Book Review | If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publishers: Macmillan Children’s Books

Publication Date: June 29th 2017

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads synopsis:

Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father.

They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.

If Birds Fly Back was a lovely book! I really liked it, and was intrigued by the plot; I had no idea where this novel was going to take me, and that was possibly one of the best things about it.

I really enjoyed the writing style, but I will say that I wasn’t immediately drawn into the story-line. I felt like I really had to commit to sitting down with no distractions to get through the first few chapters. However, after those initial chapters, I found myself hooked and flying through the pages.

Our novel is told, in alternating POVs, by our two main characters Linny and Sebastian. I really liked how casually quotes (from Sebastian) intermingled with standard prose, and how sections of Linny’s script were included.

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I love this quote so much! (I must mention that this is a quote from the proof copy, and may be different in the finished publication.)

I’m delighted to say I’ve read another book that has diverse characters, including our main character herself (I’m on a roll with good YA books at the moment)! The representation in this novel isn’t just with race, but also sexuality and health – I can’t stress enough how important diversity is in YA books (well, in any book, actually).

Linny is our main character, and her life’s pretty confusing at the moment – she’s trying to deal with the fact that her sister left her behind to run away, whilst juggling over-bearing parents and their expectations at the same time. I sympaphised with her throughout the book, and I found her to be a pretty darn awesome main character (I liked that she took her camera everywhere with her!).

I came to like the sections of script that were shared with us in her chapters – it was an interesting addition to the story, and added another level of mystery – because while you were trying to figure out Grace and Alvaro, you also had to figure out what was going on in the fictitious script, too.

I liked Sebastian, as well (he was a nerd, and who doesn’t like nerds that are sweethearts?!), and together, him and Linny were such a cute couple. I enjoyed the quotes in his chapters – though I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan at first. When I finally understood how they related to what was going on within the novel I appreciated them a lot more, and by the end of the book I loved them.

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Alvaro was awesome. He was portrayed as this enigma of a man (which he was), and I love him. I’m not sure why I liked him so much, but I really did! Then there was Grace. Though I can’t say much about her as I don’t want to give the plot of the book away, I do want to mention that I can’t put my finger on what I think about her – was she selfish or brave? Stupid or strong? She, much like Alvaro, was an enigma herself.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Once I was a few chapters in, I was hooked. If you like mysterious, contemporary YA novels and cute romances, this one is for you!

You can pre-order this book on Amazon here!

Thanks to Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book! This is no way affects my review or my thoughts on the book, as all of my reviews are honest.

Topic Awareness:

  • Death
  • Disappearances

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Book Review | A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publishers: Macmillan Children’s Books

Publication Date: January 12th 2017

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

Our author has done such a great job with this one. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of those books that when you think about it, it warms your heart and you feel this glorious feeling that resembles something like pure happiness. I loved it, and I’m so glad I read it.

First off, I’d like to talk about the diversity of this book. We actually have a realistic bunch of characters – people of different races, abilities, and states of mental health. Representation like this in YA novels is becoming more and more frequented, but there’s still such a long way to go.

‘Here are three separate but similar things: shyness, introversion and social anxiety. You can have one, two or all three of these things simultaneously. A lot of the time people think they’re all the same thing, but that’s just not true. Extroverts can be shy, introverts can be bold, and a condition like anxiety can strike whatever kind of social animal you are.’

Something I’d like to delve into more is the anxiety aspect within this book. Our main character Steffi was a selective mute, which was caused by anxiety. I was so impressed by the accuracy of the struggles Steffi had gone through and was still going through. I could relate to Steffi, and it was reassuring to see her confidence grow and watch her overcome certain things (or at least have a go at tackling them).

I’m not sure if Sara Barnard has experienced anxiety herself or did in-depth research for this novel, but how she’s expressed anxiety through words was very truthful and skillful. The prose was beautiful – it flowed nicely, and I found myself speeding through page after page.

