Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

thirteenDespite what people may have heard or read this book doesn’t encourage teenage suicide nor does it romanticise the idea of suicide. I can’t speak for the popular Netflix series inspired by this book, simply because I haven’t watched it.

It’s important to bear in mind that teenage brains aren’t fully developed until they reach a certain age in adulthood. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, which isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. This is why a teen is more likely to make rash, illogical, dangerous and impulsive decisions. Everything is overly dramatic and every slight is the end of the world as we know it.

In the mind of  teenager every insult, imagined or real, is a reason to make a decision you can’t just undo.

The reader meets Hannah after she has made the decision to end her life. After she has convinced herself that there is no other way out of her situation other than killing herself.

Ultimately in the midst of all the drama and overhyped teenage interactions Asher is trying to deliver an important message. When someone reaches the end of their tether, and leans towards jumping off the nearest cliff, they will send out subconscious signals. The signals are there for us to see, hear and read, we just need to acknowledge them. Instead of ignoring the changes in behaviour, appearance or the almost indiscernible cries for help, we need to open our eyes and try to help.

The story starts with Clay Jensen receiving a box full of tapes, a spoken testimonial from a dead girl. A girl he knew, a girl he kissed, and a young girl who somehow thinks he belongs on a list of people who pushed her towards suicide. He has to deal with the emotional upheaval caused by this unexpected accusation and the experiences Hannah has been through. Clay also has to deal with the fact he will eventually come face to face with the other people on the list. The people who ignored her, turned her away, ridiculed and assaulted her.

Suicide brings an element of desperation with it, but also one of selfishness. Suicidal thoughts are all encompassing, especially when depression is part and parcel of the equation. There is no room for thoughts of what those left behind will have to deal with. The why, the who and the fact they didn’t see it coming and couldn’t stop it. Even when there is light at the end of the tunnel Hannah is already so enveloped by her own darkness that she chooses self destructive behaviour instead of choosing a path other than death.

I could go on and on about this book. It isn’t just a straightforward ‘everyone was mean to Hannah and that’s why she is dead’ scenario. Hannah isn’t exempt from criticism. She makes mistakes and some dodgy choices, especially in regards to Jessica and Bryce.

Hopefully this read will make someone reconsider their actions and behaviour towards their fellow humans. Teens really need to take on board that actions have consequences, rumours ruin lives, bullying is destructive and suicide is a one-way ticket with no return.

Buy Thirteen Reasons Why at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @jayasherguy @PenguinRHUK


Autopsy of a Father by Pascale Kramer

AutopsyFather 2I think it is fair to say that Kramer manages to sneak into your head-space and then lets the events unfold in front of you like a slideshow of personal memories.

Family can give you the best experiences in life, but also the worst. Parental relationships can be the foundations of your identity, however the flip-side of the coin can also be a dysfunctional relationship that means there is no foundation of identity at all or a lack of one.

Although the relationship between Ania and Gabriel takes the main stage in this story, it is so much more than a daughter’s autopsy of the relationship with her father.

Kramer rips a plaster off of the pus filled boil of immigration. She has chosen the suburbs of Paris to point a spotlight at this and the underlying racial tensions in France. To be completely fair, to France that is, it is a topic of contention in quite a lot of western countries at the moment. An issue that has swayed elections and given fodder to the right-wing. We are living in an era where we have to be very careful that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past.

Gabriel is a well-known and admired journalist until he decides to publicly support a group of young French men, who ruthlessly murdered an innocent African immigrant. The victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gabriel is vilified for his xenophobic rant. He loses his job, and his neighbours and fellow villagers aren’t afraid to show him how displeased they are by his opinion.

The former left-wing intellectual has suddenly taken on an anti-immigrant stance, which is sort of hypocritical considering that his wife was Iranian. His family structure sort of mirrors that of his home country. His half French and half Iranian daughter embraces her dead mother’s culture and religion. He loved his wife, and yet he rejects his daughter. He used to embrace the diversity in his country and now he rejects anything but the French culture.

Ania is unaware of all of this. The two of them have a fractured relationship. She never lived up to his expectations and he never accepted her shortcomings. The two of them are strangers bound by nothing more than blood. Ania isn’t really bothered by the lack of interest, at least that is what she tells herself. What really gets her goat is when her father treats his grandson, her son, with the same disinterest. I think most readers will be able to comprehend the difference. You get used to the indifference or the negative qualities your parents have and accept them as part of their eccentricities, however we react like protective parents when our children are subjected to the same personality flaws.

There is a moment in the story when Gabriel and Ania are in the same train compartment, and yet he pretends he hasn’t seen them. Almost as if he doesn’t want to associate himself with the two of them in public. Are these the actions of a xenophobe or of a man ashamed of his past actions? Is this realisation the reason he commits suicide?

In a way the story ends without any definitive answers. There is no clarification between Ania and Gabriel, and no resolution in general. Of course that is the reality of life and relationships, sometimes conflicts aren’t resolved.

Aside from the parallels Kramer draws to the political situation in France, which is quite cleverly done in the context of a family setting, I really think she portrayed the relationship between daughter and father well. The dysfunctional side of family, the distances that grow between people, and the hard and hurtful truth that usually remains unspoken.

Buy Autopsy of a Father at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

dont closeThere are plenty of hot topics in this psychological thriller, however I think there was one in particular that resonated more with me. Possibly because in this story it is the root and cause of everything else, all the other problems to come, and perhaps also because it is so commonplace nowadays.

Divorce, separation, custody battles and enforced patchwork families. That doesn’t mean some families don’t manage amicable arrangements, however the emotional trauma still remains the same. Depending on how vicious and vindictive things get the emotional damage is unmeasurable.

