films, Films of the year, TBT, Top 10 films

Top 10 Throwback Thirty films of 2018

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What were your favourite TBT films in 2018?

You may have noticed that I didn’t post a Sunday Rundown yesterday. That was mostly because, after a bad night’s sleep, I fell asleep before writing it. But it was also a tactical choice. After all, it’s that time of year when I need to start posting my Top 10 lists of the year. So, instead of wasting your time with a rundown of the week, I’m going to waste your time with a rundown of the year. Yep, what a 12 months it’s been. I’ve turned 30… not sure I mentioned it. To celebrate I decided to only watch films that came out in 1988 for my TBR series. It would mean I could watch some old favourites and see some new films. I was looking forward to it but the results were dicey. Thankfully, there were still some amazing films also turning 30 this year. Here are my top 10.

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 17

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dscn7247Dear Northanger Abbey,

I have a question for you: why do so many people hate you? I seriously do not understand it. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Jane Austen in general but I know a lot of people who are hardcore fans. And what confuses me more than their absolute adoration of her as a writer is that they all seem to share a dislike of you. Which is crazy. You’re the best thing she’s ever written. You are, by far, the most entertaining of the Austen novels I’ve read and you’re heroine is the one I found most endearing. I know everyone wants to be Lizzy Bennett but I always saw Catherine Morland as someone I may once have been.

Most book nerds have, unofficially, pronounced Belle from¬†Beauty and the Beast as the icon of what we live for. She lives in her books and craves adventure so I get it. However, if we want to find a female character who really typifies what it means to be a book lover then it’s Catherine. She is so obsessed with what she reads that she imagines it happening around her. If she were living this day then she would be writing fanfiction and creating Tumblrs about her favourite ships. Belle has a pretentious side to her whilst Catherine is just straight up adorable. Naive, definitely, but her behaviour is totally forgivable. Totally understandable. I see people like her on Bookstagram all the time so I don’t see why more of them don’t adore her.

Maybe it’s just that modern audiences don’t get the parody? I know a lot of people who have read this and then gone on to read¬†The Mysteries of Udolpho, which is great because Ann Radcliffe is a sensation. However, it means you don’t get the context until after the fact. If you go into this book without an understand of what very early gothic fiction was like then you’ll think it’s all just melodramatic nonsense. Instead of a very clever parody. They won’t fully appreciate how intricate it all is. How funny. How subversive. You don’t get enough credit.

Neither does your romantic hero. There’s a lot of love for Mr Darcy out there. A lot. Another thing I don’t get about Austen fans. Darcy isn’t the kind of man you fall in love with. Who is the kind of guy you fall for? Why, Henry Tilney, of course. Henry doesn’t take time to get used to. He’s charming, funny, sweet, and kind from the off set. He is patient with Catherine and forgives her for being a bit excitable. He lacks the good looks of someone like Willoughby or Wickham but he’s in no way unattractive. He loves his sister and is an avid reader. Basically, Henry Tilney is the perfect man. So why don’t more people see it?

I don’t understand. I’ll always love you. You were the book that made me give Jane Austen a second chance. I was sure I would never be able to fully appreciate anything that she wrote until you came along. Now, I’m willing to see more positives. I reread¬†Sense and¬†Sensibility a few years after I read you and I enjoyed it more. You were the book that finally made me see that there was more to Jane Austen. I can’t say that you’ve fully changed my opinion but you’ve made me more open minded. You were my Henry Tilney.
I am delighted with the book!
Laura

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 16

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img_4489Dear Agatha Christie,

I admit that I probably took a bit of time actually getting around to reading your books. There were so many times that I’d heard them dismissed as “cosy crime” that I thought they were beneath me. They definitely sounded like the kind of thing that I, a super serious and embarrassingly pretentious literature student, shouldn’t be reading. I was, to put it mildly, an idiot. I cared so much about the image I was portraying that I stopped reading for enjoyment. When I remembered that was the main aim I was able to see what I’d been missing. I’ve had lots of enjoyable reading experiences over the years but none compare to your novels. Even now, when I reread books I know the ending to, I still find myself utterly engrossed in your plots. Still convinced that the ending I know is coming will never happen. I was a fool to dismiss you. But, in my defence, it’s not like I’m alone. So many people see you in a nostalgic light. As something silly and old that takes them back. You’ve essentially been categorised as an old friend, which you are, but it’s not the end of the story.

