Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

See my review for book one in the Nevermoor series here
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow
Nevermoor Book Two
Written by Jessica Townsend
Middle Grade, Fantasy, #LoveOZMG
467 Pages
Published October 30th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★★★
Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor...

Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.

Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She's hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan's unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?

Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion...
Miss Morrigan Crow, calamitous young lady of the Wintersea Republic is now preparing to become an esteemed scholar of the Wundrous Society, accompanying eight fellow students including the marvellous Hawthorne. Although compelled to confidentiality considering the dastardly mayhem instigated by Wundersmith Ezra Squall, Morrigan's Wundersmith ability is discovered and unscrupulously, an unknown antagonist is conspiring towards the extraordinary children with a bizarre series of anonymous notes and peculiar stipulations.

Fragments throughout the Wundrous Society community have vanished, scholars, colleagues and acquaintances. Instinctively Miss Morrigan Crow is a suspect as an accused nefarious Wundersmith but with the steadfast assistance of the nonchalant Hawthorne, Jupiter North, Jack and an unlikely collaborator, Morrigan is determined to preserve the Wundrous Society, Nevermoor and substantiate that a Wundersmith is fantastically wundrous.

Our Magnificent Morrigan!
Morrigan Crow is a intelligent and practical young woman. Forsaking the calamity and misadventure of the Wintersea Republic, Morrigan is now a resident of Nevermoor, liberated by Jupiter North to compete in the Wondrous Society tournament. As a Wundersmith, Morrigan attends a specialised program consisting of the history of the Wundersmith and their heinous atrocities. 

Throughout the narration, Morrigan discovers that beneath the fantastical facade of Nevermoor, wickedness is awakening. Jupiter North is investigating an illegal marketplace in correlation to the community members. His extended absences further isolating Morrigan as she adjusts to her new environment. Morrigan is challenged by prejudice and at a disadvantage, increasingly isolated from her fellow scholars and Society facility, fearing the Wundersmith notoriety. Her Society companions are disciplined within their individual abilities however, Morrigan is secluded and denied an education despite Jupiter protesting for equality. The demeanour of Wundersmith Ezra Squall reflects on Morrigan and although only twelve years of age, she is held responsible for the actions of her predecessor. Outlandish! 

The Merry Band Of Sidekicks
The grand Hotel Deucalion is resident to a fictionally diverse and eclectic community and although Jupiter is her guardian, Morrigan relies upon the Deucalion residents for guidance and perspective. Fenestra the talking Magnificat, Jack the nephew of Jupiter who returns from boarding school on weekends, the operatic singer and the vampire dwarf with a penchant for lavish carousing. 

Hawthorne Swift is a tremendous character, friend and entourage for Morrigan. His solidarity is unconditional and although his character appears humorous and sprightly, he fiercely defends his friend against Morrigan naysayers. Former antagonist Cadance Blackburn is delightfully surprising. Although adversaries, Cadance recognises the importance of Morrigan and her abilities as they cooperate to solve the mystery of the illegal marketplace.

Step Boldly
The atmospheric enchantment of Nevermoor is an experience. The fantastical Brolly Rail as it bustles throughout the expansive metropolis, the intricate and deceptive thoroughfares and animated diorama of Nevermoor and the residents. Nevermoor is fantastically imagined and beautifully illustrated. Although the world is intricate and voluminous, it's encompassed by a wonderful intimacy and warmth.

Nevermoor transcends children's literature, captivating and enchanting audiences. Categorically breathtaking.

Spotlight - Tales of a New World

To celebrate the release of the third installment of the Tales of a New World by best selling author P. C. Cast, Pan Macmillan Australia in conjunction with the Australian Young Adult Bloggers and Readers Group are hosting a blog celebration! Including reviews, author interviews and competitions. Today I'll be hosting a series spotlight and linking to my fellow participants.

Moon Chosen
Tales of a New World Book One
Published October 25th 2016
600 Pages
Recommended Retail Price $18.99
Available from Pan Macmillan Australia
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Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival clan, strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before.

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik.

Sun Warrior
Tales of a New World Book Two
Published October 31st 2017
576 Pages
Recommended Retail Price $18.99
Available from Pan Macmillan Australia
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The battle lines have been drawn and Mari, an Earth Walker and Nik, a Companion, who were once from rival clans now find themselves fighting to save each other and their people from destruction.

