You Only Live Once
Written by Jess Vallance
Published by Hot Key Books
Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
The trials and embarrassing life of Gracie Dart. For fans of Geek Girl.
Gracie Dart is your classically studious, responsible, clearheaded, career focussed girl. The sort of girl whose exam revision time table is fully colour coded and always triple checked. But now GCSEs are behind her – and suddenly Gracie starts feeling WHAT IS THE POINT? And then Gracie accidentally thinks she is dying of some terminal illness (the perils of believing all you read on Google). One super embarrassing A+E visit later (no, Gracie, you are not dying of some fatal skin disease, you’ve simply over done it on the fake bake lotion) Gracie starts to rethink her life. And when Gracie decides to do something, just like her fully colour coded revision time table, Gracie does nothing in half measures. Gracie Dart is about to live it large…
It was the timing of it all that was so unbearable.
Surely, the only thing worse than being struck down by a deadly tropical disease is being struck down two weeks after you finish your exams.
If my face had erupted with gruesome pustules two or three or even six months earlier, I still would’ve been dismayed, naturally, but at least there would’ve been a compensatory silver lining where I got to build an extravagant bonfire at the end of the garden and laugh into the sky while every text book, notebook and colour-coded timetable turned to dust, on the very day everyone else in Year Eleven was locking their doors and putting on their comfiest knickers ready for weeks of revision hell.
It was just my luck that the holiday my parents had taken me on as a reward for the previous six months of exam and coursework horror had turned out to be a death sentence.
My parents had tried to give me a treat and ended up killing me.
This was exactly typical of them
I am usually suspicious when a book is marketed as being perfect for fans of another book (particularly if it’s the ‘next’ Harry Potter or Hunger Games), but in this case I think the marketing is accurate – if you loved Geek Girl, you’ll also love this!
Gracie has spent her whole life doing the best she can to prepare for the future, overcoming every obstacle with planning, preparation and hard work. Yet, she starts to look at life in a different way when she believes that she has caught a tropical disease and may not actually have the future to live for.
This is a pitch-perfect look at the struggle of balancing the now with the future, trying to find out who you really are and what your calling is in life and learning to look after all the people in your life.
Grace and Til’s friendship is very realistic and I loved her family, all of whom have their own quirks from Mum and Dad, working boring jobs to support their family, big brother who’s feeling a bit lost and baby brother whose world revolves around underwear, sandwiches and a stuffed giraffe named Dick. Grace’s grandma was another favourite of mine, particularly when she becomes a hit on social media and has Grace become her unofficial photographer.
This is a fun, contemporary YA but with surprising emotional depth – I laughed and cried whilst reading this!
My future-focus meant that I’d always got on quite well at school, despite being, as Mr Murray, my Year Seven Maths teacher put it, ‘prone to neuroticism and lapses in logic’.
This is because schools, as you might have noticed, are quite futurey places. I don’t mean futuristic…I just mean that the whole set-up is geared around what’s coming up.
Schools, when you think about it, are just great big future-planning factories, and I had my future plan all worked out.
But the uncomfortable truth was that, as I wheezed and coughed and dragged my luminous arms and legs through the wheelchair-sunbathers of the hospital car park, I suddenly didn’t know if I had a future at all.
I’d spent most of the last sixteen years setting myself up for a sparkling, successful life but maybe it was about to turn out that those sixteen years were it.
They were the life.
What I liked: Gracie’s character is so realistic, as are all of the others in the book, Grace’s grandmother (my favourite!), her friendship with Til, the fact that Grace’s sexuality is just one part of her and doesn’t become the whole focus of the book (this is fine, but I also like it when ‘issues’ are just part of the book rather than the main focus). I liked that Gracie’s parents are present and loving, as it is often the case in YA that the parents are absent or abusive. I also liked that Grace is aware of her privilege and tries to educate herself throughout the book. It was nice to see a book set in Brighton rather than London!
Even better if: I think I need the next book already!
How you could use it in your classroom: This would be a great recommendation for anyone who has already enjoyed the Geek Girl series (although Harriet Manners will always have my heart!). The balance between dealing with problems and humour was done really well and the portrayal of Grace was both sympathetic, yet accurate and, at times, uncomfortable. This book could be used to talk about our future-focused world and the pros and cons of always preparing for tomorrow instead of living today. It could also spark discussions about what is really important in life, when it is so easy to get lost when trying to find out who you want to be and where you want to go.
(Thank you to Hot Key Books and ReadersFirst for my giveaway win!)
Thanks for reading!