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16-year-old Brightonians Caddy and Rosie have been best friends all their lives, their relationship enduring even when Caddy’s aspirational parents send her to a private school. But when an enigmatic new girl arrives at Rosie’s comprehensive, Caddy’s longing for “something of some significance to happen” in her “hopelessly average” life is set in motion, along with a shift in the dynamic of her relationship with Rosie. While Caddy is initially terrified that the beautiful, impulsive Suzanne will replace her, the three of them form a deep friendship. As Suzanne’s self-destructiveness escalates, it emerges that she’s struggling to cope with the ordeal of having suffered physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather, and Caddy finds herself laying everything on the line to save her downward spiraling friend.This powerful, punch-packing debut is an utterly compelling, authentic portrait of the intricate ebbs and flows of friendship, and of a young adult trying to navigate the tempestuous waters of past traumas. Accessible and profoundly moving, Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne’s story is sure to resonate with many a young woman - a phenomenal feat for any writer, let alone a first-time novelist.
This companion to Beautiful Broken Things is a vital, powerful portrayal of the complexities of mental health, friendship and love. Now a legal adult, Suzanne, the self-declared “queen of fresh starts”, leaves her foster parents, acutely aware that “this time, I’m on my own”. She’s moving back to Brighton, the only place she’s ever felt a sense of belonging. “I’m overdue some goodness”, Suzanne muses as she moves into a basic bedsit, with Auntie Sarah and dear friends Rosie and Caddy on hand to help her settle in. But Rosie and Caddy soon head off to their respective universities, leaving Suzanne feeling abandoned. Lonely and struggling to make ends meet on the wages from her café job, she forms a friendship with her 79 year-old neighbour, a storyline that swells with raw, life-affirming beauty. Alongside this, painful mental health setbacks are triggered, and further rollercoaster rides come courtesy of a confusing, overwhelming romance with musician Matt. Honest, authentic, moving and entertaining, this all-consuming story is sensitive and wise on the complexities of growing up, and offers a guiding hand to young adults facing mental health struggles.
Sixteen-year-old Steffi has been selectively mute since she was five. No-one really knows why, least of all her, but teenage readers will recognise the different pressures that she feels so acutely. Her mutism heightens her loneliness, and the loss of her much-loved step-brother in an accident has added terribly to her isolation. We meet her as she’s starting sixth form, set on reaching university, the pressure to speak greater than it’s ever been. Things change when Steffi meets Rhys, who is deaf. Steffi can sign and as their relationship grows we realise that real communication takes many forms. This is very much a story of two individuals but it will resonate with readers, who will understand Steffi’s problems, and be reassured by its message that you don’t have to be noisy to have lots to say, or to be heard. Readers will also enjoy Holly Bourne’s excellent Spinster Club books, or the Zelah Green books by Vanessa Curtis. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
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.
What a stirring sunbeam of a story, with characters you’ll care about, be moved by and take enormous inspiration from. Mapping the transformational bond between a girl incapacitated by chronic illness and a young artist, The World Between Us is shot-through with a resonant reminder to appreciate being able to do what seem like life’s little things - leaving the house, being by the sea, going to a friend’s party - all of which are beyond Alice’s desperate reach. It’s also an ode to the power of friendship, opening up, and following your heart, delivered with 100% charm, 0% cheese. From her bed, Alice’s only experience of the outside world comes through watching Stream Casts. Though this means “I don’t have to be trapped inside by body. I can be strapped to the chest of brilliant people and I can watch them live lives that could perhaps be my own,” Alice remains a silent spectator - until she connects with Rowan, that is. But though their friendship forms fast, she initially keeps her illness from him, and it turns out that he’s struggling with secret troubles of his own. The juxtaposition of Alice’s bed-bound incapacitation and her best friend Cecelia’s effervescence is deeply poignant, especially when Alice feels she has to downplay her condition when Cecelia visits (Alice’s other friends have long since dropped by the wayside in the wake of her illness). The same goes for the price Alice pays each time she does a little of what she wants (and needs) to do - doing anything costs her dearly. Then there’s the guilt she feels about her parents who “gave up everything” for her. But through their connection, Alice and Rowan both learn to assuage their guilt, and to live, as affirmed by the unexpected, breath-taking ending, which is really only the beginning. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
The Collector's First Edition features ten black-and-white character silhouettes by celebrated cut-paper artist Kathleen Jennings and a bonus short story. The Shadowhunters must catch a killer in Edwardian London in this dangerous and romantic sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Chain of Gold, from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Cassandra Clare. Chain of Iron is a Shadowhunters novel. Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She's engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James's charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero's blade. But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia's marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia's reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia's hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace. Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city's most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.
From the author of Just Another Lie, Eve Ainsworth’s Magpie is an honest, poignant story of a family who flee a mother’s abusive partner, all told through the eyes of Alice, a heroine whose experiences and outlook touch the heart and soul. Her wish “to be able to fly… to be truly free” and “never feel trapped again” will have readers truly rooting for her from tense opening to hopeful conclusion. New home, new school, new start - all good. But old fears resurface when Alice spots a hooded figure skulking near her new house and she’s terrified her mum’s abusive partner, Ross, has tracked them down. This was supposed to be them embarking on a new life, away from his violent, manipulative behaviour, away from her mum looking “defeated, like a mouse that had just been caught by a cat.” Despite Alice’s efforts to shrug off her apprehension, the fear lingers and she’s worried Mum has done what she always ends up doing - giving in to Ross. At least she has a couple of great friends for support, though - football ace Alfie and arty Ben. They make an unlikely bunch (as the best friendship groups often do), but they’re close as anything, and will do anything for each other. Written with clarity and heart, I was moved and gripped as Alice discovers the truth of the skulking stranger, all the while navigating the nasty girls at school who mock her unfashionable clothes, worrying about Mum, and feeling the thrill of first love and new connections.
