Review: We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

we come apart.pngThe Premise: Jess is a teen shoplifter, tormented by her mum’s horrible boyfriend and seeing no hope for the future. Nicu is a Romanian migrant, struggling for acceptance in Britain while his parents plan his marriage. The two meet in community service and a tentative friendship ensues.

Thoughts: I requested a review copy of this book because I was such a fan of Crossan’s One that I didn’t think it was humanly possible to wait till February for it to come out. We Come Apart, like One, is written in verse, which I still think is a brave and admirable choice when writing YA. The style here is less delicate than that of Crossan’s previous work, particularly to begin with as Jess spends her sections trying to convince us of how tough she is. Nicu, on the other hand, also demonstrates a different style, with his broken English simultaneously representing the torment of the outsider and providing occasional comic relief.
I think it would have been very easy for this book to be completely miserable, and it’s a testament to the writing of both Crossan and Conaghan that this isn’t the case; the bond between Jess and Nicu is so beautifully realised that the bleakness of the story can almost be forgotten at times. I found their stories very enlightening; while a very different story, I was reminded of Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, in which a refugee boy befriended a lonely girl, which has obvious parallels with We Come Apart in both subject matter and overall message. It seems to me that stories such as these could play a really important role in educating privileged teens (like the ones I teach) about a world they know very little about. We Come Apart will be high up on my list of options for teaching next year.
Although there’s a slight Romeo and Juliet vibe here, romance doesn’t play as important a role as friendship. The last act certainly borrows some of the tragic urgency of Shakespeare’s play, and it’s very effectively done.

In Conclusion: I’m glad I read this; although it’s not a very uplifting read, it’s certainly an important one, with timely messages about tolerance and acceptance, as well as a reasonably terrifying lesson about not being able to escape your fate, no matter how hard you try.

The Monthly Round-Up: December

Despite my lofty ambition for December of reading all the books I acquired this year and didn’t read, I just read whatever I wanted and kept acquiring more books. Oh well.

  1. Armada by Ernest Cline
    Too geeky for me. I reviewed it here.
  2. The Wicked and The Divine Vol.4: Rising Action by Kieron Gillen
    A return to form; volume 3 was awful, but this was excellent. Great artwork and interesting character arcs.
  3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
    I loved this; the Prague setting, the creepy fantasy elements, the stuff with angels – it was all good. Now I need to get the second and third books.
  4. Angel Catbird Vol.1 by Margaret Atwood
    I love Atwood and this was an interesting development in her work. Aside from the animal-merging of the main character, I was baffled by the little fact boxes about domestic cats. It was weird.
  5. The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis
    This was brilliant; a historical novel with an anachronistically badass female protagonist. Here’s my review.
  6. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
    I am still not over this one; set in Nigeria, with an Adichie-esque combination of relationship drama and cultural idiosyncrasies. It’s out in March and I strongly urge you to buy it.
  7. Saga Vol.3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
    Hurrah, more Gwendolen. At the time of writing this list, I am halfway through volume 5 which has rendered me incapable of remembering anything about this one. Whoops.
  8. Silver Stars by Michael Grant
    The sequel to 2016’s Front Lines, Grant continues with the story of his female GIs in WWII. My review will be up in February when this comes out, but suffice to say it’s violent and Frangie isn’t in it enough.
  9. Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick
    Set in a Mexican border town ruined by drugs and gangs, this is a dark and depressing story but features some amazing writing.
  10. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Muhajan
    My review of this will be on Fourth and Sycamore in January. It’s a compulsively readable account of a bomb blast in Delhi and its short and long term impacts.
  11. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
    YA f/f love story; this was funny and touching at the same time. I really enjoyed the time I spent reading it.
  12. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
    You might know Crossan from her verse novel One, which remains one of the best YAs I’ve read. This is also in verse, telling the story of a troubled teenage girl and a Romanian migrant boy who meet in community service. It’s out in January and it’s excellent.
  13. Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy
    I really enjoyed some of the poems here, particularly the one about the laughing school girls (my copy is all the way upstairs so that’s all the detail you’re getting, folks).
  14. The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
    All young people I know rave about Walliams; while I’m not the biggest fan of his TV persona, I can confirm that he can write a funny children’s book. Although the Dahl-esque demonisation of the big-boned is not necessary, dude.
  15. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
    This was ace; starting with narrator Darling’s childhood in Zimbabwe and transporting to America later on, it’s a brilliant representation of contrasting cultures.
  16. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
    I loved Fuller’s last novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, and this was excellent too. It’s a family drama in which the mystery of a long-disappeared mother is unravelled.
  17. American Savage by Matt Whyman
    Not as funny as The Savages, but still entertaining, with some bizarre plot twists.
  18. The Global Novel by Adam Kirsch
    A short consideration of how novelists have reacted to globalisation in their work. I’ve not read all the books mentioned here, but Kirsch’s discussions of Atwood and Adichie were interesting.
  19. Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
    I enjoy this series more and more as it goes on, although I do need to read the books closer together to avoid forgetting everything that happens.
  20. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
    I am officially obsessed with Adichie. I’ve written a raving, nonsensical review of this collection of sublimely good short stories which you lucky people will be able to read later in January. You’re welcome.
  21. Saga Volume 5 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
    Yes, I am still reading this series.
  22. Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe
    Making a late play for my favourite non-fiction of the year, this was funny, touching and made me want to punch the air and shout “CRUSH THE PATRIARCHY.”
  23. Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
    The sequel to Passenger, this was good in all the ways that book was (time travelly goodness, numerous locations) with added familial complications. Also, it turns out it’s a duology, which I did not know.

