After Anna / How Hard Can Love Be? / The Lie Tree

After Anna – Alex Lake

It’s another one of those missing child narratives that seem to be permeating the charts over the last few years. Julia’s daughter, Anna, is kidnapped when she fails to collect her from school in time. But then, she is returned. Anna has no memory of where she went or what happened to her. Through glimpses of the abductor’s life which parallels the main plot, we see that the motive is more personal than any other abduction. Someone wants to cause Julia pain and anguish, someone that will go to any lengths to do so.

Whilst it is fairly predictable, it did not spoil the enjoyment and thrill in any way. The author’s writing style was free and easy, with a good build up of tension throughout the book. Lake does well to create interesting characters that develop steadily throughout the narrative. But,  I feel as if I’ve read too many of these types of books – no one is offering a totally original perspective, and although After Anna is a good read, over all I can only classify it as average. 3 stars.

How Hard Can Love Be? – Holly Bourne

Riiiiight, so. This is the second instalment in the Am I normal yet series. Seventeen year old Amber is off to San Francisco (or San Fran as her mother annoyingly calls it) to work at a summer camp. Not entirely original but still, it is a fun and cute idea. Teens love this sort of thing (and I kinda do too).

At home in London, she hates her step mother and brother who push her to all lengths, but things are no better in America. Her real mother avoids all her questions (why did she run off with Kevin to America? Why is her picture in the guest bed room? Why did she leave her behind in London? Why is she so messed up? Why, why why?!), her mother’s boyfriend is a bit of a prick, and now she has gone all that way to realise that some things will never change.

I feel sorry for Amber – she is clearly an emotionally damaged girl who can’t seem to find love anywhere. Until, that is, she meets prom-king Kyle. Kyle is that all American type who has everything, except a personality that stands out. But Amber is attracted to him like a magnet and their romance fires off with a bang. Kyle wishes he was a more interesting person like the ultra-feminist Amber, and Amber wishes she had a normal, easy life like Kyle. Together though, they learn to understand who they are, and reach their ultimate potential.

Personally, I found the beginning a bit embarrassing. I hope no American reads it in case they get offended. I get that being sarcastic is Amber’s thing, but it got a little too much when she was being very stereotypical about people in the US! After that, however, things got a lot better, and I began to enjoy the book more. It is quite a simple storyline, so easy to read, and so easy to emphasise with the characters. It wasn’t near as good as the first book though, so I’m hoping the third one will be better!

Overall, 4 stars.

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge (2015 Costa Book of the Year)

First of all, this is a Costa book award winner, and quite rightly so. Secondly, this is probably the most well-written and enjoyed young adult book I’ve ever read. Pushing aside my all time faves (Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins etc), this is an entirely thrilling novel with hints of feminism in the nineteenth century, archaeology, and the most loved story plot of all time – a whodunit. A young adult whodunit. I am so proud of the author for creating such a cool and original story for teens, something that shouts diversity and originality all throughout the book.

Young Faith and her parents move to an island after a scandal over her father’s fossils erupts. But arriving on the island is the start to everything, not the end. After her father mysteriously dies, it is up to Faith to prove that her father did not commit suicide, that in fact, someone on the island killed him. Shuffling through her father’s papers, she finds an interesting story about a special type of tree that grows an exotic fruit once it is fed lies. The fruit, when eaten, shows you the secrets you most dearly need to see. Now hidden in a cave on the island, Faith determines that she will use it to find out who her father’s killer was.

This is an entirely genius plot with twists and turns everywhere and a very intricate story involved. I love that it was set in a time when women were not allowed to be engrossed so deeply in naturalist or scientific affairs, yet many of the female characters are dominantly clever that they manage to get above and beyond their interests. Faith is a strong and smart character that makes you feel all excited in your stomach – her voice is brave, her mind is broad, and she is the perfect female character for a young adult book.

Overall, I cannot help but give this book a whopping five stars!


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