The thing is, you aren’t just “cosy crime”. I mean you are when compared to the identical examples of psychological thrillers that are being churned out every few months. Books like¬†Gone Girl¬†and¬†Girl on a Train. The ones that need to rely on unnecessary violence and supremely grim ‘reality’ because it’s all they have. The truth is, for all the sexual violence and pseudo-psychology of these books, I hated them. They bored me. They weren’t well written and they were super obvious. I could tell from the first few chapters of¬†Girl on a Train who the killer was and I stopped reading¬†Gone Girl because it was blatantly obvious where Gillian Flynn was going with it. These books are all style and no substance… but they have that high fashion thing that nobody in the real-world really likes but has to accept because they don’t get it.

You’re books are the real deal. To dismiss them as “cosy” is the biggest injustice of all time. To refer to them as casual reading that you do between heavy reads is an insult. You didn’t write to shock your audience or to make headlines. You didn’t need to be the next big sensation. You wrote for real readers. Readers who don’t need thoughtless melodrama to excite them. You wrote well-plotted stories about characters that seem realistic. You had such a sense of people. That’s the reason your books have lasted. You understand the importance of the plot and what drives the plot. At the heart of every one of your murder mysteries is the one piece that moves everything else forward: the body. Once that’s in place, you have all the pieces you need to explore all aspects of humanity. To dig deep into the effect that evil has on the world. To question why people would commit murder. There’s a lot of depth people often refuse to see.

And yes, you also happen to have written some of the most exciting and shocking plot twists of all time. I remember the first times I read¬†The Murder of Roger Aykroyd¬†and¬†And Then There Were None. I was genuinely shocked by the twists. I pride myself on being able to figure out where mystery writers are going with their plots but, more often than not, you stump me. You’re so detail focused that the reader becomes embroiled in the mystery. They don’t have a choice but to take on the role of detective and solve the crime too. Some of your endings were groundbreaking and still haven’t been surpassed to this day.¬†Roger Aykroyd changed literature for fuck’s sake. It’s changed my view of you and of the genre.

You have written some of the most deceptive plots in all of literary history but the biggest piece of deception you are guilty of is your own writing. You manage to create books that can be enjoyed by people of various ages. They are simple enough for a younger reader whilst still with enough depth for a seasoned one. You skirt on the edge of darkness and evil without every firmly planting yourself in it. These are books that are so easily dismissed as childish and simplistic. But there is so much hidden away beneath the surface. You just need to engage you little grey cells to see it.
Very few of us are what we seem.
Laura

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 15

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 Dear George RR Martin,

dscn7223

First and foremost, I have a confession to make: I didn’t start reading your A Song of Ice and Fire series until after I’d seen the TV show. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing but I think I’ve been too afraid to say it out loud before. You know what some bookish people are like. To be fair though, I was only 8 when the first book came out. If the publishing industry didn’t give a shut about fantasy at that time then¬†why would you expect me to be? I was probably too occupied by whatever 8 year-old me was bothered about. Probably my dog or Dawson’s Creek or something.

So I was in my 20s by the time I read your books but, from that moment, I adored them. You were like Tolkien and JK Rowling had a child who grew up to write awesome books. Combining the epic fantasy setting of Tolkien with the hard-hearted attitude to character death of Rowling. Plus a bit of uncomfortable sex scenes for good measure. And we all know I love a creepy book sex scene. Especially if it involves a dwarf whose nose got cut off in battle.

As the years went by your books got harder to read but not because they’re bad. You’ve just put so much into them. There are so many additional characters and subplots that it’s difficult to keep track. And that book that focused on the South despite all the good shit happening in the North? Not the best. However, I’m not really writing this letter because your books changed my life. Don’t get me wrong, I adore them and would call it my favourite series. But I’m writing this to you, George RR, because you get a lot of shit these days. It’s been… a while since the 5th book was released. And, you may have noticed, people are getting frustrated. Very frustrated.

