Sunday, 14 February 2016

REVIEW: Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

28105868I received a copy of this book from Chicken House for free, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Published by: Chicken House Books on 7th January 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle


When Maisie is struck by lightning, her face is partially destroyed. She's lucky enough to get a face transplant, but how do you live your life when you can't even recognize yourself anymore? She was a runner, a girlfriend, a good student ...a normal girl. Now, after a single freak accident, all that has changed. As Maisie discovers how much her looks did and didn't shape her relationship to the world, she has to redefine her own identity, and figure out what 'lucky' really means

You see a lot of books, winning a lot of awards. Then you circle back to the well-loved novels on your rainbow shelves, have a little peruse, and wonder why half of them are lacking that pretty ickle metallic sticker on its cover that gives it the glory of being award-winning. Faceless, for me, is one of them. When my mind is still wrapped up about a certain book, weeks after finishing it, then I know it's deserving of one of those fancy stickers. Maybe not on the front cover - I mean, have you seen it? It's gorgeous and so fitting! 

I knew from the moment I turned the first page that Faceless would become a contender on my list of favourite contemporaries. I'm a hardcore lover of Fantasy, so if my mind is left reeling and in a clouded daze by anything other than magic and dragons, then it truly means something. And if you know me at all, then you know the book has to be pretty darn impressive. And no, it didn't fail to impress or surprise me. There's a hidden message about acceptance behind this tragic tale about a young girl who is struggling with her identity after an accident that leaves her without a face. In a society where you're easily judged by the way you look, it proves to be a large scale challenge for protagonist, Maisie, to accept her fate and face the world with a new face that isn't hers. And her journey is incredibly moving, truly heartfelt and emotional, raw and honest, Sheinmel doesn't sugar coat anything. I loved being able to connect with Maisie, that too so easily. It was the most vivid portrayal of a person attempting to deal with life after a traumatic experience. Sheinmel nailed it in that department. 

Paired with equally beautiful writing, we get well-built characters, great relationships and a dash of romance. Though heartbreaking, as expected, it felt real. Sure, at points it felt as though Maisie seemed too focused on worrying about her love interest, but she rose above it all and learned to come to terms with her situation. And that, my friends, is what we call a strong female protagonist.

This is a story about forbearance, of a young girl learning to love herself once again. It's about picking yourself back up and mounting that horse to canter towards your life-long goal and achieve your ambitions. It's so easy to lose yourself within this book, to have a splash of the real world thrown in your face despite knowing it's fictitious nature. That's what I loved about it and I'm so grateful for the existence of this book. Please read it and thank me later.

Silver Wreath

Thursday, 11 February 2016

GUEST REVIEW: Beautiful Broken Things

Today I welcome the lovely Arianne from Daisy Chain Book Reviews to The Dark Dictator! And she is here to review the fantastic, upcoming YA novel Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard!

Beautiful Broken Things

Author: Sara Barnard
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books on 11th February 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary. Friendship, Mental Health
Pages: 322
Reviewed by: Arianne (Daisy Chain Book Reviews)


I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

Sweet, sharp and only a little heartbreaking, reading Beautiful Broken Things early was a joy and a privilege. A tale of friendship, ferocity, the occasional foul-mouthed slanging match and, of course, baking, it is without doubt the most accomplished and affecting YA début I’ve read so far this year. It has a stunning cover and a stunning story to match: I had such high expectations for this book, and while it’s not perfect, it comes very, very close. 

Beautiful Broken Things is, in many ways, a love story. It has wariness, warmth, devotion, devastation, heartbreak and survival: it’s just not the love story you’d expect. Sixteen-year-old Caddy longs for excitement – a boyfriend, perhaps, or some kind of significant life event that will finally make her as interesting as her outgoing, exuberant best friend Rosie – but she is about to learn that we cannot always predict our fate. Effortlessly cool, surprisingly friendly Suzanne is not who Caddy asked for. But Suzanne’s eyes are full of trauma when she thinks no-one’s looking, and she needs a friend, needs to see that the world has good in it again. This book is an ode to one of the most underrated, passionate and powerful of all loves: that of real, messy, genuine teen girl friendship.

The characters at the heart of Beautiful Broken Things are fantastic. They make mistakes – so many mistakes – but they’re individual, complicated and leap into life from the page. Caddy is clever and kind but sheltered and naïve; Rosie is frank and funny but flippant and takes her friends for granted; Suzanne seems confident but is struggling, suffering in a world that has always seemed to abandon and betray her. I loved Caddy’s older sister Tarin – vivid, vivacious, and well-drawn, she has some of the best lines in the book – but just as much as that, I loved the prominence this book gives to its female characters. 

Being well-versed in popular and American YA, I thought I knew how this book was going to go down. Suzanne would arrive, all mysterious and manic pixie dream girl; she’d tempt the sheltered Caddy with excitement and danger; something would go disastrously wrong; there’d be a Big Retrospective Reveal of what she was hiding all along; she’d manic-pixie-dream-girl-it out of there, and be banished like a distant memory. Caddy and Rosie, suitably chastised, lesson learned and Moral Life Experience Level Up Achieved, would look back on her influence as a rebellious, but brief and contained, period of their lives.  “I still think of her from time to time, with her Gasp! Flirtatious Ways and perfect, fluttering I’m-only-here-to-improve-the-life-journey-of-other-characters eyelashes…” 

That is not how the book went down. 

And I was so glad of it, too. Beautiful Broken Things is unexpected, funny and very, very British. I want more YA like this: brave, daring, difficult, familiar, contemporary but always surprising. Beautiful Broken Things is character-driven and incredibly intense, but it’s wonderfully warm, too. It’s emotional, but not exploitative or predictable. It walks a fine line between happiness and devastation, and I think that’s where it became moving for me: that profound balance of hope and gut-punching drama, encased in simple prose and moments of ordinary, joyous friendship. 

There are some scenes which could have been handled better and it's not an easy read, but it will have you racing to find out what happens next and - if you can make it to the last page still seeing straight – longing for more from Sara Barnard and her remarkable voice for YA. 

In short: Beautiful Broken Things is dramatic and incredibly bittersweet, and it is the first book in a long time that I’ve loved more and more with every read. It is a whirlwind, a rollercoaster, a celebration of cherished highs and an acknowledgement of desperate lows, of ordinary days we never really notice are important until they are all around us. It has complicated heroines, straightforward prose and a story worth waiting for. Highly recommended.

Gold Wreath