Cover Image: Toxic


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I’ve grown out of YA in recent years - it has to be something special for me not to give up on it. 
This, dear reader, is that something special. I can’t remember reading a YA book that has such a clear toxic friendship that our main character is not privy to or is blind to for most of the book. I felt so bad for Llewella, I saw many teenage girls I have known in her character and in Aretha’s cunningness. On top of that, we get some GREAT anxiety rep. It is done so well and really displays the despair in how a relapse in a mental health condition is like for someone who thought they were “cured” . I have had a number of people in my life who have acted to a point like Aretha and I didn’t quite realise until reading this that they were manipulating me to a point - not as toxic as this relationship, but I think it is great that teens will get to read situations like this vs the ‘worst case scenarios’ and controlling romantic relationships that are brought up in health classes and the like.

A must for any school library.
Was this review helpful?
A toxic friendship that begins with Llewella missing out on a friendship as she feels unable to fit in. But Aretha arrives and changes things but Llewella cannot see what a tangled and toxic web she is being drawn into . Great as usual from Natasha Devon
Was this review helpful?
An intriguing and warmly written story of teenage female friendship and coercive/toxic behaviour. Loo meets a new girl at her school and they quickly become close, but as their friendship develops, Loo’s new friend begins to exert a strong influence over her and manipulate her behaviour. I found the subplot about Loo getting a TV guest spot based on her blog about toilets a bit far-fetched, but overall it’s a thought-provoking story.
Was this review helpful?
Great primer for teen girls on the kind of relationship to avoid, I think it would be genuinely helpful. I found it quite frustrating how long it took her to realise, or for anyone to step in, but I guess that’s the point. A great exploration of anxiety too.
Was this review helpful?
This was a great book that depicted a toxic female friendship in an unflinching, realistic way. I think this would be beneficial to so many younger readers as it discusses extremely important and relevant topics such as race, privilege, mental health and body confidence.

I loved the protagonist, Llewella, and enjoyed being in her head. The references to The Merchant of Venice throughout were thought-provoking and hopefully will inspire younger readers to delve into a lesser loved Shakespeare play.
Was this review helpful?
Honestly I had to give up on this one. I don’t know if it’s because I’m now ‘old’ but the constant buzzwords and - I cringe at saying this as a woke person myself - the woke-isms. I couldn’t pay attention to anything but the language, it was just constant. I guess it could have eventually become a plot point, but it was just too much for me. I don’t think I could carry out a conversation with this teenager, as laudable as her activism is. I did, however, love the concept of her blog - and my husband may have discovered his new hobby!

Sorry, DNF at 11% 🙁
Was this review helpful?
UCLAN Publishing have themselves another stunner on their hands. Yes this book covers difficult topics (thankful for the early trigger warnings list) but this is still an accessible, easily readable story that so many young people can (sadly) relate to today. Already got a copy on order for my Sixth Formers.
Was this review helpful?
This was a book that was easy to read and easy to get in with. Llewella was a character who was really likeable and I enjoyed reading her thoughts. For someone who knew what was coming, Aretha was easy to hate, but I could also see what Llewella saw in her so the friendship didn't see unrealistic at all, just toxic. 

There were trigger warnings at the start were useful, but it was also obvious that the author had put a lot of thought into how to make the book as sensitive to triggers as possible. As someone who is sometimes sensitive to eating disorder triggers and diet culture, I didn't find the book triggering at all. I really appreciated the thought that had been put into it. Of course that's not to say that the book wouldn't trigger someone else, so please check the warnings, both on this post and in the front of the book before reading. 

I really thought this book was just spectacularly well done. I could really see where the relationship was heading and I was worried for what Llewella would have left at the end of it. Well worth the read.
Was this review helpful?
This story follows Llewella (Loo) and Aretha; the former is a successful blogger and straight Grade A student, yet she has never had a best friend. Aretha, the new student in the sixth form at St Edith's High School for Girls in Chiddingwell, suburban Surrey, southern England, is confident, from London and seemingly enjoys a glamorous life. Loo sets out to befriend Aretha...

