Today is Shit, so Here’s a Story. ‘How I Met Brooding YA Hero’

To be honest, we’ve all met him.

His eyes are the colour of the ocean, or midnight, or brilliant saffron, or blazing ruby. His skin is either chalky white, like the undead we suspect he might be, or the beautiful, ethnically ambiguous ‘heavily tanned’.

His grades are always top of the class, but we’ve never seen him study. He’d never be seen in a gym, but when you catch a glimpse of his stomach muscles, you have to sit down. He’s a punk street racer, a shy nerd, an outsider who just moved here. He’s softly spoken, but he’s angry, his eyes blaze.

He has a younger sister in our class, or a best friend we know from Biology. He owns a motorbike or sports car usually unavailable to financially-dependent seventeen-year-olds. He’s always seventeen. His parents are never around – in fact, he’s probably damaged from various childhood traumas. Not that you’d notice on a day to day level.

He had a girlfriend – also beautiful and sophisticated – but things ended when he met you. He’s got a past, and you’re getting dragged into it… but you can’t seem to back away. He’s charming, he’s brilliant, he’s in love with you.

Wait, not you.

He’s in love with the main character in the YA novel you’ve been reading. Or the YA novel you read a few years ago. Or the YA novel you haven’t picked up yet. He’s a pale imitation of Mr Darcy or Heathcliff, and he seems to have the same traits as the author’s husband or childhood crush. He’s a bundle of contradictions (or a bundle of whatever the author wants in a man, which is often the same thing). He’s the least-changing, most-perfectly-formed character in the book, and his hair usually smells wonderful.

He’s Brooding YA Hero, and he’s fucking boring.

Thankfully, there’s something out there to help you cope with this genre-wide plethora of unrealistic manliness, and it’s a Twitter page. I actually found it on Tumblr, where someone had screen-printed some highlights. Like these:

I could go on forever, but you should just have a look for yourself.

I’m telling you all this because I recently joined #BroodyBFF, the official street team for old Blazing Eyes Perfect Abs. Essentially it means I get to take the piss a bit more in challenges like this post, and I do it in the company of other readers and writers who’ve seen just enough of brooding YA heroes to know they absolutely cannot take any more.

Unless the main character looks like us, in which case we’re there.

Read, If You Like… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams 

When Isobel gave me The Hitchiker’s Guide at Christmas in our newly-minted Secret Santa tradition, I thought it was because she’d heard me talk about how it was one of those books that I’d always wanted to read but hadn’t gotten around to (also on that list: War and Peace, most of Artemis Fowl, the Chilcot Report). It turns out that her university is on the cover.

That did not detract from my enjoyment of it.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1979)

Read, if you like…

  • Disappointing cups of tea
  • Excellent narration
  • Mice
  • Space travel that’s less exciting than Han Solo in the Millenium Falcon but more exciting than actual space travel inevitably will be
  • Mentions of your home town, if your home town in Southend
  • Computers
  • The general unhappiness of council employees and/or petunias
I’m totally going to work on photos but I have 16GB memory and very little motivation to find props.

I’m also on typing on my mobile and the spelling checker on here is appalling so I am one hundred per cent sure I’ve spelt appalling wrong.

Just go read this book regardless of whether your uni’s on the cover.

Read, If You Like… Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

This is the second in a series. Possibly I am onto a good thing here. It helps I can write them in ten minutes, but let’s not be picky…

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (2015)

Read, if you like:

  • Shapeshifting
  • Heroes versus villians
  • Male characters with beautiful flowing hair
  • Female characters who don’t have beautiful flowing hair
  • Comics (this one’s a dealbreaker; it started as a webcomic)
  • The illustrations in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl; Noelle Stevenson did those too
  • Dragons
Nimona graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson
I know I said I’d work on my #bookstagram, but there’s so little light in Southend at the moment that I dashed outside in my socks, put the book on a stone table, snapped and dashed back. It’s artfully crooked amirite

I don’t read a lot of comics, so shoutout to Ruby for giving me this a couple of Christmases ago. I’ve misplaced my library card so I’m making my way through the Shelves of Ignored Books in my room instead of just borrowing everything that sounds good (there is so much that sounds so gooooood). Be prepared for a mishmash of novels I’ve been too busy to read or novels with covers I don’t like. I started Oliver Twist this week – I managed to go 15 years in British education without ever studying Dickens, so my lazy Twitter-accustomed brain is struggling a bit – and I’m pretty sure there are some other total classics waiting to be discovered. The second Game of Thrones is a classic, yes?

Introducing Read, If You Like… The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

Me: [sits down to write a blog that isn’t about Asia or coming home}

Me: [gets up for a jumper, looks at BuzzFeed, brews a coffee]

Me: nope, got nothing

[cont. for three weeks]

In light of my resolution to blog frequently/do interesting things/get my shit together, I’ve been brainstorming blogs I could do regularly, and so far I’ve come up with: the Six O’Clock News (again), book blogging (again), and the 50 blogs challenge I started and joked would take forever… two years ago. The problem is, the news makes me want to go back to a Cambodian island. I read very few blogs. And I can’t stand book reviews.

