Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I have so many feelings, y’all. We’re gonna need to talk about that.

Those who follow me on whatever social media have probably already had way enough of me raging about We Are Okay, but behold, there’s more to come.
I’ve been lucky in the past few months, the last time I picked up a book I didn’t like was back in spring of last year, when invisible-i-am was such a letdown. This year, I have only chosen books I absolutely fell in love with, especially Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s The Square Root of Summer. I devoured the book within two days, raged on and on about it, only to discover this tweet by Reuter Hapgood:

Guys, I’ll admit it. I have a slight but very noticeable cover fetish, so We Are Okay‘s cover hit me where it hurt. I bought the book after a reasonable time questioning my librophile purchases this month (a couple seconds, at least), and waited. And waited.

This one’s on you, Reuter Hapgood. I’m watching you.

While I did not go onto aforementioned Twitter spree, I did a lot of clichéd staring off into the distance. I also cried. For the first time in my adult life, I cried because of a book. Not proud of that one, but I’ll book it onto LaCour’s writing skills list.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.”

We Are Okay on Goodreads

This is gonna be one weird review, mainly because I’m still looking for words to describe how I feel about this book. Let’s start with the fact that I desperately want to read more LaCour has written, but then again I absolutely do not want to read more, because it will have to be a letdown compared to We Are Okay. I am absolutely, wholeheartedly, a hundred percent convinced one can only write a book like that once in a lifetime. LaCour’s writing is slight, it’s fragile, it’s subtle, and it’ll hit you like a thousand tons of bricks crushing your chest.

The book is full of innocent lines, just stating the obvious, or mere explanations, but LaCour takes them, cushions them with context, imagery and turns them into small masterpieces. Syllable by syllable, just like that, the simplest things gain more gravity than others can express with the most beautiful words.

This is not a coming-of-age story as much as it is exactly a coming-of-age story. It’s subtly undramatic, it’s plain, it’s beautiful. Marin is all of us, we can fill her with our own tragedies and let her be ourselves. She’s our flaws and she’s so good at it that it hurts.

I learned a lot about myself reading this book. Not in an esoterical, enlighting kind of way, but in the weird revelation that, as a matter of fact, I’m not alone. There’s things Marin does or says that I have done or said for the same exact reason that she did. It’s baffling to think that all this time I felt like I was all alone in this weirdness, only to discover LaCour managed to put it into words and that people were just as amazed as I am. Mind-blowing, really.

The story is complex and subtle. I’d have a hard time explaining what actually happen, considering the book only really spans three days. LaCour weaved a story so intricate, every piece fits. Never once have I had a “Why didn’t the author—?!”-moment. Never once have I raised my eyebrow at an unfitting word or a weird phrase or anything, really.

Honestly, I’m just gonna stop rambling like I’m being paid for this. The bottom line is that if I ever have a daughter, I’ll absolutely make her read it. And you should read it. You might not love it as much as I did, you might not find it as relatable, you might not think so highly of LaCour – but you should give yourself chance to fall in love with We Are Okay as much as I did.

Definitely, without further explanation, five of five anatomically correct hearts for Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay.

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Find Nina LaCour and Harriet Reuter Hapgood on Twitter!

Review: The Square Root Of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Dusk is slowly covering this dirty city once again. I’m still stretching out my neck, going around and turning the lights on that have become necessary in the last hour, while I was still firmly lodged in my all-consuming, extra-comforting, window-view armchair; with a cup of tea and two cats, who – for once – just joined the calamity instead of jumping down each other’s throats. I have learned to appreciate the quiet moments during the last year, so I’m always grateful for some guilt-free downtime.

For a second, let’s reflect on how wondrous it is that, from over more than 1.000.000 books published each year in the U.S. alone, the right stories find us. They gravitate towards us, suck us in and eat us up. I’d love to tell you I was roaming a small side-street book store when this story pulled me in, but as a matter of fact our moment happened beneath the fluorescent light of the omnipresent walk-in mall book store. Originally, I set out to buy Steffi von Wolff’s new book (which I, incidentally, also purchased), but the cover of Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s book caught my eye. I read the blurb, I decided it sounded too fantasy-ish for me, I moved on. Boyfriend happily tugged me along, I rambled on how pretty the cover was, he rambled on about how many books I already had. He picked up a copy of some book, I turned around, disappeared, and got The Square Root of Summer anyways. He rolled his eyes, kissed my cheek, and grinned. Keeper much?