Thaddeus betrayed his own people, killing Nik’s father and destroying their entire clan. But he wants more. He wants the power he believes Mari has stolen from him and his people and he will do anything he must to get them back, even if it means destroying everything in his path. There is only way to stop Thaddeus, but it means a harrowing journey for Mari and Nik into the heart of darkness. Meanwhile, Dead Eye becomes a willing vessel for the newly awakened god, Death. Death has plans of his own and he, too, will use whatever and whomever he must, including the mad Thaddeus

Wind Rider
Tales of a New World
Published October 30th 2018
544 Pages
Recommended Retail Price $18.99
Available from Pan Macmillan
Add Wind Rider to Goodreads
Mari, Nik, and their newly formed Pack are being hunted. Thaddeus and the God of Death will stop at nothing until they are obliterated from the earth. But Mari and Nik have one goal: to reach the plains of the Wind Riders in order to band together to stop Thaddeus from destroying all that Mari and Nik hold dear.

But will the mysterious Wind Riders accept the Pack, or will Mari and Nik and their people be rejected by the mighty Riders and be forced to flee for their lives? And what happens when a rogue Lead Stallion gets too close to the Pack, rejecting all Wind Riders and turning to a stranger for companionship instead?

In the next installment of the Tales of a New World series love and goodness are put to the ultimate test. Will the Wind Riders and the Pack be strong enough to withstand the God of Death? Will the Great Goddess of Life awaken to join the battle, and if so, will it be as Death's consort, or will the Goddess stand with Mari and her people against the great love of her eternal life?

With her daughter Kristin, P. C. Cast is the author of the House of Night novels. She was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back and forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology. P.C. Cast is a number one New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.

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Stone Girl

Contains sensitive themes for mature young adult readers
Stone Girl
Written by Eleni Hale
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOZYA
368 Pages
Published April 30th 2018
Thank you to Penguin Books Australia
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★★★★★
An unspeakable event changes everything for twelve year old Sophie. No more Mum, school or bed of her own. She’s made a ward of the state and grows up in a volatile world where kids make their own rules, adults don’t count and the only constant is change.

Until one day she meets Gwen, Matty and Spiral. Spiral is the most furious, beautiful boy Sophie has ever known. And as their bond tightens she finally begins to confront what happened in her past.

I’m at the police station. There’s blood splattered across my face and clothes. In this tiny room with walls the colour of winter sky I hug a black backpack full of treasures. Only one thing is certain... No one can ever forgive me for what I’ve done.
There are currently over forty five thousand children within the foster care system within Australia. These are children without a primary caregiver, children who are casualties of family violence, substance abuse or children without a nurturing environment. Her story is harrowing and confrontational and although Sophie Soukaris is a fictional character, her narrative is indicative of many adolescents placed within the system.

Sophie Soukaris has been placed within temporary care after her mother passed away, child protection authorities attempting to contact her estranged father in Greece. As a young woman with a child, her mother returned to Australia after a dissolution of marriage, raising Sophie as a single parent and substance abuser, known to child protection authorities.

The quivering in my chest feels like frantic butterflies under my skin. They want to get out but can't, their colourful wings trapped in darkness.

Awaiting a permanent position with a foster family and accommodated with adolescents, Sophie begins to assimilate to her environment, susceptible to substance abuse, addiction, manipulation, sexual assault and misdemeanours as a minor. As her environment becomes increasingly treacherous, Family Assistance Services provides Sophie with a sequence of temporary housing, a vulnerable and perceptive young girl a consequence of her environment. Sophie is coerced, abducted and imprisoned by a paedophile. Attempted suicide, narcotics abuse, alcoholism, gender violence and engaging in destructive although consensual relationships.

The narrative is confrontational and controversial. Adolescents abandoned by protection services, ostracised by society without a sense of belonging. Debut author Eleni Hale has created a remarkable, captivating and courageous narrative. Imperative reading. 

We Three Heroes

Contains spoilers for the Medoran Chronicles
We Three Heroes
The Medoran Chronicles Novella Series
Written by Lynette Noni
Fantasy, Adventure, #LoveOZYA
367 Pages
Published August 27th 2018
Thank you to Pantera Press
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★★★★★
Alexandra Jennings might be the hero of The Medoran Chronicles, but she would be lost without her three closest friends. They are her heroes, and like all heroes, they each have their own story.

