Lorali | Laura Dockrill

Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn’t exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from. Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become human. But along with Lorali’s arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory’s bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway?

I was extremely cautious to not confuse this book’s ideas with The Little Mermaid, as I felt like that film did a similar thing with Twilight… it seems like nowadays whenever there is a mermaid reference there is this unspoken rule that red hair is mandatory! The choice for Warner Bros to not make Ariel’s hair blue shocked a lot of people… I am guessing they are just trying to be indie. Anyway, I think it is interesting how one film could change the world’s viewpoints on a certain ideal. The marketing is strong in this one… anyone get it? Star Wars? *sigh*

I found that the writing style was very much describing the appearances of characters in great detail, and less about their surroundings. This could indicate that the location almost was not that necessary and it was more about what they looked liked and their characteristics – but what I found interesting about this wonderfully written book, is that the formatting of sentences was completely different, depending on the person who was speaking. Rory’s style is relatively standard, and talks in detailed but short sentences. Lorali’s has short, punchy sentences which can symbolise her trying to find her voice and not being used to vocalising her thoughts. The Sea has a long-winded but calming sort of flow, reminding me of an old man sitting on a tree stump (maybe with a pipe in his hand) telling this grand tale to his grandchildren. I only really clocked this until two thirds into it, but it was a detail that I very much appreciated.

I felt like this book raised some really interesting political topics, and yet it was subtle enough that you did not feel like everything said was a symbolic message. Take Opal for example, she came into the human world with good intentions to build bridges between the Mer and the Walkers, but when she is suddenly showered in gifts from Christian Dior and Prada she cuts her mermaid ties and decides to live a life of luxury. Maybe a reference to politicians? It is definitely something to ponder about…

*Spoiler alert in this paragraph*

Another thing that got me thinking… I was extremely shocked when Otto decided to leave Elvis for the bird-women, but what made me even more shocked was when Elvis was begging for mercy, calling for his mum and dad… it was devastating to read. It made me think about mercy and forgiveness. What Elvis did was awful, yet the act in itself has a very immature mindset – the “I thought if she didn’t like you anymore, things would be back to normal.” mindset is common in most teen flicks… it just happened to involve a mermaid. I think what Dockrill was trying to communicate was that maybe Elvis might not have died if The Ablegares maybe thought a little bit more rationally and could have saved a life. In their eyes, he was a weasel and an awful friend… but in my eyes, in his final moments, I saw a scared boy who just wanted to be recognised by his loved ones.

*Spoiler finished*

As a feminist, of course I want female characters that I could relate to, someone that I could identify with. When meeting Rory’s mother, I assumed she would be a soppy, absent mother, who would do nothing but mope about all day. It is understandable why she might have been like that, but there would not have been much character growth. What made me extremely excited about this character was when she said, “I want to be strong.” That made a huge impact on her and Rory’s relationship, showing that she no longer wants to wallow in sadness and is determined to finally be a proper mother to him… which I find incredibly and depressingly ironic, considering what happens with her encounter with the bird-women…

I admit I was sad at the way the book ended, as I felt there were too many loose ends. The one thing I did wish was that Rory had more time with the pirates, it seemed like a rushed Marvel montage when the superhero is training for the big climactic moment in the film. I really wanted this relationship with The Ablegares to be fully fleshed out, and I wanted to see a real bond with all of them. To me, it just felt rushed.

Plus, I felt Lorali’s supposed love for Rory was underdeveloped. I believed Rory when he said he loved her because of the build-up – the way he described his heart beating faster, the way he was speechless when he touched her skin.. it was the small things that really made the relationship believable. Whereas for Lorali, I only really noticed that she loved Rory until she said it out loud… in the last 100 pages of the book. Maybe there were some signals that I missed, but it just felt like Lorali’s feelings for Rory were hurried to let the audience know that they do love each other.

In summary, though the ending may have left me wanting a sequel, I felt that this book was absolutely gorgeous. I loved all of the characters, all of them had brilliant character development and were believable. The way Dockrill described the tapestries on the Mer made me read in awe. This book, I think, would be perfect for young adults and for teenagers (hence why I found it and bought it at YALC) – just… go and buy it now!

