Books I Read As An Actual Teen

In slightly under a month, I will be 23 years old. Despite this, I still pretty much exclusively read young adult fiction. The tumultuousness of it all appeals to me, I guess. My obsession with YA, however, began when I was still an actual teenager. I felt like it was time to celebrate some of the books that made me into the obsessive reader I am today.

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In slightly under a month, I will be 23 years old. Despite this, I still pretty much exclusively read young adult fiction. The tumultuousness of it all appeals to me, I guess. My obsession with YA, however, began when I was still an actual teenager. I felt like it was time to celebrate some of the books that made me into the obsessive reader I am today.

The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot

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I have been celebrating my love of this book series with my Rereading the Princess Diaries segment. Mia is an anxious nerd who’s bad at maths. She’s also very tall. She has to deal with the awkwardness of her mum’s dating life. This pretty much described my experience as a teenager. I latched on to Mia, and to this day I haven’t let her go.

Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal-Snogging – Louise Rennison

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These books are about as ridiculous as they sound. The whole series made me laugh harder than any others ever have. Georgia Nicholson does just about every embarrassing thing you can think of. She shaves off her eyebrows (this was pre Delevinge days, you have to understand. Big eyebrows used to be something we worried about) and fights a continuous battle with her fringe while attempting to make out with pretty much any hot guy she can get her hands on. When I read through my teenage diaries, (a hilarious exercise. I recommend it) it’s 90% about boys. The crucial difference between Georgia and I however, is that she actually managed to date, a feat I did not accomplish in high school. (anxious nerd, remember?)

Forever – Judy Bloom

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Surely everybody read this book as a teenager?  Forever is about a girl who meets a boy, falls in love, has sex, breaks up and nothing terrible happens. It’s just life. But in a market saturated (at the time) with books in which sex resulted in swift and brutal punishment (pregnancy/death/having to walk around with a big red A on your chest for the rest of your life), this was a pretty revolutionary book.

Looking For Alaska – John Green

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Also known as Blowjobs: The Complete Guide. I kid. That’s just one scene.

I became aware of John Green when I was about 15, and I can honestly say his books have changed the way that I read, write and operate as a person. I had never read a book like Looking for Alaska. It’s about love and growing up and grief. It’s about famous last words and the absence of last words. It’s about friendship.

I hope they find a girl as good at being Alaska as Cara Delevinge was at being Margo for the movie.

(Why do I keep talking about Cara Delevinge?)

(Why are you even asking me that?)

I wonder who Nat Wolff will play…

Digression: I resent Nat Wolff. I liked him in TFIOS, and during Paper Towns I decided that he was actually pretty cute. When I got home, I googled him, only to discover he is younger than me. That has never happened to me before. My own relative adulthood was suddenly thrust in my face. I don’t know whether I will ever be able to forgive him. Unfortunately the only person around at the time was my mother, who was not at all sympathetic.

Journey to the River Sea – Eva Ibbotson

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It was difficult for me to pick an Iva Ibbotson novel, but I knew I had to include her in this list. I spent a lot of time at our local library as a kid. We did not have much money and it was a place my mum could take my brother and I to hang out for free. They did not have the best children’s section in the world, but what they did have was an almost endless supply of Iva Ibbotson. So many of her novels shaped my reading life from when I was a kid to my teenage years. Journey to the River Sea however, has to be my favourite. Everybody loves a story about a plucky orphan who travels down the amazon. It also had a hint of romance in it. It never went anywhere because everybody was too young, but it used to make me crazy in a good way.

Lair of Dreams

After bringing down the supernatural evil, John Hobbes, only to be faced with Uncle Will’s plans to eject her from New York and back to Ohio, Evie makes the decision to share her diviner powers with the world. The resulting fame and fortune provides her with all the independence she ever wanted. She has a radio show on which she demonstrates her object-reading powers and her fame is growing fast.

Meanwhile a mysterious and deadly sleeping sickness is spreading through Chinatown. People go to sleep and never wake up. Mysterious burns spread across victims’ bodies as they slumber, and after a few days, they die.

After bringing down the supernatural evil, John Hobbes, only to be faced with Uncle Will’s plans to eject her from New York and back to Ohio, Evie makes the decision to share her diviner powers with the world. The resulting fame and fortune provides her with all the independence she ever wanted. She has a radio show on which she demonstrates her object-reading powers and her fame is growing fast.

Meanwhile a mysterious and deadly sleeping sickness is spreading through Chinatown. People go to sleep and never wake up. Mysterious burns spread across victims’ bodies as they slumber, and after a few days, they die.

96b01dade1f8b017bf1228145ffe61b8It’s quite difficult to write an accurate synopsis for Lair of Dreams, the second book in Libba Bray’s Diviners series. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and some who were very visible in the first book play a much smaller role in the latest offering. Jericho and Mabel, Memphis and Isiah, and even to an extent Sam and Evie, are much less central to the narrative of the sequel.

This was not totally okay with me. I fell in love with Evie’s character completely during book one, and her relatively small role in the sequel was something I found frustrating at times. I definitely wanted more from her story than I got.

We spend much of the book with Henry and a new character, Ling. Ling is a dream walker, like Henry. She lives in Chinatown with her Chinese father and her Irish mother. She’s recently recovered from infant paralysis, which has left her having to wear leg braces to walk. When she dream walks her body is as it was before her illness, so dream walking is how she spends a lot of her time. Even dreams however, become tainted when her best friend George falls victim to the sleeping sickness.

