Happy Sunday! Today I’ll be sharing mini reviews of 5 books I’ve read during lockdown. I’ve shared quite a lot of full-length book reviews recently, and since I’ve read 20 books during lockdown, I thought I’d change things up a bit and post some shorter ones. So here are my mini reviews:
1. Teach Me
If you follow me on Goodreads, or have checked out my TBR list for this year, you’ll be aware that quite a few of the books I’ve read – or plan to read this year – focus on teacher x student relationships. There’s just something about illicit relationships that I find so intriguing. Teach Me is the latest book I’ve read with this trope, and while it was a decent novel, I wasn’t so keen on either of the main characters. Carolina is childish and becomes completely obsessed with her teacher Mr Mann, to the point where she starts stalking him and interfering with his new relationship. She even considers violence at one point. Mr Mann himself is quite bland and I couldn’t really see the appeal. However, he should have been more honest with Carolina, perhaps then she wouldn’t have behaved in the way that she did.
Don’t let my negativity dissuade you from reading this book: Teach Me is still a gripping story with a unique narrative timeline that’ll make you want to read right until the very end. Overall, I’d probably give it 3 out of 5 stars.
2. How to Be Happy
How to Be Happy is a sweet book that will make you more appreciative of life. It centres on a woman in her 30s who is going through a bad patch when she strikes up a new friendship in one of the unlikeliest of places: a hospital. After her mother is diagnosed with dementia and her ex-husband moves in with his new wife shortly after a tragedy, Annie is unsurprisingly miserable. Whilst visiting her mother at hospital, Annie befriends Polly, who is her complete opposite. Despite having terminal cancer, Polly couldn’t be any jollier, and is determined to spread her positivity to Annie.
Although it does have some heavy subject matter, How to Be Happy is an uplifting novel that will be enjoyed by older fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I adored Polly, and Annie is a wonderful character too. Despite her negativity, I loved their friendship: Polly was never going to be in Annie’s life forever, but she appeared at just the right time. I also liked the ‘bucket list’ element of the novel, and I was moved by Annie’s backstory – no one should have to go through what she went through, and I can’t imagine the pain she must’ve felt.
I can’t wait to read more by Eva Woods.
3. The Prom
Knowing that the film release was imminent, I just had to read The Prom during lockdown. I absolutely adored the novel and can’t wait to see how it plays out on screen. I’m not sure exactly when the film will be released due the current situation, but according to IMDb it’s already been filmed, so it’ll probably stick to its original release date, which I’ve heard was this summer.
The Prom is set in a high school and centres on Emma and Alyssa, a same-sex couple who are keen to go to the prom. Unfortunately, Alyssa hasn’t come out yet, and her mother is really homophobic, doing whatever she can to stop Emma from attending prom. Luckily, a couple of ex-Broadway stars hear about Emma’s dilemma and decide to help her, hurling Emma’s school into the spotlight.
The Prom is a brilliant novel and I really rooted for Emma. Prior to the beginning of the book, Emma was kicked out of her home due to her sexuality, and all she wanted was to take Alyssa to the prom. She’s assertive and not embarrassed about who she is. Reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, it seems like The Prom has mixed reviews. As I haven’t seen the musical myself, I can’t compare the two, but I did enjoy The Prom. It’s a fun and quirky novel that highlights an important issue in contemporary society.
After enjoying Pretty Little Liars, The Heiresses and The Perfectionists, I was eager to read more of Sara Shepard’s work, and I was intrigued by the premise of Reputation. While Reputation has a very similar formula to that of Sara Shepard’s other novels, I was sucked in straightaway, desperate to find out who hacked into the Aldrich University email system and who killed Dr Greg Strasser – was it the same person? I doubted every character in this book: they all had secrets and motives for harming Greg and exposing his emails.
As you’d expect from a Sara Shepard novel, the writing style of Reputation is fantastic, with chapters that are fairly short and easy to read. Each chapter focuses on a different character, which made it quite difficult for me to connect with any of them, especially since they’re all superficial and shallow. Raina, in particular, was completely unlikeable, and if I’m being honest, I did find her story a bit unnecessary.
Although Reputation isn’t Sara Shepard’s best novel, it’s still an absorbing read that is full of suspense, gossip and scandal. I’d like to see how the story plays out as a film or TV show. Apparently, it was originally written as a TV script, so fingers crossed.
5. Little Fires Everywhere
I absolutely loved this book and it definitely lived up to its hype. The story is so captivating and unputdownable. There are so many different subplots within the novel, and Celeste Ng ties them together well. While the main focus of the novel is a custody battle involving a white American couple (the McCulloughs) and a Chinese immigrant (Bebe Chow), Celeste Ng also tackles racism, abortion and family dynamics. My favourite quotes from Little Fires Everywhere are “Skin color doesn’t say anything about who you are” and “Maybe at birth everyone should be given to a family of another race to be raised. Maybe that would solve racism once and for all.”
Despite having a large amount of characters, I was equally intrigued by all of them. I particularly loved the relationship between Pearl and her mother, and I felt sympathy for Izzy – she’s quirky and misunderstood. I also felt sorry for Pearl: her mother always wanted to move around, and was very secretive about Pearl’s father. Elena Richardson was the most unlikeable character in Little Fires Everywhere: she’s so nosy and intent on finding out about Mia’s past in order to ruin her reputation and help her friends win the custody battle.
All in all, Little Fires Everywhere is a thought-provoking novel that will leave you wanting more. I was so curious to find out what would happen to Bebe and her baby, and where Mia, Pearl and Izzy would end up. Little Fires Everywhere will appeal to fans of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty, particularly those who loved My Sister’s Keeper, Small Great Things and Big Little Lies. If you enjoyed the book, be sure to watch the TV mini-series, which stars Reese Witherspoon and is equally as riveting.
These are just a handful of the books I’ve read during the last few months. As you can see, I really enjoyed How to Be Happy, Little Fires Everywhere and The Prom, but Teach Me and Reputation were a little bit disappointing. What have you read recently?