I shall not be writing another review before Christmas, so I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and that your holiday includes snow falling off of your rooftops! I shall see you in two weeks!

With love,

The Bookworm

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The Incredible Journey | Sheila Burnford

Instinct told them that the way home lay to the west. And so the doughty young Labrador retriever, the roguish bull terrier and the indomitable Siamese set out through the Canadian wilderness. Separately, they would soon have died. But, together, the three house pets faced starvation, exposure, and wild forest animals to make their way home to the family they love.

Things have gotten pretty hectic recently, during my time at university. Auditions, assessments, the latest gossip… So I decided to pick another novella to relieve the pressure!

I love animals, I absolutely adore them! I admit I am one of those weirdos that screams at puppy videos. Recently, I cried at Buzzfeed’s video of ‘Drunk Girls Surprised by Puppies’ (to be honest, I’d react like that if I was sober…) Therefore, this book was right up my alley! I thoroughly enjoyed this novella from beginning to end, and not just because it starred some adorable canines and a beautiful Siamese cat.

When I was doing my research to update my library on my tumblr page, I found that Sheila Burnford did not write the book intentionally for children – but it definitely is meant for a younger market. The style is very simple, and the chapters are approximately 10 pages long, so idealistically young people would really appealing to this book. Also the themes are not very challenging to grasp; love, a sense of home, dedication, etc. Though it definitely would be a very nice book for parents as well, as it’s a light read you can relax to when the chaotic day is at its end. Plus you can leave it around and not worry that your children are not going to pick up your copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

I have four pets in total, though my dad owns the fourth one. I currently have my pooches as my desktop! So I understand this book on a personal level, and I know which pooch would be whom in The Incredible Journey (I’ll put a picture of them below and tell you!). When the guardian of the pets tells the original owners they have run away, obviously the family are devastated – and I would definitely react the same way, so this book is also relatable to the millions and millions of pet owners out there! All in all, a very diverse book that can appeal to different types of people with different lifestyles.

IMG_5519

Rosie (11): Bodger, Jasper (9): Tao, Bertie (6 months): Luath

Whilst reading this book, it definitely reminded me of when I read The Call of the Wild by Jack London – it made me think that The Incredible Journey could have gone an incredibly dark route, and it did at one point! It was really surprising, seeing Bodger brutally kill another dog – but I guess it had to be in the book to remind everyone that dogs still have that wild instinct. Yes, dogs have been domesticated, and they enjoy human company (well, it depends on the dog) but we have to remember they did derive from wolves (at least I think so…) and still have the power to cause major damage to others. Luckily my dogs are the soppiest dogs on the planet!

One thing that I thought about was how unrealistic it would have been for the family to find out the pets’ plan, if it was in today’s culture. The equivalent of Londridge ringing everyone to find the animals’ whereabouts, would probably be a Facebook post on a group chat – and it would be a long, long essay that no one can be bothered to read, and just end up blanking it. So lucky that Burnford decided to write it in the 50s!

I admit today is a very short review, as of course it is a novella and I couldn’t really think of anything else to write about – but check out my YouTube video as I’ll be posting all my Snapchat videos relating to my wonderful dogs! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

With love,

The Bookworm

Carrie | Stephen King

To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie – the first step towards social acceptance by her high school colleagues. But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she is forced to exercise her terrible gift on the town that mocks and loathes her…

I have been wanting to read this book for a while. Originally I bought it because I was doing a song from the musical adaptation for my singing exam, so I felt like I should probably read the book… which I never did. I never watched the multiple film adaptations either, but I did watch the musical at the Southwark Playhouse this year, so I already knew what the ending was whilst reading this book.

Thing is, it’s not that chilling – even though the New York Times says on the blurb ‘Guaranteed to chill you.’. I felt similar when I watched the film The Shining, it was a tad creepy at times but I was never horrified by the turn of events. Though I was sort of emotionally invested in the characters, I felt like they were caricatures of people rather than genuine people with genuine thoughts. I don’t know… maybe people in the 70’s were different to my generation.

I was surprised by the format of the book as there were no chapters whatsoever. There were breaks of the story when King would use fictional excerpts from newspapers and testimonies related to the ‘White Incident’ – but I found it quite exhausting. It felt like a huge effort to get through the book and retain concentration throughout the whole story, and it got to the point where I was not really paying attention to the story and ended up skimming over all of the details… which is never a good thing!