This series is the set in 1920s New York, the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act made it pretty much impossible for labour workers from China to travel to America. It was a time in which immigrants were blamed for high levels of unemployment and incidence of racist hate crime was high (I don’t know why I’m even talking about this like it’s past tense behaviour. It is depressing how times don’t change). Chinese immigrants had to carry their visas with them at all times, as the police were big on spot arrests. The rise of the sleeping sickness only serves to make the situation worse, to the point where Ling is often no longer safe on the street.

I really love how well researched this series is. In the first book we were given a sense of the flapper lifestyle as a retaliation against the previous generation. They established themselves in direct conflict with the values they grew up with, because, as they saw it, those values led to the death and destruction of the First World War. In Lair of Dreams, the focus zooms out, away from flappers, to study of the experience first generation immigrant kids have navigating a world hostile to their very existence.

Overall, Libba Bray does a really good job of representing diversity of experience in her characters. From Evie the hedonistic flapper, to Ling the well behaved child of immigrants, to Memphis, numbers runner from Harlem living under his aunt’s restrictive conservatism, points of view within the novel are vastly different. It is refreshing to read a YA novel with such a diverse cast of characters.

Speaking of difference life experiences, watching Ling and Henry’s friendship develop was one of the greatest joys of the novel. I’m talking about Henry the wannabe musician who plays piano at raunchy dance shows. Henry, who has been searching in dreams for his long lost boyfriend, Louis. Ling and Henry’s bond is unlikely to say the least. Ling isn’t interested in Henry’s humour and she doesn’t approve of the flapper lifestyle he leads or the recklessness that comes along with it. Watching Henry work his way under Ling’s skin is a lot of fun. However, I did find that the very long dream walking sections of the book began to drag. It took a long time for the Ling/Henry storyline to meet up with the sleeping sickness thread, and during some chapters I found myself wondering what exactly the point of their meetings were.

I hate saying this because of how much I loved the first book, but for much of Lair of Dreams I found myself wondering when the action was going to start. There are so many characters in the world now and each of their stories took time to build to the point that by the end of the book, most had hardly achieved anything. I know that it’s a series, and presumably as such all my questions will at some point be answered, but Libba Bray began a lot of threads in this book that by the end hadn’t really gone anywhere.

That said, Lair of Dreams kept and even expanded on many of the elements that made me fall in love with the series in the first place. I remain quietly hopeful about the next book in the series.

Totally Didn’t… Book Tag

Thanks Jenna @ Reading with Jenna for tagging me!

Totally didn’t… need sequels

I feel this way about a lot of books, as I am highly susceptible to YA series burnout. A series is generally where most of the tropes that I get so sick of in YA fiction are floating around, so these days I largely stick to standalones. It takes a very compelling protagonist to tempt me into reading book two.*

If you too are experiencing the symptoms of YA series burnout (rolling eyes, involuntary sighing and the intense and almost irresistible urge to fling paperbacks from windows), I recommend the following:

More Than This – Patrick Ness

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

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Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

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Totally didn’t… need more than one point of view

Lair of Dreams, by Libba Bray, the second book in the Diviners series. I actually really like that this series comes from multiple viewpoints, but with the introduction of new characters in the sequel, I felt the focus moved around a little too much. I will talk more about feelings on Lair of Dreams in my review, coming tomorrow.

Totally didn’t… need to change the cover art half way through a series

Any time a publisher does this.

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Totally didn’t… need a love triangle

My feelings about love triangles are similar to my feelings about series. I’m not a massive fan. I get tired of the whole thing really quickly and usually end up disliking the object of the triangle. Rather than rooting for a particular person, I usually want both of them to move on to someone more decisive.

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I think this makes my point nicely.

Totally didn’t… deserve my time

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Trust me on this one.

I tag… anyone who feels like it!

*For anyone whose interested, series I am currently reading include:

Shades of London – Maureen Johnson

The Diviners – Libba Bray

The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo (I just started Six of Crows this morning!)

September Wrap Up

September was a weird month for me. For my whole life pretty much my main September concern has been preparing for and then going back to school. I graduated in July. This is the first September of my grown up life, I guess. I celebrated by moving back home, going on holiday with my family for two weeks and then avoiding getting a job. I have however, brought a really great blazer, should an interview come around.

Seventeen-year-old me is disappointed, but not entirely surprised by twenty-two-year old me.

This month I reviewed:

Guy In Real Life – Steve Brezenoff

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Feelings: Too many elf parts.

The Princess Diaries #5 – Meg Cabot

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Feelings: I am just as in love with Michael Moscovitz at 22 as I was when I was 15.

Winger – Andrew Smith

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Feelings: SO MANY. This book made me laugh and then broke my heart. It’s a really interesting exploration of teenage masculinity and coming of age.

Emmy and Oliver – Robin Benway

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Feelings: This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Robin Benway seemingly effortlessly navigates really difficult issues and really cute romance.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

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Feelings: A wonderful book, dealing with the common feelings of being somehow ‘less than’.

Also read this month:

Honourable Friends? Government and the Fight for Change – Caroline Lucas

Lair of Dreams – Libba Bray

Hide and Seek – Ian Rankin

Currently reading:

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

(I am so in love)