Saturday, February 28, 2015

Undone by Cat Clarke #bookreview

Every good story deserves a happy ending – it’s a basic rule of storytelling. The boy next door certainly shouldn’t die.

Undone tells the tragic story of a sixteen year old boy who commits suicide, because society cannot accept that he is gay, and how his best friend Jem copes with the loss. A well written YA contemporary from UK author Cat Clarke.

Undone, published in 2012 by Quercus. 502 pages.


I have so many conflicted feelings inside of me after having finished reading Undone. On one hand it was a great read, with an unexplainable hook keeping me invested throughout the story on the other hand there were some things that bugged me very much.

Kai was the best, and the only, friend Jem had and in her opinion the only one she needed. Jem loved Kai dearly, not only as a friend, but he could never give Jem what she wanted. Jem understood and kept loving Kai all the same. One day Kai's sexuality was being outed in the worst possible way, in the end he cannot bear to live with it.

And I knew. She didn’t even have to tell me. I knew. But she told me anyway. I screamed. A raw, animal sound that I would never have imagined could come out of my body. Then I blacked out. When I woke up he was still dead.

After recovering slightly after the horrible shock Jem decides that she are going to revenge Kai. And so begins the journey, a great drama, in some ways unlike things I have read previously but also other areas recognisable from films and other novels. Jem moving up the ladder in the social hierarchy and leaving who she once was behind for the sake of payback for the boy that she loved.

He was the type of boy who would lie flat on his back in the middle of the lawn to make sure the sky above was still the same sky he’d left behind in Manchester.

Slut shaming

The story is told through the eyes of our main character, Jem, that means the reader is left to interpret her view of the world. It is soon established that Jem is not alway trustworthy in her judgment and that her view of friendship(with other people than Kai) is messed up. Jem is so judgemental, negative and suspicious. I have to say that I did not like the way Jem several times turned to slut shaming - like in this example(and this was not the worst one):
But she wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up, which was pretty much unthinkable to the popular, slutty girls she was friends with.
Wearing make-up does not turn someone into a slut, but in Jem's bitter mind it does. Also I found Kai's voice from the afterlife felt a bit stereotypical, it sounded a bit like one of the guys from the tv-series Queer Eye. Shopping, hair and make-up.
This month is all about SHOPPING! Your very favourite thing, right?!

Social media and intolerant people

To me this was the tale of coping with grief and also how hard it can be to have the world know about your sexuality if you are not yet ready to tell and I must add that there still is a lot of narrow minded people in our world, sadly. This story also does a great job showing how social media and cell phones can be used for bullying and that things that go viral cannot be taken back. In Jem's own words:
Kai and I would be living in a world where nobody cared about your sexual orientation. Being gay wouldn’t be gossiped about or frowned upon – it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. It would just be a fact. A mundane sort of fact.
As a parent myself I think this is a good read for adults as well as young adults. It is a reminder that one should step up, care and see the teenager - our kids needs us way beyond the age of ten. I wanted to shout at the book why the hell haven't anyone fixed therapy for Jem? But I guess we would not have had this story if Jem went to a councilor. In my opinion there is some serious case of neglect or at least turning a blind eye from the parents in this story.

‘I really, really like you, Jem.’ The way he says it makes it seem like a declaration of the deepest, most sincere love.

The cast and THE END

I sometimes wished the author had chosen another narrative point of view, the first person narrative in this story makes it difficult to get to know the other characters more intimately. Despite of the issues I had with this novel I still liked it. Jem irritated me so much, but I still could not stay away from the book - always wondering what Jem was up to.

The ending of the story was like it had to be, but still I would very much like a sequel to the story. I need more, pretty please Mrs. Clarke!
The sun’s coming up now. I was hoping for a proper, beautiful sunrise, but I think we both know you don’t always get what you wish for.

Cat Clarke was born in Zambia, but lives and writes from Scotland. Cat is publishing a new ya novel(already on my wish list), The Lost and Found, with Quercus this year, in May.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cover This! On Top

Cover This! is an irregular feature on Escape In A Book. Here we share trends that we have noticed or/and other cover related things. This is the place where we are allowed to judge a book by its cover.

I hope you are not scared of heights?!

Have you read any of the novels featured here today? I have not, but they are all on my wish list.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Flat out love by Jessica Park #bookreview

The self publishing industry is popular at the moment, but in my experience the good titles are few and far apart. The quality of self published novels is often lacking, there is a lot to be said for having a good editor and the traditional publishing industry on ones side when publishing a novel. This time however I have managed to find that rare piece of gold among the gravel!

I bought Flat out Love after reading several good reviews from my Goodread friends. I felt reasonably safe that I could trust these reviewers as I just removed well over 600 friends whom for some reason or another did not fit my new criteria for GR friendship. So after my bout of cleaning Flat out Love still stood out as a good read, friends had given four and five star ratings to the novel. I was curious, could this self published YA novel really be that good? After having finished the novel, I wonder why on earth no major publishing house has bought the rights to this lovely story. Several self published novels that is lacking, compared to Flat out Love, has already been bought, so why ever not a novel that actually deserves it?!

Julie has been scammed, her supposedly nice little flat (one she found through Craiglist) is a restaurant. What ever should you do when you have no place to live in a new town? Julie calls her mother. Luckily, mom Kate is able to find a temporary home for Julie with a family of her best friends from her own time studying. The Watkins is kind and Julie quickly bonds with brothers Matthew and Finn, and their younger, quirkier sister Celeste. One of the strangest tings with Celeste is the fact that she is dragging with her a live size cardboard copy of her older brother Finn everywhere. The doll is appropriately named Flat Finn; it keeps Celeste company when Finn is out traveling the world.  Julie finds it rather weird that this is how a thirteen year old copes with missing her brother. Could there be more too it? However nice the family is something is off and all family members are overprotective of Celeste. 

Julie moves from Ohio to Boston to go to college. In Boston, she houses with a nice but also a very dysfunctional family. The story is predictable and could perhaps have delved even more down into the more serious issues, that being said the story was so entertaining and addictive that I devoured it despite of some of the things that the author could have delved deeper into. What you see is what you get and sometimes that is all this reader needs. Nicely done characters, smart (sometimes perhaps a bit too smart on some areas in life and not so much in others) and evolving throughout the story. Jessica Park has a good vocabulary and a varied language, I enjoy that in a novel, it has a nice flow too it and I learned a few new words along the way.

“Only one more exit, and then we’ll be there. This will be worth the two-hour drive. Trust us.” “When you say worth, do you mean there will be cash incentives involved? Apple is having a press conference in a few days, and I’m sure they’ll be releasing some wildly unnecessary gadget that I need."

Self published novels are often more unpolished than a traditional published novels. I find myself speculating how this novel could have taken the step from very good to excellent with the firm hand of an editor. Jessica Park has done an amazingly good job all on her own. It is important to remember that the publishing industry is a whole lot more than big budgets for marketing, at least in the early stages of a novel. Author and publisher works together to bring out the very best story that lives in the author, the see a good story and offers guidance on the road to a great story. I must not forget the wonderful people washing the manuscripts for grammatical errors and so on. Luckily, I cannot say that I noticed any grammatical errors in Flat Out Love. I give this sweet romance my stamp of approval. The sequel, I do believe it is the story of Celeste, is already added to my wish list.

Have you read Flat  Out Love? What did you think? What are your experiences with self published novels in general? Would you consider reading this one? Drop me a line in the comments.