Monday, 25 July 2016

GUEST POST: How Far is Too Far in YA?

Having experience with anxiety and agoraphobia myself, I was very excited to hear about Louise Gornall's debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies. With a housebound protagonist, I knew it would be an interesting read. What I didn't realise until fairly recently, however, was that Gornall herself also suffers with agoraphobia. The following post is about her decision to write about a typically 'taboo' topic - but how far is too far?

Look out for my review of Under Rose-Tainted Skies, coming soon!

Is there anything you wouldn't put in a book for YA readers?

Okay, guys! I'm going to bite the bullet and have a chat with you about something slightly controversial. I know some folks will disagree with me on this, and that's okay, but here it is: I don't think there is such a thing as too far in YA. I think if we're going to put limits on content, it should be more about context and how certain things are handled. 

Bottom line, when I was a teenager, if there was something I wasn't supposed to do, I'd do it, something I wasn't supposed to know, I'd find a way to figure it out, and that would usually only mean talking to my friends. I'm not saying this means teens should be exposed to everything, but I am suggesting that shielding them from discovering stuff is near impossible, and that maybe fiction is a safe environment for teens to explore some of life's darker issues/wants/needs. 

I was really lucky to have parents who wanted to prepare me for every situation, and who always provided me with a safe space to chat, but sadly, not everyone has that. This is overly dramatic, but when a conversation comes up about censoring YA, I always think of the shower scene in Carrie, when she comes on her period, and, having no clue why she's suddenly bleeding all over herself, automatically assumes she's dying. This in turn opens her up to a barrage of torment and ridicule. I don't know, I guess what I'm trying to say is that censoring books to protect teens seems ambiguous. Like, I'm not sure how protected a teen really is when they're not prepared for the scarier stuff in life. 

I could probably ramble on about this for a decade, but don't worry, I won't. I always find it's best to stop talking before I stop making sense and inadvertently shoot down my own argument.

I agree with Louise, actually; it might be controversial, but as long as a topic is dealt with in a sensible way, I'm cool with it. The sky is the limit! By censoring YA, you're censoring life, and things happen to people regardless of age. YA, in my opinion, should reflect that.

What do you think? Let's discuss!

Louise is a graduate of Garstang Community Academy, and she is currently studying for a BA (Hons) in English language and literature with special emphasis on creative writing. A YA aficionado, film nerd, identical twin, and junk food enthusiast, she's also an avid collector of book boyfriends. Her debut novel, Under Rose-Tainted Skies, is out now.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Reading My Old School Books | #JustWrite Day

Today is a pretty awesome day for bookworms: my video with Holly Bourne goes up on my channel tonight at 7pm BST, and... it's #JustWrite day! And if you like reading, you probably like writing, too, right? BIC (the people who made your biro) launched #JustWrite day because teenagers are writing less today than ever before. I'm not surprised, to be honest; I only ever write by hand when I'm taking notes during class. Even shopping lists go on my phone rather than a good old piece of paper.

#JustWrite day aims to change that and, to celebrate, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of my (messy, horrible, nonetheless handwritten and kind of hilarious) school books from Years 7 and 8, aka when I was 12 and 13. There's also a fun giveaway at the end of this post!

"I'm amazed with the lack of work!" SHADE. I went on to get an A in my History GCSE so there's the proof that you can turn your life around. #inspirational

Eine hamster, guys. Eine hamster.

In Geography, we got to draw a 'topic page' at the start of each new topic. I clearly had a theme...

That awkward moment when your handwriting was better then at 11 than now at 17...

English, unsurprisingly, was my best subject. No red pen, ninjas or hamsters in that book.

Even though I prefer typing, I firmly believe that handwriting is the best option. When it comes to schoolwork, I feel like the act of writing by hand helps my notes stay in my head, as opposed to going in one ear and straight out of the other. It hurts, though - usually by the end of the first page! That's why I'm amazed at BIC's new handwritten newspaper for teens, called the British Illustrated Chronicle. It's limited edition and they're being handed out in Brighton today, so if that's where you are (lucky you!) you can go and grab a copy. Don't worry if you don't live in Brighton, though, because you can read the paper online and BIC have given me a few copies to give away!

How cool does that look?! Even better, the paper itself includes a competition where you can win either £500, or one of two runner-up prizes worth £250 each by completing a sentence about what a world without words means to you. Here's the hand-drawn, handwritten newspaper in numbers:

  • 3 guest editors
  • 5 fictional editors
  • 6 celebrity quotes
  • 16 stories
  • 70 hours spent creating titles
  • 109 hours drawing illustrations
  • 116,000 copies printed
  • 168 hours spent on designing and handling layouts
  • Over 4,000 handwritten words

To find out more about the #JustWrite campaign and where they'll be in Brighton, search @MyBICPen or #JustWrite on Twitter, or visit their Facebook page.

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

Title: Songs About a Girl
Author: Chris Russell
Published by: Hodder Children's Books
Publication date: 28th July 2016
Pages: 483
Genres: YA Contemporary/Music
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

When aspiring photographer Charlie Bloom receives the invitation of her dreams - to take backstage photos for chart-topping boyband Fire&Lights - it's an offer she can't refuse.

Overnight she is launched into a world of fame, paparazzi and backstage bickering - caught between the dark charms of the band's lead singer Gabriel West, and boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson.

But then Charlie stumbles upon a spine-tingling truth: all the songs Gabriel has written for Fire&Lights' debut album are, impossibly, linked to her and her past.

What does he want with Charlie? What's really going on?

Occasionally, a book will come along that shakes up the blogosphere completely. The latest of those books? Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell. Since the beginning of the year, bloggers have been going crazy over this, from exclaiming over how fun it is to read, to freaking out over plot twist after plot twist... and now it's my turn.

Well, they weren't wrong - this is such a fun read. If you watched my book haul from June where I said it three or four times (vlogging ain't easy) you'll know that I love a bit of so-called 'boyband lit'. It's the perfect escapism, don't you think? In Songs About a Girl, however, it's even better, due to all the songs somehow being about Charlie and her past... how does that work? I guess you'll have to read it and find out.

...I did half guess the answer to that question very early on, though. Like, before I even opened the book. I just had a hunch and, annoyingly, I was right. However, I wasn't really expecting to be right because I never am when it comes to this sort of thing, so it still shocked me. It was done so cleverly, too! I am massively looking forward to the following two books; I might have predicted the ending, but I have no idea how things are going to continue from here...

I'm also looking forward to seeing more fun times play out between Charlie and her friend Melissa, and band members Yuki and Adrian. These four were my favourite characters: constantly loveable, realistic, and providing lighthearted banter. #archbishopofbanterbury #allaboardthebanterbus #bantersaurusrex #illstopnow

In all seriousness, this is such a brilliant book with funny dialogue and some very clever twists... you won't want to miss it. Perfect for fans of Sophia Bennett's Love Song and Zoella's Girl Online On Tour. And for anyone who has good taste in books, really...