New review: When Good Geeks Go Bad by Catherine Wilkins

This funny, coming-of-age story kept me company on the commute, bringing a smile to my face and reminding me of the precarious nature of teenager-dom!  From the author of the My Best Friend and Other Enemies series, Catherine Wilkins, When Good Geeks Go Bad published by Nosy Crow, will have you rooting for the main character Ella, as she navigates school and family life.

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When Good Geeks Go Bad by Catherine Wilkins

When Ella’s Dad refuses to buy her cool school shoes or let her stay up later than 9.30, Ella decides to take things into her own hands. Being good hasn’t got her anywhere, so why not try being bad? But rebelling is a slippery slope and soon things spiral out of control. Can Ella get back on track? Or will she end up with egg on her face?

Ella is a pretty normal thirteen year old – she’s good at school, has a steadfast best friend Jas who’s she’s known for years and goes swimming with every Sunday.  But things aren’t great at school – she gets teased relentlessly by  the pretty girls for supposedly being ‘lame’ and a ‘povvo’ (poor) and bullied by the bad kids for being too ‘good’. Ella feels like she can’t win. Coupled with things at home not being great either, now that her parents have separated, it’s no wonder she starts to feel all over the place.  Especially as her attempts to be more grown-up, spread her wings a little and be a bit more ‘cool’ are well and truly thwarted by her strait laced father. With her Mum seeming to have abandoned her, bit by bit Ella starts to respond to her situation differently. Instead of grinning and bearing it; she fights back. Not with her fists, but with attitude.

Told through Ella’s eyes in first person narrative, When Good Geeks Go Bad is witty coming-of-age, middle grade story with some important themes at its heart.  Readers are bound to identify with the sometimes relentless navigation of trying to fit in at school, avoid being noticed too much for the wrong reasons and making a good impression with your peers.  Ella’s reaction and decision to start being ‘bad’ is totally understandable and provides for some very funny and possibly a bit cringe-worthy moments when it doesn’t pay off.  The insights into Ella’s own thoughts and feelings are often amusing but also moving as you feel her pain at not being understood. Ella is not without conscience as she realises the consequences of some of her actions.  As her Mum comes back into her life, we see the difficult dynamic of two very different people trying to ‘parent’ their daughter in totally different ways. Ella is lucky to have her understanding and steadfast friend Jas by her side, who helps her see what true friendship really is. With a thoroughly believable narrative, When Good Geeks Go Bad portrays teen rebellion with wit and wisdom and makes for a great read about friendship, family and believing in yourself.

Find out more at www.catherinewilkins.co.uk and www.nosycrow.com

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review.

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New review: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Danielle Younge-Ullman a novelist, playwright and freelance writer who has always had a passion for books, language and storytelling. Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is published by Scholastic and is Danielle’s second YA novel.

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Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Ingrid doesn’t belong on a hard-core wilderness trek with a bunch of ‘at risk youth’. She only agreed to come so that her mother would let her attend her dream school.  But as the group journeys further into the wilderness, the past becomes impossible to avoid. Maybe she does belong here after all.

Ingrid has always been her singing sensation mother’s number one fan.  Margot-Sophia Lalonde was an opera singer on the brink of superstardom, when her career was halted abruptly and their lives fell apart.  Ingrid has been picking up the pieces ever since; but maybe now it’s her turn to shine.  With the realisation of her dreams on the horizon, Ingrid’s mother only agrees to let Ingrid complete her senior year in a school of her choice IF she goes on a trek through the wilderness.  Ingrid finds herself in the middle of nowhere and very quickly realises it’s not what she expected. Instead of a beautiful tree-lined campsite, Ingrid finds herself wading knee deep in mud, trekking through waves of mosquitos and trying to avoid the searching questions of the camp counsellors. What was her mother thinking? How could she make her spend even one day in the company of such delinquents? She’s not the one with the problem…is she?

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is a great title, for an equally great story. With a bittersweet humour running throughout, it explores the experiences of a teenage girl who has had to face more than her fair share of troubles.  The story is told through journal entry letters written from Ingrid to her mother, alongside a narrative focusing on the events that brought Ingrid to this point in her life. Ingrid’s experiences of adjusting from a nomadic upbringing and the consequent fallout resulting in her mother’s depression, have given her more determination than perhaps even she realises.  Ingrid’s dry wit and resolve shines through, even when she’s right at the end of her rope. We follow Ingrid’s emotional journey of self-discovery, meeting those individuals who have had significant impact on her past; the repercussions of which she still feels.  We also meet her fellow campmates all of whom have a story to share that will help Ingrid better understand herself. A huge amount of research must have gone into this book to make each character so believable.

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined is truly well-observed and I particularly enjoyed Ingrid’s often humorous descriptions of the daily nightmare of the trek. I had nothing but sympathy for her having to hike in soaking wet clothes, being bitten to death and deal with the ‘circle’ sessions around the campfire.  This extended to huge empathy when you discover what she has been dealing with. I found her mother at times infuriating, but also felt desperately sad for her and could completely relate to her desire to protect her child.  Many will relate to Ingrid’s relationships with her school friends, her first love and her responses to the dilemmas she faces. But perhaps most poignant was how the story demonstrated that we all create facades around ourselves for self-preservation; to try and control life. If we admit to ourselves and others that everything is not ‘fine’, we can then face our past and our biggest fears and in doing so, we can move forward.  A great read for all young people.

Find out more at www.danielleyoungeullman.com and follow Danielle on Twitter . With thanks to Scholastic for my copy of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined.  You can read my interview with Danielle here.

Christmas is coming!

This Christmas to celebrate the wonder of writing, we’ve made our very own Author Christmas Calendar!

Featuring fuchristmas-1015350_1920n and festive Q & As with a whole host of brilliant children’s authors, every day throughout December.  There are questions from young readers and budding writers, including some from children who go to the Inkpots Writer’s Hut and some who attend Warden Park Academy.

We’ll be finding out, amongst other things, what stories our authors enjoy at Christmas, what their Christmas traditions are and most importantly – mince pies or Christmas pud?!!

Authors participating include Michelle Magorian, Paul Gamble, Gwyneth Rees, Chris Priestly and Abi Elphinstone to name a few.  We’ll also be running a BUMPER Christmas giveaway with an incredible prize for ONE lucky winner!  So watch this space because Christmas is definitely coming!

How to get teens to #LoveToRead.

Waking up at 5am with a horrible cold, I got up and sat with my lemsip, flicking through the somewhat weird and wonderful world of early morning TV.  I remembered I’d yet to watch ‘The School that Got Teens Reading’.  This is just one of the programmes scheduled for the BBC’s #LoveToRead campaign, so I settled down, between sneezes, to see what it was like.

I’d never heard of the exuberant Javone Prince before. He admitted to being somewhat nervous having no experience of schools other than his own schooling – I don’t blame him! I remember my first ever library lesson about ten years ago – I was absolutely terrified. But what he lacked in experience he made up for with enthusiasm; it was great to hear how much he loves reading and wanted to share that passion with the students.

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