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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog In This Small Spot by Caren J. Werlinger A beautifully written and inspiring look at convent life and a woman’s spiritual journey #RBRT #lesbianfiction

Hi all:

I bring you a book with a pretty uncommon plot and setting, by an author I’ve grown a fan of, thanks to Rosie’s group.

In This Small Spot by Caren J. Werlinger

In This Small Spot by  Caren J. Werlinger 

WINNER – 2014 Golden Crown Literary Society Best Dramatic Fiction
“Here, the true you is most often magnified, for better or for worse.”
Abbess Theodora
In a world increasingly connected to computers and machines but disconnected to self and others, Dr. Michele Stewart finds herself drowning in a life that no longer holds meaning. Searching for a deeper connection after losing her partner, Alice, she enters a contemplative monastery, living a life dedicated to prayer, to faith in things unseen. Though most of her family and friends are convinced that she has become a nun to run away from her life, she finds herself more attuned to life than she has been in years. Stripped of the things that define most people in the outside world – career, clothing, possessions – she rediscovers a long forgotten part of herself. But sooner than she expects, the outside world intrudes, forcing her to confront doubts and demons she thought she had left behind. The ultimate test of her vocation comes from the unlikeliest source when she finds herself falling in love again. As she struggles to discern where she belongs, she discovers the terrifying truth of Abbess Theodora’s warning. For better or for worse.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CLG16CW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CLG16CW/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00CLG16CW/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

 

About the author:

Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published sixteen more novels, winning several more awards, including the 2021 Alice B medal. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. She has lived in Virginia for thirty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy, and lives with her wife and their canine fur-children.

https://www.amazon.com/Caren-J.-Werlinger/e/B002BOI2ZI/

Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is the fourth of Werlinger’s novels I read, and although the setting and the central theme of the story is quite different from that of the others, I also enjoyed it immensely, and I’m sure it won’t be the last (if I can help it).

This is not a new novel, but the author is due to publish a companion novel (I don’t know much about it, so I’m not sure if it’s a sequel, a prequel, or something else) in the next couple of months and wanted to remind her readers of it, and also, hopefully, get new readers to discover it.

The description provides enough information for readers to get a good sense of what is to come, but I’ll add a few of my thoughts. Michelle (Mickey), the main character, is a successful surgeon, who also teaches at an important medical school, and who often worked with cancer sufferers. She had lived for many years with her partner, Alice, who had died from cancer a few years back by the time we meet her in the novel. She doesn’t suddenly decide to leave everything and go to the convent, as some of her friends and people who knew her might think, as we learn that she had thought about it when she was much younger, just out of high school, but decided to go to university, study, and then met her partner. The book is narrated in the third person, mostly from Mickey’s point of view, although there are some chapters where the third person becomes that of an outside observer with some moments of insight into one of the characters’ minds (I’m being a bit cryptic, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers). The novel initially alternates chapters from the now of the action (from the time when Mickey is setting off to go enter the convent), with others from her life before that, offering us an insight into her relationship with Alice, her interaction with others, and also Alice’s illness and its aftermath. There is no confusion between the different chapters and timelines, and the format works well to offer us a good understanding of what Mickey’s life had been like before and how she got to the convent, while also learning about convent life and about the process of her integration into the religious community.

Faith, vocation, and spirituality play an important part in the novel, as you can easily imagine, but you don’t need to practise Roman Catholicism or be particularly religious to enjoy the book. Anybody who has wondered about the meaning of life or spiritual matters would find much to identify with in the pages of this book. This novel is about the journey of a particular woman struggling with grief, trying to recover her zest for life, and to discover what is really important for her. Her life outside was full of stress and pressures, but although life in a convent is completely different, it is not without its challenges, and she discovers that you cannot hide from yourself, and you cannot put off dealing with things and people forever, however difficult and painful they might be. And, a convent is not a place where everybody is perfect, tolerant, and patient either, as she soon finds out. There is prejudice, pettiness, likes and dislikes, and the enclosed atmosphere and the fact that you are forced to live together with people you might not have chosen makes it all the harder, amplifying annoyances that you might, otherwise, have easily dismissed. But, there are some wonderful moments, and the novel is also full of joy, beauty, inspiration, and a few laughs.

