I hate being invisible.
I hate that I still can′t fight my own battles.
I hate that I can′t keep up with the demands of high school.
Sophie Kazzi is in Year 12 at an all-Lebanese, all-Catholic school where she is invisible, uncool and bored out of her brain. While she′s grown up surrounded by Lebanese friends, Lebanese neighbours and Lebanese shops, she knows there′s more to life than Samboosik and Baklawa, and she desperately wants to find it.
Hate is Such a Strong Word is a standout debut from Sarah Ayoub. It’s the story of Sophie: a Lebanese teenager navigating her way through life with Dictator Dad, narrow minded classmates and first love. Set in Bankstown and against a backdrop of tense racism. The story draws from the Cronulla riots of 2005 and brings these issues back to the foreground when a young Lebanese guy is bashed by a group of Aussies.
I found it really interesting looking at these issues through the eyes of Sophie, someone who struggles with where she belongs: too Aussie for the Lebanese and too Lebanese for the Aussies. Sophie clings to her invisibility even though she has these strong opinions she prays she won’t be called on them, she just wants to blend in. When Shehadie Goldsmith, half Lebanese half Australian, arrives at her all Lebanese catholic school Sophie finds her opinions seem to force their way out.
Sophie has a lot to deal with and a lot to hate on. On the one hand she wants to be free to make her own decisions and not have to live by her over protective father and on the other she deeply values her culture and traditions. I loved how Shehadie called into question her various beliefs and forced Sophie to make up her own mind. Their relationship was wonderful (the scene where they talk about sex in the lunchroom might just be one of my most favourite things I’ve ever read).
While I thoroughly enjoyed Hate is Such a Strong Word I feel in the effort to get these important issues across some of the story was sacrificed. At times characters only felt like a mouthpiece for discussion rather than themselves. Zayden is probably the best example of this. I would’ve loved for him to be more fleshed out: to really see the teenage boy. This is only a small hitch though in an otherwise brilliant book.
I’ve seen Hate is Such a Strong Word compared to Melina Marchetta’s Looking For Alibrandi and I can see why. It has a very similar feel. I’m really excited for people to read this!
Thanks to Harper Collins for my review copy.
Rachel Watts is an unwilling new arrival to Melbourne from the country. James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen-year-old genius with a passion for forensics. Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft when he wants her help investigating a murder. And when Watts and Mycroft follow a trail to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den – literally.
Ellie Marney’s debut novel is a stunner. Gorgeous prose, fleshed out characters, delicious romance and Holy Crap! action. Every Breath, set in Melbourne, is the story of Rachel and Mycroft. Rachel is dealing with recently being uprooted from her farm in country Victoria. She hates the city and longs for her old life. I loved the dynamic in Rachel’s family: all them dealing with this change and trying to be what they used to be but realising they can’t. Rachel doesn’t make it easy for them, though she really does try, and the only thing she might like in the city is her new neighbour: Mycroft.
Mycroft, or James (sigh). This character might be dismissed as a teen Sherlock (but, really, how could you dismiss that? TEEN SHERLOCK) but the threads of his backstory allow him to stand on his own.
Their relationship is really well done. With the story taking place four months after Rachel’s move, they’re not new friends, but they’re still learning about each other. This story brings the swoon. I loved watching then work out how to go there, make a move, without really going there. There’s a lot of sidestepping which is so high school. They’re two wounded people nervous to put themselves out their incase of rejection and ruining their friendship.
They mystery was a little lacking. I did work it out early on (by stabbing wildly in the dark) but despite this I was still on the edge of my seat at the end. I’m really keen to see where Marney takes us in the next book and to watch her grow as an author.
Every Breath by Ellie Marney is a brilliant read.
I just read this brilliant post from Nova Ren Suma about her process of outlining. And it has stirred some thoughts.
Writers seem to be divided into two categories when it comes to process: Plotting and Pantsing. While I think that the lines are a bit greyer than that (you might be a loose plotting pantser perhaps) to keep it simple I’ll just refer to those two categories.
When I first delved into the writing world my impression of the two categories was this: Pantsers = rock stars and Plotters = nerds. Naturally, I wanted to sit at the cool table. Pantsers throw everything to the wind and write with abandon. They give the rules the forks and do what they want. While plotters outline meticulously and know everything before they set pen to paper or finger to keyboard.
So, I donned my flower crown, swirled my pretty dress (hmm maybe pantsers are hippies?) and skimmed my copy of No Plot? No Problem! And what can I say after two years and one painful manuscript later? *whispers* am I aloud to give back my pants?
