Thursday, 11 July 2019

Review: Making Friends With Alice Dyson by Poppy Nwosu

Alice Dyson has a big year ahead. She is in her final year of high school and the plan is to study, hard. But after an unexpected and slightly strange encounter with Teddy Taualai, the school's biggest troublemaker, which is caught on video and goes viral, Alice finds herself the unwilling centre of attention and with a number of unwanted complications.

This was a pleasing story about the realities of high school, extreme shyness, first relationships and a young woman trying to find a sense of self. I loved that the story was set in the western suburbs of Adelaide, and the depictions of the Adelaide coastline and rail network. Although this is marketed as YA and features characters in their final year of high school, I found that Alice and her friends came across as quite young in places and her narrative voice seemed quite young for her age in the early stages of the book. (Then again, Alice was very shy and this no doubt influenced her outlook on life.) The highly readable and relatable writing style will no doubt make this book a perfect fit for many teens. 

Overall, this is a pleasantly told and relatable coming of age story with a sound message about not judging others by their appearance.


This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Review: The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews

Sammy Lou needs somewhere to live. Let down by all of the people who were supposed to love and care for him, he ends up homeless and surviving the only way he knows how--by breaking into empty houses, sleeping there and leaving the next morning before he can be caught. Then, one fateful day, he breaks into the house that belongs to the De Lainey's, a big family, full of people who have even bigger hearts. When he is found, each of the De Lainey kids just assume that Sam is a friend of one of the other kids, and he ends up sticking around for a while. However, Sam has some dark secrets from his past, and a brother with a disability who may be in serious trouble, and he knows that this friendship cannot last forever. The De Lainey's will never accept him once they know what he has done ... will they?

This novel was a pleasing read that addresses some serious issues in a way that is relevant to the target audience. In particular, I was impressed with the way that the author addresses the topic of violence, how it can be learned at a young age and how that cycle can be broken. It also raises the question about the difference between violence as self-defence and hitting someone out of anger.

The De Lainey's are portrayed as a busy but loving family and they melted my heart just a little. But where the novel really shines is with it's portrayal of Avery, Sam's older brother who is autistic. The portrayal of Avery is both real and sympathetic and is described to readers in a way that does not talk down to the audience as can so often by the case. (Though I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that he was not in a school or class for kids with special needs.) While I found the initial concept of Sam breaking into houses and never getting caught to be a little far fetched, I was willing to overlook this and other flaws and found myself caught up in the story.


This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Review: Split by Lee Kofman

A strange confession. I have never dreaded writing a book review nearly as much as I have dreaded writing this one. And do not, for one second, think that it is because I hated the book. On the contrary, I loved it. There was something utterly compelling about every one of the autobiographical essays contained with the book. The difficulty with writing this review means saying a good-bye of sorts to a book that has been a solid companion over several days as I slowly devoured the stories within. And I am not sure how I feel about that.

Written by a number of different Australian authors and edited by Lee Kofman, Split is a collection of personal essays of significant endings and their aftermath. Opening with an essay by Graeme Simsion that talks about how he discarded his past self and the possible label that went with it, many of the essays veer into territory that is both heartbreaking and familiar. Virginia Peters talks about her daughter's charismatic but ultimately selfish first boyfriend, while Gabrielle Lord recounts her brief affair in Paris with a man who jumped to the wrong conclusion. Hayley Katzen talks about leaving South Africa and the heartbreaking events that cause her to return, albeit briefly. And then there is Sami Shah's essay on giving up on Islam and the fallout that resulted from it.

These stories are all have imperfect endings. There is not always the sense of closure that the reader might get from fiction, and this volume works better because of it. These stories offer the reader a sense of reality, a sense that everybody has moments where things don't end neatly, or perfectly, and this might just be enough to offer a sense of community--and comfort--to anyone who is suffering and who needs it.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Ventura Press for my review copy. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

The Book Was Better Than the Film: The Strange Legacy of V.C. Andrews Continues

On July 27 Heaven, the latest V.C. Andrews novel to be adapted for the screen will premiere on Lifetime in the USA. Less famous than Flowers in the Attic, though no less loved by fans of the author, Heaven tells the story of Heaven Leigh Casteel, a young woman who was born in abject poverty and is raised by her loving grandmother, a stepmother who tolerates her and her father, a womaniser and an alcoholic who cannot stand her and blames her for her mother's death. It is notable that Heaven resembles her mother in every possible way, but for her hair. While Heaven's hair is black, and according to her, cursed, her mother was a blonde, and consequently, more attractive.

