On the Come Up by Angie Thomas – Book Review

On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’s second novel, stars sixteen-year-old Bri, who dreams of becoming a rapper. Inspired by her late father, pursuing a music career feels like the only way to get her family out of their desperate financial situation.

The odds seem stacked against her: her mum was a drug addict during Bri’s formative years (and Bri’s worried that she’s relapsing), and even though her brother has a psychology degree, he only earns the minimum wage at a Pizzeria. Compounded with the constant stereotyping and racial profiling that she faces at school, she must carve her identity and make her voice heard in order to get her come up.

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Want To Start Blogging? What I’d Wished I’d Thought About When I Started Out

Blogging is special. It allows you to elucidate your thoughts and stances on issues that are important to you, and share this with the world through written word.

If you already have a blog, then you’ll know this, but when I was starting out, I wasn’t fully aware of the power blogging had, and how to best utilise this powerful tool. I’m not referring to the nitty-gritty of web design and SEO (although I’m still getting to grips with that today), but rather the way to use a blog to make it best fit your needs and aims. I believe to get the most out of your blog, it’s good to have a think about why you are doing it and what your hopes are. As such, I’ve made a list of three things that I think you should ponder if you’d like to start a blog. Now, I’m by no means an authority on blogging and the like, but here are some snippets of advice that I hope you’ll find of interest!

  1. Don’t Give Up (Even If You Don’t Get The Response You Wanted)

Blogs are the perfect platform for sharing your interests with like-minded people, and this was one of the main reasons that I started fictionforteens.com. When I posted my first blog post, I wasn’t quite sure what would happen; whether the book enthusiasts of the world would flock in their masses to my humble site, or whether my posts would lie unread, the comments sections a barren wasteland. I got a couple of views on the post, and it took me a while to build on that, but what kept me going was the knowledge that I was doing what I loved and sharing that enthusiasm with other people. 

Along your blogging journey, some people may not mirror your enthusiasm for blogging and your subject of interest, and others may not give you the support that you hoped for. I must emphasise that the kind of people that I have just described are definitely in the minority, but this is significant enough for a blogger to down tools and forget about something that they have worked hard on. If your posts immediately blow up and reach visitors in all corners of the globe immediately, then that’s amazing, but if your posts don’t, do not become disheartened, but post because a) you enjoy it and b) you are passionate about the subject on which you are blogging. Your passion for what you do will come through in your content, resulting in an invested reader and a quality blog. 

2. Be Prepared to Promote

Once you’ve built your blog and published your first post, it’s time to start on some Shameless Self-Promotion. It may feel unnatural at first, but to get your post read, you need to shout about it from the rooftops (not necessarily literally, but whatever works for you, I guess). Utilise Social Media, pester your friends, and use whatever ways you usually spread the word about something to spread your blog around. When you’ve spent time and effort working on something, it should be spread – people won’t know about it unless you tell them. Not everyone will be interested, but there will be some people that are.

If you use WordPress, you can write your Social Media posts with a link to your new article when you publish your post – you just have to link your accounts for them to be posted. This works best for Twitter and Facebook, and I’ll usually put a photo of the new post on my Instagram story directing people to a link in my bio. All of this will help to do your hard work justice. Make your follow button for people with a WordPress account high up on the sidebar of your blog, as well as the box where people can put in their email address so they can be notified of new content.

3. You Will Improve

I’ve been looking at some of the posts that I wrote when I first starting my blog, and comparing them with my recent ones. Granted, I was only 13, and the progress is over a period of almost 6 years, but it’s satisfying seeing my personal growth and how I’ve formed my writing style through reviewing books. There’s still got a long way to go, and I try to make each post better than the last, but at the start, I didn’t feel like I could do any better than what I was already doing. All of this advice comes down to one thing: just keep going. That’s the best way of improving, as well as pushing yourself to write in formats that you’re not used to. For example, I found it difficult transitioning from writing book reviews and listicles to writing articles such as the one on multiple points of view, where I was forced to think more deeply about the structure and organisation of my article, along with having to determine what the crux of my conclusive argument was. Similarly, starting my new blog opinionalwrites.wordpress.com (any opportunity to promote) was a challenge, because delving into the world of politics and the arts, while I am familiar with the two, stretched me, and I’m very much still learning!

I hope this is helpful if you’re starting out on your blogging journey! Even if you’re a seasoned blogger, I’d be interested to know what your thoughts are, and any advice that you’d give to a fledgling writer!

Take care, Al.

