Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

When Alex Morris loses her fiance in dreadful circumstances, she moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Alex takes a job at a Pupil Referral Unit, which accepts the students excluded from other schools. These are troubled, difficult kids and Alex is terrified of what she's taken on.                                             
There is one class - a group of five teenagers - who intimidate Alex and every other teacher on The Unit. But with the help of the Greek tragedies she teaches, Alex develops a rapport with them. Finding them enthralled by tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge, Alex even begins to worry that they are taking her lessons to heart, and that a whole new tragedy is being performed, right in front of her...

Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.

Having recently finished a long run of Young Adult novels I was pleased to receive something different and fresh in the form of 'The Amber Fury' by the talented, new author Natalie Haynes. Being a teacher myself, the setting of a Pupil Referral Unit definitely appealed to me and having taken Classical Civilisation as an A-Level I was thrilled to discover the theme of Greek tragedies underlying this exciting plot.

This story is written in the 1st person from the view of the protagonist, Alex. Having suddenly lost her fiance and feeling overwhelmed by grief, Alex moves to Edinburgh to start a new life working at The Pupil Referral Unit. Here she meets one particularly difficult class of 4th years whose first lesson with Alex descends into a barrage of abuse, swearing and chaos. 'You don't want to be here with us. So why would we want to be here with you?'

The author, Natalie Haynes, has been very clever with her use of time, switching effortlessly between the past and the present. The novel starts in the present at a meeting between Alex and her lawyer and it is this knowledge that immediately grips the reader. It is clear, from the start, that something terrible has happened involving Alex's 4th year students but the who, whats and hows are left unanswered until the very end of the novel. 

'I'm just going to answer as simply as I can: I met them on the 6th January 2011, in the basement room at 58 Rankeillor Street. And I wouldn't have believed any of them could do something so monstrous.'

Alongside it's exciting plot, Natalie Haynes seamlessly weaves tales of popular Greek tragedies to both her 4th year students and the reader. I remember reading some of these plays in school and it has certainly inspired me to re-read some of these excellent stories of murder, revenge and fate. With it's interesting Greek history this novel succeeds on every level. I found myself unable to put the book down, desperate to know how the events from these murderous plays would begin to come true.  

'Everyone has to live the life they have, don't they? It doesn't matter if it's fated to be that way or if it just happens. You can't say you have no responsibility for doing what you do. Even if you have no control over your life, you should live like you have a choice.'

Another clever element to this novel, was the idea of chapters being split into Acts, just like a Greek play. The story was very well written, easy to read and will certainly hold your interest from beginning to end. As stated in the blurb, 'The Amber Fury is a dark mystery of a novel about loss, obsession and the deep, abiding human need to connect.' A brilliant read that I highly recommend! 


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I've always believed them. 

Until now.

Now everything has changed. Now, I'd rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years suffocated by a lie. 

There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it. 

Then, at last, they found the cure.

Star Rating

This series has been on my TRL for a long time and, having thoroughly enjoyed Lauren Oliver's new offering, 'The Panic', I decided to finally read the first book in this popular series.

What if love was a disease? This question sums up the dystopic idea behind this brilliant novel by Lauren Oliver. The protagonist, Lena, lives in a terrifying vision of the future where society has banned love, here known as 'The Deliria.' The government, otherwise known as the Consortium, believe love to be a terminal disease with symptoms such as depression, insomnia and anxiety.

'The deliria moves around us with invisible, sweeping tentacles, choking us.'

In order to save people from this harrowing disease, scientists have perfected a cure - to rid people of the emotion 'love' and match them with a partner for life. Lena's procedure to receive the cure is in exactly ninety-five days, on September 3, her birthday. Of course, with nearly all YA novels, the reader realises early on that Lena will meet a boy and fall in love. It is this knowledge that makes the novel all the more exciting as we begin to predict how Lena will escape the cure and live the life she wishes to lead with her true love Alex.

Lauren Oliver is an extremely talent writer who uses a very poetic style. At times I felt that her similes were a little overused and with such a strong plot line these were sometimes unnecessary. However, through her descriptive writing, Lauren Oliver manages to create very real characters that the reader can empathise with completely. All the way through the novel I found myself wondering what I would do if I was in a similar situation. On one hand Lena wants to please her family and conform to rule but she loves Alex and can't imagine life without him. 

Towards the end of the novel there is a horrifying scene involving Lena's family that was very reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale.' Lauren Oliver had succeeded in creating a haunting vision of the future. With it's excellent, cliffhanger ending Lauren Oliver sets this novel up perfectly for the next in the series which I will be sure to be reading!