ARC Review | Life of Riley by Simon James Green

Life of Riley: Beginner’s Luck

by Simon James Green

MG Contemporary

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


Riley is cursed. No, really! After a fairground incident – TOTALLY not his fault – bad luck follows Riley everywhere, causing disaster after disaster. It’s got so bad that no one wants to go near Riley, including his teachers! But when new student Brad Chicago shows up, Riley quickly realizes that Brad is the human equivalent of a good luck charm. Can Brad’s good luck cancel out Riley’s bad luck? Or is this yet another recipe for disaster?


Thank you to Harriet Dunlea and Scholastic for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I am quite a newbie when it comes to Simon James Green, because the only book I’ve read is Noah Can’t Even. I loved that book a lot so I was excited to explore more of Green’s writing – and when I received this ARC of his middle grade debut I knew it was a sign.

Life of Riley follows our main character after he is supposedly cursed by a fortune teller. When a new boy arrives to his school, he is determined to steer clear because he thinks everything bad happens to everyone around him. But when their friendship grows and Riley realises Brad is his good luck charm, he will do anything to keep him close. Yup… anything.

Simon James Green has such a brilliant voice for YA novels—and MG is no different. He perfectly captures the essence of a child, the dramatic, frenzied kind of characteristics most of their age have. It was also hilarious, but at this stage you should expect nothing less of Simon James Green.

I was kind of expecting a certain romance to develop between two characters and I was left disappointed when it didn’t happen, but that was just on my own expectations of the book. I would definitely recommend this to younger readers – also it was lovely to see a young male protagonist. I feel as though as lot of MG novels are predominantly female led (which is fantastic, of course) but a balance is just as nice for all younger readers who are just starting out.

I don’t read a lot of MG but I really enjoyed this one, and if there is another instalment in Life of Riley’s series, then I’ll definitely be checking it out! Definitely for any fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

This is out next Thursday, the 3rd of September so make sure to grab a copy!


Review: Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

noah cant even

Noah Can’t Even

by Simon James Green

YA Contemporary

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository


Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn’t herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL.

Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light?

But Noah’s plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.


It’s actually shameful how long I’ve had this book/wanted to read it, so I decided to finally bite the bullet and I thought what month could be more perfect to finally get around to this than #LGBTQMonth?! And let me tell you, I’m so glad I did. This was my first Simon James Green novel but it definitely won’t be my last.

Noah Can’t Even is a crazy rollercoaster ride packed to the brim with humour and many, many plot twists. It follows the life of our MC Noah Grimes, who has a bit of a wildly extravagant life as it is—and when his best friend Harry kisses him at a party, it doesn’t make anything much better!

I loved this book so much. It’s got that quintessential British humour that I’m so fond of, and then some. I have to admit, I found it a bit slow to first get into but when it picked up, there was no putting it down. I loved the hilarious cast of characters and did really feel for Noah, even if he acted like a bit of a knob at some points! I really liked getting to read about Noah and see him grow as a character. He felt very real and genuine, and his character was really a joy to read – to follow his highs and also his lows!

There were so many twists and turns throughout this book that it was almost hard to just keep up! It was a fun, contemporary read with a lot of heart. A solid addition to the UKYA community and I think it would be a much bleaker place without Noah. I can’t wait to get around to the sequel!


4 star

#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Simon James Green

Hi all!

I’m back today for another author interview with another amazing author! And as usual, before I dive in, I’d like to take a minute to remind you about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially during Pride month. We need to support and elevate the voices of Black people now more than ever. Read, sign, share, donate! It’s no longer okay to be silent.

Today we have the wonderfully talented SIMON JAMES GREENauthor of many books, including Noah Can’t Even, Alex in Wonderland and the upcoming Heartbreak Boys!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Simon James Green is an award-winning author and screenwriter. He contributed to the PROUD book anthology, and his successful Noah books (NOAH CAN’T EVEN, NOAH COULD NEVER, and the short story, NOAH GOES NUCLEAR) were optioned for television. ALEX IN WONDERLAND was nominated for the Carnegie medal and featured in Best Kid’s Books 2019 from The Guardian. His latest YA novel, HEARTBREAK BOYS will be published in June, along with his debut picture book, LLAMA GLAMARAMA, illustrated by Garry Parsons. Simon’s first middle-grade book, LIFE OF RILEY: BEGINNER’S LUCK publishes in September.

 


ABOUT NOAH CAN’T EVEN

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Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn’t herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL.

Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light?

But Noah’s plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.
 


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Simon! You recently announced an incredible eight-book deal! Congratulations! Alongside this, what’s one of your proudest achievements in your writing career?

