Life has suddenly become very complicated for twelve year old Vanessa. Dealing with her parent’s separation, moving into a new house and becoming estranged from her two best friends has been a breeze compared to what lays in store for her with the discovery of a mysterious glass ball that possesses horrifyingly strange powers over her. Is she going crazy or does this ball really have control over her life?
With only this short synopsis to peak my interest, I started to read Shattered by Jeannie Palmer and I kept reading, engrossed again in my own childhood. I was transported back to grammar school and was immediately tuned into the desperation of youth’s dramatic physical changes, its preoccupation with appearance and attractiveness, and its utter focus on social life, friends and school. I was lost again in the microcosm of my own preteens.
I finished the book in one sitting, totally immersed in the vivid and heartfelt tween world created by the author. Vanessa is a preteen coming of age, torn between childish antics and unfamiliar emotions that stir inside early teens. Shattered pulls the reader in so completely that you’ll find yourself experiencing the book as a twelve year old might. You’ll be inside Vanessa’s head identifying with each thought, completely touched by every emotion.
She’s going crazy and believes her possession is caused by a shiny red garden ball. It’s mystical. It’s terrifying. It has powers to control her life and the ball first appeared when Vanessa’s world started coming apart at the seams. When her friend Camille begins to develop new interests in shopping and puppy love, the ball is there. When she’s forced to see a counselor to fix a problem she didn’t cause, the ball is there. When she experiences uncomfortable feelings for a boy at the science museum, the ball is there, too. Vanessa has to break its spell so her life and the rest of her sanity can be salvaged.
The characters and storyline are drawn so real the reader is swept up into situation after situation from Shattered’s mysterious opening to Vanessa’s circumstances seemingly returning to “the way they were”. But the reader somehow knows nothing will ever be the same again for Vanessa, her family, or her friends.
Shattered is a must read for every early teen to remind them they’re not out there alone and for every adult to bring back misplaced memories of early school days, best friends and conjured enemies, and the bittersweet feelings that changed us all forever. Don’t let a part of your own childhood disappear into the mist of forgetfulness. Read this book with your child and help her cope with these changing thoughts and emotions in a fast approaching new world.
I received a free copy of Shattered from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Demon’s Grip is the third (of four) books in the Diamond Peak series, and it is the best so far, both in terms of the action-packed storyline and the quality of the writing. I had the impression throughout the book that the main characters (Ariel and Nick) had grown up a bit since the previous book. This was probably because they were dealing with issues of greater importance (greed and craving, their developing romance, deceit and honesty and more besides). The emotions of the characters as they struggle with these is very well-portrayed, particularly with regards to addiction.The main story is counterpointed nicely with updates on the predicament of Nadima, Ariel’s mother, who is trapped in the demon’s lair (quite literally, at times, in its grip). The demon in question is developed as an important character in its own right, and the interactions between the demons themselves are quite amusing.It is more than a standard YA fantasy story, though; the characters’ internalisations and dialogue, and the progression of the plot itself, lead the reader to be more contemplative, even meditative, about the emotional issues involved. So it is certainly for readers who want greater depth in a novel.
Overall, a nicely-paced novel, well-written, with memorable characters and the chance, perhaps, to reflect more deeply on life while enjoying the story.
A most exemplary work, a real joy to read. The colour, depth and vitality of both the writing and the narrative is stunningly good: the exploration of motives, outlooks and hopes of the characters quite intoxicating. It ranks as a true work of literary accomplishment.
STIM is a sensitive and charming portrayal of an autistic man’s search for a girlfriend. Robert lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has Autistic Spectrum Disorder which means that he finds social situations awkward. He has difficulty reading social signals and understanding social conventions, hence finding a girlfriend is much harder for him that it is for NS (Non Spectrum) people.
This simple story glows with Robert’s earnest and honest character. His straight forward nature is the cause of much confusion for him and many chuckles for the reader, but there’s a serious side to the story, a call for celebrating neural diversity rather than shunning those whose brain works slightly differently to the norm. Reading this book will help you to understand what life is like for an autistic person and for anyone with clinical depression, that’s the kind that can be treated with medication – happy pills, as Robert calls them. You’ll also gain some insight into bipolar disorder. Robert isn’t bipolar, but he does have a manic episode when he ups his dose of happy pills.
Mr Berry draws this endearing character so well that we see the logic of Robert’s perception. Some of the things we Neuro Typical people find normal, like figurative speech for example, are ridiculous when seen from Robert’s point of view. Robert is somewhat like Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory. He has the same innocence, social ignorance, logical brain and ability to focus on obscure areas of study. Roberts language is very formal; he even speaks without contractions. At first it seems rather stiff and odd, but I soon realized now perfectly his speech patterns expressed his character.
Chloe is another wonderful character, also an Aspie, and a good friend who helps Robert to become comfortable in his own skin. In this way, it’s a coming of age story, that of a young autistic man finding his place on the world. Steph, their flatmate, is an excellent role model for how understanding NS people can be towards those with different neurological wiring. I loved it when he sent her aggro boyfriend packing.
Journal entries detailing what Robert had read recently and how much sexual activity he had had peppered the novel. The book titles and his descriptions of them were delightful as were his reactions to the question of sex. The author uses the format extremely well at the end. The book is undoubtedly well written. The character, the issues and the challenges come over loud and clear, and in an entertaining package.
This is not an an action packed book, and yet I didn’t want to put it down – an indication of the author’s skill. Robert’s life had enough tension in simple things like going to a party and working a job, and the addition of his experience in the Christchurch earthquake ramped it up at just the right point in the plot line. I really wanted Robert to find a girlfriend, but the odds seemed stacked against him. The end was not a surprise, but it was a delight.
I think this book would be enjoyed by anyone who likes literary or contemporary fiction and it really should be read by anyone who knows or works with autistic people in any way. The first person point of view really gets you inside Robert’s head. Stories about people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder are not as rare as you might think, but they are rarely touted as such – take Sherlock Holmes for example.
Well done, Mr Berry. STIM undoubtedly deserves 5 stars.
This is a truly wonderful book. The author has a very strong voice, the characters are real, the subject matter relevant, and the book is immaculately edited.
Highly recommended. I don’t know if the author wrote this book in the hope of giving a moral lesson, but the main character’s different-ness made me look at life and people differently. Funny and sad and tender.
I loved this book, and his second one, too, Kaleidoscope. Such unusual characters, and a wonderful story. Can’t recommend it enough.
I didn’t think this was as funny as others have, most likely because I have an intimate connection with two autistic people and have an understanding (admittedly, the small amount I can from being closer to the neurotypical side of the scale) about the way their minds work.