This book sounds amazing and I’m a huge fan of David Levithan, so I will get this book the minute it’s released! Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer is released in NZ by Penguin Books in July.
Ever since I’d read that Melissa Keil would be the first author to be published as part of The Ampersand Project I was curious to read it. The goal of the project is to help debut YA authors get published. Life in Outer Space sounded wonderful and exactly my sort of book. I was lucky enough to get to read it back in December and I fell in love with it from the first line. I loved it so much that I’ve read it twice, and I loved it even more the second time around.
Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, worry about girls he won’t. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan of her own – and he seems to be a part of it! Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies. But perhaps he’s been watching the wrong ones.
I love absolutely everything about Life in Outer Space! It’s full of cool characters that you want to be friends with, great dialogue, pop culture references galore, and hilarious moments that will have you laughing out loud. Reading Life In Outer Space made me feel like I was at a comic book convention or a book conference, because I felt totally surrounded by people who were just like me.
Melissa’s characters feel totally real and you can imagine seeing them walking down the street or waiting outside the cinema to catch a movie. Sam’s voice is so authentic that I’m sure Melissa has a teenage boy trapped inside her. Sam is an incredibly likeable character, from his extensive knowledge of movies and his ability to relate them to real life, to his loyalty to his friends. He’s got a great sense of humour, but he’s also quite awkward. He says that ‘everything useful I do know about real life I know from movies,’ and I love the way that he proves this frequently throughout the book. All of the other characters stand out too, especially Sam’s friends. Adrian is the clown of the group, Mike is Sam’s gay best friend, Allison is their tom-boy female friend, and then there is Camilla. Camilla is the cool new girl who arrives at Sam’s school at the start of the story and quickly becomes part of his group of friends. She has an unusual name, a British accent, a tattoo, she’s from New York, she has a great smile, and she’s objectively attractive, all of which means she scores highly in Sam’s ‘mental social scorecard.’ Not only this, but she also knows a lot about movies and she wants to be friends with Sam. I found myself falling for Camilla and I just wanted Sam to hurry up and kiss her.
Melissa’s writing is witty, heartfelt and incredibly funny. I clicked with Sam straight away and I loved his point of view. I loved Melissa’s description of characters through Sam’s eyes, like this one of Sam’s dad,
“My father likes Harvey Norman, the Discovery Channel, and for some reason, lizards. He last smiled in 2008, which is one of the few things we have in common…My dad also looks like me – i.e. sort of like a storm-trooper. And not the cool Star Wars kind.”
The dialogue is witty and I had to put the book down a couple of times because I was laughing so hard at some of the conversations between Sam and his friends.
I loved all of the pop culture references in Life in Outer Space. I’m a huge movie geek so I loved all of the references to Sam and Camilla’s favourite movies and their debates about the merit of different movies. Everything from Superman and Star Wars to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead gets a mention. Every time they would mention a movie I hadn’t seen I wanted to write it down so I could add it to my list of to-be-watched movies.
Life in Outer Space will make you think, feel, laugh and leave you wishing that Melissa’s characters were real.
5 out of 5
Sometimes you discover a book that you know you are going to love without the book even being published yet. You hear or read about the idea of the story and it sounds so exciting, clever, and original that you want to read it right now. David Levithan’s new book, Every Day, was one of those books for me. It was even more amazing than I had imagined.
Every day a different body. Every day a different life.Every day in love with the same girl.
Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
And then A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
Can you love someone who is destined to change each day?
Every Day is one of the most extraordinary, thought-provoking, and emotional stories I’ve ever read. Even now, 3 days after reading the final sentence, I’m struggling to put into words how much this book has affected me. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever read, because usually the narrator stays in one body throughout the story and they interact with the same characters. In Every Day, A is in a different body each day, so it has to get used to being a different person (on the outside) and acting like that person. One of the most interesting things about this book is the way that you look at the character of A. Even though A doesn’t know if it is male or female, I imagined A as a male right from the start. However, I think each reader will picture A differently.
