Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daughter – Jennie Melamed

The lovely people of Bookbridgr sent me a gorgeous hardcover of this (seriously the dust jacket is beautiful) right around the time that the Handmaid’s Tale was wrapping up, it’s almost like they knew I would be hunting for something to fill the Offred sized hole that was left behind and this book, dear God this book. It, as the kids say, left me SHOOK.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

Honestly, I’m a bit lost as to where to begin with this. It was as hard to read as it was to put down.
That doesn’t explain a lot, does it?
Sorry, let’s try again.

This book reminded me of lots of other things, but at the same time it was so original. What we have is a cult like community where the patriarchy rules, each family is given their own profession, couples are paired up and allowed two children and when they become too old to be useful, they are put out to pasture. They are confined to their island and are not told anything of the world outside, much like The Giver, which is one of my faves. The only freedom allowed is for those considered children, every summer they’re allowed to live as though feral, in an almost Lord of the Flies kind of way. The adults remain inside and those girls unfortunate enough to start menstruating have to do their summer of fruition, which, like in Only Ever Yours, is when they’re gathered up and presented to a group of single men to be picked and matched up. By winter they’re likely married and pregnant and the cycle continues. In this society the birth of a boy brings celebration, the birth of a girl brings sorrow for before the girls belong to their husbands they belong to their fathers. Yes that sentence is heaped with innuendo and here’s the part where I chuck you some trigger warnings. This is a society where child molestation and sexual assault are not only normal but are insisted upon. There is also a character with an eating disorder, just fyi.

The story is told from the point of view of four girls aged between 17 and 13 living in this society and one of them sees something they’re not supposed to which throws this whole community into turmoil. Now you can see why it was so hard to read, these girls’ lives are horrific but Jennie Melamed tells it with such subtlety that it creeps its way into your subconscious and haunts you. Her author profile tells me that she’s a psychologist that works with abused children and you can tell that she’s someone who understands the sensitivities and employs them with care. A lot of the incidents in this book are inferred, nothing is gratuitous. The bio also tells me that she owns three shiba inu’s and frankly, that’s brilliant.

Gather the Daughters is a wonderful and horrific book (can that be possible?) that should be a must for anyone who’s into their dystopians or is interested in reading more about cults.

Here’s another thing, this hasn’t been done in a while, but this was so good it gets a Nick Fury Seal of approval.

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Relativity

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Relativity – Antonia Hayes

Hello and welcome to not only a review of this wonderfully charming book, but also to day three of the Relativity blog tour! Thank you to Little Brown for sending me a copy of this and letting me be part of the tour, I was certainly sold by the blurb alone, but in case you aren’t, let me tell you a little more about it.

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.
His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.
Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.
Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

 If you know me IRL, you’ll know why I was sold at the first line of the blurb.
Anyway, I don’t even know where to start with this. This book is charming. It is endearing. It is delightful. It is heartbreaking. It is bittersweet. It seamlessly pieces together three strands of the same family each with their own distinct voices and agendas, all while tying in the theme of life, the universe and interconnectivity. Firstly, we have Ethan, Ethan likes science and is wicked smart, but Ethan is on the cusp of becoming a man and he wants to know why the other kids think he’s weird, he wants to know where he came from and who he is. Which makes things hard for his single mother Claire, who really doesn’t want Ethan’s dad back in his life, no matter how much she might have once loved him and when you find out why and what she is protecting Ethan from, it’s kind of heartbreaking.
Then there is Mark, the dad in question, who you both sympathise and despise as the story starts to unravel.

At its heart, Relativity is a warm, tender, family drama that leaves you feeling a bit fuzzy inside. Its unlike anything else in this genre I’ve read before, you have the coming of age aspect to Ethan’s story line, the redemption of Mark and the development of Claire, but with added substance, the physics theme and how it ties together really makes this stand out and actually, I don’t think there is an audience that it doesn’t cater for. You want something to lose yourself in, Relativity is for you. You want a book about families sorting out their differences, Relativity is for you. You want something out of this world, something intelligent with discussions about particles and theoretical physics, Relativity is for you. Its a novel that starts with the universe and ends with gravity and whether you are a nerd or not, you’ll be hard pushed not to see the beauty in its pages.

I don’t really know what else to say other than Relativity is a real gem of a read.

I haven’t done this in a while, but it even gets the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.

nick fury

Sofia Khan is not Obliged

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Sofia Khan is Not Obliged – Aiysha Malik

Note to self, read more about non white people.

“Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’ Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. ‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?

How sad is it that I live in a world where I actually have to make a note to self to find diverse literature?

Anyway, I first heard about this book when watching this video:

Basically, Leena (the vlogger in question) has raved about this book, she not only mentioned it in a book haul, but then she also interviewed the author (Aiysha Malik) about being a Muslim woman in Britain. If you’re not familiar with Leena, you should totally check her out, she’s very insightful and articulate and she is part of the Banging Book Club which I have been loving this year. Anyway, I was going to be reviewing Sofia Khan is not Obliged, not Leena’s YouTube channel. Whatever you take away from this post, check out both the book and Leena’s channel. Mmmkay?

Anyway, the above video, much like the book, was kind of eye opening for me. I like to think that I am an accepting person, I kinda live by the you do you mantra, but I do live in a very white, very closed part of the world where it’s more unusual not to hear a bit of casual racism as you go about your day, anyway because I am white and I don’t live in a particularly multi cultural area, I don’t know anyone who is openly Muslim and apart from the few things I was taught for GCSE RE, I don’t know an awful lot about Islam. I do however, know better than to listen to what the mainstream media tell me about Islam. TLDR, Leena’s video is super interesting and ya’ll should watch it.
Aside from being very informative, they talked about Aiysha’s novel, Sofia Khan is not Obliged, which made me immediately add it to my tbr list and do a literal jig for joy when I found it on the recently returned shelf at the library. Seriously, I got some funny looks, which might have been to do with the jig and might have been to do with the fact that I turned up 10 minutes before closing and proceeded to wonder about very slowly choosing things read. Can you tell I haven’t reviewed anything for a while? Since when have I been rambly af?

If you’re still with me, I salute you.
When I was reading it, I was firstly struck at how little I knew about modern Muslim life in Britain and also how few books I’ve read that feature non white protagonists. This is something I need to rectify. Please recommend me things.

Anyway, this book, I implore you all to read this book, diversifying your bookshelves aside, this was frankly genius.

I don’t want to repeat every other review and label this the Muslim Bridget Jones, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it. Sofia Khan is a thirty something Muslim lady who has sworn off men (mostly because her sort of boyfriend wanted her to marry him and live with him in a house next door to his parents with a wall removed, essentially making it one house. Sofia was neither obliged or amused). One review I read of this on goodreads opened with the line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Sofia Khan is in need of a husband. Genius. It turns out, that much like in non-Muslim households, not being married (or at least romantically entangled) before turning thirty, is a really big deal in Sofia’s home. She has to constantly deal with her family not understanding why she is happy to be on her own, as well as trying to deal with being part of this community, but also being a modern woman who has her own thoughts and ideas. Sofia herself was born and raised in London, her parents were not and the clashes in environment and outside influences were so interesting to read.
Anyway, Sofia, who works as a publicist for a publisher accidentally ends up pitching a Muslim dating book to her boss and finds herself given the task of writing it… cue the often hilarious situations she finds herself in as she actually has to join Muslim dating sites and attend Muslim speed dating for research purposes. This is all while battling the idea of being happy being alone vs finding a husband, while hanging out with people she may or may not be developing feelings for, the comings and goings of her ex and his compromises about the hole in the wall and her band of friends, one of whom is dating someone of a different race and another has become a second wife – this concept was kind of alien to me so reading about it was super interesting – and how these two things clash with their upbringings and the world they live in.

Aside from being a fun, heartfelt book about the trials and tribulations of a thirty something navigating the London dating scene, its also super interesting to read about the prospective of a person so completely removed from my background. I had always been under the impression (and honestly, the media doesn’t help this) that Muslim women are oppressed, Leena’s video and Aiysha Malik’s book both contradict this and while there are lots of traditional rules that make it seem that way, from reading this, though there are obvious cultural differences, there are many similarities too. Sofia, her mum and sister are expected to be cooks and run a house hold. That’s true of women whatever their religion, Sofia is in her thirties and feeling pressured to find a man, do you know who else had that? Bridget Jones, the one Sofia Khan is so often compared to in reviews. Other things that were interesting about this book is the idea of hijabs, Sofia, unlike many of her friends and family, chooses to wear a hijab and pray five times a day. She chooses not to drink, she chooses to smoke and swear. She goes to speed dating for goodness sake! And while she is careful to respect the parameters of her families beliefs, ie not allowing a man in the house after hours etc, she is not oppressed. She wears skinny jeans. How can you be oppressed if you wear skinny jeans? I just kind of loved that here is a person that loves their religion and follows its rules (an alien concept for me, the atheist) who was also relatable.
Plus, this was pretty bloody funny. Here is a genuine line from the book, after being called a terrorist while on the tube, Sofia responds with:

Terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes you ignorant wanker!

