I thought it was about time I did another Netgalley catch-up, as I am oh so far behind (I have to double my number of reviews on there to even approach a healthy ratio at the moment!), and I’ve been trying to clean up my netgalley shelf.
I absolutely loved Afterlove. It’s the first book I’ve read by Tanya Byrne, but it certainly won’t be the last! I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but I fell in love with Ash and Poppy, and really felt their struggles – and their love, I loved the concept of the book as well – some people become Reapers when they die, and guide others (usually people who have died unexpectedly) to their afterlife. Afterlove wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be from the blurb, but it was so cleverly constructed and well written, I was with it all the way nevertheless. The way that we got to explore Ash and Poppy’s developing relationship made it all the more tragic when it was ripped away. Grief is ever present in this book – Ash is grieving her own lost life and potential, but we also get to see how her death has affected others – particularly Poppy.
I adored the relationship between Ash and Poppy. YA books with a relationship between two women as the focus still seem so rare, so it’s good to see one at all, but when it’s this well written, it’s a real treat. I can’t wait untl Afterlove comes out and I can buy a finished copy! 5/5
Perfect on Paper
I really enjoyed Perfect on Paper. It’s the story of Darcy Phillips, who acts as an anonymous agony aunt to the other students in her school via locker 89 – if you have a problem, you can write a letter, leave it in locker 89 with a tip and Darcy will use her copious, self-taught interrelationship knowledge and email you advice. No-one knows it’s Darcy who runs locker 89, until new boy Alexander Brougham catches her one day and asks her to help him win his ex-girlfriend back. Before she knows it, her entire life is unravelling and she has to think seriously about what she wants, and what she’s prepared to do to get it. I loved the characters in this book. Darcy is so flawed, but also quite self-aware. There’s a running plot point about how she used locker 89 in one particular case, and she knows she did something terrible and is wracked with guilt about it (although not enough to have come clean). Locker 89 also means she’s constantly keeping something from her friends, and although she doesn’t really notice the strain it’s putting on her friendship with Brooke in particular until Brougham comes along, the strain is still there, underlying all her interactions.
Brougham is also great. He has a terrible homelife, despite his family’s money, and is quite repressed in some ways, but his friendship with Darcy helps them both open up and share things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. He’s very sweet, and thinks about others more than himself, and I maybe fell a little bit in love with him myself. I’m not going to lie, the plot is kind of predictable in many ways, but it was well-written and I was engaged in what was going on throughout the book. I liked that Darcy was bisexual, but still working out what that means for her, and worried that if she ends up in a relationship with a boy, people will question her sexuality, and I liked that she was part of a LGBT+ community in school. Her sister Ainsley was also amazing, and I absolutely loved that it was such a non-issue that she was trans, and that she was never dead-named or misgendered. There’s also an adorable scene near the end of the book as Darcy tries to make amends which I really liked.
I definitely recommend Perfect on Paper. It was exactly what I expected, but that’s very much a good thing! 4/5
Here the Whole Time
This book was adorable. A queer love story between Felipe and Caio, the relationship between them was built really realistically. I very much related to the way Felipe saw himself, and how he was convinced that Caio couldn’t have the same feelings for him, even though it was obvious to the reader (well, me at least) that he did. I loved the slow burn of their relationship too, moving from almost-strangers to friends first, and how Felipe is really atrociously rude at first, because his summer plans have been changed without notice. This book is really all about the characters and I loved every one of them, except Caio’s parents, who are homophobic. Felipe’s mum was amazing though, and she was probably my favourite, although Caio’s friends Rebeca and Melissa were also fantastic. I think it can be so easy to isolate YA protagonists from their friends or family, and it was nice that this didn’t happen here, for the most part anyway. In fact, most of the side characters were not just completely supportive of the building love story, but actively trying to force the two boys together, which I also loved.
The fat rep was excellent. There was fatphobia from bullies, as well as internalised fatphobia rom Felipe himself, but it made sense and was addressed within the story, and it was obvious that Felipe was making a real effort to change his mindset.
I really enjoyed Here the Whole Time, and would happily read other books by Vitor Martins. I hope we get to see more of his work here in the UK. 4/5
The Henna Wars
I’ve been really lucky recently, as I’ve been able to read a string of really good queer YA romances, and The Henna Wars was another one. It tackles some difficult concepts (racism, cultural appropriation, and homophobia among others), but it does so in a really satisfying way, and the romance is lovely. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, but it works very well as a story.
NIshat isn’t the nicest person – she doesn’t really think about others and what might be going on with them, and she makes some very dubious decisions – but it is kind of understandable, because what happens to her is truly awful, and it’s good to see her grow as a person over the course of the book. I also liked that she refused to let the bullying and abuse get to her as much as she could. Flavia is also flawed – it takes her a long time to realise Nishat is correct about something, although she does apologise once she does realise. I loved Priti, Nishat’s sister and confidante, who knows NIshat’s a lesbian before anyone else, and gives her the support she needs when their parents don’t. They have a lovely relationship for most of the book, even if Nishat isn’t always aware of what her sister is going through.
The setting of The Henna Wars was a really interesting one, with the business competition turning Nishat and Flavia into rivals. It meant that there were legitimate reasons for Nishat ending up isolated for part of the book, and provided some tension.
I really enjoyed The Henna Wars, but the last 20% or so was my favourite. I’m not going to lie, it did make me cry, but I loved the way Adiba Jaigirdar tied all the loose ends together. It felt very satisfying, and if I’d had a physical copy of the book, I think I would have been clutching it to myself. I definitely recommend The Henna Wars to anyone looking for a queer YA romance! 4/5
Siri, Who Am I?
The concept of Siri, Who Am I is fascinating – Mia has had a blow to her head, has lost her memory and needs to use her social media to retrace her steps and try and work out who she is – but unfortunately, for me it didn’t live up to expectations. I just didn’t think the story made sense, and Mia should definitely be sueing the hospital who let her leave with no idea of even her surname, never mind where she lived. I don’t think it ever recovered from that point to be honest. Even taking into account Mia’s amnesia, I found her very annoying, although I liked her better by the end of the book.
I actually ended up enjoying Siri, Who Am I?, but it did feel like a struggle to get there. It’s not a bad book, but it was a disappointment for me, as I was expecting such great things from it. 3/5
I have loved the previous two Nevermoor books, so I guess it’s not a surprise that I loved Hollowpox too, although reading about a mysterious illness spreading among the Wunimals was certainly interesting in the middle of a global pandemic! Hollowpox does a great job at moving Morrigan’s story on, while exploring more of the world of Nevermoor, particularly the discrimination Wunimals face. All our favourites are back and are as wonderful as ever.
I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but it is a fantastic book, full of magic and wonder (and Wunder). Obviously you need to read the first two before Hollowpox, as it is a direct sequel, but I highly recommend the entire series. I can’t wait for the next book! 5/5
The Sad Ghost Club
I found The Sad Ghost Club a little disappointing if I’m being honest. I don’t know if it’s because of the way it was displaying in my kindle app, which made it difficult to read, but I never connected with the characters and it felt like I was reading for the sake of reading, if that makes sense, rather than because I was engaged in the story. I’d be quite interested in seeing a physical copy of the book so I can see what it shold look like though! 3/5