Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year, and 2010 YA Authors Quiz

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2011 is a fantastic year for YA fiction in general and for everybody who reads this blog in particular.

Having just set up a Sporcle account, I decided to give writing some quizzes a go. Can you name the authors of 25 of this year's YA novels?

If you'd like to check it out, try it here.

Top TEN Books of 2010

Another post in the Persnickety Snark FIVE challenge, but this time it's TEN.

Well, I finally did it. Incredibly difficult to pick just 10, and they're not really in order (apart from The Sky Is Everywhere being my absolute favourite, at least.) But here they are, my ten top books of 2010!

(Disclaimer: 8 of the following books were originally reviewed for the fantastic Bookbag website and were provided to me by publishers in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my judgment on them at all. Full reviews for those 8 are linked to on The Bookbag.)




1. The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson - Book of the year and one of the very few books I've ever cried at reading. Breathtakingly beautiful study of grief and romance. Review


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 2. Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Moriarty - The always imaginative Moriarty has really outdone herself with an incredible novel which moves between blog entries, the contents of a scholarship file, letters, poetry, and exam answers. Most impressively, the plotting is perfect and the rapid changes of view never seem gimmicky. (Note: Published in some countries as The Ghosts of Ashbury High.) Review



3. We, The Drowned - Carsten Jensen - The best adult book I read all year, hands down. Danish seafaring epic tracing a town from the mid 19th century to mid 20th century. Completely enchanting. Review



4. Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - I've been lucky enough to read the sequel and review it for the Bookbag as well, but trying to keep a variety in my top 10 so have only picked this one as it's ever so slightly better in my opinion. Undoubtedly my favourite of the many paranormal love stories I've read this year, this is utterly gorgeous, with compelling characters and the town of Gatlin, still living in the shadow of the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) is a fantastic setting. Review



5. The Rebel Prince - Celine Kiernan - Kiernan's Moorehawke Trilogy was completely unknown to me at the start of the year but ends the year as one of my favourite ever fantasy series. While the Poison Throne was wonderful and The Crowded Shadows was even better, this conclusion somehow ended up improving on both of them. Complex characters, difficult decisions, and brilliant writing make this a fitting climax to a superb sequence. Review





6. What The Day Owes The Night - Yasmina Khadra -  Technically the second adult book on my list, this has enough crossover appeal for me to have recommended it to several mature readers aged 15 and 16. A beautiful and exciting coming of age story of a teenage boy in Algeria as the country moves towards independence. Review



7. One Day - David Nicholls - Again, adult fiction with crossover appeal due to being so romantic, funny and moving. I love the concept as we follow Dexter and Emma, who meet one July 15th at university, through EVERY July 15th of the next 20 years, sometimes spending them together and sometimes separately. Am really looking forward to the film as well. (Romola Garai as Sylvie and Jim Sturgess as Dexter, surely this can't go wrong?) This is the only one I haven't currently reviewed but will hopefully remedy that soon!

 


8. The Long Weekend - Savita Kalhan - Due to its subject matter, this is the least enjoyable read in the top 10 but possibly the most important. A horribly plausible and realistic chiller which should be read by any children old enough to go out by themselves - strongly recommended to parents as a starting point for a discussion that will really bring home the idea of 'stranger danger'. Review




9. The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare - Doug Stewart - My favourite non-fiction title of the year, the true story of an 18th century boy trying to win his father's attention by 'finding' a trunk of lost Shakespeare artifacts. In turns thrilling, funny and surprisingly tender. Review





10. When I Was Joe - Keren David - Again, sequel Almost True would have a great chance of being in here if I wasn't limiting it to one per author. David's debut novel is an unputdownable thriller about a boy stuck in Witness Protection trying to make a new life on the run from criminals, and the girl he meets with her own problems. Fantastic characters and a couple of incredibly intense scenes make this a massive recommendation. Review

I'd love to hear yours!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Review: Gone - Michael Grant.

One minute, Sam and his friends at school are sitting around in lessons. The next, everyone aged 15 and above has vanished. As you'd expect, panic ensues. With no parents, teachers, or even older brothers and sisters to tell them what to do, and all communication with the world outside their small town cut off, Sam and his friends Astrid, Quinn and Edilio have to try and calm the rest of the kids and work out what to do next.