Our characters were a joy to read about, and the reading experience was really rather unique from anything else I’ve read. Due to Rhys, one of our MC’s and the love interest, being deaf, they speak in sign language quite a lot through-out the book. It was really cool how it was set out when they were signing, and also with the inclusion of text messages between characters, too.

‘Little victories are everything in a world where worst-case scenarios are on an endless loop in your head.’

Steffi and Rhys’ relationship was so sweet (have I mentioned yet that I love Rhys?)! And the friendship between Steffi and her best friend Tem was great (and hilarious) to read.

Overall, this was a nice contemporary read – it discussed some hard hitting subjects, and there was some slight drama, but it wasn’t over the top and fit in with importance to the story line and our MC. I recommend reading this book on a sunny day outside whilst some of your favourite tunes are quietly playing beside you.

Topic Awareness:

  • Mentions of death
  • Injuries
  • Anxiety

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Mini Book Review | Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishers: Delacorte Books For Young Readers

Publication Date: 1st September, 2015

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

This was such a sweet, touching novel. It’s the fastest I’ve read a book in a while, and it broke my heart, but also made me feel alive with the feels.

This is the first book I’ve read by Nicola Yoon, and to say I’m impressed is to say the least. The writing was stunning! I loved how engaging and easy to read it was with the illustrations along with the normal prose.

Our characters were great, and I really liked Maddy as our MC. I could relate to her in certain aspects (namely how much she loves reading), and I sympathised with what was going on in her life. I loved Olly, and they were both very interesting characters. As a pair, they made my heart swoon; they were just so adorable!

“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you.”

I only had one issue with Maddy: how she started acting towards a certain someone at the end of the book. I can understand why she felt the way she did, but it seemed rather cruel, considering the circumstances (I can’t say much else because we’ll be heading into spoiler territory, but hopefully that makes sense).

The plot twist didn’t surprise me if I’m honest, as I’d already guessed what was going to happen before I even started reading the book. I’ll be honest though: it still made me cry. And the ending – where do I begin? It broke my heart, and I wish it hadn’t ended where it did. I wanted to find out more; I wanted everything to be fixed. But life isn’t like that, and books can’t always tell the perfect story. There was a small plot hole right at the end of the novel, but the rest of the book made up for it.

Nicola Yoon tells a beautiful tale of love in this novel – the kind of love that warms your heart and gives you that feeling of happiness in your bones. If you enjoy Young Adult contemporary novels, Everything, Everything is definitely for you.

Topic Awareness:

  • Mentions of death
  • Illness

Thanks!

– Emma

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Book Review | Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

 

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Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Publishers: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 23rd May, 2017

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again? And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear-before it’s too late.

*Read this post at your own discretion: If you haven’t read Lady Midnight, there may be slight spoilers for it.*

I feel like I’ve been on an intense journey the past couple of days reading this book. I really liked it, and desperately didn’t want it to end, but I’m also relieved it did – the length of it was pretty much perfect (699 pages), though it’s easy to imagine if it had gone on for much longer I would have felt a bit overwhelmed.

I knew I was going to love this book before I read it, because it’s Cassandra Clare and I love her books, and I love the Shadowhunters franchise. This book had a lot to live up to when it came to my expectations, and it really didn’t disappoint.

‘He picked up the sketchbook, turning it so she could see his work – a gorgeous rendition of a stone bridge they’d passed, surrounded by the drooping boughs of oak trees.

“You could sketch me,” said Emma. She flung herself down onto her seat, leaning her head on her hand. “Draw me like one of your french girls.”‘

The writing was stunning, and I easily found myself lost within the story. However, I have to mention that it felt like something was missing. It was an amazing book, but I feel like this was a filler novel of sorts – a lot of stuff had to happen to get us to this point where the main story-line can play out, and though these events carried us through the book, nothing overly major happened.

