YA Review: Vicious Rumer

Title: Vicious Rumer
Author: Joshua Winning
Edition: Kindle
Rating: 4/5

This book should probably come with a violence warning – it begins with a torture scene, narrated by the person doing the torturing, and it’s an amazing setup for an uncompromising story and a fascinating character. I was hooked from the first line.

Rumer grew up in a series of foster homes, haunted by stories of her dead mother. She never found a place where she felt at home, and trouble seemed to follow her and everyone she cared about. When she finds herself abducted by a violent crime lord who thinks she has something of his, her instinct is to run, and ask an old friend for help. But trouble is on its way, and Rumer is about to find out a whole lot more about her mother, the crime lord, and the mysterious object that connects the three of them.

This is a tense, exciting story with real violence and real peril for the characters. There’s a hint of the supernatural, and a healthy dose of mystery surrounding Rumer’s family, and her mother’s connections to the criminal underworld. She’s an unconventional protagonist – independent, ruthless, and determined to survive, whatever and whoever comes after her. The first-person present-tense narration ensures that the reader identifies with Rumer. Even when she’s doing horrific things, we know why she’s doing them, and what has driven her to violence and desperation. It’s a hard trick to pull off, but by the author succeeds by creating a believable, intelligent, three-dimensional protagonist and making sure our sympathies are firmly with her, wherever she finds herself.

‘You’ve never met anyone like Rumer Cross’ says the blurb on the front cover – and it’s right. Essential reading.

Have you read Vicious Rumer? What did you think of the story? What did you think of Rumer? Did you think she was a sympathetic character, or do you think she went too far? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Black Flamingo

Title: The Black Flamingo
Author: Dean Atta
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

This is a beautiful book. Yes, it has a gorgeous cover and lovely illustrations – but the beauty is in the language, the characters, and the story.

When I picked it up I didn’t realise it was written in verse, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The main character’s voice drew me in from the start, and the use of verse and stand-alone poems provided a powerful short cut into his emotional experiences. The descriptions, the storytelling, and the supporting characters are all handled with an extremely light touch, but the words are carefully chosen and the images and experiences are vivid and clear.

This is a book about identity – discovering and claiming the right to express who you are, while navigating the complex demands of family, friends, and the colour of your skin. With a Greek mother and a Jamaican father, Michael struggles to find his place in a world that finds him too black, not black enough, or not Greek enough. His disappointment when his mother refuses to buy him the Barbie he so desperately wants for his sixth birthday sets the scene for the story, and begins his journey of self-discovery.

It’s a quick read, but it follows Michael through school and on to university, spotlighting important events to tell his story. His experiences as a gay, mixed-race teenager are sometimes heartbreaking, and sometimes heartwarming, but all of them contribute to his need to find and define himself. When he joins the Drag Society at university, he finally has the chance to bring all his experiences and influences together, and the freedom to be fully himself.

When Michael takes to the stage as the Black Flamingo, his costume, poetry, and interaction with the audience bring together everything he has experienced, and everything he has learned. After a lifetime of finding himself defined by other people, the freedom – and the permission – to present himself in his own way feels absolutely inspiring.

The Epilogue, a poem called ‘How to Come Out as Gay’, repackages the message of the book in a few lines, reinforcing the idea that there is no right way to be yourself, and that only you can figure out who you are, and what you want to show to the world. It’s an empowering, emotional end to an empowering and emotional book. Highly recommended.

Have you read The Black Flamingo? What did you think of the story? What did you think about Michael’s journey, and the poem at the end? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Shatter Me Novellas

Title: Unite Me / Find Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3/5 / 4/5

Unite Me (3/5)
This is an tiny, expensive paperback featuring two short stories that link to the first three books of the Shatter Me series, along with the contents of Juliette’s journal. While it was interesting to read sections of the story with Warner and Adam as narrators, I didn’t think the book contributed much to the series. Juliette’s journal was interesting, but we’ve read some of it before, and most (if not all) of it features in the fourth novel in the series.

I’m glad I read the short stories (Destroy Me and Fracture Me), but I was disappointed that there were no dramatic revelations from these two important characters. Juliette’s journal provided a deeper insight into her state of mind at the start of the series, but again there were no new elements for the reader. An expensive book for collectors looking to line their bookshelves with the complete series.

Find Me (4/5)
Another tiny, expensive paperback with two short stories linked to the Shatter Me series – this time from Kenji’s point of view. Shadow Me gives Kenji’s view of the lead-up to the dramatic events at the end of Restore Me, and unlike the previous tie-in stories, it adds depth to the series. There is character development for the narrator, and an exploration of his relationships with other characters – Castle and Warner in particular. Reveal Me is an exciting, fast-paced piece that picks up from the final scene of Defy Me, leading into the events of the final book in the series and adding another viewpoint to the main narrative.

Kenji is an important character in the Shatter Me series, but he isn’t given a narrative voice until Defy Me. These stories provide an insight into his thoughts and feelings, and provide an external view of Juliette, Warner, and their relationship. This is a much better tie-in than Unite Me, and I enjoyed learning about the setting and the events of the series through Kenji’s eyes.

Have you read the Shatter Me Series novellas? What did you think of the stories? What do you think of Kenji as a narrator? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Imagine Me

Title: Imagine Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3/5

Cover of Imagine Me by Tahereh Mafi

The final book in the Shatter Me series is fast paced and action packed, as expected. The narration is split between Juliette and Kenji, which allows different characters to follow different paths through the story, and again gives the reader an outsider’s view of Juliette and Warner.

It’s a longer book, and an exciting story. Things do not go well for the central characters as they fight against the Supreme Commanders and their weapons. There are defeats and losses, bargains with the enemy, and plans that fall apart with disastrous consequences. Juliette and Warner face a serious challenge to their relationship, and Juliette’s first-person narration makes the events even more heartbreaking for the reader.

In spite of its length, there are sections of the story that move too fast, and important events that feel glossed over. I would have liked to see more detail in the plot – possibly split into two books – and more narrative viewpoints to highlight the effects of the difficult events on all the characters involved.

I really enjoyed the chapters narrated by Kenji. It was interesting to see Juliette, Warner, and Castle through the eyes of their friend, and experiencing Kenji’s thoughts and feelings first hand gave a much deeper insight into an important and likeable character. His impressions of Warner provided a powerful insight into Warner’s state of mind without needing to see inside his head.

I did have issues with the climax of the plot. There was some highly dubious consent at a critical moment, explained by the plot but uncomfortable to read. The denouement relied too heavily on physical connection instead of emotion, and I felt that a central character was stripped of agency and the ability to make their own decisions too many times in the story. The epilogue opened up as many questions as it answered, and I’m hoping we’ll see another novella filling in Kenji’s side of the final scenes.

I’m uncomfortable with giving this book four stars. It should have been two books, with more detail and more emotion for the central characters, and the resolution of the story needed more heart. I didn’t hate it, but I wanted more, especially from Juliette and Warner. I’ll give it a good three stars instead, and think about how much I like Kenji as a narrator.

Have you read Imagine Me? What did you think of the story? What did you think of the ending? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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