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“There are some things that shape every minute of forever”, and seventeen-year-old Lexi knows that more than most. Five years ago her life was thrown into turmoil by her older brother’s horrific actions, actions that left her traumatised, stigmatised and excruciatingly conflicted: “How do you condemn your own brother?” Now Lexi’s goal is to “survive a full school year - 180 days - hiding behind a new name, new home, new persona”, this time living with her aunt. Seeing as her “history always finds a way to suffocate everyone in its path,” Lexi fears getting close to anyone, but she strikes up a friendship with Ryan who’s also “wrapped in secrets”, and then embarks on a magnificent romance with Marcus, who shares her experience of being an outcast. I loved the powerfully positive portrayal of both Marcus and Ryan - it was refreshing to encounter such compassionate, non-judgmental, luminously 3D teen boy characters. The novel is brilliant in its portrayal of relatable real-life, coming-of-age universals - fitting in, standing out, anxieties, friendships, falling in love - within the context of Lexi’s agonising situation. Her story is impressively honest in its portrayal of life’s darknesses, and also shot-through with heart and hope as she finds friends she can truly trust, and her own inner strength to survive.
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Megal 2019 -Shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Teen/Young Adult Book of the Year 2018 | Blending folkloric fantasy with contemporary romance, this immersive multi-layered novel heralds the arrival of a unique new voice in young adult fiction. Each Christmas, Wren is hunted in a twisted, tormenting re-enactment of an old game. But the village bullies don’t realise that Wren is part of the Augur family, formerly powerful kinfolk whose magical influence was all but obliterated by the Judges. When Wren is captured in the hunt and a boy claims a lock of her hair, she must become a spy in the house of the most powerful Judge of all. Straddling ancient Celtic mythology and the 21st century, the exhilarating storyline teems with tension as Wren lies, steals and searches her heart and soul while summoning up magic to save her family. The language is lyrical, the concept unique and, while comparisons are tricky to make, I’d recommend this highly to fans of Frances Hardinge’s thought-provoking fantasy.
Following the four March sisters for a year, and narrated by candid, clumsy Jo, the story begins at a time of great upheaval for the March family. Dad is working away as a humanist minister in war-torn Syria, Mum has recently lost her job as a social worker and, consequently, they’ve had to move house. Sensitive, shy Beth just wants “Daddy to come home”. Fashion mad Meg is frustrated by not being able to buy new clothes, while trying to figure out what to do with her future. Sharp-tongued, artistic Amy constantly bickers with Jo, who’s doggedly determined to become a novelist. Despite their own troubles, the family volunteer at a centre for Middle Eastern refugees on Christmas Day. It’s here Jo meets Lateef, a refugee who’s been adopted by a wealthy lawyer, and she immediately senses that he’s “going to be my best friend in the whole world”. In fact, he becomes close to the entire family as they ride a rollercoaster of worries and coming-of-age revelations alongside a whole lot of love and friendship. Written in a highly accessible style, this affectionate update re-maps the personalities, aspirations and uncertainties of the original March sisters to create a new landscape of their lives, one that’s suffused in the spirit of the original and a contemporary freshness as it explores the timeless themes of sibling strains and solidarity, and feeling a sense of home.
May 2019 Debut of the Month | Reader, prepare for your heart to quicken, pound and swell with love, for this is a truly intoxicating tale of friendship, romance, seizing special moments and being willing to do anything – anything – for the people you love. Jack King - one of the most authentic and charming characters to have stepped off a YA page - and his best-friends-since-childhood Franny and Jillian are on the brink of a new chapter in their lives, picking out colleges, planning their careers, while having fun hanging out. And then Jack meets Kate at a party and falls for her big-time. They’re soul-mates who bond over their love of cereal until, all too soon, Kate dies. But this tragic event turns out to be the beginning of their story, for Kate’s death flips Jack back in time and he meets her again, as if for the first time, with Kate sensing that she knows him from somewhere: “The way you look at me. Like we’ve been doing it our whole lives.” Jack sets about trying to change the course of history, firstly so Kate doesn’t die, and then also to swerve bad stuff away from his friends. But, in classic time travel tradition, this has dangerous effects. Cue Jack wryly referencing Back to the Future and Groundhog Day while up to his neck in serious complications. Take away the pulse-quickening time travel element and you’d still have a novel heated by much heart and humour. With it, this is a firework of urgent, impactful YA fiction, a book that’s ablaze with tough choices and all kinds of love. Throughout there’s a whole lot of heart-melting cuteness - the trio’s friendship, the sweet relationship between Franny and Jillian, Jack’s parents’ perfect marriage. The plot progression and developments revealed through the various play-outs of the past are brain-flippingly smart, with twists wending through to Jack’s desperate need for “one more re-set to undo this tragedy”. Reader, I cried on the bus.
A suspenseful historical YA debut inspired by the true story of an all-female bomber unit in Russia during World War II. World War II has erupted in Valka's homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She's a pilot-and a good one-so she eagerly joins an all-female bomber regiment. Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German targets is something else entirely. The raids are dangerous, but as Valka watches her fellow pilots putting everything on the line in the face of treachery, she learns the true meaning of bravery. As the war intensifies, though, and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home. Inspired by the true story of a famous all-female Russian bomber regiment, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, of learning to fight for yourself, and of the perils of a world at war.