I enjoyed reading this book immensely and experiencing Loo's self-journey through the toxic relationship she had with Aretha. Well worth a look.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from UCLan Publishing via NetGalley at my request and this review is my own unbiased opinion.
Was this review helpful?
This book was good but not really for me. It unsettled me a little and I found it difficult to pick up and carry on reading. It wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be unfortunately. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Toxic made me stressed. In the good way, in the stay up after bedtime way, in the "I only took so long to read this because work and sleep are mandatory" way. It was such a perfect exploration of toxic relationships which we've all had one or two of I'm sure. Maybe not as bad as Aretha and Loo but with the same essence. I could see myself in Loo, falling into the same rabbit-hole of support Aretha, bowing down to her. But at the same time Aretha was so wonderfully realised, so human - not a caricature, that you can't blame Loo for the path she takes.

Other things of note: this made me miss Aberystwyth with my whole heart even though they were there for a day and a night; pointing out that S Club 7 and The Spice Girls were from the 90s was uncalled for and hurtful :( I don't need to be reminded of that!
Was this review helpful?
This is a fast-paced and engaging YA contemporary about toxic friendships, mental illness and losing yourself to other people (aka it’s darker that you might expect - take the warnings seriously). Llewella is fairly isolated in her school - she’s sort of friends with Olivia, in the drama club and on the student council - but she doesn’t have anyone she’s really close to. Then the new girl Aretha arrives, and Llewella is captivated. Soon Aretha is the only person she wants to spend time with, and she gives up her successful blog (“Loo Reviews” - reviewing public toilets through the lens of anxiety and OCD) to start a ‘brand’ with Aretha instead, sinking her money, time and mental health into it. Her grades start to suffer, her anxiety is back in full force, and she doesn’t know how to navigate Aretha’s manipulative friendship.

As someone who not only went to an all-girls secondary school in the south east of England, but was a drama kid at said all-girls school, phewww did this book bring back some memories. Toxic is right. 

I usually have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy with diet culture, but I let it slide for this book because the diet culture is part of the whole bundle of toxicity (the references to disordered eating behaviours are included in the content warning at the beginning of the book.) The protagonist spends a lot of time thinking about other people’s bodies and comparing them to her own, and there’s also quite a few thoughts about calories although no specific numbers are mentioned. It’s uncomfortable but I think that’s kind of the point - Llewella’s body image issues are a result of the context, and their intensity is entwined with the intensity of her friendship with Aretha. 

I really enjoyed the ‘half-Welsh growing up in England’ elements because that was me too, although the Welsh characters talked like they were from the north when they’re from Camarthenshire (having looked it up, the author went to uni in Aberystwyth, so I assume that’s why she didn’t know colloquialisms from the south.) I’ve had all the ‘funny’ comments from English people, and I actually cackled when Maggie Thatcher closing the mines came up. You haven’t really talked to a Welsh person until they’ve called Thatcher a bitch. 

Llewella has an endearingly simplistic, teenage understanding of social justice, and there were moments I had to sigh ‘oh honey, that’s not how that works.’ (“women should support other women unconditionally.”) That wasn’t the only relatable bit, as viewed from a little distance - the important lesson that Llewella learned was that you can’t always help people if it means sacrificing yourself in the process - “You might be in a hole right now, but if I jump in with you it doesn’t help either of us.”

While I understand why Aretha’s self-diagnosis of bipolar is used as an explanation for her behaviour - it allows for Llewella’s understanding that her friend is struggling too, but that their friendship is still causing her harm - but it still felt iffy. I’d rather see manipulative behaviour written as manipulative behaviour alone, considering there is still a massive lack of non-stigmatising portrayals of bipolar.
Was this review helpful?
Toxic was a good YA read about the progress of a toxic friendship and its effects on main character and narrator, Llewella (her mum's Welsh, though why she picked "Llewella" as a name over far prettier, equally Welsh alternatives is anybody's guess). It does have the dubious advantage of being able to be shortened to "Loo", handy when you write a blog about public toilets, as she does.

Seventeen-year-old Llewella (I'm sorry, I can't call her Loo)  has a lot going for her - she's bright, talented and from a well to do family (she's never met her father, but her single mother has done well for herself), but suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. As a mixed race, not-thin girl at a private Surrey girls' school otherwise entirely populated, it seems, by thin blonde girls, she's also never felt she fitted in. When a new girl, Aretha, starts at the school, Llewella is immediately drawn to this apparent fellow outsider, and sets out to befriend her.

Llewella seemed quintessential Gen Z to me. My daughter is a similar age, just slightly younger, and all her opinions are exactly the same (and loudly expressed). 