We get to know Mickey quite well, and although I’ve read that some reviewers disliked her, that was not my case. Having worked as a doctor and left Medicine as well, I felt particularly drawn to her, perhaps because I was aware of some of the challenges of the profession, and although she is far from perfect and can be annoying at times, she does try to do what she thinks is right, even when it is not what might come naturally or make her happy. She is far from humble and doesn’t always ask for help when she should, but she tries her best, and she has a sense of humour, and is always ready to help others, even those she doesn’t particularly like. She discovers that there are plenty of things she has to deal with before she can truly move on, and she struggles with her feelings and emotions. I did find her a believable character, and I got to feel for her, as I did for the rest of the convent. We don’t get to know all the other characters as well, but I grew fond of the convent and its inhabitants, as I did of Mickey’s brother, of Alice’s sister, and of some of the other characters who make brief appearances. I particularly enjoyed the way the author creates a powerful picture of the abbey and its inhabitants, and I loved the sense of community, the different roles and personalities, and the way they all find a place and become a part of something bigger.

The writing is beautiful, as I have come to expect from this writer, and although this is not a page-turner in the traditional sense (much of what happens is every day and not the stuff of adventure books or thrillers), it flows well, and it has a sense of rhythm to go with the seasons and with the character’s experiences. There are melodramatic moments as well, when life puts not only Mickey but others also, to the test. And don’t expect everything to go smoothly and a traditional happy ending. This is not a fairy tale, and I have seen that some readers felt disappointed when they got to the ending. No, this is not the typical lesbian romance novel, H.E.A and all. Tears also make an appearance. To be fair to Werlinger, though, even if we might have missed the clues, what happens is not surprising or totally unexpected. And, personally, I thought the ending was more than appropriate and quite optimistic, in a bitter-sweet way.

I always advise possible readers to check a sample of the book, if they can, to decide if the writing style suits them, and that applies here as well. I highlighted a lot of sentences and paragraphs that seemed particularly beautiful to me and/or gave me pause, and I have chosen a few to give you an idea of what to expect.

But remember that an abbey is not a place where you can run from yourself. Quite the contrary. Having stripped away the disguises and distractions of the outside world: clothes, career, material possessions, the true you is most often magnified, for better or for worse.

Prayer wasn’t dependent upon the skill of the person offering the prayer; it wasn’t limited geographically or physically; it wasn’t even limited by reality or any of the laws of science.

The two people in our lives who could never be married gave us the best example of how to build a life together as completely equal partners.

Sometimes God knocks us off our feet with something dramatic, but, in my experience, more often, he simply whispers and waits for us to be quiet enough to hear.

Any warnings? Well, this is not a “clean” novel, and although there is no violence, there are some hard scenes to do with injuries and sickness and the odd swear word. There are also some mild lesbian sex scenes (nothing full-blown or explicit), and there is much talk about grief, illness, and death of loved ones, so those who could be badly affected by these topics might want to skip it or wait until they feel they are in a better place. As I have said, I found it quite hopeful and inspiring, so I wouldn’t discount it just because of the storyline, either.

I recommend this novel to people who enjoy beautiful writing, reading about enclosed communities (particularly of women), those who might feel curious about monastic life (I’ve always been), and anybody interested in characters going through major changes and crises in their lives. The author explains in her acknowledgments that she had thought about becoming a nun when she was younger, had researched the topic at the time, and also had family connections in the church, so this is a book born of her personal search as well as a work of fiction. It works wonderfully on both counts, and I can’t wait for her next book.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and her whole team for their support, and to all of you for reading, liking, sharing… Stay safe, and keep smiling!

 

Categories
Miscellaneous

DON’T WORRY. ALL IS WELL (fingers crossed)! And a recommendation @marysmithwriter

Hi all:

Sorry I don’t bring you a review today, as I’ve been a bit busy and the book(-s) I’m reading is (are) a bit longer than usual, but I promise I’ll be back with more reviews next week (I can hear your sighs of relief).

Initially, I wasn’t going to post anything, but I know that, as things are at the moment, people are bound to worry if somebody disappears without a word, and we in the blogger community are worriers, I know. So, I thought I’d reassure you. Nothing is wrong. It might feel like this at times…

Photo by Ruffa Jane Reyes on Unsplash

But we keep going. I hope you are all coping with things, doing your best, taking a day at a time, and following recommendations. We are trying our best here as well, all, big and small.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

I have recommended blogs and posts in the past, and I know we all have our favourites, but in case you haven’t met her yet, I recommend that you visit Mary Smith‘s blog, here. She is a talented writer, a brilliant fellow blogger, has done so many things, had so many adventures, and looked after so many people all over that it’s impossible not to be amazed and in awe when reading her posts and books. Her wry sense of humour also helps, of course. And, although we all have had many reasons to complain about 2020, she recently has had to face pretty bad news, so go over and say hello. I’m sure she’ll love your visit.

