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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.
The title of this highly empathetic and nuanced novel continues to cleverly resonate when we see chapters headed “the bulimic,” “the cool girl,” “the girlfriend,” “the popular girl”, “the best friend” and so on. At first, we do not identify these first-person narrators, but they soon begin to mesh and enable us to have a real depth of understanding of the main characters and emphasises the conflicting roles that girls feel themselves forced to inhabit. Taking place over a timeline that spans just a week, a high school is rocked and divided by the revelation that Mike, a popular high achiever and ‘golden boy’ student, has given his girlfriend, Maya, a black eye. Subsequent rumours result in split opinions about Maya: some believe that Mike should be expelled, while others think he might not have been her abuser. Maya’s best friend, Junie, from whom she’s become distanced due to Mike’s isolating behaviour, is also dealing with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder which she copes with by cutting and Maya’s relationship anxiety has also prompted bulimia. This is an unflinching, hard-hitting novel which certainly does not glamorise disordered behaviour, but enables us to understand how these negative coping mechanisms arise and to appreciate the challenges the girls face as they learn to trust and help each other again. Ultimately this is an empowering novel which advocates honesty, self-belief and the value of friendship. It will resonate deeply and provoke valuable discussion of important real-life issues.
Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
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).
Imparting an infectious passion for politics, speaking-out and trying to make a difference, Yes No Maybe So, co-authored by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, is a resonant, readable page-turner with an adorable cross-cultural romance at its heart. Jamie Goldberg is a self-professed klutz with confidence issues and a commitment to campaigning for his local Democrat candidate. While he hates being the centre of attention and has no interest in “power for its own sake”, Jamie is certain that “I want to be a history changer. I want to help draw the line.” It’s on the campaign trail that he meets Maya. With her parents recently separated, their vacation plans cancelled, and her best friend distracted with college plans, Maya figures she’d just as well do something during the summer. The Islamophobia Maya experiences while canvassing elicits a mix of shock, anger and defiance. “We don’t want the racist asshole guy to win, right?” she says of the bigot who slurs her during one doorstep encounter. “He already did win. In 2016,” Jamie quips of the US President. As the heat of the campaign intensifies, not least when they stand against a Republican bill seeking to ban head and face coverings in public spaces, and Jamie’s car is defaced with an anti-Semitic sticker, so too does their friendship, with their cross-cultural relationship portrayed with authentic empathy. Maya and Jamie’s dual narrative plays out with page-turning urgency and their awakenings – political, personal and romantic – are a genuine joy to experience. While Jamie has to learn from his Ramadan-related gaffes, and there are conflicts to navigate, their friendship – and more – transcends boundaries.
Mental health is such a big subject at the moment and it is something that impacts us all and many people have to consciously deal with every day, whether directly or indirectly. This is the main focus of Once a Year, a story of a holiday romance that triggers a difficult time in 17-year-old Delphine’s life. As is sometimes the case with mental health issues, Delphine doesn’t see her problems at first, and it is her friends and family who are trying to be supportive and help her to cope. However, until Delphine comes to the realization that something is wrong, and she needs that support, nothing can happen to start helping her through this time. It makes comforting reading that her family and friends are supportive throughout the book and that they never give up on Delphine. I think that this book helps to remind us how fragile our feelings can be and how easy it is to succumb and be completely controlled by our emotions without taking a step back. This book also touches on friendship and how true friends will always support you and never use you. Overall I would say that Once a Year is a light-hearted story that manages to cover a number of deeper topics and undertones.
This is everything you could ask of a sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and then some. Readers are returned to the well-formed world of Emberfall and its neighbouring territory of Syhl Shallow, where political ambition and newly revealed secrets threaten Rhen’s crown, and where intriguing new characters take centre stage. Among these is Lia Mara, eldest daughter of Syhl Shallow’s Queen. Lia Mara has been overlooked as heir to the throne in favour of her beautiful younger sister and, in many ways, the driving message of this tale belongs to Lia, a wise, compassionate young woman who’s “used to being underestimated”, but stands her ground in the name of doing the right thing. While Prince Rhen has been freed from the curse of the malevolent enchantress Lilith, his kingdom is now subject to new threats. Rhen’s loyal right hand man, Commander Grey, has gone, assumed dead, and there are rumours that Rhen’s secret half-brother is about to lay claim to the Emberfall throne. In hiding rather than dead, Grey encounters Lia and accompanies her to Syhl Shallow. Handsome and powerful, he would make a fine husband for Lia’s younger sister, but his heart is elsewhere. The enthralling story of political struggle is thrillingly laced with conflicts of the heart - both romantic and familial - to create a satisfying feast of YA fantasy fiction, with a cliff-hanger climax that suggests a yet more explosive third installment is on its way.
