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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 plus some relevant non-fiction titles too.
Following the critically acclaimed Stepsister, this is the Carnegie medal winning authors second ‘ feminist’ fairytale and one that could not be more pertinent to our times. The heart is a powerful symbol and princess Sophie has continually been told that she is too weak, too kind-hearted, too emotional to ever be queen. This is the ‘poison’ which has been constantly dripped into her ear sapping her confidence and self-belief. So far, so familiar, but what makes this tale so psychologically engrossing is that we see the effect of ‘poison’ on the wicked stepmother too. The author refuses to believe that an all-powerful queen would really be bothered by the trifling concerns of beauty and the question to the mirror becomes ‘who will bring about my fall?’ Adelaide is herself the victim of patriarchy and a cruel childhood and it is the King of Crows, the embodiment of Fear, that speaks to her from the mirror and manipulates the attacks on Sophie. With the familiar elements of the fairy tale fleshed out and the alternative 17th century Germanic setting vividly peopled by creatures both whimsical and deadly and with marvellous new characters like Will the archer and Arno the grave robber to educate Sophie about social justice and to support her quest to become the true queen to protect her people, this is a hugely engrossing and beautifully written tale. Its message that kindness and love have the power to defeat cruelty and pain empowers all girls to value their own strength and to let no one’s poisonous words destroy them. Highly recommended.
‘The Power of Us’ depicts a powerfully passionate relationship between Cassidy and Harly. Cassidy has always dreamed of becoming an internet at one of the most successful newspapers in New York, The Artefact. Harly is a publisher at said newspaper and comes to Cassidy’s class at Columbia University to offer an exciting opportunity. Now that the two character’s paths have crossed, what begins is a turbulent relationship with plenty of bumps in the road. The first book in a Duology, ‘The Power of Us’ is a so-called NA (new adult) romance. I liked the characterisation of both Cassidy and Harly, and being able to see the story from both their perspectives endear me to the couple. Cassidy is introduced as an open book that you are endeared to immediately, whereas there are more questions surrounding Harly’s past that kept me intrigued and needing to read on to find out more about. I would say that the tropes in this book aren’t new - the younger “innocent” woman meets and almost miraculously mystifies the man with status and confidence - but I think that the plot is well-written and would be readily enjoyed by fans of New-Gen or NA romance fans. I was eager to read on, and would be interested in reading the next book in this duology.
A brand new short story set in the world of His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust by master storyteller, Philip Pullman. Serpentine is a perfect gift for every Pullman fan, new and old. 'Lyra Silvertongue, you're very welcome . . . Yes, I know your new name. Serafina Pekkala told me everything about your exploits' Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon have left the events of His Dark Materials far behind. In this snapshot of their forever-changed lives they return to the North to visit an old friend, where we will learn that things are not exactly as they seem . . . Illustrated throughout by Tom Duxbury, the perfect re-entry for fans of His Dark Materials and a wonderful companion to The Book of Dust.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
June Wilson has created a wondrous mythological world in Middengard and her 'Middengard Sagas', five books aimed at readers aged 11+, are peopled with Norse deities, demons, fairies and beings with superhuman powers. 'Gloriana' is the first book in her new series, 'The Chronicles of Albion', aimed at older readers, which continues the story of some of those characters, though the author assures us that it isn't necessary to be familiar with her earlier work to appreciate this new tale, a historical fantasy, set very realistically and atmospherically in Elizabethan London. An unlikely and fragile alliance between Mae, Queen of the Fae Folk and Isolde, the last of the ancient race of Vanir, sends Josh and Molly to 1571 to find a secret key, thought to be in the possession of Elizabeth I, aka Gloriana. This key has properties, unknown to it's owner, which could bring chaos to the world if it's power fell into the wrong hands. Aided by Balthazar, a Fae warrior and shape-shifter, and Cat, also gifted with powers she is only just learning about, they gain access to the Queen's court and hatch a plan to secure the key. However, the forces working against them, who want to bring about the destruction of the human race, are not going to give up without a fierce fight and the story ends on a cliffhanger. We'll have to wait till later this year for the next book in the series to find out if and how that which has been lost can be recovered. This book combines two of my favourite genres, historical fiction and fantasy, so I enjoyed it very much. The evocative scenes of sixteenth century London are well researched and the whole story is exciting and gripping. I will definitely be looking out for the sequel. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
