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 Society for Soulless Girls by Laura Steven.
Ten years ago, four students lost their lives in the infamous North Tower murders at the elite Carvell College of Arts, forcing Carvell to close its doors. Now Carvell is reopening, and fearless student Lottie is determined to find out what really happened. But when her roommate, Alice, stumbles upon a sinister soul-splitting ritual hidden in Carvell’s haunted library, the North Tower claims another victim.
Can Lottie uncover the truth before the North Tower strikes again? Can Alice reverse the ritual before her monstrous alter ego consumes her? And can they stop flirting for literally fifteen seconds in order to do this?
Publication Date: 7th July
TW: death, blood, self-harm, violence, sexual assault, mention of SA of minor, suicide, depression, harm to animal, mentions of grooming, strangulation, gaslighting
The Society for Soulless Girls wrecked my soul.
This was a fantastically stabby dark academia story meets a gorgeously sapphic retelling of Jekyll and Hyde. The pacing, atmosphere and tension were all top-notch. I was so eager to uncover the truth of what happened. The mystery was well-constructed, with plenty of twists, turns and layers to the overall story. In particular, I adored how Steven wove in elements of the original classic but flipped it on its head. The duality of man becomes an intriguing murder mystery, reimagined and updated to fit modern day society.
I also adored the characterisation in this book. Both Lottie and Alice are driven to determine their own truths and address their own emotional states. The depiction of mental health and the way patriarchy tries to manipulate and contain female emotions is brilliant. Of course, I adored their dynamic and relationship. The way it builds naturally and that enemies to lovers dynamic are so good to see. Their dialogue is often laugh out loud and rarely can a book do that for me.
I particularly loved the exploration of female anger and its historical villainisation. This was such a fierce and feminist depiction of anger. Far too often, angry women have been demonised and ostracised for their emotions. Historically, this has been allowed to brand them as crazy or dangerous, rather than addressing the underlying structural and societal issues that have lead to this point. Anger is a tool, not a hindrance. We can wield ours as a weapon to defend ourselves. Steven underlines this point emphatically, leaving the reader with an empowering and refreshingly honest place to reconcile their own anger.
With The Society for Soulless Girls, Steven has crafted something truly special.
Next up, I’d like to talk about Friends Don’t Tell by Nadia Mendoza and Grace Francis. Thank you to Hachette Children’s Group for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Two best friends. A weekend to remember. But what happened to Jade? A page-turning YA story tackling grief, anxiety and mental health – for fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Juno Dawson.
It’s been a year since Jade’s death at Get Lost Festival. The headlines chalked it up as a tragic accident. But ever since, Lexi can’t shake the feeling that one of their friends is hiding the truth about what happened. And recently Lexi’s OCD has been getting worse – telling her that unless she gives in to compulsions, someone else close to her will die too.
Now Lexi is determined to find out the truth. But piecing the facts together will be hard – because Jade was harbouring secrets of her own.
How do you find the truth when you can’t trust your own mind – or anyone else’s?
Publication Date: 21st July
TW: death, grief, mental health, suicidal ideation, death of a child, trauma
Friends Don’t Tell is a searingly honest depiction of friendship, grief and mental health that is a welcome and nuanced addition to the YA shelves.
It would be impossible to write this review without delving into the topic of mental health. This is an authentic, deeply raw and vulnerable examination of mental health. I loved the OCD representation and how it completely deconstructs the stereotypes surrounding the disorder. The media stereotype of an overly clean figure disguises the overwhelming and destructure nature of rituals and the perceived consequences of not fulfilling these rituals. In October 2019, the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that ‘about 1 in every 50 people suffer from OCD at some point in their lives, men and women equally. This adds up to over one million people in the UK’. This shows how important authentic and well-researched representation, such as that in this book, truly is.
Lexi and Jade are such fantastic protagonists and it was a delight to follow their viewpoints. I loved how realistic they felt, like they could really be teenagers in my local town. Their dialogue was spot-on and felt refreshingly authentic. However, they are struggling and I loved how their issues were treated with respect and importance. Their friendship was the beating heart of this book. You could feel their sheer joy and settled comfortability with one another, but also the growing pains as they grew up. This causes fractures between them and within themselves, as their past trauma hangs heavy on their shoulders.
On top of this, you have an utterly engaging and twisty mystery of what really happened to Jade. This was a very captivating storyline that kept me glued to the pages. Nadz and Grace have plenty of surprises in store, which really raise the stakes and add new emotional layers to the story.
Friends Don’t Tell captures the youthful buzz of a festival, highlighting the highs and lows of modern day teenage experience. In particular, it is a genuine examination of mental health that shouts to be addressed.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Honeys by Ryan La Sala. Thank you to Hannah Love at Scholastic for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
When Mars Matthias loses his sister Caroline under horrific circumstances, it propels him to learn all he can about the once-inseparable sibling who’d grown tragically distant.
Mars’s gender-fluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions – and expectations – of his politically-connected family, including attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister devoted so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place. The setting may be pristine and sun-drenched, but there’s an undercurrent of tension buzzing ominously.
Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying – and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death. But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can’t find it soon, it will eat him alive…
Heathers meets Midsommar, exploring the corruption that lies just under the surface of the perfect lives of the uber-rich
Publication Date: 18th August
TW: suicide, death, gore, attempted murder, intentional deadnaming, transphobia & homophobia, tumor, cancer, physical violence, attempted immolation, bullying/harassment, slutshaming & misogyny, attempted sexual assault, body horror, bugs & larvae, revenge porn,
The Honeys is a provocative, arresting and brilliantly disturbing thriller that blurs the line between fantasy and reality perfectly.
This is the type of book you cannot stop thinking about. The hum of murder and mystery is in the air from the very first page. You are thrust straight into a terrifying situation laced with death and from there, you are enmeshed in this beautifully bizarre gem. This is truly the stuff of nightmares. Mars’ experience as a queer person in a heternormative world is suffocating and incredibly dangerous, experiencing horrific levels of violence and abuse for simply existing as themselves. Ryan mirrors this with the fantastic violence and horror creeping around Mars. That choking atmosphere and the sinking feeling in your stomach are all too real. The forced compliance of a heteronormative society is the same as the dominant force of this book. It is all about power and control, so when Mars resists, there was always going to be blood.
Mars is a fascinating protagonist. Her gender fluidity is explored in a nuanced and thought-provoking way, advocating for authentic queer experiences on the page and living as your true self. They are flamboyant and fabulous, but also fractured by the abuse and trauma he has been through. You just root for them to find their happiness and freedom. I definitely found myself taking her into my heart. This is a complex and richly layered story, with very simple explanations. Instead, Ryan leaves you with questions and unpicking the detailed tapestry of what you have just witnessed. The concepts and ideas here are truly fantastic and original. For me, this shows just how special this author is and I know I’ll be devouring the rest of their work.
The Honeys is an insidious book, weaving its way into your mind and soul. Soon, you too will belong to the hive.