Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A.S. King is one of my favourite US YA writers. She manages to weave fantasy and reality together so deftly you hardly notice it. Sarah, this novel’s protagonist, is a sixteen year old who is floundering. She feels lost, disconnected and uncomfortable in her own skin – so much so that she wants to change her name: to Umbrella. Little by little we see the cracks in Sarah. She starts to encounter other versions of herself, at 10 years old, 23 years old, and finally at 40 years old. Sometimes she is with all three. King lets Sarah, for the most part, push the story along – but there are periodic interjections from her mother, Helen. Helen, an ER nurse who works mainly at night, also reveals herself bit by bit and as we read we realise that Sarah might not be the only family member in crisis. Sarah’s absent brother, Bruce, begins to form in the story about a third of the way in and it is clear his expulsion from the family in contributing to Sarah’s fragile state. I don’t want to say too much because there are so many kernels of wonderful to explore in this novel. Sarah is a great character: sensitive; smart; funny and trying to find the girl she once was; just like her mother Helen. Can’t wait to read the next A.S. King on my list – Dig
The Outsider by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I expected more scares that I got, but somehow it didn’t matter because Mr King is such a great writer of character I was completely engrossed. There is horror – the book begins with an absolutely HORRIFIC crime – but the reader quickly becomes connected to the characters, and I found myself very quickly caring about what happened to them all. I had not read the other Bill Hodges books, but I would go back to them on the strength of this novel, and he’s not even really in this one!
Holly, Hodge’s former investigative partner, is a brilliant character. I would have read this for her alone. I won’t give away too much here, because I try to be spoiler-free, but I did love the weaving of urban and ancient mythology into the storyline.
If you want a plot that slowly draws you in and then doesn’t let go, this is the book for you. One to curl up with on a rainy day (or couple of days – it’s a pretty long read) and immerse yourself in.
Recommended for ages 16 and up (there is some pretty graphic content in here).
Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
(Recently found unpublished draft from 2016)
I was incredibly disappointed with this novel. The premise held such promise – a society that could be our own right now, treating “troublesome” young people with a cheap medication en masse to keep the peace, then the drug is taken away suddenly and there are riots in the streets. The story’s focus then becomes a group of friends who take a low-level government employee hostage – because they can.
I guess part of the reason for writing this book was to show that medicating children, stifling their emotions, is a rollercoaster to nowhere, and Sutcliffe has captured that well, but I wish there was MORE. This felt like lazy writing to me and I kept hoping there would be more to it. Like some other reviewers, I was not “gripped” by this story at all, and I really had to force myself to finish it so I could review it properly. Concentr8 is full of cliches, lots of swearing and not much else. A genuine disappointment from an author who is capable of so much more.
Suitable for mature readers 14 and up (mainly because of the swearing – there’s a LOT of it)