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One of our Books of the Year 2016 | March 2016 Book of the Month Frances’ life has been mapped out since forever. She’s set on reading English Literature at Cambridge and getting a good job. That’s the path she believes will lead to a happy life. But academic success isn’t all there is to Frances. She also has a secret side that loves wearing burger-print jumpers and creating fan-art for cult YouTube podcast, Universe City, although that remains firmly under wraps until she befriends Aled. Shy, clever Aled turns out to be the creator of Universe City. He loves her art, loves her style and, most importantly, he makes Frances “feel like I’d never had a real friend before”. Their friendship flourishes until Aled is outed as the podcast’s creator. Thinking Frances has betrayed him, Aled cuts all contact with her when he leaves for university. Then, while devastated at losing her best friend, the rest of Frances’ life also starts to unravel. “Nothing good comes out of lying to people,” Frances remarks, and that’s one of the big themes of this big-hearted novel: being brave enough to face up to the truth, not least the realisation that sometimes the path you’ve mapped out for yourself isn't the right one. Frances and Aled’s friendship is a truly beautiful thing, and this is a seriously smart piece of contemporary YA. ~ Joanne Owen
Asha has big dreams. She wants to be the youngest ever Prime Minister and, when inspirational teacher Mr McCardle gives her his precious copy of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, she wants to write her own books. But Asha’s life is no dream. Once an “invincible” barrister, her mum lost her job after falling ill and Asha’s back at her old school in Peckham. She’s also back with her old friend Patience. “Misfits, both of us. The fat Christian and the new girl”, Asha remarks, while longing to be accepted by beautiful, bold Angel. But things really unravel for Asha when she accepts Angel’s Black Dare - “whatever we say, you just got to do it” – and becomes caught in a web of lies that could hurt everyone she cares for.Featuring characters from the author’s Carnegie Medal nominated Joe All Alone, this is an insightful, gripping, character-driven novel about peer pressure and the conflict between wanting to fit in and standing up for yourself. As Asha realises, “telling lies can ruin lives. But take it from me, telling the truth’s no easy ride.” As the novel builds to a tense, emotional climax, you’ll be on the edge of your seat willing Asha to do the right thing. ~ Joanne Owen Click here to read why Joanna Nadin believes books are important beacons for children.
Best-selling Cathy Cassidy weaves the classic story of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland into this no holds-barred contemporary story of bullying and its impact. Alice accepts an invitation to Savvy’s sleepover because she hopes it might be a genuine offer of friendship. Two years into secondary school, Alice has been isolated and bullied by her former friends who are now part of Savvy’s gang. But Alice soon finds that things are about to get worse! Alice’s accident takes her into a wonderland of her own. How will she get out of it? ~ Julia Eccleshare One of our Books of the Year 2015 Download a letter from Cathy Cassidy to her readers about The Looking-Glass Girl.
‘Movers’ is a captivating and exciting, action packed dystopian adventure. There really is nothing more fascinating or thrilling than exploring a world, set in the future, just outside of reach, where everything has changed beyond recognition. ‘The Hourly Times’ is the perfect introduction to this story, cleverly placing you in 2077 and explaining the fear held by Nowbies about Movers and Shadows, people who can connect to each other through time. Pat and his younger sister Maggie are Movers, their father has been Shelved for moving his shadow from the future to the present and now Pat and Maggie are in terrible danger. Meaghan McIsaac transports you to the future, she enables you to experience time travel yourself, to see this strange and frightening world, to get to know this family, to care about their fate. Once I started reading, I really didn't want to stop. I adored every second of this breathtaking ride and while desperate to know the ending, didn’t want the last page to come! ‘Movers’ is quite simply fabulous and a must have, must read book. ~ Liz Robinson
Isaac tells us he has superpowers that make him different to his brother and the other kids at school: it’s an effective and positive way to explain Asperger’s to young children. For example, Isaac says that as a superhero he has lots to think about, and though he tries to remember to say hello to people he knows, he might forget – but he’s not being rude. He tells us too that he feels scared when he looks people in the eyes, but his dad has taught him to look at people’s foreheads instead. The approach, and the bright, friendly illustrations make this an excellent book for starting discussions about autism and will help children and adults too understand more about the condition. ~ Andrea Reece
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award Before meeting his new foster brother, Jack understands what he and his family are ‘getting into’. Fourteen-year-old Joseph almost killed a teacher, and he has a three-month-old daughter, Jupiter, whom he’s never seen. But from the outset, when Joseph storms off the school bus and Jack joins him on the freezing two mile walk, we know he’s found a friend and ally. We know Jack ‘has his back’. At first Joseph won’t be touched, barely speaks and is nervous of milking the cows on Jack’s farm but, as Jack comments, “you can tell all you need to know about someone from the way cows are around him”, and the cows love Joseph. Slowly-slowly, Joseph opens up and begins to smile - Jack counts each one of them – but he’s haunted by memories of the girl he loved, Jupiter’s mother, and by her tragic death. Joseph can’t get Jupiter out of his mind either, and so his nightly sky-search for her planetary namesake becomes a heartrending real-world search; he has to find his baby daughter. While further loss lies ahead, this is, ultimately, a remarkable read-in-one-sitting story of friendship, love and the glow of hope that comes from second chances and new life. Joseph’s tragic tale will break your heart, but the tenderness that flows from this flawlessly compact novel will also piece it back together. ~ Joanne Owen
