1. Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
I was only recently introduced to the wonderment of Rainbow Rowell (cool name, hey?) in the way of her debut young adult novel, Eleanor & Park – an unlikely, but perfectly charming and heart-warming love story. I didn’t expect to like it as I tend to avoid love stories, and to be honest I went into it kicking and screaming. But to my surprise, the book immediately likened me to the author and I was excited to delve into another one of her easy-to-read fictions. I stumbled across Carry On, and while at first, it didn’t immediately grab my attention, I quickly fell in love with the likeable (and not so likeable) characters she so beautifully depicted in what can best be described as Harry Potter fan-fiction. Carry On is unlike anything I’ve ever read before and nothing like what I expected to read when I started chapter one.
Rainbow Rowell has an ability to serve up multi-layered characters, who are delightfully relatable and undeniably flawed. This book is bursting with teen angst and yearning – something we all experienced during those formative years. Rainbow’s adeptness at inciting me to tears is something not many authors are able to do so profoundly. I’m always left with multiple questions, far too many emotions and a desperate need for more. Carry On introduces us to Simon Snow, a teen boy in his final year at Watford, a magical school tucked away somewhere in England. This is pure fantasy with a sprinkling of adventure and mystery. The title of ‘Greatest Mage’ is thrust upon him and while he’s overwhelmed with everyone’s expectations of him, there’s an even bigger problem – Simon isn’t able to control his magic.
As the story unfolds, we witness Simon trying to tackle several issues, with the most prevalent issue being the tumultuous relationship he has with his roommate, Baz. We watch their relationship ebb and flow, and eventually culminate into something unpredictable, but wonderful. I love the way the author frequently shift points of view within a scene to show how two characters are experiencing the same situation so differently. This made me consider the relationships in my own life and how people are masters at hiding the way they feel. This novel will infuriate you, but at the same time, it will charm you into submission.
Carry On touches upon sexuality, confusing and conflicting emotions and the dynamics of friendships. But the theme throughout this book that really intrigued me is based on the principal that there’s a thin line between love and hate. If this book leaves you with nothing but an eye-opening look into relationships, then I think it’s done its job.
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
As a reader, If I was asked to contribute a one sentence blurb to this young adult novel, it would read as follows – This twisty tale is brimming with moments of pure magic and spookiness, but in and among these creepy pages of terror awash with curious photography, you’ll find shards of heart-wrenching love and friendship. You can expect a slow start to this book, but once you’ve immersed yourself into the world of Miss Peregrine’s home you’ll find it impossible to tear yourself away.
The interesting characters will excite those with an eye for the eerie, a flair for fantasy and a penchant for the peculiar. But let’s not cast aside the adventure that this narrative embodies. The story is a thrilling other-worldly ride centred around the protagonist, sixteen-year-old Jacob, and the horrific chain of events which ultimately lead him on a figurative journey of self-discovery as well as a literal one to a mysterious island occupied by an abandoned orphanage filled with a mystifying and colourful group of children.
If the cover of this book elicits a state of fear then the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover, rings true. The cover reads as a scary, The Ring-like ghost story, which is an utterly fallacious viewpoint. This novel deserves a second glance and definitely deserves at least a few hours of your attention. It’s eccentric, fascinating, and a completely enjoyable read. Ransom Riggs successfully keeps you entertained, albeit slowly, with his powerful use of words and employment of vintage photographs to accompany his ‘tall tales’.
The story will leave you wanting more and lucky for us this book is followed by two more. But, even better news is that the Tim Burton-directed movie is coming out this month. (September). I have four words for you – I can’t freaking wait!