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BOOK REVIEW: Heartstopper 2

Heartstopper is BACK! Our favourite boys Nick and Charlie return after the cliffhanger ending of volume one, which saw them kiss at a party before Nick hurried away, seemingly embarrassed.


Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows that Charlie is gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.
But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family… and himself.


Heartstopper vol. 2 is essentially a book about self discovery, and this is especially important for Nick. Over the course of the volume, we see Nick slowly coming to terms with being bisexual, researching what it means, and speaking to Charlie openly about his thoughts and fears. This is incredibly natural, and it’s so lovely to see this part of coming out in a graphic novel form. Often in books, we either see the fallout of coming out or we don’t see it at all, as the character is already established as out. These touching and prominent scenes with Nick will give reassurance to any readers feeling a little lost and confused with these brand new feelings.

This volume of the book is also incredibly sweet! Nick and Charlie are starting their relationship and are excited about what the future may hold for them. There is quite a lot of kissing and cuddling, and plenty of moments where they’re nearly caught out. This volume of Heartstopper really focuses on Nick growing as a character, and this can be seen so clearly in every panel.

Once again the artwork is something that really sets Heartstopper apart from other graphic novels. The art is always so free, and the style is incredibly expressive. Every facial expression shows just what the character is feeling without having to second guess, and the body language is clear and understandable. It’s great to read every single page and not have to wonder what the character might be feeling – you can see it clear as day!

What I always love about Heartstopper is just how cosy it makes me feel. I could quite happily read this again and again and not get bored of it. Heartstopper is everything that LGBT+ literature for teens should be about – happy relationships, loving partners, and taking your own time to learn about your sexuality.

Final thought: A charming and loving continuation to the series! 5/5

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BOOK BLOG TOUR: Almost Adults

Hello lovely readers! Today, as part of the Almost Adults blog tour, I’m excited to be bringing you an extract from the book! I’ve included a synopsis too, so if you’re intrigued and want to read more, make sure to download the e-Book edition which is out today!


Mackie, Edele, Alex and Nat are navigating their chaotic and confusing twenties together. They have jobs and pay their own rent (well, most of them) but don’t know how to bleed radiators, defrost a freezer or test the smoke alarms.

With break-ups to deal with and major decisions to make, life can get messy especially when they’re still trying to get the hang of this ‘being a grown-up’ thing.


‘Nat, come in, it’s fucking January and you’re only wearing a T-shirt,’ came his voice from inside the flat.
The swearing took me back. I was the ‘swearer’ – Matt only swore when he was angry, or when he was watching Question Time. How dare he be angry right now. What gave him the right?
I was sitting on the roof, shivering in the cold and burning my throat with Johnnie Walker. The whisky was hot – hot on my lips, my mouth, my throat, and hot trickling down into my stomach – but my body was ice, the bitter seaside air whipping my hair back and biting at my skin. I remember liking the contrast. I remember everything about that night.
An hour earlier, I’d been panicking because I couldn’t get hold of Matt, and that hardly ever happened, even after seven years together. He’d been at the pub with his friends and wasn’t answering my WhatsApps asking when he was coming home, and if he could bring us a pizza from the Italian opposite the pub.
I didn’t think much of it – probably had one too many ciders to check his phone, I thought. Besides, I wanted to binge-watch The End of the F*cking World on Netflix with a glass of wine and zero interruptions.
I heard his key turn in the lock – a sound I loved – and dashed to the hall. ‘You didn’t message me, I was worried about you!’ I said with a relieved smile. Until suddenly, I clocked the look on his face, and I wasn’t smiling any more.

Matt’s expression, usually gentle and calm, was solemn, shell-shocked, etched with fear and panic and, for the first time in our seven years together, I felt like I didn’t recognise him. He stood in the door to our home, tall, beautiful and broken, limply holding a cardboard pizza box, and said, ‘Nat, we need to talk.’
I always used to laugh at those words in films – ‘How clichéd, who actually says that?’ I’d say – until I heard them. My chest turned tight and something thick stuck in my throat so I could hardly speak.
‘What about?’ I managed to mutter.
‘I can’t do this any more. I don’t feel the same.’

