Book Review | A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

A Mother's Reckoning Sue Klebold Memoir Book Review

“It may be too late for the ones we have lost, but it may not be too late to save others.” – page 254

Hi friends! It’s been a while since I’ve properly reviewed something on this blog, eh? I needed to take a bit of a break from reviewing as reading was feeling a bit like homework for a while there — I was reading on a (self-imposed) deadline and constantly analyzing every word and articulating my feelings as I was reading. I mean, that’s not really a bad thing to do generally, but when I start feeling obligated to do it is when I personally need to take a break.

That said, I’ve been reading some really, really good books lately. I keep catching myself mentioning two titles in particular and Sue Klebold’s A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy is one of them. (The other title is also a non-fiction title, which is shocking for me!)

I picked this book up out of curiosity. I knew that this would be a difficult read, but I really didn’t know what to expect. What I found within the pages was not only a heartbreaking recount of Sue Klebold’s experience before and after her son participated in the Columbine shooting, but also something very valuable: a lesson to be learned. To Sue Klebold, and, indeed, many people in her community, Dylan Klebold was just a regular teenager. He could be shy in social situations and moody when reminded to do a chore, but that was seen as common teenage behaviour. Nobody saw the tragedy coming. Sue Klebold reiterates this throughout the book — “He seemed so normal” — when, she admits, the heartbreaking fact of the matter is that the family had misinterpreted many of the warning signs of Dylan’s depression and brain disorder. While he seemed like a regular teenager on the outside, Klebold later learns via his journal that he was suicidal – probably a big reason why he participated in the Columbine shooting in 1999.

Here’s where I’ll admit that I’m fascinated (and slightly terrified) that no one was able to pick up on Dylan’s depression. I’ve often wondered how many of my peers are suffering silently, and whether I would be perceptive enough to notice when someone needs help. In the forward to the book, Andrew Soloman writes that the spotlight was shone on the shooters’ parents in the aftermath of the tragedy because the community — and, really, the world — needed a way to rationalize what had happened. We want to believe that this could have been prevented if only the parents had done something differently. But, as Klebold writes, she was an attentive parent; she did love her child; up until the shooting she thought she was doing a pretty good job of parenting. The one thing she mentions often is that the signs that seemed so insignificant at the time, signs that she thought were just normal teenage behaviour, actually added up to one big arrow pointing to depression. If perhaps she had known to look out for these signs, maybe she would have been able to understand Dylan more before his death. (This revelation is one of the big reasons why Klebold wrote the book, as noted in the quote above.) And so I sometimes think: am I missing anything in my daily life? Can I be more attentive towards the people around me? Even if I might never experience anything as extreme as what Sue Klebold went through, it makes me wonder if I could help someone get through a rough patch by asking more questions or if it’s truly impossible to get someone to open up when they are deliberately hiding their pain from you.

Either way, it surprised me how much I appreciated reading Klebold honest writing. She bravely shares her experience as accurately and openly as possible. She tells the reader what she’s learned about spotting signs of brain illness, reflects on her mistakes, and works to spread awareness about suicide prevention. She also takes the opportunity to apologize to her son’s victims. Overall, this book was a difficult read, but I think it’s one that can help spread empathy and understanding to those who do read it. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Have you read A Mother’s Reckoning? What were your thoughts on the book?

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#gritLIT2016 Blog Tour | Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Last year, the wonderful Jessica from Not My Typewriter invited me to Hamilton, Ontario to check out the local gritLIT Festival. I had such a great time dropping in on multiple readings and soaking up the atmosphere — I was surrounded by readers and book lovers all day — it was fabulous. This year, gritLIT will be held from April 7th – 10th. I can’t wait to visit for my second year in a row! To find out more about the festival and the amazing programming, visit their website and visit them on Twitter.

To get the lit love going, gritLIT is also hosting its first blog tour! I’m so proud to be a part of it and I’m so lucky to have gotten a chance to read a great book by Canadian writer, journalist, and folklorist Emily Urquhart.

It’s kind of serendipitous that my pick for this tour ended up being Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart. When I was an intern at HarperCollins Canada, I saw this book daily; I was always intrigued by it, but I never got around to picking it up. In Beyond the Pale, Urquhart is on a journey to learn more about albinism: what it is, what challenges it brings, how cultures around the world perceive people with albinism, and how it relates to her family. As someone who makes a goal to read more non-fiction year after year, Beyond the Pale appealed to me as Urquhart has a personal connection to her research — her daughter, Sadie, has albinism — and that gave what may have felt like an academic text an anchor for me and created an extra level of intimacy and understanding. While reading the book I often put myself in Urquhart’s shoes: how would I have reacted in her situation?