I’m pretty good at guessing what things are going to happen in a book, so I’m not caught off guard most of the time. When there was something that I hadn’t anticipated, I wasn’t overly shocked though. There was none of that sudden burst of emotion where I’m like ‘OMG NO WAY’, which is a factor I’ve come to fear, but also happily expect from Cassie’s novels. However, that’s not to say I wasn’t surprised by this book: I was, and I was still desperate to know what happened next.

This series has a bunch of amazing characters. I really like our main group – Emma because name twins are cool and she’s a badass; Julian because he continuously fights for his family; Kieran and his strength; Mark with his kind heart, and Cristina for her bravery.

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There wasn’t just a focus on the main characters, though – we really got to know everyone. We uncovered a whole other side to all of the characters, and it was wonderfulI loved how Kit fit into the story (I mean he is a Herondale, so how couldn’t I love him?), and his blossoming friendship with Ty was completely ship-worthy, if you get my drift.

I thought it was awesome how diverse this novel was, too. I can honestly say I feel like Clare is one of the most realistic YA fantasy authors out there – there are characters from all different backgrounds and lifestyles, and it’s great to see so much representation. I was so happy that we explored Ty’s autism as well – I don’t have autism, but I could draw similarities between Ty and myself, and it was lovely how Kit was there for him.

I can’t actually figure out how many possible ships there are in this novel; everywhere I turn another possible OTP is blooming. (I have to quickly mention that we also encountered some characters from past Shadowhunter series, and I may have fangirled a lot slightly.)

‘“We get used to living one way, even if it’s a bad way or a hard one. When that’s gone, there’s a hole to fill. It’s in our nature to try to fill it with anxieties and fears. It can take time to fill it with good things instead.”’

I felt a bit disconnected from the ending. Not because of what happened, but because of what didn’t happen. It felt slightly lack-lustre to me, but feeling this way is definitely my own fault. I saw people hyping up the ending on Twitter, and I thought something else was going to take place which hit my heartstrings much harder (and bought tears to my eyes), but it didn’t, so what did didn’t effect me as much as it would’ve (though a certain character’s reaction made me cry a little, I’ll admit).

I wish I’d had the time to read this book in just a couple of sittings, because I think the time it takes to read a novel really effects how I think about it, and perhaps with less time to speculate I really could’ve focused on what actually happened (because there was a lot) instead of what I thought was going to happen.

There are many things I haven’t mentioned about this novel that are awesome, because my review would likely never end. This book has left me with so many questions, and I’m desperate to know the answers. I think Lady Midnight was perhaps the better book in terms of plot, but Lord of Shadows comes out on top when it comes to character depth, and sheer volume of events. I have a feeling the third and final novel of The Dark Artifices series is possibly going to be one of Cassie’s most dramatic works yet, and I can’t wait!

Topic Awareness:

  • Violence (with vivid descriptions)
  • Death (with vivid descriptions)
  • Romance / Mentions of sex

I can’t recommend this book enough! If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Book Review | We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publishers: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: March 24th, 2015

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels:
The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever.

But then we all looked up and everything changed.

They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end.

Two months to really live.

This blurb doesn’t do the book justice – it makes it sound like this cliche YA contemporary, but it’s really not.

(Okay, I’ll admit there are some cliches. But pretty much all books have them, and they don’t overwhelm the novel, and that’s what’s important.)

‘The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be.’

(I love that quote!)

I have seriously mixed feelings about this book – because it was great, but there are some things I’ve got issues with, even days after reading it. 

Let’s start off with what I liked about it!

The story wasn’t what I thought it was going to be – which is good. I thought it was going to be a bunch of teenage misfits (I say misfits when I really mean popular kids labelled as misfits for marketing purposes) all hanging out in a group, feel crappy because hey, the end of the world is right round the corner. But then as their impending doom came closer to becoming reality, they’d all turn wistful and realise life could’ve been a heck of a lot worse and suddenly they’re all buddies. 