You’d think the natural reaction to this would be instant tears, angrily demanding answers, maybe even throwing an IKEA plate or two. But not for me. To me, it felt so unbelievable, so unreal, that my body relaxed a little, calmed by the thought that this was just too farcical to actually be happening.
‘You’re just drunk, right?’ I tried to reason, nearly laughing. ‘But don’t say things like that, we can just talk in the morning. Come to bed, it’s almost one thirty.’
‘No, Nat, you don’t understa—’
‘Of course I do! I get emotional when I’m drunk, too!’
Then suddenly his face turned stern, frown lines spreading across his forehead. ‘I’m not drunk, Nat. Please, listen. I’m sorry, but I don’t love you any more.’

The calm was suddenly snatched away. Then panic. Blind panic. The kind of panic that strikes your feet like a bolt of lightning and shoots up through your body, ripping through your insides as it goes, and eventually settles in your brain like a parasite. My body turned cold and I started to shake uncontrollably. I couldn’t understand it – this wasn’t happening. This didn’t happen to people like us. This didn’t happen to happy people. We were happy. Weren’t we?


Almost Adults is released today on e-book version, and in paperback on August 8th.

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BOOK LIST: A Beginners Guide to… Manga

For a beginner reader to manga, it can be pretty daunting to pick up a volume. The pages are read right-to-left, there are panels and busy pages wherever you look, and sometimes it can even be a minefield knowing exactly where to start! So I’ve decided to pull together a list of some really fantastic manga series’ that are just perfect for readers looking to start reading for the very first time!

Now, I will admit that I’m not an expert in manga at all, but I wanted to pull together a synopsis list for a reader who may not know where to start at all. Manga got me back into reading as a teenager, and has given me some stories I will cherish forever, so I wanted people to see it as something brilliant to read rather than something daunting.


What is manga?

Manga is, quite simply, Japanese comics. That’s the simplest definition you can get, and really the only thing you need! Instead of being like our usual comic books, manga books are about the same height as a standard paperback. The illustrations are usually all in black and white too, although some books will include special coloured pages right at the beginning!

Manga also has a few different genres they fit into, the most well known being shonen and shojo, but also includes seinen and josei. I’m pretty sure that the majority of  the books I’ve included on my list fall into the genres of shonen and shojo though!

Shonen is usually targeted towards teenage boys, and will most often be centered around a male protagonist. These are often action-packed mangas, and will always include a squad of friends who boost each other up and help the main protagonist reach his goal. Shonen books also tend to include a lot of good-vs-evil.

Shojo is more targeted toward teenage girls, and can also be seen as ‘slice-of-life’ style books – more contemporary! Quite often these are in a school setting, but most often this genre tends to shift focus on the understanding of emotions and also relationships – friendships, partnerships and family relationships are all important in shojo.


Bleach

BLEACH

Fifteen year old Ichigo Kurosaki can see ghosts, which also allows him to see and meet Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper whose job it is to usher souls from the living world to the Soul Society. When Rukia is severely injured fighting a corrupted soul known as a Hollow, she transfers her powers to him so that he can defeat the creature. Now, Ichigo must take on the position of Soul Reaper himself, protecting both the living world and the Soul Society, all while trying to juggle his school work.

Bleach is an action-packed adventure with tons of humour too – Ichigo is hotheaded and the supporting characters are truly excellent! Pick this one up if you adore lengthy battles of good-vs-evil and impressively huge swords! Good for ages 14+.

Death Note

DEATH NOTE

When teenage genius Light Yagami stumbles upon a notebook, he has no idea what truths it holds. As soon as he picks it up, it becomes clear that the book is a Death Note, which gives the user the supernatural ability to kill anyone who has the misfortune of having their name written in the book. Light decides that he will use the book to wipe out criminals, and is soon on a terroristic streak of mass murder, thinking that he’s right.