February 2021 Book of the Month | Renée Watson is one of my favourite contemporary YA writers and her latest novel, Love is a Revolution, embodies everything that makes her stories shine - it’s honest, relatable, driven by an inspiring Black girl, and sparkles with a self-empowerment vibe. Nala’s summer plans are sent reeling when she goes to an open mic night for her “cousin-sister-friend” Imani’s birthday, an event organised by the Harlem Inspire community project Imani is heavily involved with. Here Nala fall head-over-heels for committed activist Tye and finds herself telling little white lies to impress him - that she’s vegan, that she’s running a big project at her Jamaican Grandma’s Senior Living residence. Talking of Grandma, I especially loved the book’s beautiful portrayal of inter-generational relationships - the shared wisdom, the compassion and kindness, the sense of family and community, and Nala’s body positive exuberance is uplifting too. Her disorientation and self-doubt derive from elsewhere, like not knowing what she wants to do with her life, and feeling she’s not good enough, not quite worthy of Tye’s love. Though fireworks explode when Nala’s fibs are found out, after taking Grandma’s advice on-board to the empowering soundtrack of her favourite musician, she discovers that self-love and self-care are forms of revolution - they’re her route to transformative self-acceptance through embracing who she really is.
Return to Emberfall in this feminist fantasy, the thrilling Cursebreaker series, which began with the bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Romantic, commercial and action-packed, this third instalment of Brigid's bestselling YA fantasy series is packed with danger, mystery and romance – perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Marissa Meyer.
Voiced by three unforgettable characters – Frankie, Jojo, and Ram, Frankie’s ex boyfriend - whose lives are inextricably bound by unexpected, life-changing circumstances, this impactful novel sparkles with heart, hope and a riveting storyline. Jojo and Frankie have been best friends since forever. Both promising actresses, their lives are on the brink of new horizons, so when Jojo doesn’t turn up to collect her GCSE results, Frankie is frantic with worry. Then, when she eventually hears from Jojo, and also hears a baby crying in the background, Frankie puts two and two together to get six. Could Jojo be responsible for the stolen baby that’s being reported on the local news? Fearing the worst, Frankie does what she must for her dear friend. She tracks her down and discovers an unimaginable truth that truly tests their relationship. Radiant with uplifting portrayals of friendship, and demonstrating that it’s possible to find a way through even the most seemingly impossible situations, this poignant page-turner packs a whole lot of punch in the author’s inimitably empathetic style. Of particular note is the way the novel shows that adults don’t always have the right answer, that life can be confusing no matter what your age, which demonstrates Williamson’s singular respect for her YA readers - she never talks down, and always writes in a spirit of openness.
January 2021 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 What a book! Alex Wheatle’s writing buzzes with energy and captures twelve-and-a-half-year-old Welton’s experience of being in love in all its heart-pounding, stomach-flipping, confusing giddiness alongside a run of seriously bad luck. With Wheatle’s outstanding Jamaica-set historic novel Cane Warriors one of my favourite books of recent years, this confirms the author’s status as a writer of huge talent, with the ability to infuse all genres with a special kind of magic. Things begin to go downhill for Welton the moment he finally plucks up courage to ask out Carmella, “one of the most delicious-looking females in school.” But, somehow, he manages to retain an infectiously upbeat stance throughout, punctuating his problems with Star Wars related exclamations (“Oh, for the life of Yoda!”) as he navigates everything life throws at him - from Hulk-like moustachioed bully Brian and the strife between his divorced parents, to his intense fear of being “lamed and shamed” by Carmella. Welton’s wit and entrepreneurial spirit is especially hilarious and sees him selling damning insults to classmates for 50p a cuss. Fresh, funny and authentic, readers will truly root for Welton - while he’s one of a kind, his voice and experiences will resonant far and wide. What’s more, being published by Barrington Stoke, this zesty page-turner is highly readable and produced with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind, with manageable chapter lengths, a specially selected font and cream paper.
Rachel Rennee Russéll’s Dork Diaries are huge favourites with tweenage readers and no wonder, she’s completely in touch with how they think, and what they worry about too. Nikki is looking forward to the end of term and the summer holidays when suddenly she’s hit by CRUSH-IT IS – like a TON of bricks! The signs are all there: pounding heart, sweaty palms and so many butterflies fluttering in her stomach she feels queasy. Like most things in her life, the path of true love doesn’t run all that smoothly, mostly thanks to the arrival of handsome exchange student André and the machinations of long-time enemy Mackenzie. But with the help of her friends, Nikki gets things back on track and this typically funny and lively read will be another hit with her fans. ~ A review for Crush Catastrophe
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.
'Delivered' is Sylvia Hehir's sequel to 'Deleted'. I haven't read the first book but I don't think that detracted one bit from my enjoyment of this absolute gem of a book. The title is so significant and clever, as it refers to both the birth of a child and the saving of family and personal relationships and maybe even a life. Our heroine, Frankie, hasn't seen her older sister, Keira, for over three years, after she walked out of the rather dysfunctional family home. She returns to her home area unexpectedly, obviously in need of a lot of help and support but Frankie has just arranged to gig with a band in Glasgow for a few weeks, along with her new partner, Alec. Keira refuses to have their parents involved, and, unable/unwilling to get out of her commitment to the band, Frankie leaves her sister and throws herself into Crazy George's struggle to get themselves heard and known. The story is very readable, exciting and completely engaging. It contains such a range of emotions and conditions, from panic, disappointment and addiction to affection, love and pure elation, with the atmosphere portrayed at the gigs and festivals electric and the ending hopeful. I would really love to read the first book in what I hope is to become at least a trilogy. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
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