Come on, that is incredible.

Actually, I liked this so much, its going to get the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.

nick fury

It’s been a while since he made an appearance hasn’t it?

A Monster Calls

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A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Oh dear God, I was not expecting to cry as much as I did reading this, I was not expecting to get so immersed and I was a bit unprepared for this book and so, I want to try and make your life as easy as possible by preparing you for this book.

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.

I went into this knowing nothing but that it was a Patrick Ness, and therefore, had to be wonderful. I wasn’t wrong, this book is wonderful, but where I was expecting high fantasy and literal monsters, what we got was a metaphorical one, a silent and invisible killer, the suffering of a young boy and the utter unfairness of mortality.
Yeah. It’s a bit deep.

I don’t want to give too much away about this story, I think one of the reasons why this book had such a profound effect on me was that it took me by surprise, I didn’t know what it was about, I didn’t know what I would witness and I think in the world of the internet, we’ve kind of lost that beauty of opening a book and being completely taken aback by it. I mean goodreads is great and all, but SPOILERS.

This is going to be the shortest review in history because there is so much I want to say about this book and so much I can’t say because there simply aren’t words to express how unfortunate and short life can be for some people. I am not articulate enough to tell you how utterly brilliant this book is, both in conception and execution. Patrick Ness is a genius, something I’ve known since reading his Chaos Walking series a while back, but while those were brilliantly written, this was on a whole new level. If you’ve not experienced Patrick Ness, you need to. If you’ve not had tears rolling down your face after reading a book you thought was about literal monsters, you have not known greatness.

Basically, read this.
I want to give this the Nick Fury Seal of Approval… But would that cheapen the moment… Probably… I’ll tag it as such, but just imagine there is a seal with an eye patch here.
Also, Patrick Ness is one of the authors appearing at YALC this year, so if you’re able to go (I really want to because I went last year and it was amazing) you totally should.

Every Last Word

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Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone

I really wished that I had the time to read this during TimeToChange because it would have been so topical and relevant and I really wanted to be able to join the discussion without having to share things that I am still not really comfortable discussing on the internet. This book would have been perfect, not only do we have a character who suffers from a mental health issue, but we have one that is surrounded by people who accept and love her and help her accept and love herself. And honestly, that is amazing.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.
Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.
Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

So many books that I read about someone suffering from a mental health issue has them spiralling out of control, being admitted to hospital and then regaining control. Which is great, that is a narrative that a lot of people can relate to and honestly, the Bell Jar is a novel that completely and utterly articulates exactly what happened to me and how I was feeling a couple of years ago. But even so, there are plenty of people living with a mental health issue that aren’t on the verge of suicide, that don’t hear voices or need to be in a specialised unit and I feel a little bit like these people are under represented in literature, which is why this book is so good.  Sam, although being medicated and seeing a psychiatrist, isn’t dangerous to herself or others, she isn’t locked away from the world, she has to live in it and live with her OCD which was not only added to an already very rich and interesting character, but also gave another less explored insight into literature about mental health.

There are a lot of layers to this story, firstly we have Sam, who as we know from the very first page has a quite serious OCD, her thoughts scare her and she is medicated in order to sleep, we know that her OCD controls pretty much every aspect of her life and that she is scared of being seen as being as abnormal as she fears she is. We also know from the first page that Sam is part of a friendship group that makes her feel insecure about herself and her abilities, which is something we can all relate to. This friendship group is a fairly toxic one full of popular girls who have put Sam in situations where she hasn’t been a particularly nice person, something that she regrets, but is also one of those friendship groups where each girl feels the need to compete against each other, stab each other in the back and then just act as though that’s what friends do. Even if you are someone lucky enough to not be able to relate to mental health side of the book, you can certainly see the reality in the school life.

