Saturday, 24 September 2016

Mini Reviews - Born Scared and Shift

Born ScaredElliot is terrified of almost everything. 
From the moment he was born, his life has been governed by acute fear. The only thing that keeps his terrors in check are the pills that he takes every day. It's Christmas Eve, there's a snowstorm and Elliot's medication is almost gone. His mum nips out to collect his prescription. She'll only be 10 minutes - but then she doesn't come back, Elliot must face his fears and try to find her. She should only be 400 metres away. It might as well be 400 miles...

Prior to reading the press releases attached to my copy of Born Scared, I'd never really heard much about Kevin Brooks or his works. The Bunker Diary had been mentioned to be a couple of times in passing by friends who feel they will forever be scarred by what they read in those pages, one or two have thumbed through iBoy in Waterstones, but for me, now having read Born Scared, I think it's best that I stay away from other books by this author, as Brooks' latest novel just wasn't for me. 

Turning over the press release, and reading through the details of publication, what caught my eye most significantly was the notion of 'terrors' and 'pills.' To me, this blurb somewhat read as a metaphor for Anxiety. As someone who continues to tackle Anxiety on a frequent basis, I immediately felt a burning desire to read this, wondering if I would find even a very weak connection to my understanding of Anxiety. Elliot's fear wasn't quite what I expected - he's scared of everything. His fear is palpable; so intense and overwhelming, and utterly, utterly real to the reader. This had me hooked, longing to keep reading, but that being said, it was the only thing that kept me reading.

Aside from the description and senses surrounding Elliot's fear, I simply didn't click with this. I didn't care for the story, I didn't care for the outcome, and maybe that is because of my changing tastes. My development as someone who has read  an awful  lot of young adult fiction and isn't so new to the genre but is instead moving out of the genre, nothing felt new or refreshing in this story besides Elliot's terror of the world around him.

There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile. The first was that she had no parents – they were dead. And the second was that they were dead because Miranda had killed them. Olive hasn’t always been a loner – she used to be the school queen-bee. But that was before her breakdown. Now she can only watch as new girl Miranda latches on to her ex-best friend Katie, talking like Katie, dressing like Katie and even going out with Katie’s boyfriend. And then Katie dies. Everyone thinks it was a tragic accident. But Olive isn’t so sure. What if Miranda really is a killer . . ?

Again, whilst not a book that I loved, there was an element to Shift that felt greatly appealing. Bursting with twists and turns, this is a highly unpredictable read. Initially, Shift reads like any other conventional shape-shifting novel that you might find when browsing the shelves of mystery and urban fantasy, but when the reality of Shift unravels into a metaphor for the emotional turmoil Katie encounters as part of an eating disorder, the meaning of this novel grows in profundity. Bailey's twist on her allegories and metaphors for mental health throughout the novel were refreshing. Having a take on mental health that's so distinguished in its own right from mainstream young adult fiction can certainly to appeal to a variety of demographics - readers of YA and not; young and old.

The supernatural elements of Shift are at minimum unsettling. Whilst dangerous and eerie, the elements of paranoia and psychological manipulation run deeper than what can first be interpreted, going further so as to question the meanings of identity, grief, previous history, and friendship. Where the cover exudes a typical thriller-film-poster air, within its pages, Em Bailey successfully overthrows any first thoughts on the novel that may be gathered from its outer shell. However, the subtlety of the book [or lack thereof] is its greatest downfall. This is a factor which will differ from person to person, many parts of Shift are predictable, perhaps too predictable. Glaring hints littered the text, and twists that will have been intended to be shocking hit me as expected. Again, this will differ from reader to reader, some people will see it, some people won't; but as someone who did, the proportions of the hints, which could have been toned down a little, took away from the overall reading experience. 

Thank you as always to Electric Monkey at Egmont for sending Born Scared and Shift to me in exchange for honest reviews. Born Scared was published on September 8th 2016 and Shift's rebranded cover has been available since July 28th 2016

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