There is also one huge flaw that really annoyed me… how on Earth did Carrie manage to avoid hearing about puberty? From what I have looked at on the internet, there would have been a form of sex education classes. Did Carrie’s mother make her not go to those classes? Were those classes not very good when it came to the menstrual cycle? Plus, even though Carrie had no friends she would have heard the girl’s talking about it in the changing rooms or in class in general. It seems incredibly benign to me that she never knew about periods until the final year of high school, and it is definitely not explained properly in order for it to be believable. Then again, it could be like how I have managed to avoid watching Titanic or The Sound of Music… I can hear the judgement falling upon me now.

Of course one of the central themes of this book is bullying, as I said in my previous review I was bullied frequently at my first high school (I moved schools before year 10) – but I do say it was not to the extent that someone would want to throw a bucket of pigs’ blood over my head. It just boggles my mind as to why people would want to do that – why would anyone want to go through such a huge effort, to plan and execute something to harm other people? And apparently it was highly accurate! I had an American lecturer for my course (he’s now in Blackpool doing a show), and we asked him if American teen flicks were accurate to real life schools, and he said it was! They used to call him swishy because he managed to avoid being tormented through all of high school. #schoolgoals!

Another theme in this book is definitely religion. I respect everyone for what they believe in, personally I do not think people have the right to tell others what to believe in and what god they should or should not think is real. However, Margaret White just boggles my mind. Even though she is a devout Christian, she behaves like she is possessed by the Devil. The weird thing is, there are probably people just like Margaret White in this world, who believe that the menstrual cycle is a punishment for our sins. That punching people because they do not believe in something is acceptable (even though it is extremely contradicting). On the other hand, this character is obviously not like most Christians in the world, but the way Christianity is portrayed in Carrie almost parodies the religion – it most likely was not King’s intention to do so, but it can come across that way and could offend a lot of people.

Just a quick side note, I honestly think I received a dodgy copy of this book – because at random points there are brackets in the middle of paragraphs, with no punctuation or capital letters. For example:

There was no full-length mirror in the house.

(vanity vanity all is vanity)

There are worst cases, but I was just flicking through the book and that was what I found, but you get the gist. If done properly, I guess it would have been effective. However without the correct grammar I just eventually skipped the brackets, even though they might have made a huge significance to the story. If anyone out there knows that this was King’s creative decision or simply that the copy I got was from a dodgy publisher, please let me know!

All in all, I was somewhat disappointed in what I’ve read, considering the person who wrote this is meant to be one of the greatest contemporary, horror writers to this day (and it was his fifth novel!). I appreciated the writing style, it definitely was a different and interesting one that I wouldn’t mind reading more often. I guess it’s because I have basically seen it everywhere, with the recent film adaptation with Julianne Moore and when I went to see the musical. Maybe I have just been worn out by the story… or maybe I am just not of that generation that would have found the story extremely haunting. Though I do recommend the book to others as I think it does explore very interesting topics (if you get a good copy, though!).

With love,

The Bookworm

The Ables | Jeremy Scott

It wasn’t the “sex talk” he expected. Phillip Sallinger’s dad has told him he’s a custodian—a guardian—and his genetically inherited power is telekinesis. He’ll learn to move objects with his mind. Excited to begin superhero high school until he discovers he’s assigned to a “special ed” class for disabled empowered kids, he suddenly feels like an outsider. Bullied, threatened, and betrayed, Phillip struggles, even as he and his friends—calling themselves the Ables—find ways to maximize their powers to overcome their disabilities, and are the first to identify the growing evil threatening humanity. As vital custodians disappear and the custodian leadership is mired in indecision, a mysterious and powerful figure taunts Phillip, and the enemy is poised to strike. But what if the next “one who does all,” the multi-gifted custodian predicted to come, is one of the Ables?

