Tag Archives: Best of 2016

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Often a blurb hooks me in and the story is exactly what the blurb promises.  Very rarely though the story can be so much more than what the blurb promises.  The Special Ones by Em Bailey is one of these rare books.  It took me by surprise and was so much more than what I expected.

Special OnesHe keeps us here because we’re Special.

Esther is one of the Special Ones – four people who live under his protection in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, but why would they want to? Here, they are safe from toxic modern life, safe from a meaningless existence, safe in their endless work. He watches them every moment of every day, ready to punish them if they forget who they are – all while broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside.

Esther knows he will renew her if she stops being Special, and that renewal almost certainly means death. Yet she also knows she’s a fake. She has no ancient wisdom, no genuine advice to offer her followers. But like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance–if she wants to survive long enough to escape.

The Special Ones completely blew me away!  This is one incredibly exciting, twisty, nail-biting read.  It’s one of those books that, just when you think you know where the story is going, it takes a sharp turn and you have to take a moment for it to sink in.  You don’t want to put the book down because you have to know what happens next, but there are times that you just have to close it for a moment to breath.  There are so many twists that I had no idea how the book was going to end!

I don’t want to say too much about the story for fear of spoiling the story, but here goes.  It’s told from Esther’s point of view.  Esther, Harry, Felicity and Lucille are The Special Ones.  They have been ‘chosen’ by him to live in a cottage on a farm, living a simple life, but regularly communicating with their followers on the outside via the Internet.  They must live the life that he has laid out for them, and if they act in the wrong way they will be punished or even ‘renewed.’  Esther has lived like this for two years, but the life she has come to know changes dramatically when Lucille is renewed.

Em Bailey’s writing is very slick.  She keeps the tension throughout the story, building it towards the nerve-wracking finale.  Em makes you feel for the characters and the scary situation that they are in.  The story is told in the first person from Esther’s point of view so we know everything that she’s thinking and feeling.

The Special Ones is an addictive YA thriller and one of my favourite books of 2016.

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Filed under Australian YA, books, young adult, young adult fiction

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

There are some books that leave you feeling drained.  Those books that grab your heart and throw it all about and mess with your mind.  You get so emotionally invested in the characters’ lives that you feel their heartache, their turmoil and get completely blown away by the actions of the other characters.  Justine Larbalestier’s new YA book, My Sister Rosa is one of these books.  I can’t stop thinking about this incredible book.

MySisterRosa_RCcvr.indd‘I promise,’ said Rosa. ‘I won’t kill and I won’t make anyone else kill.’

I can’t see the loophole. Since the guinea pig there’s been nothing. Months now without Rosa killing as much as a mosquito.

As far as I know.

Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.

Che’s little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che’s convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but he’s certain it’s just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world – and the world from Rosa?

This is one word for this book – WOW!  It is the most tense YA book I’ve ever read with possibly the creepiest 10 year old girl you’ll ever find in a book.  I didn’t want to put this book down because I was afraid that something huge would happen when I wasn’t looking.

There are times when I’ve finished a book that I wish I could wipe my memory of reading it, just so I could read it again and feel exactly what I felt that first time.  My Sister Rosa made me feel exactly like this.  It is such a full-on read, with so many twists, and I don’t think it would feel the same reading it a second time.  The suspense I felt and the way that my heart broke for Che is something that I rarely find in a book.  It just shows what an amazing job Justine has done of making her characters real and relatable.

The story is told from Che’s point of view.  He has known what his sister is like for years and he has tried to keep her in check.  She seems cute and sweet on the outside but inside she’s nasty and poisonous.  She works out how she should behave from watching and listening to other people.  She promises Che that she will be good but she knows how to stretch the boundaries.  While Che is keeping all eyes on his sister, he is also trying to adjust to life in another new city, working on his boxing, making new friends and trying to get a girlfriend.  All of these things collide to make one hell of a book!

Reading this book is like watching a train wreck.  You know that something really horrible is going to happen but you can’t look away.  You’re glued to the pages and flicking them so fast because you need to know what is going to happen.

Rosa is both a horrifying yet fascinating character.  You know she is psychopathic but you want to know more about her and the things that she does.  As a parent she certainly makes you thankful that your own children aren’t like her, and it makes you wonder what life would be like if she was your child.  I kept thinking that the way her parents reacted to her actions were unbelievable, but it also makes you think how you would react too.

I’ve read so many great books so far this year but My Sister Rosa is by far my favourite.  Put My Sister Rosa on the top of your to-be-read pile.  You won’t regret it.

 

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Filed under books, family, young adult, young adult fiction