But that wasn’t the plot, and I’m glad it wasn’t. (I won’t lie though, I totally would’ve read that if it were a novel, too.)

Instead, we’re given this honest, believable story. The reality element in We All Looked Up was almost intimidating, because it was so truthful. Tommy Wallach hasn’t shied away from anything – and it’s sad to think that if Earth suddenly had a date with an asteroid in two months time, I’m pretty sure the world would resemble something very similar to the horridness in this novel. 

Our story follows the lives of a group of high school students after they’re told they have two months until the world could end (which is highly likely, it would seem). Told by four characters perspectives, I was impressed by the way Wallach wove the tale so seamlessly between the different POVs. Not once did I feel lost or confused, as everything fit together perfectly. 

And the characters themselves were interesting to read about. They all had such vastly different personalities, and were coming from different backgrounds. It was refreshing to have characters who actually had their own identities – I often read novels where one character blurs into another, so this added another level to the reality factor. 

‘Why had he assumed time was some sort of infinite resource? Now the hourglass had busted open, and what he’d always assumed was just a bunch of sand turned out to be a million tiny diamonds.’

Everything in this book was pretty hard hitting, and I think it’s because of this very simple fact: There’s no zombies roaming the streets of New York, or aliens invading Manhattan – there’s just an asteroid on a course straight to destroying Earth. And that’s something that (though extremely unlikely) could actually happen. 

I know I’ve mentioned it quite a bit, but this book was so realistic. I think it’s actually one of the things I didn’t like about it. Not because realism is a bad thing, but because I just found it hard to read something that was just so truthful – but it’s also what made it as good as it was!

I was close to giving this book a higher rating (I also considered giving it a lower one, too), but something happened in one of the last sections that sort of spoiled the read for me. 

Here’s why: I wasn’t expecting it, and to suddenly come across something that I felt didn’t really fit with the novel, or the characters personalities, was sort of shocking. I won’t go into details because this is a spoiler-free review, but I will say I’m a bit disappointed at what happened. 

But I’m sort of glad I was caught off guard, because it’s given me the motivation to do something I’ve been thinking about recently: Trigger warnings. 

I think it’s really important for people to be aware of things that could trigger them in a novel, and I want to help others who want/need a heads up before reading a book.

So I’ve decided to include Topic Awareness – warnings for certain subjects that I think some people may want to be aware of before reading a book. They’ll be placed at the end of my reviews, so it won’t affect you being able to read my review if you don’t want these warnings.

Topic Awareness:

  • Terminal illness
  • Violence / Death
  • Alcohol & Drug abuse
  • Mentions of sex
  • Theft / Vandalism

If I’ve missed anything that you think is a potentially harmful subject in this novel, please let me know.

Have you read this novel?

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Mini Book Review | An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters & Denizens of Downworld by Cassandra Clare & Cassandra Jean

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Genre: YA Fantasy

Publishers: Simon and Schuster Childrens Books

Publication Date: 3rd November, 2016

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

Featuring characters from Cassandra Clare’s international best-selling novels from the Shadowhunters world including The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifices, this anthology showcases beautifully illustrated portraits from Cassandra Jean – creator of The Shadowhunter Tarot – alongside never-before-known details from Cassandra Clare about all your favourite characters.

Since this isn’t a novel per se, I can’t review it how I normally would. But because I enjoyed it (and it’s so beautiful), I’m going to give it a go, and share with you a few of my favourite illustrations from this book.

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The Infernal Devices: Jem Carstairs. I love this illustration of him so much; it’s so intricate, and fits Jem’s personality so well.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I love Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter world. I love all of the books so far, but The Mortal Instruments is one of my all time favourite series (I sort of think it works like this when it comes to Cassie Clare books: the first series you read is your favourite. This obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’ve seen it happen a lot. Side note: If you’ve read them, which Shadowhunter series is your favourite?).