Meet the real D.C. in Crowns and Curses and discover how she becomes the princess Alex once despised but now adores.

Follow Jordan on his healing journey in Scars and Silence as he struggles in the wake of being rescued from his living nightmare.

Walk beside Bear in Hearts and Headstones as he faces an unspeakable trauma while helping his world prepare for the coming war.

Jordan, Bear and D.C. are the heroes of their own stories.

It is time for their stories to be told.
Crowns And Curses is narrated by Princess Delucia Cavelle, heir to the Medoran Kingdom. As a young girl, D.C was well acquainted with the expectations of representing the Medoran crown, the increasing loneliness as she was sheltered from public life and educated within the palatial residence. D.C yearns for companionship, believing she has found a friend in Maxton, the young son of the High Court Judge but Maxton is deceptive and determined to humiliate the young princess.

As her prophetic ability manifests, Delucia receives an invitation to Akarnae Academy. A new beginning and a chance to connect with her peers. At Akarnae, D.C is without her Princess title but with years of isolation and protecting her emotions, she becomes estranged from her fellow students before being introduced to Alexandra Jennings.

Scars And Silence accompanies Jordan Sparker throughout his journey of empowerment after which his life was claimed and manipulated by Aven Dalmarta. Jordan is experiencing a crisis of identity, betrayal and consumed by his affliction. Through compassion and understanding, Jordan begins to acknowledge his anxiety and is encouraged by Delucia and Hunter, two positive influences within his life.

Jordan continues to blame himself for the death of his brother, adding to his anguish. 

Jordan's narrative is confrontational and distressing. Jordan discovered his brother moments before he had taken his own life, watching in horror but rendered helpless. Jordan shares with D.C the circumstances surrounding Luka's suicide which may distress readers. Luka identified as gay and although in a wonderful relationship with a male partner, their volatile father dismissed Luka's sexuality, going as far to force Luka into an arranged marriage. Luka, feeling as though he had no other option, took his own life. 

Hearts And Headstones is narrated by Barnold Ronnigan, affectionately known as Bear and surrounds the journey to Graevale as diplomatic emissaries, ending in anguish for the Ronnigan family. Bear finds solace within his tentative friendship and potential relationship with Declan. Amidst the devastation, the apprehensive smiles of the potential romance is beautiful.

We Three Heroes offers readers an insight into the significant moments that shape each character throughout the series, from each characters point of view. The brave, tentative and vulnerable moments that add depth and humanity to characters we typically see as indestructible.

The Medoran Chronicles is a phenomenal series, adventurous, imaginative and superbly written. Lynette Noni is a prolific author, creating atmospheric worlds and vibrant characters. I've fallen in love with reading all over again. 

What If It's Us

What If It's Us
Written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
448 Pages
Published October 2018
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia
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★★★
Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his former boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated. Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date? Or a second first date or a third? What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?
Although I've never read anything by Becky Albertalli, I'm a great admirer of Adam Silvera. He creates diverse, profound characters that are beautifully complex. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with What If It's Us. As individuals, Arthur is a gentle and sensitive young man, his inexperience is incredibly endearing. Ben is a pensive character, enduring the melancholy of his relationship dissolving, proceeding the loss of mutual friendships. Through serendipity, the two young men meet, are separated, then attempt to reconnect by searching New York for one another.

Representation
The character representation was a wonderful aspect. Ben is Puerto Rican and identifies as gay. He often feels ostracised due to his light skin, low socioeconomic status and unable to speak Spanish fluently. Arthur is Jewish, gay and originally from Georgia, yet residing in New York over the summer with his parents. Arthur manages his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through medication, as does secondary character and Ben's best friend Dylan, to manage his heart condition.

You've Got A Friend In Me
The secondary characters are a fundamental element of the storyline, in particular Dylan. Ben and Dylan share a wonderful relationship, unabashed and companionable. Dylan has a wonderfully flirtatious personality which creates lighthearted moments within the narrative. Ben often referenced Dylan as abandoning their friendship to accommodate a series of unsuccessful relationships. Dylan compassionate and consistently reassured Ben of his companionship. Jessie and Ethan are expendable unfortunately, although allegedly Ethan is a person of contention. Arthur believes Ethan is uncomfortable with his sexuality, creating an excessive intensity within the narrative. 