This isn’t just a book about a girl with an OCD, this is also a book about poetry, about growing up and finding yourself. One of the main themes of the book is how although Sam loves her friends, she is also scared of them. She is scared at what they would do to her if she wasn’t there friend, she is scared of being left out by them and she is scared of how they would react if they knew what was in her head. There are loads of instances in the story of her being upset by things her friends have said, I don’t know about you, but I know that feel. There is a huge strand of this story line which is all about Sam realising that people grow up and they grow apart and that the people you were friends with in primary school are not the same people when they reach secondary school. During the course of the story, this realisation hits her, especially when she starts making new friends through the medium of poetry. These new friends are just as complex and outside of the popular social circle of school. In fact, I guess this book, if we want to make comparisons, is a little like Perks crossed with the Dead Poet’s Society. This ragtag group of kids with their own issues going on have secret meetings where they write and read poetry and its kind of beautiful. Every Last Word is littered with these poems composed by various characters and even though I am not all that into poetry, it was something that even I could appreciate and enjoy. Being someone that loves words and loves books about words and stories etc, I am always very nervous when picking something up that involves those things. I don’t have a particularly good record of finding books about writers or fellow word nerds that are well… Enjoyable, but this was, in fact, every last word of Every Last Word was a joy to behold. The story was great, the narration was great, the characters were great, the portrayal of mental health was great. Basically I really liked it, can you tell?

I don’t feel like this rambly review is doing the story justice, but essentially, Sam learns to deal with her problems with a creative outlet and by exploring new friendships and hobbies and the fact that although she struggles with her OCD and it is clearly something that she see’s as a burden, it doesn’t necessarily hold her back which is a pretty important message to drive home to people if you ask me. It also just so happens that Sam’s life is told in a wonderfully positive and creative way.

Every Last Word is being released in June, so don’t forget to add it to your to buy/ to hire/ to track down lists, because seriously, it’s incredible and if there is one book that you should be looking forward to, it is this one. Many thanks to Net Galley for supplying me with a copy.

This is in fact the first book I’ve reviewed this year to get the Nick Fury Seal of Approval – others that would have gone into this category had I been articulate enough to review them after reading were: Falling into Place and Shock of Fall, which funnily enough, had similar themes to this book!

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My sister lives on the mantelpiece

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My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher

I remember when I read Ketchup Clouds by the same author back last year, that I really wanted to review it because it is all kinds of awesome and I don’t know if I can rest without everyone reading it, but reviewing it would have given away everything, so I am so glad that I picked up another of her books and that this one was easier to review without spoiling it!

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a ‘Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time.
To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago.
When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

Unlike Ketchup Clouds, which I would group firmly into the YA genre, this is more Mid grade or perhaps a bit younger, it’s told through the eyes of 10 year old Jamie and there is some serious talent being displayed here because there was never any doubt that Jamie was a ten year old boy, he sounded like one, he thought like one, he saw the world like one and although I am a 26 year old female, I was hooked from the very first page.

I’ll admit, I was drawn to the title without really knowing an awful lot about this book, but the more of it I read, the scarier it was, it was so poignant in todays society, a little boy telling us the story of how his older sister died in a terrorist attack, at how it tore apart his family, at how his father became Islamophobic and is trying to ingrain that hatred into his children and how Jamie fails to see that his best friend, Sunya, a muslim girl, could be anything like the people who planted the bomb that killed his sister in the first place. It’s a really fascinating look at how hatred is learned, not inherent, it’s an interesting look at society and grief and families all in one fairly short story.

I think, for me at least, this is a really important lesson about grief. Jamie is constantly made to feel guilty about the fact that he hasn’t cried over his sister’s death, that he thinks keeping her urn and her ashes on the mantelpiece and continuing to throw her birthday parties etc is a bit silly, when really, he was five when she died, he barely remembers her. You can’t miss something you never really knew. I find that people tend to forget this. I’m always hearing stories of people who have lost someone has a child and being given a look of complete disbelief when they’re able to just stroll through life as usual. It is ok to grieve, it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to cry, but equally, it’s ok to not do those things and I think that’s often overlooked. My grandfather died just after Christmas this year a few days short of his 90th birthday, which is sad. I felt sad about it. But at the same time, I didn’t really know him, he didn’t really know me. I didn’t grow up going to his house every sunday and speaking to him every week like I did my other grandad and when he died, although I was sad that he wasn’t around anymore and I felt sympathetic towards my dad who had lost his father, I didn’t really know how to express myself, I couldn’t cry over it because I didn’t really know him. It sounds horrible, but that was the truth, so I really related to Jamie in that sense, people kept asking me how I was feeling, if I was ok and I was and I felt terrible about that, but I shouldn’t have done. Neither should the characters in this book and neither should any one who decides to read this.

