I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about The Revelry by Katherine Webber. Thank you so much to Walker Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A story of best friends, bad luck and the consequences of breaking the rules in a town built on secrets and superstitions.
Growing up in Ember Grove, Bitsy Clark knows better than to break the rules around the Revelry, the mysterious end-of-year party in the woods. So when her best friend, Amy, persuades her to sneak in, Bitsy is full of misgivings.
Misgivings that she should have listened to, because it’s after the Revelry that Bitsy’s luck turns and her life starts to unravel. For Amy it’s the opposite, as if she’s been blessed with good fortune. Soon Bitsy is convinced that the Revelry has tied the two friends together in a curse that only she can break…
Publication Date: 6th January 2022
TW: death, disappearance, murder, blood, violence, drugging
The Revelry is the type of book that just utterly sucks you into its world. For me, the pages flew past as I lost myself in this dark and twisted gem.
Webber expertly creates this tangled web of secrets and lies, blurring the fantastical and the mysterious together in an utterly intoxicating way. I loved that creepy little nursery rhyme that kicked off proceedings. There’s nothing like that to unsettle and unnerve you, preparing you to doubt everything that’s to come. This is a book that you constantly have to question. Nothing here is as it seems, with plenty of hidden depths and turns to uncover.
The Revelry felt like a folk tale brought to life, packed full of atmosphere, tension and something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Folktales often have these incredibly dark hearts to them and I think Webber captures both the glamour and the intensity of this allure. This is fundamentally a coming of age tale about friendship, but I adored the darker undertones, where Webber delves into the question of what you would sacrifice in order to succeed. Every fairytale has its shadowy past and Webber calls back to those blood drenched original tales brilliantly.
I loved Bitsy as a protagonist. You can feel that she is just trying to find her feet in a world that seems to have shifted overnight. Her passion and loyalty is wonderful to see and Webber makes her huge heart abundantly clear. However, her faith in the superstitions of her small town feed her anxiety and paranoia. It is precisely this belief that may truly be undermining her, but you can see her cling to it in the midst of all this chaos. She’s so relatable and lovable, so I’m sure readers will open their hearts to her.
The Revelry is a wonderfully refreshing and modern twist on the folktales of old, blending a nail-biting mystery with the true power of friendship.
Next up, I’d like to talk about You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen. Thank you so much to Justine Sha at Inkyard Press for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
In this compelling and thought-provoking debut novel, after a terrorist attack rocks the country and anti-Islamic sentiment stirs, three Black Muslim girls create a space where they can shatter assumptions and share truths.
Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.
Soon two more teens, Zakat and Farah, join Bri to run You Truly Assumed and the three quickly form a strong friendship. But as the blog’s popularity grows, so do the pushback and hateful comments. When one of them is threatened, the search to find out who is behind it all begins, and their friendship is put to the test when all three must decide whether to shut down the blog and lose what they’ve worked for…or take a stand and risk everything to make their voices heard.
Publication Date: 8th February
TW: racism, Islamophobia, terrorist attack, death, violence, hate crimes, online harassment, death threats
You Truly Assumed is the kind of book that can only be described as brilliant in every single way.
I was utterly transfixed by this book. It radiates such power and nuance in a way that is sure to kickstart such important conversations. Representation is so profoundly important and it’s wonderful to see the voices of Black Muslims being uplifted. In particular, I loved how three-dimensional and full these characters felt. They deserve to be more than the issues they deal with, though these are discussed with nuance and sensitivity. We also get to see their passions, hopes and dreams explored on page. I personally resonated a lot with the discussion around pursuing an artistic talent and that feeling art can create within you.
Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah are connected by the creation of this blog, which becomes their sounding board for discussion of their identity and issues. This led to some amazing articles within the book that were excellent think pieces and full of such emotional strength that really moved me. I loved following all of them as they navigated their own paths, dealing with Islamophobia, racism, family and fledgling sparks of love. They all had such distinctive voices that I completely fell in love with.
While I adored the blog, it was really their stories that kept me glued to the page. I really appreciated how much time Sabreen spends with their thoughts and feelings on these issues, the focus is really on how it impacts them and the full effect of hate on their community. Also, I loved how key the theme of friendship was in this book. This is a book fundamentally about community and the power friendship can create. Though these friendships are not perfect, they are ultimately wonderful and supportive. It is only with the support of their friends that they can fully use their voices.
You Truly Assumed is a moving book that reminds you of the despicable realities of Islamophobia in our society, but it is ultimately a hopeful book full with love, community and friendship.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Only a Monster by Vanessa Len. Thank you so much to Kate Keehan at Hodderscape for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.
Then a Good Samaritan attempt gone wrong sends Joan spinning through time, and her life quickly begins to unravel.
Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers.And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.
As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .
. . . she is not the hero.
Publication Date: 17th February
TW: death, violence, murder, xenophobia, racism, blood, drugging, massacre, torture
Only a Monster is an excellent YA fantasy bursting onto the scene, full of mystery, intrigue and a touch of romance.
This was such an imaginative and original fantasy story. In particular, I really loved the way the powers are explored. Len really delves into the cost and consequences of using these powers, creating some really interesting ethical discussions and dilemmas for the characters. The ‘monstrous’ nature of this left me puzzling over these debates as well.
Right from that action packed opening sequence, Len had me hooked. There were instantly incredibly high stakes and plenty of blood soaked pages to crawl through. This is a book that does not hold back. Everything you think you initially know, you really don’t. On top of this is the use of time travel. This is one of my favourite devices and it felt really Doctor Who esque here (an all time favourite show of mine). Every action they did genuinely had consequences, keeping that intensity and danger constantly high. This made for a really fast paced and entertaining ride.
I really enjoyed the character dynamics here, as they were very intriguing and complex. Joan is a fascinating protagonist, caught up in this frightening new world and unable to feel where she truly belongs. Her abilities are so fun to explore and I’m excited to see where Len takes the story next. On top of that, she is grappling with her romantic entanglements and familial dynamics in a world determined to crush her completely. Also, I massively appreciated Len’s worldbuilding and attention to detail. As well as a rich mythology and history, I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the different monster families and their varying abilities.
Only a Monster is the kind of book you tear through, only to turn round and immediately devour once again.