Photo by Colin D on Unsplash (This picture was taken in Glasgow, Scotland, and made me think of Mary, because of her great heart and because she’s Scottish).

And here, I leave you a picture that has me puzzled. I looked for images tagged under “hope” on Unsplash, and this came up. I have no idea why, but I thought perhaps you would know. Or at least it would give you something different to think about.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Honestly, I haven’t got a clue, but I like it.

Thank you for visiting and for your patience, I’ll be back with new reviews next week. Take care and keep safe!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. A singular and professional look at death

Hi all:

This is another one of the reviews I posted in Lit World Interviews that I never shared here. This book has become pretty well-known but I thought it deserved to feature here in case you hadn’t heard of it.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

REVIEWS FOR LITERARY WORLD REVIEWS

Title:   When Breath Becomes Air
Author:   Paul Kalanithi
ISBN13:  978-0812988406
ASIN:  B0165X8WN2
Published:  Vintage Digital
Pages:  258
Genre:  Non-fiction, Medical Books: neurosurgery, Ailments and diseases: cancer

Description:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Praise for When Breath Becomes Air

“I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him—passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die—so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: ‘It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.’ And just important enough to be unmissable.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“An emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring.”The Washington Post

“Possesses the gravity and wisdom of an ancient Greek tragedy . . . [Kalanithi] delivers his chronicle in austere, beautiful prose. The book brims with insightful reflections on mortality that are especially poignant coming from a trained physician familiar with what lies ahead.”The Boston Globe

“Devastating and spectacular . . . [Kalanithi] is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it’s all heading.”USA Today

“It’s [Kalanithi’s] unsentimental approach that makes When Breath Becomes Air so original—and so devastating. . . . Its only fault is that the book, like his life, ends much too early.”Entertainment Weekly

“[When Breath Becomes Air] split my head open with its beauty.”—Cheryl Strayed

Body of review: As this is a non-fiction book the usual format does not work well but I thought it was well-worth sharing.

Here it is:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi A singular and professional look at death

Thanks to Net Galley and to Vintage Digital for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I read this book with conflicting emotions. When it came to my attention and saw some of the comments I wondered if I was ready to read it. (My father died 14 months ago of cancer, in his case prostate, with bone metastases, stage IV at the time of diagnosis, after a year of fighting the illness.) In some ways I guess I was challenging myself to see if I’d manage and perhaps hoping that it would give me some answers, although I’m not sure what to. I will try to make this review as objective as possible, but by the nature of the book and its subject this is more difficult than usual (no two people read the same book and that’s the beauty of it, of course).

In my effort to try and make my mind up as to what to say I’ve read a few of the reviews. Some of the negative ones state that the book is little more than a couple of essays, a foreword and an epilogue. That’s a fair comment. We know that Paul Kalanithi died before he finished the book, and we don’t know how much editing went into it, or what else he might have written if his life hadn’t been cut short. The foreword works as an introduction of the book and a sum up of the author’s career and perhaps helps tie up the unfinished nature of it. It is nicely written, although the fact that Abraham Verghese had only met the writer once hints at how professionally packaged the book is. Yes, this is not just another account by a totally anonymous individual fighting cancer.

Other reviewers note that Kalanithi’s circumstances are so unique (well-educated, professional family, bright and driven, studying at the best universities, training in neurosurgery at one of the best hospitals, and also treated in one of the best units with access to all the treatments, surrounded and supported by his family) that perhaps his reflections and his experiences are not applicable to most of the population. I can’t argue with that. I’m not sure we can claim to a universality of experience and say that death or impending death affects everybody the same. There’s no doubt that the end result is the same but the process and the way it is felt is quite different.  All lives start and end the same but that does not mean they are the same.

Some reviewers take issue with the decisions the author and his family made, for instance his insistence on going back to work as a neurosurgeon after the diagnosis and whilst he was being treated, wondering how safe that was, and accusing him of selfishness. Sometimes in harrowing circumstances we do what we have to do to keep going and to see another day, although that is no justification to put others at risk. In his case it is clear from the write up that there was a strong plan in place to ensure safety and that he was no operating by himself (we’re talking about neurosurgery, a highly complex field and a team endeavour). Perhaps the way the author focuses on his own efforts and how he managed to overcome the symptoms of the illness to keep working leaves too much of what was going on around him in the shadows, but then, he was writing about his experience and how he saw it at the time. Other readers appear upset at the family’s decision to have a child knowing he wouldn’t be alive to see her grow. That’s a matter of personal opinion and I can’t see how that has any bearing on our thoughts about the quality of the book.

