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Posts tagged ‘young adult fiction’

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 of Me by Kathryn Evans

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Ohh, I enjoyed this book SO MUCH.

“The world must not know about our freakery”. 

Teva’s life seems normal: school, friends, boyfriend. But at home she hides an impossible secret. Eleven other Tevas.

Because once a year, Teva separates into two, leaving a younger version of herself stuck at the same age, in the same house…watching the new Teva live the life that she’d been living. But as her seventeeth birthday rolls around, Teva is determined not to let it happen again. She’s going to fight for her future. Even if that means fighting herself.

If you want to read a book that is utterly unique (and I mean UNIQUE) and really fascinating, pick up a copy of this. More of Me is unlike any other book I’ve read and I absolutely sailed through it.

Teva has to battle with the every-day problems of your typical teenager: struggling with school work, getting into a good college, making friends, and keeping her relationship on track. She even has to deal with arguments and tensions that come with a large family – pretty normal for someone whose family is not mostly duplications of herself.

The book keeps you gripped throughout as Teva searches not only for answers as to why she is afflicted with this appalling condition, but for ways to stop it happening again so that she doesn’t end up like her former selves: imprisoned in a house while the newest Teva gets to go out and life a normal life, for just one year. Sixteen-year-old Teva is determined to not let it happen again to her. She wants to keep hold of her life and keep going.

The brilliant thing about this book is that the author, Kathryn Evans, has managed to take such a unique concept – one that obviously took some amazing literary imagination to begin with – and make it completely believable. She’s also managed to imagine how this condition would affect a young girl and put it in such clear and poetic language so that by the end of it Teva has your heart in the palm of her hands. Even the language that describes Teva’s love for her boyfriend Ollie is beautifully unique in its style:

“Walking up to Ollie was like being pulled into his orbit of normal. He looked up and saw me, his face cracking into the widest smile…I couldn’t help but be lifted by it….

when he gently touched the tip of his nose to my nose; when he twined his fingers into mine, our hands palm to palm, and held me in his gaze…sometimes I thought he half powered my life.”

Teva’s mother has a difficult life: she has to look after, hide and protect all of the reincarnations of her daughter, at each different age of her life, and I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like inside her head. To begin with, it sometimes feels like she is distant or only thinking of herself; but it couldn’t be further from the truth and as the truth unfolds the reader realises just how strong the woman is and how much heartache and trauma she has had to suffer through. She is an inspiration of a female character.

Teva herself is a great character and what makes this book so brilliant is that, because each of her former selves has their own personality, we get to know her in every way that she has always been: the terrified little six-year-old, the nonchalant 14-year-old, the cheeky and overconfident 12 and 13-year-old and the fiery, dominant 15-year-old. No other book can quite show you the many personalities of one person all at once. It really is great writing.

The narrative flows easily, it outlines both the true dangers of today’s digital world and the dangers of a completely imagined and wacky scenario. For this reason, you HAVE to put it on your priority reading list for this year. I absolutely loved it.

Thank you very much to Kathryn and the publisher Usborne for providing me with a copy of this book. This book was released yesterday and you can buy a copy here. Follow Kathryn Evans on Twitter @mrsbung

 

Introducing YA Author Kerry Drewery

I met published author Kerry Drewery at a Head In A Book event last month. (If you haven’t had the chance to check out Head In A Book, I urge you to do so. They are fantastic literary events held at the City of Culture for 2017 – Hull!) I found her to be so engaging, charming, and approachable, and of course it’s lead me to go back to reading Young Adult Fiction, namely hers! She was very kind to undertake this interview with me, and I am so pleased to share it with you guys. Here she discusses her books, her writing technique, and the categorisation of literature…

The lovely Kerry Drewery!

The lovely Kerry Drewery!

 

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your career.

Although I’ve always made up stories in my head (even as a child) it was never something I thought I’d be able to do as a career – at school the idea of being a writer certainly was never an option. (I did learn to touch type at school though and I actually enjoy the physical act of typing, which I suppose is a good job!). I’ve had a multitude of different jobs including legal secretary, bank clerk, shop assistant, faculty clerk in a university and learnt a lot about what I don’t like doing! When my youngest son started school, I was looking at returning to work. I’d written a novel in the evenings while he was young, had sent it out to agents and got nowhere, but it had got me thinking that if I didn’t really strive for it then, then I never would. I returned to uni, got a first class honours degree in Professional Writing and wrote another novel on the course. That wasn’t taken either, but I did rewrite it into script and submitted it to a BBC writing competition which I was shortlisted for. Following the degree, and working part-time as a BookStart co-ordinator (which was a great job!) I wrote another novel (my third now), which turned into A Brighter Fear – my first to be published. The funding in my area for BookStart was taken as I was offered my publishing deal.

I don’t believe an author’s job is to answer questions, but rather to raise them.

Your writing is categorised as YA fiction. Why did you choose to write for young adults? Was it a conscious choice or did your writing develop that way as you went along?

It wasn’t a conscious decision to write for young adults, it was more that the story I wanted to write was better with a teen protagonist which then led me to think of what an important and exciting time in your life your teens years are. It’s a time when you’re making all sorts of decisions, when you’re actually under a lot of pressure from all angles, and when everyone else seems to think that they know best for you. I’ve stayed writing for them because of this. I’m not sure I entirely agree with categorising books – it’s handy for publishers, yes, and booksellers, but I strongly believe you should read whatever you want to read, and not be put off something because it’s ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ for you. Reading is for enjoyment, it should be encouraged whether it’s comics, picture books, horror, literary, teen, or whatever.

