Eliza Robertson – Demi-Gods

Eliza Robertson – Demi-Gods

Summertime in the early 1950s. Willa and her older sister Joan would like to have a relaxing time at their summer home together with their mom. But the mother has a new lover, Eugene, and to the girls‘ surprise, Eugene has invited his two sons to spend the summer with them. Kenneth and Patrick are slightly older than the girls immediately attract their attention. No, they definitely are not like brothers and sisters, Joan and Kenneth quickly fall for each other. For Willa and Patrick things are not that easy. Over the next years, they regularly meet and between Willa and Patrick a strange connection is formed. On the one hand, the boy can arouse feelings in her, but on the other, what he is doing to her repels her and she senses that his behaviour is far from being normal and acceptable. But what is there she can to about it? It will take years until she can free herself.

“Demi-God” – according to the Merriam-Webster definition, it is a mythological being with more power than a mortal but less than a god or a person so outstanding as to seem to approach the divine. For all female members of the family, the male counterparts are somehow demi-gods, at least in so far as they cannot refrain from their attraction. The mother is charmed by Eugene, Joan falls for Kenneth and also Willa has a special liking for Patrick. It is not quite clear what makes those three that outstanding, but their appeal is obvious. They can exert power over the women in different ways, but it is only Patrick how openly abuses this.

Before coming to this, what I liked especially about the novel was the atmosphere. You can sense immediately that Eliza Robertson is great at creating certain moods and you actually can feel this carefree time of being young during summer holidays when the days seem endless, when the sun is shining and when there are no worries and fears. I also appreciated her characters, first of all the mother who is neither completely stereotypical but nevertheless clearly represents a certain kind of woman of her time. In the focus of the novel are the girls and their relationship. It is not always easy to be sisters, at times they can confide in each other, at others they can’t. Yet, there is something like unconditional love between them, if one needs the other, she can surely count on her.

In this nice and loving ambiance now enters the evil that can be found in human beings. To name it openly, the novel is about sexual abuse, about menacing and exerting power over a weaker person. Willa is first too young, then unsure of how to react and how to qualify what happens to her. It is not the all bad and awful situation – this is what makes the novel especially impressive. It only happens at single instances, partly, she isn’t even sure if she did actually refuse it or even contributed to it happening. This makes it even more awful, because the girl is left alone with her feelings and worries. She plays normal and hides what has happened. It does not take much to imagine that there might be millions of girls out there suffering from the same abuse and feeling helpless and powerless.

Thus, the novel takes up a very serious topic and hopefully some readers might recognize that what Willa is going through is far from acceptable and can find a way of seeking help if they are in need.


Stefan Ferdinand Etgeton – Das Glück meines Bruders

Stefan Ferdinand Etgeton – Das Glück meines Bruders

Ein letztes Mal wollen die Brüder Botho und Arno van Dijk in das belgische Dörfchen Doel fahren, wo einst ihre Großeltern lebten. Das Dorf wird bald nicht mehr sein, der Hafen wird ausgebaut und die Bewohner mussten weichen. Doch die Jungen haben noch ihre Kindheitserinnerungen dort, jeden Sommer haben sie an der Küste verbracht. Angekommen müssen sie jedoch feststellen, dass von ihrer Kindheit nicht mehr viel geblieben ist. Die Menschen sind weggezogen oder gestorben und auch ansonsten erkennen sie nicht mehr viel wieder. Doch dann werden Botho und Arno eingeholt, der eine spricht zum ersten Mal über das, was nie gesagt wurde und doch sein ganzes Leben bestimmt hat. Der andere macht sich auf das Mädchen nochmals zu treffen, die vielleicht seine Partnerin fürs Leben hätte werden können. Der Schritt nach vorne im Leben beginnt zunächst für beiden mit vielen Schritten zurück in die Vergangenheit.

