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The books in this section have been given a primary age range of 13+. There comes a point in a young life when the time is right to move on from the books and children’s authors they enjoyed as a child to reading books and authors that offer greater challenges as they grow up into adulthood. The books in this 13+ category are exactly that. They bridge that gap to introduce you and your teenager to authors who write for that early teen reader but also adult authors who also write for a teenage / young adult audience. The books in this section are suitable for 13-15 year olds. The books in this section might also be given a secondary age range. Some are suitable for 11+ year olds reading above their age. Please note, content & subject matter will be suitable for a 11 year old. Non-Fiction in this section is often fascinating and educational to a wider age range.
November 2020 Book of the Month | The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes. It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight. The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.” Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection.
November 2020 Book of the Month | Ayesha Harruna Attah’s The Deep Blue Between, her debut for younger readers, is a rich historical, dual-narrative story of the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. With a steady, captivating style, it’s rich in details of everyday life in late-nineteenth-century West Africa and Brazil, and the broader cultural landscapes of the Gold Coast and South America. It’s a thoughtful - and thought-provoking - novel, threaded with love, hope and determination. “In 1892, when I was ten, I was forced to live on a land where the trees grew so close together, they sucked out my voice.” So Hassana sets the scene at the start of her story. Following a raid on her home, she’s been separated from her twin sister, Husseina, but senses they’ll find one another again. Even more so when she finds the protection of a stranger: “I was learning things from Richard that I was sure would make it easier to find Husseina. Richard had been in what he called “the Gold Coast” to study plants to find out what could be used to treat sicknesses. He was going to put everything he found in a book.” But the sisters’ paths take hugely divergent turns. While Hassana makes it to Accra, Husseina flees to Brazil, way across the deep blue ocean they both dream of. Fans of Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone will relish reading about West African religion and culture in this context, and it’s also highly recommended for readers who love Jamila Gavin’s elegant, character-driven historic fiction. It provides vital insights into the impacts of European imperialism, and the connections between Africans and Brazilians of African descent, through a distinctly moving human story.
A timely return to young teen fiction for Jacqueline Wilson with a sparkling story of first love, finding yourself and coming out, as legislation for more inclusive education, including teaching about LGBT families in primary schools, is due to come into force. Go to Jacqueline's Instagram for Love Frankie videos and links!
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Nimbly navigating a fine thread between real-world tragedy and elemental inner demons, Richard Lambert’s The Wolf Road is a stunning coming-of-age thriller about a boy’s battle with bereavement, and the wolf that holds the key to his healing. It’s un-put-down-able and emotionally haunting in perfectly balanced measures. Fifteen-year-old Lucas’s life unravels when he discovers his parents were killed in a car crash caused by a dog. In an instant “the world didn’t make sense”, and now he must live with his nan, an “odd woman in purple DMs” (and socially-conscious solicitor) he’s only met twice in his life. Despite his angry protests, Lucas has no choice but to move to Nan’s cottage in the Lake District, certain the offending dog was, in fact, a wolf. It’s not long before wolves infiltrate all aspects of his life - at school he reads The Call of the Wild (a book “about a dog that really wants to be a wolf”). Local TV news reports on a local farmer who believes his livestock is being killed by a wild wolf. And then lupine menace encroaches on Lucas’s reality when he hears and glimpses what must be the wolf. As he wonders whether it’s coming for him, to “finish off the family after Mum and Dad,” he confronts his wildest pains in the wilds of the mountains. While the theme of loss - and Lambert’s inventive handling of it - will chime with readers who loved Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, this also has great appeal for fans of emotion-driven adventures, such as Piers Torday’s nature-rich novels. Other plot strands skilfully untangle the complex relationship between Lucas and his Nan. The faltering understandings reached between grandmother and grandson are a joy to witness, as is the bond Lucas forms with Debs, a Sylvia Plath-reading goth-punk.
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Sami is a very ordinary 13-year-old boy, attending school, playing football, PlayStation and has his own iPad – the only thing different about Sami is that he lives in Damascus. As the war in Syria creeps closer, until a bombing of a local mall affects his family, everything has been good. Now Sami and his family have to leave their home, their friends and their beloved Jadda (grandmother) – not just to move to another town but to start a long and perilous journey to the safety of the other side of the world – to England. The journey, and therefore the story, are not for the fainthearted – Dassau tells the story of the journey, the fear and the privations authentically and we vividly share Sami’s upset, anger and fear throughout every page. The portrait drawn of the family in such a stressed and frightening situation has the reader on the edge of their seat and pulling at our hearts all the way through. Written with a deep understanding and meticulous research into similar journeys this is a book that will not leave you for a very long time. The switches from adversity to hope to despair in Sami keep your heart in your mouth and is so realistic I was raging at the government for its inhuman treatment of desperate refugees. Read this book – it’s needs to be in classrooms and on bookshelves everywhere – it will change you and stay with you.