I just want to say this here and now, The Ables is officially in my top 5 favourite books of all time. I was excited by the premise of the story (since I am disabled myself) – it was one I did not expect from the CinemaSins creator that I have been subscribed to, for a good few years now. He definitely surpassed my expectations, as usually YouTuber books tend to be… a little nugatory. However, this book really moved me and I could never relate to a character as much as I did with The Ables. I was reading this book during show week of Dying For It (a play by Moira Buffini), which I was doing make up for. I was needed in act 2, so I had plenty of time to read before I was needed again. It got to the point where I was so invested in what was going on in the book that I did not even take in my surroundings, not acknowledging the fact that I was waiting to paint a wound on someone’s face within 10 pages of dialogue (thankfully I never missed my queue!).

The main reason why I love it so much is because of the characters. They are realistic. I have met people like Henry, Phillip, and Patrick in my life, so it was easy to picture what they would be like in a custodian world. It got me thinking though… why has this not been done before? As far as I am aware, there have not been many superheroes with a disability, that purely focused on the prejudices we have today against disabled people. Of course there is Professor X in X-Men I suppose! I have only watched the ‘First Class’ film, so I don’t have a lot of knowledge of what X’s journey is like – but from what I have heard, I don’t think being judged by society for his disability is on his list of things to deal with!

I empathise with all these characters on a deeper level because of my disability. I was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder when I was 2 and a half, which from what I gather is extremely early – most autistic kids get diagnosed at the age of six. I was extremely lucky in that respect, as I have 3 older siblings so my parents could tell I was a tad bit different from the rest. Nowadays, people cannot really tell that I am autistic unless I tell them. Sure, I struggle with body language and sarcasm sometimes, and I get super anxious about schedules and being on time and going by the plan – but as a lot of people say to me “Anyone can be like that!”. Ugh. I hate it when people say that.

Due to the fact I know the struggle of being prejudiced by fellow classmates, I felt so angry when these characters initially were forbidden from taking part in the annual SuperSim contest – purely because of their disability. It made me want to punch several people. Scott definitely wrote this story to make readers feel angry that this judgement is still present in modern day society – and it definitely works. In a way, making us angry is a good thing, as it makes us want the heroes to persevere and save the day even more.

Scott definitely wrote this book as if it were a Hollywood blockbuster, most of the exposition was done by dialogue – he was letting the characters tell the story, rather than telling the readers directly what his vision was. It was written in first person as well, so you felt more wrapped up in the story. Some people say this form of writing is a little bit lazy – but in my eyes I think it helps the reader feel really immersed throughout the book, and you really feel like Phillip is telling you the story himself.

The plot itself is incredible, though it does feel like a Batman-esque backstory for these characters. It seems to me that all these characters just had incredibly bad luck throughout this book – at times it made me want to throw this book against a wall screaming, “WILL YOU JUST LET THEM BE HAPPY FOR ONCE?!” I think Scott was trying to make readers root for these characters, because they have been through difficult times. However, I think readers will still be interested in the story if the characters have good moments too – because you feel happy that these characters are at peace for a moment in time, and they are really enjoying the moment, before things start to go turmoil. Of course, The Ables go to Jack’s pizza place frequently as a hang out spot to chill and plan for the next SuperSim – but I guess what I also wanted was to hear them not talk about the SuperSim, or Finch, or anything that was related to the main plot of the book. I understand that Scott is trying to communicate that these are kids maturing extremely early because of the circumstances… but at the same time, I wanted to find a moment where The Ables were actually a bunch of 11/12 year olds just chilling and having a good time.

However, I still loved everything about this book – and I can tell Hollywood at some point will give Jeremy Scott the call to make it into a film. Whether Scott will agree to it or not is another thing! I sort of envisioned it as a web-series or a 6-parter on TV, as I do not think a film would be able to capture such a huge amount of detail of the plot that The Ables contains – and I would not be able to deal with having such tremendous cuts in order for it to be just a 2 hour film!

If, Jeremy Scott, you are reading this whilst you are sinning your next film then I want to say this to you… thank you. Thank you for giving me a story that has encouraged me to be more open about my disability, and not let it hide in the shadows as I have done for so many years. If a group of young kids can surpass the prejudices of today and be amazing superheroes, then surely I can allow a little help from others with my autism from time to time. Also, I am sinning your book for the quotation mark at the end of your blurb, even though there was not a quote to begin with!

