Tag Archives: teen drama

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, paperback novel, 288 pages, first published 2007, this edition published by Razorbill in 2011.

When Clay receives an anonymous package containing a series of cassette tapes, he is startled to discover they contain the voice of his friend and love interest, Hannah Baker. Her voice comes to him from the grave, describing and explaining the reasons behind her decision to end her own life.

Thirteen Reasons Why had been on my to read list for quite a while. But I have a confession to make; I actually watched the Netflix series before reading the book! I know, I know, I do usually read the book first, but I was sick, and sad, and the series looked interesting…. Anyway, I watched it, and I loved it.

I also liked the book, but this is one of those rare occasions where I preferred the screen version. The acting, casting and soundtrack were all good, but it was the emotiveness of the story that stuck with me. I felt Hannah becoming isolated, I felt her sadness, her resignation, and her acceptance. I also felt her parents’ devastation and the repercussions her death had on her family, on Clay and on Tony, and the ripples that moved through the wider school community. It is those left behind that are also victims of suicide, but it is rare that they have a chance to understand the reasons behind the final act.

Knowing the outcome from the start, knowing that Hannah takes her life before we even get a feel for her, made this novel an haunting memoir of a life at risk. It explored the many facets that can intertwine and connect leading to depression and suicide in teens. Even a small act can change the course of a life forever, and you can never predict what consequences will be wrought.

The Netflix series had thirteen parts; an episode for each side of each tape. That was an hour dedicated to each story Hannah tells. This allowed the characters to be fleshed out and explained in a way not usually encountered in a film or TV adaptation. There was so much more to the characters, we got to see them not only through Hannah’s eyes, but as the teens they were, and those they became. We saw how listening to the tapes affected them, and changed the course of their own lives. There was such depth to each person that the book could not explore fully since we only heard about them through Hannah’s voice on the tapes.

Inevitably there were some changes made, such as the type of store Hannah’s parents owned, the secret that Courtney wanted to keep, Clay’s relationship to the car crash victim, much bigger roles for both Hannah’s and Clay’s parents. However, I felt that the biggest change from book to screen was the timeline that Clay followed whilst listening to the tapes; in the books it’s all over in one night and told mostly in the past, in the series the story is played out over days, with interactions with all the other students involved in both the present and the past. Threads were added, exploring the way that Clay dealt not only with Hannah’s death, but also the actions that he undertakes in reaction to the other students’ stories. I found all these differences only enhanced the story and made it even more poignant.

Whether you read it or watch the series (I recommend you do both!), Thirteen Reasons Why is a story that will stay with you forever.

Thirteen Reasons Why is suitable for middle to upper high school students and above. It contains themes of depression, suicide, bullying, rape and sexual assault. It may be overly upsetting to some readers.

 

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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allthebrightplacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2015.

Theodore Finch is singled out at school as a “freak”, and he has a tendency to get into trouble. His family life is not ideal, and he is battling some pretty strong inner demons. Violet Markey is part of the popular crowd, but she lost her sister in a car accident the previous winter and can’t seem to move forward. When the two meet at the top of the school bell tower an unlikely friendship is forged.

All the Bright Places touched my heart and made me cry; it spoke to me, it moved me, it reminded me that every day could be my last, so I should really live.

This poignant tale is a bit of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It is intensely emotional and incredibly difficult to put down. Told through the alternate views of Finch and Violet, the story is beautifully written, complex and and wonderful.

The characters are rich, and honest, unique and deep. And heartbreakingly tragic. Violet and Finch, Finch and Violet, I can’t stop thinking about them. I desperately wanted to swoop in to fix all of their problems. And the pages flew by as I became invested in them, both as individuals and as a couple. I loved the wandering Indiana project as a way to discover the state, and to give this unusual pair time to really get to know one another. Quirky Finch, I am a little in love with you, and beautiful Violet, I’m a little in love with you too. Where were you when I needed you in high school?

I related to Finch like no other fictional character I can recall. I know his pain, his joy, his fear, I know him, I’ve been him. Thank you Jennifer Niven for creating Finch, I will never forget him. And thank you for Violet, I hope their lives will help others.

All the Bright Places contains themes of mental illness, domestic violence, death and suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these issues, please seek help, you could be saving a life. Know that you are not alone. There are lists of places to get help at the end of this book for a number of countries, including Australia; Beyond Blue and Lifeline can help.