I really appreciate how open and honest Urquhart is with her experience. Upon learning her daughter’s diagnosis, she was, understandably, nervous and worried. Instead of glossing over this fact, Urquhart faces her emotions head on and guides readers through her process of understanding this genetic condition. This process takes Urquhart from Victoria, BC to St. Louis, Missouri to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. She uses real stories to help readers understand what it’s like to live with albinism — the lower vision, the extreme sensitivity to sun, the difficulties that may arise socially — and succeeds in touching an emotional chord. That being said, as a folklorist, Urquhart also uses myths and folktales (paired with beautiful, honest writing) to round out her research.

I loved this unique twist in a non-fiction book. Utilizing stories and folklore may seem counter-intuitive, but Urquhart makes some really great points for it:

“I am not certain that we are better off for knowing the molecular story rather than the folktale, or whether there is room for both. Science can tell you how genetic anomalies and birth defects happen, but not why they happened to you rather than your neighbour… Here is the value of folklore: it gives shape to the unknowable.” — pg. 24

As an avid reader, I do believe that stories can help us navigate new, “unknowable” situations. They have the power to comfort you while confronting your biggest fears, and because of that, the are incredibly valuable.

Overall, Beyond the Pale was an eye-opening read. Urquhart’s was driven by one of the most powerful feelings — a mother’s love — and used that compassion with her journalistic eye to write an approachable yet researched book about a not often talked about condition. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about albinism, I would highly recommend it. If not for the actual scientific explanations (of which there are not many), then for the fierce portrayal of a mother’s unconditional love for her daughter.

Have you read Beyond the Pale? Did you ever learn about albinism in school? Do you think there is merit to studying folklore and science hand-in-hand?

Book Review | She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

She's Not There Joy Fielding Crime Fiction One More Page Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my review of the novel.]

Imagine: your husband surprises you and your two young children with a luxurious vacation in Mexico to celebrate your 10th anniversary. Imagine: on the night of your anniversary dinner, your youngest child, 2, goes missing. Imagine: fifteen years later, after being constantly hounded by the press, a young woman calls you claiming to be your daughter. Imagine getting to watch every detail unfold in Joy Fielding’s latest mystery She’s Not There

Before I started reading this book I had heard other bloggers mentioning that they had read the book in one day. Well, I was in the mood for a quick and engrossing read this weekend, and I gladly fell into the group of readers who couldn’t put this book down until it was finished. I’ve completely embraced crime fiction, my friends!

Joy Fielding does a great job of transporting her readers into the various situations her characters go through in She’s Not There: I held my breath as I read the exchange between Caroline and maybe-Samantha; I felt tense when Caroline and her other daughter, Michelle, couldn’t stop arguing; I traveled alongside the Shipleys as they followed an intriguing lead on a crazy whim… But, it was not just my emotional response to this book that made me love it so much; I was also fascinated by the way Fielding crafted her characters and the way they each handled the same incident differently. I read on a friend’s blog (I forget where at the moment – sorry!! If I am quoting you, can you please leave your link in the comments so I can give you credit?) that crime fiction/thrillers are essentially studies of human choices and how those choices play out as consequences. Reading She’s Not There made me wonder: what would I have done if I were Caroline? How would I have reacted if my child went missing? What would my life look like? In the end, not only did She’s Not There provide a bit of escapism for a day, it also made me look inward and wonder.

Verdict: A really well-paced and well-plotted novel that will lure you in and hold your attention until the very last page. This was my first Fielding book, but I’m excited to read more from her.

Read if: You’ve ever wondered how you would react if a child went missing on your watch, you enjoy fast-paced thrillers, want to see why Joy Fielding is so (rightfully) beloved.

Are you a Joy Fielding fan? What are your favourite mysteries/thrillers?

Book Review | The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow Fiona Barton Evidence Bag

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my review.]

Remember when I avoided thrillers/mysteries/anything remotely scary? Yeah, me neither. Ever since Slade House by David Mitchell brought me over to the dark side, I can’t get enough! When The Widow showed up at my door a few months ago, I couldn’t wait to start. Luckily for me, I started this book when I had a bit of time off, so I could read as long as my heart desired (translation: I read it until I finished it — I couldn’t put it down!). In fact, I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to share; see my Wishlist Wednesday post about it here!