Yet, here I am two days later, and I can guarantee you that – for all that it’s worth, this is definitely the fastest review I’ve ever written. Very rarely do I still get to indulge in the books I bought immediately after I brought them home; usually, we’re stuck with a promise of “I’ll read you when I’m not working or sleeping or dying or whatever”.
I managed to keep The Square Root of Summer on my desk for exactly one evening before I flopped down in aforementioned arm-chair, ready for sleepy legs and sleepy cats, and devoured the book.1

First of all, a small disclaimer: I read the German version of the book, but I’m still going to keep this review in English. I guess that’s only catering to the protagonist’s bilingual life. Therefore, language-wise the original edition might give a slightly different vibe. However, it is also worth mentioning that this is one of the best translations I’ve ever read – nothing feels off, everything feels natural. Huge shout-out to Susanne Hornfeck, let me someday be the translator you are now! So yeah, pick The Square Root of Summer up in whatever language you want, but the German edition is just way prettier.

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel…

Last summer, Gottie’s life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then…

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.”
-Blurb The Square Root Of Summer

I didn’t expect this book to be good. I bought it because it is just so pretty (I mean, come on, look at it!), but the blurb was only semi-appealing to me. It kind of feels like the blurb reduces the entire story to Boy meets Girl (again), when The Square Root of Summer is so much more than that. Most of all, it’s coming of age without the cliché, it’s self-awareness and emotional awakening, it’s everything. It’s a protagonist that emancipates herself so slowly yet clearly, it’s a story that in the most literal sense unfolds the further you get.

A word of advice: Don’t be scared off by the time travel. Time travel here is used more as a plot driving device than actually plot device. Obviously, the protagonist does wonder what on earth is happening, but if you’re expecting 90% Blade Runner and 10% Jane Eyre, you’re wrong here. Sorry. The whole time travel ordeal took me a while to figure out, as I wasn’t sure if we were dealing with actual time travel or maybe some sort of flashbacks or episodes or whatever, but in the end, it does not even matter so much at all. I guess, even though the book closes out pretty specific, there is much room for interpretation.

Gottie is – weird. She’s the protagonist, she’s 17, and sometimes she is so passive that I want to push her into a toga garden party just to see her react. Eventually, Gottie is forced to react though, and the way Reuter Hapgood wrote Gottie made her feel real, realer than probably any character I’ve read so far. I’m gonna miss Gottie now that I’m done.

We have Thomas, a baked-goods enthusiast, and the closest thing you will ever find to a manic pixie dream boy. I enjoyed the power role reversal here, it was not Gottie who was so perfect for Thomas we all had to projectile vomit, no, it was Thomas. Not without fighting his own fights, but with a certainty making very clear Thomas is and was serving literary purpose. I enjoyed the heck out of him.

There’s a whole lot of lovable side characters in this English-German family of chaos, most of all obviously Grey, that are impossible to praise each alone. If you love well written characters, The Square Root Of Summer is for you.

I’m not even going to touch on pacing and or style here, because this was hands-down one of the best written books I’ve read in a long time. Enough cheese for my red wine, not too cheesy to not be taken seriously. Just the median of beautiful and brutal, touching on subjects other YA novels so blissfully ignore (menstruation, for example).

I can’t say more than read this! over and over again. I fell in love with Gottie and Reuter Hapgood and I will probably have to update my writing goals whiteboard with both their names in due time. This book gets a straight five-out-of-five anatomically correct hearts.

And now, just leave me here to die, until my book hangover is over.

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1 I’m not kidding, I even got kinda grumpy when keeper boyfriend returned from work and I had to divide my attention between book and boyfriend. That’s gotta mean something.

Rezension: Seelenlos – Himmelschwarz von Juliane Maibach

Kinder, Kinder! Es ist Donnerstag, wir haben die Woche fast geschafft – wobei ich mich ja aktuell noch im Urlaubssemester Limbo befinde und mich nicht so recht beschweren kann. Der neue Schreibtisch steht, der Tee dampft, die Katze schnurrt – das schreit nach neuer Literatur!

