When lies become the truth

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Just wow. This book is an intricate web of smoke and mirrors. A searing portrait of “old money” and all the evil it can bring out in people. A heartbreaking look at sadness, and longing for things past. Lockhart has drawn her characters, particularly Cady (Cadence), very well.
Two summers ago, Cady had an accident that no-one wants to talk about. She can’t remember it as she hit her head in the accident and now suffers crippling migraines. After a summmer away, Cady returns the next summer to the place where the accident happened, the family’s island, Beechwood. Through Cady’s efforts to remember what happened that fateful night, we learn about her cousins and past summers through flashbacks, and through the conversations she has with them on her return in the now.
Little by little Cady begins to remember snippets of what really happened the night of the accident. What follows is devastation, but I can’t tell you what or who – because that would spoil it. In fact, don’t let anyone tell you ANYTHING substantial about this book, because you need to approach it, for the most part, cold. Just pick it up. Read it. READ it. Marvel at the sophisticated world of the Sinclairs, and be grateful for what you have in your own little world.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Seeing Double

ReplicaReplica by Jack Heath

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack Heath sent me this book as a review copy, so I want to be up front about that, but it takes nothing away from the fact that this is a FABULOUS read. I finished this in one day, so it was definitely a page-turner.
Chloe, the protagnoist, is thrown into a bizarre and dangerous situation.
These are the first three paragraphs:

I can’t move my legs.
No matter how hard I puch or pull, nothing moves below my waist. It’s like my feet are encased in concrete. When I try to reach down, searching for the problem, I discover that my arms are frozen too.
My shoulders won’t flex. My fingers won’t bend. I can’t even turn my head.
Someone has glued me to the wall.

If that doesn’t grab you from the gate, you don’t have a pulse. Chloe. the Chloe who speaks to us, is a replica. It is not a spoiler to reveal this. The real questions are why does she exist at all? Why does “real Chloe” feel she is being followed and in danger? How will Chloe function with the parents and friends of “real Chloe”?
There is also a plot in here about a technological weapon, and those who want it (some bad dudes, for sure), but I found it to be the less interesting part of the story for me (sorry Jack) even though it was well built and executed.
This novel raises all sorts of questions about what makes us, us. Is it exisiting as human, or can a copy of us, with all our memories, also be “us”? For me, that was the most interesting aspect of this tale and the one that would lend itself to study as a class novel. I cared about Chloe, even when I learned she was a replica, because she is vulnerable. It seems strange to think of a mechanical being as having weaknesses (in the age where we have had the Terminator), but it was this that kept me reading right to the end.
I would recommend this for anyone over the age of 13 who loves a suspenseful ride, with a bit to think about on the side. It was definitely worth the wait, Jack!

Don’t Lose Your Head…

NogginNoggin by John Corey Whaley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very different book which captured my imagination immediately. Travis had leukaemia five years ago and he was dying. Nothing could save him, so he decided to give cryogenics a go. His head was removed and frozen and five years later he wakes up to discover his head on the body of Jeremy Pratt, who died of a brain aneurysm. Great! You might think. Not so great, it turns out.
Noggin is like nothing else I have read before – it is a great antidote to the rash of “sick-lit” books that followed in the wake of The Fault in Our Stars because it deals with terminal illness in a very different way. Travis DID give up, he WAS selfish and chose to opt out and leave everyone else to cope with his loss. Then he shows up and expects them all to just pick up where he left off.
John Corey Whalley is able to make us feel empathy for Travis and also want to kick him in the pants. We rejoice when Travis meets Hatton, his new best friend, and cringe when he makes a pass at his former girlfriend Cate (although not in his mind because in his mind he’s only been gone a few hours) who is engaged to someone else. We love him for his easy acceptance of his friend Kyle’s homosexuality and despair at his whining about his new life being so hard. Travis is smart, romantic and loyal and so are the people around him. His parents are legends (can’t tell you why – spoiler) and his friends are the kind of friends everyone wishes they had.
This is a book about what is really important, what really matters and how each person we meet, no matter how breifly, makes a connection with us.
It is romantic, sad, funny and, in the end, life-affirming.
You will not be sorry if you pick this one up.
Suitable for ages 13 and up.

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Hannah the Heartbreaker

The ProtectedThe Protected by Claire Zorn My rating: 5 of 5 stars I read this book in 3 hours. It’s that good. Hannah’s sister Katie is dead. Killed in a car accident in which Hannah’s dad drove, and Hannah was a passenger, the accident happened almost a year ago. With a court case approaching the pressure is on for Hannah to remember what happened in the accident. But she can’t. Or won’t. Hannah’s mum spends most of her days in bed,m not talking to anyone. When she does venture out an argument with Hannah’s dad usually ensues and it is a miserable existence for all of them. We learn that Hannah has been bullied ever since starting high school 3 years ago and that Katie was not the sister she should have been. In fact, Hannah’s life was a living hell and Katie was a bystander – not bullying, but not standing up against it either. Through a series of flashbacks we learn just how horrible Hannah’s life was – until her sister died and everyone started treating her differently. Hannah is one of the most hearbreaking characters I have read in reent years. She is gentle, sensitive, intelligent and good listener, but also timid and socially awkward. As I read about this girl who is not understood by anyone in her family I remembered the teasing I faced in my early high school years – about being the tallest, the one with the biggest boobs, and the nickname that stuck right up until year 12, FA (Fat Arse). Hannah doesn’t reach out to her parents for help, because she knows that nothing they can do or say is going to make a difference. She wants to break free of her isolated life, but can’t because she is held back by her memories of Katie and the accident. Hannah felt very real to me and Claire Zorn writes her perfectly. The way she talks, the way the other characters talk, feels authentic. Anne, the school counsellor, is wonderful – the right mix of concern and warmth, without being schmaltzy and Mrs Van, Hannah’s next door neighbour is a peach. Josh, the developing love interest, is great but he was a little Augustus Waters for me at first. He got better as the novel went on and seemed a perfect foil for Hannah in the end once his posturing was over. This is a great book for anyone who has experienced the pain of not quite fitting in, and the tiny fluttering joy of finding someone who wants to stick around and help you find a niche. This book has been long-listed for the 2015 Inkys and I am confident it will be on the shortlist – you read it here first. Suitable for ages 13 and up. Highly recommended.