Monday, 29 May 2017

My Life as a Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams

My Life as a Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams
Published May 24, 2017 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: What’s a girl to do when her parents have split up; her mum’s trawling Tinder; and one of her best friends has decided not to invite her to the biggest party of the year, which she then has to watch unfold on everyone else’s social media?
If you’re a girl called MC, you get mad as hell, that’s what you do.
But what begins as one girl’s private, no-holds-barred rant soon snowballs in the most public way possible.

For most of April and the beginning of March I was in a reading slump. It's not something that occurs often for me, but I completely lost interest in reading. Books didn't hold my attention, I felt restless whenever I tried to read, so I gave up (with the exception of audio books while driving, but these are usually non-fiction so very different to my standard fare of YA). Then I picked up My Life as a Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams, her fourth YA novel, and I could not put it down! I can't describe how good it felt to be reading again and to find myself completely immersed in the story.

Marie-Claude, better known as MC, lives with her mum and older brother. Her dad moved out when her parents separated and neither parent is dealing with this as well as they could. Her brother, Harley, is barely talking, and one of her friends, Anouk, has baggsed the boy MC likes. MC rediscovers her old tumblr account, something she started when she changed schools and felt like an outsider. Unfortunately, the account gets discovered and her life changes in a major way.

I was captivated by MC's personality right from the start. First we're shown a snapshot of her life, she and Harley have grown up with Yumi and Wilder, all of them are close. Then we jump forward seven months and while MC and Yumi are still besties, Harley and Wilder no longer hang out. MC is trying to deal with her home life as best she can, but deep down she wishes her parents were still together, especially as her relationship with her father has changed since the split.

I loved the exploration of female friendships and think teens will find this something easy to relate to, but it also made me nostalgic for my high school years so parents will be just as likely to relate. While  the core group of five girls get along well together, there are pairs and trios that tend to spend more time together, and within the group there is tension and rivalry that only MC seems to notice. Kids are now growing up with social media in a way no other generation has experienced. It's easier for them to keep in touch, but it's also a way for them to see what they're missing out on, as well as being another alternative way to carry out bullying.

The way the events spiral in this story were both captivating and scary. This is what happens these days, but I'm sure most people think it could never happen to them. And while this was a perfect example of what might get someone in trouble online, the story never felt preachy. It was realistic, both in the process and the outcome, and I think teens will appreciate that.

My Life as a Hashtag is extremely timely and relevant, the perfect read for teens and adults.

Cover design: Debra Billson

Gabrielle Williams was part of the Sydney Writer's Festival School Days program this year and contacted me to get her nails done for her week here. It was an absolute treat to meet one of my favourite authors and paint her nails!

Prior to painting Gab's nails, I'd had a play at home, attempting a gradient, then covering that up with more of an abstract look, before finally settling on the gradient when doing Gab's nails.

I gave Gab the set I'd painted and she put them on display her Kinokuniya launch night, where she was interviewed by Kirsty Eager. It was a fun and entertaining night and so wonderful to see authors supporting each other.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Published March 1, 2017 by Swoon Reads
Source: Pan Macmillan AU
Rating: 2 stars

From the blurb: When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.
While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

I am always keen to read new Aussie YA and was excited to read Jen Wilde's debut novel, Queens of Geek. Typically I like to read a book within 1-3 days. 5-8 days is a long time for me to spend on a book. But this book has taken me 3 weeks. I don't blame the book entirely as I seem to be in a bit of a reading slump, something I haven't experienced in a while. But, at the same time, I just haven't wanted to pick up this book and continue the story. I have carried it in my bag, sat it on my bedside table, and still I ignored it.

I think the premise is wonderful, three best friends, all heavily involved in fandom life and social media, travel to a convention in America. They are supportive, loyal, caring, and sweet. There's plenty of diversity when it comes to race, sexuality, and mental health, and it's all dealt with really well.

But, there's not a lot going on in the story and I didn't fully connect with the characters. There's a bit of drama, nothing too over the top, but also plenty of communication and resolution.

I think this book will be perfect for a lot of readers, so many people will see themselves in the main characters and fall in love with their story. So I still recommend this to all fans of YA books.

Ableist language: fool, idiot.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the ARC.