Heute möchte ich euch ein bisschen über Juliane Maibachs Seelenlos-Reihe erzählen, um genau zu sein über den zweiten Band Himmelschwarz. Falls ihr den ersten teil noch nicht kennt, findet ihr die Rezension zu Splitterglanz hier.

“Gemeinsam mit Asrell und Niris versucht Gwen Tares zu retten. Doch als sie ihn wiedersieht, merkt sie schnell, dass etwas anders ist – irgendetwas in ihm sich verändert hat … Um Tares helfen zu können, sieht sie nur einen Weg: Es bleibt ihr nur, die Verisells aufzusuchen und diese darum zu bitten, sie auszubilden. Dort angekommen, muss sie jedoch feststellen, dass die meisten ihr misstrauisch gegenüberstehen. Dennoch versucht Gwen alles, um ihre Kräfte weiterzuentwickeln und merkt dabei schnell, dass im Dorf selbst merkwürdige Dinge vor sich gehen. Was ist das Himmelschwarz? Und was hat Fürst Revanoff damit zu tun? Am Ende birgt das Himmelschwarz nicht nur eine entsetzliche Gefahr, sondern besiegelt auch Gwens größtes Unglück …”

Too long, didn’t read? Tares macht Mist und Gwen muss seinen Hintern retten. Passt wunderbar in die Charakterdynamik der beiden, würde ich mal so meinen.

Ich habe das Buch in etwa genau so schnell eingeatmet wie den ersten Band. Maibach schafft es einfach weglesbare Literatur zu schaffen, ohne dabei in die gefährlichen Bereiche der aTrivialliteratur abzurutschen. Stilsicher schreibt sie sich durch jede Situation, nichts wirkt fehl am Platz. Maibach’s Pacing funktioniert fantastisch, das Buch hat wenig bis keine Längen. Sie hat ihren Ansatz aus dem ersten Band beibehalten, den Leser nicht mit Info-Dumps über neue Rassen, Welten, Bereiche o.Ä. zu überfordern, sondern diese Infos wohldosiert im Rahmen der Geschichte preiszugeben. So macht Fantasy Spaß, auch für eher Genre-fremde Menschen wie mich.

In der Rezension zu Splitterglanz habe ich ja leise vor mich hingeschimpft über die Protagonistin Gwen, welche als starke, interessante weibliche Prota startete, dann aber doch ein bisschen in die klassischen Manic Pixie Dream Girl-Schublade gerutscht ist. Ich bin sehr, sehr froh darüber, dass Maibach die Schublade aufgerissen und Gwen hinausgeholt hat. Gwen zeigt sich deutlich dimensionierter und menschlicher außerhalb Tares’ Schatten; eine Entwicklung, die ihr meiner Meinung nach sehr gut steht. Ich hoffe, dass sich Gwen im dritten Band von einer ähnlichen Seite präsentieren wird.
Zu Tares’ Charakterentwicklung werde ich aus spoilertechnischen Gründen lieber nicht so viel sagen, nur: es wird spannend!

Alles in einem ist Seelenlos – Himmelschwarz für mich eine gelungene Fortsetzung des ersten Bandes, ohne eben nur eine Fortsetzung zu sein. Maibach hat Gwens und Tares’ Universum subsequent weiterentwickelt und ergänzt. Der Lesefluss plätschert ungehemmt so über die Seiten; gerade ich als Serienskeptiker war ungeheuer froh darüber, dass das zweite Buch so wundervoll fortgeführt wurde und nicht als erzwungenes Sequel sein trauriges Buchstabensumpfdasein führt. Einzig und alleine die Tatsache, dass sich in der Heimatwelt von Gwen niemand so richtig um ihr gefühlt wochenlanges Verschwinden schert, hat mich doch hin und wieder mal die Augenbraue hochziehen lassen – mit SMS kann man die besten Freunde eben eigentlich nur begrenzt hinhalten, trotz abwesender Eltern. Vielleicht sind Gwens Freunde eben auch einfach ähnlich lethargisch wie ich, dann passt das schon.

