Saturday, 14 March 2015

Autophobia by J Ryan Review and Preview - YA Fiction eBook Review

This is the second book review that I'm doing, and like the one before this, it's for a book in a 3 part miniseries. J Ryan is an indie author who hasn't published before, and I offered to review this for him because, well, you know, free books!
This book, which isn't actually edited yet (I was beta reading and reviewing), is 42,000 words. It deals with a lot of issues that teenagers deal with but it deals with them in a realistic way. These issues, however, I guess, are a little too risky to show to a young adult audience, but I still class it as YA because the characters are 18 and the story revolves around two teenagers in high school.
If you find depression, eating disorders and self harm triggering, this is not the book for you.

First of all, the issues in this novella handles the issues pretty... graphically. It opens with a girl shoving her fingers down her throat. And it's not really showing them in a negative light, either. The characters all seem happy with what they're doing, but the other characters are unhappy with the actions of others. It doesn't condone self harm or self destructive behaviour in any way, but I think it's important to note that this is a graphically told story with a lot of gore and if you're young or in recovery, you shouldn't read this.
The writing style is really good. And it captured my attention straight off the bat. I think Ryan's use of language, especially in his continued use of threes and transferred epithets are amazing, and he has a talent for them. His style is fresh and new, taking inspiration from other books he has read, obviously, but still adding a sort of edginess that makes it new and exciting.
Even though this is a 3rd person novella, it has great point of view shifts. A lot of YA novels stay away from multiple POV's for a few reasons, and those that use POV shifts tend to be quite... off. This is an example of a multi-stranded third person narrative at it's finest, but there are still some rough edges that I have told Ryan about.
I did get invested in the characters but they were a little flat. I think that Ryan would benefit from not just giving all of them a messed up home life, but it would work well if in his next book in the trilogy, which I have not read, the characters have a great life. I feel that Ryan wanted to exaggerate the harsh reality of being a teenager in modern society with pressures from not only your school but also family, but I don't know how much I can relate to a family like that.

The first book in the series will be free, but I don't know about the second and third books. These will all make for easy readings but will all contain topics that teenagers all face and encounter. For example, the second book, Wanderlust, faces the topics of teenagers wanting to get out and explore life for themselves. I hope I will get a chance to review the second book, and maybe even the third. It will be cool for me to know if Zaya and Bradley will make a return, or if Ryan will stun us with a host of new characters.

Autophobia will be released in April 2015 for free download on Smashwords. Check back here for the actual release date once I know it. J Ryan is an excellent YA author with a risky outlook on the teenage life and this series is good for anyone looking for a bleak window into the stressful life of teenagers.

