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50+ Coming-of-age Masterworks

From angst-ridden introspection and existential awakenings, to dawning sexuality and taking those tentative first flutters from the nest, some of the world’s most enduring, unforgettable fiction is themed around growing up and coming-of-age. It’s something we can all relate to. All-consuming new desires mixed with fear and uncertainty. Shifting family and friendship relationships. The need to find your place in the world. These experiences are universal to us all.

Many coming-of-age classics have timeless sway. Take Bonjour Tristesse and Le Grande Meaulnes, for example. Though both set in France some decades ago, their differing perspectives on the complex anguish of complex first loves still resonate today. Then there’s The Outsiders, a powerful exploration of teen gangs and class conflict that’s as relevant now as it was in the sixties. The Catcher in the Rye is a similarly seminal novel, causing considerable controversy over the years for its unflinching portrayal of angst, alienation and disillusionment. For a more whimsical take on the teenage experience, I Capture the Castle sees a seventeen-year-old aspiring writer navigate the messy complexities of first love in a charming, bittersweet novel set around a crumbling castle. Another beautifully-written timeless treasure is Tuck Everlasting - though its protagonist is only ten, it brims with a coming-of-age spirit through the unique - and magical - way it explores life’s ever-shifting transitions. 

Related to this theme (though a totally different kind of book), The Vanishing Half moves through major life-points of its unforgettable characters with the theme of growing up and becoming yourself woven throughout, demonstrating that coming-of-age doesn’t only happen during one’s teenage years. Rather, it might be a drawn-out, gradual process. Another recently published novel with a potent, unique take on shifting to adulthood is The Innocents, in which two siblings live a strange Garden of Eden/Babes in the Wood poverty-stricken existence without adults.

For a gritty, heart-wrenching story of a boy’s struggle to find himself in contemporary London, try That Reminds Me. Then there’s The God Child, a dazzling debut that follows its protagonist’s childhood in Germany and England to young womanhood in Ghana, and Purple Hibiscus, an outstanding exploration of adolescent yearning for freedom in the aftermath of a Nigerian coup.

Unsurprisingly, novelists specialising in writing for young adults have created some true coming-of-age gems. Being a popping-your-cherry classic, mention must go to Judy Blume’s Forever. When it comes to contemporary novels, I especially recommend Meg Rosoff’s The Great Godden - an incredible future classic with all the impact and elegance of Bonjour Tristesse. It really is exceptional. For more UK-based Young Adult writers whose work strikes potent chords with adult readers, Natasha Carthew, Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan are outstanding, while personal favourites from across the pond include Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land and With the Fire on High, and Reneé Watson’s What Momma Left Me.

Wide-ranging in style, setting, genre and era, the fabulous books included in this collection will variously make you cry, cringe, laugh and think. They might also make you reminisce, reappraise, and feel your heart surge afresh. They’re also stories you’re likely to want to return to - over and over again.

Bonjour Tristesse

Bonjour Tristesse

Author: Francoise Sagan Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/04/2011

A Hay Festival and The Poole VOTE 100 BOOKS for Women Selection 'Late into the night we talked of love, of its complications. In my father's eyes they were imaginary. . . This conception of rapid, violent and passing love affairs appealed to my imagination. I was not at the age when fidelity is attractive. I knew very little about love.' The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cecile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures. But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cecile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences. Bonjour Tristesse scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cecile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.

The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)

The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)

Author: Henri Alain-Fournier, Adam Gopnik Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/05/2007

The Lost Estate is Robin Buss's translation of Henri Alain-Fournier's poignant study of lost love, Le Grand Meaulnes. 'I read it for the first time when I was seventeen and loved every page. I find its depiction of a golden time and place just as poignant now as I did then' Nick Hornby When Meaulnes first arrives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when Meaulnes disappears for several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house - and his love for the beautiful girl hidden within it, Yvonne de Galais - his life has been changed forever. In his restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes, observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had. Poised between youthful admiration and adult resignation, Alain-Fournier's compelling narrator carries the reader through this evocative and unbearably poignant portrayal of desperate friendship and vanished adolescence. Robin Buss's translation of Le Grand Meaulnes sensitively and accurately renders Alain-Fournier's poetically charged, expressive and deceptively simple style. In his introduction, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik discusses the life of Alain-Fournier, who was killed in the First World War after writing this, his only novel.

I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle

Author: Dodie Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2016

In a nutshell: Iconic | Outspoken | Big Issues | Difficult Truths A story about writing, this is also a wonderfully romantic story told by a young narrator trying to capture the unusual behaviour of her family and the life they lead in an unusual ruined castle as well as describing her own emotional turmoil. Cassandra is determined not to be pretentious as she tells the stories of her family and the story of her own desperate entanglement with the man who loves her sister. The result is a book that is delightfully entertaining and humorous. ~ Julia Eccleshare It is one of The Originals from Penguin - iconic, outspoken, first.  The Originals are the pioneers of fiction for young adults. From political awakening, war and unrequited love to addiction, teenage pregnancy and nuclear holocaust, The Originals confront big issues and articulate difficult truths. The collection includes: The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton, I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith, Postcards from No Man's Land - Aidan Chambers, After the First Death - Robert Cormier, Dear Nobody - Berlie Doherty, The Endless Steppe - Esther Hautzig, Buddy - Nigel Hinton, Across the Barricades - Joan Lingard, The Twelfth Day of July - Joan Lingard, No Turning Back - Beverley Naidoo, Z for Zachariah - Richard C. O'Brien, The Wave - Morton Rhue, The Red Pony - John Steinbeck, The Pearl - John Steinbeck, Stone Cold - Robert Swindells.

eBooks of the Month
The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J D Salinger Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/1994

A great teenage classic since its first publication in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye is now 60 years old. Holden Caulfield is the ultimate outsider; he is expelled from school, falls out with his friends and finally suffers a nervous breakdown. The book is a scathing attack on American society in the 1950’s seen through the eyes of one the most fascinating central characters ever created. Originally banned because of liberal use of profanity and powerful portrayal of teenage angst, The Catcher In The Rye has now been deemed essential reading for growing-up.   Shortlisted for the 2009 Penguin Orange Readers' Group Book of the Year.

Forever

Forever

Author: Judy Blume Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/01/2015

Judy Blume's classic novel, now available with a brand-new cover look to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Controversial when it was first published, Forever is a classic title which tenderly describes a first love affair and a first sexual experience. Michael and Katherine are in their last year at school when they begin going out together. They are sure that they love each other but are they both ready for sex? Judy Blume is tasteful and sensitive in describing Katherine’s need for certainty before she embarks on her first sexual experience; she is also wise on how Katherine’s parents subtly try to influence their daughter’s behaviour.

eBooks of the Month
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Author: Betty Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/09/1992

NOW CELEBRATING ITS 75th ANNIVERSARY Betty Smith's debut novel is universally regarded as a modern classic. The sprawling tale of an immigrant family in early 20th-century Brooklyn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of the great distinctively American novels. The Nolan family are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Originating in Ireland and Austria, their life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn is poor and deprived, but their sacrifices make it possible for their children to grow up in a land of boundless opportunity. Francie Nolan is the eldest daughter of the family. Alert, imaginative and resourceful, her journey through the first years of a century of profound change is difficult - and transformative. But amid the poverty and suffering among the poor of Brooklyn, there is hope, and the prospect of a brighter future.

