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Posts tagged ‘PTSD’

ACCENT PRESS – THE DEEPEST CUT BY NATALIE FLYNN

Time for book review number 6 for my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge. Today’s publisher is…

 

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Accent Press!

Accent Press is a feisty, independent publishing company.

 Founded by Hazel Cushion in 2003, Accent Press is an award-winning independent publisher which has become a major name for dynamic trade publishing. The company publishes a range of fiction and non-fiction titles across four imprints.  Accent Press was named Specialist Publisher of the Year and was shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year at the IPG Awards.  

The company is divided into four imprints:

  • Accent Press – The mainstream publishing imprint provides a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles.
  • Xcite Books – This erotic imprint was started in 2007, becoming the UK’s largest erotic publisher and winning multiple ETO Awards.
  • Cariad – mainstream romance publishing sexy, contemporary women’s fiction.
  • Accent YA – There’s a new YA publisher in town. This exciting new list aimed at young adults launches in Spring 2016.

Find out more about accent press here.

 

And the book I’m reviewing is…

 

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‘You haven’t said a single word since you’ve been here. Is it on purpose?’ I tried to answer David but I couldn’t … my brain wanted to speak but my throat wouldn’t cooperate…

Adam blames himself for his best friend’s death. After attempting suicide, he is put in the care of a local mental health facility. There, too traumatized to speak, he begins to write notebooks detailing the events leading up to Jake’s murder, trying to understand who is really responsible and cope with how needless it was as a petty argument spiralled out of control and peer pressure took hold.

Sad but unsentimental, this is a moving story of friendship and the aftermath of its destruction.

I’ve been so lucky so far in that I’ve really loved every book I’ve read so far this year for my reading challenge. All but two of them have been independent publishers. What does that tell you? Yep, that indies pack a punch and are producing some of the best literature we have out there today.

The Deepest Cut is a young adult novel. No matter how old you are, I really think it’s enriching to read young adult novels. They really are something special, and with the huge popularity it has enjoyed over the last few years, it’s only getting better.

This book is sad, yes, and it made me bawl my eyes out on more than one occasion. It’s about a boy who lost his best friend to knife crime, after all. But it’s not just about the sadness. It’s about deep, undying male platonic love. It’s about the strength of friendship and about how no human being is infallible. It’s about grief and support and mental illness, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s about peer pressure and the fragility of teenager friendships. It’s about confusion and not really knowing who you are as a kid. It’s about craving acceptance and yearning for what once was. It’s about the difficulties of dealing with change.

What I especially love is that Natalie Flynn has managed to capture the voice of a teenage boy, a troubled teenage boy, so accurately and convincingly. I was a teenager only ten years ago, and I remember having some of the same worries and thoughts and feelings that the kids do in this book, and so it felt really authentic. Equally, his mental anguish felt very authentic too. It was particularly effective because for much of the narrative the focus is on simple teenager issues, and is then contrasted with very unusual ones, which deals an emotional blow.

The sheer contrast between the Adam before Jake’s murder and the Adam after his murder makes for quite heartbreaking reading. He just suddenly cares about nothing, except Jake. Life doesn’t matter to him anymore. He’s angry and resentful at his father for not caring about him and betraying him. He’s upset and terrified of people finding out how and why he’s complicit in Jake’s murder. He’s angry at people for not understanding him. And he’s angry at everyone who won’t just let him end his own life.

The story of Jake’s murder is told over a series of diary entries which Adam is writing for his psychotherapist to read in the mental hospital. These are interspersed with current-day narratives about Adam’s life in the present, post-murder and post- Adam’s mental breakdown. This kept me absolutely hooked as a reader, desperate to know who murdered Jake and why.

The most effective aspect of Flynn’s writing, for me, was how she brought Adam and Jake’s friendship to life. Their love for each other just radiates off the page. It makes the whole tragedy even more powerful to read about. It’s very good writing.

I think it would be especially important for teenagers to read this book as it highlights, very dramatically and colourfully, how important seemingly unimportant things are, at that age. It demonstrates the danger that can befall absolutely anyone. And it emphasises the seriousness of fighting and knife crime, which is often underestimated by young teens who sometimes feel invincible.

