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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.
Contemporary teenage life and the supernatural combined in a dark tale of freedom and coercion | On the surface, this is a story about a girl who discovers she's a witch, in a world where that is a highly dangerous thing to be. But it's contemporary life that really fascinates Melvin Burgess and this is as much a story of growing up and independence as it is a story of dark magic. It also contains a thoroughly disturbing dissection of coercion and control as central character Bea is manipulated into doing things that cause irrevocable harm to herself and others. The book opens with Bea and her family returning home after a day out. Crossing the moors they run into The Hunt, violent supernatural creatures tracking and attacking other witches. Bea is able to stop them, powerfully summoning help but revealing her supernatural ability at the same time. With the awakening of her witch nature, the world becomes a different place, more beautiful but more frightening as she is surrounded by visions that only she can see. Befriended by other witches she is given a terrible choice: safety and freedom with them means she must leave her own human family for ever. Under pressure from her parents she decides to give up her new powers for a 'normal' life, but is snatched away at the last minute by the wild boy she is beginning to love - is it a rescue, or an abduction? It's typical of Burgess that the book raises so many questions about temptation and individual choice, freedom and responsibility; typical too that the consequences of Bea's decisions are shown to be so painful, and permanent. Powerful, uncompromising reading. ~ Andrea Reece
In a nutshell: creepy YA psychological thriller Sarah Epstein’s well-crafted psychological thriller will keep readers on their toes, and nervously checking over their shoulders too. Aged just 8, Tash witnessed her imaginary friend the sinister Sparrow kidnap a little girl from a fair. Nine years and lots of therapy later, Tash has learned to keep quiet about what happened, convinced along with her parents that what she saw was just the imagination of a little girl desperate for attention. But when circumstances draw her back to the area, back to the fairground, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. Can she believe her eyes? Can we believe her? Dark and twisty, this is hard to put down and good, creepy fun. ~ Andrea Reece For more unreliable narrators and psychological adventures don’t miss Little Liar by Julia Gray.
In a Nutshell: Mystery, memory, manipulation | A feisty thriller that fizzes with intrigue, paranoia and a cast of fascinatingly flawed characters. For Jess “every waking moment is a flashbulb moment. I recall everything from the age of eleven like a never-ending motion picture,” which is why she became part of Professor Coleman’s intensive memory study Programme. Following a family tragedy and sick of Coleman’s invasive methods, Jess fled the study and assumed a new identity. She’s an engaging, refreshingly straight-talking narrator, not always likeable, but consistently clever and ten steps ahead of everyone around her. But further tragedy follows at her new school when Hanna, her roommate, falls to her death. While Jess tries to figure out who’s behind the mysterious postcards she finds in the wake of Hanna’s death, she falls for new boy Dan and confides in him as it emerges that Professor Coleman wants her back. A tangle of questions arise as Jess tries to keep herself safe, and the answers are revealed with terrific tension as a series of damning discoveries set the stage for an explosive showdown. Recommended for YA readers who like their fiction fast-paced and full of psychological thrills and chills. Do you have a memory for faces? Could you be a Super Recogniser? Head over to the University of Greenwich website to take the test… greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com
In a Nutshell: Pitch-perfect, vibrantly-voiced verse for secondary school studentsThese poignant, punch-packing poems explore the varied emotional lives of secondary school pupils facing the giddy transition from being “the biggest to the smallest...in the secondary school jungle” like “gazelles in a field full of lions”. Complex tangles of feelings are laid bare with heart-rending authenticity, from the headiness of he-said-she-said gossip, to the bewildering “who the hell do you sit with?” loneliness that strikes when your best friend’s off school (Thanks a lot, Belinda). Vending Machine is an incredible piece of writing, encapsulating the anguish and anger of betrayal, of having your heart trampled on, and then the bliss of recovery when your heart feels “a little lighter”. Another personal favourite is the sublime Dear Mum, BTEC about a student “drawing different plans” after realising they are ill-suited to exams - plans they hope will make Mum proud. There are jubilant themes too, such as the breathless, time-stopping “WHAM!” of instant attraction, the jangling joy of being at the bottom of a celebratory pile-on after you’ve scored, and the magic of those inspirational, unforgettable teachers who take time to share a book they think you “should try”. A chorus of entertaining, emotionally-charged insights and observations sing and dance through these tender, playful pages, with each short verse alive with empathetic, true-to-life experiences. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: Seminal seven-authored feast of fate, friendship and growing up This sparky collaborative novel by a glorious gaggle of top YA authors (Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood) centres around six memorable young adults whose paths cross at a TV broadcasting house: “The swot, the fraud, the dutiful daughter, the child star, the fan girl and the asshole”, all strangers who, “for whatever reason...ended up in the same lift at the same time.” Given their wildly different backgrounds, which range from working class Sasha to “asshole” posh boy Hugo, it’s unlikely they’d have met in anything but unusual circumstances. Indeed, their lives become bound together by a life-changing event that happens in the lift and compels them to meet year after year to mark the intense, affecting experience. The narratives are cleverly and seamlessly interwoven, with the same events told from different perspectives: Through recounting each character’s highs and lows, and the complications of their relationships with each other, this novel explores big issues with engaging authenticity - Alzheimer’s, grief, misogyny, shifting sexuality, falling in love, sliding out of love, and true friendship (i.e. the kind that doesn’t judge). Humorous lines are launched from all angles too, a personal favourite being Velvet’s “I look like I’m in bad fancy dress as a greasy-haired teenage version of Theresa May”. As the years pass, all six experience seismic shifts in how they see the world; transformations that start as an “excruciating, unreachable itch” and lead to “the realization that there’s more to life”. Gripping, entertaining and emotionally smart, this has the power to make readers laugh, cry, think and fall in love with YA fiction. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: passionate love story continues – in hell | Zoe and X are soulmates, even though she’s a 21st century teenager and he’s a bounty hunter from the Lowlands, ie Hell. They were brought together in The Edge of Everything, but separated at the end when he sacrificed himself for her and returned to the Lowlands. But never say forever – in this equally torrid and thrilling episode the two are reunited, Zoe recklessly plunging into the underworld to find X, now involved in a search for his missing mother. The book’s appeal lies not just in its steamy romance; Zoe is a sharp, appealing character and readers will love the supporting cast too. Despite being set in Hell, there are a surprising numbers of laughs while the ending will satisfy everyone. This is one to recommend to fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing.
