Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Published: Eminent Productions Ltd., April 2022
My Rating: 1.5/5 stars
Home is the start of Mark Ballabons new series Leah’s Universe; a series of contemporary novels following the inner world of the titular 14-year old, as she ponders the big questions that come with growing up. A profound experience in the woods and attending an international summer camp spark the question in Leah’s mind that is at the centre of this first instalment: what is “Home”?
As much as I liked the idea of this book, and felt like I should have been the kind of reader to enjoy it, this was a big miss for me. The best way for me to describe it is this: have you ever heard of #imfourteenandthisisdeep ? Because that’s exactly what this entire book felt like to me.
What I liked:
The first thing you notice when picking up this book is how stunning it is to look at. Each chapter starts with a full page coloured illustration in a similar style to the cover, and they are spectacular to look at. Each illustration, and every stylistic choice in this book match the feeling and context, making for a beautiful cohesive whole.
Speaking of the content: I’m a big fan of children’s- and YA literature that takes their readers serious, and isn’t afraid to throw some big questions and important topics their way. One of my favourite books for the longest time as a kid was Sophie’s World, and I was really hoping to find something similar to this in Leah’s Universe. Unfortunately, as much as I liked the concept, the execution was very off-putting to me.
What I didn’t like:
As soon as we go into the content of Leah’s musings, the story begins to fall apart. It’s filled with so much melodrama and pseudo-intellectualism that it made me cringe at times. Take sentences like:
“How do these crises come about? Are there too many people, or is there too little care?”
“Down here is only a smaller, different version of what’s up there. You’re a living breathing universe. (…) Look at your fingerprints. That’s the universe’s unique signature.”
Or the fact that Leah calls chapters “windows” and goes on for half a page on why that word fits better. It tries so hard to sound profound while really being quite mundane even for e 14-year-old. The further into the story we get, the more I began to dislike Leah. How hard the author tried to make her come across as a “special” girl, and a “deep thinker”, but also how pandering and preachy the tone became about topics such as climate change or how to treat other people. It may just have been me, but to me it hit a wrong nerve.
Another thing that bothered me was that Leah never felt like a fully developed character. She was more so a blank slate for the author to project his own philosophy and views on climate change on, but through the voice of a “woke” teen.
Overall: spectacular first impression with the concept and the art, but left me disappointed with the end result. Don’t take my word for gospel however; I’m about a decade outside the intended age category.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Eminent Productions Ltd. for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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