The Widow appealed to me not only because it’s mysterious and thrilling, but also because it’s about a woman who’s figuring things out for herself now that her husband is no longer in the picture. (Or, more accurately, we’re able to learn more about The Widow, aka Jean Taylor, now that her husband isn’t around.) You see, before her husband died, he was the prime suspect of a terrible crime. Is Jean ready to tell the truth now that she’s no longer bound to him? Or is there more to Jean than we know? I find the darker side of relationships so interesting to read about, and this angle gave The Widow an extra bit of intrigue that I really enjoyed. How much of Jean’s actions were because of her husband? Was she protecting his secret all along? Will she still keep his secrets now that he’s dead?

This compelling book follows multiple perspectives: the widow, the reporter, and the detective of the case. Each story is told with a unique voice and the cast of characters are all well developed and interesting. The Widow is a quick and entertaining read, perfect for those weekends where you just want to curl up with a good book! (Preemptive warning: you may never look at Skittle packets the same way again.)

Verdict: A fast-paced read full of secret motivations and mystery that keeps readers grasping for the truth at every turn. Make sure to reserve a full weekend for this book as you’ll have trouble putting it down. I can’t wait to read what Fiona Barton writes next!

Read if: You’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers, love looking into the darker side marriage, want to know why Skittles are forever ruined for me.

Are you a fan of crime fiction? Have you read The Widow?

Book Review | Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Young adult fiction, Bronte family

Warning: This post contains a lot of fangirling.

Once in a while a book will come along and check off all of your readerly boxes and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to read an advanced copy of it. Lena Coakley’s Worlds of Ink and Shadow was such a book for me. Like, (please excuse the casual tone – I love this book too much to be formal about it) I feel like this book was tailor-made for me: it’s a little magical, it’s about sibling relationships, and it’s about the Brontës.

If you’re a fan of Victorian literature, you might know that the Brontë siblings had a pretty tough life. They were not rich and thus were sent to an inexpensive school where the two eldest siblings (Maria and Elizabeth) fell ill with tuberculosis, passing away weeks after returning home. The death of their siblings was, unsurprisingly, difficult for Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily, and Anne. I can’t confirm whether this is true or not, but it’s said that the remaining Brontë siblings would write to escape their dark reality, creating their own worlds such as Verdopolis, Glasstown, Angria, and Gondal. Some of the stories written in those worlds have been published (See: Tales of Angria).

The Brontës’ lives have always fascinated me but I never got around to reading any in-depth biographies. That’s why I appreciated Worlds of Ink and Shadows so much. It’s still considered fiction (especially when you get to the more magical parts), but Coakley draws inspiration from real events experienced by the family, making it almost like an intro course to the Brontës. Of course, readers should take the biographical details in the novel with a grain of salt, but I found that the book did teach me things about the family that I didn’t know before.

Aside from the biographical details of the Brontës, Worlds of Ink and Shadow is really just a well-written, well-plotted book, so even if you’re not specifically interested in the Brontë family, I think you’ll still enjoy the story. In the book, readers learn that Charlotte and Branwell have tried to resist the lure of writing but have failed, and it is only until later that you start to suspect that there may be a reason for it. Coakley expertly blends the in-universe reality with the stories the characters write, making the readers question what is real and what is not. This is a story about the price of art, but it’s also a story of family, and how far we would go to save one another.

If what I’ve said so far appeals to you, then you should definitely read Worlds of Ink and Shadow. (I really, seriously, cannot love this book enough.)

Verdict: A book that I can’t stop raving about. It gripped me from start to finish, and even had me excitedly explaining the biographical details of the Brontës to my friends. It was a fun read and reignited my interest in learning more about the Brontë family. LOVE.

Read if: You’re a fan of literary biographies with a fictional twist, you are a Brontë fan like me, you want to lose yourself in an imaginative story with well-developed characters that you’ll grow to love.

Are you a fan of the Brontës? Do you have a favourite Brontë novel?

Book Review + Giveaway | Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

Always the Bridesmaid, Lindsey Kelk, book blogger, book review, giveaway, free books

Hi friends! You may remember this Instagram post back in August announcing my exciting news, and I’m sad to say that my internship at HarperCollins Canada is coming to an end. However, this post is supposed to be a happy and exciting one. Early into my internship, Kaitlyn from The Savvy Reader left a copy of Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk on my desk for me to read. After loving it, she asked me if I wanted to host a giveaway on my blog! You know I love sharing my favourite books with you, so keep reading to the end to enter!

