New(ish) Novellas! …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne/Unboxed by Non Pratt

Since two of Britain’s most talented YA authors released novellas this year, I lazily decided to write them into one blog post, reviewed below…

…And a Happy New Year?

Spoilers abound for the Spinster/Normal trilogy.

Evie, Amber and Lottie are having a new year party to remember.

For the first time since leaving college, all three girls are back together. It’s time for fun and flirting, snogs and shots.

(And not tears or tantrums or terrible secrets)

Because everything’s going great for these girls – Spinster Club for ever! Right?

Seems like years ago now that Holly Bourne introduced us to the brilliant characters of Evie, Amber and Lottie in Am I Normal Yet? through the voice of Evie.   She’s always been a character that you really root for, and I was really happy that we get the story here from the three separate voices of the three girls (women? heroes? p-smashers?! all of the above!).

Each of the girls have their own issues this time around, which all come to a head at a New Year’s party, when things rarely tend to go well in real life for anyone really.  Everything is here that was present in the trilogy: a lot of laughs, a bit of drama and the goddamn Spinster Club.  This is Holly Bourne at the top of her game, writing characters that she clearly knows inside out and cares about, as she knows we do as we get a possibly final glimpse at the girls.

Since it is a novella, going anywhere near the plot is dangerous territory for spoilers.   All I’ll say is that we get plenty of each of the three girls’ story, as well as their original triple connection.  There’s a feeling of full circle, but also of new beginnings, and it’s a fitting full stop to the Spinster trilogy.

Unboxed 

Unboxed is about four teenagers who come together after several months apart. In previous years, they had put together a time capsule about their best summer with a friend who was dying. Now that their friend has passed, they reunite to open the box.

Non Pratt’s latest is a simple concept, but one that is admirably teased out, and a lot is packed into this short fiction.  In a small amount of pages, we already have a feel for Alix’s voice, from whose perspective the story is told, and are brought into her world of late adolescence to meet her school-friends.   Some have stayed in contact, and others drifted apart, but the act of opening the box of the title brings it all back to them.

There are only a few scenes in the book, keeping it again simple but effective.   The unboxing itself is emotive and thought-provoking.  It all feels very real, with Non Pratt’s description of teenage life, crushes and cheesy music, hopes and desires.

By the end of Unboxing, you feel like you’ve known these characters a lot longer than the length of the book, and that is of course a testament to the character-building here from the author.

A really enjoyable book, although quite sad in parts, but essentially a real celebration of friendship, especially that adolescent friendship that can be extremely intense and heartfelt.

It’s worth noting also that the text of the book is designed ‘to help more people love reading.’  Printed on a particular type of paper to reduce the contrast between text and paper, its typeface is also dyslexia-friendly.

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So there you have it, two excellent reads from two exciting authors.  A word also on the covers of both, which really were two of the most striking covers I’ve seen this year.

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