Highlights in the Charts
By Madeleine Lily and Jenna Tomlinson
Verity By Colleen Hoover
Addictively dark with twists that you simply could not predict, Verity is outside of Colleen Hoover’s usual genre but has performed as well as any of her other books for obvious reasons.
After a near-fatal accident, Verity Crawford is bedridden while her husband, Jeremy, is tasked with looking after their only remaining child, Crew. Tragedy seems to follow this family: only a few months before, their twin daughters died in separate accidents.
Lowen Ashleigh is hired to take over the series that Verity was writing; she is invited into the Crawford’s home to read through any notes she can find to get her started. What she accidentally finds instead is the most intriguing part of the story: Verity’s autobiography.
This secret manuscript drives the story, keeping readers flicking forward to read more from it, even though it is disgustingly horrible to read at times. This book is definitely not for the faint hearted! Readers are positioned with Lowen; they know as much as she does and the manuscript chapter cliff-hangers are a cleverly cruel move from Hoover.
Verity will make you constantly wary of what will be exposed next, each chapter revealing more and more, eventually leading to the plot twist of the century. I was definitely right to be scared, but for the wrong reason. The reveal was something new and darkly inventive from Hoover, and I truly believe no one would have been able to guess the final reveal.
Hoover keeps the reader suspicious of the narrator’s point of view as Lowen doesn’t even trust herself at times. However, Hoover could have done more with the reveal to further drive the confusion of who to trust. Crew's character is interesting, adding to the suspense of the novel due to his behaviours and perspective of Verity.
Putting aside the reveal, one of the scariest scenes to read was the final scene. The characters displayed a complete lack of emotion and this adds to the fear.
This book will keep you suspicious with every turn of the page and the fear of Verity herself will keep you reading into the long hours of the night. The few saucy scenes were needed to break up the tension offered a good balance and proved to me why Hoover is such a chart-topping phenomenon.
All The Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks
If you have watched Channel 4's compelling drama It’s A Sin, you will be familiar with the character Jill, a woman who offered support and comfort to many people during their final hours battling AIDS and HIV.
All The Young Men is Burks' account of her similar experience, in Little Rock Arkansas. But Burks had a much more abrupt introduction to the disease and the treatment of those battling it. After seeing the shocking treatment of a man in the hospital and challenging those who should have been caring for him, Burks comforted the man in his final hours, only to then be told that he was "her responsibility" when he sadly passed away. She arranged for his cremation and burial on land she owned in the town cemetery: an act that would set in motion Burks' reputation as a caregiver and ally to other patients with the disease.
But what makes Burks' story all the more poignant is the danger and sacrifice her kindness posed to herself and her own stability. Burks was a young, single mother in a time and a town when divorce was social suicide. Helping these men put her at risk of losing not only her social standing, but also her job and custody of her four-year-old daughter. Throughout the novel, we learn about the tragedies she has faced in her own life and how they have shaped her character. It is all the more sad then, that Burks' story was relatively well-known - a forgotten chapter in this important part of history, despite her compassion.
Burks showed kindness and solidarity with a community who others not only left behind but often actively mistreated. Her story is a wonderful defiance in the face of the hundreds of tales of homophobia and mistreatment of the time. An uplifting memoir showing the powerful effect kindness can have, All The Young Men questions the effect we could all have if we were just willing to step out of our comfort zones and look past our prejudices in pursuit of that timeless and often quoted statement: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”.