The Creepy Edward Cullen Guide To Dating
The whirlwind romance was rather an infatuation with one another. Although the scenes of intimacy were beautifully portrayed, Ben reassuring Arthur and placing the emphasis on consent, their relationship was overdramatised and inauthentic regardless of character sexuality. In the beginning of the narration, Arthur begins to pursue Ben obsessively. He learns of Ben's former boyfriend and through encroaching on his social media accounts, discovers an image of Ben and proceeds to create posters to ambush him. I found Arthur's behaviour incredibly intrusive.

Ben, a young gay man of colour in a large city could have been endangered by Arthur's actions. Rather than being addressed, his actions were romanticised. 

Potentially Triggering
One incident may be distressing to readers. Ben and Arthur are sitting with one another on public transport when approached by a man and his young child. The man proceeds to use threatening, homophobic and distressing language. Throughout the exchange, Arthur is incredibly distraught, Ben challenges the homophobic patron and another passenger intervenes.

The Conclusion
What If It's Us shares a similar narrative of a character origin story and although the lighthearted and tender moments were wonderfully written, it lacked substance. Two young men, a chance meeting and falling in love under the bright lights of New York City should have been the romance we've all been waiting for. I'm still waiting unfortunately.

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds
Jane Doe Chronicles Book One
Written by Jeremy Lachlan
Fantasy, Adventure, #LoveOZYA
432 Pages
Published August 1st 2018
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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★★★★★
When a fierce quake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven, and her father disappears, Jane Doe is thrown headfirst into an epic quest to bring him home.

But this ain’t no ordinary rescue mission. Her father is lost in a place between worlds, a dangerous labyrinth of shifting rooms, infernal booby traps and secret gateways. And Jane has to find him fast, because someone else is searching for him, too. A man who knows her father’s secrets. A man who has an army.

With a pyromaniac named Violet and a trickster named Hickory by her side, Jane is about to discover that this adventure is even bigger on the inside than it looks...

This is the blockbuster adventure the worlds have been waiting for.
The island nation of Bluehaven is a picturesque community, a village permeated by earthquakes and immersed in mythology. For thousands of years, the residents of Bluehaven have apotheosised the remnants of the entrance to another world, a decrepit, monument representing adventure and heroism. The entrance dormant since John and infant daughter Jane Doe arrived on the cusp of destruction, the Night of All Catastrophes.

The Cursed Ones
Fifteen year old Jane Doe and her father are undesirables, contaminating the community of Bluehaven. Reluctantly imprisoned within the basement of Beatrice and Bertram Hollow where Jane cares for her father, incapacitated since his unexpected arrival on the island. Each tremor brings accusations of an abomination, Bluehaven remonstrating against John and Jane Doe until the annual Night of All Catastrophes celebration. During the commotion, John Doe is consumed by the labyrinth.

With gallantry and tenacity, Jane embarks on a adventure to recapture her father and return to Bluehaven. Accompanied by whispered words from the peculiar Winifred Robin and a mysterious brass key, Jane evades the vigilante community and enters the labyrinth. Alone. Abandoning Violet Hollow, her friend and coconspirator. 

The Sidekicks
Jane must navigate through wintery wonderlands and arid, desolate conditions as each landscape challenges courageous, accomplished adventurers. Hickory Dawes continues to journey through the decrepit remnants, unable to escape. Hickory understands the extraordinary ecosystem of the labyrinths, entrances infringing upon the otherworld. Jane and Hickory agree on a tentative alliance, reluctantly, Jane still uncertain of his intentions and authenticity.

Violet Hollow is an incredible heroine. Although Jane has journeyed several days, Violet is now sixteen years old and no longer a pyromaniac child seeking adventure. When Jane disappeared, Violet immersed herself within the history of the Otherworld and beneath the instruction of Winifred Robin, will reunite with Jane to salvage the catacombs. Bringing her friend and companion home.

Violet has endured the antagonism and resentment of Bluehaven as she was ostracised by her parents, now residing within the library under the supervision of Winifred. Her journey is miraculous and incredible heroic, creating an inspirational character of determination and perseverance.

