Monday, 31 August 2015

All of the Above - James Dawson HOT KEY BOOKS WEEK

The Blurb

This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

The Review

I posted a Waiting on Wednesday for All of the Above a few months ago, so when Hot Key books asked if I'd like a review copy of this book I couldn't have snatched their hand off any faster.  Seriously, this has been one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  I read the sample chapter after YALC (you can read all about that here, including my experience of meeting James Dawson) and that only made me more desperate to get my hands on a copy.  The characters had attitude and sass and personality, and I couldn't wait to find out more about them and their lives.

I read All of the Above in two sittings, and if I could have cancelled everything else in my life to be able to read it in one, I would have.  It was that good.

From the moment new girl Toria arrives in town, she attracts attention.  Which group will she slot into?  The geeks?  The freaks?  The plastic girls?  It's almost luck that she gets 'buddied up' with Daisy and finds herself surrounded by a mismatched group of eclectics - a group who quickly give Toria purpose and help her re-engage with society.  As the novel progresses each friend faces their own challenges, and it's the support and encouragement of the others that pulls them through. 

All of the Above is definitely Toria's story, but I defy anyone who reads it not to fall in love with the whole cast.  I laughed, cried and totally bought into their relationships.  Driven by issues such as sexuality, mental health, eating disorders and self-harm but built primarily around love and friendship, this book had me in reeled in right from the off. You'll recognise people you know in the characters and that only adds to their appeal.  I fell a little bit in love with Polly, she's brash and brazen and acts without thinking of the consequences.  She's exactly how I wanted to be at seventeen, although in reality I was more of a Toria, far too caught up in what other people thought of me to be true to myself.  Although this is a YA book, I'm sure this will also appeal to the adult market.

I loved the seaside setting and could absolutely envisage the arcades, the pier, the crazy golf course.  James Dawson does the most fantastic job of creating characters and scenes that stay with you long after you finish the final chapter - I was left craving more and I don't think it'll be long before I reread this one.

I'm really cautious about giving too much away, because to share the key plot points would be to dilute the impact it'll have when you read All of the Above, and read it you must.  So, how would I describe this book?

a) Funny?
b) Insightful?
c) Engaging?
d) Cram-packed with emotion?
e) Superbly written?

I'd have to add a further option - f) All of the Above.

One of my favourite books of 2015, without a shadow of a doubt.

All of the Above is published by Hot Key Books on September 3rd 2015.

With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a copy of this book in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

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