I bet you look back to the pre-HBO times and just think “remember when I only had a few loyal fans who were willing to wait years between books?” Not anymore. The TV crowd, people like me, are more impatient. They’ve never has to wait for your books. So this is hell. And they’re taking it out on you. I say “fuck them”. Readers like to think they own books but we just loan them from the writer. We share them and take what we need from them. But these books are yours. I’d rather read a book you’re proud to publish than a book you’ve rushed to meet a deadline. Yes, maybe you did put too much into the story. Maybe you’re finding it too difficult to tie up all of the loose ends. But the loose ends are the reason we love the books. So take the necessary months and years it’ll take to finish.

Because these books are like no other. You’ve introduced to some of my most loved characters and have made me feel a cavalcade of emotions. I read the Red Wedding scene and literally threw the book across the room I was so upset. I’m always terrified you’ll kill off someone I love. Like Brienne. I swear, if she meets a grisly end I’ll find you. Liam Neeson style. She’s perfect. She speaks to me in a way no other female character ever has. We’ve shared so many experiences. Shared so many feelings. I need her to survive. Just like I need your books. But I need them to be finished. So finish them and take as much time as you need.

 

A true man does what he will, not what he must.
Laura

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 14

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dscn7213Dear The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,

Picture the scene: September 2010, a 22 year-old me is at an English department meet and greet before starting my Postgraduate degree and I’m stuck talking to my strange new Professor. It’s all as awkward as you’d hope until he asks me one simple question: “why did you chose to study the Romantic period?” Well?

It was an Ancient Mariner,
And he really spoke to me.
With his long grey beard and glittering eye,
He changed the life of me.

I’ve decided it’s better that I don’t continue the rest of this letter by butchering Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s sensational words but, hopefully, you get the point. The reason I was so desperate to study Romanticism was you.

It was during my A Level studies that I was first introduced to you and it really did change my life. I’d read and kind of enjoyed poetry before but it was all rather pedestrian. It was poetry that seemed as though it was meant to be studied but not enjoyed, if that makes sense. I didn’t hate poetry, by any means, but I still hadn’t been brought around to the idea that one could really enjoy consuming it. Until we studied the epic tale of a crazy old sailor. I was genuinely amazed by what I was reading. I didn’t know poetry could excite me so much.

This was a new world and I was obsessed. I loved every line. I loved every rhyme. I loved every time … I read you. You were the first poem that I read so often I was able to learn you off by heart. And I’m not just talking about your first two stanzas. I knew loads. Not all of you, because you’re quite long, but I still think it was pretty impressive. I’m sure even Coleridge needed to be reminded of the later stanzas too. You were the first poem to convince me I could, and should, read poetry outside of the classroom. I admit, being about 15/16 at the time, it was a little depressing that it took me so long but I was never very by sonnets.

You were so much more than the poems we’d studied previously. You were archaic but new. You were gothic and scary yet reassuring and joyful. Expertly mixing the supernatural with the natural. You were everything that early Romanticism stood for and I wanted more. Just like your titular mariner, you hypnotised me. Your words opened my eyes to a new world of prose. Your simple structure and metre only complimented the complexity within your story. The dramatic tale and the ever-moving narrative would always draw me in. Still always draws me in.

I admit that, as the years go by, I can see all the faults that Coleridge saw. The moral is a little hammy and the archaic language is a bit much. Turns out you aren’t as perfect as my naive teenage self once thought you were. But. I still love you. I always will. You changed the whole trajectory of my life. I went to university and studied as much of this era as I could. You pushed me further towards gothic fiction. Everything I achieved during my four years of higher education can be traced back to you. You inspired me. You made me.
Farewell, farewell!
Laura

