A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold #BookReview #Memoir

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Title: A Mother’s Reckoning
Author: Sue Klebold
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 296 pages
Publication Details: February 9th 2017 (reissue) by Ebury Publishing
Genre(s): Biography/ Memoir; True Crime
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

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On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.


For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?


These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In”A Mother s Reckoning,” she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.


Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, “A Mother s Reckoning”is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.


“All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.”

 

Review

I was interested in this book because I remember when I first heard about the Columbine shooting – the first of many tragic school shootings to come (in America), in 1999.

I was of similar age as the shooters and in my penultimate year of high school. I was going through my goth phase (Goths 4eva IDST – LOL!) and was big fan of Marilyn Manson at the time. The media was singling the band out as the reason for the shootings. Because we all know how damaging rock music is to impressionable teens don’t we!? Sigh.

Even back then I knew that was a load of bull, however the media spotlight was infuriating but also seen as some sort of badge of honour. Of course that sounds ridiculous and callous now but being full of teenage angst – it was “cool” to be a Marilyn Manson fan for a while because of that.

This book is the account of Dylan(one of the shooters)’s mother Sue. It’s a really interesting look at parenthood, adolescence, mental illness and tragedy but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

The first 20% of A Mother’s Reckoning seems to solely aim at frantically proving how normal the Klebold family were; what such good, normal parents Sue and her husband Tom were and how they couldn’t possibly understand how their nice, normal son could have killed so many people. The idea of normal really annoyed me throughout this part of the book – Sue of all people should understand that there’s no such thing as normal.

The disquieting reality is that behind this heinous atrocity was an easygoing, shy, likeable young man who came from a ‘good home’. Tom and I were hands-on parents who limited the intake of television and sugary cereals.

This was made even more frustrating by the next 20% of the book where Sue goes from describing Dylan’s perfect childhood and the morals and discipline (a ‘normal’ amount of course) they imparted on him, to all the worrying behavioural signs they missed. One minute he was perfect, the next he was a teenager who had made some worrying life choices.

And the more ‘normal’ and good at parenting she was trying to prove to be, the more strange she sounded; the type of parent I’m glad I didn’t have. A control freak…

I thought of all the times I’d called the mom hosting a sleepover to find out what movie she was planning to show. More than once, I’d asked for a less violent selection.

Now, I’m certainly not one of those people who blame the parents for everything, but don’t write 100 pages with your hands in the air saying ‘look at what good parents we werewe couldn’t possibly have known…he showed no signs,…we couldn’t have done anything’ etc and then tell us the exact opposite. Argh!

I was also not happy about the conclusion Sue came to about Dylan’s actions being caused by ‘depression or some other brain illness’. It is perfectly possible that Dylan was depressed – aren’t most teenagers!? but depression does not a murderer make!

In this book Sue Klebold researches what she calls ‘brain illnesses’ (she doesn’t believe the term mental illness is as accurate) and suicide, especially in teenagers. It is researched well and I found it interesting but it just felt like she was trying lay blame on anyone but herself or her troubled son.. I can’t blame her for trying to find a reason for her son’s actions, but I think it was a very one-sided view.

For me there was a huge elephant in the room the whole way through this book. I think working in a prison has given me a little insight into criminal behaviour and how people tick. And the one thing that people never want to believe is that humans are capable of hideous things, without making them evil.

Every single one of us has the occasional evil thought but thankfully most of us wouldn’t dream of acting upon them. Lots of things prevent us from doing so. But something didn’t stop Dylan from that terrible act. In fact it sounds like instead of him having lots of reasons to not act on those thoughts – he had lots of reasons to go through with it. School is hard, adolescence is hard, and his circumstances sound worse than most. As one of the survivors said at the time ‘I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner’.

Klebold does make some insightful psychological points which – although few and far between-  did make this book worth reading for me.

The expertise with which desperate people can mask their true feelings and intentions is the far more important message.

It’s nothing groundbreaking but was interesting enough to keep me reading and thinking. This is definitely a book worth reading for those interested in psychology, especially criminal psychology, but despite the fact that this whole book is Sue pouring her heart out, I couldn’t relate to her because I didn’t believe that she completely believed what she was saying. I think there is a huge element of denial here, and that she wrote this story to rid herself of guilt.

I’m not saying she has anything to feel guilty about – who am I to make that judgement – nor am I saying that she doesn’t deserve empathy or closure, but I just felt like she is masking something in this book, which is strangely something that the victims’ friends and family have said from the beginning. Maybe that’s the only reason I’m so suspicious, but maybe not…

unicorn rating 3

 

 

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily #MiniReview #YA

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

twelvedaysdashlilyTitle: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily
Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Series: Dash & Lily #2
Format: Digital ARC, 240 pages
Publication Details: October 6th 2016 by Electric Monkey
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; Romance
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

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Glorious new collaboration from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Dash and Lily have been dating for nearly a year, but when Lily’s beloved grandfather falls ill, the repercussions take their toll on everyone. Even though they are still together, somehow the magic has gone out of their relationship and it’s clear that Lily has fallen out of love with life.

Action must be taken! Dash teams up with Lily’s brother and a host of their friends, who have just twelve days to get Lily’s groove back in time for Christmas.

Review

I was a little bit disappointed by this latest collaboration from these two get authors, probably because the bar was so high. I wanted to love it as much as Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and Nick & Norah, but something was definitely missing.

