Saturday, 23 May 2015

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Title: The DUFF
Author: Kody Keplinger
Published by: Hodder Children's Books
Publication date: 25th February 2015
Pages: 343
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper may not be the prettiest girl at school, but she has a loyal group of friends, biting wit, and a spot-on BS detector. She's also too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut Wesley. But when he casually refers to Bianca as the Duff of her crew - the designated ugly fat friend - the gloves are off!

But things aren't so great at home and Bianca, desperate for a distraction, ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it, and before she knows it she's in a secret enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly wrong. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Since it was announced that The DUFF would be adapted for the big screen, this book has been everywhere. It's been majorly hyped, and I've wanted to give it a try for a while, so considering I missed it the first time around, I was hugely excited when I received this for review.

And... by the end of the book, I was considerably less excited. I did like some of it. I'd almost go as far to say that, dialogue-wise, Kody Keplinger is the newer, sassier Stephanie Perkins. The characters are amazing; Bianca Piper is sarcastic, witty, cynical... this girl gets me, she really does. The entire book is hilarious and honest, and a few of my favourite quotes include:

"Spanish, huh?" he said, glancing down at the scattered papers as he grabbed them. "Can you say anything interesting?"
"El tono de tu voz hace que queria estrangularme." I stood up and waited for him to hand over my papers.
"That sounds sexy," he said, getting to his feet and handing me the stack of Spanish work he'd swept together. "What's it mean?"
"The sound of your voice makes me want to strangle myself."
"...we're all fucking Duffs."
"I’m not the Duff," Wesley said confidently.
"That's because you don't have friends."
"Oh. Right."
"Your sense of humor needs some work, then," Wesley suggested. "Most girls find my jokes charming."
"Those girls must have IQs low enough to trip over."

As you can see, the writing was a bit clunky, but as long as the book is actually readable then I'm not usually bothered much by that. For me, the most important things about a book are the characters and the plot. I have to be invested in them - and, with The DUFF, I was. So why didn't I enjoy it as much as I thought I would?

As for Wesley Rush, he was really nasty to Bianca in the beginning, and I didn't like how that was romanticised. Should that mindset be promoted at all, especially in YA? But even that isn't why The DUFF didn't meet my expectations, and Wesley changed for the better in the end. The letter and the scene with Bianca's dad showed that, deep down, he was a good person and that he was usually just putting on a front. I won't say any more about that because, here at The Mile Long Bookshelf, we don't do spoilers. Much.

This is one of the most honest YA books I've ever read, and I'm very much looking forward to the next book. But, at the same time, I'm not sure the excessive hype was warranted. It was good in terms of dialogue - it was witty, funny, and I always love that. Sadly, everything else was a let down. It's not bad but it's nothing special.

Overall, the movie is so much better and that's not something I usually say. Nothing could ever replace such an iconic movie but it's like a new Mean Girls, and if I had to recommend either the book or the movie to you, it would be the movie - every time. Gah, these three-star reviews are annoying, aren't they? To conclude, it's an enjoyable book but not one that you need to rush out and buy immediately. Sad times.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dealing with Exam Stress

Bit of a different post today, but as I have my IGCSE exams from Monday until 10th June I've been thinking about them a lot. I'm stressed, you're stressed - we're all stressed. So, here's something I wrote in the hopes that it will help not only me but also some of you. 

Note: this entire post is based on how things work in the English education system. Most of this should still apply to people in other countries, but grades I mention might not. 

Here's the thing. No one should be pressuring or expecting you to get the very highest grades in every single exam you do. That's just going to make you feel worse. They're probably only looking out for you, but in this situation you can ignore them and do what feels right for you and only you. Hey, you might be capable of getting the highest grades in every single subject and if so then that's amazing and you should feel proud of yourself, but I find that the best thing to do is aim for a C. If you get that, then great - you've passed! If you get higher, that's a bonus and you should treat yourself to cake. Put enough pressure on yourself that you revise a substantial amount, but don't drive yourself into the ground with stress. 

Imagine someone who revises all day. every day. They don't schedule time out for themselves, they haven't seen their friends in months and it's quite possible that the last time they read a book or watched TV was some months ago. They cry a lot, but they keep going even though they feel a bit dead.

That is the kind of thing that does more harm than good. It's incredibly important and perfectly okay to balance revision with fun stuff, not to mention the fact that you need to eat and keep hydrated. Otherwise you'll drive yourself mad. Scheduling time for you is important, and that leads onto my next point...