At once a passionate portrait of a scientifically seminal young woman, and a fascinating account of the lives of well-to-women in the early 19th-century, I Ada lays bare the many faces of Ada Lovelace. Ada the inquisitive. Ada the adventuress. Ada the visionary genius who defied convention to become the world’s first computer programmer, the seeds of which are sown in this portrayal of her early life. Driven by drama and a spirit of affection, this is as lively as it is informative. Fathered by flamboyant, notorious Lord Byron, it’s perhaps no wonder how easily Ada slips “into the unbordered realms of the imagination” as a child living on her grandparents’ country estate. Ada thinks of him often, and wonders why her mother speaks little of him. But then, Ada’s relationship with her strict, distant mother is often strained. Ada’s flighty tendencies jar with Lady Byron’s more rigid intellectual outlook. But they’re both inspired by their Grand Tour of Europe - Lady Byron seizes an opportunity to research ideas for her progressive school, while Ada’s mind is opened to a world of possibilities. Back in England, Ada’s desires are constrained by societal conventions, though female thinkers and mathematicians are among her circle, and then she meets a revolutionary inventor whose work chimes with her own innovative scientific ideas…
From the author of Black Heart Blue and Gloves Off - both LoveReading favourites - Wrecked is a breathtakingly affecting novel-in-verse that sees teenager Joe stand trial for causing a fatal car crash. Exploring thought-provoking themes around toxic relationships, self-preservation, truth and betrayal in an ultra-accessible, engagingly authentic style, this comes highly recommended for reluctant readers. Framed within the context of Joe’s excruciatingly tense trial at which he pleads not guilty to a charge of causing death by reckless driving, his narrative slips back and forth through key moments in his life, most crucially how he got together with Imogen, his girlfriend of many years, who was with him when the crash happened. When the police arrived at the scene, Joe was said to be the driver. “The truth is in hiding, it’s scared, it’s weak/ You see, I’ve been waiting so long for my chance to speak” - so goes Joe’s internal monologue before we hear evidence that tears his character apart. But someone is lying and, little by little, we learn more about Imogen, how she “lifted my shell and prodded deep underneath at flesh unprotected, she bit with sharp teeth - she stole chunks of my certainty.” Alongside the unfolding of past events and the present-day trial, additional devastation is unravelling in Joe’s family. Wrecked is an exceptional addition to the canon of contemporary novels-in-verse for young adult readers (see also Punching the Air, The Poet X, Clap When You Land, Rebound, Black Flamingo, Gut Feelings and the work of Sarah Crossan), and mention must be made of the book’s layout too – words and letters stutter, tumble, slip and fall across and along the pages, stirringly reverberating Joe’s state of mind.
Co-written by award-winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and Dr Yusef Salaam, a prison reform activist, poet and one of the Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a timely, heartachingly powerful free verse novel. Through its shatteringly succinct lyricism, Amal’s story is a mighty call to action that rouses readers to question the deep-rooted and damaging consequences of racially biased societal systems, while radiating the light and hope of art and Amal himself. Sixteen-year-old Amal is a talented poet and artist, but even at his liberal arts college, he’s victimised by destructive preconceptions, deemed disruptive by people who “made themselves a whole other boy in their minds and replaced me with him.” Amal’s budding life careers off-course when he’s wrongfully convicted of a crime in a gentrified area. Even in the courtroom it feels to him “like everything that I am, that I’ve ever been, counts as being guilty”. Standing before judgemental eyes in his specially chosen grey suit, he’s aware that “no matter how many marches or Twitter hashtags or Justice for So-and-So our mind’s eyes and our eyes’ minds see the world as they want to/Everything already illustrated in black and white.” In the detention centre, Amal considers his African ancestry: “I am shackled again,” he says. “Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my ancestors. Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my father and my father’s father and all the men that came before.” He expresses society’s double standards with searing clarity too - Black boys are “a mob/a gang ghetto/a pack of wolves animals/thugs hoodlums men” while white boys “were kids having fun home loved supported protected full of potential boys.” But through the beatings and despair, through anger and frustration, Amal finds solace in the supportive letters he receives from a girl in his school, and his “poet, educator and activist” teacher. By turns soul-stirring and inspiring, this sharp exposure of injustice and testament to the transformative power of art comes highly recommended for readers who love the work of Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
For ages 9 to 90 ‘Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive’, says Khosrou – or Daniel as he’s known to his new classmates in Oklahoma - the narrator of the many wonderful stories that make up this book. Central of course is his own story, how with his mother and sister he had to flee his home in Iran, leaving his father behind, but there are also the stories of his grandparents and great-grandparents, plus the myths that he’s grown up with. Horribly picked on at school and tormented at home by his new step-father, he shares his stories Scheherazade-like with his class and with us, the lucky readers, and because of that we know that one day he will be whole again. Poignant, touching, funny and heart-breaking, this is a book in a million, a story that will connect with every person who reads it and become part of their own.