Sometimes it can take you a while to put yourself in the main character’s shoes, but I immediately empathized with A and what it was going through. You try to understand what it would be like to wake up each day as a different person, but you can’t really grasp how difficult it would be. A has been this way from birth, so it has never known anything different. I thought it would be incredibly difficult for a child to understand what was happening to them, but for A it was just life. A seems to have figured out what to do each time it wakes up in another body and makes its way through the day. Every time a new day would start, I’d be wondering, like A, who it would be waking up as. Would A be a black girl, a gay guy, have a gorgeous body or be incredibly overweight? Then when A has found out who it is, how will A use that body and what will A do today. I could totally understand why A wanted to spend every day with Rhiannon. I’ve never had a crush on a book character before, but I would certainly want to spend every day with her. The thing I love the most about A is the way that it respects the bodies that it is in. A tries incredibly hard not to interfere with the lives of those people, and tries to fix mistakes that it has made while in those bodies.
Ultimately, Every Day is a love story. A and Rhiannon’s romance is doomed to fail, because even though Rhiannon may love A, she’s not always going to love the person he is on the outside. I loved the interactions between A (in its different bodies) and Rhiannon and you are hoping with all your heart that they can be together. David Levithan’s ending to the story is absolutely perfect, and has to be my favourite ever ending of a book.
I was sad to finish the book, because I loved David’s beautiful writing and I didn’t want to let A and Rhiannon go. Every Day is one of those books I want to carry around everywhere with me and tell everyone I know to read it. Thank you David Levithan for giving me this story!
5 out of 5 stars
Every Day by David Levithan is one of my absolute favourite books of 2012. If I could give a copy to every person I saw I would do, but sadly I can’t afford to do so. Instead I’m giving two lucky people the chance to win a copy.
To get in the draw all you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below. If you’re super keen to get a copy you can even enter every day if you like. Competition closes Monday 29 October (NZ and Australia only).
This competition has now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered.
Fleur Beale has written some great novels, both for children and young adults. My favourite books of hers are the award-winning Juno of Taris series. Fleur’s latest book, The Boy in the Olive Grove, is a about a girl living in present day New Zealand, whose past lives resurface and turn her life upside down.
On the night of her seventeenth birthday Bess Grey sees images of a witch-burning unfold in front of her as if in a movie. She also sees images from a different time — lovers, and the girl, she’s sure is — was – herself. When she meets Nick she recognises him as the boy. There’s an immediate connection. However when her father nearly dies from a heart attack there’s no time to brood as Bess tries to save her father’s business. She falls in love with Nick but her difficult mother interferes, forcing Bess to make the hardest decision of her life. She must decide whether to lose her mother or the boy she loves.
The Boy in the Olive Grove is a really unique story about a girl who is navigating the minefield of her family life, while trying to deal with the lives she has lived in the past. In the present Bess has a horrible mother who doesn’t seem to care for her at all, a protective brother who has just up and left her, a father who is ill, and a step-mother who she feels awkward around. When she has a visions of herself burning a witch at the stake and of a mysterious boy who she has strong feelings for, she gets drunk and nearly kills herself on the road. This only seems to be the beginning of her troubles, as she gets expelled from her boarding school and sent home to live with her mother. Her dad falls ill and Bess gets left to look after his struggling furniture business. She continues to have the visions and her step-mother sends her to a psychiatrist who helps her to understand these and come to terms with what they mean.
I found the story quite unusual (it’s quite different in a way from Fleur Beale’s previous books), but the more I read, the more intrigued I became and wanted to find out how it would end. Fleur Beale always gets inside her characters heads so we know everything that they’re thinking and feeling. Bess has so much to deal with, from her visions, to taking over her father’s business, and dealing with her horrible mother, but she deals with everything extremely well. I know I wouldn’t have been able to handle all that at her age! I love the relationship that Bess has with the men that work for her dad. After some initial skepticism they warm to her and she helps to boost their confidence. I love the way they call her ‘boss.’
The only thing I didn’t really like about the story was the scheming, vindictive bitch that was Bess’ mum. I don’t think I’ve met a character that I’ve hated quite so much as her, and she didn’t seem to have any redeeming characteristics. I’d really like to know if there are mothers out there that are really like her, because I couldn’t quite imagine a mother that could be as cruel and uncaring as she was.
If you like contemporary Young Adult fiction that stands out from the crowd, The Boy in the Olive Grove, get a copy now. If you’re a fan of Fleur Beale then this is one not to be missed.
