Guest Review: Chanda's Secret - Allan Stratton | HIV/AIDS in YA Lit Week

HIV/AIDS in YA Literature Week

Check out the week's page on the blog and also the latest articles
If you would like to read a book on the subject, go over to the non exhaustive bibliography I compiled, don't hesitate to suggest any book missing!

Today I am welcoming Clover from Fluttering Butterflies to review the beautiful book written by Allan Stratton, Chanda's Secrets.


A huge thank you to Caroline for sending me Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton to read and for hosting this wonderful event on her blog. 

Chanda's Secrets was the only YA book I knew of before her event that dealt with HIV/AIDS and I'm so glad to have read it. I knew beforehand that this book would be difficult to read, and it was. But it also highlighted a lot of the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. 

Chanda is a bright 16 year old girl living in (a fictional sub-Saharan country in) Africa - she hopes to do well in school and maybe get a scholarship and make something of her life. As the novel opens, she's on her way to make the arrangements for her little sister's funeral and burial. At just 18 months, Sara didn't have much of a life. Crying constantly and always poorly, Chanda feels guilty for all those horrible things that she used to think about her little sister. But Chanda soon realises that it wasn't bad thoughts that caused Sara's death but something much bigger and more dangerous. And it won't stop with just poor Sara. Chanda is an amazing character, smart and observant and really brave. She has to grow up very quickly dealing with Sara's death and her mother depends on her a great deal to keep the family together and to get what needs to be done. 

Sara's death affects everyone. Sara's mother is depressed and doesn't want to get out of bed, Sara's father goes off on drunken benders. Chanda's little sister, Iris, believes Sara is her imaginary friend and stops listening to Chanda or her mother, skipping school and playing in dangerous places. All around her, Chanda witnesses the effects of AIDS on her community and the shame that it is wrapped up in. It is never spoken of however, but covered up in so many ways. Causes of death are lied about and hidden and the nearby AIDS clinic is avoided at all costs. Nobody wants to own up to having AIDS or having a loved one with AIDS, believing it a curse of God. Everyone keeps their family's secrets. When Chanda's mother continues to worsen, Chanda must keep yet another secret. She must face the reality that her mother might die of AIDS as well. 

Alongside Chanda's ongoing problems with her family, times are also tough for Chanda's best friend, Esther. After her parents died (of AIDS), Esther and her younger brothers and sisters are separated from each other and in order to save up money to bring her family back together, Esther turns to prostitution. Beaten and cast out of her aunt's house for shaming the family, Esther has no where to go and no one to turn to other than Chanda. I thought the friendship between Chanda and Esther was really sweet. And it's mirrored with Mama's friendship with her neighbour, Mrs Tafa. Mrs Tafa seems quite outspoken and controlling and a busybody, but she's still always there for Chanda's family. 

It's an absolutely heartbreaking book, this one. Reading of the make-shift coffins especially for children at the funeral home. You'll be angry at the doctor who claims multiple medical diplomas and that his medicines will cure even AIDS and taking advantage of his ignorant and illiterate patients. There's precious little running water and lots of work involved in order to get water for cooking and cleaning. Through poverty and general hard times, Chanda's mother has had several different relationships borne of a need to provide for her family, some of which left permanent scars. 

This was a very complex novel which touches on some really huge concerns facing the epidemic of AIDS. The lack of accurate information of it's treatment and prevention coupled with the traditional beliefs of spirit doctors and a lack of trust towards medical doctors. The shame and prejudices that surround the disease which prevent people from stepping forward and seeking help. The levels of poverty which mean that paying for legitimate medicines is out of the question.  

But it's still also the story of Chanda and her family, and most readers will be able to connect in a very personal and emotional way to the journey of Chanda through this difficult time.  Chanda's Secrets is about family and friendship.  It's about shame and having the courage to stand up and against the stigma of such an evasive issue facing Africa.  


Thank you so much Clover for sharing your thoughts on the book!

And below is a film trailer of Chanda's Secrets 
(poor quality video, sorry!)

Fade To Black - Alex Flinn | HIV/AIDS in YA Lit Week

HIV/AIDS in YA Literature Week

Check out the week's page on the blog and also the latest articles
If you would like to read a book on the subject, go over to the non exhaustive bibliography I compiled, don't hesitate to suggest any book missing!


There are not a lot of Young Adult novel with the theme of HIV/AIDS. The new releases on the subject are just a handful each year, but each book published is a new adventure. From the few I have read and the others I have browsed, none are the same, and they all offer something different. Alex Flinn's Fade To Black is no exception and draws a bigger picture around people deemed "different". 

