Why The Build Up Season Was Unexpectedly Heartbreaking | Blog Tour + Interview

by - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Build Up Season Book Review | sprinkledpages

Hey friends! 

Today I’m going to be sharing with you another #loveozya blog tour for The Build Up Season by Megan Jacobson and so happy to say that I absolutely loved this book too! (The other blog tour I did recently for a #loveozya read was for Wreck by Fleur Ferris).

I hadn’t had a chance to read Jacobson’s other book, Yellow, before reading this, which I will for sure be picking up in the future, but I had heard such high praise about her work and I was excited to see how her novel would pan out. And damn was it amazing! 

One thing I wanted to add, which I thought was very cool was the design of this book! Other than the stunning cover, the spine itself has a ombre of purple, orange, pink and yellow, which the author had told me on Twitter, was inspired by the Darwin sunset. Is that not the coolest thing ever?

This review will be spoiler free and thank you so much to Penguin Teen for giving me the opportunity to interview Jacobson and of course to Jacobson herself for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Let’s get started!

About the book. 

Book: The Build Up Season
Author: Megan Jacobson
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Publication date: 31 July 2017
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Iliad Piper – Ily for short – is named after war and angry at the world. Growing up with a violent father and abused mother, she doesn’t know how to do relationships, family or friends. Her love-hate friendship with Max turns into a prank war and she nearly destroys her first true friendship with misfit Mia. She takes off her armour for nobody, until she meets Jared, a local actor and someone who's as complicated as she is. (source)
Genre: Contemporary
Recommended for: Anyone 14+
Trigger warnings: domestic violence

The interview.

      1. What are three words you'd use to describe the gist of your book for those who don't know anything about it?
Pranks. Tropics. Resilience.
(Although if I’m allowed to use five words, the log line is ‘Love Shouldn’t be a Battlefield)
2. Talking about the exterior first! You said that the spine of your book was inspired by the sunset in Darwin! What does your city mean to you and how do you think your feelings about it reflect in The Build-Up Season?
Ah, thank you, I love love love the cover they made me! This book couldn’t have been set in any other place, the harsh beauty of the NT setting leaks out of every page and becomes a sort of character in itself. The weather becomes a metaphor for the actions that are unfolding - how the air becomes claustrophobic and the humidity starts to tighten its grip and everything gets more and more oppressive. The Top End has got a harshness to the landscape, but as Max says about the land ‘she’s not cruel, she’s just wild.’ I love how the city is so multicultural, and I love the Indigenous and Asian and Greek influences in the food and culture of the place. I love how it’s totally normal to go fishing with giant crocodiles. I love how anything goes, how nobody takes themselves too seriously. I love how my family still live there. My nieces, nephews and great nephews are Indigenous, and they rarely get to see themselves or their culture depicted in our stories. Through Max, I wanted to represent the Indigenous Darwin families I know and grew up with - their humour, their strong sense of family, their connection to the land and the pride in their culture.
3. This is your second novel, the first being YELLOW which was a CBCA shortlisted novel. What kind of thoughts or struggles did you experience in writing a second novel after a hugely successful first novel?
I wrote the first draft of The Build-Up Season while I was editing Yellow, before it was even released, so I had no idea how any of the publishing malarkey would go. I strangely don’t think too much about audiences while I’m writing, that’s too nerve wracking when you really stop to think about it, and it’s especially not wise to think too much about it as you’re bashing out a first draft. Instead, I just try to listen closely to what the characters want to say, and I focus on following their lead. If people like it, that’s great, but you can’t predict external factors so it’s no use worrying about them. I just concentrate on trying to write the best story I’m able to write, because that’s the only thing I can control. Once I know I can’t do any more editing, I let it go, and I hope it’ll be ok out there in the world.
If anything, The Build-Up Season was a little easier to write, because I knew I was capable of writing a novel. Yellow was the first novel I’d ever written, it was about 65 thousand words longer than any story I’d ever written before that, so there were so many times when I was waist deep in the manuscript and wondering whether I could ever wade through it and come out the other side. With The Build-Up Season, when I’d be struck down by those (many, many) moments of doubt, I at least had the knowledge that it was possible to get past it. I’d finished a novel once so I could do it again.
4. What are your top three favourite YA books you can recommend?
Must you make me choose? There are so many! If forced, at gunpoint, I’d say -
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Grafitti Moon by Cath Crowley
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
But honestly, I could rattle off a couple of dozen of my favourites.
      5. When writing characters, who do you draw inspiration from/base your characters on? And what are some tips you might have about writing characters that readers can resonate with?
My characters usually come to me first, fully formed, and I have to sit with them for a while and coax out their stories from them - I need to wait for them to talk. Kirra was sort of like a dream girl, whisper-soft and standing in the shadows, quietly wanting me to follow, whereas Ily forced herself into my consciousness and it felt like she was grabbing my arm and dragging me along, rolling her eyes and sticking her tongue out at me.

