Tag Archives: grief

ARC Review – The Miraculous by Jess Redman

Title: The Miraculous

Author: Jess Redman

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. These miracles fill Wunder with the feeling that he is not alone, that the world is magical, that he is part of something brighter than he can imagine.

But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles don’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. And he stops believing.

Then Wunder meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and the old woman who lives there—and who might be a witch. The old woman asks for Wunder and Faye’s help. She asks them to go through graveyards and forests, to townhalls and police stations, by bike and by train. She asks them to believe. And together, they go on a journey that leads them to friendship, to healing—and to miracles.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Jess Redman’s debut The Miraculous starts with a hard punch to the gut. It’s seldom that middle grade novels look at the death of a sibling, and even worse an infant. Our main character, Wunder, has stopped believing in miracles, and is convinced that miracles are not real.

That snippet of information should immediately tell you what a rough ride The Miraculous is going to be. Wunder meets Faye, a girl who has also suffered extreme loss, and the two become friends, creating an understanding that grief strikes when it wants to. I could easily connect with this story, especially as someone who has lost people who are valuable to me. Faye’s responses to her trauma are much more aggressive and even vocal, which admittedly, was also something I connected with.

Despite its over arching theme of grief and loss, I want to stress thatThe Miraculous is a hopeful read, and one filled with a lot of magical realism. There’s so many fantastical elements in the story that create such a rich reading experiences, and the larger themes (both positive and negative) are highlighted in interesting or magical ways. What I equally love about this book is that its such a fast-paced read, so much so that I read it in two one hour lunch breaks because I needed to know what was happening to Wunder and Faye throughout the story.

I do think those who love story-driven magical realism will definitely love this book. I won’t lie though, as I do think the harshness of Wunder’s trauma may be difficult for some younger readers to understand or even bear. Even with that in mind, The Miraculous is a beautiful story that will fill readers with both hope and “wunder”!

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ARC Review – Stand-Off (Winger #2) by Andrew Smith

24885824Title: Stand-Off (Winger #2)

Author: Andrew Smith

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: It’s his last year at Pine Mountain, and Ryan Dean should be focused on his future, but instead, he’s haunted by his past. His rugby coach expects him to fill the roles once played by his lost friend, Joey, as the rugby team’s stand-off and new captain. And somehow he’s stuck rooming with twelve-year-old freshman Sam Abernathy, a cooking whiz with extreme claustrophobia and a serious crush on Annie Altman—aka Ryan Dean’s girlfriend, for now, anyway.

Equally distressing, Ryan Dean’s doodles and drawings don’t offer the relief they used to. He’s convinced N.A.T.E. (the Next Accidental Terrible Experience) is lurking around every corner—and then he runs into Joey’s younger brother Nico, who makes Ryan Dean feel paranoid that he’s avoiding him. Will Ryan Dean ever regain his sanity?

Huge thank you to Simon Teen Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

After recently reading Winger, I was a bit worried about this sequel. With the way the novel ended, there was a part of me that wasn’t sure where Smith could go with Ryan Dean West’s story. Colour me surprised when I finished Stand-Off and loved it as much as the first book. If I’m being frank, I really love both equally.

This story takes place after a spoil from Winger where Ryan Dean is in his senior year. You’d think Ryan Dean would have some maturity at this point, but when he’s paired with a twelve year old named Sam, well, that maturity goes out the window to say the least. Actually, this relationship easily one of the most humorous and sad at the same time. Sam is so timid and darling, and he’s that kid that you want to hate but you have no real good reason why, and that’s what makes it pretty humorous. However, it also problematic as it shows that Ryan Dean doesn’t want to admit that in some way, he and Sam are fairly similar.

Seriously though, I had a good laugh during parts of Stand-Off, and it really does come from Ryan Dean’s narration. There’s something very sharp, witty, yet kind of wimpy in his voice that I was once again completely drawn too. Yet there’s a darker atmosphere to Ryan Dean in this story since he’s haunted by an event from the previous book, and that stays constant throughout. I love the contrast between the serious elements ofStand-Off and the humour, and I think Smith does a great job of balancing these two aspects in a way that shows Ryan Dean’s development.

And really, that was the huge thing I loved about this sequel. I loved watching Ryan Dean grow as a person — he’s still as troubled as he was in the first book, but he definitely is looking at high school with a much more critical eye in this story, because in some ways he has grown up, and in other ways he is that very immature kid who refuses to grow up. He struggles to get over some of the problems from the first book, but they aren’t issues that you can just “get over” with ease. Smith goes this amazing job of showing Ryan Dean’s struggles in his growth and development, and having Sam be the contrast works so well in making the reader understand him more.

Also, I was super happy with how the relationship between Ryan Dean and Annie was developed in this book. Smith is often criticized for how he writes his female characters, but I thought Annie was a great character and I think her development in this book was solid. There’s one particular part between her and Ryan Dean that I adored simply because it shows young love in its best form — awkward, uncomfortable, and the desire for exploration. They are very cute, but I absolutely love how hard Annie is on Ryan Dean because he often earns it throughout the novel.

I am so sad in a way that I won’t get another Ryan Dean West story, but on the other hand I loved the way this book ended. It was the right kind of ending that makes you smile given all the crap that happens throughout. It’s not a perfect happy ending, and I’m okay with that. At the end of the day, I am happy that a sequel like Stand-Off exists because it feels so right, even if it didn’t seem like it was necessary in the first place. I still don’t think after reading this that I could choose between the books as to which is my favourite, but I really encourage people to check both Winger and Stand-Off if you want to read some great realistic fiction with a great, saucey male lead.