All the Bright Places is suitable for high school students and beyond. I highly recommend it to all high schoolers and their parents.

 

Dangerous Reflections by Shay West

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Dangerous Reflections CoverDangerous Reflections by Shay West, e-book, 212 pages, first published in 2011, this edition published by Booktrope in 2014.

Alexis and her mum have been forced to move into her aunt’s guesthouse after her father left them penniless. Now Alex has to begin her freshman year of high school at a new school. Being new, her obsession with history and her old clothes already make her a target for bullies, but she also quickly manages to make an enemy of one of the most popular girls, Catelyn. To complicate her life even further, when Alex looks into the mirror, her reflection shifts to that of another. She finds herself traveling through the mirror into the past to prevent an evil time traveler from changing some important events.

This novel combines fantasy elements with the contemporary struggles of a high school student. For a lot of the story we are faced with Alex’s everyday issues, such as making new friends, having a crush, coping with how she feels about her dad leaving, school, all the things that consume the average teenager. Then Alex gets to travel through the mirror, becoming someone from the past and living as them as they avert a disaster that would alter the course of history.

I enjoyed the dips into history, they were well written and exciting. The time travel sections felt realistic and plausible, though perhaps not entirely historically accurate. I don’t know that Hernan Cortes had an older sister for instance. I’m also curious as to what happened to the people whose body Alex borrowed during these times. Since Alex’s body was cold and still during each trip, they probably didn’t take up residence there, so what happened to them? And what happened upon their return, would they remember what had happened in their absence? These trivial curiosities don’t affect the quality of the story, I’m just naturally inquisitive and like to think outside of the story.

Overall I liked Alex and her friends. However, Alex was a rather whiny and ungrateful character at times. Angry at her mum for selling all their stuff, and moving them to Grand Junction away from her friends, Alex shows little to no understanding of how hard it must be for her mother. Alex wants the right clothes, the latest fashion items and technology, and blames her mother for their lack of funds, which is quite unfair. Alex does grow through the story, and begins to understand her mother’s position a little better by the end. The trips through the mirror help her to mature and become more empathetic to those around her, but she is still a rather egotistical teenager, making her a pretty realistic character! I think teens will be able to relate to her, and to her friends.  Why she would moon over that idiot Beau is beyond me though, he was obviously a self-absorbed prat!

An engaging read, Dangerous Reflections is suitable for upper primary school and high school students. This is the first book in The Adventures of Alexis Davenport trilogy, which is followed by Twisted Reflections and Desperate Reflections.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Live Again by Brittney Mulliner

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liveagainebookLive Again by Brittney Mulliner, e-book, 184 pages, published in 2015.

Live Again picks up Aubrey Tate’s story shortly after Begin Again ends. After the terrible fright she had on the night of the winter formal, Aubrey’s life has continued on with increased protection and supervision from her friends and family. Mike is spending a good deal of time worrying about her, as is Carter, while Luke has run a million miles. Aubrey is hurt by Luke’s withdrawal, confused by Carter’s behaviour and overwhelmed with Mike’s constant presence and assertion that she is now his. She is still spending time with Gage, and she even has an evening or two with Tucker, who’s mostly a jerk. Aubrey must deal with her boy issues, and face that she now has a new stalker that wants to hurt her. She is also coping with increased frequency and intensity of dance practices as she will be representing the Dance Academy in competition soon.

Just like the first book in the series, Live Again is well written, detailed and engaging. There is plenty of drama, especially of the boy kind, and some mystery too. It was tantalising wondering who the stalker was, but I was kept guessing right to the end. The ending was much more satisfying than in the first book, this one wrapped up nicely, resolving everything. I thought it was unnecessary to have this story across two books, when it could have easily been one longer book. I was glad that I had Live Again to start reading straight away, otherwise I would have been frustrated at the end of Begin Again, waiting to find out what happens.

I liked the majority of the characters, and thought they were easy to relate to. Through the story the reader gets to know Aubrey quite well, as she is the antagonist of the story, but we learn a little about many of the other characters as well. I liked Aubrey and McKayla, they were pretty decent kids despite their privileged upbringing. I also liked Brandon and Carter, trying to act like responsible adults to protect Aubrey, yet not long out of their teens themselves, and prone to silliness, such as eating competitions. Talia and Alexis sort of blurred together for me, as they were so similar. So did their boyfriends. That didn’t detract from the story, I just had a much better sense of McKayla and Mike. I had mixed feelings about Mike, since he seemed a bit controlling to me, but he played an important role in Aubrey’s life and in the story. One character that I really did want to know more about was Gage, he was rather enigmatic!

