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Paramnesia – Brian Wilkinson

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Brian Wilkinson

Genre/category: Young Adult/Fantasy/Paranormal

Release date: 18th Sept 2018

Review

The premise of Paramnesia is this:

Nora Edwards is on her way home from prom with her boyfriend, Andrew, when the pair are suddenly attacked by a demon-like creature called The Revenant. Andrew dies in the attack, but Nora survives, forever marked by a scar – and the ability to see dead people.

Two things:

  1. I generally like YA. It’s not my favourite genre, but I do enjoy it.
  2. I went off dystopian/fantasy/sci-fi/whatever YA novels (nothing ever matched up to the Hunger Games for me.) But something about the plot of Paramnesia really appealed to me. It felt like an episode of Buffy or X-Files or something, both of which are happy nostalgic places for me.

So that’s the context. Here are my thoughts:

I didn’t like Paramnesia.

Oh, I hate writing negative reviews, but I do have reasons for not liking it.

First, I’ll explore what happens after Nora wakes up from the crash: essentially, she sees ghosts everywhere, all the time. That’s the first thing. Her boyfriend is just kind of hanging around with her. A doctor diagnoses her with paramnesia, a disorder that makes people confuse dreams with reality. People at school, when she eventually returns, think she is going insane. Also, the Revenant wants to kill her.

Nora deals with all this surprisingly well.

Like, really well.

I mean initially, yes, she’s heartbroken and confused. But she seems to just take it. All of it. She’s referred to as ‘strong’, so I think she’s supposed to be a kind of kick-ass determined character. But it just comes across as her being a bit one-dimensional. I know having your boyfriend’s ghost hanging around kind of interferes with the grieving process but I wanted to see her struggle a bit – with her new found powers, with her injuries, anything. Any of the struggles she did have fell a bit flat for me. It just didn’t feel real. We are told that Nora feels things, but she doesn’t show it.

I think I started to connect to Nora about two-thirds of the way into the book, when she reflects upon her childhood playing in the woods. But by then a lot of book had passed.

The whole thing felt a bit unreal. (Yes I know it’s a book about a girl that can see ghosts). The thing is, a really good story with supernatural elements in it will be grounded enough in it’s own reality to make the supernatural parts feel realistic. But they don’t in this book. And to be totally fair, I don’t know whether it’s me, whether I’m just too old to enjoy YA in the same way anymore, but I just didn’t connect with any of the characters. They just didn’t feel real enough to me. I didn’t particularly care what happened to them, so when the emotional parts happened I wasn’t able to feel what I was supposed to be feeling.

It also contained some really frustrating moments. At one point, Nora’s parents allow her to be taken away to some kind of specialist hospital. Only she doesn’t go there – she goes to meet with her ghost crew (The Deadish Society). Not once to Nora’s parents follow up on that. They don’t call. They don’t swing by to check on her. Their daughter is having a mental breakdown and they don’t even care about what kind of treatment she’s getting? I really hate that about YA novels/TV shows – the lack of parental involvement. It’s a really tired trope. It’s extra annoying, because I got the feeling through reading (and later found out that it’s true) that Wilkinson is a parent himself, because he writes quite a nice passage about Nora appreciating her parents and realising how much they’ve done for her. But then he ruins it by making her parents not care about her well-being (or whereabouts) at all.

There’s more stuff to be said – there are a fair few cheesy lines (I mean really cheesy. Like after-the-killing-90’s-Buffy-One-Liner cheesy. Also, Nora’s power is later used through her scar, which is near her eye, and at one point a line actually reads ‘Nora powered up her eye’ which made me burst out laughing). The Exposition Scenes feel like, well, Exposition Scenes, and the fight scenes are pretty formulaic (he said this, she did this, this did that, she fell over, then this happened) and didn’t feel that exciting to read.

However, having given this a thorough bashing, here are some good things about Paramnesia:

  • The concept was really interesting.
  • Some of the ghost characters were really unique.
  • I liked Nora and Andrew’s relationship after he dies – they’re both sort of coming to terms with it in their own way, and Andrew’s response to everything felt more real to me than Nora’s.
  • There were a few really well-written passages in there, a couple of profound moments. Like the line ‘That was the goal of the parent – to become unnecessary’ which made me nod and then go and give my children extra long hugs.

That’s my opinion, though – I think there’s promise within this book, but the execution wasn’t as good as it could have been. The full title of this is Paramnesia: The Deadish Chronicles, Book 1. I’ll be interested to find out where the series goes, but probably not enough to read the books that follow.

paramnesia2 stars

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The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo

I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.

The Details

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre/category: Poetry/Young Adult/Contemporary Fiction

Where can I buy it? Here

Release date: 6th March 2018

Review

I’ve been studying so much poetry recently – protest poetry, mostly focusing on war poets. So when I saw a YA novel written entirely in poetry up for review, I had to apply for it. Frankly, I could do with a break from the seriousness.

The truth is, The Poet X contains a lot of serious themes (although obviously very different ones). It’s written from the perspective of Xiomara, a tall, almost sixteen-year-old Dominican girl living in the Bronx.

The book covers a lot of topics. The first I wanted to talk about was the way Xiomara examines herself and her changing body. She faces an onslaught of inappropriate comments from boys (and men) based entirely on her post-puberty body shape. Unwanted leering and grabbing becomes everyday life for her. She writhes with the injustice of it, particularly as her mother seems to blame her for it. Xiomara grapples with guilt and anger as she starts to see her own body as ‘trouble’.

There’s a love story in the book, too, and she explores the excitement and tension she feels as it develops.

The book also covers Xiomara’s struggles with God. Being raised in a very strict Catholic household, she finds herself questioning her church and its’ teachings, her own belief in God, and the idea passed down by her mother that women’s bodies are nothing more than inconvenient ‘stumbling blocks’ for boys. She searches for God, but finds Him silent in the face of her troubles.

But the main conflict of the book comes from Xiomara’s relationship with her mother. She grieves the loss of closeness that they once had, and wonders why it came to be. She feels the heavy weight of her mothers’ expectations, which don’t align with her own ideas for her life. Seeing the two of them struggling to relate to each other is a very emotional and raw thing to read, particularly as it comes to a head at the end of the book.

The Poet X really came alive for me when Xiomara realises that writing poetry is her gift, and has the power to set her free. She realises, after a tentative start, that it is writing that will ultimately bring her healing:

‘The way words say what I mean,

how they twist and turn language,

how they connect with people.

How they build community.

I finally know that all of those

‘I’ll never, ever, ever’

stemmed from me being afraid but not even they can stop me. Not anymore.’

It was a really interesting and emotional read. As always when I read YA books, I always feel a little pang of ‘ugh, younger me would have appreciated this more.’ I would have been able to connect with her school troubles  more at 16 than I do at nearly 30 (argh). I still enjoyed it, though, because I do like YA. If you like poetry – or if you’re looking for a young adult book and you’ve never really considered reading poetry before – I’d recommend checking it out.

 

The-Poet-X-by-Elizabeth-Acevedo-309x4683stars

 

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