Stefan Ferdinand Etgeton hat keinen leichten Roman geschrieben. Die beiden Brüder tragen ein schweres Erbe, das jedoch völlig verschieden ist, sie aber jeweils daran hindert, das Leben zu leben, das sie leben wollen. Mit Anfang 30 sind sie eigentlich erwachsen und doch verharren sie noch in der Jugend. Der Zeitpunkt, sich den Dämonen zu stellen, scheint gekommen und damit werden sie recht typische Vertreter ihrer Generation: immer geht es automatisch weiter und das Leben findet in einem so hohen Tempo statt, dass für Innehalten keine Zeit bleibt. Bis der Tag gekommen ist, an dem die essentiellen Fragen gestellt werden: wer bin ich? Wo komme ich her? Wer will ich sein?

Viele Themen werden fast nebenbei angerissen, sind aber für die zentrale Frage dessen, was die Persönlichkeit bestimmt, von wesentlichem Belang. Missbrauchserfahrungen aus der Kindheit, die nie verarbeitet wurden und nicht zwangsweise aber doch häufig in Suchtverhalten und einer gewissen Lebensunfähigkeit enden. Das Verhältnis von Eltern und Kindern, das dann problematisch wird, die Erwartungen der einen Seite und die Träume der anderen auseinanderklaffen. Das Verharren im was-hätte-sein-können, das lähmt und einem daran hindert das zu tun, was man eigentlich tun möchte.

„Das Glück meines Bruders“ – man fragt sich am Ende, wer von den beiden das Glück gefunden hat und worin es besteht. Es scheint als würde die Ausgangskonstellation umgekehrt und der geerdete Botho mit dem bürgerlichen Job als Lehrer gerät in die Rolle des Verlorenen, des Suchenden, dem alle Bezüge zur Realität fehlen, während Arno sich in einer funktionierenden Beziehung mit geregelter Arbeit und einem offenbar hohen Maß an Zufriedenheit wiederfindet.

Wie fragil ist das Glück, das wir empfinden, wenn es durch einen Besuch an einem Ort der Vergangenheit zerbrechen kann? Und wie stabil ist unser Selbstbild – oder ist es doch nur eine gesellschaftliche Rolle, die wir annehmen und die uns gerade passt, vielleicht aber irgendwann zu eng wird? In einer Zeit, die von schnellem Wandel geprägt ist, in der von uns allen erwartet wird, dass wir flexibel und mobil sind, unsere Zelte hier ab und anderer Stelle wieder aufbauen und uns immer wieder auf Neues einstellen sollen, wird die Frage der Identität möglicherweise viele Menschen in einen ähnlichen Strudel stürzen wie Etgetons Protagonisten. Dies könnte tatsächlich eine der Hauptfragen unserer Gesellschaft werden. Bemerkenswert, wie man ein solches Thema doch in einem lockeren und oftmals unterhaltsamen Ton umsetzen kann.

Danya Kukafka – Girl in Snow

Danya Kukafka – Girl in Snow

No morning routine for janitor Ivan: on his tour around the high school premises he finds the body of Lucinda Hayes, golden girl and now dead. It does not take long to identify possible murders: Ivan first of all, it hasn’t been long since he’s out of prison. Cameron Whitley, the boy from next door who has been stalking Lucinda for quite some time. Jade Dixon-Burns, a slightly overweight outsider who openly hated Lucinda. Mr O. the art teacher who was seen with Lucinda’s diary. Officer Russ Fletcher’s first murder case comes to a very bad moment, his wedding is all but ok and additionally, Ivan is his wife’s brother and Cameron his former partner’s son. How can he objectively investigate this case?

Danya Kukafka has chosen a well-known topic for her debut novel: the murder of the popular teenage girl. Even though many have written about this, she manages to create something new and singular. She provides us with the narrators who tell the story from their point of view and thus slowly unfolds the tragedy of all the three of them – it is not that much the victim herself whom we feel sorry for in the end but much more those three. The author succeeds in creating outstanding characters who really have to tell a story which I found actually from one point on much more interesting than the question who committed the deed.

Let’s start with Jade. From the outside she seems to be the hateful reclusive teenager who is difficult to love due to her negative attitude. Yet, behind this surface, we find a thoughtful girl who has experienced domestic violence, who has to work several jobs in her free time and who lost her best friend Zap to Lucinda. They were really really close, almost could read each other’s thoughts but when they get older and the interest in the opposite sex arises, Zap rejects her mercilessly and in a most offending way which leaves scars forever. Jade has never been popular, often was the victim of bullying, but this rejection breaks something in her. And makes her especially sensitive for other people’s emotions.

