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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
December 2020 Book of the Month | Jacqueline Wilson writes about young teenage girls with real understanding, sensitivity and affection, and she’s at her best in the story of Frankie, who finds herself head over heels in love with, of all people, the girl she thought was her worst enemy. As with most thirteen-going-on-fourteen year olds, Frankie is a mess of emotions, resenting her dad for leaving her mum, but needing him too; happy with her childhood friend Sam, but alarmed when he seems to want to change their relationship into something else; and above all confused by her new feelings for Sally. Sally is even more mixed up and her desperate need for love and attention puts Frankie at risk of real hurt. Wilson creates a loving family the support her heroine though and, like so many of her characters, Frankie develops the strength to be honest about who she is and therefore emerges unscathed. Her story is everything you expect from this writer – real, moving and enormously satisfying. Go to Jacqueline's Instagram for Love Frankie videos and links!
Often regarded as Jane Austen’s greatest work, the eponymous Emma is an attractive, altruistic, self-absorbed young woman of means who’s sworn off marriage, addicted to match-making her circle of friends (with usually dreadful results), and - horror of horrors! - falls in love. This prettily packaged Wordsworth Collector’s Edition will make a delightful gift for a friend, or a great addition to school libraries, with a hardback format that’s both attractive and resilient. The Wordsworth Collector's Editions make wonderful presents for children; you can find more in the series here.
From the author of Black Heart Blue and Gloves Off - both LoveReading favourites - Wrecked is a breathtakingly affecting novel-in-verse that sees teenager Joe stand trial for causing a fatal car crash. Exploring thought-provoking themes around toxic relationships, self-preservation, truth and betrayal in an ultra-accessible, engagingly authentic style, this comes highly recommended for reluctant readers. Framed within the context of Joe’s excruciatingly tense trial at which he pleads not guilty to a charge of causing death by reckless driving, his narrative slips back and forth through key moments in his life, most crucially how he got together with Imogen, his girlfriend of many years, who was with him when the crash happened. When the police arrived at the scene, Joe was said to be the driver. “The truth is in hiding, it’s scared, it’s weak/ You see, I’ve been waiting so long for my chance to speak” - so goes Joe’s internal monologue before we hear evidence that tears his character apart. But someone is lying and, little by little, we learn more about Imogen, how she “lifted my shell and prodded deep underneath at flesh unprotected, she bit with sharp teeth - she stole chunks of my certainty.” Alongside the unfolding of past events and the present-day trial, additional devastation is unravelling in Joe’s family. Wrecked is an exceptional addition to the canon of contemporary novels-in-verse for young adult readers (see also Punching the Air, The Poet X, Clap When You Land, Rebound, Black Flamingo, Gut Feelings and the work of Sarah Crossan), and mention must be made of the book’s layout too – words and letters stutter, tumble, slip and fall across and along the pages, stirringly reverberating Joe’s state of mind. We explore the powerful themes in Wrecked with Louisa Reid in a Q&A.
Ada Lovelace: Rebel. Genius. Visionary | At once a passionate portrait of a scientifically seminal young woman, and a fascinating account of the lives of well-to-women in the early 19th-century, I Ada lays bare the many faces of Ada Lovelace. Ada the inquisitive. Ada the adventuress. Ada the visionary genius who defied convention to become the world’s first computer programmer, the seeds of which are sown in this portrayal of her early life. Driven by drama and a spirit of affection, this is as lively as it is informative. Fathered by flamboyant, notorious Lord Byron, it’s perhaps no wonder how easily Ada slips “into the unbordered realms of the imagination” as a child living on her grandparents’ country estate. Ada thinks of him often, and wonders why her mother speaks little of him. But then, Ada’s relationship with her strict, distant mother is often strained. Ada’s flighty tendencies jar with Lady Byron’s more rigid intellectual outlook. But they’re both inspired by their Grand Tour of Europe - Lady Byron seizes an opportunity to research ideas for her progressive school, while Ada’s mind is opened to a world of possibilities. Back in England, Ada’s desires are constrained by societal conventions, though female thinkers and mathematicians are among her circle, and then she meets a revolutionary inventor whose work chimes with her own innovative scientific ideas…
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Tanya Landman’s storytelling skills shine bright in this potent re-telling of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Specially written to engage reluctant and dyslexic readers, this soars with passion, pinches with the pain of tragic love and brings Brontë’s commentary on social class to the fore. “It just wasn't in me to be the obedient, devoted daughter my father craved,” Cathy states near the start of her story, shortly before her father takes-in beggar boy Heathcliff, with whom she forms a soulful bond that will last a lifetime - and beyond. “The two of us together were bigger than the sky and freer than the wind”, she effuses. They’re wild, and united in their loathing of Cathy’s cruel brother who demotes Heathcliff from family member to servant (and later labourer) when their father dies. When Cathy agrees to marry a well-off suitor, hoping to use his wealth to free Heathcliff from the hellhole Wuthering Heights has become, misfortune after misfortune strikes. But theirs is a love that endures everything, and Landman’s re-telling does a remarkable job of conveying the conflicts and tragedy of the original.