David Copperfield - Compact Editions

David Copperfield - Compact Editions

Author: Charles Dickens Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/05/2007

David Copperfield runs away from home to stay with his Aunt Betsey and turn his life around, which he does, while facing many challenges along the way. In this Compact Edition cuts have been made to overlong passages of description and dialogue and some scenes or incidents with minor characters have been reduced but all the memorable eccentrics have been kept. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

eBooks of the Month
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/09/2012

A powerful and perceptive coming-of-age story, in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye, from a talented young filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. This cultish book exploring the sense of alienation that many teens experience and questioning who they are and where they belong is a bit of a marmite read (you will either love it or hate it) - so why not see where you stand?The film of the book starring Emma Watson and Logan Larman is due for release in September and you can view the trailer for it below.

eBooks of the Month
Normal People

Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/05/2019

A beautiful albeit painful story of the 4 year on-off relationship between two Irish teenagers. You feel the highs and the lows, the awkwardness yet exquisite nature of first love as well as the agony. Oh, the agony. Marianne is a loner at school, proud, intense, very clever, from a household without love or attention. Callum is charming, sporty, popular and intelligent. An unlikely match made even less likely by Callum’s mother being Marianne’s housekeeper but they have chemistry and a connection they can’t deny. Their relationship begins in secret adding to the challenges and feelings of worthlessness, so when you add in lashings of self doubt from both sides, you can see how the rollercoaster builds. All the memories of our formative years flash back as we become engrossed in their story. Just two normal people who fall in love. As the chapters alternate between our star-crossed lovers you will them together, you implore them to make it work. Always so far and yet so close. So close and yet so far. As their journey continues at Trinity College, Marianne blossoms and Callum shrinks into the background, losing his way, now the outsider feeling so out of place away from home. As they drift in and out of each other’s lives you are so emotionally invested in this oh so real love story. Bravo to Sally Rooney for her stunning narrative and writing which elevates this to another level. Be prepared to be heartbroken, just like the first time.

Audiobooks of the Month
We Run the Tides

We Run the Tides

Author: Vendela Vida Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

What an elegant, edge-of-your-seat triumph this is. Set near the ocean in 1980s San Francisco, Vendela Vida’s We Run the Tides explores the coming-of-age experiences of thirteen-year-old Eulabee and her best friend Maria Fabiola, an enigmatic, attractive, gets-whatever-she-wants kind of girl. They stride affluent Sea Cliff with supreme confidence - the streets are theirs, the world is theirs, and nothing can stop them: “We want to want. We want to love. We want to want love. We are on the precipice of having real boyfriends, of making out with them. We know this.” While walking to their elite girls’ school with other friends, they witness something disturbing. Or so Maria and the rest of the girls claim. Eulabee insists it didn’t happen - to her friends, and the police. Then, in the aftermath of this disagreement that sees Eulabee ostracised, Maria goes missing, prompting an outpouring of anxiety in the neighbourhood as the police investigate her suspected kidnapping. And so an intense entanglement - and unravelling - begins. The potency of teenage female friendship is masterfully evoked - tightly knotted, holding powerful sway, but also quick to fray. And Eulabee’s offbeat voice is mesmeric, authentic and often amusing, notably during the toe-curling account of her first sexual experience. Unique, unexpected, affecting and funny - you couldn’t ask for much more from a novel, and reading this has pushed the rest of Vendela Vida’s novels to the top of my must-read list. 

Books of the Month
Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting

Author: Natalie Babbitt Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/04/2020

First published in 1975, this extraordinary story of the friendship between the gentle Tuck family and ten-year-old Winnie feels older than its years, but also of our age, in the magical way true classics do. The story is enthrallingly set-up by juxtaposing three apparently unconnected happenings during the “strange and breathless days” of a hot August. As the Prologue states, and as things turn out, “things can come together in strange ways.” Dissatisfied at home, Winnie longs to do “something that would make some kind of difference in the world.” Certain this will never happen “if I stay in here like this,” she explores her family’s wood and chances upon a “glorious” boy who stops Winnie in her tracks, and warns her against drinking from a spring. Winnie meets the boy’s family - the Tucks - and discovers a “big, dangerous secret” that must ever be revealed if their way of life is to be preserved, if the equilibrium of humanity is to be maintained, for the spring seems to have granted the Tucks everlasting life.  In their company, in their warm-hearted, higgledy-piggledy home, Winnie “discovered the wings she’d always wished she had”. For their part, the Tucks say she’s the best thing that’s happened to them in “at least eighty years.” Then, when a yellow-suited stranger seeks to disrupt the Tuck’s lives, Winnie bravely leaps on her opportunity to make a difference. Dazzlingly written (how about this for a description of sunset? “The sun was dropping fast now, a soft, red sliding egg yolk”), this is a wondrously wise story. Take Tuck’s remarks about the nature of life and death: “You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.” With a bittersweet ending that brings tears to the eyes and warmth to the soul, I couldn’t love this book more. It’s that rare kind of tale that speaks of all things, to all ages.

Montpelier Parade

Montpelier Parade

Author: Karl Geary Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/01/2017

Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards 2017, First Novel Award Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. A deeply affecting debut about limitations and longing, lust and devotion between a working class boy and an enigmatic older woman.Dubliner Sonny first meets Vera while he’s helping his labourer dad work at her well-to-do Montpelier Parade house. He’s a directionless working class boy who thieves, fights and doesn’t fit in. His dad is a gambler and his mum works hard to keep their family afloat. Vera is beautiful, richer, older and English, and has no family, as far as Sonny is aware. A second chance encounter further arouses his fascination, and then she turns up at the butcher’s he works in and offers him odd job work. When Vera collapses, Sonny is the only one there to come to her rescue, while she, in turn, opens his eyes and heart to a hitherto hidden world of literature and art. Until meeting Vera, he “never had a book”, since “books were not meant for boys who cut meat”. Their relationship is evoked with sharp intensity, and a cutting awareness that this is transitory for them both. “I think years from now you’ll understand this and hate me for it”, Vera remarks as they lie in bed. The uncommon use of a second person narrative has a mesmerising and intensifying effect. Throughout we listen in on Sonny addressing himself; lonely, drifting, struggling, with an especially moving epiphany coming when he feels “sudden emotion” for his mother and plans to buy her “something nice”. This is a tender, tense coming-of-age story, with a masterfully executed denouement. ~ Joanne Owen The Costa Judges say: ‘A beautifully-written story about the pain and wonder of love found in unexpected places.’

eBooks of the Month
An Unsuitable Woman

An Unsuitable Woman

Author: Kat Gordon Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/05/2019

A darkly glamorous tale of hedonism, shifting social sands and coming-of-age crises - think The Great Gatsby in colonial Kenya. Fourteen-year-old Theo’s first impressions of his new life in East Africa - a world away from England - encapsulates this novel’s intoxicating sense of place: “Across the bay was Zanzibar...a stretch of brilliant white sand dotted with palms and matched by the whitewashed palace and fort at its edge. To the left I could see an Indian banyan tree, alive with vervet monkeys, and behind that, the shaded labyrinthine streets of Stone Town.” And then: “Kenya was the Africa I’d dreamed of”.  Soon after his family’s arrival, with his father appointed new Director of the railway, Theo fatefully meets twenty-something good-timers Freddie (Lord Hamilton) and Sylvie (introduced by Freddie as an “unsuitable woman”). Described by Sylvie as “absurdly handsome”, Theo is drawn into the decadent world of their notorious Happy Valley set. Against a backdrop of fluctuating politics, he finds himself caught in a web of compromising personal conundrums, while younger sister Maud comes to identify more with the colonised population than with her own colonial class.  Steeped in exhilarating atmosphere, coming-of-age conflicts, and historical intrigue, and boasting brilliant characterisation, this is an exquisitely entertaining showstopper of a story, best read while reclining with a comely cocktail to hand.  

Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood

Author: Haruki Murakami Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/05/2001

Read the haunting love story that turned Murakami into a literary superstar. When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire - to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past. 

A Man Who Is Not a Man

A Man Who Is Not a Man

Author: Thando Mgqolozana Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/01/2021

Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who is Not A Man is a coming-of-age tour de force. The writing is exceptional - always muscular, often raw, occasionally wry - as it explores masculinity through a young man’s journey to selfhood in the wake of a rite of passage that goes devastatingly wrong. After going off the rails in Cape Town, Lumkile resolves to put his days of drugs, theft and violence behind him when he moves to his mother’s rural village. Here he “went clean” and “decided to make something of myself”, and it’s not long before “Item One on my grand plan was just around the corner”. Namely, Lumkile begins the initiation process that will lead to his circumcision, to his journey to manhood. Above almost everything, he’s warned by elders to avoid hospital at all costs, for that would mean failure and “there is no living space for failed men in our society. Either you become a man in the expected way, or you are no one at all.” After being circumcised, he remains alone in the mountains, alone with his “burning agony”, alone with the stench of putrefying flesh - such is his fear of the shame and social ostracism seeking medical assistance would bring. Lumkile’s resistance to hospitalisation is incredibly harrowing, and there’s little respite when he’s admitted and continues to suffer in silence. But through surviving this physically and mentally excruciating experience, he summons the strength to speak out, realising that “Survival starts from within... As a so-called failed man, I have had to gain a new understanding of myself in context...My self-image is no longer dependent on what my society thinks of me but what I think of it.” Powerful stuff from an exceptional writer.

Star Books
What Momma Left Me

What Momma Left Me

Author: Renee Watson Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

Renée Watson’s remarkable What Momma Left Me is a wise and nourishing story rooted in themes of resilience, healing and love. With high school on the horizon, African American Serenity is struggling to piece her life back together following the brutal death of her beloved momma and the loss of her dad. Amidst this sensitively evoked maelstrom, Serenity finds hope in the form of her wholesome grandparents, church (where Grandpa is a pastor), brother Danny and new friend and confidante Maria, a bright beam of light who harbours her own bleak secrets. Serenity handles her grief, set-backs and challenging dilemmas with dignity, her grandparents a constant, calming presence as they impart wisdom, such as this nod to Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ poem: “That’s why we say ‘we rise’, children. There have been lots of things that have tried to keep us down. But we’ve got resilience running through these veins.”Empathetically charting Serenity’s grief, first romance and growing up (what Serenity does to save Maria from an unsafe situation shows strength and wisdom way beyond her years), this huge-hearted novel comes highly recommended for its honesty, depth and engaging readability, along with Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Watch Us Rise (the latter co-authored with Ellen Hagan). Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Dragonfly Eyes

Dragonfly Eyes

Author: Cao Wenxuan Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2021

Taking in five decades, three generations and the tender love between a girl and her grandmother, Dragonfly Eyes is an exquisitely-written novel set against a backdrop of unrest and change in 1960s Shanghai. With celebrated Chinese author Cao Wenxuan at the helm, readers are taken on an enthralling journey from a Golden Age in 1920s France, to poverty in post-war Shanghai, to rural Cultural Revolution China, in the beguiling company of Ah Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai.

Star Books
The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Supple and immersive, Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half is an epic, elegant story of sisters and mothers, of identity, and divisive racist and colourist mentalities that tear communities, families and individuals asunder. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful book, peppered with lines that latch (“When he visited, Desiree felt like a girl again, the years falling away like meat off the bone”), and an exquisitely crafted plot that threads generations through time, and across America - the Deep South, California, New York, and back.  “In Mallard, nobody married dark. Nobody left either.” But that’s exactly what identical twins Desiree and Stella do at the age of sixteen - they flee their “strange town” to start a new life in New Orleans. But after a time, Stella realises she can pass for white. After taking a job as a typist, she abandons Desiree for another new life as a white woman, eventually marrying her wealthy white boss who has no clue she’s black, and with whom she has a daughter who looks entirely white, to her relief. Meanwhile, Desiree’s path couldn’t be more different. She’s also married, with a “blueblack child”, and now, ten years after leaving, desperation forces her back to Mallard - she and her daughter need to escape domestic abuse. Through Stella’s fiercely emotive storyline we witness the most despicable bigotry when a Black family moves into her white neighbourhood. She’s agonisingly conflicted and tangled, especially when facing an unravelling of her fabricated identity. “She was one of the lucky ones. A husband who adored her, a happy daughter, a beautiful home. How could she complain about any of it?” And yet she’s desperately unfulfilled. Emptiness eats away at her; she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. As she says early on, she’s “split in two”. While following the sisters’ stories, Bennett brings in their daughters, and generations of secrets begin to bleed, creating a compelling, compassionate, consummately outstanding novel.

Star Books
That Reminds Me

That Reminds Me

Author: Derek Owusu Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/11/2019

Beginning with an address to Anansi, the trickster story teller god of African folklore, (“Anansi, your four gifts raised to nyame granted you no power over the stories I tell”), Derek Owusu’s That Reminds Me is a one-of-a-kind reading experience. K’s story will break your heart, and heal it. And Owusu’s writing will leave you stunned - it’s that unique, that honest, that impactful. K is a working-class boy born to Ghanaian parents in Tottenham. Fostered as a child, he’s relocated to an unfamiliar rural environment, where there are woods and fields instead of flats and video shops. When he returns to London at the age of eleven, the city has become alien to him - and his birth parents have too. Once again K must re-find himself. Piece himself together, and perhaps find friendship and love along with his identity. Told through K’s fragmented memories, this is an exceptional coming-of-age story that lingers long in the soul. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Star Books
Music Love Drugs War

Music Love Drugs War

Author: Geraldine Quigley Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/01/2019

A group of Derry friends are on the giddy verge of the rest of their lives. While much of their energy is expended on the opposite sex, smoking, drinking and hanging out at the Cave, their collective coming-of-age plays out against a backdrop of The Troubles - the hunger strike in Belfast prison, rioters on the streets of their petrol-scented city – and a soundtrack that includes post-punk visionaries like Joy Division, Gang of Four and Siouxsie and the Banshees. There aren’t many opportunities for any of the group, especially the girls among them, and so as the strike continues, and the violence escalates, and one of their friends is killed, Christy and Paddy take an irrevocable course of action. This multi-narrative novel is - by turns - humorous, hard-hitting, poignant and plentiful in period detail (music, clothes, poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity for the working class). A distinct and powerful debut.