Use Your Future to Change the World | Companion to We Are All Greta, Green Nation Revolution sets out impactful steps young citizens of the new Green Nation can take “in the immediate future to shape their destiny and help make the Earth a safer place for everyone”. Rich in data, case studies and strategies for bringing about lasting positive social, economic and environmental change, this is a punch-packing must-read for teen readers who are keen to get more involved with youth-led green movements. After opening with the positive context of how much the impetus for change has grown in the past two years, with an almost ten-fold increase in Climate Strike participants, the authors define the Green Nation as “a state with no entry or exit barriers, in which people are united by a deep sense of responsibility towards the planet”. And the citizens of the Green Nation are the millions of schoolchildren who “think beyond geographical borders and do not see themselves as belonging to a specific country in the world, but to something new and highly responsive”. Whether discussing the circular economy, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, smart cities, sustainable tourism, or Green Nation jobs (“We do not need superheroes to save the planet; we need engineers, economists, scientists, biologists, environmentalists, architects and designers"), the authors are always upfront with - and respectful of - their young readers. Accompanied by crisp, contemporary illustrations, this accessible, inspiring toolkit for creating true long-term change is smart in style and content.
Profiles of each broom feature stunning new photography of the original props; statistics; insights from the cast and crew; and other film-making secrets from the Warner Bros. archive. In addition to individual photographic profiles of each broom, this book also includes blueprints and concept art as well as entries on the high-flying game of Quidditch and related props. Delve deep into what makes flying brooms the beloved mode of transportation for witches and wizards everywhere! Destined to be a must-have collectable for fans of Harry Potter, this book also includes a 6-page fold-out.
If I’m honest I was instantly charmed by Prince Zaaki and the Royal Sword of Luella, I love a story that starts with ‘Once upon a time’ and I think really endeared me to this fantastical tale. The descriptions of the castle and the land immediately pull you into the world of Luella while also cleverly providing context and backstory. As I think is suggested by the opening Prince Zaaki has the feel of a classical adventure to it, and we meet our prince as he first appears listless, the sets off on his adventures, with actions and peril along the way. This classical feel is continued in, perhaps as a nod to Snow White, the King’s personal assistant’s name - Helpy. I personally would have perhaps considered another name. I liked the imaginative animals that the author has populated Luella with and this imagination extends to the magic used throughout the novel and life at the TransM School. I also really liked the illustrations in the book. This is a book filled with adventure, and along the way Prince Zaaki might also find someone who “understands hims” as he wishes. I think that this book would be good for 13 year-olds readers and it is all set up ready for the next book in the series.
The young person's guide to a plant-based lifestyle | Full of information and sensible advice, this is an excellent guidebook for any young person who is considering turning vegan, or who just wants to cut back on meat and dairy. For one thing, it is packed with delicious and faff-free vegan recipes, easy to follow, easy to make and certain to be a hit with everyone in the family, even dyed-in-the-wool carnivores; but it’s also full of equally useful and appealing information on the whys of being vegan. Niki Webster explains it all in a way that feels friendly and do-able, making sure to answer FAQs on getting enough protein and vitamins as well as on the best vegan substitutes, and laying out clearly, but with a sense of passion, why veganism is about more than just food and diet. The illustrations and design make this look good enough to eat, and it successfully provides lots of food for thought too.
(Contains: potions, princesses, peril, a magical quest and a serious crush) When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn. Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the Zoro Aster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime? And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. No big deal, then.
This is a relatively short guide to some of the issues facing our young people today, in terms of looking after oneself and taking care of our mental health. Tina Rae describes herself as a Positive Psychologist and has used many of the techniques listed here in her own life and also in helping others as they deal with issues. The book is set out with a double page spread on each issue that might face people – ranging from ADHD, Anxiety, Anorexia all the way through Kindness, OCD and Perfectionism to Wellbeing and Worry time. There is a useful index to help users find the relevant pages, or, the book is so clearly set out, one could browse through the pages. Each issue has some signs of what the issue might look like in life – and some key helpful steps that might prove successful in combatting them. All these are illustrated in a bright and friendly way that makes the book easy to engage with. There are also appendices for parents, carers and teachers as well as links to other resources and help sites. The important message throughout the book is that it is OK to be you – whoever you are – and to need help sometimes. A really useful addition to school libraries and bookshelves at home for young teens looking for some answers.
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.
I am the mother of two teenagers and I also work for a social mobility charity working to encourage students to aim high for their futures, so I was keen to read this. I have only seen a PDF copy but I was very impressed by the content, layout and ideas. The book is written for teenagers, to explain how important it is that they mix up their studies with exercise, socialising, sleep, etc. The book explains all the science behind the suggestions and features reports from students about how they discovered they needed to make changes. Lots of common sense ideas, especially about the impact of mobile phones. There is also a section at the end with advice for parents and teachers. This appears to be a useful book for students. Karen Kingston, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Book 1 Collector's Edition | The first in an epic trilogy, Shadow and Bone follows Alina, as she attempts to discover who she really is and what her powers are, in the hope of rescuing Ravka from the flesh-eating monsters tearing her country apart. Irresistible. Epic. This is glorious sweeping fantasy.
Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless | The Body Image Book for Girls, published by Cambridge University Press, is certainly worth a place in any school library. Authored by a Professor in Psychology, whose research specialises in body image issues, the reader can have every confidence that the contents are backed up by authoritative evidence, but this is no dry academic tome. As she states in her introduction, Dr Markey is a mother of teenagers, a boy and a girl, and she really cares about girls having the information they need to make the right decisions and to develop healthy habits. When young girls are bombarded with images of airbrushed celebrities and social media pressures it is no wonder that most girls are dissatisfied with some aspect of their bodies and this can lead to anxiety, depression and worse. With an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK having an eating disorder there can be no doubt that there is a real need for a book like this to counter the misinformation out there. The ten chapters cover very clearly and concisely an enormous amount of information ranging from puberty and body changes to self-care, mental health, basic nutritional science, healthy eating habits and making food fun, physical activity and loving our bodies for what they do (not how they look)and how to handle social media and challenging fat shaming language. Each chapter has My Story sections with real life experiences, myth busting boxes, Q&A and a valuable concluding summary of the key points. Combined with an excellent glossary and helpful illustrations the reader can quickly find the information that they need at any given time. But the unpatronizing and non-didactive tone also makes this an enjoyable and engaging read likely to be read from cover to cover. Highly recommended for age nine upwards to the many adults who would benefit from its wisdom too! For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.
George is back and the Undergrounders’ series continues. The action starts in the aftermath of the dramatic ending of the first book, The Undergrounders & The Flight of the Falcon. George returns to his school, that still bears the scars of the dramatic events of book one. He dreads heading back after a brief altercation with his nemesis Liam Richardson, but he returns to find his social status flipped on its head. I liked that more usual school and teenage issues are interspersed with the high-octane action in this book. Things at school may be looking up for George but Victor, The Falcon is still at large and George has every intention of being a part of the team that stops him. But there’s a dangerous plan afoot and on a school trip to Paris not only are the lives of George’s friends put at risk but so many more people as Europe’s most wanted gang of criminals reemerge. I don’t want to go into the plot too much, for the risk of sharing spoilers, but there are dramatic twists, familiar faces reappear and there’s plenty to keep the reader hooked and turning the pages. Interspersed between the chapters there’s email communication hinting at the plans Victor is putting in place as well as a mole playing both sides. The action moves quickly and finale again leaves you with questions for the next book. Although I think you could read this book as a standalone, there are references to events and the reappearance of characters met in the first book and to get the full impact, it’s best to start with The Undergrounders & The Flight of the Falcon. Charlotte Walker A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Not since Adrian Mole opened his diary have the thoughts and innermost feelings of an adolescent boy been examined so precisely or with such heart. Stan is twelve, shy and a worrier, so the thought of a holiday in Italy with his friend Felix and Felix’s family freaks him out. He’s going though: we meet him at the airport drawing up a ‘duck-it’ list of things he hopes he’ll never have to do. Little does he know that he’ll tick off six out of ten of them on his holiday, and enjoy it too. The first-person narrative lets us in on all Stan’s thoughts, but he’s a good observer of others so we learn loads about the others in the holiday party too, kids and grown-ups. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of pure agony, and through it all Stan is learning loads about himself and life in general. Honest, revealing, compassionate and so entertaining, this is a must read for all the Stans out there – adults, give yourselves a treat and read it too.