Russ, on the other hand, is caught in a conflict. He has a bad conscience for what he has done years before – he always backed his partner, even when he knew that this was not right and when in doing so he was hurting others, especially Cameron and his mother. Is this the point to correct a mistake? However, his mind is also dancing around his wife Inés and how he never really understood her. Do they actually know each other? He doesn’t have a clue about her past in Mexico and doesn’t know how she spends her days. He wanted to make her happy and give her the chance to stay in the USA, but can this, what they have, still be called love? Was it ever love?

Last comes Cameron. He is strange and odd. He is talented in drawing but his obsession with Lucinda is not only weird but morbid. He observes her, spends hours in the evening and night outside her house looking into her window. He even breaks into the Hayes’ house one night and watches her sleeping. He is a bit creepy, but he is also the boy whose police officer father was accused of murder a couple of years back and who has been living only with his mother. As soon as the suspicion falls on him, everybody remembers what his father was suspected of. Cameron does not know what his father has done or hasn’t, but he strongly fears that there is something bad running in his veins. This keeps him from thinking clearly in this situation. And the fact that he has seen the body, doesn’t help to rescue him from being the prime suspect for the reader, too.

The development of those three narrators who tell the story alternatingly gives the novel much more depth than I had expected. Apart from the big question of who is the murder, there are many smaller questions circling around the characters which keep the suspense constantly high. It is not a typical murder novel you cannot put aside due to the high pace and high suspense, no, it rather slowly unfolds and provides you with a complex psychological network of emotions and memories.

Lauren Oliver – Wenn du stirbst, zieht dein ganzes Leben an dir vorbei, sagen sie

Lauren Oliver – Wenn du stirbst, zieht dein ganzes Leben an dir vorbei, sagen sie

Samantha Kingstons Leben ist perfekt: sie gehört zur angesagten Clique der High-School, hat mit Rob einen Freund, um den sie viele beneiden, ist hübsch und reich. Der 12. Februar soll alles perfekt machen: morgens die Valentinstagsgrüße in der Schule und abends wird sie endlich mit Rob schlafen. Alles beginnt ganz normal: die Schule hat nichts Ungewöhnliches zu bieten, dann bereitet sie sich mit den Freundinnen auf eine Party vor. Doch der Abend endet anders als geplant: bei einem Unfall kommen sie ums Leben. Doch am nächsten Morgen wacht Sam wieder auf. Es ist nochmal der 12. Februar und sie kann ihren letzten Tag nochmals erleben und vielleicht was ändern. Sieben Mal wird sich dies für sie wiederholen.

Das Grundkonzept ist eher ungewöhnlich, wenn auch nicht wirklich innovativ, allerdings hat die Autorin genug Humor, die Protagonistin selbst auf „Und täglich grüßt das Murmeltier“ hinweisen zu lassen. Ansonsten bietet der Roman alles, was das Young Adult Herz begehrt: die High-School mit ihren typischen Alltagssorgen, die von allen bewunderte Mädchen-Clique, die erste große Liebe, viel Gerede über Klamotten und Schminke. Und natürlich der obligatorische erhobene Zeigefinger, dass man doch bitte nicht gemein, sondern nett zu den Mitmenschen sein soll und sich für die Außenseiter einsetzen muss. Alle Stereotypen erfüllt, Leser des Genres werden es danken.

