Sunday 30 December 2018

Book Review: All The Other Days by Jack Hartley *NZ AUTHOR*

When I recently started my job, I heard through the grapevine that one of my colleagues had just published his debut young adult novel. Well colour me interested, it does make the reading experience different when you know (however closely) the author. Jack Hartley is 22 and first started writing this novel when he was 17. I'm impressed. At 17 I was only just going on my first aeroplane trip!
I missed out on his book launch but I put a hold on his book and I spent all last night reading it.

Some background from CCL's blog:
  • All The Other Days was first written as a screenplay then adapted into the novel recently. 
  • Hartley wanted to try and accurately portray a genuine male voice in YA (Young Adult) literature because he couldn't find any books that did.
  • Hartley has a Psychology degree that helped him shape his characters.
  • All The Other Days has themes around mental health and what that can look like from a young person's perspective.
 Judd is seventeen and is one of the awkward, quiet guys at school. His passion is drawing and he uses this to help him escape from his parents fighting at home. He documents his life in his art, in his room the happy drawings go on one side, the sad ones on the other. Then one day he sees Kate and his life is changed. Kate is his perfect movie love-story but eventually reality catches up with him and what is real and what is imaginary becomes blurred.

Kate is drawn into this blurry world and seemingly impossible things start happening in her dreams and when she is awake. But one thing is for sure, when Judd and Kate's paths cross, an important connection is made that changes both their lives.

I read this book in one sitting, it is a definite page-turner. Recently I have been reading Young Adult fiction with female protagonists so it was refreshing to have a male perspective. I think Hartley nailed it when he aimed to write Judd as a genuine YA male voice. Not that I can speak from experience but the way Judd thinks and relates to his peers and is so very young-and-innocent-yet-trying-desperately-to-fit-in. He also shows such care and devotion to his mother and has a real desire to protect her from his dad. There are plenty of pop-culture references to music and movies which is very reminiscent to my time in high school where I would listen to a lot of older classics and music was a big part of my life.

There is a huge mental health theme within the novel, not only with Judd but with his parents too. Some of the novel is written from the perspective of Judd's mother and her mental health spiral is raw and confronting. I think books like this are important to highlight the internal struggle and ups and downs that anxiety and depression can cause.

There is a mind-bending real/not real aspect to this book which adds a needed depth to the high school love story. This stayed with me once I had finished and is one of the greatest parts of the book. I had no idea where the story would end up and the conclusion did not disappoint.

After reading a lot of YA fiction that is written by older writers, All The Other Days feels like the words are a little clunky and unrefined. However, I do think this adds to the young voice of Judd and makes his perspective come across as more accurate. I also found a few typos and grammatical errors that distracted me. Aside from that I have so much respect for Jack to have a published novel!

Go and seek out this book, it is a great read with a lot of facets to it. I also hear Jack has two more books in the works - I look forward to reading those when they are ready.