Book Review: Break In Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Harper Collins Canada held a #FrenzyPresents event earlier this month at which they promoted the Young Adult book written by Brian Francis, Break In Case of Emergency. I had the opportunity to attend and meet the author so I was curious to read the novel the folks at Harper Collins were enthusiastically promoting.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT

Blurb:

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms’ length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha’s burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family’s story. Not only is her father gay, but he’s also a world-famous female impersonator—and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.

When Toby’s careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future.

My thoughts:

I do admit to beginning this novel with high expectations as it had been avidly promoted. The story also interested me as it dealt with possible mental health issues that so many teens face at this time of their lives. I think it is good that there is literature like this out there to help teen readers realise that they are not alone when experiencing suicidal thoughts or even feelings of worthlessness.

The story is written from the point of view of a teenage girl who does feel worthless; and who comes to believe that the people she is surrounded by would be better off without her. She does have a raw deal: growing up with her grandparents without a dad around, her mom having committed suicide. Francis places us right inside the mind of Toby Goodman, a girl who is having suicidal thoughts. We read of how her mind circles around suicide and why it would be such a good thing for her to do. There were moments, to be honest, when I felt that the thoughts expressed were a bit repetitive and I wished the story would move on – though I can understand that the writer wanted to reflect how a depressed person would focus on the negative and constantly obsess on a point.

Toby Goodman meets her dad who is a well-known drag queen. Not much time is spent on the encounter and subsequent meetings though. At the end of the novel, I wished that more had been written of their interaction. The moment of meeting her dad does help Toby come to certain realisations about herself, and even about her mom. Meeting her dad does put to rest some concerns that Toby had about her mother and her own relationship with her.

Toby is a character that grows in the story. She learns about herself and about what is important to her. She comes to learn more about the people in her lives; and begins to see herself through their eyes. The novel suggests to the reader that in our lives we are part of a group; and that we each have our role within that group. Out role is important and our actions do affect the others around us in a negative or positive way.

Break In Case of Emergency is a novel that celebrates a person who can overcome extreme sadness with the help of those around her. It celebrates that we, as people, can overcome the challenges in our ordinary lives with the love of those in our lives. This contemporary young adult novel will be one of those stories that can help young teens realise that they are not alone; and that they can look to the support of family and friends to help them through difficult times.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 90th in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: A Good Wife by Samra Zafar

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive a signed ARC of Samra Zafar’s memoir A Good Wife. Memoirs can be hit or miss and I was hoping that this one was well-written as the blurb describing the book sounded intriguing.

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Autobiography

Blurb:

She faced years of abuse after arriving in Canada as a teenage bride in a hastily arranged marriage, but nothing could stop Samra Zafar from pursuing her dreams.

At 15, Samra Zafar had big dreams for herself. She was going to go to university, and forge her own path. Then with almost no warning, those dreams were pulled away from her when she was suddenly married to a stranger at 17 and had to leave behind her family in Pakistan to move to Canada. Her new husband and his family promised that the marriage and the move would be a fulfillment of her dream, not a betrayal of it. But as the walls of their home slowly became a prison, Samra realized the promises were empty ones.

In the years that followed she suffered her husband’s emotional and physical abuse that left her feeling isolated, humiliated and assaulted. Desperate to get out, and refusing to give up, she hatched an escape plan for herself and her two daughters. Somehow she found the strength to not only build a new future, but to walk away from her past, ignoring the pleas of her family and risking cultural isolation by divorcing her husband.

But that end was only the beginning for Samra. Through her academic and career achievements, she has gone on to become a mentor and public speaker, connecting with people around the world from isolated women in situations similar to her own, to young schoolgirls in Kenya who never allowed themselves to dream to men making the decisions to save for their daughters’ educations instead of their dowries. A Good Wife tell her harrowing and inspiring story, following her from a young girl with big dreams, through finding strength in the face of oppression and then finally battling through to empowerment.