Release

Release

Author: Patrick Ness Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/05/2017

***Recommended for 16+ due to content. Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | In a Nutshell: love, truth and the power of release  |  A gripping, soulful novel about a life-changing day, which will surely change the lives of those who read it. "Where on earth had this day come from? And where was it headed?" remarks 17 year-old Adam as a single day unfurls wave after wave of shattering disruption: first a revelation from his brother, next an ultimatum from his foul boss, then a destabilising announcement from his beloved best friend. And alongside Adam's unraveling, there’s the mesmerising narrative of the ghost of a murdered girl who’s risen from a lake in search of release. Partly modeled on two of the author’s most admired books (Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever), with this remarkable novel Ness once again demonstrates his profound understanding of the complexities of being a young adult, and of the human condition more generally. Adam’s story is pinpricked with truly nerve-touching moments, perhaps most poignantly between him and the overbearing father he fears coming-out to. At one point his dad reveals that he wishes Adam could be honest with him, and then Adam begins to let go. While revealing truths can be excruciatingly painful, doing so might also bring refreshing, life-affirming release. Heartbreaking, intense and acutely honest, this novel casts a subtle spell of hope. ~ Joanne Owen Walker has announced the tour dates for Patrick Ness, promoting Release. The tour will begin on 26 April with a "premiere" event in partnership with Waterstones at the Curzon cinema in Soho. Dates after that: Saturday 6 May, 2pm  Edinburgh - George Square Lecture Theatre (Blackwell's) Sunday 7 May, 3pm  Newcastle – Tyneside Cinema (Waterstones) Monday 8 May, 7pm  Manchester – Manchester Library (Waterstones) Tuesday 9 May, 7pm  Sheffield – The Library Theatre (Waterstones) Wednesday 10 May, 7pm  Birmingham – The Glee Club (Foyles) Thursday 11 May, 7pm  Dublin – Details TBC Sunday 14 May, 2:30pm  Brighton – Sallis Benney Theatre (Brighton Festivals)

eBooks of the Month
The Places I've Cried in Public

The Places I've Cried in Public

Author: Holly Bourne Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/10/2019

It looked like love. It felt like love. But this isn't a love story. Amelie fell hard for Reese. And she thought he loved her too. But she's starting to realise that real love isn't supposed to hurt like this. So now she's retracing their story, revisiting all the places he made her cry. Because if she works out what went wrong, perhaps she can finally learn how to get over him.

The Light That Gets Lost

The Light That Gets Lost

Author: Natasha Carthew Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/11/2016

In a Nutshell: Raw revenge | Exploitative institution  |  Brightening bonds  |   An unforgettable novel about revenge, abuses of authority and the redemptive power of friendship.  After witnessing his parents’ murder, Trey is sent to bleak Camp Kernow, a correctional institution for young offenders. Here, under the command of religious obsessives who are directed by the all-powerful Preacher, the inmates are set to work farming and slaughtering cattle in the name of salvation. But Trey has his own agenda. He’s there to avenge his parents’ killer, driven by an internal demon that “poked at him with talons and threatened to bust from the inside out”. Amidst an environment of ruthless bullying, and shocking revelations about what’s really going on around the camp, Trey forms friendships with shrewd Kay and ‘crazy’ Lamby. And when chaos is unleashed, these unexpected alliances become crucial to any chance of survival. This gripping novel explores challenging themes with ferocious flair and fearless originality. It will surely inspire much thought and discussion about, for example, what purpose revenge serves, trust, abuses of power, and whether anyone is simply “bad for the kick of things”, or whether people grow bad “like bacteria on foul meat”. Highly recommended for fans of Meg Rosoff and Patrick Ness.  ~ Joanne Owen

eBooks of the Month
Only the Ocean

Only the Ocean

Author: Natasha Carthew Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/11/2018

A stunningly original ocean adventure by a one-of-a-kind author whose work defies convention and abounds with a purity of ideas and execution. Kel was “always running away from something”, seeking escape “from the world she inhabited within and the world that bullied her from the outside”. She’s a swamper, born oceans apart from the wealthy tower people who live in the same Cornish coastal community. She’s also an unforgettable heroine, a girl with danger in her eyes, a baby to care for and “a stupid heart that beat wrong and was shaped wrong and had wrongness stretched clean through it”. Kel “didn’t want what the tower people had; she only wanted two things, a heart she could rely on and freedom from kin”, which is why she kidnaps Rose, the daughter of a cargo ship captain. Kel plans to use her ill-gotten gains to travel to South America to have a heart operation, because in the UK “swamp folk don’t get operations”. Aboard the ship Kel tracks down Rose and forces her to board a smaller vessel, soon running into trouble when the engine fails amidst scenes of devastation on the mainland. Steering clear of well-worn clichés, Carthew’s stories cut to the heart of human experience, often portraying and championing life’s underdogs and outsiders. What a thrilling, thought-provoking novel this is, brimming with perilous encounters, and the rawness of real-life relationships.

Books of the Month
Winter Damage

Winter Damage

Author: Natasha Carthew Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/08/2013

Winter Damage is set not very far from the here and now, in a world where things have fallen apart. It is a poetic, chilling and moving debut that will embrace you in its icy grip then thaw you from the heart out. It is a book that Rebecca McNally, Publishing Director for Bloomsbury Children’s Books, loved on first reading and feels is a future classic - download a Piece of Passion from Rebecca here.   In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Winter Damage a small number of teenagers were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Here's a taster....'Winter Damage is an intense, emotional and soul searching story following fifthteen year-old Ennor who is desperate to find her long lost mum.' Scroll down to read more.

eBooks of the Month
The God Child

The God Child

Author: Nana Oforiatta Ayim Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/11/2019

From childhood in Germany and England to young womanhood in Ghana, this enthralling novel follows a steadfastly thoughtful Ghanaian forging her own identity in the face of fractured family ties, tragedy and colonial imperialism. Though of illustrious heritage, Maya’s childhood as an émigré is complex, uncomfortable and evoked with lyrical precision. Her beautiful mother is self-absorbed, always scented with “powdery luxury” and critical of Maya. ”It’s a pity my child did not take my beauty”, she tells her reflection before counselling Maya to “always look more than perfect. Not just good enough, but perfect”. And Maya receives conflicting messages from her father too. “Boys will not like you if you are too clever”, he tells her, while also criticising an eight out of ten mark: “Why not ten out of ten? You must always do your best.”  The arrival of cousin Kojo changes everything. His impassioned talk of Ghana fuels Maya’s understanding of her mother country, her parents, and her own identity. She observes that Kojo’s knowledge “gave him the power to upset the order of things,” leading her to wonder, “Could I learn these secrets and codes, even though I did not grow up in our country?” When she and Kojo are sent to schools in England, Maya experiences the racism of peers who “touched my hair and stroked my skin and passed me round on their laps like a doll”, and Kojo is bullied. No wonder then that he decides that, “this is nothing but a small shitty island that doesn’t work properly. It’s a cold wet Third World country, but they made us think they were all powerful.” Later back in Germany, Maya is maddened by the cultural imperialism of her education: “I could not think of much that was more frightening than fitting into this pinched-in sterile world.”  Maya’s story is at once arresting and nuanced, and suffused in an elegant sense of triumph when she returns to Ghana, where Kojo has been struggling to set-up a museum, and in time finds her voice and purpose through navigating a tangle of personal misfortune and cultural complexities.