I think I might give plotting a go.
Here’s why I truly think I pantsed my first manuscript: fear. Fear that I didn’t have a story, an ending, a climax, fear that everything would fall down, fear that I had so many holes my MS resembled a poorly crocheted sock. Fear. Fear. Fear. Somehow discovering that in an outline felt worse than discovering it on the page. But I’m sure it would’ve saved me some thorough rewriters…or maybe not.
So, was I wrong to pants? No. Like I said I was scared. And that fear of writing will, well, stop you writing. Yes my MS was a huge mess at the end but I still pulled out 55,000 words of something.
The danger of identifying yourself with a category is if something in you changes your chosen identifier can feel like a box you can’t get out of. The writing process is so personal and you need to sometimes try different things to find out what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Also, plotters aren’t nerds. Seriously, is this high school? Gee whizz. We’re all out there trying to tame this giant beast of story and to (loosely) quote Patrick Ness, “If you get to the end of your manuscript, you’ve done it right.”
Now, excuse me while I go outline. *puts on nerd glasses*
Originally posted May 27 2013
Lately I’ve been thinking of the bar I’ve set for myself as an author. Now this might just be a response to a rather stressful month but I’m thinking maybe my bar is too high. I’ve said to a few people that I don’t want to be forgiven for being a debut (if I ever even debut) but I want my first book to smack readers right in the face with its awesome. If I don’t end up in the same sentence as Kirsty Eagar, Melina Marchetta then I’ve failed. God, how arrogant am I?
I’ve been thinking about leaving myself room to grow and about being okay with that. Because the truth is where I am now is really only the beginning. I’m at the start. And it makes sense that my writing would grow and change and eventually end up being what I so desperately want it to be. The book I’m writing now is actually the very first book I’ve written. And maybe it’s the joy of a new story starting to birth in me (the thought that I have more) that’s making me okay with it not being astounding with its brilliance.
I read somewhere that in Graffiti Moon Cath Crowley was only just starting to tap into how she wants to write. It took Melina Marchetta ten years to write again after Looking For Alibrandi. Many brilliant authors navigate years of rejection before finally breaking through.
I’m not saying any of this to say that I’m going to slack off. Not try as hard and be happy with mediocre. Because I’m not. But I’m going to be okay if I don’t win awards, get five stars or if this book doesn’t even end up in print. I’m going to be okay because I’m going to grow and get better.
and p.s my next story will totally smack you in the face.
Originally posted December 24 2012
I’ve been thinking lately about vulnerability.
It’s scary isn’t it? Being vulnerable. There needs to be a taking down of walls and an offer for people to glimpse inside. We spend so much time putting up those walls and reinforcing them in an effort to keep the rest of the world (bar a few) out. We don’t want to be seen, judged, exposed. Not by people who don’t know us; not by anybody really. We hide and we’re good at it.
The thing is though when it comes to writing vulnerability is somewhat essential. And, I think, a choice. We can pour ourselves into our work but still hide. Hide behind our characters and their choices, distance ourselves in narration, keep that wall up and not go there. But the readers know. I know. I know when a book is still protecting itself, not being real with me not letting me know who it really is. And as a reader I want to be in. In the character, in the story, in the world. It’s a subtle thing but it’s there. It’s the difference between this book was okay and this book invaded me.
In my own work I can feel my fear. Fear to let my character think or say that. Fear to really really say what’s going on. I want to protect my characters, protect my world. I don’t want them opened up and raw. But they need to be. I need to open them up so people can see them. Because when a character is really really open, vulnerable, it’s (confronting), it’s (uncomfortable), it (invites response). It gives the reader something to see, and sometimes they see themselves. And that is a very freeing thing.
Originally posted November 12 2012
‘I am Friday Brown. I buried my mother. My grandfather buried a swimming pool. A boy who can’t speak has adopted me. A girl kissed me. I broke and entered. Now I’m fantasising about a guy who’s a victim of crime and I am the criminal. I’m going nowhere and every minute I’m not moving, I’m being tail-gated by a curse that may or may not be real. They call me Friday. It has been foretold that on a Saturday I will drown…’ — Goodreads
There are some books that I literally have no words for, and that can be a problem when trying to write a review. But, I have no words for this book.
It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, poignant, lingering, surreal, more aussie than a cut snake. Okay, bah copout, those were totally some words. This book is in my head. Its beautiful sentences bumping together filling me with writer’s envy. The characters are in my heart, in my blood, so strong, so powerful. This story will stay with me.
Originally reviewed September 4 2012
Pieces of Sky
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