Rich in historic atmosphere and detail, and smouldering with female desire to be heard in a patriarchal society, Catherine Barter’s We Played with Fire is a hauntingly riveting read. The fact it was inspired by the true story of the Fox Sisters who made a fortune from communicating with spirits in nineteenth-century America makes it all the more gripping, and a fine example of how to transform extraordinary real-life events into enthralling fiction. Back home in Rochester Maggie had enjoyed listening to progressive women she “thought she could learn from” - strong role models who spoke-up at political meetings held in the kitchen. But these fires of inspiration are dampened when Maggie is incriminated in a terrible event that takes place near the schoolhouse she claims is haunted. As a result of the scandal, her family move to remote Hydesville where, feeling fed-up and fuming, Maggie and her younger sister Kate decide to spice things up by playing supernatural tricks on their parents. Matters take a menacing turn when their old farmhouse makes spooky sounds independent of the sisters’ tomfoolery, and they become certain a spirit is communicating with them. When this attracts the attention of their neighbours and a local journalist, Maggie and Kate see the power and potential of spiritualism and set-off on an astonishing life journey that reels with rebellion, show-woman-ship and gothic charisma.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | Malcolm Duffy’s acclaimed, award winning debut, Me Mam. Me Dad. Me, showed us a writer with a totally authentic voice and the ability to portray the direst of circumstances with honesty, humour and heart. Here, young adult readers will be confronted with the terrifying reality of how easily young people can slip under the radar and lose the safety net of a home to go to. Our hero Tyler is a recognisably grumpy 15-year-old uprooted against his will and relocated in Yorkshire. Still to make any friends and with only his dog for company, he stumbles upon a lanky, fellow outsider called Spyder, at the local pool. She wants him to teach her to swim. Given a purpose at last he has no idea what a tangled web of lies he will end up creating as he gradually realises her homeless predicament and wants to help. Unflinching in its examination of a society which would very much prefer not to ‘see’ the problem- just like Tyler’s parents when they discover what he has been concealing. Tyler makes genuine moral mistakes, but we must admire his tenacity and determination to help at whatever cost to himself. Spyder is utterly convincing too- not wanting pity and justifiably scared of dubious ‘charity ’help, she deserves everyone’s respect. This is a book which sadly is all too pertinent to the lives of young people today and in the foreseeable political future. A crusading novel that more than lives up to the promise of that powerful debut. Highly recommended.
The Folk of the Air series | Holly Black writes amazing fantasy set in the land of Faerie. She has thrilled us with The Folk of the Air Trilogy – but this delightful novella takes a deeper look at the early life of the cruel King Cardan from the trilogy – offering some insights as to why he becomes the adult he is and how his early influences contributed. For such a short book (only 173 pages) it is filled with high romance, terrifying danger and touches of humour that will appeal to both established fans and new readers alike. Starting in Cardan’s childhood - where he is a faerie child with a heart of stone and an eye for wicked mischief - the story takes us through his various meetings with the Troll Aslog of the West and the variations on the “boy with the stone heart” story and how these contribute to his eventual character. Pair this with Rovina Cai’s amazing illustrations and this is a jewel of a book. Using a wonderfully earthy, shadowy palette Cai creates a marvellous picture of the world of Faerie. The generous number of illustrations, with detail and depth to them, draws the reader further and further into the story. Definitely a book not to be missed!
A STUDENT FOUND DEAD ON THE BEACH. A WEB OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS. SOMEONE POISED TO STRIKE AGAIN. Illumen Hall is a boarding school of tradition and achievement. But tragedy strikes when the body of a student is discovered on the beach - and on her back is an elaborate tattoo of a magpie. For new student Audrey, it is just another strange and unsettling thing about her new surroundings, along with the secrets the school seems to hide and its weird obsession with magpies. For her roommate Ivy, the death of her friend Lola is just one thing she desperately wants to get past - and having a new student asking questions and cluttering up her personal space is not helping a bit. But the two girls are forced into an unlikely alliance when a mysterious podcast airs, with one sinister headline: I KNOW WHO KILLED LOLA. AND ONE OF YOU IS NEXT. Told from two alternating view-points, this is the first book in a modern gothic thriller series that will have you gripped like no other book this year. Welcome to the Magpie Society, your new YA obsession . . .
An irresistible new edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone created with ultra-talented designers MinaLima, the design magicians behind the gorgeous visual graphic style of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. This is where the adventure begins, as Harry Potter discovers that he is no ordinary boy but a wizard of great reknown, as well as expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Moreover, at Hogwarts, he encounters "He Who Must Not Be Named", a master of magic whose ambition is more dark and terrifying than Harry can possibly imagine.