Star Books
Sarong Party Girls

Sarong Party Girls

Author: Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2019

Written in Singlish - “a tossed salad of the different languages and Chinese dialects that the country’s multiethnic population speaks” - this exhilarating novel follows brazen Jazzy’s mission to marry a wealthy “ang moh” (white) man. Almost 27, she warns her friends that ”if we don’t get married, engaged or even nail down a boyfriend soon—my god, we might as well go ahead and book a room at Singapore Casket… But luckily for us, we still have one big hope: ang moh guys”, because “if you wear a tight tight dress or short short skirt, these ang mohs will still steam over you”. To this end, Jazzy’s life is an intense cycle of spending her days working for a newspaper editor who likes to “rubba rubba” his employees, followed by long nights at fancy clubs. Through her predatory attitude and enduring of a whole lot of objectification, this novel is razor-sharp on male entitlement, inequality, racial stereotypes and global capitalism. Indeed, Jazzy wasn’t always a Sarong Party Girl herself: “I would see women who are so obviously going after guys just for status and really look down on them. What kind of woman is so pathetic to chase after a husband just for the kind of handbag, car or condo they can buy them?” And then one night, it seems that enough is enough. Jazzy has an epiphany at dawn after a one hell of a wake-up call night out. What a fresh, funny and wildly acerbic treat this is. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Debut Books of the Month
Bearmouth

Bearmouth

Author: Liz Hyder Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/09/2019

Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence.

Don't Look At Me Like That

Don't Look At Me Like That

Author: Diana Athill Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/12/2019

Acclaimed as an editor of unparalleled ingenuity, the late, great Diana Athill was herself a remarkable writer. Her memoirs and this - her only novel - are compelling, candid and affectingly meticulous, with a precise style reminiscent of Jean Rhys, whose work Athill edited and championed. Indeed, Meg, the main character here, with her self-critical wit, lodging house living and misfortune in matters of the heart is somewhat reminiscent of Rhys’s characters. The daughter of a poor pastor and distant mother, Meg found school “hateful and humiliating” and “knew that the adjectives most often used in connection with my name were ‘conceited’, ‘superior’ and ‘affected’”. But it’s here that Meg discovers her talent for drawing and befriends grown-up, glamorous, wealthy Roxane, to whom she remains complicatedly connected for many years. After attending art school in Oxford, Meg defies convention and moves to London where she finds some happiness in the chaos of a shared house.  While Meg becomes a sought-after illustrator, her existence always feels precariously unsettled. She falls in love with entirely the wrong man and their passionate affair renders her impotent in many regards. “Two sayings which I detest”, she declares: “You must face facts” and “You can’t have your cake and eat it’”. And herein lies Meg’s fundamental struggle to find ease (her needs and outlook are at odds with the world), which Athill explores to intense affect in this luminous coming-of-age treasure.

Star Books
NICK

NICK

Author: Michael Farris Smith Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/02/2021

Who was Nick Carraway before he stepped into the world of The Great Gatsby? Michael Farris Smith sets out to explore these questions in Nick, a darkly absorbing, brilliantly accomplished literary undertaking provoked by the author’s complex relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. With themes of isolation and dislocated identity at its heart, this masterful novel opens in Paris when Nick leaves his lover to return to the horrors of war, ever conscious of death. Imagining his own demise, he wonders, “Who would be there to mourn?... Did anyone truly love him and did he love anyone?” Nick is also constantly consumed by an impulse to escape, juxtaposed with wondering what it is “know your place in the world”. Unable to find his lover when the war is over, and unable to bring himself to return to the family home, he transports himself to Frenchtown, New Orleans, with its drinking dens, whorehouses and vicious vendettas. The world over seems to be filled with folk floundering, people desperate to escape or obliterate their tattered lives, and time and time again Nick’s life entwines with fellow broken, lost souls. This curious magnetism is pertinently expressed by sick bartender Judah when he says, “if there’s one thing the lost are able to recognise it is the others who are just as wounded and wandering.” Ending on a radiant dawn epiphany scene, with Nick on the verge of moving East, this left me longing to re-visit The Great Gatsby, and keen to read the rest of Farris Smith’s novels.

Star Books
Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow

Author: Tayari Jones Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/03/2020

Set in 1980s Atlanta, Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow is a rich tour de force that sparkles with wit, warmth and candid lyricism. Exploring the weight of secrets and the complexities of love and family life through the compelling coming of age stories of sisters estranged by their father’s bigamy, this novel lingers long in the soul. “The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know when you see it.” This potent proclamation cuts to the novel’s core, for Dana and her mother Gwen are the other wife, the other daughter, of bigamist James, and they know this truth while his first wife and daughter remain oblivious. Upset when James tells her that being his second daughter “You are the one that’s a secret,” Gwen poignantly informs Dana that rather than being secret, she’s simply “unknown. That little girl there doesn’t know she has a sister. You know everything.” Knowledge that she possesses the truth offers Dana consolation, of sorts. While James’s other family is financially better off, both wives have a distinct lack of agency. Indeed, the novel is sharp on showing how women often have to make their lives from what men decide, such as when Gwen remarks that when you’re four weeks late, “All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.” The novel is also powerful on elemental love and the nature of memory, such as Dana’s response to being gifted a fur coat her father won in a card game: “To this day and for the rest of my life I will always have a soft spot for a man with rum on his breath.” In time, during her own tempestuous teenage years, Dana orchestrates encounters with her sister and they become friends, with tension rising as the secret threatens to detonate. With finely drawn, flawed characters that pull readers’ loyalties in different directions, this commanding, compassionate novel confirms the author’s exceptional gifts. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Books of the Month
Black Sunday

Black Sunday

Author: Tola Rotimi Abraham Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday is a rich and accomplished coming-of-age debut that lays bare the hardships, heartaches and hopes of four siblings from 1996-2015. Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyke (“we were never stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”) live a pretty contented life until their mother loses her job at the Ministry of Petroleum. With her sacking underpinned by broader political dealings, there’s nothing she can do to keep the family afloat but take-up a teaching post, which she hates. Later, when she leaves the family and the twins’ father loses their family home, they and their brothers are cared for by their Yoruba grandmother. With the narratives split between the four siblings, each of them must deal with abandonment and abuse as Lagos changes, and their lives take separate paths. The siblings’ intimate, affecting stories are wrapped-up in wider issues, such as church corruption and male exploitation of women. As Bibike notes, “Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired… But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone.” Meanwhile, Ariyke turns to religion. Universal emotions are also deftly handled, such as when their brother Peter comments “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about big things.” Fortunately for readers, Black Sunday is a brilliant book that has the courage to talk about the big things with honesty, humanity and beauty. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Debut Books of the Month
Clap When You Land