After this long preamble (my review is becoming an essay in its own right), what did I think? I am a doctor (a psychiatrist, and although I remember with fondness my placement in general surgery and I attended in some operations for other specialties, like paediatrics, breast or chest, I can’t claim to any hands-on experience in neuro-surgery) and I identified with early parts of the book when Kalanithi describes medical school, and also his love of literature. I haven’t worked in the US although I’ve read (and we’ve all watched movies and TV series) about the gruelling schedules and training process medical students and trainees face there. There is a great deal of emphasis on his career and not much on his other experiences. Although there are more details about his relationship with his wife later on, we don’t know much about how they met or what they shared, other than their interest in Medicine and plans for their professional future. Some reviewers noted that we don’t get to know the man. I can imagine that to get to the professional peak he had achieved one needs to be focused on one’s career to the detriment of other things, and there are some reflections about that in the book: about delayed gratification, about working hard and putting other parts of our life on hold, for whenever we’ve reached that next goal, that next step. Often that moment never arrives, because we find other goals or other objectives. Living the now and for it is a lesson that not many people learn. I also felt I did not get to know Kalanithi well. He writes compellingly about his work, his efforts to find meaning and to offer meaning to others through his vocation, he mentions religion and how he turned to literature too to try and understand death. There are glimpses of him, mostly towards the end of the book, and truly heart-wrenching moments, like the birth of his daughter. I agree with everybody that his wife’s epilogue is more touching and heart-felt, less analytical and rationalised than the parts he wrote and I felt more connection to her than to her husband. I wish her and her daughter well and I have the feeling she is more than equal to the task of bringing up her girl and carrying on with her career.

This is an interesting book, a book that will make the reader think about his or her own mortality, and it will touch many. It does have a fair amount of medical terminology (I’m a doctor so it’s not easy for me to judge how complex it might be for somebody with no medical knowledge, although I saw some comments about it) and it’s not a touchy-feely open-my-heart type of confession about the final days of somebody. It’s a fairly intellectualised look at matters of life and death, but it ultimately provides no answers. Why that should be a surprise to anybody, I’m not sure. It is not a book on spirituality (although there are some reflections about it) or a moral guide to live your death. If bearing all that in mind you’re still interested, I found it well-worth a read.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Hardcover:  $14.88 (http://www.amazon.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Paul-Kalanithi/dp/081298840X/)
Kindle: $14.14 (http://www.amazon.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Paul-Kalanithi-ebook/dp/B0165X8WN2/)

Audiobook: $23.88 (http://www.amazon.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Air/dp/B01CQ0CFQS/)

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview LIFE IN A FISHBOWL by Len Vlahos (@LenVlahos) Everything is possible with a little help from your friends

Hi all:

The festival of reviews carries on, today with a pretty especial book. I hope you enjoy it.

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos
Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos (Author)

Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone’s father is dying.

When Jackie discovers that her father has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, her whole world starts to crumble. She can’t imagine how she’ll live without him . . .

Then, in a desperate act to secure his family’s future, Jackie’s father does the unthinkable–he puts his life up for auction on eBay. Jackie can do nothing but watch and wait as an odd assortment of bidders, some with nefarious intentions, drive the price up higher. The fate of her entire family hangs in the balance.

But no one can predict how the auction will finally end, or any of the very public fallout that ensues. Life as Jackie knows it is about to change forever . . .

In this brilliantly written tragicomedy told through multiple points of view–including Jackie’s dad’s tumor–acclaimed author Len Vlahos deftly explores what it really means to live.

“A weird, sardonic delight with the shape of an allegory and the heart of a joyful song.”
–Brenna Yovanoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement

“Surprising, original, political, and deeply affecting . . . It is one of those rare works of art that keeps you guessing up to the very last page.”
–Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life

“It will tear you apart, and yet it’s an absolute joy.”
–Adi Alsaid, author of Let’s Get Lost and Never, Always, Sometimes

https://www.amazon.com/Life-Fishbowl-Len-Vlahos-ebook/dp/B01M2BO90I/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Fishbowl-Len-Vlahos-ebook/dp/B01M2BO90I/

Here a bit about the author:

Author Len Vlahos

From his page in Goodreads:

I dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies. We were a punk-pop four piece — think R.E.M. meets the Ramones — that toured up and down the East Coast, and had two singles and one full-length LP on Midnight Records.