4 out of 5 stars
You can read an extract of The Boy in the Olive Grove on the Random House New Zealand website.
Cat Patrick is the author of two of my favourite books, Forgotten and Revived (which you can win here on my blog). Cat’s stories are really original and I always wonder where she gets her ideas. I asked her if she could answer some of my burning questions about her books and her writing so here are her wonderful answers.
I really believe that inspiration is everywhere. In the case of Forgotten, it was in my kitchen when I was a new, sleep-deprived mom, and I forgot what I was doing in the middle of an activity. I never remembered, but my brain wandered and landed on the book idea.
With Revived, inspiration came in the form of a news story about a drug that could potentially jolt stroke patients back to normal, read at a time when a family friend’s death from cancer was also on my mind.
I kept memory timeline, and every time I’d sit down to write, I’d also read back a few chapters to make sure I was *forgetting* the right information.
I think I’d choose Daisy’s life. So much of us is our past—bad or good, it helps shape us. It would be incredibly difficult not to feel lost in London’s life.
Luke and Matt are guys I wish I’d known in high school. Sometimes when I read back, I get glimmers of recognition, but ultimately they’re fictional.
It happens as I write. I’m not an outliner. I don’t start books in any sort of organized fashion. Basically, I get the idea, obsess about the main characters’ names, then start typing. The characters take me where they want to go. In the case of Matt, I’m happy that he turned out to be such a good guy.
Oh goodness, that’s a long list. If I have to pick one, I’d say London. I spent two days there once. I fell in love and desperately want to go back.
My Australian publisher, Hardie Grant Egmont, has indeed done an amazing job with my covers. Not only are they lovely on their own, but they work well together. For Forgotten, I really love the covers from Australia, UK, Sweden and France. For Revived, the US, UK and Australia covers are amazing.
I tend to listen to alternative rock—it lets my mind wander to the right place to get inspired. I’ve gotten a lot of ideas while either walking or driving while listening to music. Some of my favorite bands are Arcade Fire, Airborne Toxic Event, Radiohead, Muse, Florence & The Machine, Coldplay and Snow Patrol. And like seemingly everyone in the world, I’ve got Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” on infinite loop in my brain right now.
As for books, honestly every great read inspires me to be a better writer.
Sure! The Originals is about three identical clones living as one person in order to hide from their past. They split each day, with one going to school in the morning, one attending class and cheer practice in the afternoon and one handling night classes, an afterschool job and other evening commitments. Like Forgotten and Revived, the story offers a mixture of romance and mystery, but it is also an exploration of what it means to be an individual as part of a very unique family dynamic.
Thank you again for the opportunity!
One of the things that excites me the most as a reader is finding new authors, especially ones that blow you away with their originality. Cat Patrick is an exciting new author I discovered last year when I read her debut YA book, Forgotten (read my review here). Forgotten is one of those books that sticks in your mind long after you’ve read it because it’s totally original and stands out. Cat’s latest book, Revived, is just as amazing as Forgotten and hooked me in from the blurb.
She’s a test subject for a government super-drug called Revive, which brings people back from the dead.
Each time she is revived, Daisy has to move cities and change her identity to avoid suspicion. Daisy has always got a thrill out of cheating death, but her latest move has come with unexpected complications: a new best friend, and a very cute crush.
As Daisy’s attachment to her new home grows, she discovers secrets that could tear her world apart. And the more she learns, the more she feels like a pawn in a sinister game.
When the stakes are life and death, someone’s going to get hurt.
I had high hopes for Revived after loving Forgotten and it totally lived up to them, and more. It’s difficult to try and put Cat’s books into a category or genre because they’re mostly a real-life story, but with a touch of science fiction thrown in. Daisy first died in a bus crash when she was four, after which she got taken into the Revived program and now lives with two agents who pretend to be her parents. Her and the other ‘bus kids’ have to undergo regular testing to make sure they are healthy and to ensure the drug is doing its job.
I thought that the background and structure of the organisation behind Revive that Cat created was really clever. At the top there’s God who makes all the decisions and is in charge, then there are the agents who work for God called Disciples, and at the bottom are the Converts, those ‘bus kids’ who are part of the program and are given Revive to bring them back to life. God thinks that he can do whatever he want and that nobody will stop him, which raises some interesting ethical questions in the story.