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Throwback Thirty – Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

roger-rabbit-15_star_rating_system_5_stars¬†Within my¬†TBT¬†film jar there are a couple of films that I’ve been desperate to watch again. Films that I’ve loved for years but, for one reason or another, I just haven’t seen for a while. This is one of those films. I don’t think I’ve ever¬†been able to definitively answer the¬†question “what is your favourite movie?” because it changes on an almost daily basis.¬†They are¬†so many films out there that it’s impossible to pick just one. It all comes down to mood, time of the day, time of the year, what I’m wearing, who I’m with… you know how it is. Still, if, at gunpoint, I was forced to make a list of my top 10 films I would, after a long time thinking about it, be able to make a list of films I love in no particular order. If that horrific situation (and I’m referring to the list making not the gun by the way) ever did arise then I’m pretty sure that this film would definitely be part of it. It’s one of those films that manages to bridge the gap between silly, nostalgic film and genuinely well-made film. The kind of film you love to watch and aren’t embarrassed to love. You know, like I am with¬†Space Jam. Although, that film has been criminally under-looked critically.

 

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 13

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dscn7205Dear Jacqueline Wilson,

This letter should be one full of joy and celebrating the news that you’re writing a new Tracy Beaker story. Narrated by Tracy’s 9-year-old daughter. I remember reading¬†The Story of Tracy Beaker as a child. It inspired me in so many ways. I wanted to write. I started keeping a diary. I watched the TV show even when I was far too old to be doing so. I can’t wait to read the newest adventure and see how Tracy grew up. I’m sure I’m not alone. There will be an entire generation of women who grew up with your stories who will have experienced that same wave of nostalgia that I did. It’s the kind of impact you have as a writer.

So why is it not a letter full of joy? In the last few hours I’ve read a lot of negative comments from mothers who have decided your books aren’t appropriate for their daughters. Apparently they are too dark and mature for their precious flowers. Apparently your realistic representation of the hardships experienced by a wide-range of youths might damage them. Well, as someone who couldn’t stop reading your books when I was younger, they didn’t do me any harm.

Quite the opposite in fact. Your stories for younger children entertained me and got me excited about reading. I pestered my poor mother every time your released a new book. I needed everything you wrote.¬†The Illustrated Mum made me desperate for a tattoo.¬†The Lottie Project made me want to learn more about history.¬†The Bed and Breakfast Star made me want to be funny.¬†The Suitcase Kid made me appreciate my family all the more. Most of all I adored¬†Double Act because it was the first significant book I’d read about being a twin. I saw myself and my sister in the characters of Ruby and Garnet. It helped to read about twins who were so different and drifting apart. It helped to read about characters that I understood. You knew you audience and created novels that would guide them.

As well as teaching them about things they would normally never have seen. Thanks to you I was introduced to children living genuinely difficult lives. You forced me to confront the notion that people in this world have harder lives than I do and to appreciate what I had. Things could always be worse. You made me think about other people before myself. I didn’t necessarily know it at the time but you were already helping me grow into the socially and politically minded woman I am now.

The thing that makes your novels so fantastic is your unwillingness to speak down to your audience. You didn’t try to pussy-foot around them. You didn’t present the world through rose-tinted glasses. You wrote about real problems and real people. You write about the kind of children that might usually be overlooked in children’s stories. You gave a voice to the voiceless and let them know everything could and would be okay. That somebody understood them.

You understood me. One of the most powerful reading experiences I’ve ever had was reading your novel¬†Girls Under Pressure. I’ve never felt so strongly that a novel knew me before. I, like nearly every young person, have always struggled with body image. I’ve never been comfortable with the way I look or, more specifically, with my size. Never more so than the time I was reading your books.¬†Girls Under Pressure could have been written about me. I don’t want to get melodramatic but you quite probably saved me. The amount of time I spent focusing on how fat I was could easily have led to some horrible decisions. Reading a novel about the consequences of eating disorders was enough to force me to see that it wasn’t the easy answer. Refusing to eat or throwing up wouldn’t magically make life okay. I’m still not happy with the way I look but I can say that I’ve never, even during my lowest points, been tempted to walk that line.

