Thursday, 1 September 2016

Book Review: Time for Jas [The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby #4] by Natasha Farrant + Guest Post


Title: Time for Jas
Author: Natasha Farrant
Author Info: Website|Twitter
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Series: The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby #4
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 4th August 2016
Rating: 4 stars

Tell Me About It
Bluebell and her siblings are beginning a new school year. Suddenly everyone is freaking out. Twig has taken up violent team sports, poor Jas is being bullied by the ghastly Cupcake Crew and Blue has a big decision to make.

There are fights and crying fits. Halloween parades gone wrong and secret graffiti artists. Confusing friendships and life-changing choices. But there is also laughter and above all, there is love - and that's what being a family is all about.
My Thoughts
The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby was a series I fell into after the release of the first book, it wasn't until the publication of the second book did I really hear about it. From that point on I was hooked. The Gadsby family is one we all love and hate for various reasons. They could be your neighbour with children making lots of noise, and having a disorganised garden. But on the other hand it's a family we can all relate to, and see some small part of ourselves in them. Whether it be the dramatic Flora or creative Jas, or the whole family in general. They are not perfect, they are a normal family just going about thier everyday business, and seeing them through the lens of Bluebell's camera means we see the good, bad, and ugly of this family, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.

Time for Jas is told like the rest of the series, in a diary format with camera and writing. We get to see the whole family, but also more of Jas and her struggles. Jas has always been the wild child, happy to dress how she likes in clothes far too small or far too old, making up her own style. But returning to school Jas soon finds out that her own style might not necessary be to everyones liking, and she soon finds herself being bullied by the Cupcake Girls, a clique of four girls determined to make Jas's time in school awful. No matter what Jas does she either isn't happy, or isn't liked, and my heart broke for her. To see her spirit trampled on, and squashed till it's gone was a very heartbreaking read, Jas is someone who wouldn't hurt a fly and seeing her fade into the background was the worst thing for her.

Time for Jas is a book that not only brings the usual chaos that comes with the Gadsby family, but also every day occurrences that you wouldn't necessary experience or see yourself, the bullying, the secret artist, the struggling student, but most importantly, how a family and friends can all come together to help out one of thier own. I love everything about this book, the story, the art work, the friends, and the final few chapters.

Final Verdict
Time for Jas is the final book in the series, and I for one will miss this family. If there was ever a possibility for a book at some point in the future I would not hesitate to pick up a copy.




REFLECTIONS ON A PAINTED CROW
by Natasha Farrant

On holiday in southern Portugal last week, driving home from market, we passed a tall apartment block, entirely nondescript except for one feature: a giant crow, wings outstretched, spray painted right at the top of the white wall facing the road. It was creepy but beautiful, and also extraordinary, because the building was at least twenty storeys high, and on that particular wall there were no balconies or windows.

A lively discussion took off in the car as to how the artist had done this.
“Ladder,” said my husband.
“It’s about forty metres high,” I objected.
“Abseiling,” suggested a daughter. “He did it hanging from the roof.”
“But then he’d have been swinging about,” her sister pointed out. “And the lines are so defined.”

I have no idea how people paint giant crows on the top of buildings, just as I have no idea how graffitists leave their tags along the sides of high-tension railway tracks, or inside high-security tunnels. Even more interesting question to me though is why they do it. What is it about the human psyche that makes it so compelling to risk your life abseiling down buildings or trespassing on private property, just to leave a creative mark? As I wrote this I tapped “creativity” into my search engine. Google returned thousands of offerings. My favourites come, unsurprisingly, from Picasso – notably “the chief enemy to creativity is good sense”, which seems to tally perfectly with my abseiling artist, along with Matisse’s “creativity takes courage”. But I also love Picasso’s “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

The transformative power of art is one of its most powerful attributes. My new book – TIME FOR JAS, the last in the Gadsby Family – features an anonymous street artist, whose chalk drawings seem to follow the narrator Bluebell wherever she goes, making her look differently at the world. The inspiration for my secret street artist was born on London’s Millenium Bridge, where “Chewing Gum artist” Ben Wilson has painted over hundreds of pieces of spat-out gum, transforming them into tiny works of art (http://bit.ly/2bbnVYR ). In a way, making art out of chewed up gum seems as mad as to hang off the side of a building to paint a crow. And yet, as Wilson explains in the article, he received requests from people all over the world, asking him to commemorate specific events. Coloured-up, once discarded pieces of gum thus become a way of linking people (just as the bridge itself serves as a link between the two sides of the Thames). I knew nothing about this when I first saw the gum art, however. I saw only exquisitely drawn, minutely detailed little splashes of colour which made me smile, and wonder, and delight in the fact that someone, for whatever reasons, had been compelled to random acts of beauty. And so the idea of a secret artist seeded itself, and took root, and over time developed into something else, but retained at its core the idea of someone who needed to say something, but could only do it anonymously, on a public stage, using pictures instead of words.

There are as many reasons why artists choose to express themselves using the street as their canvas as there are artists, from political activism to commentary on the perceived confines of the art world. Fundamentally, though, creative expression is about making connections – with other people, with the universe, with our own demons. Since the beginning of time, human beings have turned to art in times of turmoil. Prisoners made art in Auschwitz. Oscar Wilde wrote poetry in jail. There is a makeshift art school in the Calais Jungle. And it is no coincidence that the pool of artists suffering from depression and mental illness is so vast. At its most fundamental level, art in all its forms is about reaching out and saying, “I am here”. It is about saying, don’t look at me – broken, poor, sick, depressed and ultimately insignificant. Look at what I am capable of. Look at how I see the world.

My mysterious Portuguese street artist, the person who hangs off a building to draw a crow, whose name I will never know, has left his mark on me. “You don’t know me,” his drawing says, “but you know what I can do, and you will never forget me.”

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