My thoughts:

When I began reading this memoir, I did not know much about child brides, arranged marriages in Pakistan, or about the culture described in the book. I had seen women dressed to show their cultural background while walking the streets in Toronto, but had never really thought about the life they may lead behind closed doors. This memoir was an eye-opener for me. Zafar exposes not only her own experience and the loss of her dreams and innocence, but also the experience of so many women who have been encouraged into arranged marriages from a young age.

A Good Wife describes the changes Zafar experienced in her life: that from a young, independent child; to a sixteen year old who is married to a man older than her who lives across the world in another country; to a married woman living in a foreign country far from the support of her family; to the fight she took on to realise her dreams. While reading the memoir, I could not help but admire how she overcame all her obstacles. Her story is definitely an inspiration to all women – no matter what culture they are.

The memoir is extremely well-written and at no time was I bored with the story. In fact, I could not put it down and my interest was kept throughout. I felt pain when she described hurtful moments; and cheered when she worked at overcoming the obstacles to her dreams. As I completed the memoir, I could not help but feel a huge amount of respect for this woman who went against cultural expectations to be the woman she has become today.

If you enjoy reading memoirs, this is one you need to read. If you wish to find out more about the experience of child brides within this cultural context, this is a book that will add to your knowledge. If you wish to understand more of the culture of the Muslim community from Pakistan, this life story will add to your understanding. A Good Wife is a book that resonated with me and is one that I will think about for a long time.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 82nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart by R. Zamora Linmark

As it is ARC August, I decided to pick up another one of the Young Adult novels I was given at the OLA Super Conference earlier in thee year: The Importance of Being Wilde At Heart by R. Zamora Linmark.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

Blurb:

Readers of Adam Silvera (They Both Die at the End) and Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X) will pull out the tissues for this tender, quirky story of one seventeen-year-old boy’s journey through first love and first heartbreak, guided by his personal hero, Oscar Wilde.

Words have always been more than enough for Ken Z, but when he meets Ran at the mall food court, everything changes. Beautiful, mysterious Ran opens the door to a number of firsts for Ken: first kiss, first love. But as quickly as he enters Ken’s life, Ran disappears, and Ken Z is left wondering: Why love at all, if this is where it leads?

Letting it end there would be tragic. So, with the help of his best friends, the comfort of his haikus and lists, and even strange, surreal appearances by his hero, Oscar Wilde, Ken will find that love is worth more than the price of heartbreak. 

My thoughts:

Fans of Oscar Wilde will love this novel because of all the Wilde references in the story. The main character, Ken Z, is a Wilde fan and meets another while bunburying (i.e., taking on another identity while visiting a place where you are not well-known). Ran lives on the other side of the island and has a completely different living experience to Ken Z. The relationship between the two boys is at times confusing for Ken Z. who then turns to Wilde for advice in his imagination.

Linmark has created a world which exists on an island and is designated the North and South. The North is affluent and has many advantages including the airport, the military, free schooling, and the ability to move freely anywhere on the island. The South is poorer and is dependent on the North for many things. Even though the people in the South cannot visit the North without permission, they do enjoy more personal freedoms than those living in the North. It was interesting to make the comparison between Linmark’s created world and the society in which we live and to see how the author is subtly criticising our own world.

Linmark also makes references to prejudices in our society against the minorities when describing CaZZ, a transgender person; as well as makings references to a racial group minority when describing the culture of Cazz’s heritage.

The Importance of Being Wilde At Heart is a novel which does refer to many important social issues as well as LGBT ones. Linmark creates a world that mirrors our own – even in terms of social media and the manner in which teens interact. I did, however, find the novel to be a slow read. The chapters are broken up with images of text messages or references from Wilde’s work. These interruptions, while interesting, did not help increase the pacing of the novel.

This novel is not one of my favourites and, for me, it was an okay read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 81st in my book pledge for 2019)