Was jedoch auffällt, ist die Figurenzeichnung, wobei ich mich gefragt habe, ob ich einfach zu alt bin, um die Figuren so wahrzunehmen, wie sie sein sollen. Für mich ist die Protagonistin einfach ein verwöhntes Gör, dem es viel zu gut geht und die in ihren Egotrip sieben Mal erfolgreich durchzieht und dafür auch noch belohnt wird. Vermutlich soll sie cool und bewundernswert wirken, dabei wirken ihre Kleidungsbeschreibungen auf mich eher billig bis nuttig und dass sie sich permanent darüber beklagt, dass sie von den Eltern zu kurzgehalten wird (man bedenke: sie bekommt im Jahr nur zweimal 500 Euro zum Kleidershoppen!), macht sie auch nicht gerade sympathischer. Da ihre Empathiefähigkeit nur gering ausgebildet ist, braucht sie auch mehrere Anläufe um zu verstehen, dass sie genau das ist, was ein anderes Mädchen ihr vorwirft: ein Miststück. Selbst als ihr langsam aufgeht, dass ihr Verhalten vielleicht eher suboptimal ist, wird ihr Handeln immer noch von dem Gedanken geleitet, möglichst selbst zu profitieren oder zumindest kein ganz so schlechtes Gewissen mehr haben zu müssen. Das macht das Lesen zu einer gewaltigen Quälerei, da man permanent den Gedanken hegt, dass die Welt einfach eine bessere wäre, wenn sie endlich tot wär. Dass die anderen ihr da in nichts nachstehen, macht es kaum besser.

Alles in allem ein Buch, dass hervorragend auf die zu liefernden Klischees abgestimmt ist, durch besonders widerwärtige Figuren besticht und weiter nichts zu bieten hat, was für eine Leseempfehlung sprechen würde.

Julie Buntin – Marlena

Julie Buntin – Marlena

Sal hat sich gemeldet und katapultiert Cat zurück in ihre Zeit in Silver Lake, Michigan, wohin ihre Mutter sie und den Bruder Jimmy nach der Trennung vom Vater zwangsverpflanz hatte. In Marlena hat Cat direkt eine neue Freundin gefunden. Das Nachbarsmädchen war zwei Jahre älter und all das, was Cat gerne gewesen wäre: hübsch, von Jungs bewundert, mutig, selbstbewusst. Doch bald schon kommt Cat hinter Marlenas Geheimnis: es sind Drogen, die sie am Leben halten und sie so erscheinen lassen, wie sie ist. Drogen, die bereits ihre Mutter zerstört hatten und die auch die Einnahmequelle ihres Vaters und ihres Freundes sind. Aus der schüchternen und strebsamen Cat wird in Silver Lake ein neuer Mensch: sie schwänzt die Schule, trinkt zu viel und versucht Marlena immer ähnlicher zu werden. Eine gefährliche Spirale abwärts, die für Marlena im Unglück enden wird.

Julie Buntins Debutroman hat es bereits auf die Longlist des First Novel Prize 2017 der US-amerikanischen nonprofit Organisation Center for Fiction geschafft, die New York Times hat sie gar mit Elena Ferrante, einer der global erfolgreichsten Autorinnen der vergangenen Jahre, verglichen. Warum ist recht leicht zu erkennen: wie die zwei Pole eines Magneten ziehen sich die beiden konträren Charaktere von Marlena und Cat geradezu magisch an. Zwei unterschiedliche Mädchen, die schicksalhaft durch ihre Nachbarschaft zusammengebracht werden und gemeinsam ins Verderben rennen. Schon früh weiß man, dass Marlena jung sterben wird, aber ist Cats Überleben tatsächlich das größere Glück?

„Manchmal leide ich unter meinem Leben, allein weil es meins ist, weil es diesen Lauf genommen hat und keinen anderen, weil ich nicht in die Vergangenheit zurückreisen kann, um die Zukunft zu ändern. Um zu verhindern, was ihr zugestoßen ist.“

Cat leidet unter dem, was sie erlebt hat und nicht verhindern konnte, obwohl ihr bewusst war, wie abhängig Marlena war und weil sie Schuld daran trägt, was an dem schicksalhaften Tag im November und auch schon in den Woche zuvor passiert war. Mit dieser Schuld muss sie leben und diese verbirgt sie in New York vor ihrem neuen Leben und ihrem Freund.