First chapter of Autophobia

Her body was cold and shaking, pressed against the hard wall of the public bathroom. Vomit stained not only the toilet bowl and seat, but some of it had missed and found its way down her chin and marking the top of her white blouse. Zaya was bulimic. Zaya had been given everything in the world and she still felt lost, alone, weak, unwanted. Her mother was verbally abusive, and both her mother and father were alcoholics. Both of them left her alone at night whilst they went to work at their private law firm, mixing martinis with pleasure, and business with lust.
It was a Sunday evening, cold and dark as it was, the Moore family had decided to go to a restaurant. Mark and Amanda Moore – wealthy business owners – had finally stopped drinking heavy liquor at home and opted for an upscale steak house in downtown Illinois.
“Are you alright in there?” a concerned voice asked from behind the door of the cubicle.
A cough, a sigh. “I’ll be fine, some… bad risotto, I think,” she murmured. Her throat was stinging. Her cheeks had gone puffy and her eyes were blood shot. Zaya’s parent’s never noticed, not ever – that was one of their little charms.
She heard the woman outside the cubicle scurry back out as quickly as she had entered. Some young girl throwing up her food in a public restroom made everyone nervous. Nobody wanted to witness a girl spiralling into an eating disorder, and other people thought it was simply gross or weird.
Swallowing down any pride she had left, she stood up on unsteady legs, taking the band out of her long blonde hair and letting it hang loosely around her shoulders in a casual loose style. Despite just throwing up, her makeup had stayed, relatively, in place – her eyeliner had smudged here and there, and her lipstick had quickly started to fade – but her eyebrows, contouring and foundation stayed exactly how it had been before she’d been eating at the meal, and before the purging of food.
She flushed once, then again, then again, until the clear film over the top of the toilet water had completely gone. Click, and the door was open. It was empty. The only sounds now were the ambient tones played quietly through the small speakers at either end of the room and the toilet. Looking at herself, she knew she looked fine. Though she was still uneasy, her body maintained a steady pose in her thick, chunky heels. She felt fat. She looked at herself and saw only a disgusting girl who’d eaten too much. But her reflection was of a girl emaciated, with protruding hip bones and a thigh gap. A pale face with jagged cheeks and gaunt proportions.
Straightening out the short black pencil skirt and being sure to hide a small ladder in her black tights, she tried to look her best. “I can do this,” she whispered to herself. Her heels made a loud clicking noise as she walked along the marble flooring and then out of the bathroom. The difference in lighting was immense – it was highly doubtful anyone would notice her smudged makeup in that lighting. Her mother was laughing loudly at the bar. Her father was sat at the table, drowning his sorrows into a glass of wine. There were two finished plates on the table and one half-finished plate that she had only half managed to eat before making an abrupt trip to the toilet. She made her way between the maze of chairs and sat down.
Mark grunted. “Where’ve you been?”
“I needed to use the toilet.”
“You took ya’ damn time. Your mom’s up at the bar and we’re going now. I can’t stand these dim-witted idiots. Plus I’ve tasted better wine.” He stood up, and Zaya noticed the bill on the table, with a hundred bill poking out of it. They’d paid before even asking if Zaya was done.
The people drowned out her father’s mumbling – Mark did that, a lot. Her mother noticed Mark approaching and stood up firmly, attempting to look as though she had no interest in the man she had been laughing with. When Mark got to her, he grabbed her awkward arm and simply glanced behind him to make sure Zaya was still there. They got in the car. Zaya was sat in back, pressing her back against the cold leather. She was afraid of this car. It was a new car and she found no joy in sitting in it. It went too fast, and made a strange noise whenever it started to rev up. But she didn’t say anything to her father or mother.
“That was shit,” he said to Amanda. She smiled politely, not wanting to reply to him for fear of abuse. Zaya’s sister, Keira, was never abused verbally or physically by either Mark or Amanda. But Zaya, on the other hand, had felt the angry fist of her father on many occasion, and the toxic words from her mother. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was making her grades go up, and making the number on the scale go down. Everything else could easily be drowned out with alcohol and music, or going out to see her friends – when she was allowed. Ballet was one of the hobbies she was forced into as a young girl. The girls there were envious of her thigh gap, of the jutting hip bones. But none of them could understand how she would lose weight and keep it down.
“Zaya, did you have fun?” An odd question came from her mother’s drunken lips. “You didn’t eat it all.”
“It was lovely, mother.”
“Good, ‘cause that money is comin’ out of ya’ allowance,” Amanda spat. Zaya wondered, what allowance? Her mother left her money on her nightstand in order to avoid talking to her. It wasn't any sort of allowance. It was meant to get food and drinks for school, because Amanda didn’t want to do food for Zaya. They had hired a babysitter to take good care of their little girl, Keira, but never once hired someone to look after Zaya; she had always been left to her own devices.
The car jutted forward and Zaya’s fingers gripped down onto the harsh leather. A small breath left her lips as she craved a cigarette. A cigarette and some black coffee. Her mother did not know she smoked. If she did, she’d most likely be beaten black and blue for doing that. Because her mother deemed it unladylike, even though Amanda smoked herself for many years.
It was a dull ride back to the large semi-detached, nine-hundred, fifty-thousand house. Zaya was always reminded how much the house cost her parents to buy, because they always tried to make Zaya feel bad for living there. They’d even once said they were going to write Zaya out of the will and that Zaya wasn’t going to get the house, because she didn’t understand the value of money. That wasn’t true. Zara had a collection of nearly a thousand dollars in her bedside cabinet, just in case the worst happened and she wanted to jump on an airplane to another state. Maybe Miami – Zaya loved Miami and a thousand might get her started there, but she wanted at least two thousand to book into a hostel. It was all planned out.
The parked just outside the garage and Zaya got out, stumbling on the gravel, still feeling weak from throwing up so much. Amanda got out, too, but Mark didn’t. Mark told Amanda he was going to a bar and that he would probably be back in the morning. Zaya knew what he meant. Mark was going to get drunk and sleep with some whore from down town. Someone less uptight than his long-legged, conservative, brown-haired wife. Amanda wasn’t pretty, either. As much as Zaya didn’t want to admit it, looks did not get her though life. Amanda was simply born into a rich family. A family of business owners and hard grafters. Mark wasn’t so lucky to be born into wealth. He worked his life away in an office before being promoted, then meeting Amanda, who encouraged him to help her start up their own law firm. It took off.
The door was unlocked. They walked in. Maggie was stood near the banister, holding her phone in one hand and a glass in the other. Maggie was the baby sitter. A short, thin, Korean girl, with thick black hair that had green tips. Zaya wanted to look like that. She really did. But unfortunately, she knew she wouldn’t. She was not lucky enough to be blessed with thick hair, and flawless skin. No, she was not.
Her trembling legs carried her up the stairs as she heard her mother stumble to Maggie and discuss her payment. Amanda insisted on two hundred for the evening, Maggie didn’t decline. As Zaya got to her bedroom at the end of the long, narrow hall, she collapsed onto her double bed. The room was not a mess – they had hired a maid some seven years ago, and she never failed to tidy up perfectly. But Zaya wanted to make a mess. She kicked off her thick heels, letting them clash against the mirror leaving a long streak of dirt and probably a stain of some sort before she stood back up, watching herself in the mirror. She tore off the pencil skirt and then ripped off her blouse, pulling the tights down and laddering them even more. If her face looked that bad, why would she need to be dressed? She stared at herself in nothing but her push-up bra and tiny black panties. Why did she need nice underwear? Who was she trying to impress? She laughed at herself, realising that she was alone. She had nobody, not even a family.
But it was highly unlikely she was going to find anyone soon. Not in her state. She slung on a pair of tight yoga pants, black ones, and then a thick jumper. She needed a walk, to get fresh air, to burn off some calories that probably didn’t get thrown up. She wanted to go to the park. A park was a lovely place to go, to see other people, to think of how bad or good other’s lives were. Gently, she slid on a pair of her white Converse that matched the colour of her yoga pants. Sighing, she quietly made her way down the stairs. What a surprise, she thought to herself – her mother was already asleep.

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