Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers is a beautifully written book, but not quite YA

Dying to Know YouDying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dying to Know You
By: Aidan Chambers
Genre: YA Contemporary fiction
Coffee Beans: 4.5/5
Spoilers: No
Rating: PG

I’ve always loved contemporary fiction, especially in YA. You seem to get that little something extra that stops and makes you think. Not necessarily about big things, but just think. It’s no surprise that I fell in love with Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers from the very first page.

It’s not a prolific book. The meaning of life isn’t discovered. But the change that happens in the lives of the narrator (an unnamed old man) and Karl (an 18 year-old boy) is so real and moving in a very….I’m trying to come up with the exact words…in just a very natural and simple way. It’s beautiful, really.

I can’t pinpoint exactly why I liked the novel so much (probably the writing style, the characters, the voice of the older man, the story line, the character development–I could go on). It was fresh. It’s written by an English author (and I admit, this is the first one I’ve read in YA fiction), so that was a unique experience. Their writing style is so different from ours in the US. For one, they love exclamation points! Like, a lot! There’s a few other grammatical and punctuation differences, and the fact that they use an “s” instead of a “z” or “c”. And I loved reading new words and hearing new sayings.

One of my favorite things Chambers did was turn real-life situations, that were pretty subtle, into extremely hilarious scenes. I think it was the fact that I could actually see them happening in my head and know that events would really play out the way he described. Now, I was going to go back to my Nook notes I took to give you more examples, but the lending period has expired and I don’t have them anymore. 😦 So take my word on the fact that this is a book worth your time. It’s a beautiful story that was stunningly written.

I don’t know if I agree wholeheartedly with the categorization of this book being YA. Yes, there is a YA in it, Karl, and his girlfriend, but the voice/narrator is that of an old man. The more I read, the more I started questioning if it really should be labeled as YA. I don’t want to tell you too much because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the way Chambers uses Karl’s faults and story/character arc to shape the narrator’s and bring him back full circle was simply brilliant. I will be picking up more of Aidan Chamber’s books, that’s for sure!

That was a little jumbled, but I really didn’t want to spoil anything for any of you. As always, pick it up for yourself when it comes out in April and decide for yourself. 🙂 Happy reading, my friends!


Life is But A Dream by Brian James A detailed, first-hand look into schizophrenia

Life is But a DreamLife is But a Dream by Brian James

Genre: YA Contemporary

Coffee Beans: 3.5/5
Rating: PG
Spoilers: No
Favorite Line: It’s too hard…when all of the things I believe stop being true…it just hurts too much. PG 233 (ebook version)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.

Publisher’s Summary:
Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it’s the world that’s crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she’ll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.

Brian James calls Life is But a Dream “the most intense book I’ve written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write.” Intense–yes. Unforgettable–definitely.

My Review:

This was an interesting book and I’m still tossing around how I want to write this book report. Sabrina, the main character, has schizophrenia and this book documents her journey through discovering what she has and how she handles it. I know nothing about this disease other than what I read about it in books or see in movies. And we all know how reliable those sources can be, at times. Let’s start with what I appreciate about it.

This book is told 100% from Sabrina’s point of view. And let me tell you, reading it, exhausted me. To constantly be in her world, in her mind, thinking what she thinks, experiencing and seeing what she does. It just leaves me speechless; that there are actually people out there in the world that live with this day in and day out. It’s just amazing. I have a whole new appreciation for the amount of strength those people possess. Now, saying that (and I’m assuming James isn’t pulling from experience, but I could be wrong), I can only imagine the strength, and patience, and talent James has to write Sabrina’s story from her head for 239 pages. And in such constant detail. There wasn’t a page or a paragraph that we weren’t in her head, experiencing the colors or images. The details were amazing.

The story is about Sabrina finding her own way through her disease. Coming to terms what it means to have schizophrenia and deciding how she wants to handle it. And I really do like the way James played that out and the way he had the events unfold. To me, it was believable and fitting. James gives the reader great insight into why these people do what they do. You understand it and their actions start to make sense. Now, onto the things I didn’t appreciate so much.

I was so scattered in Sabrina’s head, that I didn’t get a chance to connect or empathize with her. Not until the very end, when my hopes and heart crushed along with hers. But that was only for a page or two, max. The relationship with Alec, to me, was entirely unbelievable. Now, that could be due to my ignorance of the disease (for example, I don’t know if being schizophrenic makes you fall in love immediately, etc). But I have a very hard time believing that she fell in love with him and he her in about an hour. I felt cheated, especially since Alec was such a driving force in her decisions and the propulsion in driving her story.

The story is told in the present tense, from the Wellness Center, and then in flashes from Sabrina’s past—events that led her to where she is today. But the flashbacks aren’t linear, and while that isn’t life-shattering, it is a little confusing and jarring when you have to sit and try and place this memory in the timeline of Sabrina’s life.

Like I said in my little blip for this book under Just Read…, this book didn’t start getting interesting for me until the very end. And then the story was over. The beginning was a little slow, and I felt a good chunk of the beginning was set up. It wasn’t exactly boring, but I wasn’t reading it because I just had to know what was going to happen next. It was more like, I needed to get to the end and write a review. It wasn’t bad or boring content, but neither was it exciting or snappy. It was just everyday stuff that kept the story churning at a steady pace.

This next part could also be attributed to my lack of knowledge of schizophrenia, but throughout the story, I got this overwhelming feeling of immaturity from Sabrina, even though she’s a senior in high school. If this is how the disease effects its victims, then WELL-STINKIN’-DONE, James. Well done indeed. Great job. If, however, it’s not, then there needed to be some hefty work done on that. PS – I want to let you know that I called the ending of this book (or pretty stinking close to it) by page 90.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was an interesting look into a unique topic. There was a nice little lesson/warning to be heeded at the end and a cute bow with a HEA tag. It fit the story, so I was happy, even if I wasn’t overly obsessed with the book. Pick it up, I think it’d be worth your time if you have some spare hours to fill with a book.

Happy reading, my friends!