You helped me in so many ways. To hear people say they don’t want their children reading your stories is absurd. You taught me more about who I was as a person than anything else I read when I was younger. I appreciate that books like¬†Harry Potter have a lot to teach people but I never saw myself in them. You did. You seemed to know what I was feeling and were able to tell me it would get better. You changed my life. I normally try to end these letters with an appropriate quotation but that doesn’t seem right here. Instead…

Thank you for everything

Laura

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 12

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dscn7184Dear Lord of the Rings,

When I first decided to do this project I knew that this would be an important letter. You’re one of those series of books that I have such a deep emotional connection to simply because you were a gift. A gift from my father who, I knew, had liked the books when he was younger. Reading them made me feel closer to him. After the first one, I even read his old copies. It was a strangely bonding experience even though we’ve never actually discussed the series. Maybe I’m just putting too much sentimentality onto an act that, in all likelihood, he’s not thought of since but, goddammit, I’m a bit of a drama queen so indulge me.

As I keep proving my memory of significant literary events from my childhood is abysmal. So, really, I have no memory of the exact date I first got given a copy of¬†The Fellowship of the Ring but I¬† do know I got it for Christmas. I remember sitting on my parents bed early in the morning with my twin and opening our presents. I can’t pretend I was necessarily thrilled when I first saw it but I was young and distracted by other things. I was an idiot, basically.

And I continued to be an idiot for a good few years. I tried to read you as soon as I got you but I didn’t get too far. I’m not even sure that, on the first try, I even made it through the first chapter. Sorry but, in my defence, you are a bit of a slog. I think I tried a few times over the years but never got all the way through you. Until I watched the film. I know I probably lose some bookish points for admitting that but, unfortunately, it’s the truth. I adored everything about Peter Jackson’s first installment and it inspired me to pick you up again.

I finally made it through your first book and I fell in love with Tolkien’s writing. I get that he uses too many songs and has too many pit stops along the way. He’s incredibly descriptive and takes his sweet time making a point. It’s a difficult and indulgent read but there is so much charm within your pages it’s hard not to want to carry on. He created more than just a story: he created a whole world that you want to immerse yourself in. You want to meet these characters. You want to walk these lands. You never want to leave. It’s an epic tale that was unlike anything I’d ever read before. The only fantasy that I’d probably consumed up until this point was likely only watered down YA nonsense. You were the real deal. You didn’t hold back or speak down to us. You challenged me as a reader and I was desperate to prove myself.

So I sped (compared to the journey I went on with the first book anyway) through¬†The Two Towers and mourned for Boromir all over again. I rejoiced at seeing Theoden as he should be: powerful and wise. I welcomed back Gandalf and begged Aragorn to leave Arwen for Eowyn. I loved every minute of it… and, let’s be honest, there were a lot of minutes. I was cocky by the time I’d finished. I thought I understood you and could beat you. Thought I had become the kind of reader that could sail through your final book with ease.

I was wrong.

It was about halfway through¬†The Return of the King¬†that I realised I hadn’t prepared enough. I was like those hikers you hear about that try to climb Ben Nevis wearing trainers and a pair of shorts. Yes, I didn’t nearly die of hypothermia but I think the analogy stands. I thought I’d be okay without proper boots and walking gear but I got stuck. I left you for a bit before¬†carrying on. Still I failed. You were too tough a climb. I don’t know how many attempts it took before I reached your summit but, eventually, I made it. And it felt great. I was exhausted, obviously, but it was an accomplishment.

I’ve never dared to try to read you again but I’ll never forget how it felt the first time. How it felt to finally achieve the very thing I’d worked so hard for. I’ve never put so much effort into reading. I know it probably seems like a bad thing but it’s not. You weren’t difficult because you were bad but because you’re so good. Maybe too good. Tolkien put so much into you that it’s difficult to come to terms with that. You’re the original bookish nerd. You’re the ultimate social introvert. You don’t let every reader in but the ones that prove themselves are friends forever. It just takes that little bit longer to get to know the real you. And I’m glad I never gave up.

 

All’s well that ends better.

Laura

 

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 11

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dscn7164Dear Novels of Sensibility,

I’ll be honest with you, I could have survived without you in my life. And I had managed to avoid you for most of my life. I’d skirted around your edges but hadn’t really dipped my toe into the vast pool of sentimental fiction. A pool no doubt made up of the tears of your many over-emotional characters. Of course, it would be more like a fucking ocean than a pool. I know you were trying to put forward a positive message to be in touch with your emotions but, even you have to admit, your characters are super annoying. Most of your books are super annoying.