Leseempfehlung? Ja! Gerade Romantasy-Zugeneigten wird die Serie sicherlich gefallen. Der Rest könnte sich ja eventuell – wie ich – selbst dabei ertappen, wie er auf einmal Fantasy mag. Soll vorkommen.
Genug geschwurbelt, vier von fünf anatomisch-korrekten Herzen für Maibach!

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Die Autorin Juliane Maibach findet ihr auf Twitter und auf Facebook!

Librophilée auf Facebook

Review: Maggie Stiefvater – The Raven Boys

Maybe I should make a nice big cup of tea.
Or maybe I should take a walk.
Or draw something.
Or wait a while.
Maybe, just maybe, then I would know what to write about this godforsaken book.

Fun fact: This review totally happened because I was pestered into reading this book and I knew I could not not write a review. Shoutout to C at Between The Pages for bullying my roommate into reading this, which in turn bullied me into a 1-chapter-a-day reading club (and subsequently binged the whole series within a matter of days. Thanks, B!)

I don’t like writing reviews for “big” authors. There’s smaller talents out there who maybe need the attention and exposure more, so I usually try to stick to not all that known gems. Some books make me need to talk about them though, much like Lisa Lutz’ The Passenger, and this is definitely one of them.
(Additionally, this review comes about five years late, considering The Raven Boys was published in 2012, and everybody aboard the hype train has moved on to different train stations – but eh, that’s just in line with my highly questionable work ethics, I suppose.)

I wanted to adore this book so bad. I did – and deep down I do. Should you read this book? Yes. Will you be happy afterwards? That I cannot guarantee.

Here’s what I loved: The book.
Here’s what I hated: The false advertising.

“Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.”

This, Ladies & Gents, is The Raven Boys‘ blurb. I was so looking forward to teenage angst and everybody holding each other and whispering “Noooo” and “Yeeees” and all that shit, but let’s be real – the blurb does not represent the contents of the book, but instead teases the entire series. Man, was I bummed out that basically nothing of the blurb was relevant except as a preset to the story of The Raven Boys. The protagonist Blue keeps this whole death-by-kiss thing in the back of her head and there might be a little relevance here and there, but it’s still merely a subplot to the story. This shit right here is why I am unhappy. Not because the book was bad, noooo, god no, but because I wanted to read a different book, the one from the blurb, than I actually read.

Okay, enough complaining.
What did I love? Except for last paragraph’s escapade: Absolutely everything.
I don’t think I’ve ever cared about characters as much as I cared about Stiefvater’s. As previously established, I’m a character freak; characters are my make-or-break point in any book. I’ll take a shitty story over one-dimensional characters any day.
This book was so well formed out in any and every character aspects, that I even loved side characters such as Persephone. I got angry and sad and happy and that’s good.

Generally speaking, it took me a while to get hooked on Stiefvater’s literary jello, but the second half of the book just straight up flew by. I could ramble about Stiefvater’s writing style, but we all know she’s quite the name already – rightly so. I enjoyed the little quirks of her writing, the love for details (I really want to live in Blue’s house, y’know?), the pacing. I loved it. Yep. Go read it.

As a personal pet peeve: I dislike series beginnings, that can barely stand as their own book. As a beginning, The Raven Boys is great, but if you are not planning to read more of the series, the ending is going to leave you very unsatisfied.

As for me: I’m probably going to keep reading the series, once I got over my slight grudge against Stiefvater for tricking me into reading the book in the first place. Or once I actually have time to read the rest. One of those days, probably.

Even if you aren’t into YA or fantasy or romantic shit, you should probably give The Raven Boys a go. The book is beautifully written, more than entertaining, incredibly witty, smart and throughly enjoyable. Four out of four anatomically correct hearts for Stiefvater!

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Find Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter

Review: Calvin Demmer – Labor Day Hunt & Hungry Ghosts

Apologies, my literary friends! My last review has been quite some time ago and my last English review even longer, but my life has been slightly derailed from its literature-loving tracks these past few months. An even bigger apology goes out to Mr. Calvin Demmer himself – I wrote this review back in November when I was still in Russia and simply forgot to post it. Talk about hectic lives and all.

Winter has hit hard and crashing here in Russia and between the layers of snow and wind and knife sharp coldness, I am very much in the mood for some good, old horror. Snow muffles screams, they say. I’m not too keen on finding out.