3 Ways To Access Books From Home (For Free!)

With the uncertainty and alarming nature of current affairs, the prospect of being able to escape to a fictional world or delve into a certain topic is an appealing one. There are many ways of accessing books – online – that aren’t really publicised and/or are vastly underused ( all legal, of course), that I want to let you know about, in case they have slipped under your radar. If you can access this blog, then you can access these online sources!

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My Quick YA Fiction Recommendations – What to Read Now

Young Adult fiction contains so many wonderful, enjoyable and inspiring books, so when I’m asked for an on-the-spot recommendation, I’m not great at giving one – I feel like I need to know what a person is looking for before I recommend a book! This inspired me to write this post; recommending books depending on what you are looking for in a novel. If you’re in the UK, it’s World Book Day today (7th of March) so what better excuse to pick up a book?

To access my full review of each book, please click on the title.

If you’re looking for: Feel Good, Easy-to-read Romance

Then I recommend: /To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the ultimate feel-good book that will make you feel warm inside! If you have watched the film and not yet read the book, then do not fear: it is a trilogy, so you can continue the story of Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky in two more instalments! If you’re struggling to get into reading a book, then I really recommend this particular book to get you quickly back in the swing of reading.

If you’re looking for: An Intense, Plot-twist-full Thriller

Then I recommend: Cruel Summer by Juno Dawson

This is an extremely gripping novel, with interesting characters that seem perfect on the surface, but all have secrets to hide. Kind of like a modern-day Agatha Christie novel, the pace of the book increases as the book progresses, with more hints and clues as to who the killer was as you read.

If you’re looking for: Exciting, Female-led Fantasy

Then I recommend: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

If you’re familiar with the book scene on Instagram, you’ll have seen this series everywhere – and for good reason. This incredibly popular book is led by Celaena Sardothien, a fiery, talented and likeable assassin that you’ll really root for. I’ve recently bought the third book in the series, and I can’t wait to read it!

If you’re looking for: Powerful, Educational, Black Lives Matter movement-inspired Story

Then I recommend: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book is an automatic recommendation whenever someone asks me for book suggestions. It is the perfect example of how a Young Adult book can educate you on the social issues in the world today, and I believe the more people that read this, the better. By the way, the film was also amazing.

If you’re looking for: Compelling, Tense Contemporary

Then I recommend: Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda

I picked this book up from the library, having never heard of it before, and I’m so glad that I took it out. The writing style allows the emotion in the book to be extremely well portrayed, and the use of flashbacks means that the reader can begin to piece together fragments of information, to be left with a picture that is unrecognisable from that presented at the beginning of the book.

I hope that you have found these recommendations useful, and decide to pick up one of these books. I really enjoyed reading all of them, and I hope you will too!

How to Grow your Grades before your GCSEs this Summer

This time last year, I had received my mock GCSE results and was looking to my exams in the summer, which seemed so far away at the time; for year 11’s across the country, it’s the first time you take a public exam. I was tired of hearing the same thing about preparing for my exams, so I’ve tried to put in some different ideas as well as some tips you will have heard before, but are worth remembering. Looking back now, there are some things that I simply wish I’d known, so I thought I would share them with you now!

Before the exams

Know your syllabus. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but going back to the syllabus time and time again is crucial. While the course content is listed in text books and revision guides, I would recommend always looking at the exam-issued syllabus, because that will tell you exactly what will be in the exam and how much you need to know about it. I think that this is most relevant to the sciences, but you should try and print off a syllabus for each subject and put it in a revision file, going back to it at the beginning of each session.

Required Practicals. For the Sciences, taking a look at the required practicals is time well spent. Learning the methods, variables, equipment will really help you, as there is bound to be a question on one of the practicals. I think that the importance of required practicals is understated, but you should really know them as the questions are worth 6 marks (for my exam board, AQA).

Practice, practice, practice! Practice papers will be your best friend through the exam period. It’s so important that after you have done your practice papers and marked them, that you record your result and which topics you struggled with. This gives you a list of topics to go over in the days leading up to the exam, and to do questions on. I found that some of the questions that I had answered in revision were the same as the ones that came up in the exam! Also, remember to stick to the exam timings!

Order is important. For me, spending a whole morning doing Biology, Physics and Chemistry consecutively would be a struggle – I wouldn’t be able to keep up the motivation throughout because they aren’t the subjects I enjoy the most. Therefore, I found it really useful to order my subjects from favourite to least favourite, then decide on the order of my revision from that.

Take a break. When you’ve worked with no distractions, you deserve a break. Get up from your seat, go outside, exercise, chat to friends or family; try and take your mind off your work for a while and you will go back feeling refreshed. I liked to watch an episode of Brooklyn nine-nine in between revision sessions!