When revision gets too much and you're contemplating ripping up the past paper you're doing, have a nap, go for a run, or watch funny YouTube videos. You've clearly reached your limit so any revision you do after that isn't going to benefit you at all. Take some time out and come back to it calmer and refreshed.

At the end of the day, no matter what anyone tells you, your results do not define you. How can a single letter sum up how creative, intelligent, funny and kind you are? It doesn't say anything about you as a person except how much you managed to remember about a certain topic on a certain day. And it's not the end of the world if you don't pass your exams first-time - resits exist for a reason, and that reason is that lots of people have to do them every single year. There's no shame in it.

Exams are great for certain people and their results will allow them into the university of their choice or the career that they like the look of. But the world does not revolve around exam results, thankfully. In my opinion, staying happy and healthy is the most important thing. You could have all A*s but be really unhappy. You could have all Cs or lower but be happy, healthy and still experiencing lots of different things. Exams are important, of course, but not life-defining. There are always other options and if you're passionate enough about something, you'll get it.

Overall, do what's best for you, but remember: keep hydrated, don't push yourself past the point of exhaustion - seriously, guys, revising all night is not going to help - and make sure you're taking time out of your day to relax. If you balance it well, you'll be fine.

This may be hypocritical coming from the girl who fully expects to cry through her Maths papers, but there's more to life than exams. And now I'm going to stop sounding like a school counsellor. *steps off soap box*

Do you have any exam advice?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

EVENT REPORT: Carrie Hope Fletcher talk and book signing

On April 24th I read and loved All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher, and on May 7th at Waterstones Piccadilly I got to meet the woman herself.

I'm not going to lie, the first part wasn't pleasant. The event was in the basement - which I only found out after trudging up four flights of stairs - and even though I was there early, there weren't any seats. On top of that it was boiling hot, dark, and very crowded. As you can imagine, that wasn't very nice! But there was free cake. Doesn't it look amazing?

At least I think it was free. I really, really hope it was free and that the one I ate wasn't actually stolen. That would be awkward.

As you might know from many sarcastic tweets of mine like this one, nothing annoys me more than standing in a crowd trying to see something and being met with a wall of tall people in front of me. It really sucks. But this time - and this actually made my day - a girl near me asked if I wanted to stand in front of her because she'd be able to see over me anyway. Seriously, my day was made and she is clearly a true Hopeful. Unfortunately I didn't get the girl's name, but in the unlikely event that she's reading this, thank you for being awesome!

I am so sorry about the poor photo quality; I considered not including this photo and the next one as they make me cringe they're that bad, but I figured you'd want to see them anyway. You'd think after bringing out so many different models that iPhones would have a good zoom by now, but apparently not.

Anyway, the talk began and was hosted by the one and only Internet-genius and friend of Carrie, Ben Cook. He talked a bit about how proud he is of Carrie before 'throwing some shade' at YouTubers who have their books written for them, which was hilarious even though it's not something I'm personally bothered by. For the record, Carrie wrote and illustrated the book herself!

After they'd chatted about the book and taken some questions from the audience, Carrie whipped out her guitar and played a quick cover of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift followed by her original song Boys in Books are Better. It was so unexpected and the crowd went wild. Watch my vlog of the day here if you want to see that.

Soon enough it was time to get books signed and I was fifth in the queue, thank god, because the signing was estimated to go on for three hours and my feet were just about ready to drop off!

For once I didn't make a fool of myself; I am very happy about that because this is rarely the outcome when I meet an author. I'd been planning to tell her that I reviewed her book but then when I got there I didn't trust myself not to be an idiot. After getting my own book signed I got one signed for Ami, the girl who won my Twitter giveaway.

After that I traipsed around the stationery section and found a sketchbook almost as big as me, before receiving a surprising amount of tweets from viewers, I guess, who said they'd seen me at the signing but hadn't said hello. Really weird but really cool.

Before the signing, I'd been to Laduree to get some macarons. If you know me at all, you'll know that I have an unhealthy obsession with macarons and the joy I felt as I entered the shop was probably a bit over the top. But there we go.

And then I came home! Overall, it was a great day and I'm so glad I went. Carrie is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and if you ever get the chance to meet her, you definitely should.

Click here to read my review of All I Know Now, or click here to see my vlog of the day!