This story is all about Lily’s holiday funk. She is depressed and even Christmas, her favourite holiday, and Dash, her favourite person can’t cheer her up.

I didn’t dislike this story at all, but it really suffered from Dash & Lily’s lack of connection. Their romance was at the heart of the first book, and without that, there wasn’t a whole lot left to be honest.

It wasn’t serious enough about Lily’s angst and ‘issues’ for it to feel like a  YA book that was cleverly tackling the issue of depression, instead the wishy-washy underlying theme of depression put a downer on the book itself, for me. Thankfully it had a happy ending or I’m not sure I could have coped. There’s just something about Lily’s sunny disposition that doesn’t suit being unhappy so instead of making me feel sad for her, it just annoyed me. Sorry, Lily!

Overall this was an OK story. It was a super-quick read that was written nicely. But it wasn’t anything exciting or surprising, and it didn’t feel nearly festive enough!

unicorn rating 3

Out now in paperback & eBook formats

 

Haunt Me by Liz Kessler #HorrorOctober #BookReview

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Title: Haunt Me
Author: Liz Kessler
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 400 pages
Publication Details:  October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Supernatural
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

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Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they’ve gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn’t the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide – life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe’s brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school – but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are – including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin’s decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?

Review

I thought this YA ghost story would be a good way to ease myself in to Horror October this year, and I was right. 

Haunt Me is centred around Joe and Erin. When we first meet him, Joe is slowly realising that he’s a ghost. He can’t remember how he died but he has this horrible certainty that his brother Olly was responsible.

Erin has had a lot of troubles in the past. She’s always struggled with fitting in, and has been the victim to horrible bullying which led to panic attacks, depression and even with her trying to commit suicide. So in an attempt at a fresh start her family have moved to a whole new place. Into Joe’s house.

Erin loves her new room, and instantly feels happy there so when she sees Joe for the first time she isn’t scared; she’s glad to finally have someone to talk to even if it is a ghost. Or even if he’s just a figment of her imagination.

Erin and Joe have a lot in common. They are both introverts who are creative and love poetry. They both live (or lived as the case may be for Joe) in the shadow of happy-go-lucky siblings, and they fall for each other hard. But as Erin discovers, falling in love with a ghost is pretty complicated.

There was so much about Haunt Me that I should have hated. I should have hated the multiple narration. I should have hated the instalove. I should have hated the love triangle. But I couldn’t bring myself to. It was just so damn cute!

I was hoping it would be a bit darker, considering I’m reviewing this as part of my Horror October month, but at least it’s a good book for those who like their horror a lot more cutesy than gory.

What I really did dislike about the book though, was that everything was so easy. And everyone was so willing to believe in ghosts. Erin’s mum was sure there was a ghost and her dad didn’t question it. They get a Medium in to exorcise Joe from the house and it works. The Medium tells Erin that he might be banished to his next most familiar place and she just finds him there. You know… too easy!?

However, Haunt Me was not only a quick read that flowed nicely, it explored teen depression and anxiety in a clever way and for that I think it should be applauded.

horroctrating-3

Apple Tarts Vs Hope and Despair…

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Title: The Apple Tart of Hope
Author: Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Series: N/A
Edition: Hardcover, 272 pages
Published: June 5th 2014 by Orion
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary
Disclosure? Yep, I received a copy via the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review

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I found the beginning of this book rather odd which made it a little hard to get into, but it soon becomes apparent that that oddness is what makes The Apple Tart of Hope such a unique read.

It opens at a service being held for Oscar Dunleavy, who is presumed dead. The church is full; the atmosphere, strange. The narrative comes from Meg, who claims to be Oscar’s best friend, but another girl, one with golden hair, is called up to speak a few words about Oscar, as she is apparently his closest friend.

Throughout the book we are taken back to how it all began, switching between the perspectives of both Meg and Oscar. At the start, they are inseparable. They live next door to each other and their bedroom windows face each other so they can lean out and talk every night.

Life seems pretty good, everyone gets on with each other at school, and Oscar and Meg are well-loved. There is a whimsical sort of magic to Oscar. He’s an unusual character for a young boy. He’s kind and deeply thoughtful, and likes to solve people’s problems by baking them exquisite apple tarts.

But it’s not an ordinary apple tart. It’s the apple tart of hope. After you’ve taken a bite, the whole world will look almost completely different. Things will start to change and by the time you’ve had a whole slice, you’ll realise that everything is going to be OK.”

And then it all starts to go wrong. Meg is forced to move to New Zealand, and Paloma – the girl with the golden hair – moves into Meg’s house…

Oh man, this was a rollarcoaster. Once I got into it I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know how things had spiraled so out of control for Oscar and Meg. It really captured something special about being young, especially the perils of school days and friendship.

It’s hard to explain without giving the whole plot away, but I will say that at certain points in this book I was filled with so much hate for what happened to Oscar and Meg, and I knew then that this book was something special, not to mention how beautifully it’s written.

The man was a maze of wrinkles and his hands were dirty. Tears made shiny branch-like patterns on his cheeks.”

This was my first read of Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, and it definitely won’t be my last. I need to find her debut Back to Blackbrick, stat!

unicorn rating 4

Available now from Waterstones in hardback, or to pre-order in paperback (due 05/02/15).