Death Note is definitely for readers who enjoy darker books, and is a truly interesting story of morality. Pick this one up if you enjoy dark stories, supernatural entities, and stories of power gone wrong. Good for ages 14/15+.

Naruto

NARUTO

Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja, desperate to prove himself and become the next Hokage, the leader of the village. He becomes part of a team of other young ninjas, notably Sasuke Uchiha, his rival, and Sakura Haruno, whom he has a crush on. However, things in the village can never remain all fun and games when there is an escaped criminal on the loose…

Naruto is really a perfect beginner manga for young readers, but has plenty of older fans too! Although I don’t enjoy this series myself, I can definitely appreciate how many fans it brings to the table! Pick this one up if you like friendships, characters sticking to their guns and, obviously, ninjas! Good for ages 12/13+.

Fruits Basket

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Tohru Honda lives on her own in a tent; after her mother’s passing and her grandfathers home undergoing renovations, Tohru decides to stick it out on her own. One day, she stumbles upon the house of the Sohma family, where classmate Yuki lives. Unexpectedly, she finds herself moving in but by doing so discovers that the family is possessed by the spirits of the animals in the Zodiac. Tohru is determined to break the curse, but will this bring around more harm than good?

By far my most favourite manga, Fruits Basket is a wonderful tale of friendship, emotions, and the effects of hardships on others. It also covers abusive families, Zodiac history and magic. Pick this one up if you like emotional moments, magical forces and lifelong friendships. Good for ages 13+.

Sailor Moon

SAILOR

Student Usagi Tsukino befriends a mysterious talking cat named Luna, who gifts her with a magical brooch. Said brooch allows Usagi the power to transform into Sailor Moon, a soldier who is destined to save Earth from all forces of evil! Together, they pull together a team of Sailor soldiers to find the Silver Crystal, the most powerful magical artifact in the cosmos.

Sailor Moon is absolutely beloved by many people, and it’s not hard to see why. A group of powerful girls taking on the evil in the world makes for an excellent story! Pick this one up if you love girl power,  good-vs-evil and super cool transformations! Good for ages 12/13+.

Ouran Highschool Host Club

OURAN

Haruhi Fujioka is a scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran High, a school for incredibly rich kids. When trying to find a quiet place to study, she find a seemingly empty music room which is actually where a group of teenage boys run a ‘host club’, where they entertain female students with tea, cakes and chat. When Haruhi accidentally destroys an expensive vase, she must work off her debt running errands for the club. But what will happen when Haruhi gets mistaken for a host?

This is such a great manga! It’s funny, the art style is unique and it’s such a classic that many manga fans love. It’s also known to be a parody on otaku culture, which is hilarious! Pick this one up if you love slow burn romance, comedy and awkward moments! Good for ages 14+.

My Hero Academia

MHA

In a world where superpowers, known as Quirks, are prevalent, Izuku Midoriya dreams of becoming a Hero to the city he lives in, despite being unfortunately Quirkless. After trying to save his high school bully from a villain, a famous Hero known as All Might trains and bestows Izuku with his power. However, using a Quirk that isn’t truly yours can be tricky, especially when Izuku is enrolled in a high school that cultivates new Heroes and must prove that he belongs…

I’ve only been reading this series recently but I’ve really enjoyed how enjoyable and accessible it is! Everyone dreams of being a superhero! Pick this one up if you love superheroes, teamwork and loveable protagonists! Good for ages 12+.

Fullmetal Alchemist

FMAB

In the world of Amestris, alchemy is one of the most practiced sciences, mainly by use of transmutation circles, to create anything the alchemist desires. After the death of their mother, Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse use a forbidden type of alchemy to bring her back, with devastating effects. The story follows their attempts to find a Philosopher’s stone to bring back their original bodies, all while sinister forces are at play in Amestris…

I will admit that I’ve only watched the anime adaptation of this series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but it was absolutely phenomenal. The stories are so excellently woven together, and it’s very much an edge of your seat drama! Pick this one up if you love alchemy and science, nail-biting fight scenes and stories of groups of people against government bodies! Good for ages 14/15+.

