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Mainly aimed at young adults, but high quality and readable for adults too, Young Adult Fiction navigates emotional stories and characters searching for who they are. This diverse genre can feature aspects from any other genre, from Family Dramas to Fantasy with a stop off at Horror and Historical Fiction along the way.
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.
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.
Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman makes a brilliant return to her best-selling Noughts and Crosses series with an all-guns-blazing story of prejudice, love, ambition, politics and violence. In the series launch title, Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, challenged the divisions in their society. They paid a heavy price for doing so but they did make changes; racial and class barriers were brought down and the future would be brighter. Or so they thought. But a generation on, while superficially things look better, the prejudices are never far away and where they are, violence follows. When the first Nought Prime Minister is framed for murder he turns to his old friend Callie Rose, daughter of Sephy and Callum to defend him. But crossing the racial divide is still unpopular and both have ruthless enemies. As corruption spills into violence the next generation, Troy and Liberty, are terrifyingly caught up in the conflict. Malorie Blackman’s scope is huge in terms of characters and time- frames in this hard hitting socio-political commentary which has obvious resonance for today.
Jason Reynolds is the master of giving voice to children and teenagers who exist - and often struggle - on the margins of society. Against tough competition, this exceptional novel might be his finest yet. Matt has recently lost his beloved mom and feels excruciatingly lonely in his grief. By page two, when Matt comes home to a house that was “totally silent. And it had no smell,” the author encapsulates the raw invisibility of grief with visceral power. Haunted by how his mom made him feel “like the luckiest kid in the world...like I was somebody important”, and needing something to occupy his mind (and some cash), Matt takes a job helping family friend and funeral director Mr Ray, and unexpectedly finds that attending funerals and witnessing the grief of others makes him feel less alone. With his dad otherwise disposed after seeking solace in whiskey, Mr Ray is heart-meltingly supportive, reaching out to Matt while his “old man is getting himself together”. It’s at one of his work funerals that Matt begins to form a beautiful bond with Lovey, a young woman who’s experienced more pain and loss than even Matt can imagine. As Lovey opens Matt’s world and heart, they discover that they’re also bonded by a tragic moment that shaped both their lives. Readers will hope with all their hearts that Lovey and Matt’s futures are presaged by Bob Marley’s “every little thing gonna be alright” lyrics that ring out during a momentous shared taxi ride. Boldly honest and bathed in empathy, Matt’s all-consuming, touching tale possesses a rare power to leave a lasting imprint.
TRUST NO ONE. NOT EVEN YOURSELF. After a devastating scandal breaks in her elite New York City private school, Magdalena is shipped off to her family home to spend a summer recovering under the radar. Over-medicated and under-confident, she spends her days in a fog, hiking in the woods behind her grandparents' cottage. But then a gorgeous boy called Bo stumbles across her picnic blanket and Magdalena starts believing she might be able to move on from her past. Bo is wild and free and he gets her - it's like he can see into her soul. Finally she's starting to feel . . . something. But there's something dark going on in this sleepy town, and when a mutilated body is found in the woods near Bo's forest home, it's clear that Magdalena's nightmare is just beginning. She's no longer sure if she can trust anyone - even herself . . . What She Found in the Woods is an addictive and all-consuming thriller with a twist from the internationally bestselling author of the Starcrossed series, Josephine Angelini.
Often lyrical, and always entertaining, this Norse-vibed YA debut has friendship, fear and coming-of-age conundrums at its heart. It tells the tale of a land ransacked by a civil war that saw a new religion and younger prince replace a brutal old regime. Some nine years later, in peacetime, friends Torny and Ebba remember nothing of the war, or life before the uprising. But with their land on the brink of fresh upheaval, the unforgettable female protagonists find themselves on separate tracks, with painful, testing, relentless repercussions. With a cast of characters that includes gods and spirits, shamans and magic-workers, the world-building is fabulous, and the dual narrative device (it alternates between Torny and Ebba) really adds to the drama and tension. Fantasy fans will be delighted to hear that a sequel is on its way.
This unique, incisive novel is an emotionally engrossing road-trip reinvention of Moby Dick with female characters, and a gripping mystery about what main protagonist Dinah is running from to find her place to call home. Seventeen-year-old Dinah has lived her whole life on a commune and now feels compelled to flee everything she’s ever known. After being home-schooled, a recent period in mainstream schooling has turned her world upside-down, as has turbulent upheavals at home, and then there’s the mystery of what happened between Dinah and new friend Queenie. She shaves off her hair, adopts a new name and flees, illegally driving a VW campervan (her version of Moby Dick’s Pequod ship) with a cantankerous one-legged neighbour for company. While driving, Dinah confronts her many demons, most of which stem from her confusing sense of identity. She’s mixed race, but feels neither black nor white, and she’s attracted to boys and girls. The road is bumpy, with many revelations and confrontations along the way. Eventually, though, Dinah realises that “the road that took you away has led you all the way back home”. This is a smartly-crafted novel with real resonance, a story that honestly and empathetically imparts an uplifting message to “Always be yourself first…find yourself and be yourself”.