The story is told through three different perspectives. From the point of view of the victim, Alex Crusan first, an HIV-positive teenager whose car has been shattered by a baseball bat while he was in the car. From the point of view of the witness, Daria a teenage girl with Down Syndrome who goes to the same school as Alex. And finally, from the point of view of Clinton, the guy who doesn't hide he has a problem with Alex at school, the guy who was seen next to the crime location the morning it took place.


Fade To Black is an absolutely unique and beautiful story. Told in three conflicting point of views, it shows how different "truth" can be. Alex Flinn got into the head of both Alex and Daria in a way that will stay with you. Not because you see how they are inside, but because you see, through their eyes, how they are seen by others. They are both "not like other kids" and are looked as such. Alex explains how other teenagers avert their eyes when they cross him in the school corridors because they don't want him to feel as if they are staring at him and they don't want him to think they are judging him. Alex sees this and thinks it's sometimes worse than someone directly in conflict with him, because at least they interact with him. Even though the other teenagers "don't judge him", they don't try to make friends with him either and Alex explains how lonely he feels all the time. It changes from the black and white conceptions of "people who are against people with AIDS are evil" or "HIV positive people should be quarantined". That's why he relates to Daria who has no friends at school either. 

The passages in Clinton's head were the most interesting part to read and I thought the combination of the three perspectives was just so fascinating. When you look at Clinton from the outside, you think he is one of those intolerant self-righteous idiots who can't bear anyone else with a difference. On the inside, it is another story entirely. Other than reading about him being bullied and really loving and caring about his younger sister, you read about someone who acts in sync with his ideas*. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying he is right when he wants to change seats in class because he is sitting next to Alex, on the contrary. But his attitude comes mainly from his ignorance of the virus. His fear of HIV is more important than his hate for Alex. I thought it was an interesting point of view to observe. 

One of the major themes is bullying and more particularly how teenagers reject others who don't fit in the right mould*. A minority might be violent or insulting, but the worse is the silent majority feigning not to notice, and not trying to include them. Daria and Alex both talk of how invisible they feel. 
The other major theme is family. Without going in too much details, I think that Alex Flinn had the tremendous talent to really go inside the head of those teenagers and show how they interact with their parents. One of the most important aspect I keep noticing in YA literature is how parents fail to understand what is going on in their children's heads. The conflict between Alex and his overprotective mother was quite interesting to read from Alex's point of view, same goes for Daria and Clinton's relations with their respective mothers.

Alex is HIV positive, and as you may know (or not, though you can read my Sunday post (here) if you haven't), he carries the virus but it hasn't completely overtaken his immune system. The book was written in 2005, and it changes from the first wave of YA books written in the 1980s/90s at the early stages of the epidemics. I found it interesting how people's opinion of HIV-positive people differs depending on how the virus was contracted. If it was through a transfusion, it is a tragedy; if it was through drugs or sex it makes the person filthy and they (nearly) deserve their fate. 

This story is absolutely beautiful and helps you get inside the head of someone who is HIV positive, as well as someone with Down Syndrome. Alex Flinn's writing is simply perfect. She really gets into the head of these three teenagers and brings us a fascinating story. In very simple words and powerful ideas, we get our own conceptions thrown back at us and we just realise how much more beautiful the world is with all its shades of grey.

I cannot recommend this book enough as it a fascinating YA novel for people wanting to know more about HIV, but also about major issues teenagers encounter such as bullying or the relationship they have with their families.

*The use of these expressions necessitated the help of Lauren and Carla, because I fail at writing English tonight. Thank you :D

Sunday Brunch #2 | HIV/AIDS in YA Lit Week edition

Hi everyone!
I hope no one suffered too much from the cold! And yes I know, it is nearly dinner time but, let's face it, it is *never* too late to brunch!
The main idea of this feature is to talk about books without it being a review (where I only talk about one book and its themes) or a meme (because it doesn't leave much place to debate sometimes).

