Ellen Lives On

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's a novel about coming of age during and despite trauma. The heartbreaking trauma differentiates this from just another angsty youth novel. The cover doesn't really mesh with the story so it's a bit misleading for those who pick it up simply because of the cover.
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Ellen Lives On is an interesting coming of age story in the wake of trauma. Before her mother’s suicide, we follow Ellen and her most intimate thoughts. She worries about not being able to afford the right clothes and other problems that seem like the end of the world when we are her age. She matures as she gets older, but I thought the author did a good job capturing the angst of youth and how narrow our perspective is when we have yet to have broader experiences and awakenings. After her mother’s death, we follow briefly through the foster care system before coming to live with her Aunt. Ellen does not feel wanted. She isn’t wanted. She has a hard time adjusting to a new household and her chores make her feel more of an outsider. She moves, has her initial encounters with feminism, and her eyes are opened to the lack of choices women had in the 70s. I’ll end my summary here instead of giving too much away but I really liked how her new perspectives took root in her life. Since she is still young, most of her issues are about school and friends. She fights against the systemic problems she sees around her. 
	Overall, I enjoyed the book. Parts of it were a little slow but they did fit the rhythm of experiencing life alongside Ellen. I would recommend this book to those enjoy fiction in general. It’s very much a coming of age story, so those who enjoy young adult fiction may like this as well!
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I honestly could not finish this book fully, in the last few chapters I kind of just skimmed the pages and got a general idea of the rest of the plot. 

It was an okay enough book, I did have a lot of problems with it. I really honestly tried to like it and I did have to put it down at some points. But honestly it just wasn’t for me. That’s not saying anything about the author. It just wasn’t Interesting enough for me. Which really sucks because I honestly really found the plot somewhat interesting. 

I want to thank the publishing house and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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Uneven ~ HIstorical ~ Inadequate
tl; dr: GIrl deals with mother's suicide and school problems in 1970s Britain. 
You win some and you lose some when you play book cover roulette. In this case, I lost. I expected a story with 1970s Britain and the changing norms at the center, protests and all. Alas, the protest was not central to the story. Instead, this is a coming of age story of a girl dealing with her mother's suicide. The story would be adequate if that was the central crux. Instead, about halfway through, the author pivots to her transformation into a feminist, also good. But there was no bridge and no transformation of the character. Felt like two books smashed together. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Ellen Lives On was not my favorite. Her mother dies by hanging herself. Ellen just isn't believable. Her reactions to this, chores, life in general, are so nondescript. She's sleepwalking through life while everything is handed to or done for her. This is a bad example of how to behave for young adults. I don't recommend. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Amazing read! The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
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Although I could see the potential in this text, I was not able to sustain my attention and finish the narrative.
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This book was okay.  I guess I'd say it wa.s innocuous.  I didn't get particularly invested in the characters, but I didn't hate it either.  The history and information regarding comprehensive schooling was kind of interesting, but I just wasn't especially interested in the story.
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Ellen has to figure out how she is supposed to live on after her mother dies.  She is sent to live with her Aunt but doesn't feel welcome there.  She wants to live with her Grandpa but isn't sure if anyone will let her stay with him.  She meets new friends and learns  more about political demonstrations.  I thought this book was good but not great.  I think there is a good story line here but didn't believe the story was believable.  Everything was just too easy for Ellen, she gets everything she wants and doesn't really have to work for it at all, everyone just agrees to give her exactly what she wanted and I think that this generation of kids already feel entitled to whatever they want, they should be reading stories about how people overcome adversity when they don't get what they want. How they can have a great life after tragedy even if it isn't the life they pictured.
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Firstly, this cover is seriously deceiving. The right fist raised is a Black unity symbol, and because the story is set in the early 1970s, I thought it was about the Civil Rights movement. Why not light purple, or pink hands with the left fist raised? I asked on Facebook and all but one of my friends immediately thought it was the Black Power sign and about Civil Rights. However, it's about a lower middle class white girl. A whiney lower middle class white girl. It always gets me when people who aren't actually poor think they are poor.

My next problem was the author doesn't have the MC distinguish between something that is upsetting, discouraging, self-esteem damaging, or traumatic. Ellen was supposedly traumatized because her mother made her a skirt that was flared and not the newest style. Really? She was fourteen; get on the sewing machine and fix it for yourself. Also, her mother saying "are you stupid" was traumatic, upsetting and maybe self-esteem damaging for less resilient children, yes, but traumatic? She also felt her mother pulling her along to walk faster while shopping when she was five years old was tramatic. I don't think I know anyone who hasn't been pulled along by a parent to speed up at some point in their lives. There was also the incident where her mother threw an empty shopping bag across the kitchen, not even at the MC, and it was traumatic for her. Through the entire book adults were not allowed to have feelings other than happiness.