Clap When You Land

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/05/2020

From the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High comes Elizabeth Acevedo’s exceptional dual-voiced novel about loss, love and sisterhood across the sea, a story partly sparked by the fatal crash of a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo in 2001.   Camino Rios has always lived in the Dominican Republic with her aunt Tia, “a woman who speaks to the dead, who negotiates with spirits”, a woman who’s like a mother to her: “Even when Mama was alive, Tia was the other mother of my heart.” Life’s not easy for them on the island, but they have it better than their neighbours as a result of Camino’s beloved Papi working in the US for most of year. To Camino, Papi is a “A king who built an empire so I’d have a throne to inherit”, and she lives for the summer months when he comes home to them. But all life is thrown into terrible disarray when she goes to meet Papi at the airport and learns that his plane has fallen from the sky, and then: “I am swallowed by this shark-toothed truth.” This story is blessed with such divinely piercing language throughout. At the same time, across the Atlantic, Yahaira Rios learns that her hero Papi has died in a plane crash. She already knew he had a wife on the island (but not of his secret daughter), and has always longed to reconcile her Dominican heritage with her American life: “Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?” When it emerges that Papi wishes to be buried back in DR, Yahaira’s Mami insists that she will never let her “touch foot on the sands of that tierra.” But Yahaira has other plans, not least when she’s contacted by a girl named Camino Rios who bears an undeniable resemblance to Papi, and to her too.   As well as being exceptionally affecting on grief, forgiveness and family secrets, Clap When You Land is also devastatingly sharp on the exploitative tendencies of tourism. In Camino’s words: “I am from a playground place…Our land, lush and green, is bought and sold to foreign powers so they can build luxury hotels...Even the women, girls like me, our mothers and tias, our bodies are branded jungle gyms…Who reaps? Who eats? Not us. Not me.” Overflowing with truths of the heart, and truths about inequalities that need to be broken, while also addressing the complexities of what it means to be of a place, I can’t praise this highly enough. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Audiobooks of the Month
With the Fire on High

With the Fire on High

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/09/2019

From the one-of-a-kind author of Poet X comes a one-of-a-kind novel suffused in YA’s finest features - friendship, shifting family relationships, fighting to find your voice, romantic passion – and more besides, thanks to the exuberant drive of its teen mom protagonist.   Emoni has an extraordinary gift for creative cooking and a complicated home life. Her mom, whose family is “straight-from-the-Carolinas Black” died in childbirth, which caused her grief-stricken Puerto Rican dad to head home to his island. As a result Emoni was raised by his mother, the fabulous ‘Buela. Emoni is used to hearing other people’s problems with her dual heritage (“it’s like I’m some long-division problem folks keep wanting to parcel into pieces, and they don’t hear me when I say: I don’t reduce, homies. The whole of me is Black. The whole of me is whole”), but since falling pregnant in her freshman year she has a new set of struggles to contend with.   It’s not easy being a teenage mom while also studying, working and dealing with Babygirl’s judgmental paternal grandmother, but somehow Emoni keeps it all going, finding soulful solace in the kitchen: “I’m happier in the kitchen than anywhere else in the world…my food doesn’t just taste good, it is good – straight up bottled goodness that warms you and makes you feel better about your life”. Enrolling on a culinary arts class makes Emoni even more determined to accomplish her gastronomic career goals, and also brings her heatedly close to new boy Malachi. But with multiple obstacles at every turn, when life reaches boiling point her best friend and family step-up as supporting sous chefs.   Spiced with inspirational wisdom (“Taking risks and making choices in spite of fear – it’s what makes our life story compelling” says one of Emoni’s teachers; “The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely chose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance,” says Emoni), this luminous novel challenges multiple stereotypes and dances to its own love-infused, inspirational beat. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Queenie

Queenie

Author: Candice Carty-Williams Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

A sharp and smart debut novel, containing real heart (both ache and joy). 25 year old Queenie is on a break from her boyfriend, can’t concentrate at work, and is having a hard time balancing her life. Feeling trapped as she moves in with her grandparents, she soon finds her life closing down. Within a few pages I was settled in my chair and didn’t budge as I read this in one wonderfully heady sitting. Popping backwards and forwards in time Candice Carty-Williams opens a doorway into Queenie’s soul. She created a connection for me to reach out and touch and I felt as though I had become a part of Queenie’s life. I was there with her as things went wrong, wanted to reassure, vent, be there to support her. There are parts that tiptoed across my awareness, spiking stray thoughts. Elsewhere is raw and unflinching making my senses burn, before a moment later I was tipped into a sunshiny smile and chortle. While Queenie herself breaks down stereotypes about black women, her friend Cassandra doesn’t do the same with  regards to Jewish stereotypes. Big bad life in all its pain and glory stamps across the page. Queenie is a bold, fiercely provocative and thought-provoking read.

The Black Flamingo

The Black Flamingo

Author: Dean Atta Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/08/2019

Uplifting and dazzlingly unique, this coming-of-age treasure explores identity and sexuality with an emboldening message to remember that “you have the right to be you”. As a young Barbie-loving boy, mixed race Michael wonders if he’s “only half” of everything, to which his mother poignantly replies: “Don’t let anyone tell you/that you are half-black/and half-white. Half-Cypriot/ and half-Jamaican./ You are a full human being.” But he doesn’t feel like a whole human being. Dubbed a “queerdo and weirdo” by bullies and subjected to “batty bwoy” taunts through his teenage years, he leaves London for Brighton University with hope in his heart. But even here Michael feels “like Goldilocks; trying to find a group of people/the perfect fit for me”. He doesn’t feel black enough for the Caribbean Society, or Greek enough for Hellenic Society, or queer enough for the LBGT Society. Then Michael finally finds a fit at Drag Society where he becomes The Black Flamingo, “someone fabulous, wild and strong. With or without a costume on.” Michael’s journey is complex, moving and told with a raw vitality that makes the soul soar and the heart sing, with Anshika Khullar’s magnificent illustrations and the smart design adding further depth, prompting the reader to pause for thought as his story requires.

Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/02/2005

This review is provided by bookgroup.info.Purple Hibiscus is the story of a fifteen-year-old Nigerian girl, Kambili, and describes her life under the constraints of her father's strict regime. When life in the city becomes dangerous during a military coup, she is sent away to stay with her aunt where she eventually finds love and happiness. Written from Kambili's point of view, it is a powerful story that is remarkable for the subtlety of the telling. Papa, a newspaper owner committed to reporting the truth about state corruption, revered by the community for his generosity, is in many ways a monstrous figure. At home he is authoritarian and bullying, narrow-minded and intolerant, yet he is motivated by profound religious beliefs. And, although his love for them is beyond doubt, his cruelty to his family in order to keep them on the path of righteousness is chilling. The delicacy of the relationship between father and daughter is especially painful: locked to Kambili's fear of her father is an unquestioning love and belief. She describes how she would "snuggle into Papa's arms when harmattan thunderstorms raged outside, flinging mangoes against the window netting and making the electric wire hit each other and spark bright orange flames. Papa would lodge me between his knees or wrap me in the cream blanket that smelled of safety." And even after she finally breaks away from the security of his violence and begins to become independent, she remains devoted to him. Like most Nigerian novels, Purple Hibiscus necessarily deals with the tension between Catholicism and traditional religion, but Ngozi Adichie also tackles the more recent problems associated with an African state emerging, as Kambili does, from the destructive legacy of a paternalist power. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize First Best Book award for Purple Hibiscus. Welcome to another wonderful Nigerian writer.The Lovereading view...A powerful and compelling coming of age novel of a family, a faith and a country, all in an awful turmoil. It has been highly rated by reviewers Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

eBooks of the Month
The End of Time

The End of Time

Author: Gavin Extence Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/01/2020