The Villian. Dun. Dun. Dun
Roth is man withered by disease, a decomposing illness throughout his decrepit world now infecting the labyrinths. Roth is determined to conquer each world, his artillery composing of soldiers bound in leather and enslaved humans. To escape the Otherworld, Roth must capture Jane and the brass key.

It's Just A Little Crush
Throughout literature written for the middle grade and young adolescent audience, friendships are at the forefront of the narrative. The friendship was beautifully compassionate but beneath the companionship, a wonderful attraction is flourishing. Jane is attracted to Violet, exploring unfamiliar feelings of her first infatuation. A wonderfully tender and delightful inclusion.

Absolutely Phenomenal 
Incredibly atmospheric and intricately engineered. A phenomenal blend of fantastical and dystopian landscapes, meticulously illustrated and beautifully cinematic. 

Jeremy Lachlan is a wonderfully imaginative and ingenious voice in Australian young adult literature. Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds is breathtaking and delightfully captivating until the final page. 

The Traitor's Game

The Traitor's Game
The Traitor's Game Book One
Written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
400 Pages
Published July 1st 2018
Thank you to Scholastic Australia
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★★★★
Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won't stop her from being drawn back into her father's palace politics. He's the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip.

A group of rebels knows this all too well and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home. The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected. Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary.

As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what and who it is they're fighting for. Jennifer A. Nielsen introduces us to an unforgettable new heroine in this epic tale of treachery and intrigue, love and deceit.
Kestra Dallisor has been summoned home by her father, a garrison of soldiers ensuring her compliance. Upon her journey, Kestra is captured by the Corack, a rebellion alliance and escorted to her father's palatial residence in Highwyn as handmaiden and footsoldier. The Corack alliance are pursuing the Olden Blade, an artefact to subjugate the immortal Lord Endrick and his oppressive reign.
The Princess
Sixteen year old Kestra Dallisor is a formidable and coarsened young woman, ostracised by her father to the desolate Lava Fields. Henry Dallisor is a malevolent and treacherous persecutor, second in command and enforcer representing the immortal Lord Endrick. Kestra is summoned to Highwyn to be exploited as a commodity for political advantage, her betrothal will ensure the compliance of neighbouring regions under the reign of Lord Endrick, her father unconcerned of the freedom for his daughter. During her journey, Kestra is held captive by the rebellion, a group of unrelenting recruits tenacious in their pursuit for sovereignty, her handmaiden and footsoldier held as assurance for her cooperation and allegiance. 

Her Captor
Captain Grey Tenger, leader of the Coracks has assigned Simon Hatch to accompany the Princess, his objective to retain the Olden Blade. Simon is acquainted with the Dallisor lineage, as a young boy within the palace compound until accused and sentenced for theft.

Often in young adult literature, characters placed within precarious positions find solace within one another, consumed by the intensity of the narrative. Kestra and Simon are coincidental companions, physically attracted to one another. Their tentative companionship is disingenuous and mistrustful. Simon wasn't anticipating a young woman, tenacious and spirited to challenge his patriotism to the Corack revolution, creating a precarious alliance.
The Blade
The Olden Blade is believed to be buried beneath the dungeons of the Dallisor Highwyn residence, infused with Endrean alchemy by Lord Endrick. The mythology maintains that the blade was wielded during the War of Devastation by a young woman before her capture and sentence. Only those of Halderian lineage can wield the blade and the denouement of the Endrick reign. To ensure the survival of her Footman and Handmaiden, Kestra is coerced to find the blade, endangering the lives of the Corack if captured. She's placed in an inconceivable, treasonous position.

Tell Me More
I'm optimistic that the next installment will traverse the greater Antora kingdom and the politics between regions under Lord Endrick. The Traitor's game only touches upon the impoverished conditions beyond Highwyn. Is the desolate landscape and socioeconomic collapse consequences of conflict?

In Conclusion
While the overall young adult fantasy narrative was marginally repetitive and conventional, I really enjoyed the characterisation and the mythology infused narrative. Highly recommended for reluctant fantasy readers.

The Virginia Shreves Series

May contain minor spoilers throughout discussion

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
The Virginia Shreves Series Book One
Written by Carolyn Mackler
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
251 Pages
Published April 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★☆
Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves has a larger than average body and a plus size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and follows the Fat Girl Code of Conduct. Her stuttering best friend has just moved to Walla Walla, of all places. Her new companion, Froggy Welsh the Fourth has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he'll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves, Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend, Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV and older siblings Ana's and rugby god Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture perfect family. Or so she's convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything.