With love,

The Bookworm

Killing The Dead | Marcus Sedgwick

Set in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts a haunting and sinister story YA story for World Book Day from prize-winning author Marcus Sedgwick. 1963. Foxgrove School near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One of the oldest and finest academies in the country – but what really goes on behind closed doors? Nathaniel Drake, the new young English teacher, Isobel Milewski, the quiet girl who loved to draw spirals, her fingers stained with green ink, Jack Lewis, who lent Isobel books – just words, just ink on paper, Margot Leya, the girl with those eyes – who are they, what part have they played in killing the dead? Let the ghosts of heaven tell their story…

You know that pleasant feeling you get, when something happens and you are very happy, but not excited enough to jump around in utter delight? You would normally respond saying “Ahh nice!” or something similar – that’s how I felt when I unravelled the wrapping paper to reveal this book. I spotted it whilst buying lunch at Morrisons and the title and cover just grabbed me instantly! The only novella I have read before this book was Of Mice And Men for GCSE… so it was nice to not read something for school for once! This book is very short (117 pages) but I found the story very much like a page-turner.

The way Sedgwick writes Killing the Dead makes you feel very immersed in this world he created. For every new chapter it would be from someone else’s point of view in order to give the story more detail, but always left you more curious than before! I did hate one character though, Nathaniel Drake, he just creeped me out and he kisses a girl without her consent and believes it’s her fault for leading him on and just… eurgh. The rest of the characters were very intriguing and likeable. It was weird because the majority of the people I imagined as these characters were people from American Horror Story…

The one thing I was disappointed by, is that you are not told what happens after the big climactic scene of Procession Day. I wanted to know what happened to all the characters, did Margot fully recover after what happened? Did Jack get the book back after Nathaniel sold it off? Did Isobel’s spirit get put to rest? So many questions and so little answers! It makes me hope that one day Sedgwick writes a sequel for the next World Book Day! I can understand why though, as it is meant to be a taster of Sedgwick’s work, to tempt you to buy his other books – it is still saddening all the same.

The themes you get from this book are very much about bullying and dealing with grief… I am fortunate right now to not have anyone to grieve over, but I can imagine how painful it can be for families and friends to go through such an ordeal. Bullying on the other hand… I have had my fair share. Looking back on it, the majority of the time that I was being bullied was most likely not malicious. It was just people using me as the butt of everyone’s jokes, I mean it’s still bullying but it never really got physical. The way Margot and her friends bullied Isobel before the pinnacle moment in the book, reminded me very much of how I felt when people were doing this to me and how small I felt because of it.

Psychological bullying is still quite harmful to a person, as we can see in Isobel’s story being made a fool of by the ‘popular girls’. I empathise with Isobel’s character quite a lot, and it reminded me how suicidal I felt a few years back – but luckily I recovered, and because of that I have loving friends, a wonderful partner, and a family that supports me. Of course, I still struggle from time to time, but don’t we all? The only difference to now and how I used to be was that I now vocalise my problems, and it makes all the difference. I know it is patronising for people to say “You never know what’s going to happen, just carry on and it will get better.” but it is true – things will change, whether it’s the people, the environment, or your job that is affecting your well-being, it will all change. Nothing ever stays the same for very long – so please, my fellow bookworms, don’t be afraid to take the leap and see where life takes you.

Since it is a novella, there isn’t really much else I can ramble about to you, so I’ll leave you to watch my review of this book on my YouTube channel, be sure to subscribe and give it a thumbs up!

With love,

The Bookworm

Ayoade On Ayoade | Richard Ayoade

In this book Richard Ayoade – actor, writer, director, and amateur dentist – reflects on his cinematic legacy as only he can: in conversation with himself. Over ten brilliantly insightful and often erotic interviews, Ayoade examines himself fully and without mercy, leading a breathless investigation into this once-in-a-generation visionary.

Richard Ayoade is one of my favourite comedians, and this book will hold a special place in my heart as I finished the book on my first night at Fresher’s week – all snuggled up in my duvet after having my first ever gin and tonic. The book itself is quite difficult to describe as there is the interview that the Amazon book description talks about, but there are also plenty of sketches (are they sketches if they are in a book?) mocking the film production side of things and how harsh the film industry can be.