Talk to your teachers. For the humanities subjects, essays make up the majority of the paper. If your teacher offers revision sessions, be sure to make use of them, and ask them if you could go through/give them some essays to mark outside of school work. Hopefully, they should be keen to mark your work to help you secure those top grades!

Quizlet is your best friend. Chances are, you’re already using Quizlet, but if you aren’t, it is an amazing resource that will come in especially handy if you are taking languages. If you are short on time, and cannot create a set from scratch, there will probably be someone else’s set on there that you can use that covers your topics (but if you can, make your own so you can be sure that everything you want is on there, and the process of making them will help you learn).

Online resources. If there are some subjects that you really want to go over or if the content just isn’t sinking in, try YouTube. My favourites were Mr. Bruff for English and Malmesbury Science for science practicals (also has videos for A-Level).

Don’t lose hope. If you didn’t do as well as you would have liked to in your mock exams, use it as a learning experience; it will be of much more value to learn something from an exam that went badly than to ace an exam and lose momentum in your revision. Personally, my result in my Biology mocks prompted me to put the work in by doing practice questions on every topic. Eventually, I managed to grow my grade by 3 grades!

Before your results

Please don’t compare your GCSEs to your classmates or friends. Everyone has their own circumstances, journey and strengths outside school, and those with the highest grades will not necessarily be the most successful. As you go your separate ways after prom, whether you are taking A-Levels, BTECs, other technical qualifications or an apprenticeship, people will remember you for not how many As or A*s you have, but your personality, interests and attitude towards others.

Try your best – I’m rooting for all of you! If you need any more advice, please don’t hesitate to DM me on my Instagram, @alyssamaereads.

www.instagram.com/alyssamaereads/?hl=en

My Bookish Wishlist 2017

In the run-up to the holidays, a number of new releases have caught my eye, so I thought that I would compile a shortlist of the books I’m eager to read. From some classic YA novels to those hot off the press, the books on this list have really stood out to me. If you have any books that you have enjoyed recently or novels that you think should be on the list, let me know in the comments !

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – book review

I'll Give You the Sun

Like most twins, Jude and Noah are very close, but that changes when an unimaginable tragedy tears them apart. As they both struggle to cope with the grief and loss of the situation, they find themselves able to discover what they truly want and how they can come to terms with the disaster that has struck their family. When they begin to fall in love with boys they can’t have, they start to realise that love is complicated, whether it’s with your own family or the new boy in town.

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My Top Three Female YA Protagonists

I’ve been blogging for about 3 years now, and in my time reviewing books, I have noticed the different ways in which female protagonists are presented. It can be so inspiring to read about a good female lead in a book, especially if they can defy all odds and push back against any adversity. I’ve chosen 3 women/teens girls of the many characters that are out there that have appeared in YA literature and I believe to be good examples of strong women. So, without further ado…

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

the hate you give

In Thomas’ debut novel, we meet Starr, a teenager who has learnt to act differently in the two worlds she lives in: a poor neighbourhood struggling with gang crime and the contrasting private school she attends in the suburbs. Her life changes completely when she is the sole witness to the fatal shooting of Khalil, her best friend who was unarmed when a police officer pulled the trigger. She is soon dragged into protests and riots as she struggles to make the officer pay for what he did and bring justice for Khalil.

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My favourite reads of 2016

Hello! Alyssa here.  As fictionforteens.com enters its 3rd year I thought I’d look back through by book reviews from the past year and pick out my favourites for you. Please click on the title of each book to see the full review.

Say her name, Juno Dawson 

say hey name

Say her name is based around the legend of Bloody Mary, but with a twist. A group of teenagers try to summon the ghost of Bloody Mary, unaware of the consequences. The tension in the book grew as the story went on, making it very gripping. The plot twists were completely unpredictable as the reason behind the events in the book were slowly revealed.

Chaos Walking trilogy:

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Ask and the Answer

Monsters of Men

By Patrick Ness

the knife of never letting go

After reading other books by Patrick Ness and really enjoying them, I was eager to read the Chaos Walking trilogy. I really like the writing style and the vivid characters which really came to life, especially Todd, the protagonist of the trilogy. I saw A Monster Calls In the cinema last week and absolutely loved it, so I’ve bought the book and I will review it soon. 

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

city-of-bones

City of Bones is the story of Clary Fray who finds out that she is a Shadowhunter, half-angel demon slayers tasked with keeping the human world safe. Clary and her friends encounter vampires, warlocks and werewolves in this action-packed fantasy novel. I’ve already begun reading the second book, City of Ashes which I’m enjoying so far.

Are there any books you’ve enjoyed recently? Please let me know in the comments!