I strongly believe you should read whatever you want to read, and not be put off something because it’s ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ for you.

Your books, A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights, deal with difficult, upsetting, and often tough subject matters. Why do you feel it is important for young adults to read and learn about adversity and harsh political circumstances? Do you feel that literature should educate young people from these kinds of subjects rather than shield them from it?

I didn’t chose to write A Brighter Fear or A Dream of Lights because of difficult or upsetting subject matters, I chose them because I was interested in the situations around them, and thought if I was then other people would be too. With A Brighter Fear I was trying to manage my own feelings about us being taken to war, which led me to think about the people actually living it, which led me to read about it, which eventually led to the novel. A Dream of Lights was about being nosy, I suppose. I knew a little about North Korea and wanted to understand why and how people live in those conditions, why some people chose to try to escape and others don’t. I don’t believe an author’s job is to answer questions, but rather to raise them. To put to the reader – hey, what about this? – and leave them to ponder their own thoughts. I do think it’s important to be honest with readers, whatever age, but that doesn’t mean you have to shove the ‘upsetting’ stuff in their faces. I don’t think it should ever be gratuitous, especially in these cases where they are based on reality, but there are ways you can write about something without it being.

How easy was it for you to find the right voice for your young female protagonists? Would you consider writing from the point of view of a boy in the future?

Lina very gradually appeared from out of the research. From planning what would happen to her and her family, her personality came through, her strengths and weaknesses etc, then it was just a case of being consistent in the way she spoke and faithful to what she would do and think. Yoora lived in my head the entire time and it felt like she took me through her story rather than the other way round! The only place I struggled with her was at the very beginning when she’s still of the mindset she’s been brought up with. As she learns more, she becomes that strong person who was hiding just below the surface. Yes, absolutely I’d consider writing from the pov of a boy. I have a teenage son, I’m sure he’d correct me if I got it wrong!

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in your life between now as a published author, gaining more and more popularity, than before?

There aren’t really that many differences to be honest. I suppose the biggest is people’s reactions if you tell them what you do because they tend to make assumptions such as – you have a lot of money, you are very successful, you book will be on the shelf in Tesco!! The best difference is that I can legitimately say ‘I am an author’, which after so many rejections is a lovely thing to be able to say.

What do you find the most difficult about being a novelist? What is the most rewarding?

The most difficult thing is self-doubt. Sending your work out, people reading it, wondering what they’ll think is still as nerve-wracking as it ever was. The most rewarding is positive reviews – knowing that someone has enjoyed your work. I’ve had a few reviews of A Dream of Lights where people have said it’s made them think of what they have and how lucky they are, or how it’s changed their outlook on life – I don’t think I could ask for more than that.

A big topic of discussion in the Publishing world right now is how the author can best promote their own work. What do you find has helped you the most and been the most effective in promoting your novels? What hasn’t worked quite so well?

This is tricky. I’m not sure what one thing has helped the most, but if I was advising someone else I’d probably say how important it is to reach out to other authors. Not only can this provide you with a lot of support if things are tough or you’re having worries (I’m sure all authors are nervous wrecks!), but you can both gain a lot from cross-promotion and joint events. There is a great on-line community for YA, especially UKYA, and the vast, vast majority of people in the business are just lovely.

The most rewarding is positive reviews – knowing that someone has enjoyed your work.

Are you a reader of Young Adult fiction yourself? What else do you like to read in your spare time?

Yes and everything!! When I’m writing I tend not to read as I find it can influence what I’m working on. This means that when stuff goes off to my agent, for example, I devour books! I’m not a very faithful reader in terms of sticking with one author, I tend to jot around to whatever piques my interest. Over of my author facebook page I’ve just done ‘Five Favourite Books in Five Days’, with a brief note on all of them. Apart from those, I’ve recently read and enjoyed The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull (a Victorian, deaf-blind, ghost story), The Lodger by Louisa Treger (about the writer Dorothy Richardson and her relationship with HG Wells) – they’re both ‘adult’ books (but there we go with categories again!). For YA I’ve just finished ACID by Emma Pass (a dystopian story, a girl accused of killing her parents while an all-powerful police force run the country), and now onto 7 Days by Eve Ainsworth (about bullying but from the pov of both girls involved).

How do you feel we should be encouraging more young adults to read?

As I touched on before, there needs to be less of ‘you should/shouldn’t read that’ and the snobbery that comes with it. Instead we should encourage people to read whatever they enjoy.

And finally, what’s next for you?

I’m very pleased to now be represented by the lovely Jane Willis at United Agents, and have a new manuscript off on submission. I’m also working with fellow author Emma Pass on the next UKYA Extravaganza (a celebration of UKYA talent with authors, readers, books and cakes!), which is being held in Nottingham this time, in October (check out ukyax.com). After a very busy time, I’m now planning on getting into my Patron of Reading school in Lincolnshire a bit more to work with the students there. Fingers crossed, exciting times!! (pulls a hopeful face).     You can follow Kerry Drewery on Twitter @KerryDrewery Find her on Facebook here. You can also follow Head In A Book @hiabhull

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