Whenever someone reviews a book and says they didn’t like, say, a certain character, if I read the book I also don’t like that character. If someone says they loved a plot twist and I read the novel, I feel obliged to like the twist. I’m also always on the lookout for the twist. Often the twist is shite because I knew there would be one. I do not want to inflict anything similar onto other people, so I stopped book blogging. But that’s not the attitude. After several seconds of thought, I’ve come up with a new way to review books that’s quick to read, offers none of my opinions and will let you know if this is the next book you should pick up. So sit down and enjoy the very first instalment of Read, If You Like…

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (2015)

Read, if you like…

  • Unreliable, unlikable narrators
  • Domestic dramas
  • The first person
  • Thrillers of any kind
  • Multiple points of view
  • Trains

I’m not being facetious on that last one. There are rather a lot of trains.

The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins Review
My #bookstagram game needs work – I was going to add my National Rail ticket holder to the photo but I couldn’t be bothered to walk upstairs.

And there you have it. If you haven’t read The Girl on the Train, now you have a reason to if you like any of the above. Geddit? Read, if you like…?!

I’m trawling my way through my to-read shelf, but if you have any recommendations for books, do your own Read, If You Like… in the comments!

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2016

I’ve been coming up with the annual Indifferent Ignorance awards for long enough that I know to keep ’em cute and to the point. But there’s something about 2016 that’s been so thoroughly appalling that I couldn’t just list a few bits and pieces. So here is the best and absolute worst of 2016.

Book of the Year

The Raven King, because of cars and kissing, or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, because of cars and kissing. Mostly. Just read them.

Album of the Year

Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighbourhood, or the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Neither of them were released this year that’s further proof of 2016’s shittiness. (Actually Frank Iero’s Parachutes came out this year and it’s a gem. Whatever.)

The ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Living Through This Shit, Although it Will Probably Kill Me So At Least There’s That’ Story of the Year

A parent had To Kill a Mockingbird banned from a high school in Virginia, US, for its racist language.

Please kill me soon.

The ‘I Witnessed this Shit Live and Wish It Had Killed Me’ News Story of the Year

Tough one. Brexit? US election? The return of Poldark to our screens? Nah man. The only moment my stomach really dropped at the news this year was at maybe 6:15 on a January morning when Nick Robinson interrupted my dozing to inform me, with audible shock, that David Bowie had died. I did not think anything could shock a Today programme presenter, let alone audibly. The return of Jesus couldn’t have redeemed 2016 from that moment on.

Outstanding Achievement for Distracting Me from the Horror of the Year for Five Minutes

Or an hour, depending on the broadcast.

Nominees:

  • Ed Balls’ Gagnam Style on Strictly Come Dancing It aired the week Trump was elected. Coincidence? Or does a benevolent god exist?
  • When Newsnight listened to their critics and played God Save the Queen Stand up, please.
  • The Twitter users who liveblogged the Rio Olympics and came up with 40 different jokes about green swimming pools
  • The Rio Olympics themselves
  • Whoever started those Joe Biden memes
  • American Idiot (the song, not the people)
  • Planet Earth II

Winner: this song, which someone shared the morning Trump was elected. I really, really felt better and so will you:

Outstanding Social Media Moment

This is another new prize, and the competition was tough.

We have Gary.

(In case you were wondering, Gary came back for more.)

We have when James Blunt dropped some news.

We have Joe Biden existing on camera. (I am genuinely not sure what he did in the Obama administration. I don’t care.)

We have when Sam Smith thought he was the first gay person to win an Oscar and, um, wasn’t.

Coincidentally this is the year I learnt what ‘throwing shade’ means. Oh, I didn’t pick a winner. You guys choose (I assume I can trust you with this more than I did Brexit).

Indifferent Ignorance Homophobic Dick Award

Donald Trump’s voters. All of them.

Indifferent Ignorance Ignorant Fuck Award

Donald Trump’s voters. All of them.


I thought I’d put a line there as a metaphor. Because a line is like a wall, right… seriously though I nearly wrote an essay about how the name I gave my blog aged 14 is coincidentally a term that sums up this year’s election results, but I held off because everyone else was writing the same essay and I am so tired of being tired of all the bullshit I’ve lived through recently. I think in 2017 I might use my outraged liberal millennial viewpoint to make art instead of complaining. And by art I mean small stories and postcards about people who are full of shit.

Anyway that is me done for the year. I wish you all health and happiness in 2017, although at this point it’s probably enough that I wish you make it there. Happy new year!

Proof 2016 Wasn’t One Hundred Per Cent Shite.

Let’s not pretend that 2016 won’t go down in history as utterly awful. But amongst all the death and elections and heartbreak, there were a few shining – or at least weakly glowing – lights. Here’s a few I could remember… help me out and suggest some more to get me through the next few days?