HIV/AIDS in Young Adult Literature Week

Today begins my HIV/AIDS in Young Adult Literature Week where some fellow bloggers and myself will review some amazing Young Adult novels which talk about the very serious issue of AIDS.
The idea for the week comes from the fact that I have had in my head a story with an HIV positive character for years. It is the novel that I am trying to finish writing this year (though it doesn't look too promising now!). I am at a point where I need to do serious research and I wanted to read other YA novels involving a character with AIDS. To be honest, before I decided doing this, I had never read a Young Adult novel on the theme.
Two members of my family had AIDS and even though I have never met either of them (one passed away before I was born and the other while I was very young), I have heard my family talk about them. I have always been shocked that AIDS has always been considered as a "dirty" disease, one you should be ashamed of, one which you "deserve" because of your lifestyle. It always seemed so terrible to me that not only you had to fight a terrible disease, but you also had to hide it or go through discriminations, violations and insults/violence. A lot of the negative comments on HIV come from a limited knowledge of the disease and the fear it might create for people, here are a few facts and information.

When you talk about HIV, half of the people think "homosexual disease" or one which is "only in Africa". Sadly, no one is immune to it and today 33.3 million people live with HIV worldwide. In 2009, 2.6 million people were newly infected with the virus*. AIDS is a pandemic, which is an epidemic of an infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region or worldwide. 

AIDS means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and HIV means Human Immunodeficient Virus. When you have HIV, you have a virus which slowly attacks your immune system (the part of the body which usually works to fight off germs such as bacteria and virus). AIDS is the last stage of the virus which reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and leaves the person susceptible to infections and other evil things. It means that someone with AIDS can die of diseases that a healthy person can fight off relatively easily.

How do you get HIV
HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid including HIV such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid and breast milk. In other terms, unprotected sex, sharing needles to inject drugs and breast-feeding a baby are dangerous when one of the person has the virus (and even without the virus for unprotected sex and drugs). You do not catch the virus by standing next to someone infected or shaking his or her hand.

There is sadly no cure to the virus, but there are some treatment which can slow the progression of the disease, notably antiretroviral medication (used since 1996). Antiretroviral medication can reduce both the mortality and the morbidity of the infection, but the medication is very expensive, has several second effects and not all countries have access to the medication.
Since treating HIV is extremely difficult, preventing the spread of the disease is key. Prevention comes through information and programs promoting safe sex and needle and syringe programs (where needles and syringes are given for little or no cost to drug users).
The author Gillian Philip posted an article on the issue on her blog after reading an article on the BBC website about a drop in Uganda's HIV rate with the publication of explicit sex books.

The Week
World AIDS Day will be on the first of December and during this week fellow bloggers and myself will try to bring awareness by reviewing fiction books aimed at young adults. The lovely Carly (Writing From The Tub), Lyndsey (Heaven, Hell and Purgatory) and Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies) have kindly agreed to review a book on Portrait of a Woman during the week and other bloggers will post reviews on their blogs: Emma (Asamum), Luisa (Chicklish), Jessica (Nayu's Reading Corner), Iffath (Love Reading X), Lauren (I Was A Teenage Book Geek), Sarah (Sarah's Book reviews - who made the gorgeous logo!), Kristi (The Story Siren) and others! Thank you so much to all of you for participating in the week and making a difference, you guys are the best!
Many thanks to Piccadilly Press and Lynda Waterhouse, author of Soul Love, for helping me with this week. I cannot express enough my gratitude. Thank you a million!

If you are a book blogger, you can post the "YA Book Bloggers Raise Awareness" logo on your blog, linking it to the World AIDS Day website which has plenty information and testimonies or to my page of the week. I have a compiled a non exhaustive bibliography of YA fictions with HIV/AIDS theme here.

Other news!

The blog:
As I anticipated, I am failing at NaNoWriMo but *oh well* :D
I also have tidied up my blog, though it doesn't show much :) (I put one and only "features" page instead of one for each!)

This week I read two absolutely awesome novels for my HIV/AIDS in YA Lit Week Fade To Black by Alex Flinn and My Brother Has AIDS by Deborah Davis and I loved them, review to come next week!
I have also read the unbelievably charming Empress of the World by Sara Ryan and let me tell you that I have fallen in love for this book, you definitely should read it! I loved it so much that I bought its companion novel The Rules For Hearts!
I received Matched by Ally Condie for review this week! Thank you so much to Penguin for sending it (twice, after the first one got lost!).
I know this isn't exactly a bookish piece of news but I saw The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest Friday and I love Lisbeth Salander so bad that I will definitely be reading the Stieg Larsson trilogy soooooon!!! And though you don't need my opinion on the subject, I think the American remake is completely *unnecessary*.