The writing style of the interview was really easy to read and quite funny, I did chuckle at points (which most of you know that is hard for me to do). I was quite sad when the interview finished, as it ended about two thirds into the book and the rest of it were mini sketches, which in my opinion I did not find as funny. What I think I would have preferred was that because the interview bit had been split into different parts, so if the sketches were in between these parts I reckon I would have enjoyed it a lot more. As I was drawing to the end of the book, I ended up getting quite bored and I didn’t find it as funny as I did at the beginning. So I feel if the interview was expanded a lot more, and replaced the small sketches or maybe found a way to integrate them into the interview, I will have probably enjoyed it more.

Even though I did enjoy the book, I was not entirely sure what I was meant to get out of it. It was mainly a lot of parodies about Hollywood and that it is very cruel… but what I want from books is to learn something, develop my views of the world – or have it open my eyes to something I never really thought about in depth before. Personally I felt it was like a Richard Ayoade stand up in the form of a book. The only thing I really took from it is that people go through different methods when it comes to being creative, and you have to stay true to yourself when it comes to how you make art – otherwise you’re not being true to yourself and your style. Even then, I think that not because of the book and what it was trying to teach me, but because I respected Ayoade’s method of madness and being true to what he finds funny and sticks to it and not aiming to the mass market. On the other hand whilst writing this review, I was incredibly stumped with what to write about, because not a lot really stood out to me and didn’t really make me feel anything apart from wanting to giggle.

Ayoade on Ayoade is targeted for a very small audience – you really have to know Richard Ayoade as a comedian and as a director in order to understand some of the content. I do love Ayoade as a comedian and I enjoyed watching Submarine, so I understood the references he made. I can only really recommend it if you are a huge fan of Ayoade and really get his sense of humour. If I was honest I only really love Ayoade when he’s on panel programmes like Never Mind the Buzzcocks or Mock the Week, but I was curious about his new book and I was very excited to get it for Christmas. Unfortunately I think this book was not to my taste, which I am quite sad about.

Whilst reading Ayoade’s sketches about spiteful casting agents, it did make me wonder about whether the film industry really is that cruel.. Obviously it is a difficult world to get into, but is it really necessary to be rude to people? With people speaking out saying people should “choose kindness” in response to the “Dear Fat People” video, a lot of people are questioning whether being brutally honest really is vital to communicate your feelings to someone. Personally, I think the film industry will always be a harsh environment as so many people are competing to be the next star and end up being quite vicious. It’s that primal instinct, everyone wants that last Dairy Milk bar in that Celebrations box and we all glare at it, ready to attack the person who goes for it. But instead of giving someone a black eye, we just insult the competition saying their eyes are too close together, oh that burn.

So overall, I think you really have to know Ayoade and his style of comedy in order to enjoy this book – which does make the target audience very small (well it does depend on his fan base I suppose). I like his style of writing as it is quite simple, so loads of people are able to read it and understand it. I find the structure of the book quite irritating as I ended up getting very bored of the book when all the short sketches started. If the book ended about 100 pages earlier this review might have ended up a bit differently – but don’t get me wrong, I did find it funny! I do love his sense of humour, but I want a book that has a sense of purpose or a deep meaning, and personally I didn’t really get that.

I decided to not do ratings anymore and I am going to leave it to you fellow bookworms to decide. Not everyone has the same taste when it comes to books, and I think it is an insult to those people who may have loved the book and me stamping it with 3 stars to say it’s not very good. So if you want to have a gander at Ayoade on Ayoade it is out there for you to discover!

With love,

The Bookworm

Catherine, Called Birdy | Karen Cushman

Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man–any rich man, no matter how awful. But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call–by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all. Unfortunately, he is also the richest. Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father? Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it!

I bought this book at YALC on the Sunday, after one of the bookshop’s assistants recommended it to me as this hilarious and witty book. The book cover was quite appealing to me, as it looked like a cross between medieval and pop art, but it was only when I was doing my research for this book that it turned out that ‘Catherine, Called Birdy’ was released in 1995! 20 YEARS AGO! It simply had a redesign of the front cover, making it look brand new so people are more likely to buy it – and dammit I fell for it. Firstly I felt quite misled as it appeared that it was this brand new book that was all the rage…. but also that it was funny.

