I recently raved about three fun contemporary novels I read, but right now, as I’m listening to Bastille’s Wild World on repeat, it’s time for a little cry!
Unboxed by Non Pratt
I didn’t know what Unboxed was about before I picked it up at this year’s Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC). It’s Non Pratt, it’s always going to be amazing! But Unboxed is a breathtaking novella about four teenagers who come together after a tragedy. It’s about the power of close friendship. It’s about letting go of secrets kept from the people who know you best.
Alix, Ben, Dean and Zara have not seen each other in months, but a few years ago – before Millie passed away – they created a time capsule to mark their friendship, their best summer together. And now they want to find it. Unboxed may be short, but it’s tiny, powerful and demands to be read in one sitting. We get to know each teenager over one evening spent together, learning the part they used to play in their tight group. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that they do find the time capsule, and I loved what happened next. I loved each of the characters’ reveals and discovering what each of them put in the capsule. Unboxed is a wonderful book to curl up with over these cold winter nights, reliving your best summer.
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
As soon as Grace walks into class, Henry is intrigued. But it’s not insta-love. He’s too busy focusing on grades, college and making editor of the school paper – and then Grace is made co-editor. Henry’s uhappy to say the least. Grace is not a likeable character – and she’s not meant to be – but to Henry she’s fascinating. In Our Chemical Hearts, we trundle along with Henry as he attempts to work out his feelings for this new girl. Slowly, Henry and the reader discover who Grace used to be. I know a lot of my friends weren’t a fan of him as our protagonist, but I liked him a lot. In one chapter, Henry makes a presentation to show Grace why she should date him and even though it’s a little self-absorbed (why not make it about why he wants to date her?), it was lovely and nerdy.
Our Chemical Hearts is a story that had an unexpected emotional impact on me. Grace has been through a difficult and painful time, and it was tough watching Henry try to match up the girl in front of him with the girl in his head. And then there’s many side characters to love – Henry’s parents and sister, and his best friends Lola and Muz, who are ecstatic that Henry finally has a love interest. Is Grace Town a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? I’ll let you decide, but I loved what Krystal Sutherland did with her characters, smashing what you thought you knew about them.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Sometimes I read a book and think ‘people who don’t usually read YA would love this’. The Sun is Also a Star is one of those novels.
Set over one day, it’s the story of Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers with different stories and who see the world in different ways, but whose worlds collide when everything is about to change for both of them. Natasha is living in the US as an illegal immigrant and her family is being forced to leave for Jamaica, despite the fact that Natasha has lived in New York City most of her life. Meanwhile, Daniel’s in constant battle with his strict Korean family, unable to live up to their high expectations, competing with his older brother. If you think a love story set over a day is unbelievable, think again.
The Sun is Also a Star does a wonderful job of making the reader connect with both teenagers – and believe that the teenagers could possibly connect with each other in some meaningful, life-changing way. Natasha and Daniel do not change each other but help each other see another way of thinking, of approaching life. And it has more of an effect than you may think. The Sun is Also a Star is told in dual perspective, with short chapters that make the story feel as intense and energetic as the romance/friendship itself. It’s bright and magnificent, and I hope more people get to read it. I now need to pick up Everything, Everything!