Stuff I read and want to share:
I completely forgot to link to it last week but the wonderful Kinna (Kinna Reads) organised a fascinating Ghana Literature Weekhere is her week wrap-up with the links to all reviews. The lovely Amy (Amy Reads) participated in the week and reviewed Young Adult novels in particular (here are the reviews' link). 
Amy has also written a post about why she reads Nigerian Literature.
Lauren (I Was A Teenage Book Geek) went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I am jealous! Look at her drinking butterbeer and tell you how it was!
Jessica (Nayu's Reading Corner) has issues with Anonymous Commenters on her blog, one who went as far as writing a death threat to a writer on a review (read here)
Cat Clarke's debut novel Entangled, which will be published in January 2011, has a gorgeous trailerwatch it here!

I hope you will enjoy the week!

Have a lovely Sunday evening,

x Caroline

When I Was Joe - Keren David

Title: When I Was Joe

Author: Keren David

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Release Date: 2010

Category: Young Adult

Source: From UK Book Tours

Hardback: 364

Summary from Amazon:
When Ty witnesses a stabbing, his own life is in danger from the criminals he’s named, and he and his mum have to go into police protection. Ty has a new name, a new look and a cool new image – life as Joe is good, especially when he gets talent spotted as a potential athletics star, special training from an attractive local celebrity and a lot of female attention. But his mum can’t cope with her new life, and the gangsters will stop at nothing to flush them from hiding. Joe’s cracking under extreme pressure, and then he meets a girl with dark secrets of her own. This wonderfully gripping and intelligent novel depicts Ty/Joe's confused sense of identity in a moving and funny story that teenage boys and girls will identify with - a remarkable debut from a great new writing talent.


I am not entirely sure what I was anticipating when I started this book but... WOW! I have been taken in the story from the very first pages and I have been blown away by this book's plot, characters and storytelling.

Tyler is a shy 14 year old who witnesses a crime. He is convinced by his family to go testify to the police and finds himself in a much broader situation where his testimony has tremendous effects against a very influential (and dangerous) gang member. He has to go into witness protection program, change his identity and try to live a normal life as Joe in a small town with people still trying to kill him and his family to prevent him from talking and the upcoming trial. Unlike Ty, Joe is a bit of a badass, very cool and almost immediately in trouble at his new school.

I absolutely love Ty/Joe's character, he is just so realistic for a teenager that you instantly fall for him, but his personality is also full of layers so that he remains a bit of a mystery along the book. I really liked his spontaneity to most of the situations. I also like the relationship he has with his mother. I see so many 15/16 year old girls with kids that I can't help but wondering what happens when the child is 14 and the mom barely 30. 
The secondary characters are all fantastic as well. I particularly loved the different personalities and the relationship between Ellie and Claire. One has a fighting spirit and the other lives in the shadows. It was fascinating how Joe reacted to those girls and how, sometimes, vulnerable Ty came through.

The plot seems very straightforward until you realise that some details are missing. You keep wondering about what happened that fateful night where Tyler witnessed the crime. I absolutely loved the tension which builds up in the book and how the book ends. Boy, I didn't see that one coming!

This is going to sound weird (bear in mind I am French and all things British are for me exotic and cute) but the book is very British and shows really well the multicultural life of London (and East London in particular) and typical British cultural aspects. The characters are so spot on that I could visualise them in my head from people I have met on the street. But more than the story and the characters, I find it a really fascinating novel to read for someone not living in the UK or a foreign person living there. I absolutely love books which give us a glimpse of another culture and this one is simply perfect.
Although it is more prominent in the sequel Almost True, I really liked the whole gang culture theme in the book and the insecurity people feel in London. It definitely makes us think about youth today and how they react to insecurity (may it be physical or about their future). Ty didn't grow up in a wealthy environment and it was really interesting to read his story, which might be the story of quite a handful of teens, sadly.

The storytelling is absolutely amazing! I thought it was a good idea to read a couple chapter before going to bed... Then I received a text and realised it was past midnight and I had read a third of the book. You'd think I care about looking like a zombie at work... Well not really, all I thought about the next day was my lunch break to continue reading the book (okay, and yummy food a little)! That's how obsessed I was and that's how fantastic the book is!
And it's just not this, but all the dialogues are amazing, and it felt like I was reading what real teens would write, even the gangsta conversations! 
There are some amazing laugh out loud moments and I've been talking about them to everyone because it's just so funny (and I am still laughing at Joe asking a nerd in the small town if they do "guns and knives" in this school  LOL)!

And I love the title! Read the book and you will understand what I mean. Same for Almost True.

