After failing to follow through with my plan to post about the books I was reading last year, I’ve come back to revive this segment – new year, new me style.
You can see on my Book Club tab that I’ve prepared myself a reading list to get through in 2017. As I make my way through the list, I’ll cross off what I’ve read and then write up a short review for the book alongside a rating out of ten. Every month I’ll collect those reviews together and then upload them in one of these Monthly Book Club posts.
January’s book reviews all follow a theme because they’re taken from the same series. I have made my feelings towards Doctor Who spin-off Class very clear on this blog, so it’s no surprise that the first books I crossed off my reading list for this year were the ones that accompanied the first series’ release.
Young Adult fiction isn’t normally go-to choice of genre, but I’ll take any excuse to spend more time with my new favourite series.
With that in mind, here are my reads from January…
What She Does Next Will Astound You (James Goss)
James Goss’ addition to the series perfectly captures the world that the millenial generation are growing up in with its clickbait-esque chapter titles and a set-up that places viral videos and internet fame at its core.
The plot itself sees the kids of Coal Hill gradually start to disappear as a dangerous new online trend takes over. When Miss Quill and the gang realise that something’s amiss, they try to solve the problem the only way they know how – getting right to the centre of it.
What She Does Next Will Astound You is a humorous take on the 21st Century lifestyle with a strong message at its core. The short length of the chapters is ideal to keep you reading just that little bit longer, and the characters have been faithfully reproduced from the screen to the page. I also greatly appreciated the little moments between Charlie and Matteusz – my favourite fictional couple – that were dropped in throughout the narrative. Sometimes it’s the little things that have the biggest effect.
My only major criticism was probably that the latter half of the book dragged in comparison to the beginning. Once April and the gang were in the heart of the action, the mystery had faded and the majority of the content was action-based. The TV series has proved that a lot of Class‘ strength comes from the emotional vulnerability of the characters which produces wonderfully tense and draamtic scenes. If there had been a little more of this, it would have been brilliant.
Nevertheless, this was by far my favourite of the three books in the series, both in terms of writing and storyline. If the show is brought back for another series (fingers crossed), and the books are continued, James Goss definitely needs to be commissioned to write another. Class is such a young, modern show, and he expressed that perfectly.
I give James Goss’ What She Does Next Will Astound You a 7/10
Joyride (Guy Adams)
After being impressed with the first Class book, I was eager to carry on with the series and started reading Joyride within a matter of hours.
The book sees Ram become a victim of a body swap by a corrupt man looking to make money by offering the service to the rich and dangerous. When the Coal Hill School gang become aware of a number of strange incidents being carried out by innocent students, they realise that something is amiss and try to fix things before the same thing happens to them.
Joyride is a strong addition to the series, although not as enticing as the first book I read. The mystery surrounding what is happening at the start is very gripping, especially when April shows up to school unexpectedly drunk. However, as the story progresses, the excitement seems to dwindle until the final chapters where the problem is dealt with unsatisfyingly easy.
A particular standout moment in the story for me was the argument between Charlie and Miss Quill, something that’s admittedly not a rarity in this series. The portrayal of Miss Quill in Joyride was the darkest of the three books, and her anger resonates clearly in this argument, creating for a very intense moment that lingers for a long time after.
I definitely enjoyed reading this book, but I do have to admit that there were some moments in Joyride that felt a little too convenient. For example, Ram being sent back to his body when he was hit by the car didn’t seem to abide by the laws of body switching that the book presents, but the author could hardly kill of a main character. Though things like this didn’t disrupt my interest in the story too much, they certainly had some impact.
I give Guy Adams’ Joyride a 6/10
The Stone House (A.K. Benedict)
A.K. Benedict’s take on the young adult series was the last of the three that I read, and although I enjoyed the book, it certainly wasn’t my favourite.
I had two main issues with The Stone House – the writing and the characters. Understandably, those are two crucial elements to a good story, so for them to be lacking was a big problem for me.
What I struggled with in the writing was the overuse of ‘he said’, ‘she asked’ etc. during any moments of dialogue. While these elements are perfectly acceptable on their own, having a conversation where these terms are constantly repeated can make the writing appear very basic. After including them once, there isn’t any need to reuse them in a conversation unless the character changes their tone of voice. Even then, there’s a great variety of other words that could be implemented in their place – exclaimed, replied, giggled, mumbled, etc. Sometimes the writing is most effective when its simplified, but there’s no need to overdo it.
In terms of characters, I felt that The Stone House didn’t reliably match the personalities that are present in the TV series, particularly with Miss Quill. While her character in the TV series has her sentimental moments , she is a highly volatile woman whose mix of blunt sarcasm and disregard for the people around her make her so enjoyable to watch. The Miss Quill present in this book, however, comes across as far too nice, particularly in the latter half of the narrative. Her concern for Tanya doesn’t correlate with her usual behaviour, and it makes it hard to enjoy The Stone House as a canonical element of the mains series.
With that being said, Benedict’s story was not terrible. Although the ending of this book was once again rushed and wrapped up to nicely, the mystery was still quite gripping and the focus on Tanya was refreshing. Having each of these three books centred largely around one of the main characters has been a particular strength for every story.
The Stone House may have benefited from being longer, but I can imagine that there was a limit on how long they were allowed to be. If there had been more to it, some of the confusing elements of the story may have been easier to work around. As such, the plot just seems a little too big for the author to handle.
I give A.K. Benedict’s The Stone House a 5/10
September 2016 February 2017