A while ago, Calvin Demmer approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing two of his shorts, which he described as YA/Horror. Avid readers of my blog are probably already well informed about my soft spot for bad YA, but here’s news: I dig horror. I love everything that makes my skin crawl, from genuine slasher horror to Lovecraft to psychological thrillers à la Fitzek or Dorn and paranormal Ania Ahlborn style creeps on paper. I dig that stuff, I really do. Safe to say I was very excited to read his two stories, Labor Day Hunt and Hungry Ghosts.

Hungry Ghosts
“A rocky relationship threatens to ruin Lara Adams’ first time abroad. To her surprise, she finds that she and her boyfriend, Ray, have arrived in China during the “Hungry Ghost Festival”. Swept up in the warm mood of the festival and people, Lara feels things may finally improve. This year, however, the ghosts have found a new way to prolong their stay in this realm.”

Labor Day Hunt
“Jared Rodgers needed cash and had to work, while the rest of his hometown got to kick back and enjoy Labor Day. After answering a job ad in the local paper, he is directed to an abandoned warehouse. An ominous feeling grips him as soon as he enters the boarded-up building. By the time he realizes what’s going on, the hunt has already begun.”

So, what is there to say? Demmer sucked me in and I inhaled these short stories during my lunch breaks. I loved the easy flow of the stories, the writing came natural and I never once wasted a thought being upset about awkward wording or weird idioms. See, that’s my pet peeve – language in a book differing so much from its context that I fall out of immersion. Especially in the horror genre this can be a problem – finding high quality horror that comes down to more than a slasher movie written out can be challenging. While Demmer did not serve me full-sized horror, I still enjoyed this snack pack of terror on the go.
Demmer didn’t manage to quite avoid all cliché situations (which, admittedly, had me raising my eyebrow at times), but generally speaking none of the clichés had any noticeable effect on the story.

All in all, both stories are very readable. We’re not talking Lovecraftian Horror here, but definitely wonderful time eaters for when you need to get over with that car ride or airport layover. Just don’t read them in the bathtub, or you might stay longer than planned. Four out of five anatomically correct hearts for Labor Day Hunt and Hungry Ghosts!

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Calvin Demmer on Twitter & on Amazon


Rezension: Ersticktes Matt von Nina C. Hasse

Dobre Djen, Genossen, und wilkommen zu einer – lang überfälligen – neuen Rezensionsrunde! Draußen hackt auf dem Plattenbau-Parkplatz ein russischer Bär Holz, die Wohnung wummert angenehm durch die penetrante Turbofolk-Beschallung der Mieter drüber, und mein Kaffee hat einen verdächtig alkoholischen Nachgeschmack. Gäbe es einen besseren Zeitpunkt um zu schreiben? Ich glaube nicht, nein.

Heute widme ich mich einem wahren Prachtstück, dessen Rezension ich ewig lange aufgeschoben hab (Asche auf mein Haupt), weil so viel Stress war und ich den Scheiß gefälligst vernünftig machen wollte. Es gibt Bücher, da sind Donnerstag-Nachmittag-Schnellrezis okay, aber für andere müssen es dann eben schon die gechillter-Sonntag-Rezensionen sein. Nina C. Hasses Buch gehört für mich eben genau dazu.

In einer früheren Rezension habe ich ja schon ausgiebig Hasses Kurzgeschichte Der Traum vom Fliegen beschwärmt, deshalb war ich wahnsinnig gespannt darauf, Ersticktes Matt zu lesen. Genervt wurde die Autorin auch damals schon mit Spin-Off wünschen zu  Sidekick Madeline – daran halte ich auch fest; wir brauchen alle etwas mehr Madeline in unserem Leben. Was wir noch brauchen? Als allererstes den Klappentext zu Ersticktes Matt:

“Ein Viertel ohne Hoffnung. Ein Mörder ohne Skrupel.

New York, 1893. In den Floodlands, einem Elendsviertel mitten im East River, verfolgt die  Polizei ein Gespenst. An jedem Tatort eine weibliche Leiche, eine Schachfigur in der Hand. Das Spiel eines Wahnsinnigen?

