Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Published: 1 May 2013 (print)/1st May 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Macmillan Australia/Naxos Audio
Pages: 336/8 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Matilda Reed
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Sabine isn’t like anyone else. For as long as she can remember, she’s had two lives. Every twenty-four hours she “shifts,” living each day twice. In one life, Sabine has everything: popular friends, perfect grades, expensive clothes, and the guy everyone wants. In the other, Sabine’s family struggles financially, and her friends are considered rebels. But then she meets Ethan. He’s gorgeous and challenging, and he makes her feel like she’s never felt before.

All Sabine really wants is the chance to live only one life. But when this finally becomes possible, is she willing to risk everything – including losing the one person who might actually believe her – to make it happen?

CW: self harm, drug use, overdose, physical abuse

Note: This review contains minor spoilers

This is a reread of a book I first read in 2014 and I’m surprised that I’ve gone from a 5 star rating to a 2 star review. I think at the time I was amazed at how Shirvington created this world. Her creativeness of how Sabine shifted between worlds, how the rules were changing, what it meant for her life and her decisions caught me more than the problems I can obviously see now.

I did this as an audio second time round and to be honest it was hard to get through it. I had it on the fastest speed I could still understand and I was tired of this story fairly early. Once you see the problems it is hard to see past them.

I feel like having lived for essentially 36 years instead of her single 18 she should be more mature, smarter, and sensible than she is. Sabine has managed her two families and lives well enough — she can live two lives and not get them mixed up, has never forgotten which world she was in, but having lived twice as long as anyone else she is still acting foolishly.

No wonder she is sent to an institution because she’s clearly gone to the extreme self-harm approach instead of doing normal less extreme tests. The blasé attitude she has towards it as well is concerning. She can’t see anything wrong with it, she doesn’t think it’s a big deal and in a YA book especially, to show it as “no big deal” is incredibly troubling.

The abuse of power by Ethan when he was acting as her “nurse” while she was in the hospital crosses a lot of boundaries and whether Sabine wants him or not is no issue, but Ethan crosses a line, whether it’s because he believes her story and knows she isn’t mentally unstable is beside the point. I’m sure somewhere in there there’s an ethical issue as well, and a breach of privacy but I’m not sure on that one. It’s a vague set up Shirvington has going on.

It isn’t a bad concept to be fair, as I say, I did give it five stars the first time around. The ideas are interesting, I liked the fact we have no explanation of why and really the mystery isn’t the point of the story. It is what it is and we follow the change in Sabine’s life as suddenly the rules have changed.

As you read you make your own judgements about which life Sabine should live in and which one would benefit her. Both sides have pros and cons but as the story goes on you can see how the idyllic world may not always be what it seems. On a lighter note, I was annoyed Sabine didn’t use her two lives to her advantage more often. It would have been a great way to test out the consequences and the effects a lot better too.

Where Shirvington fails is that she included these Big Issues and she treats them as if they mean nothing. Not only the detailed description and flippant self-harm, but also abuse. Minor spoiler, but you can’t go from being assaulted to kissing and sleeping with someone else. It just isn’t possible – especially given the examples we’ve seen of how the mentality of the other life comes across. How Sabine is not still reacting from the other life when she shifts is unbelievable when we’ve seen her still reacting from a lot less.

I feel bad having such a shift in rating but I think it’s a good look at how upon initial readings you can get blinded by the overall artwork and not see the cracks that make up that artwork.

You can purchase Between the Lines via the following

 BooktopiaDymocks

 Amazon Aust | Audible

Rusty by Chrissy McYoung

Published: March 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hairy Phish Publications
Illustrator: Chrissy McYoung
Pages: 56
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Rusty is a dog that is going through the foster care system. Rusty is struggling to cope with all the rules and controls in his life and as such – keeps behaving in ways which cause his carers to leave. Rusty wants to give up and disappear, until things change. Rusty meets Rose.

I had the chance to hear McYoung talk at the Write Here! Festival a few weeks ago and hearing her talk about this book was fantastic and getting to chat with her a little bit afterwards as I bought her book was a delightful experience.Rusty’s story is about fostering and McYoung uses Rusty’s story to talk about how he can’t live with his mum and dad, and the troubles he has as he moves from home to home. This is such a powerful story because McYoung doesn’t hide from harsh truths, and she doesn’t sugar coat the experience of being cared for by multiple strangers and how scary that can be.

Through Rusty’s experience we see him go to multiple homes and be looked after by lots of people. Rusty’s feelings and thoughts are told and we see how he feels confused and unsure about his situation. There’s also a wonderful exploration about how when Rusty feels scared and trapped he will lash out. As a metaphor for a struggling foster child, as well as for an actual dog, this is a powerful message. Making people understand that there are real feelings and thoughts for those in Rusty’s situation and that everything feels too big, and out of control.

Even though Rusty is portrayed as a dog, his actions fit those of a child. He attends school, wants to phone his parents, and wants to play with friends but he’s confined by strict rules he doesn’t understand.