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The Last Hours: James Herondale. Anyone with Herondale as their last name instantly has my attention, but that’s not the only reason I included James in my review. I think this might be my favourite illustration from the book, regardless of the actual character or series that the character comes from.

So when I saw this beauty of a book being shown off on Instagram, I knew I needed it in my life (okay, I didn’t need it, but I really wanted it. Same thing…right?). I’ve had it since Christmas, and it’s taken me this long to pick it up, but I’m very happy I did.

The Mortal Instruments: Chairman Meow & Magnus Bane. Ah, our favourite warlock and his adorable cat!

Cassandra Jean’s illustrations are beyond beautiful. They have this raw elegance and stunning detail that captures your attention and keeps your eyes glued to the page for just that moment longer. And it was pretty cool to learn some new things about our beloved characters, and perhaps some lesser known ones, too.

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The Dark Artifices: Mark Blackthorn. I love Mark so much, and this illustration fills me with a lot of feels!

I really liked all of the illustrations (Cassandra Jean is so talented!), but there was one that particularly caught my attention, and struck me right in the feels (I got emotional, I won’t lie). However, I’m not going to share that one, and leave it for all of you Shadowhunter lovers to discover. I will give you this very unsubtle hint though:

The ‘True’ Jonathan Morgenstern…

Thanks!

 – Emma

Read On!

 

Book Review | Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi

Publishers: Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: 29th March, 2012 (originally published 8th February, 2005)

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend, Shay, isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world – and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

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This book! Talk about conflicting feelings.

Uglies is a great dystopia novel. Our author has created an epic world, with the plot this interesting concept all about friendship and the misconceptions of beauty. It had the makings of a five star book…but something went wrong.
 “Your personality – the real you inside – was the price of beauty.”

For the most part, this book exceeded my expectations by a mile, and I was genuinely surprised that I was enjoying it so much. Our main characters were intriguing, and they all had unique personalities. I liked Tally and Shay, as flawed with their views as they seemingly were.

The adventure aspects were great, but my favourite part has to be the world Westerfeld set up. Sure, I’ve read books with this futuristic, dystopia feel before, but it just really worked for this novel. Something clicked, and I was swept into this world where what beauty really was had been morphed into something ugly.

Over half way into the novel, and I was loving it. But then everything went down hill at the speed of light. Okay, I’ll be honest: I saw the plot twist coming a mile off, so it wasn’t a big surprise to me when the action kicked in. And the action itself was okay – it’s the chapters after it that weren’t.

I understand that it’s hard for there not to be a lull after the action (and there sometimes even needs to be a lull, for the reader to have a break), but this is where the novel shows its flaws.

Mini Spoiler Alert: I thought this book was supposed to be about friendship, and it was up until this point. There was a small romance building up between a couple of our characters, which is absolutely fine (it seems YA books have this false view that there can’t not be romance in a book and it still be good, though I don’t think that’s what’s happening here) because it added another element for us readers to think about. But after the big action scene, this romance took a front-seat, instead of staying in the backseat where it was happy and comfortable. I feel like the romance was just a plot device to add a few extra chapters to the book, and it sort of annoyed me. End of Spoiler.

But something else that was sort of strange was that the final chapters were really confusing, and the rest of the novel hadn’t been. It’s really hard to say why without giving away any spoilers, so I’ll just go with these examples: there was talk about characters that I couldn’t remember being mentioned in the book before, and a character (who was a hostage) completely disappeared.

However, this confusion could be down to me, and not the book itself. I stopped reading it when I got to the part I didn’t like, but forced myself to power through it a few days later (and I realised the key to powering through a not-so-great section is to listen to some awesome tunes whilst reading it).

Overall, I did enjoy this novel. The actual ending itself was good, it was just the few chapters leading up to it that let it down. Up until that point, I had been really liking it. Nevertheless, it’s still a good read, so if you like dystopian novels, you should definitely read this book.

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!