It's obvious to the reader, if not to Llewella, that Aretha is a toxic and manipulative individual who's all about herself and has no genuine interest in Llewella's wellbeing, using her and abandoning her as it suits her, and telling multiple self-promoting lies. Aretha clearly has her own issues, but her behaviour is atrocious and has devastating effects on Llewella, damaging her confidence and causing her to lessen herself and turn down opportunities for fear of upsetting Aretha, who can't tolerate anyone else's success. That's never a good sign! The progress of their "friendship" is very well portrayed - it's hard to understand how someone as intelligent as Llewella doesn't get wise to Aretha's behaviour a bit sooner, but I guess she's young and vulnerable.

Llewella's mum seems remarkably hands-off, particularly given her daughter's mental health struggles. She says supportive things from time to time but seems to have little idea what's going on in Llewella's life. I did like the Welsh grandparents.

The story was very readable and although I couldn't really relate that much to Llewella's issues (I'm not in the target demographic, for one thing), she was a sympathetic character and the relationship with Aretha was expertly portrayed. I was never quite sure how much of her awful behaviour was conscious (we see a bit of her family life which suggests she's rarely challenged on anything) - but then we only see her from Llewella's viewpoint.

It did seem to fizzle out a little at the end, but it was a very good read which I'm sure will strike a chord with many readers.
Was this review helpful?
This is the first book I’ve read by Natasha but it certainly won’t be the last. I am hoping this becomes a series as I absolutely loved Llewella. I wanted to hug her but also wanted to shout at her at the choices she makes. Even though it’s classed as young adult I think adults will relate to the issues going on and the way Natasha dealt with the issues with sensitivity was heartfelt. I wanted to throw my kindle as I really hated Aretha  and the way she treated Llewella was shocking and made me want to scream when she kept making excuses for her. That’s anxiety for you it’s horrible thing to live with. I don’t have it but know people who do. Can’t wait to read more from Natasha
Was this review helpful?
An interesting story about two girls teenage friendship. Accurately reflects teenagers and their anxieties. Felt the characters were well developed and the plot moved along well enough.
Was this review helpful?
Toxic is a story of a Llewella Williams, straight A student with a history of panic attacks and, as a result of low self esteem, she allows herself to be swept up by the new girl Aretha, a self obsessed young woman who believes if you are not on her side then that means you are against her. 
Overall, I enjoyed the story and the red flags that Loo ignored, are red flags that I'm sure we can relate to as well. 
I would have liked to see more of what happened after Loo finally told Aretha how she felt. I felt it was a big build up, but no aftermath which I find unrealistic. There is also  drama with teenage friendships and with the kind of personality Aretha has, I would have liked to see how she responded to this friendship ending and, if she tried to get her own back on Loo.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book, it was easy to read, had good character building and was well written. It dealt with a lot of issues that many people will relate to in a sensitive appropriate way. 

I found it hard to put down and would thoroughly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
I throughly enjoyed reading this book and experiencing loo's self journey though a toxic relationship. 
I couldn't put the book down.
Was this review helpful?
Oh i loved this book!
It was nothing that I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it!
Despite being in my 30s, I still felt connected to the characters, and I really felt for Llewella. 
For a book that is under 300 pages, it felt so epic and had so much heart!
Was this review helpful?
Toxic by natasha devon 

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. 

Thank you to netgalley, uclan publishing and natasha devon for the opportunity to read this book. 

Let me start with a disclaimer that I do suffer with anxiety, depression and food related issues myself so that will be taken in mind with this review. 

With that said my first point in this review is this book gave me anxiety so any fellow suffers bare that in mind when thinking about reading this. In some ways it's good, it's an accurate depiction but it's whether you can handle it that matters. 

Given all of that I found loo and her friendship with Aretha extremely relatable. I've had several of those. There's no doubt loo was written well the author paid attention to all the little thought processes someone in that situation would have. 

That being said I found the ending disappointing and so I've had to rate it down. It ended the way anyone would want in theory I just wanted more, a bigger show of character development and maybe other people baring witness to that final confrontation. 

All in all I've given it a 3, it was okay. Loved the main character and what she represents but it wasn't amazing in a "I must scream about this from the roof" kind of way. i wish we had seen loo interact with her mam more and some of the chapters felt a bit disjointed. As if the story had continued and we just hadn't been told there was just a jump in time.
Was this review helpful?