Author: J.A. George
Genre: Young Adult, Teen
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Date published: May 11, 2016
Page Count: N/A
E-copy of the book kindly provided by J.A. George, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: There is no chosen one in this story.
Avery Gray was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to make a decision that altered her future forever. It happens to all of us every day.
Avery is a size twelve university student with a penchant for dry humour, and she’s as normal as they come. Up until now, the biggest choice she’s had to make was glasses or contacts? At the moment, it’s stay and save, or leave and be saved.
Allow me to explain. One rainy afternoon, Avery had to make a choice: go through the alleyway or around it. Two possible options. One would have had her future continue on as planned, the other would ensure that her future never remained the same again. She unknowingly went with the latter.
But change is not always bad. Avery meets Theodore-James Connors, an enigmatic young man who takes her to Hayven, a city separated from the rest of the world, where only gifters – ordinary people with extra-ordinary gifts – can go. She soon finds herself in a close-knit group of friends she’d never have imagined herself in. Friends who are diverse in every possible way, from their ethnic backgrounds, to their personalities, from their gifts, to their life stories. Friends who make her laugh, who make her cry, who make her think and who make her…her.
However, change is not always good. The beautiful, golden city of Hayven has its dark side – Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, aka, Cliders are determined to aid fallen Clider, Madrina, return to rule Hayven. They will stop at nothing to make that happen, including harming those Ava has grown to love.
Again, Ava is faced with a choice: spend her days finding a way to inhibit Madrina’s return, or walk away. After all, she isn’t the chosen one. Yet, there exists a third option – rig the future itself and make it work for her.
I was very excited when J.A. George approached me and asked if I would like to read and review her novel! The cover is what caught my eye first. The simple black background adorned with the varying coloured petals is very aesthetically pleasing, and it made me want to know more about the book. And more specifically, I wanted to know what the coloured petals signify!
I happily agreed to read and review Gifted, and it has been a joy from the very first page!
As J.A. George discusses in the guest post below, the main character, Ava, is very relatable for us regular humans. While I do enjoy some books wherein the main character is great and brave and beautiful, I find that I have a difficult time placing myself in their shoes, because I myself am not great or brave or beautiful. This is not the case with Ava. While I am in no way hating on any particular body type, I found it quite refreshing to read about a main character who is curvy!
In addition, Ava is not extremely confident (which is also the case with the majority of us mortals), and she has some hidden insecurities about her body, as well as he looks. I would have liked to hear more about Ava’s past, particularly the events which have shaped her into the person she is in the present-tense within the book, but I am sure that more information on that will be revealed in the books to follow.
Ava and some of the other characters also really frustrated me at times! Rather than letting that affect my experience with the book though, I reminded myself that this just makes the characters feel more real. There is no person in existence who has never annoyed anyone at least once. Ava and the others feel all the more fleshed-out because of their poor decisions or shortcomings.
Regarding the romance plots within the novel, I would say that these were realistic as well. Things do not always fall perfectly into place. There is struggle and there are obstacles. There are good relationships, and bad relationships, those which should happen and never do, and those who do and never should have in the first place. J.A. George does a good job at keeping things real in this book, and I really appreciated that, because it made things unpredictable, and therefore more fun!
I found the various settings within the book to be quite enjoyable, and most of them I found to be fantastical. Other than Huxton, everywhere else would not be a place which one would ever find within our real world. Which then in turn brings me to this book’s genre label. Gifted is a contemporary fantasy novel. While I have experience with high fantasy novels and world, I know that some readers cannot handle such things, or are simply wishing to dip their toes into the fantasy genre before deciding whether they will full immerse themselves or not. I believe Gifted to be an ideal book for said “toe-dipping,” because while it does contain fantastical elements, there is still enough reality to balance things out, and which readers inexperienced with fantasy can uses as a sort of anchor.
In general, I found Gifted to be light and enjoyable, with hints of darker themes and violence brewing just beneath the surface. As the first book of the series, Gifted functions as a doorway into Ava and Theo’s world/s, and also as the build up to the books to follow.
I will definitely recommend this book to friends who like contemporary fiction, as well as those who love fantasy, because Gifted is the perfect balance of both!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is J.A. George and I’m the author of GIFTED – The Hayven Series. My perfect day would be a day where I eat all my favourite (unhealthy) foods, visit a food market and the cinema with friends, bake, read and write. I really want to rescue a dog! Preferably a Staffordshire bull terrier!
Can you tell us about Gifted?
