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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.
Bea is the kind of open, honest, amusing character readers immediately care about. Told through her wittily illustrated diary, Bea’s tale begins with a(nother) upheaval. She and her family have just moved to their new Chinese takeaway, but her hopes for a fresh start are immediately dashed when she sees there’s no living room, and she has to share a room with little sister Bonny while big brother Simon lives with their grandparents. Bea’s experience of feeling “doubly different” is poignantly portrayed – she’s an outsider at school because she’s Chinese, and an outsider among her wider Chinese family because her own family is dysfunctional, and because she doesn’t speak the same language. Thank goodness, then, that she forms a friendship with fellow outcast, Tina the Goth, who stands up to racist school bullies. But while Bea begins to feel hopeful about her future and takes steps towards realising her dream of working in fashion, she and Bonny are increasingly neglected by their parents, and then there’s Dad’s aggressive outbursts. The mid-1980s setting prompts many amusing references, from ra-ra skirts and Gary Kemp’s perm, to sending drawings to Take Hart and going to Wimpy for a Knickerbocker Glory - but above all this is a highly readable, highly empathetic, impactful novel about familial abuse and neglect, trying to fit in, and finding your way in the world. Based on her own experiences, author Sue Cheung’s big-hearted story will chime with readers of 12+ who know how it feels to fall between cracks and dream of a different life.
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.
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 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.
An all-female high-seas YA fantasy adventure of survival and revenge, with a diverse cast and filmic feel, perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas and Leigh Bardugo.
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.
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.
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.
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”. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Raw, honest and powerfully emotional this debut novel is an important contribution to understanding mental health and well being. Three beautifully drawn, distinctive and compelling voices narrate this heartbreakingly honest story. All three are young women dealing with depression and mental health issues. The story starts with Mehren and the depression and anxiety which she personifies as “Chaos” are overwhelming her life causing her to sign up to a terrifyingly authentic suicide website called MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death. This is where she met Cara and Olivia. We learn that Cara is blaming herself for her father’s death and her own injuries while Olivia is suffering from the abuse that started when she was fifteen. The girls share their problems and find strength and friendship while completing the bizarre tasks set them by the website. The different points of view enable the reader to understand how mental health affects us all differently. The book pulls no punches and librarians and teachers must be wary of triggering descriptions of suicide attempts and abusive situations. But the authentic representations are extremely valuable for increasing understanding and showing that each culture and situation has its own unique problems. Family relationships and secondary characters are equally well depicted and although dark and intense the resolution is realistically hopeful. An impressive and important debut.
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.