This book is a fantastic read for people of any age. Definitely one for your shelf. Well done Natalie Flynn and Accent press. I’ll be returning for more!

 

five stars

 

 

More Than You Can Say by Paul Torday

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This was one of the books that I bought at the Hull Central Library Book Sale a couple of months back. Been a busy few weeks but I finally have had the time to review it!

Traumatised by a tour of duty in Iraq, Richard Gaunt returns home to his girlfriend with very little of a plan in mind. Finding it difficult to settle into civilian life, he turns to drink and gambling – and is challenged to a bet he cannot resist. All he has to do is walk from London to Oxford in under twelve hours. But what starts as a harmless venture turns into something altogether different when Richard recklessly accepts an unusual request from a stranger…

I enjoyed this book immensely. I just want to say it from the outset. Normally my book reviews are written almost like a literary essay; they take a while to write because I dissect, and analyse, and evaluate. But this is one of those books which I was too busy enjoying, and a story with which I was too easily swept away to remember to earmark a page or make a note in my book review journal. So in fact this is may not be as detailed as my usual reviews, but this is for a very positive reason. I was too busy having a good time reading!

More Than You Can Say has it all: action, comedy, emotion, depth, interesting characters and a compelling plot. It plays with your emotions and makes you re-evaluate the big issues. It takes the important and sensitive subject of war, of PTSD and depression, and places it in a world and narrative that makes it easy enough to explore without it dragging you down.

What I loved most about this book was how it shone a light on the traumas and difficulties that soldiers and army veterans face not only in the battlefield but in day-to-day life as well.

I knew why people behaved like that. They were sick in the head. I was sick in the head. We had all seen things we should never have had to see, done things we should never have had to do. And all of us, when we came back from Iraq or Afghanistan, were constantly being reminded, every time we opened a newspaper or switched on the television, that we had done it for a cause the grateful public did not believe in any more, if they ever had. In the old days, it was ‘my country right or wrong’: when things happened that seemed to cross every boundary of human morality or decency you could always tell yourself, I suppose, that you were serving your country. But we had fought in wars that few people at home really cared about. No wonder some of us behaved badly.

Perhaps what makes the main character, Richard Gaunt, so utterly compelling is that neither he or the author pretend that he is in any way perfect. He is innately likeable – he cares deeply about people, has a good sense of humour, and has a desire for justice and fairness. But he also has his flaws – he is aggressive, cynical, often subdued, lazy and unmotivated, and often does things without considering the consequences or indeed without much thought at all. But you get the feeling that he’s justified, sometimes, for the way he behaves. He’s been through horrific things and come out the other end alive, but can we really blame him for not emerging undamaged?

This book taught me a lot about the war in Iraq, but also gave me a deeper understanding of its impact as it explores consequences much more complicated than cold hard facts and numbers. It explores Richard’s past and current relationships with people around him and how they are affected by the war. Take, for instance, his ex-fiancée, Emma. She is an attractive person, inside and out. She is loving and supportive, incredibly patient, and puts up with a lot from Richard. But even eventually she is driven away by his erratic and selfish behaviour, behaviour that Richard puts down to his horrific experiences in the army. He cannot function properly as a result of it and, by extension, neither can his relationships.

It is not all doom-and-gloom, though, as Richard definitely matures throughout the book. After a while he comes to realise that he can no longer continue to use the war as a scapegoat or an excuse for the way his life has turned out.

But in my heart I knew that I couldn’t just blame it all on the wars I had been in. I wasn’t even sure whether the fracture that had broken open deep within me was simply a consequence of the things I had seen; of the things I had heard; of the things I had done. When a stone shatters in the frost, is it because of the frost, or is it because the fault line was always there, deep inside the stone?

It takes a long time and many amusing and not-so-amusing events for him to realise that he is still in control of what happens in his life, and that he doesn’t have to let the past dictate his present and his future. For this reason, the book ends on a note of hope. Things can get better, if only Richard wants them to.

I would urge anyone who has been in the war, knows anyone who has been in a war, or anyone who hasn’t, to read this book. It’s funny, compelling, engaging, and thought-provoking. It’s full of fast-paced action and meaningful dialogue. It is both educational and entertaining, and is a true example of brilliant modern literature.

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