Through amazing illustrations we see Rusty’s thoughts and confusion about why people go away and not understanding why his carers act the way they act. So much is said in them and the way McYoung conveys Rusty’s feelings are impactful. There is humour as well, McYoung adds funny scenes and moments in pictures to bring up the mood like Rusty living under the sea or in a castle guarded by a knight, but the heart of the story and the emotional impact remains true.

What makes this story wonderful is that while there isn’t a perfect ending – there is hope. And hope and imperfection is important especially for children who see their own lives reflected in Rusty’s story.

There are eight additional pages of amazing facts and helpful resources at the back of the book to explain that Rusty’s story is based on real people McYoung has worked with (with some creative licence). She provides information about the various out of home care that kids are placed into in Australia as well as the variety of guides in how to help people who experience some of the intense emotions and reactions that Rusty experiences

This is an important story about an important subject and one that is explored well through this medium. Rusty’s story is one that needs to be told not only because it educates everyone but it might help someone find comfort in a similar situation.

You can purchase Rusty via the following

Publisher

AWW Update Jan – Mar

While I have read a lot so far this year (she says when she’s actually three books behind schedule), it seems almost none have been Australian. With the first quarter of the year gone I need to step up my game because I will be very behind soon on my projected goal of reading 40 and reviewing 35 books for this year’s AWW.The fact I have only read one book is abysmal and even the fact I reviewed four they were all read in previous years so it’s not a good start.

I have so many physical books I want to read but I am still on the audiobook path so my options are sparse unless they are picture books I stumble across. I have a few novellas I’ve been wanting to read so I might ease my way back into physical books and see how I go. I am a lot better than last year at reading physical books so I am going to take the slow and steady approach, a lot of it this time round is the time to sit and read too so it will be a delicate balancing act.

All is not lost though, I have read or reviewed some books by Aussie women so that’s something at least. I am now hoping to use the shock that I’ve read so few spur me on for the next three months and get my numbers up — in the meantime I’ll be glad it’s not zero.

 

AWW21 BOOKS Jan-Mar

Theodore the Unsure by Pip Smith – Review

Darkest Place by Jaye Ford – Review

Meet Me at the Intersection ed. Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina – Review

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil – Review

The Fire Wombat by Jackie French

AWW21 TOTAL

Read: 1/40

Reviewed: 4/30

 

Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson

Published: 1st March 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Elephant Tree Publishing
Illustrator: Skye Davidson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★  – 2 Stars

It’s Easter time and Archibald’s good friend Basil’s first year as the Official Easter Bunny. What could possibly go wrong? Be enchanted as you join Archibald, Basil, a blue-haired pixie, a flying pig and hundreds of little bunnies in an adventure somewhere over the rainbow, amongst the stars.

This a cross over book as Archibald the Naughtiest Elf moves on from Christmas and into other holidays. This time it involves Easter and Archibald only wants to help his friend Basil on his big important job of being the Easter Bunny.

The main problems I have with this book is that it’s long. There are A LOT of words per page and the story itself is long and drawn out which doesn’t suit the picture book format; it is more suited to being a chapter book with a few pictures.

With such a long story the narrative text fills an entire page which on a picture book is a lot of writing. Despite all the words, the illustrations are pretty; Davidson has used strong, bright colours and the vibrancy adds a wonderful magical feel to the page.

There’re moments of friendship and helping, as well as fun and magic. Archibald is still naughty per his nature but not in a malicious way, more like a rule breaker but for a good cause. If you have kids who can sit and listen to such a long story then it is a fun adventure filled with mischief and holiday spirit. The story is not complicated per se, it is just busy and wordy.

You can purchase Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny via the following

BooktopiaDymocks

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

The Easter Bunnyroo by Susannah Chambers

Published: 1st June 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen and Unwin Children
Illustrator: Laura Wood
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

When Dad rescues Ruby the joey, Charlie begins to suspect she is really the Easter Bunny. After all:
Ruby has long ears and big feet.
Ruby is very good at jumping.
Ruby has a built-in basket for carrying Easter eggs.

Although, there could be a problem – how will Ruby know what to do? Luckily, Charlie can teach her what she needs to know. 

I found this story really cute and it is a perfect Easter story with an Australian twist. Charlie’s family rescue and care for native Australian wildlife and I loved the mix up when it’s thought that the real Easter bunny has come to their home. Charlie helps the “Easter bunny” with egg duties and teaches them how to do their important job. There are fun jokes with pop references throughout like Winnie the Roo and R2DRoo which were delightful and the mistaken identity antics are humorous and enjoyable.

Wood’s illustrations are full of bright colours but are not over the top or overbearing. The full page pictures capture the scene and help tell the story quite well. There are a lot of close ups and Wood draws the joey so there is a slight bunny resemblance which I thought was fabulously cheeky but it does still look like a roo and it’s fun how Charlie keeps getting them mixed up.

This is a cute story about finding things and hiding things as well as the celebration of Easter. I loved the Australian focus and Chambers has created a fun story about an understandable misunderstanding that brings the magic of Easter to life.

You can purchase The Easter Bunnyroo via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

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