It’s time for a double-review of two books that are dismantling stigmas.
And w o w they are powerful. I feel in a total whirlwind of thoughts and feels right now, because they’re very thought-provoking and hard-hitting books. Both were very different, but centred around mental illness, feminism, abuse, and queer history. So be ready for a tangled knot of FEEEEEELINGS.
I also am putting them together because they’re both Penguin books AND set in the UK! I bought All The Bad Apples for myself (apparently it’s out Oct 1st in Australia? I must’ve bought the UK version), but The Million Pieces of Neena Gill was an ARC gifted from Penguin Teen Australia. Thank you!
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton
This is such an aching story of loss and mental health spirals. Neena is a really unreliable narrator so as you get deeper into the story…you really second-guess everything. It’s so intensely in her perspective that you can’t help but ache with her. Her decisions are so problematic, but at the same time…you get it?! Neeeeena, don’t DO IT. 😫
➢ #OwnVoices Rep
I really appreciate #ownvoices books because they bring a layer of power and intimacy; you can feel the heartache on the page. I have an ARC and the author wrote this incredibly heartbreaking letter, talking about how she had severe anxiety and has been in dark places, as well as helped someone else through a mental breakdown. It’s also #ownvoices for Pakistani-British rep! It really explored that too: Neena’s own assumptions about her culture as well as how her parents viewed mental illness as weakness. It was hard to read their dismissal of her illness…but overall there were solidly good learning arcs.
➢ it had a messy disorientated style — which suited Neena’s mental state perfectly
Her brother is missing and she loved him so much. Neena is just not…coping. She’s a wreck; drinking and sneaking out to parties, having massive anxiety spirals and being erratic. It was so sad.
➢ healing as well as heartbreaking
It did focus on rebuilding too. It wasn’t just a mental illness spiral — which I think is important to show all sides. “Sometimes you need to remind yourself who you are, don’t you?” The book also discussed problematic tropes (ie: Nina thinking romance would fix her, she viewing her parents’ Pakistani strictness as her villain, all the drinking etc.) and unpacked them really well! It’s about dismantling stigmas and being honest with yourself. I appreciated the whole book a lot, even though overall the style wasn’t my favourite.
Published July 16th, 2019
How can I hold myself together, when everything around me is falling apart?
Neena’s always been a good girl – great grades, parent-approved friends and absolutely no boyfriends. But ever since her brother Akash left her, she’s been slowly falling apart – and uncovering a new version of herself who is freer, but altogether more dangerous.
As her wild behaviour spirals more and more out of control, Neena’s grip on her sanity begins to weaken too. And when her parents announce not one but two life-changing bombshells, she finally reaches breaking point.
But as Neena is about to discover, when your life falls apart, only love can piece you back together.
All The Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
This is the kind of story that will make you ache and RAGE all at once. It was bitterly and deeply moving and you end wanting to choke on angry tears as well as feel deeply empowered. It’s a feminist book, and it also dives deeply into the abuse and trauma suffered by queer people and women in the 1900s.
➢ this is no fluffy read
It’s beautifully written; gorgeous words and style (I was obsessed with The Accident Season back in 2015!! so I was excited to read another book from Fowley-Doyle), but I thought (wroooong) that it was about a girl finding her sister. Like maybe some creepy woods, idk. It was much darker and harder hitting than that.
Deena is 17 and basically raised by her older twin sisters (who are in their mid-30s). Their mother is dead, their father the strict horrible old religious type who is a threatening force but also absent in their lives. Mandy (the troublesome sister) vanishes and it’s assumed she killed herself. But Deena refuses to believe and goes searching. Overall the book is like set over 3 days. But it’s also half set in the past. Deena reads these letters detailing what happened to their great-great grandparents how the family Rys “curse” started. All the “bad” troublesome girls are cursed apparently and they need to break it.
So the historical part is set in the 1920s+ in Ireland and…wow it was hard to read. Like there so much viciousness in the Catholicism and just how they treated women and queer people. And just how society destroyed women. It talks about rape and abuse, about how unmarried women were stuffed into these workhouse/nunneries and worked basically to death. Had their children ripped away and put in schools where they were maliciously beaten. All the abuse was coded as “cleansing your sin” and it’s sickening. Queer people were murdered. Midwives were called witches. Like…all this stuff truly happened and it’s so brittle and brutal to read. 😫 So. much. suffering.
The story is HERE to do that though: to make us think and burn with the injustice.
“…the past will only keep repeating itself as long as we’re kept powerless by our silence.”
➢ favourite vs least favourite things
Ok so truly the book was super thought-provoking AND important. At first I wasn’t super engaged because all the back-story scenes were just telling-telling-telling. It felt like a family history and I was just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ As I read on, I saw the messages it built and the structure it was taking. So I enjoyed last 50% a lot.
And I loved loved LOVED Deena; our soft queer teen of heartache as she uncovers her family secrets. She meets Cale on their journey (also queer girl who Deena is 😍) and her best friend Finn is bi and black. I really loved the diversity.
➢ I’ll be thinking about this one for a long long time…
I won’t lie: it was difficult to read. It isn’t pleasurable to read about queer pain, abused women, or destroyed lives. But the book is speaking out on these things. The tagline is literally “shatter the silence” and I’m so glad it exists to add to this conversation.
“Like Ida said, sometimes you have to feel the past to believe it.”
“It needs to be told like a story in order to be heard,” I said.
“Right. Exactly.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, shrugged. “It’s the story itself that’s fucked.”
out Oct 1 in AUS // August 1st in UK
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
| what do you think? |
do you read a lot of UKYA books? are either of these on your TBR because I’m super curious to share thoughts!!