A lovely, heartfelt, oh so readable and occasionally quirky story containing huge empathy and thoughtfulness. Two teenagers, refugees without their parents, set off from Syria in the hopes of reaching the UK. I am a huge fan of Gavin Extence, as he has the ability to write with an incredibly light touch while exploring hugely provocative topics. His books often contain a waft of magic, not hocus pocus exactly, but something that makes you stop and think. The story here is told by 19-year-old Zain, older brother to 14-year-old Mohammed, and we meet them as they begin the swim from Turkey to Greece. Simply told, the words hit my thoughts with hammer-hard intensity, and yet there were smiles on hand too. There is a gentle compassion to be found in Zain, and as I read, I took him, and his football-loving brother to my heart. All I will say about the third absolutely fabulous character in this tale is that I won’t forget him! ‘The End of Time’ doesn’t preach, it lets you discover thoughts and feelings for yourself, it just exists, as it is, as the most wonderfully compelling and beautiful story. I have chosen ‘The End of Time’ as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month - it has a massive tick in the 'fabulous read' box from me. Gavin Extence is our author in the picture for July 2019, do take a look at the photos he chose in answer to our questions. Read our Putting Authors in the Picture blog post with Gavin.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Shepherd's Crown

The Shepherd's Crown

Author: Terry Pratchett Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/06/2016

The completely and totally wonderful wiz(z)ard of words Terry Pratchett, has departed for what I'm sure will be a very interesting conversation, with cat and curry loving Death. Terry Pratchett has been one of my favourite authors since I was a teenager, and has left behind the gobsmackingly fabulous Discworld series. Having devoured and adored every single one, I felt rather hesitant about reading this, his 41st and last novel. I had contemplated leaving it for a while, setting it by, so it could wait, knowingly, raising its eyebrows at me. In the end, of course I couldn't resist and I just sank into the story and as I read, relived all the feelings this series has evoked in me. Tiffany Aching has to be on her mettle, a twisted powerful enemy is set for battle, Tiffany needs all the help she can get, including the Wee Free Men and of course she definitely needs Granny Weatherwax. Terry Pratchett has made me laugh (a lot), cry, and all the emotions inbetween, most importantly he has has made me consider, discover and think about our own world. I loved every second, every word of ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’, it has become one of my most loved and hugged books, and sits in pride of place on my bookshelf.

eBooks of the Month
Modern Lovers

Modern Lovers

Author: Emma Straub Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/05/2017

Summer might be fading over the horizon but Straub's new novel is a perfect summer novel for all seasons: witty, touching, humane and gently humorous. A tale of complicated relationships set in Brooklyn this proves as light-hearted as her father, Peter Straub's books are dark and laden with horror, and confirms Emma as a major talent with an equal knack for entertaining. The story of friends who met in college and formed a short-lived rock band, following their fate some decades later as they linger in a state of disaffection and crave earlier glories. Small epiphanies and the weight of regrets, everyday love and companionship are celebrated: a lovely demonstration that book subjects can be small and delicately formed. ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... A penetrating, witty and very modern look at family life. Two sets of friends from Brooklyn are now middle aged parents of teenagers, focusing on both generations, we see the highs and lows of growing up and trying to be a grown up! Emma Straub writes with a beautifully light yet discerning touch, little eye opening shots of wit pepper the page. The occasional snippets of information from local newspapers really ground the novel in the setting. As I read, I slipped into the neighbourhood and I felt as though I was a friend, just dropping in for a catch up and gossip. There is a gentle subtlety at play, secrets are slowly revealed, life is seen here, as it really is. ‘Modern Lovers’ is a wrying amusing and observationally astute novel, it crept under my skin without me realising it, and was an absolute joy of a read. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Things We Have in Common

Things We Have in Common

Author: Tasha Kavanagh Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2016

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. A disturbing and devastatingly compelling novel, ‘Things We Have In Common’ sucks you in whole and refuses to let you go when you finish reading. From the very first page this feels different, Yasmin aged 15 has a major crush on her classmate Alice, we hear Yasmin’s thoughts, as they veer from emotion to emotion. Tasha Kavanagh has created a living, breathing, expressive individual and Yasmin feels intensely alive as she talks with teenage passion. The story builds jagged piece by piece, twisting, penetrating and provocative. This is a book to devour in one sitting, it’s surprisingly creepy and impossible to put down. ~ Liz Robinson February 2016 Debut of the Month. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2015. Costa Judges' comment: “An insightful, compellingly-plotted novel about teenage obsession and isolation. An exceptionally assured debut with a captivating voice.”

Debut Books of the Month
Asking for it

Asking for it

Author: Louise O'Neill Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/07/2016

A courageous, unflinching and emotionally challenging novel, focusing on sexual consent and the issues surrounding social media commentary and uprisings. Covering two time periods, a year apart, a vivid picture emerges of Emma. Emma is a fascinating character, bright and beautiful, she loves to be the centre of attention, however she is manipulative and able to use her looks to her advantage. Beneath the surface, there is much more to discover, and as her story is written in the first person, a fuller picture of Emma starts to emerge. Louise O’Neill describes the events that occur with consideration, yet most importantly with a frank honesty, meaning at times this is not only an uncomfortable but also achingly difficult read. Distressing, bleak yet compelling, this is a significant novel that will encourage contemplation and discussion, about a painful and challenging subject. This title is recommended for older teens due to the content.

eBooks of the Month
The Exact Opposite of Okay

The Exact Opposite of Okay

Author: Laura Steven Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/03/2018

Comedy Women in Print Prize 2019 Winner A witty, sharp, provocative tale full of heart… this is a book that made me smile and ache with sadness, sometimes at the same time. 18 year old Izzy O’Neill finds that the world is bewildering place when explicit photos of her with a politicians son emerge online. Why is she is the one who is trolled, bullied, torn apart in the press? Thank goodness for her friends! Laura Steven has created a spiky, sharp-shooting, wonderfully endearing character in Izzy. Her diary-like entries are vividly expressive, and full of humour and attitude. I wanted to shout and berate the unfairness of the situation, to fling out my arms in protection. Written for Young Adults, I would recommend this for older teens and upwards. Teenagers and adults alike should be aware of the importance of what is written here. The Exact Opposite of Okay is an edgy, penetrating, thoughtful read with a very pertinent sting, I simply adored it.