Tokyo Mew Mew

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When Ichigo Momomiya attends an exhibit for endangered species, she doesn’t know that it will change her life forever. After an earthquake, Ichigo and four other girls are bathed in light that infuses their DNA with that of the endangered species’, giving them magical powers and allowing them to transform into Mew Mews. Ichigo and the group must now protect the planet from aliens.

This one sounds bizarre, but is actually super-cute, good fun and is perfect for younger readers! You should definitely pick this one up if you love magical girls, cats and tons of magic! Good for ages 11+.

One Punch Man

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Saitama is bored. Bored of being an unstoppable hero. Every villain that tries to defeat him can be beaten in just one punch, taking all of the challenge and enjoyment out of fighting them in the first place! Saitama decides to make it his mission to find somebody he feels is a worthy opponent!

Read this just for the backstory alone of how Saitama became a hero, which is absolutely brilliant! But then, read the rest for a truly immersive series with a pinch of humour thrown in by Saitama himself. Pick this one up if you love huge battles, villainous monologues and deadpan humour. Good for ages 14+.

Haikyu!!

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Hinata Shouyou has a newfound love for volleyball and is eager to play and compete, despite being quite short compared to most players. Determined to end up just like his volleyball hero, who is also short, Hinata joins the school volleyball team. After a crushing first defeat, he vows not to give up and wants to beat his rival, Tobio Kageyama. But what happens when they end up on the same team?

Haikyu!! is one of the most popular sports mangas – which seem to be a genre all on their own! They’re action-packed and tons of good fun too. Pick this one up if you like sports, teamwork and edge-of-your-seat tense moments! Good for ages 14+.

Blue Exorcist

exorcist

Rin Okumura and his twin brother Yukio have been raised by their father, Shiro, who is a demon Exorcist. One day, the boys learn that they are actually the sons of Satan. When Shiro dies protecting Rin, he draws a demonic sword that allows his powers and demonic features to surface. Rin now vows to become a powerful exorcist and defeat his true father, Satan.

I absolutely love this series! Despite the dark synopsis, the story can actually be quite good fun and the art style is beautiful. Everything is illustrated beautifully, and the cover art for each volume is excellent! Pick this one up if you like supernatural stories, demons and an underdog protagonist! Good for ages 14+.


I hope this list helps you on your journey into manga! If you’ve read any of these already, what did you think of them? I’d love to know! If you want even more of a list, and more of a look into the seinen and josei genres, check out this handy list on Book Riot!

 

 

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BOOK LIST: LGBT+ Graphic Novels

Lots of people don’t know where to start when it comes to graphic novels, but sometimes the only way to start is to dive right in! When it comes to LGBT+ content, graphic novels have shown themselves as strong contenders for excellent content. So for Pride month, I thought I’d pull together a list of LGBT+ graphic novels that I’ve read and share them with you!


 

 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Gay & Bisexual characters

Heartstopper is and always will be one of my favourite stories, and I’ve gone on about it enough on this blog to last a lifetime. Heartstopper is the story of Charlie and Nick, who slowly start to fall in love after becoming close friends. It is a story of understanding sexuality and learning to accept yourself, as well as opening up a dialogue of coming out to others. If you want a delightfully charming love story this summer, Heartstopper is the one!

Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Gancheau
Gay characters

You know how when you watch a Studio Ghibli film and want to eat every single food made on screen? I felt exactly the same with Bloom. Utterly gorgeous illustrations pair nicely with a great story about being true to yourself while also showing respect and care to those around you. The characters in Bloom learn lessons throughout this whole book, and it really shows how much they’ve learned at the end.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Genderfluid character

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a joyous book, full of pride, and is utterly perfect to read during the summer. A young dressmaker is hired by the mysterious Lady Crystallia, who is actually the alter ego of Prince Sebastian, who feels far more comfortable in elegant gowns. The entire book shows the theme of acceptance, friendship and being true to the person you know you are, but also doing this at your own pace without letting others to rush you.

