You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance

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One day, I will be able to review books within days of reading them.  Today is not that day, but it is the day I share my thoughts with you on You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance.

You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, Don't Bend the Spine, UK Book Blog

You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance

Publication Date: 23rd August 2018
Hot Key Books
Genre: YA
Paperback, 377 pages
I have a deadly tropical disease!  It will probably kill me before the summer is over!  Or… maybe not. After an embarrassingly dramatic self-diagnosis, Gracie realises she is not, in fact, about to die.  She also realises there’s more to life than sitting in her bedroom and studying.  Life is happening NOW and Gracie decides to stop worrying and start LIVING.  BORING Gracie is GONE.  EXCITING, carefree Gracie is HERE!  LAUGH out loud with Gracie as she does her best to LIVE LIFE to the full…



At YALC this year, there were a number of books I was hoping to get my hands on earlier than scheduled publication, with one of them being You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance.  I couldn’t see it was available to buy on the Hot Key Books stall and I was a little disappointed to leave YALC without a copy in my hand.   However, my disappointment turned to joy a few weeks later when the amazing team at Hot Key Books kindly sent me a copy of the finished edition to read and review.  I love you, guys.

It was the timing of it all that was so unbearable. Surely the only thing worse than being struck down by a deadly tropical disease is being struck down two weeks after you finish your exams.

Gracie Dart vows to live every day as if it’s her last after an embarrassing assessment with an NHS nurse, who quickly notices the “tropical disease” Gracie has self-diagnosed herself with is actually down to a mishap with a bottle of fake tan.  Thanks, Dr Google.   Shunning her textbooks for bungee jumps, donkey rides and an impromptu trip abroad, Gracie abandons her dreams of academic success to try a new way of living.

In a completely different direction to her previous novels, Jess Vallance brings us an enjoyable and relatable YA contemporary in the form of You Only Live Once.  Highlighting the pressures teenagers are under academically, Gracie’s tale of seizing the day was hilarious, relatable and surprisingly emotional.  There was one scene in particular that nearly made me cry.  Why did you do that to us, Jess?  Even though I had been kindly gifted a paperback copy of You Only Live Once, I also bought the book on Kindle so I could squeeze in some early morning and late night reading.   Despite the book being over 300 pages, I devoured it in a matter of hours.

I can see why You Only Live Once is attracting comparisons to Geek Girl, however, I do feel that this is a book that can stand on its own merits.  What I liked most about You Only Live Once was how Gracie was shown to work hard at school (perhaps too hard at times) as it wasn’t a case of her being intelligent without having to study.   For me, portraying Gracie this way meant that she was more realistic as a character and as a reader I could empathise with her.  Even though it’s been a few years since I was at school, I could still relate to Gracie’s worries of failure as I can recall putting myself under the same pressure when I was her age.

On a negative note, I didn’t enjoy the storyline involving Spider and Vicky.  Whilst it certainly was something new, and arguably something a little different, the actions of Gracie during this time didn’t sit right with me and I willed her to come to her senses.  

Gracie was a great protagonist to root for; likeable, witty and a little frustrating at times.   Can I also just say, I loved that she was a lesbian, and how everyone was so accepting when she finally ‘came out’.  I desperately want more lesbian representation in YA, and Gracie and Sarah are the cutest couple I could have hoped for.  More, please!  Gracie’s best friend Till was hilariously deadpan and straight to the point, and I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.  In terms of her family, I thought her mum and dad were portrayed well, and her relaxed older brother Ollie added a contrast to Gracie’s study-obsessed self.  I am not going to lie; I wasn’t a fan of her younger brother Paddy and I didn’t find him funny, at all.  However, some of my fellow book lovers loved Paddy, so perhaps it’s just me?

Yeah, you want to live for the moment. I get that. But then at some point, the future will be the moment. The future will become the present. The future present.

You Only Live Once is the first in a new series by Vallance, with the second and third instalment due in 2019. I will definitely be picking up a copy of To Be Perfectly Honest as I must know what Gracie gets up to next.  The thought of Gracie making a promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing BUT the truth sounds too good to pass up.  Roll on, February!

Rating:  4* | Recommend? Yes

10th November 2018
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  • Reply Kelsey

    I love Jess Vallance so I’m glad to see you liked her latest one, I will have to pick it up!

    14th November 2018 at 11:18 am
  • Reply Faye

    I love the sound of this book and it’s already sitting on my TBR so I may just have to push it a little higher!

    1st December 2018 at 11:16 am
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