Für Remy Lafayette, Gesichtsanalytiker und Berater beim New York Floodlands Police Department, wird die Jagd zu einer Reise in die eigene Vergangenheit, als seine ehemalige Verlobte in den Sog der Ereignisse gerät.

Ein Steampunk-Krimi aus den Floodlands.”

Och ja, Steampunk. Böse Zungen behaupten ja, Steampunk sei Trend; ich behaupte, Trend ist nicht schlecht – im Gegensatz! Die Steampunk Renaissance des letzten Jahrzehnts hat mich überaus glücklich gemacht und mir darüber hinaus noch so wunderbare (Gaming-)Titel wie Bioshock Infinite beschert; ich werde also einen Teufel tun und mich darüber beschweren.

Elsa steht auf Steampunk.

Was ich wiederum nicht mag, sind konstruiert-wirkende Welten, die nur um des Trends Willen steampunk-ish modelliert wurden – quasi eine Welt mit einer Prise Steampunk. Das haut so für mich nicht hin. Auch wenn ich mir dafür einen kollektiven Schlag in die Kresse von der allgemeinen Literatengemeinschaft einfange, finde ich, dass Infernal Devices von K. W. Jeter ein gutes Beispiel dafür ist – wobei die Cover Art von der 2011er Ausgabe wirklich eine der coolsten ist, die ich je gesehen habe. Das Buch ist gut, vielleicht in den Top 20 aller Bücher, die ich in meinem Erwachsenenleben so gelesen habe1, trotzdem bleibt Jeters inkonsistentes World Building ein kleines Makel, der mich durchs ganze Buch genervt hat.
Nina Hasse hat es geschafft, eine immersive Welt zu schaffen, die in jedem Moment des Buches die Story begleitet, betont und unterstreicht – und dafür bin ich ihr nach Jeters Eskapaden unfassbar dankbar. Das Buch ist athmosphärisch, ohne gezwungen zu sein; die Welt nuanciert, ohne aufdringlich zu werden. Es ist nicht so, dass das Buch an jeder Ecke schreit “Hallo! Ich bin Steampunk!”, viel mehr ergibt sich das passende Feeling konkludent aus dem Buch.  So muss das, so mag ich das.

Für mich gibt es in Ersticktes Matt nur einen einzigen, kleinen Makel: Der Whodunnit Aspekt war, meiner Meinung nach, vorhersehbar. Ich werde aus Spoilergründen jetzt nicht näher darauf eingehen, aber meine Überraschung hat sich am Ende doch ein wenig in Grenzen gehalten. Dem Buch tut das per se keinen Abbruch, doch denke ich, dass Hasse in ihrem Buch die Chance verpasst hat, den Leser mit dem Ende noch mal so richtig von den Socken zu hauen. So bleibt immerhin ein selbstzufriedenes Ich hab es doch gewusst.

Bis hierhin wäre Ersticktes Matt sicherlich ein gutes Buch, doch der triumphale Sprung zum permanenten Bewohner meines Wohnzimmerbücherregals (höchste Adelung, sozusagen) schafft Hasse mit ihren wahrlich großartig dimensionierten Charakteren. Schon nach dem ich Der Traum vom Fliegen gelesen habe, war mir klar, dass ich Hasses Art Charaktere zu schreiben lieben würde – und ich lag richtig.
Da ist zum einen Remy, ein lieber, leicht zynischer Kerl mit Brummbär-Flair on top, der mir des öfteren mal ein Lächeln auf die Lippen gezaubert hat – aber auch sein Sidekick Madeline ist absolut fantastisch, auch wenn sie mich vermutlich dafür schlagen würde, dass ich sie als Sidekick bezeichnet habe. Die Gute hat Attitude und Witz und – ganz wichtig – weiß wo sie hinwill. Da ich schon ungefähr seit meinem 14. Lebensjahr die Schnauze von Manic Pixie Dreamgirls vollhabe, freuen mich zielstrebige, weibliche Charaktere immer wieder. Be badass und so.
Dazu kommen noch ein Haufen Neben- und Seitencharaktere, die das Buch formen, dimensionieren und mit Leben erwecken. Ich bin Fan.