Spinning by Tillie Walden
Lesbian character

Spinning is more of a memoir of sorts from author Tillie Walden. It tells the story of how she figured out she was a lesbian while falling for a friend, but also tells of her rigorous skating regime that dominates most of her life. It is a beautiful story and heart-wrenching during some scenes. However, this is quite a sad read at parts and does deal with mentions of abuse so please keep that in mind before reading.

Fence by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad
Gay characters, genderfluid character

Fence is the perfect graphic novel for fans of characters with deep rooted rivalries. Nicholas is the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champ, and now is a new student to private school Kings Row, famed for its talented fencing students. There’s a fair few LGBT+ characters in this, including genderfluid character Bobby.

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Gay characters

Continuing with more sports themed graphic novels, Check, Please! is all about ice hockey! Eric ‘Bitty’ Bittle is a brand new student at Samwell University, and has fallen head over heels for Jack, the teams very handsome captain. Check, Please! is quite a fun read and has swarms of online fans, so if you like sports romances, wonderful characters, and also cooking, this one is for you!

Dead Endia by Hamish Steele
Trans boy character, gay characters

Dead Endia is absolutely perfect for fans of haunted houses, talking dogs and even the odd demonic ritual. Barney needs a job desperately, and thankfully Pollywood is hiring – at Dead End, the haunted house. This is a quirky read, and touches on subjects like correct pronouns use. The art style is super bright and colourful too!

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Lesbian characters, trans girl character

Lumberjanes is an excellent series, and is one that’s also great for younger readers too! Lumberjanes focuses on five new friends at summer camp who embark on mysterious quests and find that the camp isn’t so normal as they expect. There is an utterly adorable blossoming relationship between two of the girls, and one of the characters comes out as trans later on in the series. One of the characters even has two dads, so it’s safe to say that this series is a beautiful mix of everything LGBT+!

 

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Gay characters, trans girl character

While the main romance of Saga is straight, the graphic novel series doesn’t shy away from having LGBT+ characters in the supporting cast. We also don’t know of Hazel’s sexuality, the girl who is retelling the story of her parents lives to us, the reader. One of the major characters further along in the series has a discussion with Hazel about her transition, and teaches her about respect.

The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Bisexual characters, gay characters, lesbian characters, nonbinary characters, trans characters

The Wicked + The Divine will always have a special place in my heart, despite losing its way quite a bit storytelling wise in the later volumes. However, it has always done diversity excellently. Every 90 years, twelve gods return as young people, but die after two. We follow the stories of these gods, many of them who fall onto the LGBT+ spectrum in some way, and it almost becomes a celebration of these gods lives living however they want to be as freely as possible. Here is a really interesting article discussing more on this topic! Be warned for spoilers though!

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch
Lesbian character

This is one of my favourite graphic novels! If you love Dungeons & Dragons, witchcraft, and badass heroines saving the world from impending doom, then you definitely need to pick up Rat Queens! One of the main characters is pictured often with her girlfriend throughout the series too. This is an unmissable read!

Goldie Vance by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams & Sarah Stern
Lesbian characters

I may have only read one volume of Goldie Vance, but my goodness I loved every single second of it. Giving off strong Scooby-Doo vibes, Goldie Vance follows 16 year old Goldie who loves solving mysteries in her dads Florida resort. With gorgeous art and a colour palette to die for, this is such a feel-good story with a little splash of f/f romance on the pages.

