“We did a school trip to a castle once, where they got us dressing up as either knights, princesses or servant. No prizes for guessing which on I got.”
Keep your head down and don’t borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it’s seen her family through some tough times. It’s not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad’s bad back, or the threat of losing their house.
So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni’s sure they’re destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged – the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy.
But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver …
What I thought:
This was a really well written romance/activism story that just happened to have an f/f relationship. And for me that was one of the most important and best things, it didn’t concentrate on the fact this couple was a lesbian one. This was mentionned a bit at the beginning but it was very quickly dealt with. Joni thinks that the problem is that Annabel hadn’t come out to her Dad.
I’m aware saying the fact that it was a class issue was one of the best bits is a wierd thing to sat, but it was. Because it meant the fact that they were both girls wasn’t important. There are still all the normal problems that couples who comes from very different place on the class spectrum. Joni rides a second hand bike to work while Annabel gets the job because of who her father is and lives in a great big house with a housekeeper. I think one of the best ways the difference between the two was shown was on the picnic. Annabel just threw food in her basket in Waitrose without even thinking about the cost while Joni wouldn’t spend that much on a normal weekly shop. It felt like a really natural way of highlighting their differences.
I loved that they both worked in a library that doubles up as a community centre. It reinforces just why libraries important and its not just because of the books. If it wasn’t for the library Joni wouldn’t be able to read half as many books as she does; but there also wouldn’t have been a safe space for toddler meetings, or somewhere to use the computers and printers. Plus I just love libraries and that is love is clearly echoed by Karen Gregory; you can feel it in the way she describes the place.
Skylarks not only has a realistic cross-class relationship, but it is really beautiful one that grows from hate formed of bias to friendship and then love as they get to know each other. Both of them realise that they were biased against the other to begin with due to who their parents are and where they come from. And from the start it is Joni who is the most prejudiced, allowing her perceptions of the 1% and of her knowledge of Annabel’s lawyer father. It takes a lot for Joni to be able to get over her bias and to get to know Annabel but even then she’s uncomfortable with inviting Annabel back to hers and feels ashamed of how small it is and how much of a mess.
The main storyline in Skylarks, outside of Joni/Annabel’s relationship, is one of activism and trying to make a difference against the big corporation. With Joni’s house in danger from the whole area being renovated she decides to push for social change and for the importance of home and community. Her parents start the book with the opinion the just keeping their head down and not getting into trouble, which is in direct opposition to Joni’s older brother who wants to take the fight to ‘the man’. There are moments in the book where you can see how easy it is to turn from peaceful opposition/marches to violent ones and how much passion in the cause can cause people to do things that would normally be considered out of character. At times Joni is swayed by rhetoric of ‘us vs them’ and even as the reader you can see how easy it is to fall into that mentality.
I loved that it showed the passion of teenagers in their cause and how things that can cause them to be scorned if it’s love for a fandom/band can cause them to be praised if it’s for social change/politics. Just like in IWBFT where Angel puts all her energy into the band, Joni puts all her energy into trying to keep her family in her childhood home, in making sure that it isn’t demolished. Joni loves her job in the library, and once Annabel put the thought of going in conversation in her mind she falls in love with that too. And Joni is very much and all or nothing kind of girl, if she loves something she REALLY loves something and will do everything she can to protect it. Likewise if that love or trust is betrayed she finds it very difficult to move on from it. It really shows the power teenagers can have if they put their mind to things. All too often teenagers are mocked for caring about politics but in our current political climate we’ve seen that when teenagers rise up as one they are able to use their passion and energy into making real changes.
Why I read it
I pre-ordered this one as I loved Karen Gregory debut novel ‘Countless’.
This is a beautiful book of social activism/conservationism with romance at its heart between two people who on paper shouldn’t work. And yet Annabel and Joni both do their best to push past their differences and to make their relationship work, while still fighting against the invisible boundaries that separate the classes.
I wish I could have the passion that Joni has. She’s got the strength to not only see the problems in society and want to make a difference but to push through and see that difference happen. Even if it means constantly bugging her local MP until he has to listen to her.
Would I recommend: Yes. Go read this book now people. Go. Now.
Popsugar: LGBTQ+ protagonist, published in 2018, involves a bookshop/library, animal in the title, problem facing society today
Read Harder: About nature
The eagle-eyed among you will notice that this is up late. I was at a convention on Saturday and spent all of Sunday sleeping.
But I met Tom Baker so it was entirely worth it!
As always I’d love it if you left a comment and let me know what you think. of the book or my blog I don’t mind.
P.S The next book is Leviathon Wakes by James A Corey.