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In a nutshell: absurd comedy genius | Timmy Failure is the best worst detective in children’s fiction, and a wonderful comic creation. In this adventure he’s having to ply his trade very surreptitiously indeed – Mum has banned all detective work until the school holidays. To make things worse, forced to share his room with his cousins, he must set up his office in a garden shed at the local hardware superstore, a place referred to always as Home Despot. Additional trials in Timmy’s life include piano lessons, and trips to orthodontist Mr A Goni. The plot brings even the most surreal strands together and it’s very satisfying. Timmy narrates with the exasperated air of the misunderstood genius and his version of events is just one of the things that makes these books so enjoyable. ~ Andrea Reece Timmy Failure will appeal to fans of those other thwarted heroes Tom Gates, Barry Loser and Greg Heffley.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Coping with bipolar disorder | Finding the courage to shed secrets | Intense, insightful exploration of how it feels to live with bipolar disorder, and finding the strength to reveal who we really are. Sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan’s life is a precarious balancing act. She’s on a strictly managed cocktail of meds to control her dysphoric mania, a form of bipolar disorder which makes sufferers feel simultaneously manic and depressed. Mel is also mourning the death of her brother, who suffered from the same condition and believed that “everyone has a super power.” Mel identifies hers as “the ability to not think about anything I don't want to think about", which she lives out by keeping her condition secret from everyone but her family. But, while this secrecy is how Mel seeks to maintain equilibrium, along with working in an old people’s home, it’s also what causes a huge falling out with her friends. She’s locked into this cycle of secrecy until her new doctor remarks that in order to enjoy the intimacy she craves, she needs to give people the “chance to know and love the real you”. Along her turbulent journey, Mel’s vital relationships with the people she meets in the home are stirringly portrayed, especially David, the grandson of a resident, to whom she opens up. Heart-rending, empathy-inducing and uplifting, reading this novel is an immersive, all-consuming experience that really does resonate long after the final page. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Taking a stand for the people you love A touching tale of a teen girl’s endearing love for her grandmother, and the awe-inspiring, life-enhancing trip they take together. Zoe Bird is a wonderful whirlwind of a character. Her voice fizzes with energy - and anger. Alongside having to deal with a whole lot of nastiness at the hands of her bullying cousin Madi (AKA Saint Suckhole), she’s trying to cope with the fact that her beloved grandmother has Alzheimer’s. Granny is Zoe's closest friend, an ally who knows that Zoe has “the biggest heart in the world”. But Granny forgets things, and it’s getting worse. She sometimes goes to the store in her dressing gown, she’s failing to take care of herself, and she keeps mentioning her son Teddy, an uncle Zoe has never met. So Zoe’s parents decide that it’s time for her to move into an old people’s home, but not for long… A family revelation leads Zoe to break Granny out of the home and they take a trip that leads to unexpected discoveries, and unforeseen joy. Zoe’s relationship with Granny is nothing short of beautiful. I cried, I laughed, then cried some more at her bravery and absolute, unflinching emotional and physical support of her grandmother. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, and always life-affirming, this will be adored by readers who enjoyed Jacqueline Wilson at a younger age. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: School life, suspense, and stepping from the shadows of grief and guilt An emotionally-charged, edge-of-your-seat thriller in which a young woman experiences a rollercoaster ride of guilt, grief and complex friendships. Twin sisters Harper and Jenna had always wanted to go to boarding school like the St Clare’s twins, and Harper gets to do just that when her dad wins big on a work lottery syndicate. But, far from fulfilling a lifelong dream, Harper wants to go to Duncraggan Academy to escape the guilt she feels for her sister’s anorexia-related death. While secretly grappling with this, she makes great friends, and then new girl Kirsty is invited into their peer group. She and Harper bond when Kirsty confides that she’s also lost a sister, but things get way out of control when Kirsty becomes Harper-obsessed and claustrophobically clingy. Tension builds to a jaw-dropping crescendo as truths are revealed, loyalties are tested, and a whole lot of understanding is needed. Gripping and gratifyingly multi-layered, fans of thrillers with emotional depth will find much to love here. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: Warm-hearted handbook for happy, healthy friendships With comforting clarity, this thorough guide provides vital insight into all aspects of friendship, and also offers support and solutions for navigating one’s way through worries and difficulties. While there are many excellent books aimed at guiding young people through their teenage years, this book’s focus on friendship makes it uniquely invaluable. It places much emphasis on understanding emotions, personality types and behaviours, both one’s own, and those of others. I particularly loved how friendship is framed in the context of being a fundamental human characteristic – “humans are, by nature, social animals”, “we have created lots of ways of supporting each other, through various sorts of friendships.” The book comprehensively covers how to make good friends, toxic friendships, dealing with social media and bullying, developing empathy, and managing stress and anxiety. The personality quizzes are perfect for nurturing self-awareness, inviting readers to explore, for example, if they might be too anxious, how empathetic they are, whether they’re more introvert or extrovert. Both enlightening and practical, this is a must-read for 12+ year olds, and an essential addition to school libraries. ~ Joanne Owen Foreword by Cathy Cassidy I wish I’d had this book when I was growing up...a book to tell me that it was OK to be shy, that it was fine not to be ‘in with the in crowd’, that it was normal to have problems and fall-outs. There are amillion and one things that can derail a teenage friendship, especially now when the extra challengeof social media can feel relentless, yet this is a point in our lives when friends matter more than ever before. When things unravel, it can feel like the end of the world. How do you steer your way though and learn to build healthy, happy, lasting friendships? How do you even begin to understand why people do the things they do when you can’t always work out why you’ve acted a certain way? Trust me, it can take a very long time to learn it all by trail and error, and that’s where this awesome book comes in. Honest,open, practical and positive, it offers a clear, easyto-understand guide to why friendships matter, how they can go wrong and, more importantly, how they can go right. In the twelve years I spent as agony aunt for Shout mag, friendship issues were the number one problem young people were struggling with; now, as a novelist for teens and pre-teens, I probably get more ‘problem page’ type questions from my readers than I ever did when I was an official agony aunt. Friendship is at the heart of all my books, and fiction is a great way to understand ourselves and others – but sometimes we need something more. I’ve learned a lot already from this book, and I think every teenager should have a copy... because friendship matters. Cathy Cassidy