Moonstruck by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle
Lesbian characters, nonbinary character

It’s been a while since I read Moonstruck, but I remember falling in love with the beautiful illustrations and the smooth, pastel-like colour palette. Moonstruck is the story of werewolf barista Julie, who starts dating a brand new girl and decides to take her to a magic show as their first date – which goes disastrously! As well as showcasing lesbian characters, Moonstruck has the inclusion of a super fun centaur character Chet, who is nonbinary.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chang
Lesbian character

Paper Girls is perfect if you’re a fan of Stranger Things – seriously, the amount of Stranger Things vibes I got while reading this were strong! Set in 1988, Paper Girls follows four newspaper delivery girls as they stumble upon the most important story in the world. Through time-travel, mystery and drama, their lives are about to be changed forever. This was such an intriguing read, especially including one of the main characters discovering her sexuality through time travel.

Steven Universe by Katy Farina & Melanie Gillman
Lesbian character, nonbinary characters

Steven Universe is one of my favourite cartoon shows, and it’s actually a wonderful resource for teaching and showing children about same sex relationships and gender identities. It’s excellent to see this reflected in the graphic novels too! All of the gems are confirmed to be nonbinary by series creator, Rebecca Sugar, but many present as female. There are also love interests between characters, mainly gems Ruby and Sapphire who, when together, fuse through love and mutual understanding of each other to become Garnet. Here is an interesting article I’ve been reading about Steven Universe and the importance of its nonbinary representation.

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin & Nina Vakueva
Lesbian character

More badass heroines galore in this one! Heavy Vinyl mainly follows the story of Chris, who has started her brand new job in the record store, Vinyl Mayhem. By day, this is your usual record store, but in reality the store is a front for teenage girl vigilante club! Romance is peppered through this story of crime-solving and ass-kicking, and the art style is absolutely stunning!

 

Love is Love (various authors)
All sexualities and gender identities covered

In response to the horrific murders of many LGBT+ people in Pulse nightclub, artists and comic creators came together to create Love is Love, a wonderful graphic novel anthology, celebrating everything there is about LGBT+. The greatest thing about this graphic novel is that 100% of the proceeds go directly to the families, friends, survivors and victims of the shooting, via Equality Florida,

On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Lesbian relationship, nonbinary character

This has got to be one of the biggest graphic novels I have ever read. Clocking in at 544 pages, On A Sunbeam is a story that follows a group of space exploring restoration experts. Deep down, it is a story of lost love and reminiscing, as main character Mia reflects on her previous relationships and how everything went wrong. There is also a nonbinary character named Eliot. On A Sunbeam is told in both flashbacks and present day for the book, but it does take a little while to get sucked into the book completely!

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Lesbian characters, gay characters

This graphic novel deals with the idea of toxic partners, and how they end up affecting people’s entire lives. It deals with a toxic lesbian relationship, and also includes a gay relationship through the supporting characters. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is essentially everything the title says. Freddy likes to believe she’s in love with Laura, but how can that be real love when Laura keeps cheating on her and treating her like dirt? Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is actually quite an important read to show that there can be toxic relationships in LGBT+ partnerships, and that the important thing is to look out for your friends instead of ignoring them for one relationship.


I’ve read all of these graphic novels, but I’m always eager to read and hear about more! If you have a recommendation, especially if it’s LGBT+, let me know in the comments! For some of them, I made sure to research the representation as it has been a while since I read some of the titles. I’ve included a link here for a database containing all graphic novels with LGBT+ representation, which ended up being incredibly helpful for me!

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BOOK REVIEW: ALEX IN WONDERLAND

As a huge fan of Simon James Green, I was delighted to receive an early reading copy of his brand new book, Alex in Wonderland! Huge thanks to  Scholastic for sending me one! I wondered whether the book would be just as good as Simon’s previous books, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint – I read it in about three hours!


In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben… who, as Alex’s bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend.

Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems…


I’ve said it on Twitter but will say it again here: Simon James Green is the king of awkward gay boys. Alex is a wonderful addition to the characters from previous books; he’s shy, awkward, doesn’t quite know how to flirt, and keeps falling for straight boys. Of course, that means a recipe for an entirely awkward summer shyly talking to – and falling for – Ben, who Alex is convinced is straight. The book doesn’t disappoint on the humour scale either, and is full of hilarious moments too, ranging from quick giggles to full on riotous laughter.