I was actually working on a different story at the time, but Ily wouldn’t let me go, so I dropped that idea and turned my attentions to her. However, I didn’t have a story for her yet. I just had the characters of Ily, and through her, Jared and Eve, but that was it. The others would pop up later as I started writing, I didn’t even mean to have a Nan character, but she hobbled into the living room as I was writing the scene, and there she was.

The inspiration for the storyline however came from working in ABC TV news. The Rosie Batty story really affected me, and then we ran a story about how women between the ages of 18 and 23 were twice as likely than older women to experience abuse in their relationships. Part of the reason for that is because young women often don’t have the relationship experience yet to know what their boundaries are, or what is considered unhealthy. We are raised on stories where controlling, jealous, co-dependent behaviours are seen as romantic (*cough cough* Twilight). I dated a guy in my early twenties who was controlling, jealous and would occasionally push me and punch the wall next to my head, but I didn’t realise it was abuse because he never physically punched me, and most of the time he acted pretty nice. I just thought his behaviour was how guys lost their tempers, because I was young and inexperienced and all the portrayals of domestic violence I’d ever seen involved black eyes and broken bones and it was very black and white. I wanted to write a story that explored the grey - the ‘build up’ of bad behaviours - and I wanted to show young girls what to look out for.

So, covering that news story was a big inspiration for me.

As far as writing characters that readers can resonate with, I think you’ve just got to try your best to be as real as you can be. To press your ear against your soul and listen hard to your emotional truths. Once I knew what Ily’s story would be, I wrote from instinct, thinking - what would a person do with this sort of background, in this sort of situation? After I’d finished the first draft I thought I’d research how children are affected when they are raised in violent households, and it was uncanny how Ily embodied nearly every trait – the withdrawal from friends, the way their studies are affected by worry, the way they often act out themselves, and how girls of violent fathers are statistically much more likely to end up in their own abusive relationships. It was so strange how spot on her character was.

Finally, I was inspired greatly by Lorde. When I saw the video clips for Royals and Tennis Court I was struck by how her energy seemed to match the energy of Ily, as I felt her in my head. I loved how Lorde seemed so fierce, yet defensive, kind of aggressive but also intensely vulnerable in those clips. Whenever I was stuck in the writing process I’d watch those videoclips and try to tap into those emotions when I wrote Ily.

Gosh that was a long ramble. I hope it made sense?

Thanks so much for having me!

X m

My thoughts.

{ writing }

I think it can be agreed upon that Jacobson’s writing is marvellous. This book was engaging from page one and incredibly hard to put down. It drew me into Ily’s life and thoughts and I found her to be such an interesting and enigmatic character. The prose was easy to read and the casual language added a lightness and realness to the book. The Build Up Season was confronting and compelling and the exploration of various themes and topics left me heartbroken. It was so amazing that at times, I had to put it aside to catch my breath because it got difficult to read occasionally. 

One thing I have to mention is how well Jacobson links everything together and the overarching themes that link not only to the characters and the written words on the page, but the title and the cover. It was a very clever story! 

{ idea + plot }

I feel like this stood out to me compared to the other contemporaries I read. Other than having a really powerful main character and one that really resonated with me, I loved the very open and frank discussions about domestic violence, sex, feeling unwanted and even anger as a topic. There was an Indigenous main character, which was so great to see because not many Australian YA novels I have read have had that representation. 

The Build Up Season Book Review | sprinkledpages

I thought domestic violence was a great topic to discuss in YA because it tends to mostly be a New Adult or Adult topic but it affects more than just adults – often teens are the ones that experience these issues too. The frank discussion of sex all while dismantling common YA sex stereotypes was so refreshing and something other authors need to take on board into their work for the future too!
While I had already guessed the ending, it was more on the account of having read a similar book previously and I don’t think it’d be that obvious to those who haven’t read said book.

{ characters }

MY FAVOURITE PART OF THE BOOK! The characters were my favourite part of the book, especially the character development. 

Let’s start of with my favourite. Ily! I love anti-heroes which is the first thing you should know about me. And I rarely get to see anti-heroes in contemporaries until….The Build Up Season! Ily was such a great and questionable character and she resonated so so much with me, especially since I consider myself a bit of an anti-hero! 