 Heaven does her best to rise above her situation, trying hard to look out for her younger half-siblings and by working hard at school. She forms a relationship with a middle-class boy from the town. Then the family situation takes a turn for the worse and her old man decides that the only solution is to sell his children. One by one the children are adopted, and Heaven eventually finds her way to a new home. But things are far from wonderful at the home of Kitty and Cal Dennison. There, Heaven suffers abuse at the hands of Kitty (who is her father's ex-girlfriend,) and is then groomed and sexually abused by Cal. At the end of the novel, Kitty dies and Heaven is offered the chance to go and live with her mother's parents, whom she has never met, which leads in to the sequel, Dark Angel.  

V.C. Andrews passed away in 1986.
She published six books in her lifetime.
Published in 1985, Heaven was the second to last novel to be published by V.C. Andrews. The second book in the Casteel Saga, Dark Angel was published just a month before the author passed away from breast cancer. In the years that followed, three more books in the series were published Fallen Hearts, Gates of Paradise and Web of Dreams, each one seemingly more perverse than the last. Certainly, V.C. Andrews never shied away from sexual content. But when she wrote about characters whose sexual awakenings were often born out of tragedy, hurt or neglect, and the confusion that often followed, the focus in these stories turned more to men who used the otherwise innocent characters for pure sexual gratification. Eventually, a lawsuit would reveal the contrast between the earlier novels and the books that followed on from the author's death. The executors of her estate had hired a ghostwriter to continue writing books in her name. We now know that the ghostwriter is Andrew Neiderman, a horror novelist who shared the same publisher and agent as V.C. Andrews. As ghostwriter, Neiderman has published more than seventy novels baring V.C. Andrews' name on the front cover, many of them varying in theme and quality. Over the years, books featuring everything from vampires to early puberty have been published, with each of them sharing a young female protagonist who finds herself in some kind of peril. 

If there was one thing that Andrew Neiderman has brought to the table during his time as the ghostwriter for V.C. Andrews, it is his penchant for bringing her books to the screen. This is no surprise, given the huge success that Neiderman had with the adaption of his own novel The Devil's Advocate, which went on to become a box office success. By contrast, V.C. Andrews did not have a good record when it came to film adaptions. Multiple scripts for a film adaption of Flowers in the Attic were written and never made it to screen, including one by Wes Anderson. In 1986, an adaption was eventually filmed (if you look closely, V.C. Andrews plays the part of a maid in one scene,) and released in 1987. Though Louise Fletcher plays the role of bitter antagonist Olivia Foxworth to perfection, the filmmakers glossed over a number of key details--the poison doughnuts became cookies, the story was set in the 1980s instead of the 1950s and all hints of incest were removed. And then significant alterations to the ending killed not only Corrine Foxworth, but any chance of a sequel.

Meanwhile, Neiderman's reputation for adapting books to screen has gone from strength to strength. In 2006 Rain, one of the ghostwritten VC Andrews novels was made into a successful film on an extremely low budget. Around this time there was also talk of another Neiderman penned series, The Landry Saga being adapted as a TV series. However, this failed to eventuate.

And then in 2014, Flowers in the Attic was adapted by Lifetime, followed by three of it's sequels, Petals on the Wind, If There by Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday. While the adaptions weren't perfect, they were far more faithful to the books than previous adaptions had been. Also, to the annoyance of fans, these would lead to more sequels to the books being penned by Neiderman, Secrets of Foxworth, Echoes of Dollanganger and Secret Brother. Three more prequels are planned for this year--Beneath the Attic, Out of the Attic and Shadows of Foxworth.

