Bleak House by Charles Dickens
I will start with the reason for my September TBR being unusually short. This. Book.
I could tell you that I found all 800 pages of this book enriching and educational, and that I enjoyed immersing myself in the mysteries of the Chancery and missing children – but I can’t. Not ‘won’t’, can’t. This book took me every single day of September to read, because it would send me to sleep after ten pages. Now I’m somehow very well-rested and completely exhausted.
If you couldn’t tell, I had to read this book for university, and weirdly, I much prefer studying it than actually reading. If you’re interested in the other books I have to read for my literature course this year, you can find that list here!
I will say that I did enjoy the atmosphere of Bleak House, as I have done with the other Dickens novels I’ve read. I just find his plots too dense, his writing too padded, and his characters too shallow. I considered reading it in chunks, following the pattern of its serialisation, but with university starting, I just didn’t have the time. I wonder now whether that would have changed my reading experience, but for now, I’m glad to have it behind me.
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
With Dickens looming over me, I wanted to read some contemporary YA to cleanse my reading palate. Of course, I didn’t go for anything light and fluffy, because why would I take care of myself like that? Instead, I went straight into this firework of a book.
Romy Grey wears her lipstick like armour, ever since the night she was raped by Kellan Turner, the sheriff’s son. Romy refuses to be a victim, but speaking up has cost her everything. No one wants to believe Kellan is not the golden boy they thought he was, and Romy has given up trying to make herself heard. But when another girl goes missing after a party, Romy must decide whether the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.
The fear and anxiety that pervades through this book is contrasted by Courtney Summers’ apparent lack of it. She writes with no holds barred, no topic too sensitive or to be tip-toed around. It’s so refreshing to see in a YA novel. Roma’s worries are very adult: money, trauma, intimacy. Or, what society categorizes as ‘adult’, when it is the reality for many teenagers. Young adults who go through the same situations as Roma does in this novel, deserve to see their stories told in ways that are not always sugar-coated or spoken of in hushed tones. There’s enough hushing in the real world; there needs to be room for books to be loud about it. This is definitely one of those books, and I loved it.
All of This is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Again, with Bleak House weighing me down, I decided to pick up a YA thriller, something fast-paced and interesting to take my mind off the reading process and just wrap me in a story. All of This Is True was perfect for that.
The story follows three friends – two speaking to a journalist, a third sharing her diary with New York City Magazine, all of them speaking out about the now-famous story written by their favourite author – Fatima Ro. But they aren’t giving glowing reviews, because the bestseller Fatima has written, is ripped straight from the lives of the three teens, and the secrets they shared with her. With one friend in a coma as a result and the friendship between the three girls in ruins, this multi-media story pieces together exactly what happened with Fatima, and why their secrets coming to light is so disastrous.
I loved the concept of this book from the moment I read the synopsis. As well as the plot being interesting, Lygia Day Peñaflor knows how to write entitled rich girls. I was rolling my eyes at them for half the time, but I found each of their characters distinctive and different from one another, so much so that when one described her take on the situation, I was quickly flipping the next page to see what the other’s version of events were. It was this that made the book fly past so quickly for me, and what made the book exactly what I needed.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Oh, this book. My Dark Vanessa is not only my favourite of the month, but it is firmly in my top five favourite books of the year. Maybe of all time.
Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful peope in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.
Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.
Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility she that she might be a victim, and just one of many.
I’ve written a full review for this book, which you can find here.
And those were the books I read this month! Have you read any of these, or do any catch your eye? Let me know and we can chat!