Alex in Wonderland is one of those perfect summer reads and teenagers everywhere will love to read about the adventures of these unlikely friends who pull together to create a brand new summer project in determination to save something they love. Alex also goes on a personal journey of building up his self confidence after a few months of being downtrodden by his dad’s new partner. It’s wonderful to read the blossoming that Alex goes through in this book, as well as the self love and growth that happens.

There’s mystery too, a common theme in Simon’s books! The staff of Wonderland start receiving threatening messages in the post, warning that they need to shut down or suffer the consequences. Alex and his new friends strive to save Wonderland, opting to remodel and bring in new faces, despite it usually being quite empty. All the while, Alex is juggling his crushes; the boy in the lemonade stand, Caleb, is quite handsome and flirts with Alex often, and Ben seems to mysteriously avoid any topic of his girlfriend… I won’t spoil what happens, but know that Alex does end up romantically involved and what follows is tooth-rottingly adorable.

However, Alex in Wonderland is not just a book about summer romance, mystery and friendships. It is also a book about gentrification, and how devastating this can be for residents. The Merriam-Webster definition of gentrification, for those who may not know, goes as follows:

“the process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents”

This is so visible in this book. The townsfolk are being priced out, with fancy sourdough pizza joints popping up and local businesses being forced to close down to make way for swanky new apartment blocks and trendy businesses. Local people are moving away as they can no longer afford to live in Newsands, and there are many references of richer Londoners moving there, only to be able to commute back and forth for work. It’s a situation that many people would probably be able to see in their own towns and lives.

I’m glad that Simon has chosen to write this topic into a YA book – it’s incredibly important, and far too often teenagers and young adults are terrified of the future as to not being able to afford living spaces and seeing their hometowns unrecognisable. It was definitely a good choice to bring this up in such a light-hearted book to show that life isn’t always candy and rainbows.

Final thought: A brilliant and thought-provoking summer holiday read! 5/5

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BOOK REVIEW – I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST

As one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, this book certainly didn’t disappoint. This book is a triumph, and with such utterly beautiful passages it would be hard to not read this book and have your heart break and swell while reading.


When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.


Right off the bat, this book punches you straight in the gut with feelings. The first chapter is agonising, truly agonising as Ben is about to come out to their parents as non-binary. They’re hoping that their parents will be accepting, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. What follows is the story of Ben trying to get their life back on track while trying (and failing) to not make friends. Ben moves in with their sister, joins a new school, and straight away meets Nathan, an excitable teenage boy who is eager to become Ben’s friend.

Out of all the characters, it’s really hard not to love Ben and Nathan. Ben is an artistic yet shy teenager, and really comes into their own when given free reign to paint to their hearts delight. The scenes with Ben and their therapist are some of the most important chapters of the books. Very often, therapists are painted as the ‘bad guy’ characters by either giving incorrect information or acting uncaring. Ben’s therapist is a wonderful character, and really helps Ben as they begin to understand more about how their mind works and the anxieties they face.

Ben’s character is written delicately and I am certain that this will give non-binary readers happiness in their hearts. Ben talks about misgendering, and how it makes them feel, and also touches on the subject of body dysmorphia. The supporting characters also touch upon these topics; there is a scene where Ben’s sister, Hannah, corrects someone for misgendering Ben which is so important, and also scenes where Hannah helps Ben with their dysmorphia as best she can, letting Ben be as free and as out as they want to be when staying with her. As the novel progresses, so does Ben’s confidence and happiness, and it’s great to see them find something that really gives them joy – that being friendship, comfort at being out, and Nathan.