August 2020 Book of the Month | Hot on the heels of Happy Girl Lucky comes this second book in Holly Smale’s The Valentines series – a wildly entertaining tale in which aspiring actress Faith seems to have it all, before realising she needs to shirk off the shackles of impossible standards and speak from her own script. Stunning and wealthy, with a mega-famous musician boyfriend – what more could a girl want? And coming from a line of talented actresses, Faith’s future as a major movie star is laid out before her like a red carpet. In her grandmother’s words, “You are a Valentine, darling…The entire world has been handed to you on a plate. All you have to do is not screw it up.” But, despite Faith’s privilege, not screwing up is an impossible task when - also in her grandmother’s words, “there is no intermission, Faith. For us, the curtains are always up.” Constantly in the public eye, everything Faith says or does is scrutinised, often wilfully misinterpreted and, when the truth isn’t juicy enough, the press invents their own. Desperate to keep everyone happy, Faith always says what’s she’s supposed to, but that backfires too: “The Daily Mail has once more referred to you as aloof and an Ice Queen. Darling, if you were a man, that would be a way of saying enigmatic. As a woman, it just means nightmare. You must try to come across as warmer. But not so warm that you look desperate, obviously.” Quite simply, Faith can’t win. What’s more, her auditions aren’t going well either, and it’s not long before everything starts to unravel. Faith’s journey really is an additive rollercoaster – she’s someone to root for, and all the characters are fabulously formed. Readers will truly love “I’ll-do-and-say-and-eat-what-I-want, when-I-want” Scarlett who offers Faith a life-changing sisterly hand. With the novel’s exposure of double standards - and impossible standards - seamlessly thread through the pacey plot, this is feminist fiction at its most thoughtful, thrilling and funny. Find out more as Holly Smale talks to us about her fabulous new trilogy!
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2020 | July 2020 Book of the Month | With characteristic vision and grace Meg Rosoff has done it again in this exquisite novel that merits a place alongside I Capture the Castle, Bonjour Tristesse and The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) for its coming-of-age, loss-of-innocence excellence. Though contemporary, it feels timeless and elementally affecting, much like the Great Godden’s impact on the family whose story it tells. With an idyllic seaside summer stretching ahead, the tingling anticipation of The Great Godden’s unnamed teenage narrator is deliciously palpable: “This year is going to be the best ever: the best weather, the best food, the best fun. The actors assembled, the summer begins.” But there are still two more actors to take to the stage - enter the Godden brothers in a shiny black car. The narrator’s older sister Mattie is immediately smitten by magnetic, handsome, self-assured Kit: “She was desperate to lose her virginity, and what sort of person would say no to Mattie? Surely not some movie star’s kid, fresh off the plane?” Though Mattie is certainly attractive, it’s obvious that charmer Kit has the upper hand of any situation, but might he also be a trouble-maker, as his curt, less-of-a-looker brother warns? Such wonderings underpin some of this novel’s essence. With the stage fully set and summer speeding towards the climax of a wedding, it poses fundamental questions about motivation, and the nature of agency, of lust, of the desire to be seen for who you are. Quivering with unease, passion and paranoia, it also reveals how past experiences engrave themselves upon us, creating fault-lines that may crack and cause future ructions. Sophisticated, seductive and smoothly readable, this is a summer story par excellence, and a coming-of-age tale for all times.
June 2020 Debut of the Month | Falling in love, riding out change, figuring out what you want to do with your life – Ciara Smyth’s pitch perfect debut simmers with romance and deep-rooted dilemmas, delivered through witty dialogue and affecting emotional detail. Seventeen-year-old Saoirse (pronounced ‘Seer-sha’- be sure to get it right) is on the cusp of crossing the Irish Sea to read history at Oxford. Except she’s not sure she wants to go. She has more than enough on her plate dealing with her dad’s remarriage, getting over breaking-up with her girlfriend, and coming to terms with her mum’s debilitating illness. She just wants to spend her summer watching horror movies and kissing girls – no strings attached. To that end, Saoirse goes to a mate’s end-of-exams party and gets it on with his cousin Ruby. Irresistibly drawn to Ruby’s good looks and good heart, Saoirse accepts her challenge to embark on a summer romance with all the serious bits left out, in finest romcom tradition. But, as Ruby sagely points out, “the thing about the falling in love montage…is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love”. Super smart and funny (“If you are a girl inclined to deface school property, may I suggest the classic penis and balls, as you will avoid suspicion due to stereotyping”), Saoirse is a lead fans of contemporary YA will love and root for - flaws and all - and her journey is a thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking rollercoaster ride.
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