Rating: 4.5 STARS!
Genre: Contemporary YA/LGBT
Standalone/Series: Openly Straight #1
How I got this book: Bought via Audible
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.
This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.
While fantasy has always been my top choice of novel, particularly when it comes to YA fiction, I seem to be falling in love with contemporary novels more and more lately. It's strange that this is coinciding a little with my recent love-affair with audio books. I signed up for a 3-month free trial with Audible two-months ago, and so far I haven't looked back.
This book caught my eye as a recommendation from Audible after I'd finished listening to Leah on the Offbeat and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.
I hadn't actually heard of this one before but the sample and the synopsis piqued my interest.
I instantly found the narrator, Pete Cross, really likeable, I love his voice work for all of the different characters, giving each one their own different, distinguishable voice, which really helps the story to flow smoothly.
I love the life he brings to Rafe who is funny and witty, to the point where I found myself giggling away while I listened. The very different mixture of characters is something I really enjoyed, from the enigmatic, quirky Albie, sweet and crazy Toby, troubled Bryce, and Rafe's crazy parents, to the extremely complicated Ben, who is so very wise and thoughtful.
Openly Straight surprised me. There are so many laugh out loud moments but they're woven into a complex story about personal identity and the importance of being true to yourself whilst also containing a bittersweet love story that hurt a little to witness.
My heart goes out to both Rafe and Ben for their stubbornness and naivety, but the true beauty of this story wasn't their friendship but Rafe's journey of self-discovery, something that I think can be appreciated no matter your gender or sexual orientation.
This book made me think. It's something I'm really enjoying about a lot of the contemporaries that I'm reading lately, that they force you to look deeper, to assess your own life and reflect on it, and for the most part, I agree with Rafe, labels shouldn't matter. Whether it's your skin colour, your sexual preferences, your proficiency at a certain skill; that one thing does not define your entire being. But, I also understand the conflict, that you can't push aside an unchangeable, inextricable part of who you are.
What really cemented my love for this beautiful book was the finishing sentence:
"There was nothing anyone needed to accept or tolerate. We celebrated."
Which is exactly what this book felt like. A celebration of everything that makes us different, but how in that, we're all tied together, all connected.
So, if you're looking for a book that will make you smile, laugh and maybe even cry a little, and if you love books like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Running With Lions, I'd highly recommend Openly Straight.
Book two, Honestly Ben is now available, and will more than likely be my next Audible purchase because I NEED to find out what happens next!
A slightly odd, side note, is that this book really made me want to write. I haven't written anything other than my blog (and stuff for work) for a couple of months. I've been stressed, bogged down with life and just not feeling it, but the more I read this book, the more I just wanted to pick up my pen and write fiction. Finally, I did and it feels great again, so fingers crossed the feeling continues.
Rating: 3 STARS
How I got this book: April 'Book Box Club' Subscription
Ten days after Jaya Mackenzie’s mum dies, angels start falling from the sky. Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived.
Hysteria mounting with every Being that drops, Jaya’s father uproots the family to Edinburgh intent on catching one alive. But Jaya can’t stand this obsession and, struggling to make sense of her mother’s sudden death and her own role on that fateful day, she’s determined to stay out of it.
When her best friend disappears and her father’s mania spirals, things hit rock bottom and it’s at that moment something extraordinary happens: An angel lands right at Jaya’s feet, and it’s alive. Finally she is forced to acknowledge just how significant these celestial beings are.
Set against the backdrop of the frenzied Edinburgh festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tackles questions of grief and guilt and fear over who we really are. But it’s also about love and acceptance and finding your place in this world as angels drop out of another.
There were one or two things in this book that didn't sit well with me, so I'm going to talk about the things that I did like first.
This book was a 'surprise' book as it was part of the April 'Fallen Angels' book box subscription from Book Box Club. You can check out my unboxing to find out what angel related goodies were inside this months' box.
I was really intrigued by this fantasy-esque story that takes place in Edinburgh. I liked the setting, I think the backdrop of the Fringe festival was really well explored and works well alongside the fantasy elements of this story, and I enjoyed the Scottish narrative.
This book is very diverse, and I love that it was both culturally and sexually inclusive. It features a lesbian character, a bi character (yay!), characters of colour, and disability.
I think the author does an excellent job of tackling quite a lot of difficult subjects in such a short novel (279 pages) including; loss, grief, abuse, disability, mental illness, and faith, and yet it still remains a very teenage YA novel full of teenage antics, plenty of junk food, new friendships, and self-discovery.
Jaya is a great protagonist. She's strong-willed, gay and not ashamed to be who she is. She's struggling to come to terms with her mother's death and blames herself. At the same time, she's juggling with a father who's channelled his grief into an obsession, almost leaving his children to care for themselves, a younger sister she can't face after the loss of their mother and the mysterious disappearance of her secretive ex-girlfriend. All the while, mysterious 'Beings' that look like angels are falling from the sky.
Jaya's character comes on in leaps and bounds during this book as she deals with difficult situations and her own grief and pain exceptionally well. I truly wanted her to find peace.
The friends she makes along the way are colourful, complex and beautiful, making the underlying story really beautiful.
I really enjoyed the description of the 'Beings' - they were beautiful to imagine.
The main issue that I had with this book was the ending. It felt rushed and in a way, incomplete. I just don't feel as though this was properly resolved. In my opinion, a lot of things were also left unexplained and, to me at least, it seemed to take away from the book by leaving so many unanswered questions that it almost felt like the book just ended accidentally with a missing chapter/epilogue which would have been helpful. The last line is the most confusing.
There was so much crammed into this story that I felt a little more resolution at the end would have been nice to avoid the unsatisfied feeling I had when I put this book down.
There were a couple of other things I struggled with but I don't want to give anything away as I'd still recommend this book to fellow lovers of YA/Fantasy looking for more LGBT representation.
But, that's just my opinion. Read the book and let me know what you think!
Tunnocks teacake anyone?
Rating: 4.5 STARS
How I got this book: Bought
The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
I've heard so many good things about this book that when I spotted in Waterstones, I HAD to pick it up!
I finished this book last night and I still don't know how to describe how brilliant it is (although this could be because I've only had one cup of tea so far this morning)!
One of Us Is Lying has EVERYTHING! Intrigue, mystery, teen drama, angst, romance, gossip, murder and humour. The author even manages to work in messages about LGBTQ+ issues, mental health awareness, and abuse - it's an incredible YA novel that covers so much ground, even though the plot line itself seems relatively simple. (Think Cluedo for teens!)
The five main characters (and supporting cast) are fantastic and from the first person narrative, we're able to connect with each and watch them evolve over the course of the novel.
I could barely put this book down, reading it in just over a day and it's one of those books, I just know is going to stick with me, especially since I'll definitely be re-reading this one.
I was initially drawn to the book because it was hailed as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars and the author does not disappoint. That's exactly what it's like, but so much better than I expected!
I suppose the only slightly disappointing thing is that I figured out who was behind everything pretty early on except for one twist I didn't realise until the other characters did, but the way the narrative flits between each character keeps everything interesting and building in intensity throughout the whole book.
There are a couple of things with this book that I don't completely agree with, but I'll let you make your own opinions.
SHIP ALERT: There's a wonderful 'ship' in this book that is perfect in so many ways. These two characters are my absolute favourite thing about this book!
A glowing 4.5 stars from me! I can't wait for the author to release another book!
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Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, aspiring writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
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