gomorrah that will change Sorina forever.
This novel is gripping from start to finish, and the big twist hits the reader like a tonne of bricks. I finished this a couple of days ago, but I am still not over that ending
Let me know what you think and if you plan to read any of these?