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 previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about The Silver Chain by Jion Sheibani. Thank you so much to Eleanor Rose at Hot Key Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Uplifting and unputdownable, a coming-of-age verse novel about family, mental health and the healing power of music.
Azadeh is a budding violinist on a music scholarship at an expensive private school, dealing with all the usual trials of being sixteen: trying her best to fit in, keep up and have fun. Then as her mum’s mental health spirals out of control, Azadeh’s world starts to unravel. Her friendships fall away, and as much as she and her dad try to keep a lid on everything, their problems insist on taking over. Feeling alone, it’s her violin that finally helps Azadeh to find her way back to her friends, herself and even her mum.
A beautifully packaged, highly important and irresistible novel about mental health struggles and the solace we find in music and rhythm, friendship, family and honesty.
Publication Date: 23rd June
TW: mental health, racism, suicidal ideation, xenophobia
The Silver Chain is a book that plays the notes of your very soul. It is a gorgeously musical and magical tale surrounding mental health, family and friendship.
Sheibani has crafted such an excellent tale. It feels intimate and poignant, thrumming with emotional intensity. The writing is just exquisite. I have spoken before about the innate emotional power of verse and I think that is encapsulated here. This is a searing and stunning book. I loved the variety of narrative styles on display here, some more straightforward storytelling and others more lyrical, creative and imaginative. Like the music that forms the centre of our story, the verse has a lilting quality to it, rhythmical and entrancing. My English Literature brain started pulling apart the syntactic structures and forms, sending my brain into overdrive with the sheer amount of delicately and intricately crafted work. Every word has been carefully selected and placed in order to achieve the most impact.
We really get up close and personal with Azadeh. I really liked her drive and determination, particularly her musical talent and how much music influenced her life. We all have songs that soundtrack our life and bring us strength. Music, like verse, has that emotional core to it that we can all relate to. Her vulnerability rings out to the audience, allowing us to connect with her and empathise with the difficult journey she is embarking on. This is not a light read, really delving into mental health struggles and the impact this can have on other relationships around you. For me, this felt incredibly authentic, nuanced and well depicted. You can really tell the amount of dedication, heart and soul that has been poured into this story.
The Silver Chain is a melodious, meritorious and magnificent book that I hope gets the love it deserves.
Next up, I’d like to talk about Tag, You’re Dead by Kathyrn Foxfield. Thank you so much to Scholastic for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
When teen reality star Anton Frazer unveils his latest stunt – a live-streamed, citywide game of Tag in which the prize is to be one of his live-in acolytes – his fans go wild. The whole world is watching. The contestants are kitted out with body cams, GPS trackers and pressure sensors that, if activated by a competitor, will send them out of the running. They venture into night-time London to hunt each other down.
Four contestants in particular have alternative motives for being there, secret reasons to want to win despite the risk: money, revenge, obsession, and fame. And one of them will stop at nothing to be the victor at the end of this adrenaline-and-fear fuelled night…
Publication Date: 7th July
TW: death, murder, torture, emotional abuse, stalking, manipulation, parental abuse
Kathyrn Foxfield has such a devious brain. Every single book she has published has been a fiendish, totally enrapturing and surprising mindbender for me. Her brand of YA murder mystery meets horror is addictive, shocking and always has something important to say.
Previously, I have adored Good Girls Die First and It’s Behind You, but Tag, You’re Dead was on a different level. This was an incredibly smart and interesting take on the social media phenomenon of prank channels going too far. Foxfield has an often darkly hilarious take on influencer culture and the way social media distorts our perceptions. This offers a glimpse behind the picture perfect veneer and into the dirtier reality of maintaining modern day celebrity. In particular, I really enjoyed how this distortion becomes literal through Foxfield’s use of augmented reality. There’s often a game within a game and I adore those levels of character dynamics and the way it is so difficult to distinguish what truly is real.
On this note, I loved the entire concept of the game, with all its anfractuous twists and turns. This is a book that always likes to sneak up on you when you least expect it and pull the world from beneath your feet. It trades on the whispers in the shadows and the secrets buried in the past. Foxfield’s pacing is immaculate, never allowing you to really take a breath. It is so fast-paced and engaging, providing a clever and modern update on the classic murder mystery format. We have our suspects, motives and the true events of that fateful night playing out in extended flashbacks. These are not characters you will necessarily root for, mired in greed, self-interest and a hint of narcissistic wish fulfilment. However, their perspectives are incredibly interesting, but do not ever trust that they are telling you the full story.
Tag, You’re Dead is another smash-hit for a voice to watch in the YA mystery and horror spaces.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The King is Dead by Benjamin Dean. Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Gossip Girl but make it royal – a Black LGBTQ+ royal reimagining full of scandalous secrets, rollercoaster romances and one hell of a mystery.
James has been a prince all his life, and since he was born, he’s been thrust into the spotlight as the first Black heir to the throne. But when his father dies unexpectedly, James is crowned king at the tender age of seventeen, and his life irrevocably changes.
When James’ boyfriend suddenly goes missing, threatening envelopes appear in the palace, and gossip and scandals that only he knows are leaked to the public. As the anonymous informant continues to expose every last skeleton in the royal closet, James realises even those in his inner circle can’t be trusted.
Publication Date: 7th July
TW: death, racism, grief, homophobia, blackmailing
The King is Dead is a book you need to pick up this year. This was an incredibly addictive and enjoyable read, full to the brim with gossip, secrets and searing social commentary.
This is a book in disguise. It shields itself behind a frothy exterior of gossip, rumours, lies and the careful maintenance of exterior appearances. Really, this is a cerebral exploration of power, corruption and the experience of being Black in Britain. Dean depicts the suffocating experience of standing within an institution that would rather see you destroyed, that is built on a legacy of suffering and continues to perpetuate colonial ideology. This is a tough read, unafraid to delve into the experiences of being Black and queer in a world that wants to disregard or hide these things. It is in the coded language of the media and the way Black people are framed against their white counterparts. Dean highlights the thousand cuts of racial microaggressions and blatantly hateful attitudes. This is a stunning book that leaves you with plenty to think about. One such aspect that I adored was the openness of that ending, leaving the reader to question what they believe happens next.
On top of this, I also thought this was one hell of a mystery. There are so many intriguing plot threads to explore, all tying into this destructive demand to pretend to be something you are not in order to appease others. It is an insidious and corruptive influence, shown through many characters and incidents. At its core, we have James himself. He is battling his own grief, both for his father and for the sacrifices the crown demands of himself. I loved his narrative voice and how emotional it was, puncturing the suspenseful narrative with gorgeous moments of introspection and this exploration of identity.
The King is Dead is a book bogged down in this surreptitious world of secrets, scandal and structural inequalities. It is a book that faces up to the system that would love to see its ruin.