Highlights in the Charts
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Review by Robyn Hewson
Perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Liane Moriarty, Malibu Rising draws us into the intoxicating world of the rich and famous, before bringing it crashing to the ground.
Much like her previous bestseller, Daisy Jones and the Six, Jenkins Reid's latest novel explores the highs and lows of fame, from wild parties and opulent mansions to drug abuse and betrayal. But while both Malibu Rising and Daisy Jones and the Six focus on musicians, Malibu Rising delves deeper into the world of the celebrity, exploring the lives of surfers, supermodels and sport stars.
The novel depicts two alternative timeframes, both focusing on the family of famous singer Mick Riva and particularly his four children Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit. After a troubled and unstable childhood, the four are inseparable, but secrets threaten to destroy their close relationship.
The first timeframe involves a twelve-hour, raucous party in 1980's Malibu, at the home of the eldest Riva sibling, Nina. While Jenkins Reid’s previous protagonist Daisy is reckless and self-destructive, Nina is thoughtful and caring, taking on the role of mother to her younger siblings and using her fame and money to support them.
The alternative timeframe moves backwards, exploring the siblings' difficult childhood, as well as the lives of their absent parents, June and Mick. Each character is portrayed with warmth and nuance despite their flaws and complexities and both timelines are equally compelling.
Written in Jenkins Reid's signature style, Malibu Rising immediately draws the reader in with an intriguing premise, and the explosive ending will leave you reeling.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Review by Alex Haywood
When Alice Oseman first started her Tumblr account, I doubt she expected she would land a top five Sunday Times bestseller. Heartstopper is a growing phenomenon with a twist. It’s a YA graphic novel all about a gay teen romance. So, what makes it so special? In simple terms, like the name would suggest, it has real heart.
Meet Charlie Spring. He’s fourteen, awkward and stuck in a secret fling with another student who hasn’t come to terms with his sexuality yet. Enter Nick, a rugby lad in the year above who is both popular and straight. Probably. When Charlie and Nick start to become friends, Charlie starts developing an unrequited crush. He doesn’t think he stands a chance…
This graphic novel is bursting with joy. Capturing perfectly the confusion, giddy heights and self-doubt that comes with first love, I recommend Heartstopper to anyone who wants an uplifting but complex novel. Plus, it’s a refreshing break for a usual heavy fiction reader. Discussing mental health and LGBTQ+ stigma in a story drawn in a way that centres the reader, Oseman’s graphic series is a delight. With Volume Four just released and the cast of a Netflix adaptation recently confirmed, the Heartstopper fandom is only going to keep growing and I’d recommend you jump on board.
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas
Review by Daisy Saunders
Having read the three previous instalments of Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, I thought I knew what to expect when I reserved Maas’s newest addition at the library.
Boy was I wrong.
Whilst Maas’s books have always been received with some level of controversy from fans and haters alike, the explicit nature of ACOSF has helped stoke the flames of this fire to a whole new level and for good reason.
For a series targeted primarily at a younger audience upon its initial debut, its smutty content has intensified to a surprising and concerning height. Whilst I believe the presence and exploration of sex and sexuality within YA fiction should not be an issue, I also think it shouldn’t be overwhelming, inappropriate or impact the quality of writing or plot.
And that is precisely my issue with ACOSF - there is no sense of structure or plot. Things seem to happen out of order or for no real reason at all. One of the more interesting aspects of the novel, a Hunger Games-esque inspired fight-to-the-death competition, serves only as a minor plot function. Maas instead chooses to favour frequent and unnecessary dialogue that primarily makes up the content of the 700-page fantasy work.
One of the big highlights of the novel, however, is Maas’s decision to focus her perspective on a new main protagonist Nesta Archeron. With Nesta having been framed as somewhat of an anti-hero in the previous books, it was refreshing to read a new angle of the story from a more conflicted perspective. Through the lens of high fantasy, Maas is able to explore ideas of trauma and mental illness through interesting character development.
So, if you’re looking for an easy read, love fantasy and enjoy smut, ACOSF might just be the book for you.