A Complete (and Completely Disgusting) Guide to the Human Body | This is an information text that will be read with great pleasure and is actually as unputdownable as a novel. It is very apparent that the multimillion-copy selling author and medical doctor has never grown out of his gleeful fascination with the human machine and has a real knack for presenting complex facts both clearly and concisely while making the reader laugh out loud. Similarly, the illustrations by Henry Parker combine accurate explanatory diagrams and zany amusing cartoons, often on the same page. Much of the humour is, of course, derived from the more disgusting aspects of the internal and external body and to making fun of the complicated language and terminology doctors and scientists use, but nonetheless using and explaining all those terms. Indeed the book concludes with a brilliantly educative glossary (and even the jokes are indexed!) A running gag is Clive and the ‘naming committee’ responsible for naming body parts, as is the continued references to the author’s dog Pippin, but always in a way which enhances an explanation or a description and develops understanding. Chapters cover all the organs and systems of the body as well as reproduction, life and death and germs (including COVID-19) and include Kay’s Kwestions (another running gag about needing a replacement Q on his keyboard) and True or Poo sections which answer the sort of questions inquisitive children will be dying to ask and expose the myths, misinformation and old wives tales that you might have heard. He does not shrink from difficult topics or giving unpopular advice – junk food, smoking and drinking really are bad for you and washing your hands properly is important. As genuinely useful as any textbook or revision guide, I would suggest multiple copies will be needed to satisfy demand in any school library.
What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late? In the latest book from the hugely-popular Twisted Tales series, eighteen-year-old Alice returns to the place of nonsense from her childhood. Eighteen-year-old Alice is very different to the other ladies in Kexford. She enjoys spending afternoons with her trusty camera, ignoring pressure from her sister to become a 'respectable' member of society. But when the familiar faces of the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter and the Caterpillar begin appearing in her photographs, Alice finds herself returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood to stop the Queen's tyrannical rule before the End of Time.
Enter the world of the Grishaverse and Shadow and Bone, soon to be a Netflix original series! Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt'ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt'ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse. These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint. This beautiful collection includes stunning full-colour illustrations of each story.
October 2020 Book of the Month | In this brilliant and emotionally gripping sequel to her best-selling debut novel, Dear Martin, the author’s focus shifts to a minor character: Vernell LaQuan Banks Jnr. Unlike Justyce, the hero of the first book who is now a law student at Yale, Quan is incarcerated and charged with the murder of a policeman. In Dear Martin, Justyce wrote letters in his journal to his hero Martin Luther King Jnr to work through his thoughts and vent his frustrations about life as a Black American. Here Quan actually does write to Justyce, inspired by reading that self-same journal and through these and a series of flashbacks his painful story is revealed. From the trauma of witnessing his dad’s brutal arrest and the domestic abuse his mother experiences from her new partner, to taking responsibility for protecting his small step-siblings to the extent of stealing food to feed them, Quan had none of the love and support that helped Justyce overcome the tragedies in the first book. In fact it is the need for a ‘family’ that embroils Quan into joining the Black Jihad and then loyalty to them which keeps his mouth shut about the fact that it was not his gun, left at the scene, which fired the fatal bullet. Through these letters we can really see Quan developing as a character and benefiting from studying with the tutor Justyce sent him. Evaluating himself and how he got there as well as the obvious racial disparities in the criminal justice system and how hopeless the future seems for black youths like him. Eventually the truth about his mental state, his coerced confession and the police procedural failure to gather ballistics evidence is revealed and Justyce launches a legal challenge to get the charges against Quan dropped and, just as importantly, find a way to reconcile him with his family and to be released from obligations to the other ‘family’. This is an unforgettable insight into lives where options and choices are so limited by systemic and institutional racism that despite every effort to the contrary the pathway to prison seems inevitable. In the afterword the author reveals just how many true stories are so authentically reflected here. Dear Justyce is an absolute must read, giving a voice to those who need it the most.
This inventive page-turner opens with a superb sense of peril as sixteen-year-old Alfie moves from Bristol to spend summer in a small village in the north of England. There’s menace from the moment he chances upon a stone in a churchyard and local girl Mia explains the superstitions around it - if a person walks around the stone three times uttering the words “I don‘t believe in witches” Meg Shelton will come for you! Keen to show he doesn’t believe such nonsense, Alfie does exactly that - with immediate menacing effects, and it’s not long before he realises that he’s become a conduit for Meg, a woman murdered for being a witch way back in 1705. Defying convention and expectation, not only is this a gripping page-turner, but it’s brilliantly funny too, with comedy springing forth the moment Meg springs into Alfie’s life (and shower…). What’s more, it’s also edge-of-your-seat pacey as Alfie and Mia - with the help of Mia’s witch-expert aunt - race against time to help Meg make peace with her past, with the stakes high, and their feelings running pretty high too.
October 2020 Book 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.