  • Leonardo diCaprio won an Oscar.
  • I decided to go to Asia I am about to pack up my belongings in a rucksack, finish my final shift at my final job and spend three months on a continent I’ve never seen. LET’S DO IT.
  • Beyonce released this:
  • I met Maggie Stiefvater And embarrassed myself, obvs.
  • Gravitational waves got discovered (proven? I am not a science person but I think it means that Albert Einstein was definitely quite clever).
  • I passed my driving test! I started learning to drive in summer 2014, took a ten-ish month break, took it back up about 18 months ago and passed first time. None of that really conveys how terrified of driving I was when I started versus how not-terrified I am now. Maybe one day I will write about it in relation to facing fear or whatever but right now I CAN DRIVE MYSELF PLACES and deal with Southend’s ridiculous car park charges.
  • Science people (seriously, help me out) are making leaps and bounds in cancer treatment research, like this.
  • Prep is coming to the NHS
  • Despite everything, we do still have an NHS.
  • Choreography on Strictly like this and this and, most of all, this.
  • #Parade10 I love MCR, but sometimes I think I might love the MCRmy more.
  • Planet Earth II.

  • Rio 2016 Give the British some green sludge to fall into and they start acing contests what a metaphor. But seriously if there hadn’t been a break in actual news coverage this year I think the year might have lost the plot… also, can we please take a minute to hero worship the Refugee Team and the life guards at the aquatics centre? This year did not deserve you.

  • The Raven King came out Look it might be my favourite book I’ve ever read.
  • I wrote something that got attention in a good way My school is going to fuckin haunt me.
  • MCRX.
  • Joe Biden memes.

I have to go and look at pictures of Carrie Fisher flipping people off now, so I will leave this here. What have your not-completely-shite moments been? TELL ME. SPREAD THE DREGS OF LOVE.

So Marie Kondo Probably Has Competition

It’s been a week since I last blogged oops. I’ve got a genuine reason instead of the usual ‘I couldn’t think of anything to say and that GWay gif is wearing thin’; I’ve been so busy the week has flown by. And because I’m feeling smug, here are some of the things I’ve been up to lately:

Getting really well acquainted with my local postbox

I’ve had the busiest week on Etsy since February… there’s just something about Halloween that makes people very open to stickers which include the phrase witch ‘n’ bitch.

Francesca's Words Hell's Belles Halloween stickers

Clearing out ridiculously overstocked bedroom cupboards

I can’t show you a photo of my newly organised shelves, because I don’t really want to admit how many toiletry bags I own, but let’s just say that binning a handful of broken hairbands and two years’ worth of Private Eyes (don’t worry, I recycle), putting one adhesive hook into a wardrobe and buying a couple of plastic filing cabinets is both good for your mental health and ridiculously tiring. I’ve even put an empty box in my room to fill with things I don’t need any more, and as a natural hoarder I’m quite surprised (and totally ready to #humblebrag) that I’ve filled and emptied it about four times. I’ve still got clothes to go through, a couple of cupboards that I’m not brave enough to look at yet and way, way too many socks… but I highly advocate browsing Pinterest for cute storage ideas and going through your shit occasionally.

Oh I went dancing

Solid tens. Also, I won a pamper day in a raffle. Pretty sure it’d take more than a day to rescue all my cuticles, ease out the knot in my shoulder and cleanse my inner soul, but you gotta start somewhere…

Reading Game of Thrones

So now I understand the fuss about Ned Stark.

I must dash, I have stickers to post. Oh and if anyone has any tips for getting a lot of storage out of a small space, hit me up.

I Got Mail and It Wasn’t Something I Ordered for My Shop

I submitted a piece of writing to a publication today and holy shit I had forgotten how stressful it is. Not the writing (okay maybe a little bit the writing) but the titling and proofing and second guessing whether you can even speak English.

I’m going to de-stress by looking at my recently-filled bank account and browsing Etsy for cute things. Speaking of cute, this arrived in my postbox the other day:

I love fan art zines and anthologies (this is going alongside Ladies of Literature Volumes I and II, and a Heroes of Olympus one). Reading them is the only time I ever wish I could draw as well as I write, because no one ever does writing zines… I guess they would be called books. Anyway thank you to Caroline who very nicely sent me this even though the project’s closed (can  I just say that the level of sleuthing required to find zines that aren’t taking orders any more but you want one anyway and were just broke and abroad when orders were open is insane).

I’m going to peruse it and play a game where I choose which artists I would want to illustrate my work… spoiler alert ALL OF THEM. Also if you have no idea which book series this zine is from you need to read The Raven Cycle immediately. I’ve even reviewed it for you, kind of.

Urgh, now I want to organise a zine where writers and artists collaborate on work. Or just organise a zine. Or just buy more zines.

I’m going to Etsy.

Happy Friday!