I really can’t recommend Anabell Pincher enough, Ketchup Clouds was addictive, incredibly well written and sucked you into it’s own little bubble, refusing to let you go even after the last page had been turned (and the cover is hella pretty), this was no exception, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was every bit as heartbreaking, thought provoking and utterly obsession inducing as it’s bookish sibling and I urge you all to check this author out if you haven’t already.

Oh look, here’s something we haven’t done for a while, this gets the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.

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Love and other unknown variables

20757521Love and Other Unknown Variables = Shannon Lee Alexander

I may need to do this with a selection of gifs because askdhafasfn

So, I started like this:
not impressed

Which soon became this:
sadblaine

Which descended into:
I'm in a glass case of emotion

With occasional blasts of this:
ref

Whenever I see reviews for this book, I’m always overwhelmed by how often it is compared to the Fault in Our Stars. While this is a perfectly valid comparison, both feature smart kids blighted by cancer and are incredibly well written and pack an emotional punch, it’s a little bit like comparing me to my brother. We have similarities, but we’re different people, with different ambitions and achievements. So, yes, Love and other Unknown Variables is like TFIOS, but it is also a perfectly solid stand alone book that is capable of achieving the tears of nerdfighters the world over.

Basically, the best thing to say would be that if you are a fan of John Green, you’re probably going to love this, it has the same thing that made TFIOS special, but with an air of An Abundance of Katherines. Another book this book reminded me of is The Rosie Project. So do with that what you will. But the one book that this definitely needs to be compared to is To Kill a Mockingbird. I haven’t seen any other reviews that make this comparison, but guys, if we have to draw comparisons between Love and Other Unknown Variables, it has to be with To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favourites, so this isn’t something I’m saying lightly, not only did L&OUV (do you like this abbreviation? I feel like I’m ruining the title doing that) mention To Kill a Mockingbird, it is full of references, lead character Charlotte’s surname is Finch, other lead character Charlie describes himself as having duck feather like hair, you know who else has that? Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Charlie, on reading TKAM (that looks even worse), learns about what being a hero and having courage really means (which is one of the many points of that novel), plus, he is forced, through punishment, to spend time with a cantankerous old lady who is dying, do you know who else does that? Jem, one of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, and this experience has a profound effect on both of them. So, yes, this book is a cancer book, it is like The Fault in Our Stars in that context, it is also like Before I die and if you like either of those, this is probably right up your street, but for the love of God, the one thing you should be comparing it to is To Kill a Mockingbird, which you all need to read immediately if you haven’t already done so. Love and Other Unknown Variables has so many parallels with it, it’s almost a homage, which is amazing, because seriously, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the all time greats.
Anyway, that’s enough of that, on with actually telling you what this is about.

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.
The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.
By the time he learns she’s ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared)

When I started this book I wasn’t overly enamoured with it.
Whilst I love nerd love with a firey passion and whilst I couldn’t help but smirk to myself at all the wonderful mentions of Iron Man et al, it did take me a while to get to know and like our narrator, Charlie. He’s awkward and nervous, super smart and really into maths, he has no idea how to talk to girls he’s attracted to (he’s fine talking to girls in general, his best friend is female – though apparently, he doesn’t understand that he’s not allowed to just touch people if he feels like it) and when we first meet him, he molests the girl standing in front of him in a queue, which really didn’t sit well with me at all. I don’t care how socially inept you are, touching someone who isn’t expecting/doesn’t want to be touched and dissing their choice of body art is a no no. You could be the smartest, cutest person on the planet and it is still a no. What’s worse about this encounter is that the aforementioned best friend didn’t even jump in and call him out on how bad it was to treat a fellow female in this way, instead choosing to wait for a couple of pages and then just very calmly ask him about his social ineptitude. So, I pretty much was convinced from that moment onwards that I was going to hate it and it was only the Tony Stark reference a little later in the chapter that pulled me back in. But, I am oh so glad that I stuck with it. Charlie redeems himself a lot when his mathmatical brain that can unravel scientific equations and add up super fast, can not for the life of him help him decipher his feelings for the aforementioned molested girl (yes. It was a meet-cute). What comes next is a beautifully well developed relationship between the two of them which becomes bitter sweet and marred with tragedy.

Charlotte, the girl from the queue, was awesome, I kind of liked her straight away, she wasn’t afraid to call Charlie out on his nonsense and was sassy, smart and funny. Exactly how I like them, without falling into the manic pixie dream girl trope. I was actually a little heart broken that they didn’t get more time together, their awkward flirting as they both danced around their attraction for each other was adorable and I just wanted to push them together and be like KISS GODDAMN IT!