I read Always the Bridesmaid when I was in the middle of a reading slump, and I have to say: this humourous book is perfect for busting slumps! It centers around Maddie, whose two best friends are in two different stages of life: Lauren is recently engaged and planning her wedding, while Sarah’s marriage is not going so well. Where does that leave Maddie? Smack dab in the middle. Lauren becomes a bit of a “Bridezilla” and Sarah turns to Maddie to vent about her relationship troubles. Oh, on top of all this, Maddie also has to juggle her work life and her love life…

It took me no time at all to fly through the book as it was just so enjoyable to read. Every chapter starts with an entry from Maddie’s bridesmaid book (from Lauren, of course) and Maddie is hilariously honest in each entry. Maddie is the perfect narrator because she tells her readers exactly what’s on her mind. She also gets into some pretty funny situations, and I have to admit that I laughed louder on the subway than I intended to when I was reading about “penguins vs. pandas.” I think most people can relate to the things the characters go through in this book, whether it be an exhausting bride-to-be, a friend going through boy troubles, having your own boy troubles, and struggling to move up at work. That Kelk is able to bring comedy into these everyday situations brings a certain kind of relief to them, and it’s refreshing to be able to see these events as funny instead of complicated and difficult.

So, whether you’re looking to get over a reading slump, want to read something that is full of drama and will make you laugh out loud, or relate to not ever wanting to be a bridesmaid again, this book is the perfect pick. It would also make the perfect gift for the girlfriends and fans of rom-coms on your shopping list!

Now, on to the giveaway! The generous HarperCollins Canada has given me 5 copies to give away. Click on the link below to enter!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada only. (Sorry!)
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again (unless I can tell by their other accounts that they will actually read the book). I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Have you ever been a bridesmaid? What’s your favourite best friend story?

#GLB2015 Book Tour | Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill

Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Reviewed on One More Page blog.

Good morning everyone! November is here and for this bookworm, it means the imminent arrival of one of my most anticipated fall events: the Giller Light Bash! For those who aren’t familiar with the event, it’s basically a big party for bookish people to gather and watch a livestream of the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala! The Giller Light Bash is hosted in 7 cities across Canada and raises money for Frontier College, Canada’s original literacy organization. Learn more about the bash, find a location, and buy your tickets here.

As a part of the celebrations, the wonderful Giller Light Bash coordinators have put together a Giller Light Bash blog tour. Sarah from Special Edition did a fantastic job kicking off the tour with her review of Andre Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs, and I’m thrilled to be reviewing Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill today!

Following Sarah’s lead, I’ll add a small disclaimer here: I’m currently an intern at HarperCollins Canada, the publisher of Daydreams of Angels. However, I’ll assure you that I’ve been a Heather O’Neill fan since before then, and all of the opinions below are my own.

Now, on to the review! I always find short stories collections hard to review, and, I’ll admit, such is the case for Daydreams of Angels. In this wildly inventive collection, O’Neill presents 20 unique, poignant, and amusing tales that are all worthy of being analyzed and discussed. How is one supposed to sum up such a complex book in mere paragraphs?

In Daydreams of Angels, readers enter dreamworld after dreamworld, living out fable-like stories filled with O’Neill’s signature metaphors and poignant observations. These tales are all touching in some way, and will surely leave an impression on readers. I almost feel like the collection is so eclectic that it makes it hard for me to summarize; O’Neill’s versatility makes it so utterly enjoyable and fresh. No two stories are the same.

Some of the top stories from the collection, for me, were the ones that blended fantasy and reality: “The Gypsy and the Bear” follows two characters who must continue on with their lives after the child that invented them sets them aside; a child and his brother listen to their grandfather’s wild tale about his past courtships in “The Isles of Dr. Moreau”‘ and in “Messages in Bottles,” a pair of siblings find a place of their own. However, surprisingly, my absolute favourite story, “The Man Without a Heart,” had less to do with invented worlds and more about a loving — albeit unconventional — mentor one could only dream about. This story about an unlikely friendship tugged at my emotions in a way that I haven’t felt since reading The Girl Who Was Saturday Night.

Overall, Daydreams of Angels is an incredibly entertaining and sometimes absurd collection of short stories. It has been labelled as “fairy tales for adults,” and I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re looking to escape the real world or just want to be entertained for a few minutes, Daydreams of Angels has the perfect story for you.

Read the 2015 Giller Prize shorlist jury citation here.

Verdict: A very strong follow-up to The Girl Who Was Saturday Night that displays O’Neill’s talent for crafting interesting yet touching stories. I was enthralled by the collection and can’t wait to read more from her!