This is a sensitive, often funny and thoroughly engaging story of teenagers coming to terms with who they are. It’s easy to think in these liberal times that anything goes, but teens will be quick to point out that growing up is as difficult as it’s ever been. It’s particularly hard for David, one of the two central characters in this assured debut. David has known since the age of eight that he wants to be a girl. Teased as a freak at school, he feels he can’t even tell his family. New boy Leo seems to have problems too and when the two become friends they discover they have more in common than they ever thought. This ultra-readable, highly entertaining story could also provide readers with some much needed reassurance that normal is as normal does.
In Mia Campbell-Richardson, Lisa Williamson has created one of the stroppiest, most self-absorbed heroines ever to grace the pages of a novel. The middle of three daughters, Mia has convinced herself that she is unloved and overlooked by her parents in favour of her awe-inspiringly successful sisters. Indeed, when Grace, Cambridge-bound big sister returns home from her gap year pregnant – to the shock of all – Mia responds by laughing; it’s hardly surprising the atmosphere at home is tense. No matter how badly she behaves however, readers will remain on Mia’s side, such is the skill and sensitivity of Williamson’s portrait of a girl who for all her outward confidence is as nervous and insecure on the inside as the rest of us. As the story unfolds Mia has to acknowledge her anxieties, and that helps her renew relationships with her family. Sharply observed, painfully honest in its depictions of young teens, this is another impressive novel from one of the most exciting young authors around. Recommended for readers who enjoy the trials and tribulations of Mia are Trouble by Non Pratt and The Baby by Lisa Drakeford.
Endearingly authentic, Ro Snow is a character who stirs tenderness, empathy and much urging to survive and thrive. As a result of mum Bonnie’s extreme hoarding habit (every room of their house is a mountain of paper and pointless Amazon purchases), Ro has isolated herself, fearing that if anyone saw the squalor she and Bonnie live in, Social Services would intervene. Ro’s self-centered, insensitive dad has a new family and is no use whatsoever, which means she and Bonnie have reversed roles, with Ro keeping an eye on their bank balance while Bonnie shops and watches TV by day and earns a living as a singer by night. As this role reversal takes its toll on Ro, a fairy godmother materialises in the form of irrepressibly energetic Tanvi, who’s recently returned to school after being treated for cancer. There’s a truly uplifting, tear-jerking moment when Ro experiences the pure joy of people really believing in her, but Bonnie’s road to recovery won’t be a smooth ride. Highly readable, realistic and wholesomely heartfelt, this confirms Lisa Williamson as a YA author of remarkable empathy. Read about the story behind Paper Avalanche in our author Q&A.
International in scope and sweeping in history, Yvette Cooper’s She Speaks compendium gives voice to a dazzlingly diversity of powerful speeches selected on the basis of them being delivered by “women who believe in using words to build a better world, and persuading others to join them as they do so.” The introduction is both inspirational and edifying, with Cooper surveying the hostile landscape women have traversed - and still traverse - while making their voices heard, integrated with personal insights from her career as a Labour MP, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State.Throughout it’s a joy to the savour the words and wisdom of dozens of seminal female figures, from Boudica’s stirring two thousand year-old polemic against violations of women, to Diane Abbott’s powerful 2019 House of Commons speech on the brutally unjust Windrush scandal. Other British women with political pedigree include the fabulously fierce Barbara Castle (her speech here is an exquisite example of sharp, scathing, socialist-minded oratory), Jo Cox, with her poignant maiden speech as an MP, Yvette Cooper herself, and former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. While it might seem out of place for Cooper to re-amplify the Iron Lady’s inflammatory “ideological assault on the public sector” by including her “the lady’s not for turning” speech, she frames the decision by referring to Thatcher’s mould-breaking persona and indestructible self-belief. Thatcher’s inclusion is also testament to the gracious spirit that runs through the anthology. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on modernising the Conservative party is also included.Beyond Britain we hear from Audre Lorde, Benazir Bhutto and Michelle Obama; from razor-witted US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and young education campaigner Malala Yousafzai. I was especially stirred by the 1851 speech of Sojourner Truth, a former slave turned activist whose work saw her campaign against slavery and champion women’s rights, and whose words sang for the oppressed. The last words are given to Greta Thunberg because “no one speaks about the future with more clarity or urgency than Greta Thunberg”.“She Speaks, I must listen”, Cooper writes in her introduction and this finely-curated anthology will certainly inspire readers of all ages to pay close attention to the women’s words it shares.