Following on from that was a Lifetime film adaption of another beloved V.C. Andrews novel My Sweet Audrina. This almost nonsensical film adaption focuses purely on the antagonistic relationship between Vera and Audrina, and misses a number of key elements from the novels. Following on from its release was a sequel, Whitefern, which was penned by Neiderman and, again, misses some of the key elements from the book. (You can read my review here.)

And now, it seems that Heaven and, in fact, all, of the novels in the Casteel Saga are set to experience the same treatment. For months now, fans have been divided about the adaption, with many expressing concern on the fan page about the casting of a red haired actress for a role where the character's black hair was central to the plot. And then this somewhat troubling trailer was released by Lifetime:

It could just be poor editing, but the trailer suggests that the story transforms Heaven from a frightened and abused young woman into a Lolita type figure, who is willingly seduced by her adoptive father, in turn, causing her adoptive mother to have a mental breakdown. Obviously, this is in stark contrast to the book. It's also gross and not in keeping with the writing of V.C. Andrews. 

If this has not all been strange enough, an incident occurred on facebook recently which troubled me greatly. Basically, ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman lashed out at fans for criticising the film and not giving it a chance before it is even released. In one sense, he has a point--one can only properly criticise a film after they have seen it. On the other hand, fans of the books have ever perfect right not to tune in if they don't want to. For me, it was personally quite disappointing, given that something the ghostwriter said many years earlier on the page had a huge influence on how I write my book reviews and offer constructive criticism. 

In retrospect, the legacy left behind by V.C. Andrews should have been six novels. Instead, what we have is a huge collection of ghostwritten books of varying quality and a whole lot of telemovies. Meanwhile, a fantasy novel penned by V.C. Andrews before she died remains unpublished, while her one and only Sci-Fi novel, The Gods of Green Mountain, remains available only as an eBook. (It has never been available in print.) Whether or not Heaven and the other screen adaptions of the Casteel saga are any good remains to be seen. I will certainly be keeping out an eye.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Friday Funnies

For all the VC Andrews fans out there

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Review: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Australian journalist and now author Trent Dalton takes pieces of his life story and shapes them into a tall tale that is as entertaining as it is over-hyped. (Though that last bit isn't really the authors fault.) Set in Brisbane in the mid 1980s, it tells the story of Eli Bell, a kid on the cusp of puberty who has a heroine junkie for a stepdad and his favourite babysitter is a notorious criminal. Add to that a brother who refuses to speak and his interactions with a Brisbane drug dealer that eventually cause him to lose his lucky finger and for his mother to wind up in jail, and the whole thing is one heck of a ride.

Unfortunately, this one didn't hit all the right notes for me, though I very much enjoyed some parts of it. For me it was a book with entertaining bits in it that probably would have been a whole lot more entertaining if I hadn't been told just how much I should enjoy it by practically everyone on the planet and if I hadn't seen it displayed prominently in nearly every bookstore that I've entered over the course of the past year. Consequently, I went into this one with expectations that were far too high and those expectations more or less ruined the book for me. That said, though, if you're looking for an entertaining, and uniquely Australian yarn, this one might just be for you. 

I might pick this one up and read it again once all the hype dies down.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Inspired by Johannes Vermeer's beautiful painting, author Tracy Chevalier creates a beautiful work of fiction centred around who the mysterious girl in the painting may have been. Through a combination of research and imagination, Chevalier creates Griet, a young lady who is forced to work as a maid in the Vermeer household after her father is injured in a workplace accident. Sensing that Griet has an aptitude for art, Vermeer develops a friendship with the young woman and she soon becomes his student and muse. But darker forces are at play, first through the less than honourable intentions of one of Vermeer's friends, and then through Vermeer's insistence that Griet pose for him, and wear his wife's beloved pearl earrings. Can she rise above the scandal, or will it ruin her future forever?

