Welcome to the second instalment of What I Read, which I’m hoping to make a monthly series (if I remember) all about what I’ve read each month, ranging from mini reviews to general recommendations. I like this idea because often I feel pressure to write long reviews about everything I’m reading, but the thing is… I don’t really like to read detailed book reviews. Why should I write them? I’m excited to carry on with this series and have more time to write about my broader interests, such as art and film. Catch my February post here.
This month I read a lot, I’m not even including everything in this post! This month was also inadvertently themed around a pretty big subject: anxiety. Each of the following books has a main character that deals with anxiety in various ways. The books are also, as usual, about love.
Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella
I remember reading the Confessions of a Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella at the end of my second year of university. I handed in an essay, boarded my train home and decided I needed something light, funny and relaxing to see me through the summer. I was intrigued when I saw Finding Audrey, Kinsella’s first book for young adults, in shops last year. It didn’t initially grab me but a copy recently came into my possession and I absolutely devoured it. Finding Audrey is about a young girl who develops an anxiety disorder after a bullying incident at school. Her anxiety leaves her unable to leave the house, talk to new people, or remove her sunglasses. She’s encouraged by her counsellor to make a video diary and begins to film family life, eventually interviewing them as well. Enter Linus, her brother’s friend and teammate on his video game team, who comes into her life and seems determined to get to know her better. It’s her new connection with him that helps Audrey overcome some of her fears and reclaim her life. It’s a great, quick read for younger readers that explores mental health really well.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard
Okay, please insert the heart eyes emoji here because this was a wonderful book. I put off reading any of Sara Barnard’s books for ages, despite loving the cover art on A Quiet Kind of Thunder and Beautiful Broken Things. My friend recently read and loved the latter so I decided to give A Quiet Kind of Thunder a go and am so glad I did. It follows the story of Steffi, who has been a selective mute for most of her life. Because of her history of not speaking, the kids at school pay no attention to her and Steffi feels invisible. At the start of the novel, however, due to her knowledge of sign language, she’s matched with Rhys, who is deaf, and friendship blooms. Rhys sees Steffi, and their ability to communicate non-verbally is vital to Steffi’s growth in confidence and character.
The characters are sweet, complicated and diverse, I feel like the author made a special effort to include many POC characters in this novel which is really great. I read far too many books with all white characters and that always feels a bit disappointing to me. It just doesn’t reflect the world today and it’s nice to see more and more authors (particularly YA authors) taking steps towards this diversity.
Finally, I loved the way Sara Barnard tackled portraying Rhys and Steffi’s communication through sign language. A lot of research must have gone into this book and I finished it feeling really interested in learning BSL (British Sign Language), which I definitely think more people should do! I could not recommend this book more. (I read this on my kindle which is why it’s not included in the picture above!)
Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
My final read to feature in this post is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. As a girl who is not skinny in any way, this was refreshing. Finally. A fat girl who doesn’t give a shit about losing weight. Dumplin’ centres on Willowdean, a young girl living in America with her former pageant queen mum. She works after school at a fast food restaurant and likes hanging out with her best friend. One summer, she meets Bo Larson, who, she’s surprised to discover, seems to like her as much as she likes him.
The book is a complex tale about Will’s struggle to accept that, although she’s happy with her body, someone else could want her too. She’s also dealing with grief after losing her beloved Aunt Lucy, a breakdown of her friendship and a complicated relationship with her mother – who seems to resent the fact that she’s on the bigger side. Punctuated throughout the plot is the music of Dolly Parton, Will’s favourite singer and her Aunt Lucy’s hero. Dolly Parton is unapologetically who she is and that’s how Will strives to be too.
Again, I couldn’t put this book down. I picked it up last week at an airport on my way home from Germany and had finished it by the following Sunday. The characters are interesting, the plot is fun, but above all, Willowdean’s voice felt fresh, true and familiar. I loved following her internal voice as it battled between feeling confident about herself and her body, to feeling completely insecure and down. It’s a great story for anyone, but especially if you’ve ever felt like you are taking up too much space.
This month I also read: Holding the Man, as well as a couple of other bits here and there. I’d like to make a post devoted to Holding the Man and its film adaptation (because I love both) so keep an eye out for that in the future.