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award In a Nutshell: Loss, friendship and the light of re-finding your way | An exceptional novel about grief, guilt and finding solace in celebrating loved ones’ lives. I adored the author’s haunting southern gothic-spiced debut (The Serpent King), and the same exquisite storytelling shines through here from the opening pages, when seventeen-year-old Carver reveals that his three best friends, Mars, Blake and Eli, were killed in a car crash as the driver, Mars, replied to Carver’s text. Collectively, they were the “Sauce Crew”, four creative teenagers with exciting futures on their near horizons, but now three lives have been cut short, and it feels to Carver as if his life is over too. He’s shattered by grief, and then a criminal investigation into the accident exacerbates his turmoil. But there’s hope to be had from the special memorial days suggested by Blake’s adorable, wise Nana Betsy. The characterisation is masterful, blending painterly personal detail with broader strokes that lay universalities bare, and the writing expresses emotional rawness - the choke of Carver's panic attacks, the blinding thunderstorm of his nightmares - with a powerful punch. Jeff Zentner is the real deal. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: the inspiring true story of ballerina Michaela DePrince | This charming little book opens with a scene any young dancer dreams of: a girl peeking through the curtains before flying onto the stage, a ballerina. The journey taken by that young ballerina to make that entrance is particularly inspiring however: she is Michaela DePrince, and the book describes simply and without embellishment how she came from an orphanage in Sierra Leone to become one of the world’s best dancers. It’s a story of hope, courage, love and persistence, filled with enough dance detail to satisfy tutu-wearing youngsters while gently reminding them anyone’s dreams can come true with hard work and practice. Ella Okstad’s illustrations of Michaela and her fellow little dancers are absolutely gorgeous. ~ Andrea Reece
I know I can't change the way I look. But maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see Wonder is a true modern classic, a life-changing read, and has inspired kindness and acceptance in countless readers. Now younger readers can discover the Wonder message with this gorgeous picture book, starring Auggie and his dog Daisy on an original adventure, written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio. With spare, powerful text and richly-imagined illustrations, We're All Wonders shows readers what it's like to live in Auggie's world - a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he's not always seen that way.
March 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Utterly invaluable, gloriously gracious guide to life | This heartfelt handbook for young adults by an inspirational presenter and producer is the literary embodiment of a big sister’s shoulder and a best friend’s ear. Split into segments exploring Your Heart, Your Mind, Your Body and Soul, Your World and Future, this warm-hearted, straight-talking nugget of non-fiction gold offers vital advice on dealing with life’s challenges (e.g. depression, bullying, eating disorders, self-harm and grief), while also providing succinctly savvy introductions to politics, feminism, finance and the environment. Cairney confides in her readers throughout, thereby opening a healthy headspace in which individuals can contemplate their own outlook, anxieties and aspirations. The book also offers readers opportunities to personalise the funky graphic pages, which feature thought-provoking, interactive exercises, from playing Family Bingo and taking the Period Quiz, to a map on which to mark your wildest wanderlust dreams. Packed with an abundance of info, insight, empathy and encouragement - from the comforting “we all mess up sometimes”, to the truly uplifting “now go reach for the moon!” - Open is surely set to become THE must-have manual for young women navigating the often-tempestuous waters of their teenage years. ~ Joanne Owen
Read this sensational mystery bestseller before you watch the 13-part Netflix series, executive produced by Selena Gomez. This special edition is complete with exclusive behind-the-scenes content including a 16-page full-colour photo insert featuring scenes from the show, and interviews with the cast and crew. You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret ...is to press play. Clay Jensen returns home from school one day to find a mysterious box with his name on it, outside his front door. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did - and Clay is one of them. If he listens, Clay will find out how he made the list - what he hears will change his life forever.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award March 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: how to hope for the best even when you’ve been through the worst | Susin Nielsen puts her protagonists through the most terrible situations, but always manages to keep the tone of her novels light, positive and ultimately uplifting. Teenager Petula’s little sister died in tragic circumstances and the effect on the family has been shattering: her parents are both coping in their own way, but growing further apart, while Petula sees danger and threats in everything. Because of her terrible anxiety she’s been signed up to a youth art therapy group which is where she meets Jacob. Jacob has his own tragedy to deal with, but his arrival changes the dynamics of the group and helps all the different members to move on in one way or another. He and Petula become a couple, but there’s a growing realisation for her and readers that he’s not been completely honest. Readers will be gripped by Petula’s story and the way she tells it; Nielsen gives her a totally authentic teen voice, loaded with cynicism, sarcasm, humour and flashes of hope. Recommended for readers who enjoy Nielsen’s poignant, sensitive novels is I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane. ~ Andrea Reece *** Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Take the quiz & find out! OptimistsQuiz.com
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | 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