This isn't the first strange thing to have happened to Sam. Months ago, he changed in a very odd way. A way that he'd never told anyone about. While the rest of them are definitely scared, at least they know they can't have been responsible for what happened.

Sam's not so sure...

I barely ever read sci-fi but picked this up in Waterstones' earlier today, was hooked by the end of the first chapter, and finished it in about six hours despite it's 560 pages or so length. (And I had to briefly stop reading at the halfway point to order the sequel!) Michael Grant creates a scary but totally plausible picture of what happens to a society when it's cut off from the outside world by an impregnable barrier and the kids are left to fend for themselves - especially when some of those kids have changed in weird and terrifying ways. He creates a couple of the most memorable villains of recent years, multi-layered heroes - especially Quinn, a personal favourite of mine as he has to cope with his jealousy of those with powers, his fear of the villains, and his dislike of Edilio, who Sam turns to more and more instead of Quinn. We also get an incredible supporting cast of characters, with Mary, who struggles with her own dark secret while frantically trying to look after the pre-school kids, and Albert, who tries to calmly keep the local McDonalds running so there's at least one bit of normality left in the world, being particularly strong.

Oh, and the first chapter starts with the ominous '299 hours 54 minutes' which we quickly find out is a timer counting down to a moment which will change everything, so the intensity cranks up and up as we get further and further into the book and the timer relentlessly counts down...

One warning - this is NOT for young kids or the easily disturbed. The back of the book warns 'Contains scenes of cruelty and some violence', which if anything is an understatement. Readers likely to be distressed by death and epic fighting should look away - but as long as you can cope with that, this is a very high recommendation, particularly to fans of Stephen King, Lord of the Flies, and TV series such as Lost and Heroes.

I can't wait to read the sequel Hunger and the rest of what is set to be a 6 book series. As well as the sequels to this book, another sci-fi novel with a similar idea is the superb Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer.

My Blog Based New Year's Resolutions

Okay, I love a couple of other people's posts on this subject (in particular Jess's) so here are mine.

1. Make it through to the end of 2011 - I have a notoriously short attention span but I'm determined to actually keep this blog going.

2. Update at least 5 times a week - they won't all be reviews, as once I return to school (teacher not student) I'll be too busy to read as much as I've managed over Christmas, but I figure I have to be able to keep things going by providing some interesting content.

3. Comment on other people's blogs as often as possible - I love comments, so it would be seriously ungrateful not to leave nice ones for some of the outstanding bloggers out there when I enjoy something they've taken the time to write.

4. Take part in some memes - I've really enjoyed doing the two posts as part of the Persnickety Snark FIVE challenge and will try and make sure I'm doing more of them over the coming year.

5. Remember to reread some of my favourites and review them - that was originally going to be a strong focus of this blog but so far have only done 2 compared to 5 I've read for the first time, and my next couple will probably be first timers as well. However, I want to open people's eyes to some of the fantastic books they may have missed in the past. Current plans are to do at least 5 of the following in the next few months.

  • Black Hearts in Battersea
  • The Dark Is Rising
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Remember Me To Harold Square
  • The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler
  • Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice
  • Finding Cassie Crazy
  • Ballet for Drina
  • Feeling Sorry For Celia
  • I Capture The Castle
  • Damaris at Dorothy's
  • Thirteen Reasons Why
  • The Chocolate War
  • How I Live Now
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
  • The Dark Knight Returns
  • Watchmen
  • Jennings at School
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • The Chalet School In Exile
  • One of the Sadler's Wells series
  • One of the Abbey Girls series

Would love to hear other people's resolutions, and if any of your favourites are on the list above, feel free to let me know and it may make me reread it faster!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

FIVE Great YA Bloggers

Well, Persnickety Snark’s FIVE challenge today (well, it WOULD still be today if I was in America, so I'll sneak it in...) is FIVE Great YA Bloggers. There are so many fantastic ones out there that it’s a struggle to keep it down to five, but here goes… (in alphabetical order as there’s no way I could separate them!)

I Was A Teenage Book Geek - Everything on IWATBG is great, but my personal favourites are Time Travel Tuesdays (which have been thin on the ground in recent months, but there’s some awesome stuff in the archive.) Where else could you read Lauren Kate guest blogging on the Great Gatsby?!

Michelle’s Bookshelf – Another great blog generally, but I particularly like the selections Michelle makes for Upcoming Release posts which almost always manage to provide at least 1 book I want to add to my TBR pile.

Steph Bowe’s Hey! Teenager of the Year
- While Steph also writes really enjoyable reviews, my favourite part of her blog are the other posts – things like the ‘Dear Steph’ letters, the ‘Visual Inspiration’ posts, and her awesome list of Contemporary Australian YA which I’m going to try and work my way through in 2011.

Steph Su Reads - I’ve raved about Steph Su’s magnificent end of year lists already on this blog, but she also continually provides insightful reviews and has some great guest bloggers. Always a pleasure to read.

YA Book Queen - Lea writes great reviews and I love the highlights/lowlights idea.

Obviously, there are dozens of other excellent YA bloggers out there, some of whom I read and love, others I may not have found yet. Any more recommendations from anyone?

Book Review of The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson



‘There were once two sisters who were not afraid of the dark because the dark was full of the others voice around the room...’

But now there’s only one, because 19 year old Bailey has died and her 17 year old sister Lennie is left alone in her grief, apart from her Gram and Uncle Big.

‘What happens to a stupid companion pony if the racehorse dies?’

Shattered by her sister’s sudden passing, the only person Lennie feels she can turn to is Bailey’s boyfriend Toby. And then the unthinkable happens and they kiss...

‘What if music is what escapes when a heart breaks?’

Arriving into this mess is the gorgeous newcomer to school, Joe Fontaine. From the moment Lennie meets him at band practice there’s instant electricity between them, and after never having anyone special in her life, Lennie is irresistibly drawn to two different boys. Can she go on with her life without Bailey to lead the way?

This is breathtakingly, incredibly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Debut author Jandy Nelson – how can anyone be this talented when writing their first novel? – creates a cast of compelling characters and manages to make Toby and Lennie so sympathetic that what seemed to be a rather unlikely love triangle works surprisingly well. I read through the entire book in a three hour train journey, stopping only for ten minutes to tear myself away before I burst into tears at Lennie’s grief. (This worked originally but by the end I was crying anyway!)

I loved the setting of the book in Clover, a town where Lennie’s Gram, before Bailey’s death, used to walk around with shears pruning people’s flowers, and Uncle Big routinely has women climbing up trees to spend time with him, and a music teacher will march his band out into the woods to play. This could have been really jarring with the overall themes of loss and grief but instead provides a welcome gentle touch in comparison with the heavier parts of the book.

And then there’s the poems! At either the start or end of nearly every chapter, Nelson provides us with a poem written by Lennie. Written on paper cups, on scraps of paper, or carved into trees or benches, they are presented beautifully and make this a book that’s not just gorgeously written but absolutely breathtaking to look at. I’ll almost certainly buy a second copy of this one, because it’s too wonderful NOT to lend to people but I want to keep it in its pristine condition for as long as possible.

Very highest recommendation to pretty much everyone in the entire universe but particularly fans of Lauren Oliver, Jenny Downham and Francesca Lia Block. This is my favourite book of the year.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Book Review of Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

(I wasn't planning on doing another review today as I was technically too busy, but after racing through FMF really wanted to get one written while it was fresh in my mind, so hey...)


You think you've got problems with your love life? Spare a thought for Lily Sanderson, who has a huge crush on swimming god Brody Bennett, an obnoxious biker-boy neighbour Quince Fletcher, and a serious deadline problem. She's totally convinced that Brody is the right man for her, and needs to get him to realise this and take him home to meet her father. Who just happens to be the King of Thalassinia. Of course, that will also means revealing her big secret. You see, Lily is half-mermaid. With all this going through her mind, it's no surprise when she gets confused, leading to a kiss which changes everything...

This is fun with a capital FUN! It's breezy, it's ultra-cute, and while I generally avoid the word 'squee' like the plague, I have to admit, I squeed over this one massively. Lily is a really fun narrator and while I had a slight issue with the love triangle between her, Brody and Qunce because it's completely obvious to everyone, surely, who she should be with, that didn't dent my overall enjoyment of the book. Add in tons of funny underwater puns and sayings, and some great world-building whic made me really feel like I could imagine Thalassinia perfectly, and this is a surefire winner. One thing I did feel was that Lily and her friends seemed to be acting as if they're in their mid teens rather than approaching 18... but again, very minor gripe there. While Lily’s mother died years ago, there was a great portrayal of her father, the King, and I loved the relationship between him and Lily, who were clearly really close to each other despite her having lived mainly on land for 3 years.

Overall this was one of the most adorable books I've read all year and gets a very very high recommendation, particularly to fans of Meg Cabot, Jenny Han, and (of course!) The Little Mermaid. Also, even though the characters are nearly 18, I think it’s one that’ll be enjoyed by everyone, including readers in their early teens.

Up next for Tera is the sequel to this book, Fins Are Forever, and judging by this one’s epilogue that should be very interesting indeed…

Favourite Books of 2010 - Other People's Views

While I'm aiming to get my own piece on favourite books of the year done over the next couple of days, certain bloggers are far ahead of me. Some links to some of the best lists I've seen while roving the internet...

Steph Su has FIFTY TWO of her own lists, ranging from a simple 'Best of' to 'Guilty Pleasures', 'Boarding School Settings' and 'Books With Athletes'. Oh, and there's also 7 guest lists from some amazing bloggers. If you want to find at least 100 books you may have missed over the past 12 months, this is a great place to start.

Teach 8 has a great list of her dozen favourite books with some honourable mentions.

YA Love has an interesting list of 15 books that a lot of guys have been reading.

Novel Novice has a really good best of list, as does YA Bliss.

Would love to hear other people's favourite books of the year!

Retro Review: Just William - Richmal Crompton



Whether it's a trip to the cinema, babysitting a youngster, being a page boy at a wedding, or running away from home to take a job below stairs, the 11-year old William Brown can always be relied on to create chaos and havoc wherever he goes. This short story collection (the first of 38 books) is a wonderful introduction to a classic character.

Having originally read the books perhaps 20 years ago, I picked up the boxed set of the first 10 of them at a bargain price (sadly no longer available) earlier this year but hadn't got round to opening it until earlier today due to a rather large backlog of books. Partly due to the upcoming TV series, I finally found the time to reread Just William today, and was immediately transported back to England in the 1920's. Crompton was brilliant at creating richly comic characters - notably William's older brother and sister, Robert and Ethel, along with the girl-next-door Joan and, of course, the scruffy, unkempt, hilarious title character himself. While I'd remembered the characters fondly, especially the dialogue (and William's habit of overriding objections with something rather unrelated followed by a sarcastic"I'm simply statin' a fact", or similar, which would probably make him fit right in as a modern teenager!) I'm not sure I ever appreciated as a child just how good Crompton's narration was. (A sample, on a rat that William's Outlaws have painted for a show they're holding. "It wore a bewildered expression, and occasionally licked its stripes, then obviously wished it hadn't.")

My childhood memories of the William books are that they were rather hit or miss - although I enjoyed them, I was always more of a Jennings fan myself. I'm not sure whether the series quality perhaps decreased later on, or whether I've been doing them a disservice, but this is definitely far more hit than miss. Particular stand outs are 'William the Intruder', in which William falls in love with the same girl as his brother Robert, 'The Show', which has the first of many hilarious moments from Mr Brown to round off an excellent story, and the first ever story 'The Outlaws', which sees William forced to look after a baby which he tells the rest of the Outlaws he's kidnapped in order to save face. Of course, things don't go according to plan in any of them, although there are a nice mixture of moments of triumph and despair for the youngster.

Very high recommendation to fans of Terry Deary, Roald Dahl and Anthony Buckeridge.

37 sequels so plenty to find if you're looking for more - the boxed set is well worth picking up if it becomes available again; my personal favourite in childhood were always the World War II books, which start with William and Air Raid Precuations and run through to William and the Brains Trust.

More information and a complete list of books can be found at http://just-william.net/richmal-crompton.php

Now, let's hope the TV series is worth watching!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Review: Ash - Malinda Lo



Left at her cruel stepmother's mercy after her father's death, Ash starts to ignore her mother's old warnings about the fairies. Surely nothing could be worse than the life she has now? Perhaps being stolen away by the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean wouldn't be such a bad thing? And then she meets the King's Huntress, Kaisa, and realises that maybe there is a place for her in the real world, away from both her stepmother AND the fairies. Who will she choose, Sidhean or Kaisa? In case you hadn't guessed, this is Cinderella with a lesbian twist...

Well, as love triangles go, girl, male fairy, and huntress is fairly unique. And full marks for it not being spelt faerie, which I'm starting to get an unreasonable dislike for for some reason. Also, while this is Lo's debut novel, it's clear from reading this book that she's a major talent. In particular, her writing style is gorgeous - elegant without being over the top, and her description of the first hunt Ash goes on with Kaisa is particularly well-written. Having said that, I have to admit the book didn't grab me in the way that my favourite books do, possibly because I thought Ash was a fairly bland focus for the novel herself and that some of the others weren't really that well developed. Kaisa, a complex character who takes her role as Huntress very seriously despite the emotions it awakens in her, is an honourable exception to this, as is Clara, the younger and nicer of Ash's stepsisters, who I'd love to have read more about. I did think the lesbian relationship between Kaisa and Ash was really well-handled, as well - it never came across as being added in for shock value, it felt completely natural.

Fairly high recommendation to fans of Holly Black, Melissa Marr and Sara Ryan.

Next up for Lo is Huntress, a prequel to Ash – will give that a try and hope that I’m more convinced by the characters this time.

Review: Secret Society Girl -- Diana Peterfreund


(I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this, and of the sequel Under The Rose, during an internet chat with Diana a few months ago and finally got round to reading it this weekend.)

Amy Haskel, editor-in-chief of the campus lit magazine at Eli university, is confidently expecting to be 'tapped' into Quill & Ink, the literary society there. She certainly doesn't think she'll find herself in Rose & Grave, the notorious - and hugely powerful - secret society. She's not rich, she's not famous, and she's definitely not male, which would previously have been the sticking point for R & G. But this year, the society members have decided to bring five women into the fold, which hasn't gone down too well with certain alumni... leaving Amy and her friends to fight against men far more powerful than they are, while she juggles a fellow tap, a friend-with-benefits, and her society big brother with a secret of his own. Oh, and as if that's not enough, the need for secrecy is messing up her friendship with suitemate Lydia.

This is fairly standard YA fare, which despite being set in Yale (Sorry, Eli - although author Diana Peterfreund freely admits that the obvious comparison is intended) isn't all that different from many high-school or college based books. What makes it a real pleasure to read, though, is snarky narration by Amy, who is frankly awesome, and an interesting cast of fellow taps, with a lot more character development and revelations in the second half of the book than I was prepared for by the first part of it. By the end, I was definitely getting hooked on the story and am really looking forward to the follow-up, Under The Rose, which I’m planning on reading soon. Bonus points for an awesome speech given at a climatic moment which was two and a half pages of serious girl power, and an interesting ending which means that while it would have worked well as a stand alone, there are a couple of plot strands which will make that sequel (and the other two books in the series) very interesting.

High recommendation to fans of Cecily Von Ziegesar, Anna Goodberson and Curtis Sittenfield.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Retro Review: The Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo


Young Gwyn's world has been lonely since the disappearance of his sister Bethan. His parents, particularly his father, are still grieving and his father blames Gwyn for his sister's loss. On his ninth birthday, though, his life takes a strange turn as his nain (grandmother) gives him five gifts and tells him that now is the time to find out if he's a magician. One of the gifts, a brooch, is tossed into the wind and becomes Arianwen, the snow spider. And so begins a journey which could finally heal the wounds at the heart of Gwyn's family...

It's years since I've read any of the Magician Trilogy, and this first in particular was one of my favourite ever books as a youngster growing up in North Wales. After mentioning it in a post earlier today, I stumbled across it in my bedroom and took that as a sign to reread it to see if it was as good as I remembered - and while I was surprised by parts of it, I certainly wasn't disappointed.

One of the surprising things about it was just how short it was - at under 150 pages, I read through it incredibly quickly - while another was that, in the end, it's not really about the magic. It's a deep tale of grief, of longing to say goodbye, and eventually of healing. It's very different from Nimmo's later Charlie Bone series, which most YA's today will be far more familiar with, being shorter and with slightly less developed characters, but it's just as enchanting in its own way. It also has one of the sweetest endings I can ever remember reading.

I'll try and review the sequels at some point, although I'll need to find them to reread them first - but trust me when I say it's well worth getting the trilogy, which is available from Amazon for just £4.49 at the moment. From what I remember the TV series, starring Sian Phillips as Nain, was also well worth getting but is sadly unavailable on DVD today.

Very high recommendation to fans of JK Rowling, CS Lewis and Susan Cooper.

Debut Author Challenge

One of my new year's resolutions is going to be to read more authors I haven't tried before, and it seems like a good way to do that would be to read some authors who haven't written YA previously - so I'm signing up for the Story Siren's awesome Debut Author Challenge.

Big thanks go to The Story Siren for hosting the Challenge, and Tawni from The Book Worms for designing the gorgeous button below.

Huge potential for this rough, very rough, list to change, but these are 9 of the books that I'm aiming to read, with space for 3 more to complete the challenge:

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher
Firelight, by Sophie Jordan
Artichoke Hearts, by Sita Brahmachari
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
Between Shades of Grey, by Ruta Sepetys
One Seriously Messed-Up Week: in the Otherwise Mundane and Uneventful Life of Jack Samsonite, by Tom Clempson
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Die For Me, by Amy Plum
Angel Kiss, by Laura Cassidy

5 Hopes For YA in 2011

Persnickety Snark has a fantastic FIVE Challenge running that Adele's created. I missed out on the first five having only set up this blog today but decided I'd try today's.

Five Hopes for YA in 2011

1. A really great YA book set in Wales. Or even a pretty good YA book set in Wales. Growing up in the 80's I was spoiled by Jenny Nimmo's Magician Trilogy and Susan Cooper's The Grey King - nothing since then has ever touched those two for me. Hopefully this will be the year that changes!

2. More supernatural books WITHOUT vampires or werewolves in. Even zombies are starting to be a bit overdone. (And don't get me started on faeries.) How about leprechauns, dryads or satyrs? Two that I'm really looking forward to are Siren and one I saw a bit online about yesterday based on Medusa which I can't track down ANYWHERE... any ideas, anyone?

3. A new Jaclyn Moriarty book. After feeling let down by Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, Dreaming of Amelia has me desperate to read more, especially about Emily and Lydia. Of course, if you really CAN'T wait, her website is a great place to find a tiny little bit extra, particularly the FAQ section.

4. At least one fantastic movie or TV adaptation. I'm always disappointed, but maybe this year I won't be. High, high hopes for Never Let Me Go, in particular.

5. More books with male narrators. Beautiful Creatures was the find of the year for me from this perspective. It tends to be easier to recommend them to teen boys I'm trying to get interested in reading if there's a guy narrating.

Would love to hear other people's hopes!

Edit: If I haven't screwed up the technical stuff completely there should be a Mister Linky appearing below for anyone who wants to link to their own 5 hopes...


Review: Nobody's Girl - Sarra Manning



17 year old Bea is obsessed with France. Who wouldn't be, when they had a Parisian father they'd never met? Especially when life back home with an over-protective mother and rather boring friends is so, well, dull. At least it is until Ruby takes an interest in her. Falling under the spell of her school's most glamorous girl, Bea finds herself agreeing to go on holiday to Spain with Ruby and her mates. Except when she gets there, she's suddenly kicked out of the in crowd. What's a girl to do? Crawl home to her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother? Or head off to Paris to search for her long lost dad?

Of course, she chooses Paris, and meets a new group of friends, some American backpackers - rather nicer this time, especially the gorgeous Toph. Ignoring her mother's demands for her to return home, Bea finds solace in her new companions and falls completely in love with the city - and possibly with a certain boy as well. Are they meant for each other? Or is Bea destined to be Nobody's Girl forever?

Sarra Manning is one of my favourite YA authors and delivers another funny, romantic and fast-paced read here with lots of great characters. I thought Bea's family - especially the grandmothers - were particularly strong and liked the way the two groups Bea travelled with were fleshed out as well; it was interesting to see the way Bea’s impressions of some of her companions changed throughout the book.

The romance develops nicely and I also thought it was interesting that Toph was such a nice guy generally - compared to some previous Manning leading men he's an absolute angel. Bea, as I've come to confidently expect from Sarra, is a fantastic narrator who really comes of age during the course of the book.

A final thing - Manning's descriptions of Paris are particularly strong - so much so that I've caught myself considering leaping on a plane at least two or three times since finishing the book!

High recommendation, particularly to fans of Sarah Dessen and Simone Elkeles.