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.
This deservedly best-selling series launches with a powerful love story that thrills and chills in equal measure. Sailing from New York, 16 year old Tessa Gray arrives in Victorian London to meet her brother. But nothing goes according to plan and Tessa finds herself instead in the Downworld, a terrifying supernatural place of vampires, demons and warlocks. How Tessa survives before falling in love – the biggest danger of all! – is a terrifying and passionate read. This is a new urban fantasy full of vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters from the bestselling author of The Mortal Instruments series.
In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.
Sarah J. Maas devotees certainly have a treat in store with this luxurious collector’s edition of the first book in her outrageously popular A Court of Thorns and Roses series. The story that spurred the series is here presented in a beautiful black slipcase that’s embellished with gold foiling. The book itself features a stunning gold foil depiction of a forest scene on its cover, lavish metallic ink endpapers, intricate fairy tale-esque illustrative detail on every page, plus a handsome newly drawn map of the Faerie Lands of Prythian. It’s a beguiling package that befits the tale itself, an enchanting story that follows nineteen-year-old Feyre’s magical, epic quest through the beautiful, dangerous faerie lands. Reeling with romance, intrigue and outright “immortal horror”, Feyre’s journey feels timeless in setting and atmosphere, and contemporary in much of its straight-talking delivery.
Faithful fans of the Throne of Glass fantasy phenomenon need never be without access to Celaena’s epic adventures with this limited mini edition of her first epic quest. With its compact format, violet ink decoration and unabridged text, this mini edition of Throne of Glass is the perfect stocking-filler for completest collector devotees, and a glam gift for newcomers to the series. But what of the story printed on the fine-papered glory of this mini-format? It’s a seductive cocktail of all-out action and fighting for survival in a wildly imagined fantasy world, with a smart, sassy eighteen-year-old assassin at its pounding heart. After a year of slavery and being “escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point” Celaena Sardothian is called to the castle and issued with a task that may secure her release. If she succeeds in defeating a band of warriors, she’ll be freed to serve as the King’s Champion. But with evil afoot, and duplicity, distrust and paranoia in abundance, our headstrong, sharp-tongued heroine must summon all her physical and intellectual strength.
Reading a new Frances Hardinge novel is always an adventure into a new, carefully constructed world - where things are never quite as one might imagine as you begin. Here two friends, raised together in poverty and scavenging are leader and led, counterpoint to each other, one believing in friendship above all, the other of a very much darker outlook. They live on one of a series of islands that form the Myriad, each island with its own long dead gods, each with its own strange traditions and stories. The sea surrounding the islands hides many things within it, wrecks, bones as one may expect, but also the undersea where danger lurks ready to take any who venture too far and spit them out utterly changed. In this world Hardinge has created a masterpiece of tension, fear and friendship. A slow coming to the realisation of the world that they inhabit, and a look at power and how it can be manipulated for politicians, gods and evildoers own nefarious ends. It makes your mind race with the adventure but pulls you up to consider the philosophy behind the characters motivations. A truly great read – I think I may have to read it again now!
The Angel of Evil is the fourth book in The Great Devil War series and yet again I raced through it. It’s filled with the same tongue-in-cheek humour as the previous books, but feels much darker. Before I go on, I must stress that it’s essential that you read books one to three in this series first, to understand the concept of Lucifer’s Kingdom, immerse yourself in the cleverly-constructed setting and to follow Philip’s journey into Hell. It feels like there’s less new world building in The Angel of Evil than in the previous books, and Hell and its surroundings felt more familiar and more ‘natural’ - the devils, the condemned, punishment and death. Though this time, Philip travels to the far reaches of Hell to save his friend Satina who has been kidnapped, which means there are some new characters to meet while Hell is under attack from rogue devils. This series is about good versus evil, though not in a conventional way, as devils take the centre stage. As with humans, some are good, some are not so good and some are evil. The narrative is littered with biblical and historical characters that brings a sense of familiarity. There are also a few poignant moments as Philip finally meets someone from his past and decides on his future. This is an ‘alternative’ Harry Potter series. It grows as the series progresses, with twists and turns and an action-packed plot. It’s very easy to read. But some of the descriptions can be quite graphic so it’s not for younger children or the faint-hearted.
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.