Refraction by Naomi Hughes review

Refraction by Naomi Hughes

And this time I knew the genre before I started reading!


5 stars (or 9 or 10 or 100)


As you probably know I absolutely adored Afterimage so it didn’t take me long to order Refraction. On a side note, both books are gorgeous! The cover art, designed by Rosie Stewart is stunning and fits each story perfectly. They also look brilliant on a shelf together which warms my little book dragon heart.


Onto the actual book!

Once again Naomi manages to perfectly balance the emotional rollercoaster that is having siblings and family with a clearly beloved sci-fi story. Also we have another really careful and considerate representation of mental illness in Marty’s OCD. I love that in both books we have two extremely capable protagonists who are dealing with all the crap that the plot can throw at them at the same time as coping with their mental health and illnesses.

I think Naomi does such a wonderful job showing how characters can actually be the protagonists; the hero of the story without the story being simply one about their illness or god forbid providing them with a f*cking magical cure****

While I don’t *think* this is an #ownvoices representation of OCD *** ; it is really carefully handled with such respect. I love Marty so much, especially his frustration at thinking he was “cured” only to find himself struggling with the thoughts he thought he’d overcome. I felt his pain as my own and really isn’t that what great writing is supposed to do?

This is where I surprise nobody by crying

I expected it; I really did. I mean when was the last time I didn’t actually cry at what I was reading? When Marty’s relationship with the missing Ty was introduced, I just knew it would happen eventually. When Marty and Elliot build their relationship in the fog, I expected to cry at this new found family. But when I got to the halfway point and hadn’t teared up yet turns out I had been lulled into a false sense of security.

We get to the last 50/60 pages and I am in floods. I was reading in bed so it was struggle to find a position in which I could still read (and breathe since my nose was blocked with tears) but my tears weren’t soaking the pages. Marty’s journey from being so focused on seeing Ty to understanding how positive being selfless can be was wonderful. His acceptance of his own death and willingness to make sure Mirage isn’t alone during his death was one of the things I was sobbing at.

Elliot’s journey from being so isolated, so down on himself and so desperate for his mum’s love to actually understanding that that familial love can come from some many other places and that he is such a good person and actually deserves so much more is brilliant too. His realisation that his mum’s love isn’t the only kind of love out there is perfect; and his realisation that he can be the hero in spite of what she thinks is a really nice bit of characterisation by Naomi.

Like with Afterimage Naomi manages to explore sibling relationships so well in this book and what it means to actually love someone.

I don’t think anyone can replace Kyle from Afterimage in my heart but I really did love the relationship between Marty and Elliot. Both had lost their brothers by the time the book starts but throughout the book they find siblings in each other. They hate each other or at least dislike each other so much at the start of the book but they both learn to support each other with their various issues. Elliot supports Marty with his OCD without judgement, he just protects him. Marty helps Elliot both by getting Mirage to heal him and protect him in the end but without laughing and judgement in his fears such as the scorpions.

This is just a really longwinded way of saying how much I adore Naomi’s writing. Her characters are so full of life and wonderfully real. Her worldbuilding is so immersive; her love of sci-fi is apparent on every page. Someone mentioned to me recently about trying to build a list of books that she could recommend to teenagers that dealt with invisible disabilities and mental health issues; the first books that came to mind were Naomi’s.

Anyway, enough gushing onto the next book!

See you in the future!

***turns out this is #ownvoices! I have so much respect for Naomi that she is able to talk about her own experiences with OCD so well that she can put it into her writing! I haven’t gotten to that level yet so Bravo!!

****In case it wasn’t clear, I HATE this trope. I’ve said it before and it’s so important. It’s OK to hate your disability/illness. It’s OK to be struggling. You aren’t there to be an inspiration for anyone. You aren’t there make anyone feel better. It’s possible to be the hero of your own story and just happen to have a disability. Your story doesn’t have to be just about your illness.

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