Thank you so much! I would say a very proud moment was getting my original deal for Noah Can’t Even and Noah Could Never – it took many years of hard slog to get to that point, and you start to wonder if it’s ever going to happen – so when it finally did, and when I actually saw Noah on the tables in Waterstones, that really was an incredible moment. 

I’d say nothing can quite beat a moment so special! As a queer writer yourself, you have so much LGBTQ representation in your books. Do you feel like this is your responsibility as a YA and children’s author? If so, why?

I’ve never felt responsibility about including LGBTQ representation as such – it just feels natural and realistic, and the characters and stories I want to write about happen to be LGBTQ. However, I do feel responsibility for making sure that representation is a positive and nurturing experience for any teen readers who are going through similar things.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer, and why primarily YA?

Right from when I was at school I’ve always loved writing, but I suppose it was at University, when I started writing comedy plays for the drama society, that I knew it was something I would like to do professionally. I’ve always enjoyed coming-of-age stories, and I think those teenage years are a great time to write about, with their mix of new experiences, drama, and working out who you are, so YA is a natural fit for me. That said, I am now also writing middle-grade (for 8-12 year olds) and picture books, but I love children’s and YA fiction in general – I think some of the best, most exciting work is happening in this area. 

I couldn’t agree more! Who are some of your favourite queer authors that you want to shout about?

Let’s shout about some of the brilliant UK-based authors, because the conversation around LGBTQ YA is so often dominated by American releases: William Hussey (Hideous Beauty); George Lester (Boy Queen); Sophie Cameron (Out of the Blue); C.G. Moore (Fall Out); Ciara Smyth (The Falling in Love Montage); Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Ace of Spades – out next year!) to name just a few my recent faves!

OMG yes! UKYA fiction is fantastic! I’m sure there are also many aspiring authors and artists reading this – what’s your best piece of advice?

Write the book you want to write and write it in the way you want. You’ll drive yourself mad trying to predict trends or second-guess what agents and publishers might be looking for. And take any writing tips from the internet with a pinch of salt – what works for one person might not for another. 

Great advice! What comes to you first when you’re writing – characters, plot or setting? Do you prefer one over the other?

It really varies. With Noah, it was the character, but with Alex in Wonderland it was a mixture of this shy boy and the amusement arcade location, with the plot working itself out later. With Heartbreak Boys, the concept of two boys, dumped by their exes, embarking on a road trip to prove they were having a better summer than them came first, and then I worked out their characters from there.  

I’m so excited for Heartbreak Boys, it sounds so fun! Most of the time writing can be tough and rewarding at the same time. Do you find that it energises or exhausts you?

Both. There’s nothing quite like a productive writing session where everything goes well, and you’re left feeling positive. But the reverse is also true, and the creative process is rarely an easy one, so there are also plenty of days when I just want to throw my laptop out of the window, quit writing, move to the country and make jam for a living instead. 

So very valid, haha! You’ve got lots of amazing characters in all your combined books. Who are the most memorable characters you’ve ever written and still remember fondly?

I obviously love them all in different ways, but if you’re pushing me, I would probably have to say Noah and Harry. It’s partly because they were first, but also they are such enormous fun to write, and I feel like I know Noah so well, his stuff practically writes itself. That said, writing Jack and Nate in Heartbreak Boys was an absolute delight because they are such opposites and wind one another up so much. 

Do you have a favourite time or specific place to write? Why?

I can only write in my office at home. I’ve tried the cafe thing, and I would dearly love to be one of those cool writer types who sits in a coffee shop, tapping away at their laptop and getting inspiration from all the customers, but any sort of noise of distraction irritates me, and I have to be alone.

And finally, tell us more about your upcoming release, Heartbreak Boys! I know there’s a lot of people excited for it!

I’m so excited about Heartbreak Boys because it was epic amounts of fun to write! It’s told in dual POV from Jack and Nate, who have just finished Year 11 and were dumped by their boyfriends at prom. Determined to prove they’re going to have a great summer too, they embark on a road trip and Instagram the whole experience – except they have to fake most of it because their road trip is actually a catastrophe. But between the damp campsites and grubby motels, is there the glimmer of something that might turn this summer from Insta-fake to forever? 

Like my other books, HeartBreak Boys is a rom-com, it’s summery, and (I hope) it’s very funny! It also explores the pressure to conform, to be a certain way, and it’s a clarion call to ignore that, do your own thing, and shine brightly. Also, it features two hapless gay boys in a field with a rabid cow, possibly a bull – what could be more hilarious?! 


Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, Simon! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait for the release of Heartbreak Boys! We were delighted to have you! 

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Heartbreak Boys is published later this year in August, and I urge you all to go pre-order it—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else!

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