[Book Review] That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger follows Lee Bauer, a school shooting survivor as she embarks on telling the truth of what happened that day, and how one story overtook the others, but it’s not true.

The story follows Lee as she gathers letters from the other five survivors so that they can share their experiences of the day, and discusses the aftermath of the shooting for the victims three years on.

Initially, I read this book as kind of a challenge to myself. It’s not typically a book I would pick up and read, despite it’s interesting premise. So, I challenged myself to read it, and to see if I would enjoy it.

The book won. It was actually very interesting and raised so many interesting points in how one narrative can be spread, and trying to raise awareness of the truth. It also deals a lot with the idea of perception, and how the image we see of one person is not the actual representation of the person at all.

Despite my initial hesitance, Lee was probably the character I could relate to the most of all of them, as she was Asexual, like myself. It was actually really nice to see asexuality represented in a book, as I don’t come across it very often in my own reading. So, I was surprised and happy that this was included.

The writing style is neat and simple, which at first was a bit of a setback for me, as I found the writing was a little bit ‘I got up and got dressed. I wore skinny jeans.’ But once you really got into the story, the author really grips you and you find it hard to put the novel down.

All in all, this was a winner for me. A pleasant surprise, and handled a really dark subject well. It hid nothing, and really put forward that what these characters, is not just something they get over. It’s something they deal with three years on, and will carry on to deal with the rest of their lives.

I would definitely recommend this novel, even with my hesitance, I ended up really enjoying the read, and learning a lot!

Reading Teen Fiction

Over the years, I’ve read quite a lot of teen fiction, or young adult fiction and immensely enjoyed it. There are so many gems in the genre, and some amazing writers.

Whilst studying English literature at undergraduate level, I discovered that there was some dissent to even considering teen fiction as literature.

There seems to be a stigma around reading teen fiction, about perhaps the way it is not considered literary enough for it be anything noteworthy. I have personally never understood this concept.

Literary fiction implies that the novel that is published under this name is somehow superior. The Oxford Dictionary describes literary as “Concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form.” Quality of form implies that it is a well-written piece, or it is valued for it’s form, and it’s use of language, perhaps over the plot of the writing. This could also be seen as marking ‘literary fiction’ as a superior writing genre, as it is ‘quality of form’. It could could also imply that the person writing in this genre is somehow better than someone working in teen fiction, or even children’s fiction.

I’m curious as to why that is. Is there a certain aspect of teen fiction that doesn’t meet a certain criteria? Is there an element of classism that makes it not literary?

Classism wouldn’t be hard to rule out, if it is viewed as not literary, then that implies a substandard. That only ‘real’ readers will reader literary works, and that the ease of access of teen fiction or the aim at younger reading implies that there can not be a literary concept to teen fiction. The ease of access implies that anyone can read it, whereas if it were considered literary, it could imply that it is inaccessible to ‘normal’ readers.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

[Book Review] Release by Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness has always had a way with words and infusing reality with the unreal. This is clearly shown through Release.

Release is a bildungsroman of sorts. It takes place over one day, and follows one boy called Adam Thorn as he navigates friendships, love, relationships and coming out to his parents.

The other half of the story follows Katie, or Queen as she wanders after she wakes up from her murder.

Ness builds a relationship with his characters, and his writing style flows through the day, only giving you the information you need to know. Not all the plot points are cleared, but it never leaves you frustrated with this. It’s a simple look into the way that the teens are growing up.

The other half of the story deals with vengeance and retribution, told in parallel to Adam Thorn’s story. I did not really understand how the two stories would intertwine until the end of the novel, but thematically, the two halves of the story blend well. One deals with the desperation and the need for vengeance, the other deals with the act of growing up and realising that you need the help from others, and learning where your family lies.

Both sides of the story are truly heartbreaking.

Despite not being an intricately written tale, or a tale where there is a lot of guess work and wondering how things will end. Personally, I would recommend Release, it is insightful, and a pleasant read.