Set in the 1930s and inspired by Much Ado About Nothing, this thrilling feast of coming-of-age edginess is giddy with the glamour of freethinking artists, and tingles with romantic tension. Constrained by her life in England, aspiring natural historian Bea constantly battles her parents’ attempts to marry her off: “As far as my parents are concerned, daughters aren’t a terribly useful asset. I’m not supposed to go out in the world and actually do things.” But being “too big, too loud, too clever – too much”, Bea has her own ideas about her future, which she’s able to embrace when she’s sent to stay with her wealthy uncle in Italy and discovers with glee that “things at Villa di Stelle might not be so respectable after all.” Among the villa’s vibrant collective of artists is handsome painter Ben, and sparks fly between he and Bea from the off. A lighthearted challenge sees them set out to enjoy a summer romance without falling in love, until events at a decadent party to invoke rain turn out to be explosive in more ways than one. As the heavens crack open, fireworks fly between Ben and Bea and their lives will never be the same again. Alongside Bea’s awakening of body and heart, she also realises that she cannot return to her previous life. She wants what the artists’ have: an “all-consuming passion for their work...a purpose, a vocation.” With the conflict between her free-spirited nature and societal constraints exacerbated by her Italian experiences, with the world now opened up to her, the gateway cannot be closed. The author’s Great Gatsby-esque A Sky Painted Gold was a 2018 favourite of mine, and this is every bit as bathed in coming-of-age hope and a sense of being on the brink of something special.
From #1 New York Times bestseller Cassandra Clare and award-winner Wesley Chu comes the first book in a new series that follows High Warlock Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood as they tour the world after the Mortal War. The Red Scrolls of Magic is a Shadowhunters novel. All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation-a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke. Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn't bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever-even if it means revealing the secrets they've both been keeping. Learn more about the world of the Shadowhunters at Shadowhunters.com.
From passionate, all-consuming love-at-first-sight, to possession, obsession, jealousy and control, the subject of emotional abuse in relationships is here explored from every complex, confusing angle. What a devastatingly vital feat of YA fiction this is. Talented country songwriter Gemma has just started college and feels like she’s riding a wave of change: “Starting college feels like such a massive step, like suddenly the world’s got that much wider.” And then a further tidal wave sweeps Gemma up when she locks eyes with a handsome stranger – Aaron, a charismatic young app-developer who overwhelms her with big romantic gestures and expensive gifts that seem to show how much he gets her, far more than her family do, as Aaron is wont to remind her. He points out that Gemma’s passion for songwriting will always play second fiddle to her brother’s football talent, that her friends don’t appreciate her like he does. Before Gemma knows it, Aaron’s controlling, manipulative ways seep through her veins like an undetected virus and, when he isolates her from her loved ones, her world closes in, with shattering repercussions. At once tense, compassionate and (importantly) brutally honest, readers will plead with Gemma, rage at Aaron, and gasp as the crippling extremes of his toxic behaviour are made manifest. But there’s a glimmer of light through the dark, especially in the form of Gemma’s friends – Ghanaian feminist Esi who warns her to slow down and step away, and kind-hearted Callum, her loyal music partner.
Rob and Maegan both have a whole lot on their plates. Rob’s rich dad attempted suicide after he was caught embezzling their community and he’s now severely disabled, unable to speak or do anything for himself. Until eight months ago, “Everyone wanted to be me,” but now Rob’s an outcast, tainted by his father’s fraud, which is something Maegan also knows a thing or two about. Previously an academic overachiever, pressures led her to cheat in last year’s exams, which in turn led to hundreds of her peers’ marks being invalidated. Connected by a Calculus project and their dads (Maegan’s cop father was first on the scene when Rob’s dad shot himself), the two outcasts strike up an unlikely friendship, and more. Alongside their romance and the gripping twists, I loved the moving camaraderie between Rob and Owen, whose single mom was thrown into crippling financial hardship by Rob’s dad. For a book that packs-in plenty of big issues, it’s also an entertaining page-turner - the perfect YA package with the overriding messages that “one mistake doesn’t define you”, and “one choice doesn’t determine your whole future.”
