I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was the other week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on two brilliant but vastly different YA books, both of which were published on the 21st January and explore the impact of grief, albeit through different genres. The first of which is Forever Ends on Friday by Justin A. Reynolds, which I was kindly gifted an eARC of by My Kinda Book.
Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.
He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.
But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.
Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?
TW: death, grief, drowning, car accident
Forever Ends on Friday was so deeply moving and affecting in its heartfelt, beautiful and utterly unique portrayal of grief. Its unique premise is morally thought-provoking and leaves you really thinking about what you would do in that situation.
Surprisingly, this is also a funny book, providing a celebration of life and a reminder to treasure every minute. Jamal and Q’s dynamic is complex to say the least, not helped by tragic events in their past and watching them slowly mend it is cathartic and heartfelt. You get glimpses of how they used to be, helped by the excerpts from their Youtube videos. Their humour is random, slightly juvenile and just catches you off guard in the best way. You can easily picture them causing hijinks in the street and the laugh kind of catches in your throat.
That’s the true strength of this book, in the way it seamlessly mixes humour and the devastating reality of loss. The process of grief is explored in a truly original way through the story. It made me reflect on moments in my own life and what I would give to have them again, but also made me question what the true cost of those moments could be. Reynolds really taps into that moral conundrum and offers a rich, nuanced take on the subject.
I really enjoyed how elements of sci-fi mixed with the more contemporary storyline of the book. It has some unexpected twists and turns along the way, but it’s overall an understated, quiet and beautiful exploration of life’s regrets and ensuring that you do live life to the fullest. That makes it sound cheesy, but it isn’t at all, rather it just drives the point home that you never know what is around the corner.
Forever Ends on a Friday imagines what we would do if we had a second chance at saying goodbye through a thought-provoking and sincere story-line, punctuated by moments of joy.
Next up, I’d like to talk about the thrilling The Island by C. L. Taylor. Thank you to HQ for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Welcome to The Island.
Where your worst fears are about to come true…
It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.
But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare.
Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re coming true.
Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.
Who will make it off the island alive?
TW: depression, death, fire, grief, controlling behaviour, emotional abuse, violence and suicide references
This was a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable wild ride of a book. It took some unexpected twists and turns, invoking the essence of Lord of the Flies while exploring the lasting effects of grief.
I really liked how Taylor explored the theme of fear and how each character handled their deepest fear. The entire concept of the book reminded me of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, with its mysterious and isolated setting and an almost omniscient seeming antagonist. Our cast of characters has such a fascinating interconnection of relationships and emotions bubbling under the surface, along with some deeply buried secrets. This of course leads to growing tension and friction as their isolation begins to affect them. You’re constantly tense while reading, as the pages are packed full of danger and adventure. When this group have been thrown together since they were children, there’s going to be some deep-seated frustration and resentment that slowly ekes its way out.
Also, I really appreciated how Taylor tackled the long-term effects of grief through several storylines and the effect of trauma as well. There’s a lot of time given to the psychological effects these events have caused on each character, as well as previous events and how their repercussions still ripple years later. This is an addictive and high-octane read and I found myself suspecting every character, even as we got a peek inside their heads. I was impressed that despite the number of characters and perspectives, it always felt very easy to follow and each voice was distinctive.
The Island is a quick, captivating and entertaining read that invokes aspects of classic stories, while ensuring that it offers a fresh narrative.