I admit that I am quite hard to impress when it comes to comedy, I usually never laugh out loud at anything – maximum you can get out of me is a chuckle or a sudden yelp when the characters are in an awkward situation. ‘Catherine, Called Birdy’ is one of those books where I could point out where Karen Cushman was trying to be funny, and it just seemed quite formulaic as you read the book. “We picked up a hairy rabbit today, almost looked like my dad’s beard” (disclaimer, not an actual quote) now imagine that for the rest of the book… It was like for every new bit of information you’d get some supposed witty line afterwards that’s meant to be funny.

The writing style is… average. What I find about diary formatted books, is that you have to cheat your way into telling a story. It’s like how an actor cheats out and faces the audience when they’re having a conversation with their friend, so the audience can see their faces – the diary format should say true to the format, but also try and give you as much detail as possible without coming across like a regular novel. It’s what I liked about ‘Six Months To Get A Life’, you had the diary format but he was still telling a story, still describing people’s houses in detail, and giving the full conversation rather than giving you the highlights. I felt like I wasn’t getting enough of the story, and I wanted Cushman to describe appearances of people to me, what they were wearing, their location, and what was the lead up to that argument? I just felt I lost out on this good plot because I wasn’t being told what was going on.

The characters themselves were really good, I think they had a lot of potential, but the writing sort of let them down. I ended up getting sick of Birdy at points and I wanted to know more about the other characters, like the mother, Perkin, and the brothers. They all have very diverse personalities, which is what made the dynamics in the dialogue very interesting to read – but I felt like this book was very self-centred towards Catherine. In a way, Cushman has created the perfect replica of a diary of a young girl in 1291…

My funny bone may be lacking in a sense of humour, but I can see a good ending when I see one. In the last 20 pages Birdy says this:

Just as a river by night shines with the reflected light of the moon, so too do you shine with the light of your family, your people, and your God. So you are never far from home, never alone, wherever you go.

If you’re reading this and thinking it’s a pretentious quote, I do not blame you as it does come across that way – but if you do decide to read the book and come across this dialogue, you will be very pleasantly surprised at the context. That moment in the book is when Birdy decides to grow up and except her lifestyle, and her family’s choices. Though it is meant to be heartwarming when this happens (and I admit I did feel this way) you also think… Hang on a minute, she should still not be forced to marry Shaggy Beard! Why is she accepting her fate and letting herself be trapped with an awful man for the rest of her life, even though she really does not give her consent? Is it the intention of Karen Cushman to say to impressionable young girls to accept what her parents want from them? Or to accept that your voice is invalid in the choices you want to make in your life? The actual moral of the story is unclear, but I admit there is a subtle character development that does make you proud of Birdy near the end of the book. I do like how Cushman teaches us about the importance of your family and they are a part of who you are, and I think it’ll help young teenagers who might not have the best relationship with their parents, and that this will encourage them to try and break that barrier.

Though in this book this plot of arranged marriage is passed off like some teenager’s crisis, the plot is actually quite saddening to read – learning how young girls from the age of 14 were being sent off to marry some 40-year-old and is expected to produce the children not long after. It all just seemed very surreal to me, and made me think about how far as a society we have come. Which is why this plot reminded me of the 10-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by her step-father and was rejected an abortion. The reason for this apparently was because she seemed healthy when they did a check-up on her and said she’d actually end up worse if she went through the abortion. Thankfully, the step-father was arrested and is waiting trial (well he was on August 13th, not sure about any updates) – but 800 years ago, it seemed to be the social norm in the upper-class for young girls to be married off and produce children as quickly as possible, which makes me realise…. We may have come a long way in England, but there are countries out there where those social norms, centuries ago, have remained to this day!

Coming back from my tangent, overall I feel like this plot had really good potential, but the lack of detail was quite frustrating, and you do have a huge interest in the book but you felt like you are not getting enough out of it. However, the ending is very satisfactory (though the morals are a tad bit worrying) and I felt like I didn’t leave Birdy’s world feeling completely unsatisfied.

Rating? I’d say 2 and a third of 5 stars (yes I’m being picky). Hopefully the next book will be better!

With love,

The Bookworm