With irreverent humor, insight, and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine whose story will speak to every teen who struggles with family expectations and serve as a welcome reminder that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

Carolyn Mackler's acclaimed book has been updated for a new audience and is as relevant, funny and full of heart as it was when it was first published fifteen years ago.

The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I
The Virginia Shreves Series Book Two
Written by Carolyn Mackler
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Published October 1st 2018
288 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
Six months after Virginia decides to ignore the Fat Girl Code of Conduct and make her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth official, things are getting complicated. She's not sure she still likes Froggy, her mum has betrayed her to the meanest girl in school, and her feelings about her brother Byron are still a mess since he was suspended from university for date rape.

But then police come to their apartment and arrest Byron. As Virginia tries to figure it all out, she meets Sebastian, a guy with his own private drama. They make a pact not to talk about their troubles, but then a terrible secret comes out that could ruin everything.
Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves believes she's an imperfection within her wealthy, flourishing family. Her father a womaniser within his monogamous marriage, her mother a former overweight adolescent, overcompensating. Existing within the shadow of sister Anaïs, presently volunteering in a remote village in Burkina Faso, Africa and brother Byron, the Shreves family paragon and Columbia University honour student, Virginia experiences moments of body negativity based on her weight. Her mother Phyllis Shreves is an adolescent psychologist and overweight as an adolescent, reprimands her youngest daughter on the importance of young women maintaining an attractive appearance.

At Brewster Academy, the prestigious New York Private college, Virginia is ostracised and tormented, her childhood and only friend Shannon studying abroad this year and her Monday rendezvous with Froggy Welsh the Forth in her family penthouse apartment, an often mortifying experience. Her mother again counting calories, Virginia attempting another diet regime under duress and Byron has been suspended from Columbia University pending an investigation.

Body Negativity
Adolescent young women, women and bodies identifying as women are measured by our appearance. From a young age, we're conditioned to believe femininity as pliable and lithe, luminescent skin. Females existing in traditional positions as the caregiver, for male objectification. Humiliated and ridiculed at the Academy, Virginia has created a Fat Girl Code of Conduct. A series of guidelines to ensure she remains unnoticed.
There is an unspoken rule that if you're not on the popular side of things, you shouldn't take up too much space. 
At home, Virginia is coerced into healthier eating options, her father continues to reiterate that only slenderised bodies are attractive, commentating unnecessarily on Virginia's weight and body. Virginia experiences abdominal discomfort from starvation, confronting and a controversial aspect of the narration as she is praised for depriving her body.

No Such Thing As Perfection
The Virginia Shreves Series illiterates the importance of perception. How we perceive ourselves and others. How we continuously reprimand ourselves and place others on infeasible pedestals, unable to meet our unrealistic expectations and our behaviour attracting consequences. Throughout the narrative, Virginia realises that acceptance begins with confidence, that she is deserving of love and acceptance.

Curvaceous Chicks Deserve Pleasure
Cognitive, physical and emotional stimulation. Although Virginia is conscious of her body, she allows herself to enjoy intimacy without being sexually active. Her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Forth in particular. It is a positive experience, ensuring she is comfortable and consenting. A wonderful precedent for physical adolescent relationships and learning about your partner.

Consent
Although the narrative is chronicled from Virginia's perspective, Byron Shreves is a character of significance. A  Columbia University student, acclaimed sportsman and exemplification. After an intoxicated incident, Byron is accused of sexual assault and suspended from University pending an investigation. Virginia is disgusted although her parents are only concerned for Byron and his future, how his actions will leave lasting consequences on his family. It's Virginia who is concerned for his victim, a young woman attempting to reclaim empowerment after the terrifying incident.

In The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, the narrative explores the consequences for Byron, Virginia's frustration is palpable as her parents remain deliberately ignorant. During The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I, we experience the trauma of sexual assault from a survivor standpoint.

The Virginia Shreves Series is a wonderful, conversational and often confrontational read that I cannot emphasise enough the significance of reading both novels consecutively. Thoroughly enjoyed it. 
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