Wednesday 17 April 2019

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'What Red Was' by Rosie Price

Hey guys, and happy Wednesday! Today I am delighted to be bringing you a review of a brilliant book I read recently, What Red Was by Rosie Price. I had seen a lot of buzz around this book on twitter and I was so pleased when I saw that proof copies were available - this book doesn't come out till May, and I couldn't wait until then!

What Red Was is a novel about the various intricacies and complexities of entering into adult life, and living with trauma when you feel like you don't have a choice but to remain silent. It is a novel about heartbreak and the scars, physical, mental and emotional, that such trauma leaves. But What Red Was is also a book about breaking away from that which harms you, and taking ownership of your past pain and looking towards the future.

I was kindly sent a copy of What Red Was by Vintage Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

‘Kate Quaile,’ he said. ‘I like your name.’
Kate frowned. ‘How do you know my name?’

Through their four years at university, Kate and Max are inseparable. For him, she breaks her solitude; for her, he leaves his busy circles behind. But loving Max means knowing his family, the wealthy Rippons, all generosity, social ease and quiet repression. Theirs is not Kate’s world. At their London home, just after graduation, her life is shattered apart in a bedroom while a party goes on downstairs.

WHAT RED WAS explores the effects of trauma on mind and body, the tyrannies of memory, the sacrifices involved in staying silent, the courage of a young woman in speaking out. And when Kate does, this question: whose story is it now?

Right from the first page, I was hooked both on the voice and the writing. Oh gosh, the writing. The writing had both the candidness and effortless style of Sally Rooney's Conversations With Friends and the lyrical griminess of Kate Tempest's The Bricks That Built The Houses. Price's book reminded me of both these novels, yet it is so completely different. I think it reminded me of both of them purely because I loved them all for the same reasons. Mainly that they are so good at portraying convincing, authentic female characters, and allow them to run free with their own destiny. But also because the writing is just so gorgeously complex, yet so simple, packed with detail that makes you feel as if you are there.

Price is a master of creating characters that refuse to remain on the page. Every single character existed for a reason, and the relationships that were explored in the novel were so complex and interesting to read about. I haven't read a lot of books where the kind of relationship Kate and Max is explored, and I must admit I went into this story expecting something totally different from the relationship in the novel. But What Red Was is a breath of fresh air, and Price avoids all clichés and easy narrative fillers. The result is a vibrant, brilliantly contemporary story that richly explores life after university, the full and terrifying immersion into adulthood, and the new ways that you have to navigate the world and the people around you.

I think the rape was really well dealt with in the story, and although it was by no means the centre point of the novel, for me the narrative was very clearly split into 'before' the rape and 'after' the rape. This unflinching way of presenting life after that kind of trauma was so profound, and I haven't come across it dealt as sensitively or unapologetically in a lot of books. Price is undoubtedly on the come up as one of the new, fresh voices of our generation, and we're lucky to have her. She captures life in your 20s as the bewildering, disconcerting, excessive time that it is. 

Until next time :)

Wednesday 10 April 2019

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Proud' by Juno Dawson (and various)

Hey guys, and happy Wednesday! Today I am excited to bring you a review of a fabulous book I read recently, Proud, which is an anthology of poetry and stories written by a variety of awesome creatives, compiled by Juno Dawson (Queen of Teen 2014). It's a smart, moving, funny, celebratory book that recognises LGBT+ voices and puts them at the forefront. It is a truly fantastic collection and I'm so glad this book is getting the attention it so rightly deserves.

I was kindly sent Proud by Stripes Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Check out the blurb here...

A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of THIS BOOK IS GAY and CLEAN.

A celebration of LGBTQ+ talent, PROUD is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.

Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.


I was expecting huge things from this anthology, since the publicity for the book began well over a year ago. It's safe to say I was not disappointed! Most people who know me know I love short stories, both reading them and writing them. They are a challenge, and the process is so different from reading or writing a novel. In my creative writing classes at uni we were basically fed MFA stories for the three years, so it's refreshing to read something a bit different, a bit less, shall we say pedantic. Proud is just one of those collections that explore every human emotion with heaps of understanding and compassion. It is a book that prioritises celebrating, and that is why I loved it.

The variation in this book was wonderful. There is representation for almost every aspect of the LGBT+ community and each story or poem was brilliant in its own way. Reading Proud is quite an emotional rollercoaster, to be honest, as you will go from a highly emotional story to one that is so moving your heart could burst, to one that makes you snort with laughter on a packed train (yup, that happened). I loved that the stories and poems had accompanying artwork - my favourite had to be Alice Oseman's penguin artwork! As for my favourite stories, I adored 'Penguins' by Simon James Green, 'The Instructor' by Jess Valance, 'Almost Certain' by Tanya Byrne and 'I Hate Darcy Pemberley' by Karen Lawler. I also loved the poem 'How To Come Out As Gay' by Dean Atta (this one should be on a billboard). All of these pieces were so different but they all completely gripped me and rendered me a complete emotional wreck at the end of them!

I adored how unapologetically loud this book is (and I'm not just talking about the cover!) Proud is a glittering, flag-raising, fist-in-the-air celebration of difference and being yourself, refusing to be sidelined by anyone who doesn't respect that. Juno Dawson's introduction really put this book into perspective for me, and emphasised even more how desperately we needed this book, and still need more books like it. I am hoping for another anthology, but either way, I am hopeful for the future, in the way the YA publishing industry is creating books like these. Forever may that continue.

I was so stoked to be part of the Proud blog tour a couple of weeks ago, where I chose my favourite LGBT+ YA books, and explained how they helped me become a better ally. Check that post out here

Check out Juno Dawson here:

Until next time :)