Read if: You enjoy short stories, agree that fairy tales never go out of style, want to daydream with Heather O’Neill.

Are you a fan of Heather O’Neill? Have you read Daydreams of Angels? Which book do you want to take home the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize?

Psst, don’t forget to visit Jessica at Not My Typewriter tomorrow to see what she thought of Rachel Cusk’s Outline!

Book Review | In Which David Mitchell’s Slade House Teaches Me Something About Myself

David Mitchell Slade House Book Cover Review One More Page Blog

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

It’s been two weeks since I finished reading Slade House, David Mitchell’s new novel, and I’ve been recommending it to whoever will listen ever since. This 200-odd-paged book is Mitchell’s take on a classic haunted house story and much like some of its characters, Slade House refuses to let me go.

Let me preface my review by saying this: I am not normally a horror story/haunted house-seeking reader. But given my great experience with The Bone Clocks last year and the fact that Slade House will be published on my birthday, I felt like I should give it a shot. (Plus, as an avid Twitter user, I love that the first chapter of this book was originally published as a Twitter story.)

I think it should be obvious by now that the book far exceeded my expectations.

What Mitchell delivers in Slade House is a spooky, intriguing, magnetic story. It features Slade House, which is an easily-overlooked house that can only be found if you know the directions (and even then it might take you a few tries to find it) and its mysterious inhabitants. The book opens with a mother and her precocious but socially awkward son meeting the owners of the house. Soon, readers learn that new visitors are invited (read: lured) to Slade House every 9 years, and the reason might be more sinister than it originally appears…

What impressed me most about the story (other than the story itself) is how Mitchell handles its structure. As you read, you notice patterns starting to form, but events never seem repetitive and the creepiness never wavers. Slade House’s world is deliciously unsettling, and I never wanted it to end. (I have no idea what that says about me.) In this post’s title I claim that Slade House taught me something about myself and it is this: I’ve been passing over a genre of books that I think I really, really enjoy. Since finishing this book, it’s like a switch has been flicked and an unused part of my reading brain has become illuminated. I’ve been craving creepy gothic reads like never before, and even wrote a blog post asking for recommendations! If nothing else, I thank David Mitchell and this gem of a book for introducing me to a genre that I used to avoid.

Back to the book: fans of The Bone Clocks will be happy to see some familiar faces, but prior knowledge of Mitchell’s work is not needed to understand and enjoy the plot. So, whether you’re a Mitchell fan or not, I’d highly recommend checking out this short but spooky book, especially if you’re in the mood for a Halloween-appropriate read! (Side note: I’d recommend reading this book as close to its release date as possible, as I feel like they chose an October 27th release for a reason…)

Verdict: This is honestly one of the best books I’ve read this year in terms of how much I loved it and how much it has impacted me personally. It’s a fun, short read, but it’s also gripping and “unputdownable” at the same time. Everyone should read it right now – it might just surprise you.

Read if: You’re a fan of haunted house stories, want to read more of David Mitchell’s “multiverse,” you want to see how a Twitter story evolved into one of my favourite books of the year.

Are you a fan of haunted house stories? Are you a David Mitchell fan? Will you be reading Slade House?

Book Review | The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

[I received this book from its Canadian publisher HarperCollins Canada. This does not affect my review of the novel.]

I’ve been seeing Patrick Ness around the blogosphere for a while now, but I hadn’t had a chance to check his work out until Suman from @HCCFrenzy kindly gifted me a copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here this summer. And while it took me a chapter or so to get used to the concept of the book and really get into it, I was emotionally attached to all of the characters by the time I was turning the final page. Better yet: I was emotionally attached and crying as I turned the final page. If you ask me, that’s a sure-fire way to make me give a book 5 stars.

“They better not blow up the high school again,” Jared says. “My cousin had to have his graduation ceremony in the parking lot.” – pg 9

The Rest of Us Just Live Here has been compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer a lot, but instead of following the “Chosen Ones” (or “indie kids” in Ness’ world), the story focuses mainly on a group of friends during their last few weeks of high school: there’s Mikey, an anxious boy who has the tendency to get stuck in “loops”; Mikey’s sister Mel, who has her own demons to overcome; Henna, the daughter of a music minister and a Finnish foot doctor; and Jared, who is “three-quarters Jewish, one-quarter God” (pg 74). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these “ordinary” characters, and I was so impressed by how well-developed they were. (Extra shout out to Meredith, Mikey and Mel’s younger sister, who absolutely stole my heart. I loved her.) Everyone is facing their own unique set of problems, whether it be about mental health, family, or secrets that they feel like they can’t disclose. Ness treats them all as individuals, and never claims to speak for anyone but his characters.