Shot-through with a vital message about the importance of giving voice and rightful representation to women who’ve been silenced by centuries of patriarchy, this smart novel melds an intriguing art history mystery with Parisian amour. While Khayyam is clear about what she wants to do with her life - become a respected art historian - her identity is more complex. She’s “French American. Indian American. Muslim American. Biracial. Interfaith.” As such, “Others look at me and try to shove me into their own narrative to define who and what I am. But I’m not a blank page that everyone else gets to write on. I have my own voice.” This statement weaves through the whole novel, which sees Khayyam in Paris for the summer, still reeling from a relationship gone awry back home in Chicago, and from her Young Scholar Prize essay being dismissed as “the work of a dilettante, not a future art historian”. When she happens to run into a cute Parisian boy, who happens to be a descendent of bi-racial French writer Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam and said cute boy (also called Alexandre) embark on an intellectual voyage that leads them to Leila, a nineteenth-century Muslim woman connected to Dumas and Byron. Leila’s forgotten life and silenced voice is revealed through her letters, with Khayyam frequently asserting her desire to right the wrong of “the entire world dehumanizing and erasing this woman who had a life, who mattered.” Through Khayyam the novel also addresses issues around representation and cultural appropriation as she wrestles with determining who has the right to tell Leila’s story, including herself. As Khayyam’s findings hot up, so too does her love life. First there’s the spark between her and Alexandre, then there’s the simmering presence of her Chicagoan ex. With Paris vibrantly evoked as her stage - its history, architecture, secret gardens and food - Leila’s personal life and intellectual prowess combine to create a life-changing summer. This comes hugely commended - and recommended - for its portrayal of an intelligent young woman who refuses to bow to expectations, and who’s determined to give voice to the voiceless. Like Khayyam, it’s smart, thoughtful and inspirational.
The Tale of Miss Berta London is one of reinvention and introspection. Following the powerful fashion editor as she experiences knockbacks and must work as a nanny, a position outside her comfort zone but one that allows her to reflect on the important things in life. I found the premise for this book to be quite traditional; the story of the rich person, through a degree of adversity, re-educated to become of benefit to society (A Christmas Carol anyone?) is a classic storyline that can be reinvented to suit a wide variety of situations and time periods. As I started reading, I admit I had to take a brief pause to find out what era the book was supposed to be set in, the writing appeared to me to be more traditional in tone. I liked the concept of the story and the lessons it aims to teach, that you can follow your own path, not the ones parents lay out for you, and that there’s always a chance to change your ways and make sure what you do can benefit others. I liked the flashbacks to earlier in Beta’s childhood, as I felt this allowed me to understand the path she has taken and why, as well as pre-empting the strong family values that come to light later in the book. Although I would recommend suspending disbelief while reading (the speed of repurchasing a home and moving in one obvious example), I think that the underlying message is wholesome and of value. I think that The Tale of Miss Berta London is a light-hearted, traditional style tale that could be read and enjoyed by a wide range of ages.
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.