100 Books in a Year: Demons, Dying Girls, and the Homo Sapiens Agenda

100 books in a year reading challenge summer marathon books novels september 2015 2016

So, I was talking to my English teacher a while ago (read: she was talking to the class, and I was there) and she mentioned that every year she tries to read one hundred books. This started because of a competition with another girl a few years ago. (The girl won.) I, in my infinite arrogance, decided that I could probably make a decent stab at that if I put my mind to it. 

And thus, I shall. From the 12th September 2015 to the 12th September 2016, I intend to read 100 books. Just to make it a little harder on myself, though, they have to be books I’ve never read before. 

#1 – Demon Road – Derek Landy – 4/5

So, here we are, at the beginning. Derek Landy. I’ve met him, actually. Very nice man. And a very good writer! He wrote, in case you did not know, the Skulduggery Pleasant book series, of which I am quite a fan. This is his first novel outside of the series, which has now finished. (I cried.)

It’s not really a huge departure from the norm, but it is noticeably different. It’s a little more adult – not in an offputting or overly edgy way, but something that much more deftly handled. I admit, I was going into it expecting something a lot closer to Skulduggery, particularly in terms of the humour of it, which wasn’t present in the same way. There were definitely glimpses of it, and the character Glen really embodies it, but it wasn’t there to the same extent. But that’s fine, really. I can (and will) re-read the Skulduggery series one day again, and there will be all that lovely, distinctive humour once again. (I owe so much to those books.)

But now, there’s Demon Road – an original novel by one of my favourite authors, containing the same strongly drawn characters and atmospheric prose that I’ve grown to love.

#2 – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews – 5/5

This invites comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars, I suppose, doesn’t it? To be fair, there are definite elements of a John Green novel to it. Not just in terms of the girl dying of cancer, but also the main characters. You’ve got Greg, with an interest in film making, and Earl, his weird friend, who makes films with him. They’re strongly drawn, they have weird hobbies, and there’s a girl who’s dying. If you did enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, this is probably definitely one to check out.

But, at the same time, the book is positioned as very much Not A John Green Novel. There’s a sort of low key reference to it at one point – the narrator very explicitly says that there will not be any schmaltzy messages or tumblr style quotes. He gives an example; I forget what it was, but it may as well have been “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” 

It works, I think. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is much more acerbic and rough around the edges than a John Green novel. It feels very real. At the end of it, there’s no real message. (At least, not one that I took away from it.) There isn’t a love story, or a great romantic climax.

Death just happens, and you’ve got to live with it. (I suppose that is a message. Shh.)

#3 – Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertelli – 4/5

Russell T Davies, who is a writer I very much admire, once said that homosexual love stories are more interesting than heterosexual love stories because they’re still quite new and different. The iconography of them is something we’re less familiar with; the images aren’t seared onto our brains in the same way. (He said that in The Writer’s Tale, if you’re interested. Definitely would recommend it. The quote is better served in context, too, rather than with my paraphrasing of it.)

He’s right, I think, and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a fairly good demonstration of that. It’s a love story (amongst other things) between two boys of 17. There’s an element of a mystery, too – at the beginning of the novel, the two boys (Simon and ‘Blue’) don’t actually know each other’s identities; they communicate through anonymous emails, and a fairly major aspect of the book is their slow realisation of who is who. In essence, it’s a very interesting take on the standard preconceptions of a love story.

It’s also a very 2015 book. It, more than any other YA novel I’ve read, captures the essence of “teenager in 2015″. Not perfectly, no, but very close. You’ve got references to tumblr and Adventure Time and Doctor Who and Harry Potter slash fiction, none of which feel forced, and all coming together to create something very easily identifiable. This is definitely something that people on tumblr should check out.

Books Read: 3
Days since start: 2
Days until finish: 363
Currently reading: Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman

Click here to see my progress reports and updates on this whole reading malarkey. Have any suggestions for books I should read? Get in touch!

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