Book review: I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Title: I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: 22 October 2019

Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Science fiction

Page extent: 400 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.

When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.

For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.

With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart. 

Quiet SFF won 2019, yes I said it. This is another genre-blending book combining the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. In I Hope You Get This Message this results in an emotional portrayal of three teens at the end of the world, trying to keep their families together.

The book follows three POVs: Jesse, a kid who struggles with depression and has had a hard life after his dad died with high debt; Cate, living with her schizophrenic mum as her hallucinations worsen, trying to track down her father at her mother’s request; Adeem, desperately hurt and angry at the sister who abandoned him two years ago but desperate to find her before the end of the world. These three stories take all three to Roswell, where their journey to find their families and discover what matters to them at the end of the world will merge, and end.

I Hope You Get This Message is a wonderful debut. Each of the three POVs have their own voice and unique character which makes it a really easy and unconfusing read, which is a fault I often find with multiple POV books. Of the characters, I do think Jesse’s voice shone above the rest. I can’t say I liked him as a person (he seems to have a bit of the ‘I’ll destroy everything good in my world then blame the world for it’ trait), but his voice was so incredibly strong. I also think his flaws are incredibly realistic for the life he has held – so whilst I don’t necessarily like him because of them, I understood him and his actions so well. But sometimes I did just want to scream through the pages at him ‘JESSE NOOOOO’. I also thought the portrayal of his depression was well written; particularly the handling of his self-harm/wrist cuff: to clarify, there are no scenes of self harm, just mentions of the past event, but when it is discussed it really grabs you with the intensity of emotion.

Cate and Adeem are both still strong, but I think perhaps lacked a bit of the intensity of Jesse. Cate’s journey to find her father is interesting, living as she is for her mother’s desires and not her own. It was interesting to see her come to terms and accept that this is how she lives across the book, with an exceptional line ending her last POV. Adeem has another very interesting journey with his sister: from the strong desire to find her to reconnect his family, to the anger that courses through him that she left, his feelings are complicated and in-depth.

I really loved the crossovers between the POVs. Side characters we know cross between these three lives but without the three at the centre knowing this. I love that sense of all knowing as a reader, and I loved seeing the three characters come together and intersect as the book progressed.

The sci-fi element, whilst forming the basis of the premise for this novel, is not at the forefront. Instead, it’s an ever constant but quiet guiding force throughout the book for the characters. I enjoyed the short interludes interspersed throughout the book about the aliens discussing the fate of Earth, which kept the sci-fi more central, though I felt these short sections lacked a sense of urgency. There was no progression of tension amongst them, as I would have expected as the aliens get closer and closer to their deadline of Earth destruction.

All in all, I think I Hope You Get This Message is a brilliant debut. With easy, everyday diversity (take note SFF authors, this is how to do it!!!), well developed characters and the different discussions of family, this is definitely one to pick up!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Title: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Publisher: Imprint

Publication date: 31 Oct 2017

Genre: Fantasy | Young adult

Page extent: 305 pages

Holy fuck was this a read. What a twisted and stunning novel combining mental illness, fantasy and soft, broken, co-dependent boys. The writing is so lyrical and poetic, it’s just absolutely stunning.

I was tossing between both of K. Ancrum’s book for my Pride TBR list – The Wicker King or The Weight of the Stars. I decided on The Wicker King because I really love reading books with good mental health representation as it’s very close to my heart – and it did not disappoint. August learns that best friend Jack is beginning to hallucinate a fantasy world, one he can interact with but which no else can. The halluncinations seem to grow worse and worse as Jack imagines himself in the midst of a quest within the world. August, trying to support his friend, allows him to play out the fantasy, and helps Jack to fulfil the quest.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this, not least because of the styling. You most definitely should pick up a print copy of this book, because the way the book is printed is phenomenal. Ink slowly covers more and more of the page, as Jack’s illness progresses and it is such a powerful tool. I haven’t ever seen a book do something like that before, the closest I can think of is Illuminae which I read on a Kindle and so it didn’t really work.

K. Ancrum has such a beautiful and emotive prose – I felt like someone had punched me in the chest the whole way through. It was brutal in a way not many books are. It was so gutrenching to see August realise how much help Jack needed but not know how to help him. With neglectful adults, he does the only thing he knows how to – he tries to help Jack himself. Their relationship is so twisted and interesting. August wants so much to give his whole self to Jack, and be under his control, he would do anything for him. And Jack is just as entranced, wanting to control and give August what he needs.

This is such a difficult book to review, because I’m still numb from the read. When I think about it, I struggle to find words because it is such a different, unique and magnificant book. All I can say, is that is it absolutely stunning and you will feel absolutely torn apart as you read it.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

Title: Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Publication date: 21 May 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Young adult

Page extent: 384 pages

Thank you Emma (the author) and Vicky Who Reads for running the giveaway in which I won a copy of this book.

Missing, Preusmed Dead combines elements of mystery, thriller, contemporary fantasy, romance and a dark, gritty atmosphere to create an intense and heart-racing book about ghosts and lonliness and death.

This book tells the story of Lexi, a girl who can sense when and how someone will die, and Jane, the girl Lexi didn’t try to save. When Jane returns as an angry ghost, Lexi tries to hunt down the murderer to help Jane. They get caught up in a bigger mystery though, as it turns out the murderer has killed before and plans to kill again.

This book was a LOT darker than I expected – which I am SO happy with. It was such a dark, gritty and grim setting and atmosphere. It really felt like we were halfway between life and death, you could sense the ‘wrongness’ in the atmosphere which was so effective in portraying Lexi’s state of mind.

I love the way Missing, Presumed Dead explores mental illness in a fantasy world. It’s so rare to read a book which looks at the mental impact of having magic. Lexi can sense when people will die. If she touches them, she views their death in all the horrifically, gruesome ways it happens. She can’t stand being around people because of it. She can’t stand crowds or friends or anything living because all she can see and taste and smell and hear are their deaths. So she’s lonely, depressed, struggling to find a reason to live. To get away from the constant sense of death, Lexi checks herself into a psychiatric ward when it becomes too much, the only place she can get any quiet. The way Lexi’s mental health is examined is absolutely phenomenal. Emma writes with such intense emotion and I felt a lump in my throat the whole book. It was just so well written and felt so real.

I also loved the mystery/thriller aspect of the book. I was absolutely hooked on the mystery, wanting to find out who or what was killing people. I loved the added creepiness of the paranormal activity. I loved the idea that ghosts are created from the energy of someone’s death – so those killed violently are angry, venegful ghosts. It was such an interesting theory, and seeing how Lexi’s power could interact with the dead to push them ‘on’ was so cool! I loved that the mystery held paranomal elements to it as well, so you were never really sure what was going on.

This book wasn’t quite what I expected – instead, it was a darker, grittier but SO FANTASTIC magical thriller. The portrayal of mental illness was so well done, and the way magic interacted with mental illness felt very unique. Plus, queer girls. Which is the cherry on top of an extremely great cupcake.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco