What I read in March, part one: Queen of the Night, One Long Thread and Bunheads

Friday, March 30, 2012

Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall
I adored This Is Shyness (reviewed here), and have been looking forward to this immensely. I expected great things, which usually results in disappointment - but not this time. The entire time I was reading this, I was imagining it as an awesome graphic-novel-styled film - the setting is so ridiculously brilliant, and Shyness becomes even more magical in the sequel - the cardboard forest! the Queen of the Night's manor! the velodrome! I would very much like to steal all of Leanne Hall's wonderful ideas (when I finished reading I was very sad to have to return to the real world). So much inventiveness! Often I stay away from sequels and series, because the way each novel relies on each other means it isn't as conclusive and whole a reading experience as a standalone novel, but Queen of the Night works perfectly on its own, and (dare I say this!) is perhaps even better than This Is Shyness. It starts slow, but it gets brilliant as it progresses. There are scenes near the end that are everything I wanted Inception to be. Former Kidd, Blake, is my favourite character - she's smart and sweet. The hellcats seem awesome (so little detail!). I sincerely hope there is another book coming. The Doctor and the Gentleman have to have a showdown or something. I can't believe this hasn't been turned into a movie or graphic novel yet (or at the very least a three-part miniseries!). You would be very wise to check it out. I didn't even talk about the plot there, did I? You don't really need to know about it. Just go get the book.

One Long Thread by Belinda Jeffrey
The publisher's blurb sums this up very succinctly: When divorce rips Ruby Moon's family apart and tragedy traps her twin, Sally, in a cocoon from which she might never escape, Ruby learns that love is never simple. A beautifully written and very much character-driven story. My favourite scenes involved Ruby's grandmother, Pearl, who is my absolute favourite character - she lives in Tonga and makes silk and is very relaxed about everything. The opening chapter of the novel (which I so wish was somewhere on the internet so I could share it with you!) is gorgeously written, and extraordinarily sad. I did find the romance somewhat unnecessary - perhaps there is a rule I'm not aware of that all YA novels must have romance? But the familial relationships are dealt with in a very realistic manner. What this novel lacks in plot it makes up for in wonderful writing. Ruby is endearing and gorgeous, and your heart breaks for her.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Moving beyond the very unfortunate title, this is a lovely little book. Slow-paced and character-driven, it centres around Hannah Ward, a 19-year-old dancer with an elite ballet company. She begins to question her dedication when she meets a quirky university musician type and thinks about having an actual life. Reading about the author, it's apparent that it's highly autobiographical, and the detail about life as a professional dancer is really what brings the most interest to the story (their hatred of the Nutcracker, for example, and the obsessive exercise, and the competitiveness, all very convincing). How self-centred the protagonist is becomes a little tiring, and the extra romance is pretty much superfluous, but it's sweet and engaging all the same. I'd recommend this to dancers and those interested in dance, and perhaps if you are just looking for a nice, easy contemp YA read. It pales in comparison to the previous two novels, but it's also not emotionally draining in the way that devastatingly good novels are. Which you need in a book sometimes.
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