Another thing that I really liked in Revived, and also in Forgotten, is that Cat creates relatable male characters that aren’t douche-bags. You won’t find any love triangles with moody, mysterious guys in Cat’s books. The love interest in Revived is Matt, a normal, average guy who is friendly and loyal. The relationship between Daisy and Matt progresses naturally throughout the story and they have their share of ups and downs. There isn’t smoldering passion because there isn’t the need for it in the story and it would seem wrong between Cat’s characters. Any teenagers who want to know what love feels like should read Cat’s books.
There’s something in Revived for everyone – mystery, suspense, romance and a touch of science fiction. Get your hands on Revived and discover the amazing writing of Cat Patrick.
5 out of 5 stars
Claudia Gray is coming to Auckland on 31 March and in the lead up to her visit, she’s doing a New Zealand blog tour. I was curious about romance in Young Adult fiction and in her books in particular so I caught up with Claudia and asked her some questions.
Romance is a major part of each of your books. How do you create realistic relationships between your characters?
I think the trick to writing a three-dimensional romance between two characters is to make sure each character is three-dimensional in his or her own right. Often you read a book or see a movie where the hero is portrayed in a lot of detail — but the girl is just “the girl,” and she’s always wearing makeup and looking perfect and possessing zero personality of her own. You also see books and movies where the woman is the center of the piece and the guy is just this toneless, unthreatening slice of beefcake. You never really buy those romances, do you? But when you feel like both people in the romance are real — that they have motivations of their own, flaws of their own, humor and personality that set them apart — then it is also going to feel real when those two people “click.” My rule of thumb is that I would have to want to read a book about either member of the couple that was just about that one person, with no romance. They need to be well-developed enough for that.
Guys often get put off my romance in books. Why should guys read your books?
First of all, I think it’s just not true that guys hate romance. Guys are told they SHOULD hate romance — and I think sometimes they pretend to more than they really do, because of this weird societal expectation that they’re not supposed to care. (For much the same reason, many girls play down their enjoyment of sports, etc. It’s all very silly.) But guys fall as deeply in love as girls do.
Also, if you are a teenage guy who is into teenage girls, a helpful hint: Spend some time exploring what teenage girls are interested in. This gives you shared interests and something to talk about. You will meet more girls, and these girls will know you’re a little different — more independent, more open, and usually way more attractive to them than the average guy. There are always a handful of guys at my signings — and they are invariably accompanied by about three to six girls each. These are good odds, people. These are the kind of odds you want.
Finally, while there’s a lot of romance in my books, they aren’t purely romance novels. Just as even thrillers and crime novels often have romances folded in, my books have a lot of adventure and action amid all the kissing.
As a teenager would you rather have fallen in love with a vampire or a werewolf?
As a teenager? Probably a werewolf, because you’d only have to deal with the scary hairy stuff one night a month. (At least, in traditional folklore.) It would have made a conflict with the prom far less likely.
When you were a teenager was there a character like Lucas that you fell in love with?
When I was a teenager, sadly, I was Lucas-free. I went to a very small school — 200 people, kindergarten through 12th grade. All of us had known each other since we were babies, which made dating a challenge; the guys all felt more like my brothers than like people I’d want to go out with. No hot, brooding loners with mysterious pasts ever transferred schools into my class, and more’s the pity.
Why do you think paranormal romance appeals so much to teens?
I think paranormal romance appeals to teens because the paranormal allows us to acknowledge the element of fear. Honestly, right now, I believe we are in this cultural place where no one gets to admit vulnerability. Nobody gets to say that they’re afraid, or they’re intimidated, without people treating it as some kind of problem to be overcome. We can’t admit that some experiences are just flat-out terrifying and being afraid of them is a completely natural reaction — and I think falling in love is definitely in this category. Falling in love is SCARY. Having sex for the first time = scary. Being that vulnerable and that open to someone = terror! We all know it’s true, even if right now we have to pretend to be jaded, sophisticated, and so totally over it all.
So, enter the vampires. And the werewolves. And all the other scary things that have become romantic in the recent past. We’ve hung monster masks on our own fears, so that we can admit them.
Make sure you stop by these other great NZ blogs to find out more about Claudia Gray and her books:
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