Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she's alone - and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

PSA: This is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

I am a big fan of survival stories. I am also a big fan of Mindy McGinnis. Therefore I knew that I would probably like this book.

That being said, this book took a risky route in that it is one character on her own. Her internal dialogue was what drove this story forward, but if you need lots of dialogue then this is not for you. If you want seclusion and fear and inner turmoil then it may just be the book you need.

Okay, so I wasn't sold on Ashley from the start. She's a typical teen - meaning she is prone to judgement and jealousy and isn't perhaps the nicest character. She judges her friends, her enemies and anywhere in between. Also, this is a girl who apparently knows the woods. She knows how to survive, so even in an irrational moment of devestation I don't believe that Ashley would run barefoot into the woods in the middle of the night.

That being said, she did. This is where we are. She has a mangled foot and has no idea where she is. She's run a while and then fallen down a ridge and she was drunk so all she has to do now is get back on the trail. I really liked reading her confidence - she'll get back, she'll be fine - turn to despair as she realises she has no idea where she is... where the trail is, and as she realised she needs medical help and fast.

There's not much more I can say about this book, because I don't want to spoil plot points beyond that, I want every reader to experience the fear and isoplation I did as I read this book, so I'm going to stop by saying that I really enjoyed this book - another banger by Mindy McGinnis.

Book released 3rd March 2020 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea
It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

I read 'Shatter Me' by Mafi like... nine years ago or something, and whilst I never finished the series because I didn't really like the direction it was going, I remember thinking that Mafi really had a way with words. I am very glad that she toned down her style for this book though, it didn't need beautiful prose. That being said, I think she toned down the style a little too much because this book just read as 'I did and I said' - telling not showing.

I hate to say this, because I get the feeling that this book is semi-autobiagraphical for Mafi and I don't want to insult the author in any way, but I simply didn't like Shirin as a character. I get it, she has every right to be angry at the world after how she was treated and people can be awful, but she doesn't allow herself to see other people as people. She is so prepared to be offended at every corner that she doesn't stop to think about how she might be percieved for that. She is described as 'mean' and 'scary' by many characters and doesn't see how that might be an issue.  I feel like if this is semi-autobiographical maybe the 30+ year old Mafi could have fine-tuned some of the characters a little bit.

 I liked Ocean, and I liked his persistance in bringing Shirin out of her angry defensive shell. I wish he had been more fleshed out though. They fall in this deep, all-encompassing love without knowing the first thing about each other which made it hard for me to really get on board with.

I love what Mafi was trying to do here, and she did a lot in raising awareness in me with regards to what Muslims suffered after 9/11. That was such an important thing for me... so why did this so suddenly turn into a romance plot. Why did Ocean's suffering take over Shirin's?
Look, I really appreciate what Mafi was trying to do here. I know how priveledged I am in my life and maybe this book didn't hit me where it was meant to for that reason, but it felt derailed and unfocused, like someone's memoirs that need a finetune and for that reason this book seriously disappointed me.


Book released 16th October 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review