„Wahrscheinlich habe ich mich schuldig gefühlt. Ich hatte hundert Gelegenheiten, sie aufzuhalten. Mehr als hundert. Ich tauschte Silver Lake und eine Form der Realitätsflucht gegen eine andere ein. Das schlechte Gewissen der Überlebenden quälte mich, es bestimmte mein Leben“

Die Autorin verleiht ihrer Erzählerin eine starke Stimme und diese kann sowohl die Gefühlswelt der 15-jährigen versetzen, der die Empathie noch fehlt, um sich die Lage der eigenen Mutter oder des Vaters zu begreifen, wie auch in die erwachsene Cat, die ein vorgeblich bürgerliches Leben als Bibliothekarin führt und doch ihre Süchte kaum unter Kontrolle hat und die 15-Jährige, die sie einmal war, nicht ganz aufgeben kann und will. Diese ausdrucksstarke, intensive Erinnerung an die Zeit, die sie doch meist im Rausch gar nicht wahrgenommen hat, überträgt sie gekonnt auf den Leser, dem die lebenszerstörende Verbindung zwischen den Mädchen nicht kalt lassen kann.

Shannon McCrimmon – The Summer I Learned to Dive

Shannon McCrimmon – The Summer I Learned to Dive

Was sind die typischen Versatzstücke von Young Adult Romanen?

  1. die Protagonistin:

– sehr strebsam und intelligent

– sehr hübsch, ohne sich dessen bewusst zu sein

– lebt fernab der Realität und ist sich des Lebens eines Teenagers nicht bewusst

– keinerlei Erfahrung mit Alkohol, Jungs, Sex, Partys etc.

  1. Der Protagonist:

– schüchterner Junge, auf den alle Mädchen stehen, der aber auf „die Eine“ wartet

– makelloser Charakter

– würde nie Alkohol anrühren

– absolut selbstlos gegenüber seiner Familie

  1. die Handlung:

– Protagonistin kommt an fremden Ort, wo Protagonist lebt

– gerät zunächst an die falschen Freunde, Protagonist muss sie retten

– macht erste Erfahrungen im echten Leben, lernt: Alkohol ist böse

– durchlebt Familienkrise, Protagonist steht zu ihr

– Krise war eigentlich nur ein Missverständnis und wird so schnell erfolgreich gemeistert

– am Ende: alles Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen

Prüft man Shannon McCrimmons Roman „The Summer I Learned to Dive“ auf diese Punkte, erhält sie vollen Zuschlag. Die 18-jähige Finn erfährt zufällig von einem lange gehüteten Familiengeheimnis. Sie reist nachts heimlich ab, um ihre unbekannten Großeltern zu besuchen. Dort verliebt sie sich in den wunderbaren Jesse und erlebt im Schnelldurchlauf alles, was Teenager sonst in ein paar Jahren durchmachen. Gegen Ende noch großes Familiendrama, lange Aussprache, alles gut.

Da es ein amerikanischer Roman war noch die üblichen Moralpredigten: Alkohol ist böse, vergib Deinen Liebsten auch wenn sie dich jahrelang belogen haben, kein Sex im Teenagerroman.

Der Roman bietet wenig Überraschungen und ist so locker geschrieben, dass er sich entspannt an einem Nachmittag lesen lässt. Wie er zu 900 3-5 Sterne Bewertungen auf Goodreads kommt, bleibt für mich jedoch schleierhaft. Überbordende Lobeshymnen über das Buch, das so anders ist als all die anderen im Genre (?!?).

Berechtigte Frage: warum liest jemand ein YA Roman, wenn er das Genre offenbar doof findet? Kurz vorm Zubettgehen habe ich gestern einen neuen Roman benötigt und lustlos meinen Kindle nach etwas Leichtem und Sommertauglichen durchblättert. Das Cover war hübsch (und so passend zum Sommer) und wenn ich schon mal angefangen habe, lese ich ein Buch auch fertig, noch dazu wenn es so kurz ist. Fazit: manche Prinzipien sollte man vielleicht über Bord werfen.

