Hello Humans! Now, as most will know, I’m pretty much a strict fantasy and science fiction reader, very rarely straying away from that genre unless something really tempts me. One of the genres that I very rarely stray into is contemporary YA – though I have read a few YA contemporaries that I have loved (THUG, The Poet X, The Exact Opposite of Okay to name a few) I don’t find myself seeking out these books very often. But I saw the cover of The Paper & Hearts Society and I thought the concept sounded cute enough so I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about…
Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.
It’s like she hasn’t found her people …
Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.
But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …
Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?
So, I want you to read this review with the huge caveat that I’m not a typical contemporary YA reader – so I’m writing for the people like me, who might see the hype for this book and wonder if it might slot in with their fantasy reading as a nice palette cleanser.
Firstly, I think this book has some strong aspects. Thinking back to when I was reading YA contemporary as a habit (around 2008-2012 ish) this felt like it would have been something I picked up and enjoyed – so it’s probably doing pretty well for the target audience. I liked the friendship dynamics, I liked the representation of different identities, I liked some of the redemption arcs – I thought the overall plot was pretty classic for a YA contemporary, with the added niceness that it was such a love letter to books and to being bookish.
However, it took me a while to relax into this book because my hackles were put up in the opening chapters. There was some really incongruous name dropping of various book titles throughout the opening chapters that felt…just strange to me. It was a bit as though the author was name dropping her favourite authors but not doing it in a way that felt natural or, to be honest, believable. I would have preferred it to either be a little less obvious or to maybe have had a list of recommended reads at the end (oh that could have been fun…). Maybe it’s a nice thing to see people talk about your favourite books within a book – for me, it just felt too obvious and was annoying enough that it coloured my opinion of the rest of the book.
I suppose you have to read this book with the knowledge that it has been written for people who are already very bookish and who already know and love both classic fiction (there’s a lot of references to Austen, Bronte, Shakespeare etc.) and contemporary YA. So, imagining 2008 Judith picking up this book – would I necessarily have related that hard to the characters – perhaps not? But reading it as a book lover who has also found her people I can see the value of the story. I suppose my question is how does that fit into the market for younger teenagers, who might be more likely to pick up the book in isolation in their library – will they relate to the story or is it written for a very specific audience – and does that help or hurt? I’m just asking the questions…
I’ve given myself a couple of days to process this book before writing the review because I didn’t want to come across as biased against contemporary YA. I’ve come down on the side that this is a great book for people who already love the genre. If you’re already a YA contemporary reader then this is great. If you’re not…maybe don’t start with this one – pick it up later on.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Paper & Hearts Society is available June 13th!
What say you? Are you a YA contemporary fan? Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below!