You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance

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You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Amy Etherington
Reviewed by Amy Etherington
Summary: Meet Gracie Dart. She's young, smart, and she wants to start living her life. You Only Live Once is funny, touching, and it's a promising start to a new teen series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: August 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848126602

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Gracie Dart is a studious, responsible student with a colour coded timetable and French verbs covering her walls. She's hardworking and smart but once her final school exams are over, Gracie has a revelation. After she mistakenly thinks she's contracted a fatal illness (the perils of looking up symptoms on the internet) Gracie decides to start living her life. Her studies are finished for the summer so Gracie wants to say yes to every opportunity that comes her way, and just like her meticulous study timetable, Gracie Dart doesn't do anything by half measures.

This book was a very nostalgic read for me. It brought back school memories – both good and bad – and the feeling of being overcome with exam stress. Being a teenager is hard work and Gracie Dart perfectly embodies the trials and tribulations that come with being a teenage girl. It's no surprise that once school is over she wants to break free and actually have some fun. I very much enjoyed this book and I enjoyed reading about Gracie's life as she decides to really start living her life and actually enjoy herself. She's worked hard and now she wants to do something fun and exciting like bungee jumping or going for a horse ride on the beach, yet she soon realises there are fall backs to her plans with some hilarious repercussions.

This book is different to Jess Vallance's other young adult novels. Her previous two books I enjoyed very much but their tone is much darker to the one you'll find in You Only Live Once. I suppose it shows how Vallance is branching out and trying a new style because although Gracie at first appears uptight and regimented, she's actually funny. The book opens with Gracie thinking she's dying from a tropical disease, which actually turns out to be a bad fake tan incident and the whole affair had me laughing. Her sudden urge to start living and doing things she never dreamed of leads to more funny moments, but I'll leave you to discover those for yourself if you choose to pick this one up.

There are also more tender moments as Gracie comes to terms with her sexuality and starts dating which leads to some very cute and sometimes awkward situations. We've all been there, haven't we? For the first part of this book she reminded me of Georgia Nicholson from the series of books written by the late Louise Rennison. Her books used to have me in stiches and I got that same feeling when I was reading You Only Live Once. It's quirky and cute although I found the humour died down as the story went on and Gracie's new way of life falls in to something she doesn't quite expect. Her relationship with an older life-loving couple shows Gracie a side to life she's never experienced before, but it also teaches her that there is bad that comes with the good and that life is about balance, not about having a constant 'all or nothing' approach.

I enjoyed this one and it makes for an entertaining and pleasant read. I'm always keen to check out what Jess Vallance produces and I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet Gracie Dart. Thank you to Hoy Key Books for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For further reading, I'd highly recommend checking out The Yellow Room if you'd like to check out more of her work.

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Buy You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance at


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