Blog Tour: Wishbones - Review and Author Interview with Virginia Macgregor

Today is my stop on the Blog Tour Wishbones, Virginia Macgregor's latest book and her first YA book. And not only is she stopping by to answer all my bookish questions, but I'm also reviewing this special story: 

Hi Virginia and welcome to Alba in Bookland. First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Germany to a German mother and English father and lived there until I was nearly three, then I moved to Corsica, a small island off France, until I was nearly five and after that moved to Oxford in England. Although I feel very English I also have an international outlook and can speak three languages, which I think deepens my understanding of people and makes me appreciate the richness of words. Last summer I moved to America with my husband and little girl – we now have a second little girl too – and this has also developed my experience of the huge differences and similarities between human beings. I’ve loved writing stories since I was a little girl and have always dreamt of being a full-time author. Nothing thrills me more than knowing that people enjoy reading my novels. 

Your latest book, Wishbones, is a YA novel about a girl trying to help her obese mother. What inspired you to write this story?
As a writer, I’m always inspired by strong contemporary issues. In Wishbones, I wanted to explore what it was like for a young girl to carry the burden of caring for her mother – a role reversal that is more prevalent in society than we realise. I am also interested in how our attitude to food and eating has become so psychological – whether it be starving ourselves or over-eating. Obesity is on the rise and I don’t think it’s as simple as people being greedy or eating too much fast food. As a teenager, I also struggled with eating issues so this aspect is personal to me. 

Your novels always handle several current issues. For example, your debut What Milo Saw touched on living with a disability, being a refugee and the problems in nursing homes. What can we expect in your new book?
As I mentioned above, I tackle social issues in all my novels. In my adult novel published this year, Before I Was Yours, I look at a couple’s longing to have a child and their journey through international adoption. In the YA novel I’m working on at the moment, the novel to follow Wishbones, I’m exploring how two people, from two very different worlds, are thrown together through a shared tragedy: they each have someone they love on a plane that goes missing. 

Talking about Milo, he was a really special little fella who had a very unique view in the world. I often find myself wondering about him. Do you think Feather is also such a special character? What makes her unique?
I love to write about slightly quirky but warm-hearted and courageous characters. I love that you’ve connected Milo and Feather, they certainly have a great deal in common. Feather is a wonderfully generous and loving daughter and friend; she is also an idealist who is having to come to terms with a broken world – including that of her parents. I love her determination, her positivity and her refusal to give up on helping the people she loves.

In your novels, animals also have important roles, like Hamlet the pig in Milo, a fox in your second novel and a goat in this one. Why is that? Do you have a special pet yourself?
I’m a great animal lover: I believe that they have a special spiritual connection, that they see and feel more than we do and that when we relate to them, and that they enrich our lives by letting us into these other worlds. I also think that we all have a special bond to a particular animal – I’ve always had a funny feeling that I was an elephant in a past life and, amazingly, my first little girl, Tennessee Skye, has turned out to love elephants (without any prompting from me). All this makes me sound a bit kooky but I’m convinced that animals are pretty magical. It’s also why I’m a vegetarian.

I’ve had one or more cats my whole life and they hold a special place in my heart but if I could choose I’d live with a whole menagerie – I’ve always dreamt of having a baby goat so by writing Houdini into Wishbones, I was able to experience that vicariously! I think that children and teenagers, in particular, have a special bond to animals: they can confide in them and, through them, they learn important lessons about caring for other living beings. I love to watch my little girls interacting with animals.

Why do you write your novels from multiple points of view? Is it difficult to get into the minds of such different characters?
Although it’s a challenge to get so many voices and points of view right it also makes the writing process fun. The reason I like to write from multiple points of view is because I believe that every story can be seen from many different angles, especially stories with controversial issues at their heart. I love to read books written in this way too.

Finally, what can we expect from you next? 
I’ve mentioned that my third adult novel, Before I Was Yours, is out in paperback this summer. I’ve just finished the first draft of my fourth adult novel, out in 2018, called Forgetting You about a man found in a London park with no knowledge of who he is or where he’s from. I’m also working on my second YA book, also mentioned above, called As Far As The Stars: a love story between two teenagers brought together through tragedy.

Title: Wishbones
Author: Virginia Macgregor
Published: May 18th 2017 by HQ Stories

Blurb: Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships

When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother – one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problem run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Review: I had read Virginia Macgregor's previous books, so I knew her style was something special, with thought-provoking topics and very complex characters but this time the story is intended for the YA audience. I have been reading this genre a lot lately, so I was very curious to see how this author handled it. 

The first difference I noticed from her previous books is that this one is narrated only by one character, Feather. We only get her point of view in the story and as everyone is adamant of keeping secrets from her, we don't know what is going on until we have read quite a lot of the story. I think that this worked well though. It really helped me to get Feather and her frustration at not being told about "adult problems". 

Feather is a really determined and stubborn teen. As it says in the blurb, she has two wishes, to make her mum lose weight and get healthy and to win a swimming championship, and she will stop at nothing to get these wishes. It was both inspiring and heart-breaking to read about her. Especially heart-breaking because all her efforts were not really well received by her parents. This annoyed me quite a bit at the beginning as I didn't understand how her parents could be so irresponsible and careless. But as we got to know them too and we slowly discovered all their secrets, I started understanding everything and I ended up caring a lot for them.

This story handles really heavy topics, focusing especially in eating disorders, but also loneliness, mental health and immigration. The main message I got from the story is a really strong one, how these illnesses can touch anybody and how important it is to have the support of your family and friends. But also it talks about how important it is to feel good with oneself, no matter how you look, how you dress, how "different" you are. 

Feather and her parents are not the only characters in this story though, from their goat pet to the new boy who has just moved from NYC, this book is full of unique people (and animals) that will touch many hearts. As I said, it took me a while to get into this story but once it got going, it was completely worth it. A very special novel that will resonate with many readers. 

Rating: 4 stars

I would like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. This is my honest opinion.

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