Then there was the chores problem. She was asked by her aunt to help prepare dinner every afternoon after school by peeling vegetables and then to set the table; and after dinner help clear the table and dry the dishes. To Ellen this was abuse. I'm not going to say, "really," again because I'm sure I will need use of it a couple times more in this review, and I don't want to turn it into drinking game fodder. She also complained this left her no time for homework because she was drying dishes until 9:00 pm. Now, why would you still be drying dinner dishes that late at night from five people? She complained that her two male cousins didn't have to help, but I am assuming because jobs like: taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, washing the cars, and cleaning out the roof gutters weren't on her list of abuses that the boys did these chores. It wasn't like she was expected to do all the chores. I don't think it was a matter of rotation either because if she didn't like drying dishes, I'm sure she wouldn't have liked taking out the garbage. This was the early '70s, not the 2000s. That leads us to the housewife, stay-at-home mom problem.

This story also shames housewives and stay-at-home moms. Ellen talks a lot about women's work (in a derogatory way) and how it's "unfair". Now, if her aunt worked a nine-to-five and then was expected to do all the housework, yes, then this situation would be totally unfair, but she was a stay-at-home mom; it was her job. If a person is a stay at home dad... taking care of the kids and housework would be his job. Also there was Ellen's idea that being a mom and housewife were lesser. Her aunt chose to be a mother and housewife and took pride in her home and raising her children, so how is that lesser than working outside the home? I put my music career on hold to be a stay-at-home mom by choice and it was the most rewarding, and important, thing I have done in my life. I also don't know where the author got the idea that women rarely worked outside the home in the 1970s and that most of this was based on the fact they weren't allowed. I think she was getting the '70s mixed up with the 1940s. She also blamed her mother's depression and suicide on not having a job outside the home. And then there was this convoluted idea that her mother couldn't work because they had to live on her deceased father's pension. Collecting your husband's pension and death benefits doesn't mean you can't work. Dear author, you don't champion Feminism by putting down housewives and stay-at-home mothers; who by the way make up the biggest percentage of volunteers.

Now we get to Ellen's cause. I'm only basically familiar with the British education system and I don't know where their different levels stand age wise, but she was fighting for everyone to be able to go to any school they wanted after what I assume is elementary school. The gist was everyone got the same education until, what I think we used to call junior high, level and then after that in order to go to a top notch school, your parents either had to pay tuition, or you had to have a scholarship based on your grades from the first level. The thing about this was, when she transferred to one of these all inclusive schools, the whole premise of her cause was dissolved because she complained about the disruptive kids in class, and how the curriculum was not as advanced (to accommodate remedial to average students), so she was worried about getting test grades good enough to get into college. If those other schools had been open to only middle class kids with parents who could afford tuition, then yes, that's unfair, but if everyone is getting the same elementary education and can be admitted to these better secondary schools with good grades, what is wrong with that? Why would you fight for everyone having to have a lesser education, than to fight for the public secondary school to be made better? It made no sense. Plus, the two black students who were referred to in one sentence in the entire book does not give license for the book cover to have seemingly people of color raising their fists in Black solidarity.

There was also Ellen's big outrage about school uniforms, but my son went to public school and he said he would have preferred uniforms because no one can get harassed or ridiculed for what they are, or aren't, wearing; and nothing is a distraction. Students are in school to learn. It's not a fashion show. And for those who cry about self-expression they can do that outside of school, or through the school clubs they join. Seems to me that if Ellen was truly poor she'd know this because of not being able to afford expensive label clothing for school.

There were also things I had problems with on the writing side: like descriptions of mundane minutiae where they weren't needed, and descriptions that were too basic (boring), and too many long drawn out repetitive scenes. This was also a book about mental health and although some points were spot on others were clueless, and there were also criticisms about people's choices that were based on what was available and commonplace after the '70s. The author needed to do a lot more research. This also should have been an emotion evoking book, but the writing didn't accomplish that with me; even though with the subject matter it should have been easy.

What did I take away from this book? That it was written to make white people feel better about their privilege, which disgusts me. I am also seriously angry I was duped into reading this book by the dishonest cover art, but I am glad I did request a review book because now I can warn others about it.
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As others have said, don't read the synopisis of this book in Goodreads, or you will have no reason to read the book.

The story is of Ellen, who must get over her mother's suicide with no help from social services, or counselors, or anyone. The part of the story, where she is trying to adjust while she is in foster care, is so sad, and feels so raw and real.

But, from the moment she is placed with her aunt, the story just goes into how sad she is, and how she feels as though she doesn't belong, which is true.

And while I don't mind the ending, it is a bit too pat, a bit to easy. When the social workers finally do their job, then things work out.

The cover is very misleading. Although Ellen participates in a rally against a right-wing group, it is a huge march, and is almost an afterthought to the whole book. 

It is almost as though there are two books here. One of Ellen getting over her mother's death, and the other, her running around with radical feminist, squatters.

The first part of the book was quite good. The second part feels more like wish fulfillment.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
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Believable and well-written, I would gladly add this book to my classroom and library bookshelf.  A gripping story.
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