Well researched and beautifully told, this story is a pleasurable read. It comes as no surprise that this one has been in print for the last twenty years and has been made into a film--there is something appealing about the quiet beauty that is to be found within the pages. The author's portrayal of Griet, a young woman trapped in an impossible set of circumstances thanks to a man who does not understand the enormity of what he is asking, or what the implications are for Griet, or for his wife.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Review: Impossible Music by Sean Williams

What do you do when music is the biggest thing in your life, but a ministroke leaves you unable to hear? That is the challenge faced by Simon Rain, the eighteen-year-old protagonist of Impossible Music, a brilliant new novel by Adelaide author Sean Williams. The novel opens with Simon hurting and angry, and resisting all opportunities to adjust to his new circumstances. And then he meets G (or George, or George who likes coffee,) a smart, tough girl who is learning to cope with her own newfound hearing loss, and who challenges Simon on a number of occasions. But what ultimately leads Simon on a path toward self-acceptance is an idea. He wants to create a new form of music. Something that the Deaf community can experience, along with the hearing world.

The novel starts off on a dark note, but that is understandable, given the subject matter. Though Simon's circumstances are unusual (he's the thirteenth recorded case in the world of having this type of hearing loss,) the character is drawn realistically, and with empathy. (On that, G is a lot of fun to read about too.) I also very much appreciated the use and descriptions of Auslan in the novel, along with Simon's descriptions of the music that he creates. (Creativity is a huge theme in the book.) However, where the story really shines is through its originality. It subverts from the usual YA tropes to tell the story of an adolescent who struggles with and finds the strength to cope with his newfound circumstances in a way that is original and pleasingly free from excessive sentimentality. This one will probably appeal to readers who are at, or who are advancing toward, the older end of the YA spectrum. 

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Sean Williams for my copy of Impossible Music

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Friday, 28 June 2019

Friday Funnies


Thursday, 27 June 2019

Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

If you think that your neighbours are bad, then spare a thought for the residents of Lowland Way. A peaceful, upper middle class street, these residents have made their area a neighbourhood that they can take pride in, thanks to a number of local initiatives. Things begins to change, however, when Darren Booth inherits 1 Lowland Way from his aunt. Darren is the kind of guy who, at best, is inconsiderate, a bit rough and plays by his own rules. At worst, he's a sociopath. Within days, he has all of the neighbours offside. And when a death shatters the peaceful street, all of the other residents are certain of one thing. Darren did it. Except that the police don't agree with him. And then Darren is found dead, under suspicious circumstances. 

From there the neighbourhood steadily goes downhill ...

I was intrigued--and I admit amused--by the sound of this one. Over the years, I've had my fair share of problematic neighbours from both ends of the spectrum, those who take a little too much pride in the area and expect others to follow a narrow set of rules (like most of the residents on Lowland Way,) and those like Darren who simply do not care how their behaviour affects others. Unfortunately, much of this story dragged. What could have made for an absorbing Agatha Christie style mystery, was instead stretched out into a story that didn't seem to quite know whether it was a social satire or something akin to the novels of Jodi Picoult. Still, while Darren is far from likeable, he is certainly interesting to read about.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Review: While You Were Reading by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

The Book Ninja was just so brilliant (or fucking hilarious as I put it in my review last year,) that I was thrilled when I learned that the book's co-authors Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus had penned another novel. This one tells the story of Bea Babbage, a woman whose life is falling apart after she accidentally ruins her best friends wedding. Moving across the country to Melbourne, she attempts to pick up the pieces in her life, discovering a great cafe and a secondhand book that has all kinds of messages scribbled inside along the way. Intrigued by the book and its notes, she begins to search for the person who wrote the notes ... with some surprising results along the way.

This one was an easy read that never takes itself too seriously. Bea was an easy character to like and spend time with, and the premise was a lot of fun. It was interesting too, to see her grow and develop, despite the well, massive, obstacle that Cassandra threw in along the way. (Speaking of, I really wouldn't have minded if the authors had allowed Cassandra to be hit by a tram.) The love triangle between Bea, Zach and Dino plays out in an amusing way. And whilst the whole thing is a little bit of fun, it never really reaches the same level of hilarity as The Book Ninja. 

Overall, this one is perfect for those days when you just want to kick back and have a little fun.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for my ARC.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019u

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Review: It's Not About Me by Sally Hetherington

Like a lot of young people, Sally Hetherington wanted to make a difference. And so, at age 25, she bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia, a country that she had previously visited and loved, where she hoped that she could help the locals. What she soon learned, however, was that travelling overseas with good intentions, wasn't enough. Many of the local programmes suffered through disempowered staff and an extremely unhealthy white savour syndrome. And so, Sally found a way to make a real difference--by developing a community centre, The Human and Hope Association, with the locals that could be run by the local people. The goal was to make herself redundant to the programme. And after a few years, during which she got to know many of the local people and to understand the local politics and culture, she did exactly that. It's Not About Me tells the story of her time there. 

Reading this book was one heck of an education. I'd always been wary of programmes where Australians volunteer overseas for a brief time, though I had no idea why. Surely helping others is less fortunate is a good thing. This book explains exactly why volunteerism isn't a solution, and why those in third world countries need to be empowered to help themselves. I was also interested to read more about the politics and culture of Cambodia.

Overall, this is an excellent read. 

Postscript: Sally Heatherington was awarded an OAM on June 11 for her work with the Human and Hope Association.

If you would like to make a donation to the Human and Hope Association, you can do so here:

Thank you to the author for my copy of It's Not About Me.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Happy Birthday Garfield

It's an annual tradition on this blog to wish a certain orange badass cat a very happy birthday, so here we go for 2019, Happy Birthday Garfield. Hope there's lots of lasagne coming your way!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Review: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Doreen Green, aka the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is back. Sort of. In her third graphic novel she has just been sent back in time ... to the 1960s. And while she is slowly trying to acclimatise to a world that has none of the technology that she is used to, her flatmate Nancy is desperately trying to search for her friend. Which isn't exactly easy, considering that Nancy is the only one from her era who can remember Doreen at all. In true Unbeatable Squirrel Girl style this all leads to a confrontation with an old foe ... but will Doreen be beaten this time? Or can she keep her title, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?

This one was a lot of fun. As well as comprising of the comics that make up the time travel story arc, the volume also includes a crossover issue between Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck. And, quite honestly, I was blown away by how well the two comics and characters worked together. I was quite skeptical that the styles and characters would be too different, but I was, thankfully, proven wrong.

Highly recommended.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Review: Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman

Noughts & Crosses was such a winner that I just had to jump into the sequel at the earliest possible opportunity. And I was not disappointed. I devoured this one in the space of a single day, picking it up whenever I had a spare moment.

Following the death of Callum, Sephy is pregnant and alone. Meanwhile, Callum's rogue brother Jude is also alone and living his life the only way he knows how--by hating everyone, hurting those who try to get close to him, and staying on the run. We see alternate chapters from each of their perspectives--Sephy as she struggles with motherhood, post natal depression and the realisation that the divisions between Noughts and Crosses are so deep that they cannot be changed by one person, and Jude as he struggles under the weight of being loved by someone that he is meant to despise until he does something terrible.

As was the case with Noughts & Crosses, the author handles her characters and situations with a hefty dose of realism. She also writes in a way that makes it near impossible not to be caught up in the story, whether she is describing a murder, or something far more mundane.

Oh, and I warn you, the novel ends on a hell of a cliffhanger ...

Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Review: The Lost Girls by Ava Benny-Morrison

It was a horrible crime and one that I recall reading about from my sick bed after a serious injury. Like many, many people in 2015, I was shocked to see on the news and read in the media about a suitcase that was found, dumped near a highway in a remote part of South Australia that contained the remains of a toddler. As the next few weeks and months played out, like others, I learned that it was part of a double murder, of that of a mother and child, one that had played out in two states and was as senseless as it was horrific. In The Lost Girls Ava Benny-Morrison gives the victims Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce dignity as she tells the horrific story of their murder, the monster behind it and the police investigation that saw justice served.

