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Joanne Owen - Editorial Expert

About Joanne Owen

Joanne Owen’s lifelong love of reading and writing began when she was growing up in Pembrokeshire, and very much wished that witches (and Mrs Pepperpot) were real. An early passion for culture, story and folklore led Joanne to read archeology and anthropology at St John’s, Cambridge, after which she worked as a bookseller, and led the UK children’s book buying team for a major international retailer. During this time, Joanne also wrote children’s book previews and features for The Bookseller, covering everything from the value of translated fiction, to the contemporary YA market. Joanne later joined Bloomsbury’s marketing department, where she had the pleasure of working on epic Harry Potter launches at Edinburgh Castle and the Natural History Museum, and launching Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. After enjoyable spells as Marketing Director for Macmillan Children’s Books and Consumer Marketing Manager for Walker Books, Joanne went freelance, primarily working for multi-award-winning independent children’s publisher, Nosy Crow.

Alongside her publishing career, Joanne has written several books for children/young adults. She’s now a fulltime reviewer, workshop presenter and writer, working on YA novels with a strong basis in diverse folklore from around the world, as well as fiction for younger readers (in which witches are very much real).

Latest Reviews By Joanne Owen

Empathetic, insightful and buzzing with drama, the brilliant Jenny Downham has done it again in this vital, true-to-life treasure about a young woman’s struggle to stand up to her bully-boy stepfather.“She threw things and slammed things and swore. She was clumsy and rude and had no friends. Her teachers thought her dim-witted. Her family despaired.” On the verge of turning sixteen, Lexi is a firework of frustration. Her furious outbursts are getting worse now John, her soon-to-be-stepdad, has taken over their family home, and his son – Lexi’s best friend (and long-time crush&... View Full Review
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 ... View Full Review
Masterfully melding the contemporary world with a richly evoked fantasy realm, this is a fairy tale re-telling of the finest order. Harper has lived a tough life, what with her mom being sick and her brother forced to take on their absent father’s violent debt collection work. She has cerebral palsy but “can move quickly when I want to”. She’s a fighter too, so when she’s snatched by a stranger and deposited in Ironrose Castle, in the heart of a parallel realm called Emberfall, her captors are thrown off-guard. “Most of ... View Full Review
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, ... View Full Review
Set in 1912, this action-packed adventure feels both classic and contemporary, with Marina, its young heroine, yearning to break free from societal constraints to become the “new woman” she’s read about in modern magazines. Namely, the kind of woman who is “mistress of her own destiny”. Frustratingly, Marina’s father dismisses her desires outright. Being a naval captain he’s often away at sea and, with her mother gone, Marina is about to be shipped off to boarding school when all she really wants to do is set sail with her dad. So ... View Full Review
From the creator of the Mortal Instruments series and Infernal Devices trilogy comes this epic first instalment of the author’s highly anticipated The Dark Artifices series. Lady Midnight is populated with pretty much every kind of mythological and supernatural being you could wish for (witches, warlocks, werewolves, vampires, faeries to name a few), but none more intriguing than the Nephilim Shadowhunters, part-angel, part-human beings who adorn themselves with protective runes. Emma Carstairs is a Shadowhunter and, as such, she’s bound to her parabatai platonic soul mate Julian for life. Emma is also set on avenging her ... View Full Review
Smart, incisive, brimming with the breath of human experience and written with engaging age-appropriate verve, this clever concept (“a tale told in ten blocks”) is perfectly executed. For the chorus of kids whose lives play out on these impeccably-written pages, the walk home from school represents a rare time of freedom; a period of limbo between being under the watchful eyes of teachers and parents. Unsupervised, the kids reveal their true selves, most of them dealing with hidden heartache and anxieties alongside goofing around, self-reflecting and navigating their way through Middle School. As always with Jason Reynolds, the ... View Full Review
There’s love, friendship and challenging prejudice aplenty in this debut novel by a LGBTQ+ parenting expert. Introverted Izzy has just started Year 8 and is wildly excited when her favourite teacher announces auditions for a Christmas production of Guys and Dolls. Though shy, she’s come to love acting because on stage she “could be whoever I wanted.” And Izzy’s not the only member of her family who wants - and needs - to be who they really are, as she discovers when her dad tells the family he’s transgender and is ... View Full Review
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 ... View Full Review
From the one-of-a-kind author of The Poet X comes a one-of-a-kind novel suffused in YA’s finest features - friendship, shifting family relationships, fighting to find your voice, romantic passion – and more besides, thanks to the exuberant drive of its teen mom protagonist. Emoni has an extraordinary gift for creative cooking and a complicated home life. Her mom, whose family is “straight-from-the-Carolinas Black” died in childbirth, which caused her grief-stricken Puerto Rican dad to head home to his island. As a result Emoni was raised by his mother, the fabulous ‘Buela. Emoni is used to ... View Full Review
Timely and inspirational, this edifying exposition of twenty individuals who are actively working to save our world will surely chime with a generation of young readers who’ve grown up mindful of climate change and will be acutely aware of – if not also engaged in – contemporary climate activism movements. The familiar names of David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg are covered, with fascinating information about their backgrounds and the pivotal moments that set them on their earth-saving quests. Lesser-known but equally as inspirational figures are presented too, such as Isabel Soares of Portugal who pioneered a scheme to ... View Full Review
Featuring over fifty stylishly rendered boards, this is an interactive doodle book with a difference, and certainly takes the lingering trend for adult colouring-in books to the next level. Most of the book comprises unfinished boards for users to transform into their own tabletop games – twenty designs in all, followed by twenty-five sets of rules for players to choose to follow, each of which encourages creativity with suggestions for fashioning your own versions of classic board games. There’s also plenty of options for users to invent their own entirely new games, with a superb “Stuck for ... View Full Review