I read and review Young Adult lit!
I really enjoyed this book!
Sara Shepard’s' Pretty Little Liars' and The 'Lying Game' books have really soured me on the 'bag things happening to popular girls' genre. Her characters are unsympathetic brats; her books are poorly plotted so that she can drag the mystery out for a whole series and her narrator grating to listen to.
Todd Strasser, however, has done the same genre much, much better.
Somehow a man was able to write far less annoying teenage girls! While they were not exactly complex they weren't just stereotypes trying not to seem like stereotypes by having really specific Starbucks coffee preferences (urgh…a pet peeve of mine in teen literature)!
I also found parents, teachers, cops etc all normal/relatable unlike the caricatures used to create problems for the main character in so many other YA books.
As I said the lead wasn’t exactly complex, she just seemed normal and worked for the story but she also came through for herself, not having to rely on a cute boy which I love seeing.
Initially the book makes you feel a little clueless because so many points of view bombard you with little explain but that’s builds genuine intrigue for the reader AND it is rewarded as things slowly become clearer.
Chunks of mystery are not spelled out for readers either – yes, you’re treated as if you have half a brain and have to put bits and pieces from the various points of view together!
I also love how it had almost a slasher movie vibe with some chase/stalking scenes and they actually put me right on edge. Of course, I was walking to my car late at night through empty hospital grounds at the time…. Still I can honestly say the book gave me some chills.
The narrator is a problem. She’s pitched and squeaky and sounds so similar to the one that does Sara Shepard’s books I kept forgetting this wasn’t one of hers…you know, until the plot starting going somewhere and reminded me it couldn’t be!
Anyway, I’d definitely recommend this as a teen mystery and will check out the rest of Todd Strasser’s work!
Favourite was quick read more akin to short-fiction than a full novel. It wasted no time on set-up, extraneous sub-plot or relationship drama.
We jump straight into Angel Favourite’s near abduction which terrifyingly mirrors her mothers’ unexplained disappearance five years earlier. Angel reluctantly attends dinner with her attacker’s elderly mother and is sequestered for two nights at the family’s estate. Soon it becomes clear the similarities between her and her mother’s case are no coincidence.
The book progresses swiftly through the straightforward plot but manages to build a claustrophobic and foreboding atmosphere. The characters are utilitarian because the focus is story, not any personal arcs but they are serviceable if not totally compelling.
I personally had trouble connecting to the action thanks to the usual ‘clueless female heroine’ clichés – dropping their weapon halfway through the final chase, going to check out a noise by alone, injuries being acquired to prevent escape only to disappear when convenient etc.
Overall, Favourite wasn’t a bad read but it failed to fully engage me. I’m more of a character-driven reader which is why I don’t usually connect with short fiction. Favourite had an interesting enough premise to capture my attention but ran a little long without the characters and subplots to fill it out. Had Favourite been trimmed to a tight, short thriller I imagine I’d have quite enjoyed it.
I still recommend Favourite as a rare YA thriller/crime entry because that is an underappreciated genre that I wish there was more of.
Tom Leveen doesn't shy away from serious and modern teen issues in his books which is one of the reasons I both enjoy and respect his work.
Random pulled out the big guns - online bullying and teenage suicide - and as always, Leevan took a unique and thoughtful approach the serious material.
I recommend his work to anyone wanting to look at great modern teen literature grounded in the real world.
Unfortunately, though, Random wasn't a particularly great read on its own merits. Don't get me wrong, it's better than 90% of the post-apocalyptic- vampire-love-triangle stories currently packing out the YA genre but felt incomplete.
I have to mark Random down more for what wasn't on the page than what was. Frankly, I wish it could have been longer, fuller, more detailed and with more resolution.
No, there would have been no easy answers but I think the poignancy was undercut by having to keep the main character on a narrow arc and having the climax hinge on a punchy ‘twist’.
Anyone wanting a YA read on real-world social issues should definitely check out Random but this isn’t a life changing read (and keep an eye on Tom Leveen because his breakout novel has to be just around the corner!)