Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Promise of an Open Door

The Door that Led to Where - Sally Gardner
Available - January 2015

"When the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past"

This comment from publisher Hot Key Books for me, pretty much sums up the feel of this remarkable book. Sally is known for breaking all the rules when it comes to adhering to genre and this offering is no exception! If pushed I would describe it as contemporary YA fiction with a hint of mystery, a dash of Sherlock Holmesesq crime solving and a significant quota of Time Travel - intrigued? Great!

AJ is our leading man who after not exactly excelling in his GCSEs (HSC or ATAR equivalent here) is staring down the barrel of unemployment and all the unpleasantness life in the lower reaches of London society has to offer. His two best mates are faring even worse, getting mixed up in gang politics, dodgy drug deals and just generally being on the wrong side of the law but when AJ is offered a job as a junior clerk with an esteemed law firm it's not only his employment status that changes, the ripples of this one opportunity are extremely far reaching and not at all what you would expect. 

What I loved most about this novel was the assumption placed upon the reader that conversational tone in YA doesn't need to be dumped down. It also really made me examine today's society and the emphasis it places on the results of inconsequential exams to the future success of an individual…when did being a useful and practical person cease to be enough? Why must everything a person is and could be capable of, weighed and measured within the confines of a system that clearly doesn't work for everyone?

Travel outside the box and through the Door that Led to Where!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Go on a backyard roller coaster ride…

All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
Available - Jan 2015

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places". 
- Ernest Hemingway

This story does indeed take you to many bright and wondrous places, though from its sordid beginnings where our two main characters meet at the top of a bell tower its hard to imagine…both Theodore Finch and Violet Markey have climbed over the rail and dangle precariously for two very different reasons. After the death of her sister Violet is tired of the pain but quirky Finch is able to bring her back to herself,  little by little the pain becomes less as her feelings for Finch become more but as she ascends not even her feelings for him can halt Finch's downward spiral - as he fights to stay 'awake' and stay with her the fascinating person that he is and the marvellous and troubling way his mind works is revealed, giving both Violet and the reader a rare and precious view behind the stigma of mental illness into the relentless beast of depression. 

I don't know if anyone else has noticed but I feel that the 'issues' surrounding mental illness, depression and suicide are getting a lot of air time lately. Wether it be due to a raise in the detection or awareness of its prevalence these stories are happening - they are real and taking place in our world and community. So while yes, this story deals with some fairly hectic issues it is brave, bold and told so beautifully - crafted by such delicate hands and with obvious care that I couldn't help but fall in love with it and its bright characters. 

At the end of the day if this story can provide just a little more understanding and compassion, or create a conversation where previously there was skepticism and mistrust then it certainly has a place in society and an important one at that. You will laugh, you will cry and you will love All the Bright Places.