The band broke up in 1987 and I followed my other passion, books. I’ve worked in the book industry ever since. And, of course, I write. And I write, And I write, write, write.

My first novel, The Scar Boys — it’s labeled as Young Adult, but I’ve never really liked labels — published January 2014. It is, not surprisingly, a rock and roll coming of age story. No vampires or dystopian future, just a messed up boy and his guitar. (I have nothing against vampires or dystopian futures. I loved The Passage, The Hunger Games, and The Road.)

Scar Girl, the continuation of The Scar Boys’ story, is due out from Egmont USA in fall 2015.

I live in Connecticut with my super awesome wife Kristen, and our six year old son Charlie, and three and a half year old son, Luke, and I spend my days working at a small book industry non profit.

 

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Bloomsbury Childrens for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel, that although classified in the category of teen and young adult literature can be read by anyone, is the story of the Stone family whom we meet when they are at a moment of crisis. When the father, Jared, is diagnosed with a brain tumour, aware that he’ll lose his faculties and his family are going to be left without his support, he decides drastic measures are necessary. What follows is the story of how his decisions affect all around him and how we can achieve incredible things if we never give up and have the support of our friends.

The novel is told, in the third person, from a variety of characters’ point of view, including Jared (although he becomes progressively confused), Jackie, his oldest daughter, and the central point of the story, Deirdre, the mother, Megan, the younger sister, and a number of characters extraneous to the family, including a young girl whose main contact with the outside world is Warcraft, a millionaire who’d do anything to keep himself entertained, a ruthless TV executive, a hard and unforgiving nun, and even Glio, the tumour that takes over Jared’s brain.

When Jared’s plan of offering himself for sale in e-Bay doesn’t work out and he ends up signing a contract to become the star of a reality TV following the last days of his life on the screen, everybody’s lives end up in turmoil. Shy Jackie, whose only refuge is social media and her friendship with a Russian schoolboy (fantastic Max), can’t think of anything worse than having cameras at home. The way the television crew manipulates the images and creates a distorted version of her family and her reality makes her want to resist, and by the end of the novel she’s discovered that she’s strong and resourceful and she’s strengthened the link with her sister (who is seen as cruel and superficial at the start).

Most of the adults in the novel (other than one of the teachers and the members of the Stone family) are depicted as egotistical and self-serving, and they don’t truly care about others. Although some of the reviews comment that the description is not accurate as it states that the novel is Jackie’s story whilst the action is split between many characters, for me, Jackie is the heroine, the main protagonist of the book and the heart of the story. Some of the characters that occupy quite a few pages at the beginning disappear when they’ve served their purpose and others are there to either aid or mostly hinder Jackie’s attempts at helping her father end up his life with dignity.

There is a strong element of criticism of the invasion of privacy by media, in this case, a reality TV programme that, like the cancer, feeds on what it likes and leaves destruction around it. Their commercialism, manipulation and money grabbing tactics are resisted by Jackie and her friends, in a David versus Goliath situation. On the other hand, the novel also shows that social media and platforms like YouTube aren’t good or bad in themselves and they can be used to great effect to subvert the established order.

For me, the younger characters are rendered more realistically and are easier to empathise with (as is to be expected from the genre and its intended audience). The novel is particularly focused on less popular and more introverted characters, who aren’t happy in standard social situations and suffer the unwanted attention of their peers when they are not openly bullied. They get to shine through and are shown as talented, imaginative and loyal friends, in contrast with both the adults and the popular but superficial kid.

I am intrigued by the use of the tumour as one of the narrators. It allows us to share in some of Jared’s memories (and due to his rapidly progressive illness that’s one of the only ways we have of getting some sense of who this man was before his diagnosis) but most importantly perhaps, the destruction it creates (and the way it takes over his host) parallels what the TV programme do, progressively limiting the freedom of the occupants, eventually leaving them nothing. At least the tumour is not aware of it and has no will of its own. The amount of anatomical and functional detail is impressive without slowing the action or interfering with the development of the story.

An inspiring novel that deals with a difficult subject (several difficult subjects) and ultimately emphasises the importance of friends, family and of standing up for what we think is right.

Thanks very much to NetGalley, the publisher and the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like,  share, comment and CLICK! 

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