The Wrongful Death is the third book in the Great Devil War series – and yet again I raced through it. I don’t think it could be read easily as a standalone, and I would recommend reading the previous books before anyone dives into this one. Philip is back in Hell, this time searching for the school bully, Sam, who shouldn’t be there (yet). This book goes ‘beyond’ Hell though, as Philip (with his friend Satina) journeys into Heaven and also Hades, providing a contrast between all of the ‘after-life’ worlds. The relationship between Lucifer and Jehovah, in particular, is very entertaining. I can tell that the author has had fun creating each setting and the characters within them – his vivid imagination driving the plot forwards through great world building and character development. Trouble is brewing in Lucifer’s kingdom, providing the backdrop for Philip’s search and the start of the ‘Great Devil War’. Yet again the book features strong themes and also an unconventional (though not disrespectful) view of religion – Heaven versus Hell, punishment and retribution in the afterlife and creation of the world (explained as six years in Heaven is a couple of billion years on Earth). There’s plenty of dark humour alongside some gruesome descriptions (so, as with the previous books, this may not be suitable for younger teenagers or for the faint-hearted). There are several familiar biblical and historical characters to watch out for (I’ll leave these as a surprise), and the inclusion of Hades also introduces Greek mythology. This provides not only entertainment but also an educational slant. The Wrongful Death doesn’t end as neatly as the two previous books – in fact, there is a huge cliff-hanger, so be prepared for it. I won’t give anything away, but it is clear that there is more to come (as there’s a teaser for the next book at the end). I’m looking forward to it!
A Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough.
Xiomara Batista is a Harlem teenager whose parents moved to the US from the Dominican Republic. She has plenty of thoughts, plenty to say, but she’s been rendered voiceless by her domineering mother, by religion, and by the boys and men who objectify her body. She gets “all this attention from guys/but it’s like a sancocho of emotions… partly flattered they think I’m attractive, partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs”. Such is the experience of many young women, but for Xiomara this is exacerbated by racism and her judgmental religious community, and powerfully expressed in her inimitable narrative voice. Talking of which, through the sexual insults, and despite her mother’s meting of cruel punishments, Xiomara does find her voice. She keeps a secret notebook of poems, and dreams of joining a slam poetry club. And she finds love too, with Trinidad-born Aman, a compassionate young man with family heartache of his own. Xiomara’s descriptions of their burgeoning relationship are stunning, evoking first love and passion in all its visceral beauty. Somehow, Xiomara pulls herself free from a mire of obstacles. She stands tall, she burns bright - a wondrously authentic character who finds her own faith through writing poetry. Winner for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of the 2018 National Book Award
Cassandra Clare certainly knows how to write on an epic scale - following hot on the heels of Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows, this third and final book in The Dark Artifice trilogy is a true beast of a book due to its wildly imaginative world, doggedly determined characters, and its sheer size and scope. “There was blood on the Council dais, blood on the steps, blood on the walls…Later Emma would remember it as a sort of red mist”. Amidst this gory scene, Julian clutches Livvy Blackthorn, “resisting all efforts by the guards to lift her dead body away from him”. But, while death looks down upon them and Julian grieves, the Clave is on the brink of war and swift action must be taken if the Shadow World is to survive. To this end, Julian and Emma embark on a jeopardous journey to recover the Black Volume of the Dead, battling great peril alongside grappling with their forbidden love. And then the secrets they uncover in the Court risk destroying everything they value, and everyone they love. The sense of urgency is dazzlingly evoked and swells to a suitably heart-pounding finale to this opulent love-and-justice-driven trilogy, with the many plot threads woven together in Clare’s typically extravagant style. Take a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Dark Artifices.
Being the person you want to be, proving detractors wrong, overcoming fears, and revealing the importance of seeing beyond stereotypes - beauty vlogger and dictionary-lover Tulip does all this and more in this hugely entertaining novel. While she’s frequently dismissed for being “stupid, vain and self-obsessed”, Tulip knows there’s no friction between being having a brain and being a successful vlogger. She adores the metamorphic magic of make-up, the fact you “can transform yourself ” and “make every day beautiful.” As Tulip points out to handsome posh boy Harvey when he belittles her passion, her vlog represents “creativity and hard work and self-expression.” Keen to prove that Harvey’s got her wrong, Tulip takes a place on his dad’s Bear Grylls-esque survival show. With Harvey as her team leader and her fellow contestants expecting her to fail, Tulip digs deep and surprises everyone with her resourcefulness and team-spirited outlook, but not before many comic mishaps, terrifying challenges and conflicted swirls of romance. Funny, gripping and with an inspirational feel-good feminist theme, this will have readers rooting for Tulip every step of the way.