The Otherlife

The Otherlife

Author: Julia Gray Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/07/2016

July 2016 New Gen Debut of the Month Absolutely compelling. I have to admit to being rather surprised by ‘The Otherlife’, I think I was expecting a rollicking fantasy adventure, instead a startling, yet subtle and thought-provoking read awaited. Either told from the viewpoint of Ben as he is about to take his GCSE’s in 2012, or through his classmate Hobie’s journal in 2008, The Otherlife focuses on the importance of friendship and a variety of issues such as the pressure of being a teenager and parent’s expectations. While Ben copes with pain, both physical and mental, Hobie bulldozes his way through the school year, with few morals, and little thought. Julia Gray sets the Otherlife flickering on the edge of the page, on the knife edge of reality... waiting. As I settled in and felt as though I was beginning to understand, the writing ripped my thoughts apart and set me off on a new path. An intruiging, slicing read, The Otherlife, is also warmly tender and compassionate, and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Nina is Not Ok

Nina is Not Ok

Author: Shappi Khorsandi Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/07/2016

One of our Books of the Year 2016. August 2016 Debut of the Month. With a fierce, biting sense of reality, this is a provocative, yet beautifully worthwhile, must read. Nina is 17 years old, her best friend and worst enemy is alcohol, when she forgets one time too many the night before, her life starts to unravel before her eyes. If you're expecting a comical, light, coming of age novel, from comedian Shappi Khorsandi, then brace yourself, this is uncomfortable, and occasionally jaw droppingly shocking stuff. ‘Nina is Not OK’ made me flinch, made me cry, and made me think. Nina tells her own story, it feels as though there’s no filter, she thinks it and she says it, we hear her innermost thoughts and feelings. The voice Shappi Khorsandi gives Nina ensured I fell in love with her, although I positively ached for her, and her journey was at times so very painful to watch, she made me smile, even made me laugh. This is compassionate, beautiful writing at its best, ‘Nina is Not OK’ is an outstanding debut and I really, really do, with all my heart, recommend it. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'When we commissioned Shappi Khorsandi to write a novel we knew it was going to be funny – after all she’s absolutely hilarious. We also knew it was going to be wonderfully written – we’d previously published her lovely childhood memoir, A Beginner's Guide to Acting English. What I hadn’t expected was just how emotionally invested I was going to become in her heroine, Nina.  Nina is Not OK is a big, bold, beautiful novel written with heart, humour and courage. I’m so proud of what Shappi has accomplished with her debut - it’s an important book, dealing as it does with issues such as  teenage self-esteem, alcoholism, consent, victim blaming  and the pressures we put on girls in our society.  But it is Nina who stays with you: Nina who takes you from tears to laughter in a paragraph and who you’ll want to hug/slap/rescue/shout at/be your friend.'Gillian Green, Publishing Director. Ebury Fiction

eBooks of the Month
The Court of Miracles

The Court of Miracles

Author: Kester Grant Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Is there such a word as bookstruck? Because that is what I'm feeling right now, The Court of Miracles is a debut, the start of a trilogy, and a stonkingly good read. I believe both (older) young adults and adults will fall for this and I suggest just throwing yourself in and letting go. Find yourself in a reimagined Paris years after the French Revolution has failed with some of the cast of Les Miserables… this is what might have been. As well as cast members (with notable exceptions), there are little references to Les Mis to discover along the way which made me smile but please don’t think of this as being a historical tale as you are opening up a whole new world. I think The Court of Miracles would work without already knowing Eponine, Cosette, Gavroche and friends, as some develop in a completely unexpected way and there are a whole host of new characters to meet. Eponine (Nina) the Black Cat narrates, and after her father sells her beloved sister, she becomes a thief in the criminal underworld of the Court of Miracles. She soon finds herself another sister Cosette (Ettie), but in order to protect, she must betray. Opening up the trilogy in the best possible way The Court of Miracles is an adventurous story stuffed full of revenge, courage, and love. While it felt like a wondrous tale in its own right, there is obviously still much to come. I adored it and this oh so readable novel sits as a Debut of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.

Audiobooks of the Month
Inborn

Inborn

Author: Thomas Enger Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/02/2019

A pithy, twisty, challenging tale with a cracking concept. After the murder of a teenage girl in a small Norwegian town, people start pointing the finger of blame at her former boyfriend. Back in 2015 author Thomas Enger had the idea for the book but wasn’t sure whether to head in the direction of writing it for young adults, or as adult crime fiction, his wife suggested both. The YA book came first in Norwegian, then Orenda picked up on the YA to Adult crossover and Thomas has written Inborn (in English). The prologue is two pages of chilling intrigue, allowing a glimpse of hope and possibility before it’s cut down. The chapters flick backwards and forwards in time, with ‘now’ set in court, and ‘then’ slipping inevitably forwards from the violence of the prologue through to the court date. Little spiky hooks of bait made my thoughts toss and turn. I questioned everyone, joined the towns people in their doubt, felt the pain, suspicion, uncertainty. The ending caught in my throat, piercing, then shattering my crime-sleuthing thoughts. Inborn is so very readable, it also provoked and sliced at my feelings, made me stop, made me think, it really is very clever indeed.

One Would Think the Deep

One Would Think the Deep

Author: Claire Zorn Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/08/2018

A deeply emotional, dramatic, and refreshingly original story for young (or older) adults, set in the late 1990’s in Australia. Teenager Sam’s mother dies in his arms on New Year’s Eve, mourning and traumatised, he moves in with his estranged Aunt and cousins, and his life is forever altered. The first chapter simply and vividly set the scene, I could look around me, almost touch, smell, hear my surroundings. Claire Zorn writes with eloquent empathy, yet doesn’t hide from heartache. As I read I could see Sam’s pain as a stinging physical entity. I found myself completely immersed in the story, the words caught hold of me, picked me up and ran. Sam’s raw emotions scorch the pages, he is the focus, yet the surrounding characters are fascinating in their own right. I adored the ending, where it left me, how it left me feeling. At times hope seems so very far away, yet it is very much a part of this story. ’One Would Think The Deep’ is a beautifully written tale, tender yet penetrating and powerful, it offered itself to me and let me sink into its depths.

Books of the Month
Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder

Author: Keith Stuart Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/02/2019

A complete and absolute delight, this is a treasure of a read. Tom and his fifteen year old daughter Hannah believe in the magic of the theatre, of creating moments in time that live forever in the memory, when everything comes under threat, can magic prevail? This is one of those wonderful occasions where I just read for the pure spellbinding pleasure of reading. No notes, no overthinking, just cosying in a chair with a beautiful book. The first paragraph took my hand and welcomed me in. Keith Stuart takes ordinary and allows you to see wonder, captures the unimaginable and transforms it to touchable, greets heartache and encourages thoughtful contemplation… and his words are so gorgeously readable. Either Tom or Hannah head each chapter, their voices distinct, clear, vivid in my mind’s eye. Just as a note, I did cry, I had a little wobble as I read (you’ll know when you get there) and had to have a few minutes before I carried on reading, yet Days of Wonder is full of joy, hope, love and is a truly, deeply beautiful read - highly recommended.

Books of the Month
A Prayer For Owen Meany

A Prayer For Owen Meany

Author: John Irving Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/1990

'If you care about something you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.' Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is both extraordinary and terrifying.

The Beauty of Impossible Things

The Beauty of Impossible Things

Author: Rachel Donohue Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

This is beautiful indeed, yet darkly intimate and almost claustrophobic in its intensity. 15 year old Natasha foretells tragedy when lights appear above her seaside town. As she tells the story of her past some 30 years later, she is still consumed by the events that occurred. I love Rachel Donohue’s writing, it is so haunting and powerful, she turns a spotlight on the shadow of things that sit in the background and brings them to the fore. Her first novel The Temple House Vanishing is on the surface very different, yet her assured and elegant eloquence is stamped over both books. I started to read The Beauty of Impossible Things and within a few sentences found myself intrigued and then consumed. I could taste Natasha’s words, they landed as a visual dance in my mind. There is an ageless quality to this storyline, even though it is set in the modern day. It felt as though the trappings of being different is a story that has and will be repeated again and again through history. Rich, close, and heavy with feeling, The Beauty of Impossible Things opens thoughts and sets them free. Rachel Donohue is our Putting Author in the Picture feature for May 2021. Click here to read our Q&A with her.

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