And that’s 307 books read in 2016! Woohoo. Now I need a sleep.

Top Ten Tuesday: Dear Santa, Please Bring Me All the Books

This week’s TTT is about the books we’ve asked for this Christmas. Basically all I ever ask for is books, so this list is very easy to write. I tend to ask for the kind of books I might not buy for myself, like big non-fiction works or collections, so my Christmas books seem like more of a treat. I have developed this system over many years of politely demanding books for Christmas…

Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury by Matt Richards
I love a good music biography and I was brought up listening to Queen, so I’m looking forward to reading this. Personally, I think I prefer biographies to autobiographies, as I like to read about an artist’s wider cultural impact and, when that’s written by the artist, it sounds a bit annoying. Also, this is a total brick, so I’m excited.

Shrill by Lindy West
Something I’ve been wanting to read for ages; I am a bit obsessed with Lindy West on Twitter, and the excerpts of this I’ve read have been excellent.

Saga, Volumes 4-6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I really like the space madness of this series, although I continue to be perturbed by the amount of nudity people seem to think is necessary in a comic…

Jane Austen, The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly
I’m not sure I’ll be convinced that Austen was actually a radical, but, as a massive fan of her novels, I’m interested to read Kelly’s argument. Also, my husband has bough me a Jane cuddly toy for Christmas, to be friends with the Emily Dickinson one I already have. Because I am cool.

Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe
I’ve seen Pascoe on a few comedy panel shows and she’s very funny, so I hope this will be something that makes me laugh, given that most of my reading produces a very different effect.

Collected Stories by Shirley Jackson
I’ve read and taught quite a few of Jackson’s stories and they are all superb, so I’m happy that I will soon be the owner of a bigger collection.

Stories Volume 1 by Ray Bradbury
As with Jackson, I’m a fan of Bradbury’s short fiction. This book is enormous and also very pretty. My birthday’s in January so I’ll be requesting volume 2 then.

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
My mum is getting me a boxset of all Walliam’s children’s books; I’ve heard endless good things about these from my students and other children, and I’m interested to see whether Walliams merits the “new Roald Dahl” tag he’s been given.

In non-book but still-bookish news, besides this beautiful Jane Austen toy, I have, I think, also convinced my husband to buy me this beauteous Edgar Allen Poe-ka dotted scarf, which is both a great pun and a lovely accessory.

Top Ten Tuesday: Exciting 2017 Releases

This week’s TTT is about the new books we’re excited about in the first few months of 2017 (2017! How is it 2017?). This is what I’ll be eagerly pre-ordering in the next few months. I am upset by how many of them are sequels, given my inability to remember crucial plot details.

Triptych: Three Studies of Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible by Larissa Wodtke
(published 16th February)
The Manics are one of my favourite bands, and there’s a surprisingly small amount of books written about them, so I’m looking forward to reading this one, even if The Holy Bible is essentially a really terrifying album which scared me a lot when I was 13.

The Book of Etta by Meg Elison
(published 21st February)
This is the sequel to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (review here), which I read earlier this year. Elison’s post-apolcalyptic world is both creepy and compelling, and I’m keen to see what happens next.

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
(published 2nd February)
Another sequel; this is the follow-up to the excellent Rebel of the Sands, which I read at the start of this year and loved. I might even re-read it before Traitor appears in my eager paws.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
(published 26th January)
I really enjoyed Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days, as have the many people I’ve recommended it to. I’ve started Swimming Lessons and, plotwise, it’s quite different, but Fuller’s writing remains wonderful.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
(published 12th January)
I really, really enjoyed Passenger and all its globetrotting, time traveling craziness, so I’m looking forward to reading this follow-up.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
(published 21st February)
This one is the last in the Shades of Magic trilogy, and I can’t wait to read it, whilst at the same time feeling very sad that it’s the last time we’ll see Kell and Lila. I love these books, and Schwab’s work in general; she is brilliant.

Mischling by Affinity Konar
(published 2nd February)
I’ve got an e-ARC of this, which pleases me very much as I’ve been looking forward to it for so long – I think it might already be out in the USA but doesn’t hit the bookshop shelves till February here. It’s about twins being used in experiments at Auschwitz and what happens beyond. It sounds fascinating.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
(published 2nd March)
I’m reading an ARC of this at the moment and it’s completely excellent. Comparisons to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are inevitable – it’s set in Nigeria and the writing style is quite similar – but, frankly, if I wrote a book and people compared it to Adichie, I’d think that was the best compliment ever.

Silver Stars by Michael Grant
(published 9th February)
Yet another sequel, this time to the brilliant Front Lines, Grant’s alternate history in which teenage girls fight in World War II. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with the superb cast of young women who featured in the first book.

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
(published 9th February)
I’m a bit torn with this one, because I haven’t been the biggest fan of Red Queen or Glass Sword, but am intrigued to know what happens to Mare after the cliffhanger of the second book. So I’ll probably have to pick this up (although maybe not in February, as it seems it’s coming out in hardback first and they represent too great a risk to my face if I fall asleep while reading).