From Queenie to Empress, Candice Carty-Williams’ first YA novel is a fresh, authentically engaging, read-in-one-sitting exploration of class, compassion, friendship and empathy that uses a fab Trading Places/Freaky Friday device to tell the tale of two teenage girls who form a life-changing friendship. Empress lives in poverty on a South London estate. Being a bright, young thing, she’s won a scholarship to a fancy school, where she’s thrown in with a bunch of privileged girls who (mostly) mock her poverty. It’s also where she meets Aniya, who’s assigned to help her settle in. They share a birthday, but (on the face of it), not much else, given that Aniya lives in a huge house and her parents have high-profile jobs. The rich-poor divide is thrown into stark contrast when Empress goes to Aniya’s house (Aniya wants to make sure Empress eats) and meets her family. Her kindly, successful barrister dad is “a tall, handsome man who looked a bit like a budget Obama”, though their home and lifestyle are anything but budget. When Aniya resolves to understand how it feels to live in Empress’s shoes, they cast a spell that sees them swap bodies, setting in motion a succession of life-changing circumstances. Honest, warm, and utterly gripping, this heart-felt page-turner also provides generous insights into managing emotions and fostering empathy.
Winner of the Everything with Words’ YA Competition 2019, Rebecca Henry’s The Sound of Everything is an authentically gritty, involving coming-of-age novel that speaks to young people who struggle with feeling unseen, unheard and unloved. Shipped from foster home to foster home, frequently betrayed, and having “never had a dad that I could call Daddy”, it’s no wonder Kadie (aka Goldilocks) has trust issues. The only thing she’s sure of in this world is music - listening to it, and creating it. It’s the “only thing that keeps my head straight.” To protect herself, she’s set out three rules: “1. Don’t count on anyone. 2. Act. Always act. 3. Be prepared to lose everything.” Constantly in trouble at school, though told she has potential, Kadie bonds with a boy called Lips, aka Dayan, the name he reserves for use by special people, of which Kadie is one. Dayan records with his AMD mandem (Amalgamandem) and she’s happy to be invited to hang out with them, while remaining ever-mindful of the fickleness of group dynamics: “one day you’re in the group, the next you’re invisible.” But, just as things start to take an upturn, everything explodes in the aftermath of hideous online trolling and trouble with her foster sister. What’s unique about this novel is the author’s considered, long-game exposition of Kadie’s complex character - it’s not rushed, not forced too soon to serve the plot. And, true to life, her problems aren’t easily solved either - it really is powerfully authentic all round, from Kadie’s voice and interactions, to its portrayal of mental health problems, among them self-harm. At times Kadie will have you pulling your hair out at her own-worst-enemy outbursts, but mainly, though, you’ll warm to her. You’ll will her to find her way. Appropriately enough for a girl named Goldilocks, there is - ultimately - a glint of gold among the grit. I don’t want to spoil it, so let’s just say she finds what might turn out to be her “just right” and begins to learn to open up to people she can trust.
A Reese Witherspoon Book Club YA Pick! A hilarious and heartfelt novel perfect for fans of To All the Boys I've Loved Before and The Princess Diaries Izumi Tanaka has lived an uneventful seventeen years in her small town, keenly aware of all the ways in which her family is different from most of her classmates'. But then Izumi discovers a clue to her previously unknown father's identity . . . and he's none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Soon she's traveling overseas to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she's only dreamed of. But being a princess isn't all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight. Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself-back home, she was never American enough, and in Japan, she must prove she's Japanese enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?
Wearing its heartfelt messages proudly on its sleeve, this coming-of-age nail-biter sees a gay American teenager in London struggle to find the sweet spot between embracing new experiences and self-care. “Being a gay kid with sometimes shitty parents isn’t easy” - so Marty sums up his situation as he moves from his “conservative shithole of a town” in Kentucky to London, hoping to make it as a musician. He arrives giddily excited, on the verge of a new life, but also seized by anxiety when he’s met at the airport by his cousin’s handsome musician mate, Pierce. Marty’s first months in London are a whirlwind of first-time experiences - busking in public, drinking in pubs, going on road-trips, falling head-over-heels in love. But navigating a new life in a new city with debilitating anxiety and overwhelming romantic awakenings sure ain’t easy. Then there’s the crushing disapproval from his religious parents, and toxic trouble courtesy of his best friend back home. Alongside the principle refrains of finding yourself, finding your tribe, and the life-enriching power of music, this theme-focussed novel also tackles toxic friendships, and explores anxiety, homophobia, body image and eating disorders with bold honesty. It’s nothing but direct and driven by empathy and compassion, much like the author’s debut, The Gravity of Us.
Welcome to New York's Upper East Side: where privilege, partying and scandal rules. Anna K is the golden girl of New York high society. She's beautiful, she's kind, she's unbelievably rich, and she has the perfect boyfriend. Until she meets Alexi Vronsky. He's a notorious playboy, totally gorgeous, and he only has eyes for Anna. Despite everyone who matters in New York talking about her, Anna still just can't resist Vronsky. Even if it means her carefully crafted life could come crashing down. Perfect for fans of Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl this is an addictive and subversive reimagining of Leo Tolstoy's timeless love story Anna Karenina.
Following the four March sisters for a year, and narrated by candid, clumsy Jo, the story begins at a time of great upheaval for the March family. Dad is working away as a humanist minister in war-torn Syria, Mum has recently lost her job as a social worker and, consequently, they’ve had to move house. Sensitive, shy Beth just wants “Daddy to come home”. Fashion mad Meg is frustrated by not being able to buy new clothes, while trying to figure out what to do with her future. Sharp-tongued, artistic Amy constantly bickers with Jo, who’s doggedly determined to become a novelist. Despite their own troubles, the family volunteer at a centre for Middle Eastern refugees on Christmas Day. It’s here Jo meets Lateef, a refugee who’s been adopted by a wealthy lawyer, and she immediately senses that he’s “going to be my best friend in the whole world”. In fact, he becomes close to the entire family as they ride a rollercoaster of worries and coming-of-age revelations alongside a whole lot of love and friendship. Written in a highly accessible style, this affectionate update re-maps the personalities, aspirations and uncertainties of the original March sisters to create a new landscape of their lives, one that’s suffused in the spirit of the original and a contemporary freshness as it explores the timeless themes of sibling strains and solidarity, and feeling a sense of home.