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | January 2016 Book of the Month There’s something appealing just about the format and feel of this book – a small hardback, it looks inviting and eminently readable. And it is just that. Alex is getting by at school through the simple expedient of making himself invisible. But the balance of power there changes with the arrival of mysterious notes from someone calling themselves Icarus, promising to fly. As excitement spreads, and Alex learns who Icarus is, the knowledge is both thrilling and troubling – after all, Icarus’s flight ended in tragedy. Ultimately, though it considers some of the most depressing and depressingly familiar aspects of human behaviour, this is a story of hope, with a little nod to magic in it too. ~ Andrea Reece From the same publisher, and in the same pick-up-able format, the Costa shortlisted Jessica’s Ghost takes a similarly thoughtful and life-affirming look at friendship.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2016. Winner of the Older Fiction category of The Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2016. This is a sensitive, often funny and thoroughly engaging story of teenagers coming to terms with who they are. It’s easy to think in these liberal times that anything goes, but teens will be quick to point out that growing up is as difficult as it’s ever been. It’s particularly hard for David, one of the two central characters in this assured debut. David has known since the age of eight that he wants to be a girl. Teased as a freak at school, he feels he can’t even tell his family. New boy Leo seems to have problems too and when the two become friends they discover they have more in common than they ever thought. This ultra-readable, highly entertaining story could also provide readers with some much needed reassurance that normal is as normal does. ~ Andrea Reece
Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award ‘The Crossover’ is original and absolutely stunning, both visually and emotionally, it’s also an award winner, and deserves to be. First published in the United States in 2014 and described perfectly as a novel-in-verse, this is a story about basketball playing twins, Josh and Jordan. I initially wondered, as I looked at the visual impact of the first page, how easy it would be to read, as the words themselves slant and grow and fill the page with attitude. The answer is that this is a remarkably beautiful and accessible read, at times I even read out loud, the sounds resonating and rolling from the page. This style really encourages feeling and understanding to grow, and before I knew it I was fully immersed in the story and letting the words ebb and flow through my mind. Fresh, funny and heart achingly sad, ‘The Crossover’ is a dynamic, vital and gripping story, that I highly and truly recommend. ~ Liz Robinson
Joanne Owen's Pick of the Year 2015 “Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them,” so declares Tess, the troubled heroine of this remarkable novel about alienation, family conflict, the often cruel dynamics of school and, ultimately, the struggle to find one’s place.Everything changes for Tess when she uncovers an earthshattering family secret. With her whole life pulled apart and seemingly founded on a lie, Tess makes a stand by retreating into selective mutism, thus the voice she’s always used to please others is transformed into a form of rebellion. In place of conversing with people, Tess communicates with the fish-shaped torch she bought when planning to run away. But while Tess withdraws into herself, the outside world becomes increasingly hostile.Always inimitable and never confined by convention or recourse to cliché, Annabel Pitcher’s protagonists are consistently created with insight and honesty, warts and all, and Silence is Goldfish is an unforgettable novel. ~ Joanne Owen
One of our Books of the Year 2015 - Julia Eccleshare's Book of the Month, September 2015 Award- winning Jenny Downham launched her career with Before I Die. The story of a young girl facing death, it showed a bold author who could write sensitively about a subject that could easily be sensationalised. In Unbecoming she adopts a similarly direct approach to coping with dementia, the breakdown of marriage and discovering adolescent sexuality as faced collectively and individually by three generations of women in a family. When Katie’s grandmother, whom she has always been told is dead, turns out to be alive and coming to live with them, it begins the discovery of secrets that changes everything in her life. Katie’s grandmother Mary has dementia; she is gradually loosing memories from her past. And yet, looking after her while her mother works, Katie finds that the memories that Mary retains help her to unlock secrets from her mother’s past while also liberating her own feelings and enabling her to speak truthfully at last. An ambitious story that is told across a time span of fifty years, Unbecoming swoops in and out of the lives of the three women reflecting both their enormous differences and their inextricable bonds. Mary’s dementia and increasing confusion is painful but Jenny Downham is touching in her account of it; the effect of it on Katie is optimistic but not unconvincing. ~ Julia Eccleshare “Unbecoming is an astonishing feat of storytelling, a life-affirming book about identity and desire and learning to honour your own stories. It’s searingly honest and completely unputdownable.” - David Fickling
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