I’m not entirely sure it’s your fault but I just don’t think you fit into the world any more. Who wants to read stories about weedy young women who faint all the time? Now, as a lover of gothic fiction, you might say that I should be used to novels where women faint at the drop of a hat. In a way you’re right. However, you’ve basically removed all of the best bits of gothic novels and just left the fainting and crying. Nobody reads gothic novels for the fainting.

One of my fondest memories of you comes from my postgraduate degree when I was studying you. We’d been discussing¬†Pamela in a seminar when our tutor made a comment about Pamela’s fainting saving her from being raped. My friend asked the legitimate question of “wouldn’t it just make it easier for him?” and he was completely stumped. It was hilarious! But that’s the thing I don’t get about you. Sentimental people are saved from dangerous situations because their would-be attackers take pity on them. It doesn’t make sense. If a creepy, pervy uncle wanted to rape you and you fainted then it wouldn’t suddenly stop him wanting to rape you. Surely he’d just thing “bingo!”?

As a lover of all things associated with the Romantic period, I’m glad I studied you and I value the historical context you provide. But I don’t have time for your weeping men and easily shocked women. You’re a type of novel intended to keep society, particularly women, from causing a fuss. To just “be nice” and not complain. You were a reaction to the French Revolution where you wanted to prevent people from taking a stand politically. You’re basically just horrible propaganda intended to mollify your readers. To create a society of men who were more likely to cry over every flower they saw than start a political uprising. To ensure women stayed indoors and fainted at the very thought of being able to make their own decisions. You kind of suck.

I will bear any thing you can inflict upon me with Patience,

Laura

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 10

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dscn7152Dear¬†Postcards From No Man’s Land,

If¬†Harry Potter¬†turned me in a reader then you definitely turned me into an adult reader. And I’m not just saying that because you were the first literary sex scene I remember being exposed to. I mean, maybe it helped but… it’s not where I was going. I can’t remember how old I was when I read you but you were published in 1999. I was 11 at the time which definitely feels like too young an age to be reading you. Still, I was an avid reader at this point so it’s possible. I’m pretty sure I got you after studying about World War II in history and, even then, I was no doubt trying to be mature and a bit pretentious. I can’t properly remember, though.

I do have a vague memory of getting you but, as with most of my childhood memories, it’s entirely possible I’ve made it up to provide some context. There was a particular bookshop in a Scottish town, Gatehouse of Fleet, that we always used to stop in and look around. This bookshop is pure heaven. Stacks of bookshelves filled to bursting with piles and piles of additional books stacked next to them. You can barely turn around without potentially knocking something off. It’s fabulous. It never had the greatest selection of kids and young adult books but my twin sister and I always used to be able to find a sizeable haul when we were there. I believe one of those included you.

I’ll be honest with you now, since the first time I’ve never read you again. I’m not sure I would view you in the same way as an adult. But I’ve never been able to get away from you. I’ll never be able to forget that feeling of closing your cover for the final time. You were complex, full of historical facts, and an emotional roller coaster. It was a lot for my young mind to cope with. But I loved you. You haunted me in a great way. I wanted to read more of Aidan Chambers’ work and I tracked down as much as I could.

You weren’t the book that pushed me into reading but you were the one that got me thinking about the kind of books I was reading. I started wanting to read bigger and better books. I’d seen the kind of writing I’d been missing out on and wanted more. I felt completely changed by you and in a way that I hadn’t felt before. You taught me so much and opened my eyes to new experiences. You solidified my interest in history without me even realising. You opened my eyes to problems that I’d never encountered before. The narrative of a teenager coming to grips with his sexuality felt so new and mature to me at the time. I was naive when I started reading you. My eyes were more open thanks to you.

So, who cares if I can’t remember when I read you? Who cares I can’t retell the story of how or why you came into my life. The fact is, you did. And you made an impact that has lasted, under the surface, for the rest of my life. I’ve never forgotten the way you made me feel and how much you inspired me. I don’t know where I’d have gone as a reader if it hadn’t been for you.
Sometimes there only is, and no knowing

Laura

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