For the twins, Robin and Sarah, the moment they are ripped apart is the beginning of the end. The reader meets two happy little girls in the past and then moves forward to encounter two unhappy women in the future. The paths the two of them take are completely different. Robin finds fame and enough anxiety to fill a house, whereas Sarah creates a family, but is ousted by her manipulative husband.

It is fair to say that all is not what it seems, as the layers of this story are slowly torn away like someone peeling an onion. The anger, abuse and hate ripples through the two families over the years. It leaves victims in its wake.

Seddon confronts the reader with quite a few uncomfortable truths, and yet simultaneously she spins a web of fear, deceit and mayhem around them. It is done in such cunning way that you don’t see the twist coming until it nearly smacks you in the face.

Buy Don’t Close Your Eyes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hollyseddon and @Atlanticbooks

Read Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

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I have always liked Havers, so I really feel sorry for the way she is treated by her superior officer. What makes her a good detective is her gut instinct and the terrier like grip on the cases she works on. She isn’t interested in conforming her looks, behaviour and attitude towards work and life.

Unfortunately non of that gels with what the upper echelon of the police ranks believes she should look like or do.

I also think the author needs to give us back Lynley and Havers as a team. Havers and Winnie are amusing, but the Lynley and Havers bring in the gold. The way they bounce of each other in dialogue and actions is what has always made this duo so interesting.

Instead George has Lynley bouncing his upper class wit off Dorothea, Ardery and Dairdre. It is funny, however it doesn’t have the same charm as with Havers.

Then there is snobby ‘could do with a drink’ Ardery, who has it in for Havers. Sorry, there is only so much we will send you to the end of the earth blackmail, I can take. That particular sub-plot has become repetitive.

George likes to string and twist her plots in peculiar ways. In this story she casts a wide net (really wide) and slowly draws it in again (very slowly).

Personally I kind of liked the diabolical character of Caroline and the way her meddling ways seem just a little obsessive at the beginning. Just how disturbed she really is only becomes evident a lot later in the book.

Everything links together in the end with an admittedly uncomfortable and shocking ending. Very much a classic George, who doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.

As for Lynley, well I would like to see him back in field instead of pining over some female. Can’t he pine and work at the same time? Let’s get him back to solving crimes with Havers, whilst she is busy breaking rules. At the moment they are both bound by rules and bored till the point of madness.

George needs to either let them both back out of the box to play police together or let go of the two of them for good.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell


This is the type of book that tends be the opposite of what you were expecting. Is it about family? Absolutely. Do they have many secrets? Certainly. The focus and entire plot revolves around the house the children of this family grew up in, more importantly it is also about the woman of the house. The mother, their mother, their father’s wife and the grandmother of their children.

Lorelei draws such an intense line around her own personal world, often there isn’t much space left for anyone else. Not even those closest to her.

Throughout the duration of the book it becomes apparent that the downwards spiral of Lorelei is linked to Rhys and his tragic death. Indeed everyone seems to carry such a heavy layer of guilt because of his death. All roads seem to lead back to him.

I really enjoyed the complexity of this story.We tend to see hoarders in a certain light on television. Jewell gives the reader a well researched insight into the mind-set and struggle of a hoarder, and their family members.

In the book the ‘why’ of the hoarding is described in a really sweet way, but very specific to Lorelei. She needs to hold on to everything, because each item is attached to a memory and to hold on to the memory she has to keep the item in question. Seems completely logical when you think about it, however when those items start filling up each space in the house.

When it came to the family dealing with Lorelei the sense of utter helplessness and of giving up was really sad. Obviously dealing with their own problems has to come first, despite that there seems to a level of disconnect between all of them and perhaps they even neglect their mother. Neglect is a really harsh word, especially when you consider how hard it must be for all of them to deal with her obsession.

Overall I think this book was a surprise, it had a layer of depth and sincerity to it I just wasn’t expecting.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery


I found it hard to sympathize with Anna. There seems to be this underlying selfish narcissistic personality trait, which seems to influence a lot of her decisions. It isn’t so much the fact that she isn’t sure or she wants change, it is more about I want and I want it now. In that respect she resembles Rosa, although it doesn’t become evident till a lot later in the story.

This is especially apparent in her relationship, interactions and conversations with Ruth. When the oldest son returns home to find Goldilocks sleeping in his bed and eating his porridge, Anna looks to Ruth as if to say now what shall we do?

What one earth does she think Ruth should do?

First of all there is no ‘we’ where Ruth and Anna are concerned they’re not a couple. Anna is the intruder and Patrick is simply returning home. There is no question of what needs to happen next.

To me it seemed as if Ruth at some point in time became an excellent substitute for Rosa or at least Anna perceives her that way subconsciously. The level of intimacy, the natural assumption Ruth will drop everything at once for Anna. The almost inappropriate and highly unusual relationship they have, despite Ruth being the ex to Anna’s boyfriend and the mother of his son.

By inappropriate I mean Anna making Ruth more important than her current boyfriend. Not that ex’s and new partners can’t be friends, in this it is more about Anna not understanding the boundaries she is clearly overstepping. Wrapped in her bubble of me there is little space for others.

Simultaneously the reader learns about Sandra, mother to Rosa and Anna, and the tragedy that shaped her past and future. Proving that secrets are like weights tied to the bottom of our boats sailing across the unpredictable waters of life. The kind of secret than can cause implosions and the destruction of family units.

One of the more important sub-plots threaded through the story of the people left behind after a loved one has gone missing. Obviously the actual missing person gets all the attention, and leaving aside the tragedy connected to a scenario of this sort or possible fates of the missing persons, this focuses on their loved ones.

The not knowing, the constant fear, the images of possible pain being inflicted upon the missing person, but in the end the just not knowing what happened to them causes inexplicable grief.

This story is about the aftermath of such an event and way it shapes each day for those left behind from that day forward.

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley.