Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally. This is a relatively recent one (published just over a month ago) but wanted to put it up as it's one of my favourites for ages!
14-year-old Jenna survived a car crash which killed her best friend. Sometimes, she wishes it was her who was dead. Because the crash left her face scarred, and she can't stop feeling like a freak. As if that wasn't hard enough to cope with, her dad is out for justice and has set up a pressure group in response to the light sentence given to the driver of the car she was in - and the youth is responding with intimidation. Just as she hits rock bottom, though, 16-year-old New Age traveller Ryan comes into her life. Could he be the person to see past her scars?
This is, in a couple of words, absolutely stunning. Debut author Jarratt takes a subject which is genuinely original, throws in a huge amount of extra baggage for the characters to deal with - and one especially shocking plot twist - and weaves one of the most compelling young adult romances I've had the pleasure of reading for a long, long time. The dual narrative works well because both Ryan and Jenna are absolutely wonderful characters - Jenna struggling to cope in the aftermath of the accident and Ryan trying to deal with a mother suffering from bipolar disorder and the prejudice against travellers which he encounters. They felt completely real and the way their relationship developed was handled perfectly, while the supporting cast was also fabulous. I particularly liked Jenna's parents and Ryan's mum, who were brilliantly drawn. I found it an incredibly easy book to read because Jarratt's writing style is absolutely superb - pacy and vivid - while I was particularly impressed by the way Jenna's disfigurement was handled with sensitivity and by the way her character changed as she started to come to terms with it.
Intensely romantic, really thrilling, and with lots to provoke thought on the nature of beauty, friendship, discrimination, mental illness and loyalty. Of the 100 or so books I've read so far this year, this is one of the very, very best. I can't wait to read more by this talented author! Oh, and while I don't usually judge a book by its cover, I love this one - it's nearly as fantastic as the story contained inside!
If you enjoy this one, another wonderful contemporary novel is The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.