YALC Readathon Challenge 2016: Weekly Round-up

YALC 2016 is only two weeks away! My reading has gone into hyperspeed in order to get through everything I want to before the event. I’m taking part in the YALC Readathon Challenge 2016 (more details on the YALC 2016 tab above), and I’m aiming – optimistically – for Convention Affection level. This means reading at least 16 books by authors attending YALC this year, and with two weeks to go, I’ve read nine (and a half) in total. So, instead of individual posts for each review, I’ve decided to do a weekly round-up with an instant reaction review for each title. And without further ado…

A Darker Shade of Magic
V.E. Schwab
22055262

Kell is one of only two remaining Antari, magicians who can travel between parallel worlds with the help of tokens and blood. His home is in the ripening Red London, tinted crimson by the light of the red River Thames and perfumed with flowers. Through his duties for his adopted family, the King and Queen, he travels to the withered Grey London, drained of all magical power, and the deadly White London, where the people would kill him for the magic in his blood had he not the protection of its murderous rulers, the Dane twins. No-one goes to Black London. But when a token from the forbidden world falls into Kell’s hands, everything he knows will be tested as he fights to survive, and to save worlds.

This book is brilliant (if technically not YA, shh). Kell is honest and likeable, and his love for his brother drives him personally as well as his responsibilities of an Antari. But it’s when Lila comes on the scene that this book gets really interesting. She is a thief and defender of small urchin boys who would be a pirate if only she could get her hands on a ship. Kell’s story is dramatic and well-told, and his world is fully realised and complex. But it is Lila’s insistence to follow her own path that makes this book fun.

Girl Out of Water
Nat Luurtsema
28513482
When Lou comes last in the swimming tryouts for the Olympic training school, she thinks her life is over. But three awkward boys, a made-up sport, and her own determination take her in a new direction.This book is warmly hilarious and quick-witted. Lou is a girl lost, building a new structure for herself without the purpose she has worked towards for so long, but she never sinks into despair. She is annoyed and frustrated by the people who think she’s finished, and determined to prove herself, both to them and to herself. Throughout the book she never stops caring about others, even her friend Hannah who did get into the training school. Though Lou is jealous, she never abandons Hannah, and is defiant in the face of failure. This is an uplifting read, and although it’s a middle-grade book, I definitely enjoyed it.
Only Ever Yours
Louise O’Neill
22913648

All girls are designed. They are trained from birth to be pleasing to men. They mustn’t cry, they must always be obedient, they must never weigh too much or wear unflattering clothes or make-up. The lucky ones, they say, will be taken as companions by the natural-born men in the outside world. The unlucky ones will become concubines, or chastities. freida (girls’ names are not capitalised – they are objects, possessions, not people) and her best friend isabel are approaching the seventeenth anniversary of their design-date. As tensions rise among their peers, isabel grows distant, and freida struggles to cope with isolation, drug addiction, and the pressures forced upon them to be more beautiful, more pleasing, more perfect.

Finally, actual YA! But gosh and dang, my friends, this book does not take prisoners. There’s very little I can say without spoilers, but this book is a heart-wrenching, gut-twisting knife in the spine. The pressures these girls are put under are real and enormous, but from the outside they’re seen as hysterical for making a fuss. It’s only clothes, and food, and explicit social ranking based on what you weigh, and threats and bullying and a choice which isn’t a choice at all. What could they possibly be worrying about? I’m very glad that this is a fictional world, built on fictional foundations… and yet…

Half Bad
Sally Green
18079804

Nathan Byrn is half Black Witch, or half White Witch, depending on who you ask. All his life people have judged, shunned and persecuted him because of his status, and he’s got the scars to prove it. Both sides want to use him. “But if White Witches are good and Black Witches are evil… What happens if you are both?”

This book is intense. Look away now if you are not a fan of violence. But definitely look here if you can stand it, because Nathan is a fascinating character. Told all his life what he is, he’s only just figuring it all out for himself. Silence is his weapon, except when the Hunters are after him and his few friends. He acts like he’s closed himself off from people, but he cares recklessly for anyone who shows him kindness – or at least, anyone who doesn’t try to kill him. Nathan is, at his heart, kind, but people have been twisting him into a killer all his life, and he doesn’t even know anymore which side of himself he wants to win.

This is a curious world, alongside but strangely separate from the one we know. Think Harry Potter without geographical segregation. Government without outside authority. Justice without the comfort of a prison cell. These are a people who have made their own laws and legends, and they have the strength to defend them from all comers. But the walls they have built are crumbling, and the White Witches’ self-definition of ‘good’ is stretched beyond credence. This is a dark and twisted story full of fascinating characters.

The 100
Kass Morgan
19161855

300 years ago, humanity fled to the sky as the Cataclysm made Earth uninhabitable. Now, the space station that they’ve made their home is failing, but no-one knows whether Earth is just as hostile as when they left. 100 juvenile delinquents, who would otherwise be killed on their eighteenth birthday to preserve supplies for everyone else, are sent to Earth. It’s a desperate move, but it may be the only way of saving humanity. Or it may be the way to destroy humanity forever.

It was… weird, reading this. I’d watched the TV show, probably about a year ago, so reading the book was a little like when someone recounts a different version of one of your own memories. I was remembering, but I was remembering differently.

Despite the odd sensation (or maybe because of it!) I’m glad I read this. There’s so much more to learn from being inside characters’ heads in a book than watching them on a screen, and Kass Morgan is excellent at balancing her characters right on the precipice of what they can bear. It was a little slow in places, but obviously it’s the first in a series so there was some necessary set-up. I suppose my main complaint was ‘how stupid do people get when love is involved?!’ which I think is more a positive than a negative! The little hints that something else is happening while the 100 try to adapt to life on Earth are delicious, – and I’m definitely buying the next one. It’s different to a lot of the other ‘end of the world’ books that are out there, and I’d love to see where it goes.

Phew! And there we are, a week’s reading. What are you guys reading to prepare for YALC? Which authors are you hoping to see? This is my first real post, so let me know if you have any suggestions – I am very open for constructive criticism right now! *hides*
Seriously though, I really enjoyed my reading this week. All these books are so different, and I probably wouldn’t have picked most of them up without this challenge, for which I am very grateful. You can catch me on twitter always @rustlingreads, and I’ll be back next Thursday with another round-up!
~Rachel
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