December 2018 Book of the Month | | I relished the first two books in this series (The Dark Days Club and The Dark Days Pact) and this final Bath-set instalment is a fittingly thrilling feast of fantastical foe-fighting and illicit liaisons. Spirited Lady Helen might be in the throes of finalising her wedding plans, but she has far greater matters to attend to, such as defeating the Grand Deceiver. Alongside the high-stakes, high-octane action, the delicious duplicity of Helen’s double-life existence further flavours this novel with edge and intrigue. While “her aunt and uncle, along with the rest of society, were under the impression that she had spent the last six months enjoying the delights of Brighton and Bath”, Helen had, in fact, been engaged in “killing murderers, and becoming one half of the Grand Reclaimer with Lord Carlston” as a member of the demon-fighting Dark Days Club. Talking of whom, Helen’s relationship with Carlston is a frisson-fuelled delight, thronging with “will they? Won’t they?” tension. Wildly inventive, and driven by the vitalities and conflicts of an engaging heroine, this trilogy is a magnificent melange of history, fantasy and heart-pounding passion.
November 2018 Book of the Month | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | A stunningly original ocean adventure by a one-of-a-kind author whose work defies convention and abounds with a purity of ideas and execution. Kel was “always running away from something”, seeking escape “from the world she inhabited within and the world that bullied her from the outside”. She’s a swamper, born oceans apart from the wealthy tower people who live in the same Cornish coastal community. She’s also an unforgettable heroine, a girl with danger in her eyes, a baby to care for and “a stupid heart that beat wrong and was shaped wrong and had wrongness stretched clean through it”. Kel “didn’t want what the tower people had; she only wanted two things, a heart she could rely on and freedom from kin”, which is why she kidnaps Rose, the daughter of a cargo ship captain. Kel plans to use her ill-gotten gains to travel to South America to have a heart operation, because in the UK “swamp folk don’t get operations”. Aboard the ship Kel tracks down Rose and forces her to board a smaller vessel, soon running into trouble when the engine fails amidst scenes of devastation on the mainland. Steering clear of well-worn clichés, Carthew’s stories cut to the heart of human experience, often portraying and championing life’s underdogs and outsiders. What a thrilling, thought-provoking novel this is, brimming with perilous encounters, and the rawness of real-life relationships.
This perfect little package (a cute clothbound hardback sprinkled with glittery goodness) comprises two festive-themed stories that are packed with heart, wrapped in hope and perfectly embellished with Simini Blocker’s warm and witty illustrations. Set over several New Year Eves, the opener Midnights tells the tense “Will they? Won’t they?” story of best buddies Mags and Noel, whose lives are on the giddy brink of change. Kindred Spirits, originally published as a World Book Day book, is a funny tale of a friendship struck up between Star Wars fanatics sleeping outside a cinema before a new movie opens. Certainly a must-read for Rowell fans, this short and satisfying treat is also perfect for introducing newbies to her unique talent for creating believable characters and writing romance with real-life authenticity.
October 2018 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | A heartfelt, hard-hitting, super-readable novella about the life-affirming, life-saving friendship that blossoms between a young teenager and her 59 year-old neighbour. All sweet-hearted Aman wanted was for her dad to stay a little longer, but he died before she had chance to read her special letter to him. While grappling with grief, she’s bullied by a bunch of older kids, but thankfully new neighbour Gurnam intervenes to scare them off. While Aman sees Gurnam as her “personal superhero”, she notices a sadness about him, but he won’t reveal the cause of his pain. The truth is revealed with poignant, page-turning urgency, leading to a shocking finale that sees Aman grasp a second vital chance to read her love-filled letter. There’s so much humanity and soul in this short gem of a story. While the content is YA, this is written for those with a reading age of 8+, in a lucid, gripping style that tells it like it is and gets to the core of the characters’ hearts. I relished every word.
The four sisters, each with a striking and strong character, between them represent any girls growing up at any time. Meg, the eldest, is sixteen and very pretty; fifteen year old Jo is a tomboy who loves reading; delicate, thirteen year old Beth plays the piano beautifully while twelve year old Amy, is pretty but a little bit selfish and indulged. How their sisters fill their time with creative activities and good work and how they all fall in love in their different ways with the boy next door is full of period charm as well as being totally topical and applicable for modern readers. Each book in the Wordsworth Collector’s Editions series will make an attractive addition to any home or school library. Featuring stylish cover illustrations that are at once classic and contemporary, gleaming gold foil, and an elegant compact hardback format, they make glorious gifts for readers young and old.
Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2019 | Mel Darbon’s contemporary love story stars Rosie, who is 16 and has Down’s syndrome; and Jack, who attends the same college in a specialist unit. When Jack, who has anger management issues, is sent away to a residential treatment centre, Rosie is determined to see him again, whatever it takes. Her father disapproves of their relationship, so Rosie is very much on her own in this. It’s very rare to find a novel for YA readers narrated in the first person by a disabled character and Rosie’s voice is unique and feels totally authentic. Her journey is as challenging as you’d imagine, and dangerous too, and readers will finish the book full of love and admiration for Rosie and with a better understanding of the difficulties faced by those with disabilities. Highly recommended.
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