Okay, okay, I am going to stop fan-girling (for now!) because I could go on for pages but this is a fantastic book (actually, fantastic series, I loved the sequel Almost True) and one you absolutely shouldn't miss. Everything in it is perfect and you will be hooked from the first pages. Keren David is an author to look out for and I will definitely be reading all her future books!

You can follow Keren on Twitter: @kerensd

Thanks to Lynsey from UK Book Tours and Narratively Speaking for sending me the book!

Sunday Brunch #1

Hi all,

I have decided on a new feature for this blog - one which hopefully I will do religiously every week (*cough* unlike my Essays and Classics features *cough*).
The main idea of this feature is to talk about books without it being a review (where I only talk about one book and its themes) or a meme (because, even though I like IMM, it just lists books I received and doesn't leave much place to debate).
The name of the feature is quite simple to explain: I am starving after a busy week at work, I like chilling out on a Sunday morning with good food and friends with whom I catch up on news and gossip about everything and anything. And that's what I want to do with you fellow bloggers and readers!

The blog:

So you might have noticed (or not!) a little slowing down in the blog activity with fewer reviews and no meme, but I am trying to get used to my new full time work schedule. I am also participating in NaNoWriMo this month, which is really great to motivate me to write at least once a week and has given me the opportunity to find some brilliant (says me) ideas for my Work In Progress! Even though I am pretty sure I won't reach the 50k, it is definitely better than before!

As you may know (or not!), I am organising a HIV/AIDS in YA Literature Week from 28th November to 5th December (if you want more info, hop over here) and I had some amazing response from other UK Bloggers (because they're the best!) and it is going to be a really cool event (again - says me!) so don't hesitate to check it out and put the YA Book Bloggers Raise Awareness logo on your blog!


I have read this week, as part of UK Book Tours, When I Was Joe and Almost True by Keren David and I have loved them so much!! I was hooked to the story and basically read the books whenever I could spare a minute (in the tube, during my lunch break and as soon as I got home from work!). They are thrillers for YA and I really liked the voice of Ty/Joe (and the regular reader of this blog knows how picky I am with male characters).

I have a new obsession in life, and this obsession is Anne McCaffrey
Though I review a lot of YA on here, I am a huge fan of Fantasy / Science Fiction and I am always annoyed at how little time I have to read all the books I would like to read. Anyways, Anne McCaffrey is made of awesome, she has written *tons* of books on Science Fiction and Fantasy and has received many many awards for her books.
Her most famous work is the Dragonriders of Pern series (more than 20  books which can work as stand alones) about colonists from Earth on a planet called Pern living with, among others, creatures they call dragons, as well as books on people with Talents (telekinesis, telepathy...), aliens, a Unicorn Girl and many others. She has written many series (mostly adult but there are some YA) and also some stand alone, including Restoree which was written as a criticism of how women were portrayed in Science Fiction (see why I am obsessed?!!).
Anyways, I am going to organise a Anne McCaffrey Reading Challenge in 2011 so I can share my obsession with you. *beams*

Books for review: All links to Goodreads
You Against Me, Jenny Downham out 2nd Dec 2010 Thanks RHCB!
My Soul To Take, Rachel Vincent (UK cover) out January 2011, Thanks Mira!
Dawn Of The Dreadfuls, Steve Hockensmith, Thanks Quirk Books!

Books I bought: All links to Goodreads
Between Mom And Jo and Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Annie On My Mind, Nancy Garden
Sugar Rush, Julie Burchill

(Why, yes, someone is planning a lesbian teen novels week, how did you know? :D)

Stuff I read and want to share:
Nick Hornby opens a Ministry of Stories in the UK to get Britain's kids writing again (Guardian)
Interesting interview of Anne Rice where she talks religion and vampires (Guardian)
Barack Obama has written a children's book (review on the Guardian)

Asamum organised a fascinating week on Anti-Bullying check out her posts (here)
The Bookette is searching for all UK debut novels for 2011 (here)

Questions keeping me up at night: eBooks edition

I am having heated debates with myself (and occasionally with other people) over eBooks. I aim to buy myself a kindle at Christmas (because it seems like the cheapest and the device best suited for my needs) and I am wondering about the whole eBooks revolution. I am half convinced by the whole thing: it will never replace a book for me but I think it is pretty useful in the long term. 
What I am unsure of is the price. If you read many articles on the subject, people have basically no idea what the price of an eBook is, i.e. the optimum price between costs/profit for publishers/writers and the price reader/consumers would be willing to pay. Do you think there should be one price for all books like it is the case for songs (£0.99 regardless of the song) or that it should depend on the work? 
I am really feeling that we are at a turning point in the industry and things will be changing in the next 18 months. 

