Review: Stay Another Day by Juno Dawson

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Goodreads | Waterstones

When three very different siblings, Fern, Rowan and Willow, go home for a Christmas reunion at their family home in Edinburgh, it’s not long before some VERY BIG SECRETS threaten their cosy holiday …
The McAllister house on Arboretum Road has seen 120 Christmases since its completion.
This year, FERN is bringing her gorgeous boyfriend home and she wants everything to be perfect.
But her twin brother ROWAN would rather go on the pull than pull crackers with the family.
And their younger sister WILLOW is terrified of Christmas Day.
With FOUR sleeps till Christmas,
THREE secretive siblings,
TWO hot houseguests,
And ONE juicy secret …
This Christmas, there will be some BIG surprises under the tree.
Sometimes at Christmas, you don’t get what you want, you get what you need…

I don’t tend to read that many festive books, but I was drawn to this one and I ended up buddy reading it with a couple of friends for our December book club pick which was a lot of fun! I’ve read some of Juno’s books before and found them quite mixed, so I was a little hesitant going into this one but I really enjoyed it.

I was half expecting a thriller, from the taglines on the front of the book and synopsis. However, this is more of a high drama contemporary set around a family and written from the points of view of the 3 siblings. I really enjoyed the family drama and I could never guess where the book was going, which kept me interested throughout. I also liked the close-knit group involved in the story, and the side-characters began to feel like main characters the more we read about them.

There were a lot of heavy discussions throughout, including discussions about self harm and eating disorders. Although I can’t give my opinion on this from any kind of personal experience, I felt these discussions were handled with care and attention, and I appreciated the trigger warnings in the front of the book.

The characters were messy and chaotic, but Juno weaves something so clever throughout the story and I couldn’t help but root for them. They might make mistakes and not always treat people brilliantly, but they have their own reasons and it makes them real.

I also appreciated the non-binary and bisexual rep, and I loved having a non-binary side character without a coming-out story or discussion of their gender in depth, it just came across naturally. The discussions of racism, sexism and gender were witty and sharp, and again, felt very real.

Overall, there was a lot to love about this book and the short chapters and constant chaos made it very hard to put down. Although it was a little too neatly wrapped for the amount of mess that happened throughout the story, I couldn’t help but be happy for the characters and root for them. And it is Christmas, after all.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Wonderland by Juno Dawson

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury – but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to ‘Wonderland’: the party to end all parties – three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.
Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.
Alice is all alone, miles from home and without her essential medication. She can trust no-one, least of all herself, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head…

Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review!

I haven’t read any of Juno’s fiction before and I was super excited for this. It was really intriguing and sounded wacky. I heard Juno read aloud from it back in February/March and I was so drawn into it, I knew I had to pick it up. I’ve had my copy since release, as I was lucky enough to receive a proof! However, I have only just managed to pick it up as part of our non-binary November readathon. I wanted to mention that I haven’t read the other two books in the ‘series’, but as I understand these are standalones that have cameos in each one.

The concept of this book was amazing and I really loved the idea. It is a modern reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland which follows Alice, who is a trans girl in a private school, and her friend Bunny, who is missing. The way this was written was incredible clever, with interwoven quotes and references to the story which I loved. The setting was a very exclusive party for the high class students of the school, called Wonderland. Alice managed to sneak into this following finding an invitation she found in Bunny’s locker. I loved the scenes travelling ‘down the rabbit hole’ to the party and the party itself. It was magical and reminded me of something out of Willy Wonka.

In fact, the setting was probably my favourite part. It felt fantastical and was, again, very clever. I also loved the discussion of gender and sexuality, with Alice discussing her own journey of being transgender and pansexual. She is very open about her body and sex-positive, and I feel like these discussions will be really important to some readers. I really felt for her and some of the things she had to go through felt exhausting.

But unfortunately, that’s where my love ended for this book. A lot of it actually felt quite problematic for me and I just felt slightly uncomfortable reading it. I personally didn’t enjoy the casual sex/sleeping around, as I just didn’t relate to it and how Alice felt. I also felt like the excessive drug use just wasn’t for me. I understand that because of the nature of Alice in Wonderland itself, it was kind of needed in terms of retelling the story, but it also didn’t sit right with me in terms of normalising a lot of this stuff for young people.

CW: Attempted date rape, bipolar episodes/hallucinations/ intrusive thoughts, suicide, drug use, casual sex.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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