Fazit? Fazit! Ich habe Ersticktes Matt geliebt. Ich liebe Steampunks, Krimis und – seit neuestem – dann auch Nina C. Hasse.2 Absolute Leseempfehlung von meiner Seite aus.
Fünf von fünf anatomisch korrekten Herzen für Ersticktes Matt!

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1 Notwendige Einschränkung, sonst wäre meine Top 20 nämlich gefüllt mit Felix dem Hasen, Mama Muh und Findus & Petterson. Isso.
2 Da die Autorin schon an anderer Stelle in diesem Blog als die Rettung des Selfpublishings gelobhudelt wurde, werde ich mich an dieser Stelle mit feierlichen Preisungseskapaden zurückhalten. Sorry, Mademoiselle Hasse!

Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

I love buying books on the go, straight before I head off to whatever adventure life has in stock for me. Those are uninformed and unjustifiable decisions at the check-out and they are, quite usually, the best.

A while ago, something emotionally exhausting happened. My best friend B jumped to my help and we agreed to meet for coffee downtown; to talk about this giant jumbling mess of thoughts in my head. We discussed social relationships, grief, weird feelings, good feelings and appropriateness and it helped me a ton to put stuff into perspective. As it usually happens when B and I grab coffee, we also raided various stores, including our not-so-local book store chain Thalia.
Amongst my completely unreasonable purchases was Jennifer Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice – emphasis on amongst, though.
Later that day, as we had finished raiding Thalia, we decided to head to Leipzig, which is about an hour train ride away, because we both enjoy train rides and our student tickets cover the distance.
We got there fairly easy, but our train back home was cancelled, so we embarked on an almost two hour ride in a crappy little bus and a train waiting somewhere else back home. We arrived. I was dead tired, but already had finished half of The Truth About Alice. And  that memory will forever be glued right to the book’s cover.

“Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.

But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?

It’s true. Ask ANYBODY.

Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control.

In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students—the girl who has the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door—tell all they know.

But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.”

So here’s why I bought this book: For one, because I am sucker for YA with pretty covers, but also because I had hoped for a differentiated glimpse at slut-shaming, as advertised on the back. Spoilert Alert: I did not get the latter.

Before I start my rant, let me get this out there: The book is great. I loved the book. Jennifer Mathieu has a very distinct style, which she managed to wonderfully transfer onto the narrative characters of her book. I loved, loved, loved Alice and oh lord, at time I felt like punching one or two people (even as a die-hard pacifist).

I thoroughly enjoyed the story line, as more and more conflicts began to arise with each of the narrators. To be fair, I could have done without Josh and Elaine and would have preferred a deeper look into Kurt and/or Kelsie instead, but that’s just complaining on a ridiculously high level.

I breezed through the book in just two sessions and for me, this speaks volumes. It was definitely and absolute page turner, but this is also where my only real criticism comes in:

Personally, I feel like the book could have done with another fifty pages. The end felt somewhat anti-climatic, with every conflict getting resolved in the right order. Josh’s conflict could have used some more time just as did Elaine’s, but in the end the implications were enough to see where Mathieu was going with this.

I loved the book. I really did. Except for one small thing:

In my head, I had hoped for slut-shaming to be faced in a more direct, heart-to-heart-talk manner. That did not happen and I feel like that was a missed chance for Mathieu. All her female characters struggle with very female-specific problems and, in the end, only one of them has the true revelation that she is more than her conflict; Elaine.
I feel that the general notion in the book was more of a “You’re still the same, great person despite slut-shaming happening” and less “Slut-shaming is bad and we should get to the root of that.”.
Personally, the book left a bit of an impression that it communicated “You are going to find someone even though you are being slut-shamed”, which I feel is an entirely wrong response to someone suffering from this horrible injustice – especially if we are talking about high school girls. I see why Jen Mathieu chose to go down this route and, to be perfectly fair, that is an important message – your self-worth does not depend on the number of partners you have had. However, especially with a lot of girl-on-girl hate happening in this novel, I really would have wished the issue had been tackled at the root.

I feel like it would be unfair to judge a book based on the expectations I had in my head, and the more I distance myself and let time pass since finishing it, the more I like the book. It is an absolutely solid piece of YA and I can definitely give a reading recommendation. Four out of five anatomical hearts for The Truth About Alice!

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