“I can’t tell you what’s real for you. But in return, you can’t say what’s real for me either. I get to choose. Not you.” – pg 77

On top of this, Ness does a fantastic job at showing the anxieties that come with starting a new chapter in life: will the group of friends keep in touch even when they’re all separated? Will they all forget each other when they’re off living their lives apart from one another? These common anxieties recur throughout the book, and they make this fantastic novel about mysterious lights and “indie kids” universal.

Speaking of the more fantastic side of the novel, I love how each chapter in The Rest of Us Just Live Here starts with an update on the “indie kids.” It cements the fact that the book is indeed about the “unchosen ones,” and the “chosen ones” are merely operating in the background. That being said, Mikey and his group of friends do interact with some of the strange elements of the town, and it’s thrilling and exciting to read about. (I was reading this book on the couch while my boyfriend had some friends over one night, and I audibly gasped at one part. Not embarrassing at all…) The stakes just keep getting higher and higher for the characters as the novel progresses, and it makes for a gripping and compelling read with a spectacular conclusion.

I find it especially hard to review books that I’ve loved, so I’ll just end my review with this: whether you’re looking for some adventure or just a really really well-plotted and well-written novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the perfect choice.

Verdict: While the background story in The Rest of Us Just Live Here is fantastic and strange (mysterious lights that have been killing Chosen Ones!), its main characters are universally relatable. Whether you’re about to start a new chapter in life, have secrets you feel like you could never share, or are simply just trying to get by, you will love this book.

Read if: You’ve ever been interested in reading about those who aren’t chosen to fight monsters and vampires, you want to read a touching story about friendship, you want to read a book that will move you to tears.

Are you a fan of Patrick Ness? Will you be checking out The Rest of Us Just Live Here?

Book Review | The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last Margaret Atwood Book Review Can Lit

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]

It’s a little embarrassing for me to admit that I had never read anything by the incredibly intelligent and prolific Margaret Atwood until early 2014. But after loving The Handmaid’s Tale — and now The Heart Goes Last — I’m officially a fan.

Like in The Handmaid’s Tale, the characters in The Heart Goes Last find themselves in a dismal situation. Living out of their car and barely surviving after an economic collapse that has created widespread unemployment and the rise of crime and instability, Stan and Charmaine are lured by a new project called the Positron Project, which promises participants self-reliance and a comfortable place to stay for the rest of their lives. The only catch? While the participants are assigned employment and residence, they are also required to serve time in Positron Prison every other month. This is all well and good (and even, maybe, a great idea?) until Charmaine becomes entangled with an Alternate: a resident who lives in her house while she and Stan are in Positron Prison. Soon, the Positron Project doesn’t seem like such a utopia after all…

My first reaction after finishing this book was to go through a mental list of who I could push this book onto because this is absolutely the type of book that you share to any and everyone who will listen to you. It has a perfect mix of everything: social commentary, adventure, and romance. I was absolutely enthralled by the idea of the Positron Project, and how being a prisoner one month and a civilian the next would affect one’s mental state. As the more sinister side of the Positron Project comes to light (yes, it gets even more terrifying!), the book’s plot just propels forward and becomes a full-blown adventure filled with secrets, revenge, and complicated love stories. Not only do the main characters Stan and Charmaine have to endure the crazy situations they’ve unknowingly subjected themselves to, they must also overcome their hurdles as a couple. In a way, Stan and Charmaine’s story reminded me of the romance between Axl and Beatrice in Ishiguro’s most recent work The Buried Giant. Can a love survive transgressions? What does it mean to fully trust and forgive someone?

If it seems like Atwood is trying to tackle too much at once, don’t worry; she is more than capable of balancing these elements and pulling them together. The Heart Goes Last is a riveting book that will have you saying “one more page, one more page” until you’re done. This is a title you will not want to miss this fall.

Verdict: The Heart Goes Last is just as great as you’d expect from Atwood (which is really great). It mixes a fast-paced plot with three dimensional characters to create a world that feels at once far-fetched and eerily possible.

Read if: You’re a fan of dystopian novels, you want to read a masterful work by one of Canada’s greatest writers, you don’t want to miss out on the book that everyone will be talking about.

Ps. I still can’t believe this happened.

Are you planning to read The Heart Goes Last? Are you an Atwood fan? Do you think you could survive in the Positron Project?