July 2018 Debut of the Month | An achingly funny, touching story for anyone who has been thrown in at the deep end.
A Sky Painted Gold is a gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance with all the charm and style of I Capture the Castle and Eva Ibbotson.
In a Nutshell: Rebellion, romance and an imprisoned princess set on revenge This ambitiously epic fantasy debut sees a captive princess rise from the ashes of her traumatic childhood to combat a cruel Kaiser. At the tender age of six Theodosia witnessed the brutal murder of her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury. Now, ten years on, and backed deeper into a no-hope situation by the cruel Kaiser who’s forced her to live in a degraded state as the Ash Princess, Theodosia is driven to concoct a scheme to exact her revenge. With the assistance of a band of magical rebels she will seduce the Kaiser’s son and ruin him from within in order to reclaim the throne. While this motif is far from new, the writing is bold and fresh, and this promising debut sparkles with Theodosia’s drive and desire. But, while she’s a straight-talking, sharp-thinking young woman, her lively first-person narrative also reveals hidden fears, doubts and personal conflicts which, alongside the gory grimness of the political climate (slavery, brutal colonisation) and a backdrop of elemental gods, makes for a riveting reading experience that comes recommended for fans of Sarah J Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
In a Nutshell: Road-trip, romance, fame and friendship Surely one for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, this smart coming-of-age story reels with romance, life lessons and big questions about finding your way. Seventeen-year-olds Reagan and Dee are “friends for infinity”, but they’re also opposites: “In a fairytale, she’d play the good fairy. I’d be the evil witch’s screwup step cousin”, Reagan remarks with characteristic wryness. While Reagan has a history of bad girl behaviour (underage drinking, court appearances and picking bad boys), Dee is a country music superstar who “acts either thirty years old, like a composed professional” or, when she’s with Reagan, “like a twelve year old”. But this summer Reagan plans to get her life back on track as she joins Dee’s first major headline tour. With both girls trying to get over broken relationships, this summer road-trip is a fresh start for them both, but their plans are immediately tainted when a magazine runs a salacious story about Dee. Enter Matt Finch, Dee’s wholesome label-mate. He’s invited to join her tour as a ploy to shift press attention from the alleged “scandal” to speculation that there might be something between him and Dee. The truth is, it’s Reagan who falls for Matt, with his understated handsomeness and a straight-talking vibe she totally relates to. As their romance ignites with electrifying passion, there’s a rocky road ahead for all three as further salacious allegations are made and various mounting pressures threaten friendships and burgeoning romance. The music tour set-up makes this an entertaining escapist page-turner, with the relatable real-life conundrums and dramas providing thought-provoking profundity – the essential ingredients of a rollicking summer read.
In a Nutshell: Sibling wedding rings the bells of change Everyone loves a wedding, right? Especially when you’re Charlie and your beloved big sister is about to get hitched with all your siblings reunited for the big occasion. Focusing on this event is Charlie’s only source of stability right now, what with her parents selling the family home, her Mom’s long-running family-inspired comic strip ending after 25 years, and her having to make huge decisions about her future. It’s the end of an era every which way you look at it, so this weekend “had to be perfect. I would make sure of it,’ Charlie resolves. But, with so much outside her control, Charlie’s dream of a perfect wedding weekend is threatened by a succession of obstacles, errors and unexpected encounters, including an intense reunion with her long-time crush (cue a whole lot of complicated cuteness and deep and meaningful realisations). Alongside the humour, the daunting giddiness of being of the verge of everything changing is brilliantly evoked. Charlie has pushed aside making college decisions for months and instead been utterly preoccupied with the wedding. The million-dollar question is, as her best friend posits, “What happens when this weekend is over?” It’s by no means easy, but since she’s a thoughtful, resourceful young woman, “the one who came to help, who tried to make things work”, the one her siblings called when “they were in trouble”, Charlie realises that while the tides of change are strong, she’s strong enough to ride them out. She and her family will always be there for one another, and you never know what wonders await further out at sea. I adored the author’s The Unexpected Everything and this confirms her status as a mighty fine creator of exuberantly entertaining coming-of-age dramas with authentic emotional depth.
In a land without a queen, the princess must rise. Ash Princess is an edge-of-your-seat debut YA fantasy from Laura Sebastian, full of intrigue, tested loyalties, daring and revenge.
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.