‘Holding up the Universe’ Jennifer Niven

I had already read & enjoyed ‘All the Bright Places’ and a student had then recommended Jennifer Niven’s next book for teens, ‘Holding up the Universe’.  I was looking forward to this one, and it didn’t disappoint.

Libby was once dubbed ‘America’s fattest teen’, but look beneath the obvious surface, and you find there is much more to Libby, of course, than her size.  Returning to high school after a long time away,  she meets Jack – the boy everyone wants to be friends with.  His laid-back charm and good looks, however, hide a secret he keeps even from his own family. When they meet both their worlds change.

This is written in short chapters alternating between the two main characters, so we see the story from both perspectives.  Somehow, this elevates the story above the usual teen-angst books, of which there are plenty.  This is also a very visual tale, and I wouldn’t be surprised if film rights haven’t been snapped up already.  The characters don’t always make good decisions, and the peer pressure every teen feels around the world is vividly described.  However it is also a story of finding your individual strength, as well as a realistic developing relationship.

I can see this is going to be hugely popular, and will be recommending it to our students!


‘Dune, Dock, and a Dead Man’ Carolyn L Dean

Sometimes I just need something very light and relatively undemanding to entertain me, but not needing a massive amount of work on my part.  Why do I feel the need to excuse this read from that horribly named genre ‘cozy mysteries’?  Probably something to do with that horrible label!  So, I admit this happens to be number 2 in the series (yes, I did read No. 1!).  Amanda has now managed to get her run-down, inherited B&B in Ravenwood up & running, but once again all is not as quiet as it seems in the Oregon seaside town.  A stalker is warned off, but is then found dead in mysterious circumstances, and Amanda helps investigate to clear her friend’s name.  This title even includes a recipe at the end!

Click here for details on Amazon

Yes, it’s light.  However, the writing is competent and I enjoyed this equivalent of a reading holiday, and I will read the others in the series when I am in need of another break!

‘The Boy with Two Heads’ Andy Mulligan

I loved ‘Trash’ so much, that this was an obvious choice while waiting for my next Carnegie read to be available.  This book is described on the front as an ’emotionally-charged black comedy/thriller’ which really does sum it up pretty well.

Richard is in year 6. He’s had a difficult year – he was the only person there to witness the death of his beloved grandad. To make matters even more tricky, a growth appears on his neck that develops very quickly into another, fully functioning head – a true part of him, and yet at the same time not.  ‘Rikki’ is loud-mouthed, rude and opinionated.  He also has a tendency to turn violent.  He seems everything, in fact, that Richard is not.  Together, though, they prove brilliant on the football field, and have to find a way to work together to thwart the plans of  the scheming Dr Warren.  In a pretty surreal ending Richard/Rikki and their friends (plus a teacher) end up trying to evade capture by trained commandos in wildest Wales.  Using the story of Icarus as inspiration, they escape, make peace with their Grandad, and are reunited with parents.

There is a huge amount of anger in this book, which made it an uncomfortable read for me at times.  However, we all grieve in very different ways for those we lose, and I can see representations here of bottling up, anger, lashing out, that we can all feel.  I loved some of Rikki’s sharp observations – he really does speak with honesty if hugely unpleasant and truly offensive at times.  Still trying to decide on the target audience for this book – although the main character is in Yr6, I’d suggest older students would be better able to understand the extremes shown in this book.

In all honesty I can’t actually decide if I enjoyed this book.  It’s very unusual mix of comedy, horror, fantasy and friendship.  A unique read.

Carnegie shadowing 2017

We are again shadowing the Carnegie book award, with a lovely group of students, and have been rather taken by surprise by the number of staff keen to get involved this time.  We only have 3 sets of the books, so are already chasing round for titles, but it’s going well so far.  ‘Beck’ has given us (and many others I’m sure) something of a challenge, however.  This is the first year we have felt the need to send permission to read slips home.  Most parents/carers seem happy to allow their child to read the book – have to admit I’ve only read part 1 myself.

So far I think my favourite has been ‘Salt to the Sea’