Laleh Khadivi – A Good Country

Laleh Khadivi – A Good Country

Reza Courdee is living the typical teenage life in California. He has got his friends with whom he likes to spend time surfing in the ocean and haging around at the beach and he also has his first crush and makes first sexual experiences. He plays soccer and he is highly achieving in school. Yet, with his new bunch of friends, he neglects his former interests and spends more time consuming drugs and doing nothing which does not really agree with his parents’ – immigrants from Iran – expectations for their son. However, one day, his life starts to change: Reza, born in the USA, is suddenly the immigrant, a terrorist and his friends start to question their friendship. He becomes more and more isolated and thus joins a group of Muslims who find relief and support in the local mosque. Most of all Fatima is attracted by the strong believers and the hip American girl, who easily shared her bed with Reza, starts not only wearing a hijab but also following the strict rules of Koran.

I really liked how Laleh Khadivi elaborates the topic of finding your identity on different levels. In the beginning, we seem to encounter the average teenager who does not share his parents’ beliefs and finds his ideas much more mirrored in his peer group. A slight disdain for the elder generation is not uncommon at this age. The fact that his Americanizes his name “Reza” into “Rez” also shows that it is this culture and not his familial background that he identifies with. I also found quite remarkable how the parents cope with their own immigration history and their culture. They eat in the old Iranian style, but try to integrate into the American culture since they are grateful for the lives they can lead there. They do not seem to convey that much of their past to their son. This only happens after Rez is identified as an immigrant, which he apparently is not since he was born in California. His interest in his family life is only born at the moment when he is excluded from the culture he always considered to be his own. His drifting away from the parents now leads to a new rapprochement in order to create the new self and to identify who he is and where he comes from. The most thought-provoking step in this development is definitely the encounter with Islam. As a reader you can effortlessly understand why this is attractive and how and why radicals do not have any problems winning over second or third generation immigrants for their ideas. It is absolutely convincing why Fatima and the others are magnetized and easy comply with the codes.

Yet, it is not only the immigrants’ perspective which is worth scrutinizing in this novel, it is also the behaviour of the “native” population which should be taken into account. When did we start seeing our friends and acquaintances not anymore as whom they are but as “Muslims” or “immigrants”? Which effects do global and local acts of terrorism have on our own life? And to what extent to be transfer personal pain due to the loss of a beloved person onto others who are not at all connected with the incident which caused our grief?

If you are open, as a reader, to question yourself, you will surely find food for thought in this novel.

Mahsuda Snaith – The Things We Thought We Knew

Mahsuda Snaith – The Things We Thought We Knew

Ravine and Marianne are best friends. Friends 4ever, the two 8-year-olds believe. Ten years later, Ravine is suffering from chronic pain syndrome and can hardly leave her bed. However, it is not only the illness that makes her suffer, but also her memories and now that her 18th birthday has come, she seems to be ready to confront the past. She is writing to Marianne, narrating what she recollects about their time together and with Marianne’s brother Jonathan, about both their dysfunctional families – Ravine’s father who ran away before she was even born and Marianne and Jonathan’s mother who was an alcoholic and didn’t really care for them – about Marianne’s uncle Walter coming to live with them and disappearing again and about that one evening which changed the lives of all the three of them.

“The Things We Thought We Knew” is an unusual coming-of-age novel. First of all because the protagonist who narrates the story is seriously ill and bedridden – how can a major event happen to such a character and change her life? Well, this happened already years before and thus we get a teenager’s view on the things which happened when she was a child. This is quite uncommon since we do not encounter the grown-up, rationally thinking adult who analyses what happened and has reflected on everything. Ravine is still in this process of becoming an adult, unsure of how to proceed and where her life will lead her. She is struggling with her mother and you can still at times see the child she once was in her.

The flashbacks, her memories of the past, the childhood which should have been carefree and was everything but are narrated in a child-suitable tone somehow as if Ravine could really slip in her former self and tell her story from the 8-year-old’s point of view.

The plot, alternating between the present and the past, has some suspense to offer. You surely want to know about the whereabouts of Marianne and about her family’s story developed. And there are secrets of the past to be revealed by Ravine. Yet, also the 18-year-old Ravine is at a crossroad of her life and it is not obvious which way she will decide for and is she is ready to make a decision at all, apparently, something needs to trigger her so move on, so what could this momentum be for a girl lying in bed?

What I appreciated most was the tone of the novel which made the characters come alive and which was well adapted to their age. All in all, a noteworthy debut novel.

