Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Review on Supernova



Four friends, one year.
Sex, drugs, rock n' roll
What can possibly go wrong?
 


April is struggling with anxiety, while Tom is dealing with his father's death, and the effect it's had on his mum. Meanwhile, April's best friend Jamie is struggling to keep up with her mother's high expectations and wants to just be able to be herself. Everyone has their own struggles, but will they be brave enough to share their deepest secrets with each other?



As Ericka was specifically looking for reviewers who had experience with anxiety, this book immediately caught my interest. There aren't enough YA books that focus on characters with anxiety, and as Ericka has experienced it herself, I was interested to see what her interpretation would be.

Before I start talking about the story itself, I just want to briefly mention the setting. I loved that the book was set in London, and although there wasn't many stereotypically British themes, it was nice to read about an education system I was familiar with and had gone through myself. Another thing that I loved was that the book is set in the 90's, bringing with it nostalgia in the form of The Spice Girls and listening to music off casette tapes. I was a little disappointed in the lack of references to 90's toys. Although the main characters were too old to play with toys, I would have loved if there had been a scene where Tom's little sister had been playing with a furby or tamagotchi. Something that I thought worked well with the book being set in this time period was the lack of internet. April couldn't just google her symptoms like we would today, and anxiety can often stop you from getting the help you need. Although I didn't start suffering with anxiety until around 2009, I was in a similar situation to April. Everyone would always describe me as being shy, and as they were adults who I thought knew better than I did, I didn't think there could be more to how I felt than that, and I didn't actually find out what was wrong with me until years later. It's important that mental health is talked about more now that we have the knowledge and technology.

Although I did relate to April, I felt as if her anxiety seemed quite mild. She seemed to only get anxious in stressful situations, whereas most people who's anxiety is more severe often feel anxious and have panic attacks over seemingly nothing. I have had panic attacks in my sleep and while relaxing in my own room, so I was a little disappointed that April never went through something like that, as it seems to be a lesser known part of anxiety. Up until her exam, April's anxiety seemed to get better, particularly after she started dating Tom. The idea of a boy being able to cure a mental ilness is ridiculous, and although April did up up having a panic attack in an exam, her previous safety behaviours such as checking for ways to get out of a room disappeared once Tom was her boyfriend. As I was led to believe that anxiety was the main focus of the book, I was disappointed in how little it was focused on.

Tom's storyline was a sad but important one. After the death of his father, Tom's mother allowed the grief to take over, and became dependant on an antidepressant that wasn't working for her. There is no way for a doctor to tell if an antidepressant will work or not without getting the patient to try it out, as some work for some people but not for others. Sadly Tom's mum was put on one that wasn't right for her, making her feel even worse. I loved how well grief and depression were dealt with, and how Tom and his mum finally got the help that they needed. An important theme that ran throughout the book was that it's always better to ask for help rather than suffering alone. I loved how all the characters were happier once they had someone they could trust with their problems.

One thing that I didn't like was how taking pills was seen as a bad thing. We see two instances where pills are bad news, first with Jamie taking an ecstacy pill, and then with Tom's mum's antidepressants. We later have April telling her mum that she doesn't want to take birth control, as she has come to associate pills with bad things. I felt as if this was a bad message to give to the reader, as a lot of people rely on medication to stay alive. If my dad stopped taking his blood pressure medication, it would lead to all sorts of health problems, and many people are in similar situations. It is true that some pills do more harm than good, but making all pills seem bad is a terrible idea.

I thought the romance was way too cheesy and clich√©. Tom and April lacked chemistry, and apart from a couple of sweet moments between them, all they really did was kiss. Honestly there were whole chapters dedicated to them kissing and it got boring and repetitive very quickly. The fact that I didn't enjoy the romance, which made up the majority of the book is one of the main reasons why I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.

Something that I never bring up in reviews but felt as if I had to in this case was the editing, which was terrible. As I read quite a lot of proofs I'm used to bad editing, but I know that these mistakes will be fixed before the book is published. If this had been a proof the editing wouldn't have mattered, but it was quite shocking that this book had been put on sale with so many mistakes. I can let a few grammatical errors slide, but there were times when I couldn't even work out what the author was trying to say. It was obvious it hadn't been professionally edited, and almost felt like a first draft.Although I realise self-published authors don't have a team of people working behind the scenes to make their book the best that it can be, and might not be able to afford to hire a professional editor, I still think that putting work on sale that contains so many errors seems unprofessional.

Another problem I had was with the diversity representation. Towards the end of the book, Jamie is revealed to be a lesbian, something that isn't really hinted at except for a girl in their school knowing a secret about her. This almost seemed like a plot twist, as we are lead to believe that Jamie will end up dating Yuki. I don't think a characters sexuality should ever be used as a plot twist, and although I loved that Jamie finally stood up to her mum, the way she came out was a little too over the top and not very believable.

I had several problems with Yuki, the first being that he had a Japanese name when he was Chinese. It felt as if Ericka threw him in for the sake of having a character who wasn't white. It seemed as if she had done little research on Chinese culture, and proceeded to throw every Chinese stereotype she could think of at Yuki. There were some distasteful jokes regarding Yuki's race, such as Tom joking that he was immune to chinese burns, and Tom's Nan feeding him nothing but rice and constantly getting his name wrong. Although these things were meant to be funny, I found them to be quite racist, and despite all this, Yuki's character was never developed properly, and he remained a side character who drove the others around and did his best to help Tom. I felt as if Yuki could have been an interesting character if he had been given his own storyline.

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Although I thought grief was dealt with well, and there were some parts of April's anxiety that I related to, there was just too much I disliked to be able to enjoy the book as a whole. I would strongly suggest to Ericka to get her work professionally edited in the future, as I thought the story had potential but just wasn't quite where it needed to be.


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