Gifted is about a nineteen year old university student who meets a silver-haired woman a little on the strange side before meeting a young man a little more on the stranger side. These meetings lead to the eventual discovery of Hayven – a city separated from the rest of the world where only those with gifts can go. She makes an eclectic bunch of friends, who, even though I’m biased, are just awesome. But Hayven has its dark side and they’re called Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, Cliders are determined to see Hayven return to the way it was one thousand years ago when the city was under the dominion of Madrina. Want to know more about her? You’ll have to read Gifted otherwise this guest post would go on for a while and I’d never get invited back!
What genre is your novel?
It’s a contemporary YA fantasy. I chose this genre because one of the main reasons I started writing Gifted was because I wanted something to read. But I wanted a YA fantasy novel a little different from what was already out there. I wanted to read a YA book that didn’t feature instant-love, a chosen one or a girl growing up in a dystopian society. I just wanted to read about someone normal, someone I could relate to. Someone who worries about the way she looks, but never says it out loud, has a sense of humour, thinks about the small stuff. Then I wanted to take her and place in a world she never thought existed. I wanted to explore real young adult relationships, friendships and modern-day topics such as, body weight issues and cheating in relationships. Gifted is a lot less sombre than it sounds, I promise! It’s a fun read!
Were there any scenes in Gifted that were particularly difficult to write?
Romance scenes. I’m the kind of person who cringes at love scenes in books and sometimes skips over it. Want to hear something ironic? My first edition of Gifted was full of scenes like this and I hated writing it. Honestly, I would wince at my desk as I typed it out. I just…blah… yeah, it’s not for me. The only reason I added strong romance/ instant-love into my book was because I thought that was what people wanted to read. Every author wants their book to sell and in order for it to sell, you have to write what people want to read, so I attempted to do that. Until one evening, I’d just had enough and I deleted all of the dramatic, unrealistic romance scenes and completely revised my novel, resulting in edition two, and I am so happy with the way it is now.
What do you like most about your main protagonist Ava?
She’s relatable. I like reading about realistic people; it makes fantasy more exciting! I think some novels are saturated with the skinny protagonist and I was guilty of that too! In edition one of Gifted, Ava was a UK size 8. I literally sat up in bed one evening, right as I was about to fall asleep and I said aloud, “Why are all my characters skinny?” There was no one else in the room thank goodness, but it got me thinking. Living in the UK, I am constantly surrounded by people of all different shapes and sizes, and in my group of friends, none of us are the same size, so why didn’t my book reflect that? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having tiny characters, but there’s nothing wrong with having curvier characters either.
In edition one, I tried to base Ava on female protagonists I’d read about in the past because I wanted my book to sell. After two years, I decided to drop that mentality and focus on making Gifted into a book I wanted to read and I didn’t want to read about a girl who is naturally fearless. I wanted to read about an ordinary girl. Ava is strong-willed, funny and sarcastic, but she’s also insecure and worries about the small stuff, like we all do. I really bond with her because I can see myself and many others in her and it’s nice to have a relatable character who experiences extra-ordinary things. For me, Ava makes the impossible seem a little more…possible.
Where does your book stand diversity-wise?
It is no secret that YA books are severely lacking in diversity; there’s just no question about it. Thanks to this, most books just aren’t relatable. I was born and raised in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world, so when I read a book where the majority of the characters are from one race group, the book makes less of an impact on me because it isn’t realistic and it isn’t relatable because the lack of diversity isn’t my world. In the next three books of my series I plan to introduce more diverse characters than seen in book one. I’ve already plotted story-lines and roles for Asian characters, Muslim characters, Latin characters and homosexual characters. I love diversity and I intend to pile it into my books as much as I can get away with!
What Harry Potter house would you be in?
I want to say Gryffindor, but you have to be brave to be in that house and spiders render me speechless. But I’m much too soft for Slytherin. Can I be in Ravenclaw?
If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
I’m definitely adopting a dog one day, but I really want a pet pig! I wouldn’t keep it in my house because I think pigs prefer to be outside, so it’ll stay on a farm and I’ll visit him/her any chance I get!
Favourite thing to eat on pancakes?
Nutella! I love pancakes. I really do.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
Would you believe that a chocolate fiend such as myself doesn’t actually like chocolate ice-cream?! I have no idea why! For a while I didn’t like chocolate cake, but that was probably because the first one I ever tasted was rather dry…
Where do your savings go?
Food, travel and/or books!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep writing because if you want to be an author, you have no other choice. Also, write like you have no intention of publishing because that way you’ll definitely end up with a book you’re happy with.