So that was my first Sunday Brunch post, hope you enjoyed it!

Have a lovely Sunday and talk next week!

x Caroline

My Name Is Mina - David Almond

Title: My Name Is Mina

Author: David Almond

Publisher: Hodder Children's Books

Release Date: 2010

Category: Young Adult

Source: From the publisher

Hardback: 300

Summary from Amazon:
There’s an empty notebook lying on the table in the moonlight. It’s been there for an age. I keep on saying that I’ll write a journal. So I’ll start right here, right now. I open the book and write the very first words: My name is Mina and I love the night. Then what shall I write? I can’t just write that this happened then this happened then this happened to boring infinitum. I’ll let my journal grow just like the mind does, just like a tree or a beast does, just like life does. Why should a book tell a tale in a dull straight line? And so Mina writes and writes in her notebook, and through her stories, thoughts, lessons and dreams, Mina's journal and mind grow into something extraordinary.
In this stunning book, David Almond revisits Mina before she has met Michael, before she has met Skellig, in what is a thought-provoking and extraordinary prequel to his best-selling debut novel, Skellig - winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Book Award. David Almond is also winner of the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen award.


You know, there was a time where I lived between France and Italy and where I was majorly clueless about YA. I read it and loved it, but "Young Adult" had never entered my vocabulary.
Anyways, one day, I googled YA fantasy books to read more of what I liked and found a "List of Best YA Fantasy books (so far)". Of course, Skellig was part of this list and I absolutely loved its simplicity and its powerful story. One of the reasons I loved Skellig was because of Mina. She is such an original and fantastic character that I literally *squeeeee* when I heard that David Almond had written a prequel with Mina as a main character. But then I had some doubts... What if I don't like the prequel? What if it ruins my love for Skellig? What if *gasp* I don't like Mina in this?

(Yes, I uselessly worry too much that way)

To be honest, I am curious as to what people who haven't read Skellig might make of this book. It is written as a diary by Mina and all the pages have different lay outs and stories to tell. I had many doubts reading it but I ultimately fell for the story. It can be read as a stand-alone, and it is different to Skellig but it is such a beautiful story to tell! I love Mina even more and the book is brilliantly written! She definitely is one of my favourite YA characters.
The book talks about Mina, and how much she misses her deceased father, and how hard it is to fit in when no one likes to see someone different. She is free-spirited and original, she dreams about being a bird and knows many random facts and she is extremely cute. Mina writes a lot in this diary, but we learn so much more about her reading through the lines. 

I found that the main theme of the book is about being normal versus being considered as not normal. But what is "normality" I may ask? Mina is different from other children, she has a very personal vision of education and culture and she is eager to learn. But she is seen by her teacher and school as a disturbance. Instead of encouraging her to learn her own way, she is sometimes even bullied by her teacher (or at least that is the way she feels when she is called on by the teacher). 
Mina is also bullied by other children, obviously. Other pupils make fun of her and she has no friends except another girl, who has a problem to one leg and limps. The young girl says that when she will have the operation to her leg, everything will be fine and she will have friends. She then asks Mina if she will have an operation for being strange, so she can have friends as well. I found this moment particularly sweet and revealing. Someone would need to be fixed to be like others and more importantly to be accepted and respected by them. My poor Mina! She is such an amazing character that you wonder why anyone would ever want to change her. It becomes so bad for Mina that she prefers being home schooled rather than spend her days with people who don't understand her and don't want to make any effort to. I am sure that an adult Mina will be highly praised by her peers for her intelligence, spirit and originality. It's a shame that she can't be herself from the beginning.

Grief and death are also a very important part of the book. Mina misses her father and there are several moments in the book where she does things in order to be closer to him which are all heart-breaking. Death also because her next door neighbour passed away and she often wonders about his house and maybe his ghost. She watches his house constantly trying to know who will move there - someone interesting hopefully. A family with a boy Mina's age and a little baby, perhaps.

My Name Is Mina is a sweet, fun and serious story at the same time. I am yet again impressed by David Almond's talent to get into a child or a teenager's head and create such original stories. The book reminded me a little bit of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer where a quirky young child has lost in father in 09/11 and has adventures in New York to try to find him (it is an adult novel even though the narrator is a child). I really think we should blur the adult fiction and YA/children fiction a bit more since books like My Name Is Mina would be amazing for children to read as well as for adults. 

Thank you so much to Hodder and Mary for this book!