I have heard from other bloggers who have also read this book that they didn’t like her because she was unlikeable at times, but to me, that was her character and I could understand and empathise with her, especially seeing the source of her anger. I loved seeing her on the page because she was what I call an ‘anti-hero with a conscience’. I loved seeing her struggle (not like that, just in that it was well written and very realistic!) with her anger and aggression where she could throw and break things in her anger, and due to her inability to apologise, would find another way to make it up to her mother because it added just so much more complexity and layers to her. 

The other characters were terrific too! Sweet Mia who was the cutest cinnamon roll ever and Max who is such a darling. I had a special space in my heart of Ily’s sassy Nan and zen-loving Mum and these characters were all so fabulous and well developed it was astonishing. 

{ overall }

This is one of my favourite reads of 2017, hands down. The moment I read the very last sentence on the very last page, I knew it. My eyes were filling with tears and my heart was breaking and I knew that this was an incredible, incredible book. 

I highly highly recommend you read this, and purchase if you can too to support local writers! And if not, ask your library to bring a copy in which is always a great alternative, but this is so worth reading!


What's one of your favourite reads of 2017?

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16 happy thoughts

  1. This sounds EXCELLENT. I just finished Bad Romance, which is also about dating violence. While not something I've personally experienced, I definitely think it deserves a nuanced portrayal in stories. Two of my favourite books this year have been A Room With a View and Beauty Queens (not counting rereads which I already love)
    Shanti @ Virtually Read

    1. Oooh I haven't heard of those but I'll check them out for sure - thank you for the recs!

  2. Firstly, this book cover and binding is just GORGEOUS. And I love that you interviewed the author, that is SO COOL. I think I would really like Ily, and I am so happy that domestic violence is actually discussed in this book. I feel like it is often mentioned in passing but never focused on. Anyway, awesome review, Anisha!

    1. So glad to hear you enjoyed Erin! And yes it was very cool :)

  3. Ohhh this is a great post, Anisha, thank you for sharing and talking about this book. I hadn't heard about it before but it sounds very good - also I LOVE that cover? It is stunning.
    I'm so glad you felt like that one stood out with its characters and powerful, open discussions about themes that aren't too often here or taken into account in YA books. I haven't read a contemporary dealing with domestic violence - not that comes to mind right now, but I am curious about reading that one now.
    And to answer your question...It's too hard to choose one favorite read?! Haha. I loved The Color Project and 180 seconds and I'll Meet You There this year, all are the books that come to mind :)

    1. YES THE COVER IS FANTASTIC! And ooh I'm excited to read The Colour Project. So glad to hear you enjoyed it Marie and I hope you pick it up!

  4. Yay, I'm happy you liked this one! I think the cover is absolutely phenomenal (really, lots of love to OZYA covers! They're all so magnetic) and I love the thought of an anti-hero MC! It seems like this contemporary also deals much with lots of open and direct topics, which is very refreshing and good to have open discussions about. Great review and interview!

    - Aila @ Happy Indulgence

  5. DING DING DING!!! I seriously needed to read this book yesterday. I love love love that spine, and I might even resolve to buy a copy JUST for that! (Not good that I'm already starting to put together a mental list of books to buy in August...) I ashamedly must admit that I have not read an Indigenous character before in YA - how is that possible? That's pretty sad and embarrassing. The characters sound bloody amazing! And I love reading more and more about abusive relationships, although it is a difficult issue to address. It's kind of therapeutic for me, even though it's a bit painful for me personally at times. It's funny how you don't always pick up that abusive relationships aren't always about the physical pain..

    Also loved the interview! I really want to meet Megan, but I might be busy on the Friday when she's talking in Sydney!

    Cass @ Words on Paper

    1. YES YES YES OMG READ IT IT'S SO SO GOOD! And don't worry, before this book neither had I! I totally know what you mean and thank you for this amazingly long comment you have just made my day!

  6. Thanks for sharing so much about this book and author, both new to me! First, that really is a gorgeous cover and spine! Second, I love how the author described developing her characters. And third, your review has convinced me to add it to my tbr! :)

  7. This sounds like such a great story! I'm definitely going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

  8. I loved Yellow by Megan Jacobson so I must check this out soon! I'm kinda reluctant to pick it up because the synopsis doesn't appeal or interest me, but I'm hoping the actual plot is more interesting since I do end up forgetting the synopsis of most books I read. Great review, Anisha!!



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