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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Review: The Worst of Me

Author: Kate Le Vann
Release date: January 2010
Genre: Contemporary Teen Life / Issues / Teen Romance
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Publisher's website:
A subtle and sharply insightful portrayal of the sometimes painful process of growing up, thinking for yourself.

Cassidy has been feeling unsettled and adrift, but things look up when she meets an older boy called Jonah. She loves spending time with him and his friends, flattered to be included in their discussions. Jonah is sweet and sensitive and she’s never felt so happy.

But then Cassidy hears disturbing news about Jonah which shakes her trust in him and makes her question her own judgement. If you love someone, how far should you go to overlook their faults?

The Worst of Me is a poignant story about love, perception and beliefs. The novel is narrated by Cassidy a sixteen year old girl who is coming to terms with the end of her relationship with long-term boyfriend Ian. She is also struggling to find a middle-ground with her mother's boyfriend. She feels isolated and she has lost her sense of identity. Her narrative is a fascinating insight into how we all paint an image of ourselves but actually what we show isn't what we truly feel.

One day after hearing her mum and Paul arguing about her, Cassidy goes out and finds herself hiding in the cinema. The anonymity and thrill of being alone sooth her frustrated mind and her absence form home gives her the chance to punish her mother for the hurtful things she has said. After the film, she sits in a cafe and this is where she meets Jonah and his friends. The four boys have recently transfered to the sixth form at Cassidy's school. In a way they give her the chance to reinvent herself and be someone knew. They know nothing about her or her break up with Ian and so she gets to portray a confident and slightly aloof image of herself.

Cassidy and Jonah have an instant connection and they soon begin to explore it. This is where the novel begins to make you ask questions. Cassidy pretends that she is more mature than her friends and in a way above them. She doesn't necessarily believe that she is but because she is feeling isolated from them she becomes more and more integrated and associated with Jonah's group. The trouble is that Jonah's friends are making a name for themselves at school and it isn't a positive one. In Cassidy's mind they think that religion is the greatest source of conflict in the world. In the eyes of others' their views are racist and bigoted. Cassidy doesn't know what to think and she lacks any true opinions of her own.

I was enthralled by Cassidy's dilemma. She had met this amazing guy who understood her and then she is told  by her friends that he is a racist and a bigot. She wants to trust in Jonah but there are so many little doubts that invade her mind. This book certainly raised some interesting questions about our society and how people are just generally ignorant. I recently read an articlein New Scientist online by Bernard Beckett and so I had already been thinking about extreme atheism and this book furthered that thinking.

There are a couple of minor things that I felt could have been improved in this novel. When Cassidy talks to her friend Sam about the rumours concerning Jonah, the tone is a little too preachy and it really didn't need to be. The author could have let it play out differently and Sam could have been almost judgemental about Cassisy's questions. I hate to admit this but I know if she asked me some of those things, I would have got on my soap box. The other thing I felt was that perhaps Sam was the too obvious choice for advice. He is the marginalised gay character who deals with prejudice on a daily basis. It wasn't that it didn't work but when you're tackling such imporant topics I think you have to be really hard on yourself and think about how you're stereotyping people. I hate labels. I have a real thing about them. They make me shout at the television. A truly powerful novel is one that shows you the deep flaws of stereotyping or a similar issue without you ever realising it is doing it.

However, I have to say the climax scene of this book was such an amazing concept and I was rather in awe of it. Obviously, I can't tell you more because of spoilers but I would have read the book for that alone. It was so fresh and interesting. Overall, the dynamics between the characters were riveting and kept the plot unfolding at a quick pace. The questions raised by this novel are important, relevant and uncompromising. Definitely, worth reading if you enjoy contemporary teen fiction which pushes you to think about who you are, what you do and what you believe. I cannot wait to read more by Kate Le Vann.

Thanks to the author for sending me her book to review.


Luisa at Chicklish said...

I loved this book (though haven't got around to reviewing it - argh!) and it's great to read your thoughts on it. I know which scene you mean, and it was truly fantastic! It worked so well. Thanks very much for this review.

Elie said...

Sounds like an interesting story dealing with a few tough topics. Thanks for sharing.

Becky said...

Luisa, it is great that you think the scene I refer to is fantastic. I wish I could write such an amazing concept in such a powerful way.

Elie, my pleasure!

Christina/Book Addict said...

Sounds like an interesting read. I haven't heard of it, but I will have to check it out. I need a break from the paranormal and this sounds like good realistic fiction. Thanks for sharing this one!

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I love Kate le Vann's books. Have you read any of her others? My faves are Things I Know About Love and Tessa in Love. So good!

Iffath♥Ahmed said...

I have the same problem as Luisa! I really need to get round to reviewing this gorgeous book!

I think my favourite Kate Le Vann book is Rain :)

Lynsey Newton said...

I've seen this book in Waterstones but wasn't sure about it. Nice review Becky, when I joined sixth form college it was like I could reinvent myself - perhaps we've all had that feeling at one point or another. Nice concept to play with though, it's definitely sparked my interest :)

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

This one sounds powerful! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Lauren said...

This sounds really interesting, and like it has a lot going on in terms of themes and food-for-thought. Honestly, I think it's really important to read books that challenge your thinking. In some ways, I think that for myself it's more important than ever the older I get.

I hear ya on the stereotyping issue, though.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Great review! I am intrigued by the story.

Becky said...

Christina, It is good to try something other than paranormal for a change. If you read it, I'll shall be very interested to hear what you think.

Sophie, this is my first Kate Le Vann novel. Kate also sent me a copy of Rain so I'm looking forward to reading that one too. I may just be buying myself all the other books at some point.

Iffath, great to hear that you love Rain. That makes me very excited!

Lynsey, that's true I think we all want to reinvent ourselves at one time or another.

Alyssa, a pleasure! It is powerful in its own way. It makes you think "what would I do if..."

Lauren, I completely agree. Is it corny to say that I want to grow as a person and reading helps me to do that?! Probably.

Irena, let me know if you decide to read it!

Thanks for the lovely comments everyone.

Caroline said...

Hey Becky, what an interesting review!
I definitely want to read this book (and Kate Le Vann's other books judging by Sophie's comment!) and I totally agree on the stereotyping. Bringing diversity in books is necessary, but sometimes it appears counter-productive to say the least.
I also like teenagers who are clueless or going through a period of doubt about themselves in books, it feels much more real.
Have a good day!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Interesting concepts. Excellent Review!

Becky said...

Caroline, you have really summed up what I wanted to say. Thanks you!

Juju, thanks!!!

I Want To Read That said...

I've looked at this one several times and then put it back - appears that could have been a mistake. This one sounds really good!