Cleverly and playfully-formed, this is a sophisticated, thought-provoking novel of love, heartbreak and second chances. Eugene and Tatiana are 27 and 24. They’re both unsettled by a fortuitous encounter on the Paris Metro ten years after they last met, and the significance of the moment is made potently clear when the omniscient narrator interjects, “Look how shaken they are to see each other again. Look at their eyes”. Throughout, the all-knowing narrator directs readers’ responses in this way, introducing episodes with foreshadowing commentaries that tell us what to watch out for. It’s the narrator who announces “it’s time to go back about ten years into the past, back where it all began.” And so we’re presented with the origin of their connection, when Tatiana was a self-conscious bookish fourteen-year-old, and Eugene was the enigmatic, pessimistic seventeen-year-old friend of her older sister’s boyfriend. The narrative slips between the frisson of their re-acquaintance and the tragedy that struck their teenage years. In some ways, reading this is like observing an intense play. In others, it’s like being granted access to Eugene and Tatiana’s innermost thoughts, anxieties and desires through their impassioned soliloquies. In every way, it’s a unique and emotionally honest portrait of the grip and ache of young love.
The Die of Death is the second in The Great Devil War series and picks up where the first book – The Devil’s Apprentice – ended. Philip isn’t quite as ‘good’ as he was in the first book, as life with the Devil has made its mark – with more than just two tiny bumps on his head. This time, Philip has been brought back to the underworld by Death himself, as someone has stolen the ‘Die of Death’. Yet again, this is a dark and humorous read. It reminds me of the Harry Potter series, with devils, demons and tempters rather than wizards, witches and goblins, and a focus on Hell and the underworlds. I would recommend reading these books in order, even though this one contains some ‘flashback’ summaries of the first book. The plot moves at a fast pace with plenty of action, as Philip and his demon friend, Satina, search for the Die of Death and the villain who stole it. There are references to well-known characters, including Hitler, Judas and Pontius Pilate. I would love to see this on the screen – big or small – as the world building is excellent, bringing Hell ‘to life’, as well as all of its varied occupants. The book covers some difficult themes – right and wrong, heaven versus hell, good versus evil, redemption and punishment, immortality, terminal illness and, of course, life and death. Some of the locations and characters are fairly gruesome, and the detailed descriptions ensured that I could visualise everything in my head. I would suggest that this book is for slightly older (or more mature) teenagers and young adults and not for those of a sensitive nature or who scare easily. Parents of younger teenagers, in particular, may wish to read the book first to check it’s suitable. The Die of Death is a dark combination of fantasy, adventure and mild horror. This series continues to grow and grow – I’m looking forward to the next book.
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.
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone. They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled - Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie's Reaper mother summoning forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden. Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic - and her growing feelings for an enemy. The movie of Children of Blood and Bone is in development at Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions with the incredible Karen Rosenfelt and Wyck Godfrey (Twilight, Maze Runner, The Fault In Our Stars) producing it.
The Devil’s Apprentice is a fantasy novel written from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old boy who finds himself in hell – literally. It’s an adventure story with a twisty mystery to solve, with some innocent early-teen romance and historical references as well. It’s the first book in The Great Devil War series. The book is very well written and well translated from Danish, with plenty of dark humour. It features impressive world building through vivid imagery, and I enjoyed visualising the author’s clever concept of Hell and its occupants. The Devil’s Apprentice reminded me of the Harry Potter series, as the plot is complex enough to satisfy teenagers and adults (of all ages), yet simple enough to entertain pre-teens. It covers some moralistic themes, including good versus evil, knowing right from wrong and that even the most angelic people can have a dark side, so its suitability will depend on a child’s maturity. As expected, the book focuses mainly on death, with a mention of suicide and punishment/redemption in the afterlife. Some adults may disagree with certain concepts, but the book would provide a good starting point for discussions. I’m not surprised The Devil’s Apprentice is a popular series in Denmark and I can see it potentially doing well in the UK too. I found it highly compelling and raced through it. As soon as I finished, I eagerly looked forward to the next one, which is always a sign of an enjoyable read.
The years leading up to your 20s are such a vibrant and vivid time in your life. Adventure, friendships, self-discovery are all there in spades, but there’s frustration too, impatience and a strong desire to be understood. This section of fantastic books for young adult readers is filled with stories that reflect all of these feelings in settings that will give flight to your imagination. Be inspired by tales of self-discovery, run the rocky road of romance, battle big issues in mysterious worlds, beat the bleak future of dystopian regimes, or laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. There’s something here for all tastes and moods from half-god heroes to horseback holidays and literally everything in between.