Both Charlotte and Charlie were great actually, personality wise, they were both intelligent and witty, but their intellect shone in different ways, which I really liked, Charlie isn’t very well read, he doesn’t enjoy literature, he likes science and maths and he doesn’t understand society all that well. Charlotte may not be at the same standard as him mathematically, but she is well read, she can read people and the fact that we got to see that there is more to being clever than being able to add up was really good. It is also through each other that they explore their intellect and the different ways there is to be clever, it is through Charlotte and her sister that Charlie discovers To Kill a Mockingbird, that he reads it and learns from Atticus’ moral lessons, from Jem and Scout, he learns about what it means to be brave and the differences between winning and losing. Charlotte, who is a great artist, starts seeing the maths and the science behind her designs, the way that they bring out the best in each other (and specifically the way Charlotte interacts with Charlie’s sister, Becca) is so enjoyable to see unfold.

Those two weren’t the only two good characters in the book, while I felt that Charlie was a bit critical of his sister, Becca, especially considering that he too is really socially awkward, I kind of loved her and we see that although the story is about Charlie and Charlotte’s blossoming relationship, Charlotte and Becca’s friendship was a joy to watch develop too. I thought everyone’s characterisations were really good actually. James was an awesome character, he is a guy that is secure enough with who he is to cook food for his friends and siblings. To the point where he will prepare a meal before school and then invite his friends to join him and his family to eat it later. How many guys to you come across that are completely comfortable doing that whilst also acting the clown at school? James is also an amazing boyfriend in terms of the way he treats and respects Greta. Give the boy a book of his own! I loved him! Greta was cool too, she was, like most of the kids in this book, super smart (they were all so smart it bordered on irritating at times) but she also managed to be super smart whilst having a boyfriend, being a best friend and being a normal teenager and was in most ways, more teenage than Charlie was.

I suppose I should talk about the crying.
There was a bit, so, fair warning, don’t read this in a public place. I made the mistake of reading TFIOS on an 8 hour plane journey. Rookie error. If you are planning a trip where you will be in a confined space surrounded by strangers for a significant amount of time, perhaps wait until you get home before diving into this, you’re going to need a pack of tissues, some sad music and maybe a pot of Ben and Jerry’s come the end. I don’t want to give too much away, the endless comparisons to TFIOS and the blurb kind of tell you what to expect, but I guess, stick with the douchebaggery of the first chapter and you will end up having your heart ripped out. I ended up staying up til 2 in the morning sobbing into my kindle because of this. You have been warned.

Also, physically this book is hella cute. The cover is gorgeous and the pages inside feature graph paper. It’s totally in character for Charlie and even though I was sent an egalley of this to review, I am genuinely considering buying it because it would look amazing on my shelf.

I need to balance this out a bit, so here are a few things that didn’t quite work.
One thing I thought was a little weird, Charlie introduces himself as Charlie and for the first few chapters is referred to and answers to Charlie. He then meets Charlotte in his kitchen and it is revealed that Charlotte is often called Charley, but Becca won’t call her that because her brother is called Charlie, so she is going to call her Charlotte instead. (This is repeated later when Charlotte’s sister meets Charlie and calls him by his surname because Charlotte is Charley to her) A few scenes later, we have Charlie and Charlotte meeting at a super market where this exchange happens: Charlotte says “Hi Charlie, right?”
Charlie nods and says “Other Charlie.”
But – I am going somewhere with this – Greta randomly starts calling Charlie Chuck after Becca has decided that Charlotte will be referred to by her full name. She does this until the end of the book, though she doesn’t do it at the beginning. Mrs Dimwitty refers to him as Charles, Charlie and Jack. While I understand that people have nicknames for their friends, what I don’t get is… If Charlie happy being Chuck, why can’t that just be his name and Charlotte be Charley?  And why, if Charlie is Charlie, not just call him Charlie!? Apart from the asshat moment at the beginning with the molesting and the tattoo, this was the only other thing that confused me. I think had Greta called Charlie Chuck from the beginning, I would have just accepted it and got on with it, but when she starts calling him that, it seemed so random that I didn’t quite get when it couldn’t be Chuck and Charley instead of Charlie and Charlotte. Anyway.

TLDR – This book is amazing, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll change your life.
If you like John Green, read it. If you like To Kill a Mockingbird, read it.

I’m done now. As you were.

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