Onto the subject of Nathan, he was a character I had high hopes for and he didn’t disappoint. As a black, bisexual character, I was so worried as to how the author would portray Nathan – far too often, there is a stigma within black communities about LGBT+ people which is incredibly saddening. I Wish You All The Best made me relieved. Nathan is proud and confident about his sexuality, and has a supportive family who he feels safe with. I’m thrilled that Nathan has been given a fantastic light for young black LGBT+ readers to see and relate to positively. Nathan is so supportive of Ben too, giving more strength to an understanding and accepting black character of gender identities.

I Wish You All The Best is definitely a powerful and likeable book. The characters are all likeable and voiced appropriately as teenagers with worries, doubts, anxieties and first experiences. There is never a moment where you question why a character is doing something, as everything is so appropriately fitting for each situation. It’s well written too, and I found myself flying through it only to stop and savour some of the passages and chapters.

This book was brilliant, and I feel that it will end up being a rather helpful tool for teens and young adults in similar situations; it will definitely be reassuring to read a book with a character POV that they can relate to, but also something to help them understand and realise that they are not alone and can do great things. Mason Deaver has written one of the most open, educational and delicately beautiful debut books that I have read in a long time. They are clearly a genuine watchable talent in the world of books right now, and I long to read more penned by them in the near future.

Final verdict: A timely and emotional debut that will resonate, support and ultimately help its most important audience: non-binary teenagers. 5/5

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THE AVENGERS ENDGAME TAG

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Avengers Endgame released at the end of April and Marvel fans rejoiced at such a brilliant ending to Phase 3 of the MCU movies. There were joys, there were tears, there were time heists, and I think it’s easily now one of my favourite Marvel movies. So to keep the Avengers love going, I’m taking part in the Avengers Endgame book tag!


Iron Man: A book that made you laugh out loud

Noah Can’t Even, without a doubt! This book is hilarious, even though it’s cringeworthy at times, but made me giggle so much while reading. It’s a true  joy, and I’ve spoken about it quite a lot on this blog.

Captain America: A book with a positive message

Heartstopper. I absolutely love this graphic novel, it’s such a heartwarming read, and follows two teen boys coming to terms with their sexualities and budding relationship. The core message of this book is love is love, and that you will find your person that will love and cherish you no matter what.

Thor: A book with a character’s strength you admire

Saga – and this is actually two characters: Alana and Marko. They’ve faced so much in the world and have come through it on the other side together, and have escaped a war dedicated to wiping out two races that hate each other – a war they were meant to be fighting in against each other. These books are amazing and the characters just go from strength to strength.

Hulk: A book that makes you incredibly angry

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. Words cannot describe how much I couldn’t stand this book. I’d actually put the book down for over a month because I couldn’t bear to read it anymore, but when I picked it up again it didn’t get any better. The ending was truly infuriating as it didn’t make any sense… I should have left it and not read it further!

Black Widow: A book with a kick ass female protagonist

A Darker Shade of Magic‘s Lila Bard. This girl is fierce! Tough as nails and ready to fight anyone that wronged her, not to mention completely up for sailing the seas with a band of pirates. Lila Bard is definitely a truly kick ass protagonist, and she’s easily one of my favourite characters of all time.

Hawkeye: An underrated book that people should pay more attention to

Long Way Down. Bloody hell, this was a book that blew me away. It’s a poetry novel that packs a punch, and is the journey of one boy travelling down in a lift with the intent to kill his brother’s killer. The entire novel spans a few seconds, and it’s one that needs far more love than it currently gets.

Bonus Question
Loki: A book with a twist or surprise that tricked you

The Cruel Prince! It started off a little slow, building the courtly Fae scene and establishing the basis of the cruel prince himself, Cardan, and why he is how he is. I was still interested and gripped despite this though, and continued reading. Then, to my absolute surprise, a shocking scene towards the end of the book ended up with many of the Fae royalty dead. I was shocked, and definitely wasn’t expecting it.


As this is a book tag, I’m tagging…:

Read by Ray

Julie-Anne Reads

And if you’re reading this, I’m tagging you too!