As in Begin Again, a few things seemed odd to me, though I have put that down to never having been a rich, beautiful teenager in California! Money, cars, shopping… And a group of teenagers travelling to an island by themselves for the weekend, and all the parents being okay with this? Not to mention Brandon agreeing for Aubrey to go while her stalker is still out there. Yeah, that seems like more freedom than the average teenager might have, but still, it was a nice way to give Aubrey time to get to know some of the other students.

I enjoyed reading this teen drama. Live Again is suitable for middle to upper high school students, and should be read directly after the first book in the series, Begin Again. A third book in this series is due out later this year. I will be looking forward to seeing what trouble Aubrey find herself in next.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Begin Again by Brittney Mulliner

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2-1Begin Again by Brittney Mulliner, e-book, 192 pages, published in 2014.

Aubrey Tate is the new girl in school. She has moved in with her brother on the Californian coast after a traumatic incident in her Chicago home. Her mother packs her off quickly, hoping that starting over will allow her to move on from the past. Aubrey falls on her feet, finding a safe haven with her brother, easy transition to school with her cousin, McKayla, and a new dance studio to attend. Though she is trying to leave some boy troubles behind, she quickly finds herself the object of attention for numerous boys at school.

Begin Again is a teen drama. The story follows Aubrey’s new start living with her brother, Brandon, and how she adjusts to her new school, making friends, meeting boys. The plot is simple, but well written. The setting and characters are described in detail allowing the reader to get to know them. The Page’s house sounds divine, and the view from Brandon’s condo is very refreshing (wish I had a view like that!) And, wow, there are a lot of good looking kids at Aubrey’s school! Everyone is so hot, beautiful, gorgeous, tanned…. do people like this really exist in such numbers? And money, money, everywhere. These kids have way too much money for their ages, especially considering not many of them seem to have a job. There are swanky cars and endless wardrobes, huge parties and intimate dates. I was amused by the complex plans the girls put into action to ask the boys to the winter formal, so much effort, but sweet too. Maybe we do things differently in country Australia, but I don’t remember high school quite like that!

Despite being rich and beautiful, both Aubrey and Mckayla seem somewhat oblivious to their assets, and they don’t use what they have to better themselves. They have insecurities and doubts, and spend too much time at the mall, like many teenagers. Aubrey and McKayla are fairly average teenagers, just with plenty of dough to splash about. I liked them both. Their best friends, Alexis and Talia, were also likable, though I felt like I didn’t get to know them as well. For the most popular girls in school they are far nicer and down to earth than expected. On the other hand, Sydney is pretty mean and catty, mostly out of jealousy and spite. She isn’t a nice person, she is just kind of pathetic. So is Aubrey’s mum. She really lacks parenting skills, and is far more concerned about her own image than she is about her daughter. She only wants reflected glory from Aubrey, no hassles or hiccups. This isn’t fair to Aubrey.

As for the boys in Aubrey’s life, there are enough to make life interesting and complicated. Mike is the protector, always defending Aubrey, Luke is the hottest guy in school, but he’s also obsessed by his surfing, and Gage is the mysterious bad boy that everyone warns Aubrey away from. And then there’s Brandon’s best friend, Carter, the older and off-limits man, who may think of Aubrey as just a little sister. They are very diverse, apart from their attractiveness. I’m intrigued by their histories, especially Gage’s. I would have liked a little more background, though their histories may yet be revealed in the next book. I liked them all in different ways, and there were things about all of them that I disliked too, such as Mike’s control issues, or Luke’s instability.

Cliffhanger, anyone? The book ended rather abruptly in the middle of the story! Nothing was resolved, or completed, it just ended. What??? Okay, so there is a sequel, and I started reading the sequel immediately upon completion of Begin Again, but still, I felt a little cheated at the end. There was a nice dramatic twist, but I wanted more, no, I needed more. I now have to find out what happens in Aubrey’s life, what happens with all the boys, her friends, her brother, and her past. The story really drew me in.

This engaging book is best for middle to upper high school students, especially those keen on realistic teen drama. When you get Begin Again, make sure you have the sequel, Live Again, waiting in the wings, you’ll want it straight away!

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.