There is no getting around it. This is a horrible crime and it was a terrible thing that happened. I rarely read real life crime books like this one because I find the subject matter too horrible. This time around, however, I was a bit too intrigued. Fortunately, the author handles the subject with a genuine sensitivity and respect--both for the mother and daughter--and for their family and friends who are left behind. The book is compelling reading and certainly gives an insight into a police force who never gave up on trying to solve this horrible crime, as well as the effect it had on the people who were left behind.


This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2019

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Review: The Daughter's Tale by Armando Lucas Correa

The German Girl was such a moving tale that I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that the author, Armando Lucas Correa had penned another novel. The Daughter's Tale opens in New York in 2015. Elise Duval is almost eighty years old. One day, she unexpectedly receives a phone call from Ida Rosen and her daughter Anna who have recently been to Cuba. They have some letters for her. Initially, Elise is confused. She doesn't know anyone in Cuba ... does she?

Ida insists on a visit, and she and Anna bring the letters. As Elise reads them--letters written by a woman named Amanda for her daughter Vera--memories of a very different life in Germany and then France come flooding back. From there the reader is whisked away on a tale of survival--and the strength of a mother's love--against the backdrop of one of the most shocking and shameful events of the twentieth century. The author shines as he creates a real emotional bond between the reader and the characters, though it feels bittersweet on occasions, as the reader knows that not everyone can possibly survive the horrors of living in occupied France. We watch as Elise grows from child to woman, navigating this situation the best way she knows how and kept safe by some truly wonderful people.

More haunting is the fact that The Daughter's Tale is inspired by a true story, that of Judith a Jewish child who survived the war thanks to the cleverness of her father and the kindness of others. (Read more here.)

Highly recommended.

Author Armando Lucas Correa is touring Australia this week to promote his work. Readers can see him at the following events:

  • 12th June: Kambri Cultural Centre, Australian National University, Canberra
  • 13th June: Wollahra Library, Wollahra
  • 14th June: Sofitel Sydney, Wentworth (hosted by Dymocks)
  • 17th June: Infuse Camberwell (hosted by Dymocks)
  • 18th June: Geelong Library

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy of The German Girl

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

British author Malorie Blackman paints a bleak but oh-so-educational picture in this YA dystopian. Set in a world that is not unlike the early 21st century, it tells the story of a world divided into two classes based purely upon skin colour. The dark skinned elite, or ruling class, are known as Crosses. The light skinned underclass are known as Noughts. And in there world, mixing is unthinkable. So what happens when Stephy, a Cross teenager from a privileged background falls in love with Callum, a Nought who is fighting hard for his right to an education? 

What a revelation this book proved to be! What could have easily veered into the territory of a fluffy YA romance is instead handled cleverly and believably by an author who uses the predicament of her characters to steer the reader toward something far more compelling. The world depicted in this book is cruel and unfair, and no, it doesn't change just because the main characters want it too. Instead, the author depicts them as human beings struggling to make their way through an unjust world, where one well-intentioned word or gesture won't start a revolution, but it might just have repercussions, some of them good, many of them bad. The reader sees Sephy punished for her saviour complex, and often, and not always by the characters you would expect.

The backstories of both of the characters are handled well--Sephy's father is an important politician, her mother is an alcoholic who is struggling to come to terms with her life and past decisions. Meanwhile, Callum comes from a poor family. His mother is a hardworking woman, his sister has suffered a nervous breakdown, and his brother and father are members of a rebel group, who have resorted to violence in an effort to get their point across to the government. At times there are interesting parallels between the two families, just as there are often parallels between the society portrayed in this book and South Africa under apartheid. (There are other parallels between this society and many other places and points in history, sadly, however, these would be too numerous to list.) However, what really shines about this book is the way that the author nails precisely what it means to be the victim of racial prejudice, whether it means to be begrudgingly offered an opportunity for an education at an institution that does not welcome you, or various micro-aggressions that many people, across the world, even in supposedly fair and democratic countries have to put up with on a daily basis.

Overall, this is an intelligent read, intended for those on the older end of the YA audience, with plenty to offer adult readers as well. Since its publication in 2001 this novel has spawned three sequels and has been reprinted several times. A fifth book in the series will be published later this year.

Highly recommended.