S. K. Ali – Saints and Misfits

S. K. Ali – Saints and Misfits

Janna Yusuf is an ordinary teenager who sometimes has fights with her single mother, who loves to read and works hard for school. But she is also the girl who wears an hijab, who does voluntary work with her elderly neighbour and who is in love with a non-Muslim boy named Jeremy. Her life is already complicated enough, but then her brother moves back in and courts Saint Sarah, the perfect and angelic girl of the community. And then there is Farooq who has been memorizing the Quran and is the preferred wunderkind of the community. But this is just one side of him, Janna also knows the other face of him: Farooq the stalker and molester who tried to rape her. Caught between those extremes in her life, Janna tries to find out who she is and which values she wants to follow in her life.

This is not just a typical coming-of-age novel of a young girl struggling with typical teenage problems. What is most interesting in S.K. Ali’s novel is the fact of living between two cultures or better: between two worlds which collide from time to time and which expect different codes to be obeyed from the people walking in them.

Janna is a really lovable character. She is neither the perfect nor the rebellious teenager, she shows different moods and has good days and bad days. She is a caring person, but nevertheless admits that taking care of her neighbour is paid which is an advantage. Yet, she enjoys spending time with the old man who triggers her reflection about herself and life. She is also quite attentive and a minute observer of the behaviour of her classmates and the people around her. She knows the rules of the Quran and follows them, but at times, she also wants to be free and live the life according to her own standards. The author portrays those contradictions in the girls really convincingly and thus paints a multifaceted picture of Janna.

Apart from the question which or rather whose expectations a believing young woman will fulfil, there was one aspect which I myself as a Christian found pretty noteworthy. Janna has a friend who wears a niqab. She herself has only decided for a headscarf which she only takes off for her all-girl sports lessons or at home. But when she feels increasingly stalked by Farooq, she begins to wonder about wearing a niqab which could make her disappear from the people’s sight. A completely covered woman becomes invisible and she would like to be unseen at times. From her story it is easy to follow and understand this thought and I think it is an important aspect in the discussion about Muslim women and their covering.

Even though I highlighted the religious ones, there are many more interesting and remarkable aspects in the novel which make it for me an absolutely outstanding book in the mass of coming-of-age novels. The cast of characters is unique and none of them is flat and one-dimensional, the plot itself offers much food for thought and is all but the typical off-the-rack foreseeable novel of the genre.

Karen McManus – One Of Us Is Lying

Karen McManus – One Of Us Is Lying

Five students of Bayview High School have to go to detention for having a cell phone with them. They all swear that the mobiles do not belong to them and that they don’t have the least idea how they ended up in their backpacks. Bronwyn, the perfect student with a flawless record and surely a place at one of the Ivy League colleges; Nate, the constant loser who is currently on probation for drug dealing; Cooper, a promising baseball player; Addy, the girlfriend of one Bayview High’s most wanted boys; and Simon, on the one hand an outsider, on the other the creator and head behind the school’s gossip app who seems to know all the secrets of his class mates. Just a couple of minutes later, Simon is dead and the four remaining students are the prime suspects. Actually, all of them have something to hide as the police soon finds out and their secrets might have lead each single student to murder. They all plead innocent, but apparently one of them must be lying.

I really enjoyed this combination of young adult with crime novel. Karen McManus’ four protagonists are interestingly drawn, very singular characters which – of course – show some stereotypical features but which I think is normal for their age where you try to play some role and fit in. The author plays with the reader in bit by bit revealing more about the teenagers and their individual flaws and weaknesses. I did not really expect all of them having these secrets which, in fact, are everything but harmless and could really destroy their lives – well, that’s what happens when they are a finally revealed.

I liked the arc of suspense a lot. First of all, there has been a murder quite at the beginning of the story and of course you want to know who committed the crime. But then, all protagonists one after the other tell you that they have something to hide without immediately illuminating you. So apart from the search for the murderer, there is much more you want to find out and which makes you keep on reading.

For me, “One of US is Lying” can easily equal novels such as Jay Ashers “Thirteen Reasons Why”, Celeste Ng’s “Everything I Never Told You” or E. Lockhart’s “We Were Liars”.