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May 2021 Book of the Month | Honest, authentic and (ultimately) uplifting, Holly Bourne’s The Yearbook will strike a powerful chord with young women on the brink of leaving secondary school. Realistically raw in its portrayal of toxic relationships (from poisonous school peers to abusive partners), with an underdog protagonist readers will wholeheartedly root for, and a sweet, slow-burning romance that will melt the most cynical of hearts, this is classic contemporary YA. Budding journalist Paige lives a lonely, isolated life - “the undeniable truth was that I was invisible as well as unlovable. Nobody could see me see me at all, let alone look at me and see the potential to store their heart there. People don’t fall in love with wallpaper. Or silence.” At the same time, her parents’ marriage shows the jeopardies of falling in love with the wrong person. She and her mum walk on eggshells around her erratic, coercively controlling dad who flips from jolly joker to enraged monster over the tiniest thing. At least Paige has the school newspaper to keep her occupied - until it’s hijacked by malicious narcissists from the official Leavers’ Committee who want to create a yearbook. As Paige’s family life disintegrates, she realises that the infiltrators steering the yearbook are re-writing history. The same goes for Paige’s dad and his ilk - people who think “they’re the hero of their own story, but, actually, in the pursuit of being so important, they’re often the villain of everyone else’s”. Thankfully, though, hope comes in the form of her independent-minded aunt Polly (“she seemed to genuinely care for me”) and soul-lifting Elijah, who supports Paige’s quest to find her voice and speak the truth after they meet through a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Winner of the YA Book Prize 2021 | Through the tangled identity struggles of authentic characters you’ll truly care about, Alice Oseman’s Loveless extends an understanding hand to aromantic asexuals (people who experience little-to-no romantic or sexual attraction, also known as aro-ace) while guiding all readers through fears of being alone and dealing with the pressure to hook up. Moreover, it’s a thoroughly entertaining, gripping page-turner that shows finding happiness isn’t dependent on romantic love. Georgia is desperate to experience her first kiss before she and her two best friends head to Durham University. After being made to feel “weird” and “disgusting” when she confesses to her peers that she’s never kissed anyone, Georgia seizes an opportunity to snog the one and only crush she’s ever had. When this goes spectacularly wrong in a scene that sizzles with tension and scorching comic timing, it hits her that “I hadn’t ever fancied anyone,” that the reality of kissing and romance “disgusts me.” But still she resolves to “try harder. I wanted forever love. I didn’t want to be loveless.” At Durham, while still struggling to find love, Georgia finds new friends in her outwardly confident, sexually active roommate, and Sunil, president of her college’s LBGTQ society. Sunil’s compassion and personal experiences help her discover who she is, to realise that she’s not alone in not feeling sexual or romantic attraction. Georgia’s journey to discovery is far from smooth, though, with many friendship-threatening, edge-of-your-seat errors made along the way. Find out more about the YA Book Prize including all the shortlisted titles.
Gabriel is a natural born rule-breaker. And his biggest crime of all? Being gay. Gabriel knows his sexuality must be kept secret from all but his closest friends, not only to protect himself, but to protect his boyfriend. Because Eric isn't just the boy who has stolen Gabriel's heart. He's the son of the chief inspector at Degenerate Investigations - the man who poses the single biggest threat to Gabriel's life. And the Protectorate are experts at exposing secrets.
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.
A bittersweet story of friendship and loyalty as two talented teens try to cope with the pressures of fame. It's a beautifully written, thought-provoking tale which deals honestly with the modern pressures of cyberbullying and social networking. What happens if you betray your best friend, on TV in front of millions? The whole world lines up to judge you. When singers Sashaand Rose reach the finals of Killer Act and are told that one of them must go - they make a decision that will change their lives... A Piece of Passion from the Publisher, Barry Cunningham Grrrr … don’t you want to shake some TV talent show judges? But just when you think these competitions are all about wicked manipulation, real-life moments of humility and magic break through. Sophia Bennett’s new novel brilliantly shows both sides of the music game, and the perils of online fame and blame. My own ability to mime to pop songs is apparently not enough to qualify!
Best-selling award-winner Jenny Downham takes readers on a headlong rush into trouble in a teen novel to set readers of all ages thinking. A passionate story about divided loyalties and overwhelming love. Jenny's debut novel Before I Die was the profoundly moving story of the death of a teenager. Told with immense insight and compassion it showed Jenny’s talent for understanding the energetic positivity of teenagers; how, for them, the ‘now’ matters more than the ‘what happens next’. In You Against Me, a thrilling, high stakes novel of love across the barricades, Mikey and Ellie overcome quite different challenges. When Mikey’s sister is raped, Mikey determines to show her he cares by getting even with the boy who did it. When Ellie’s brother is accused of the rape her family falls apart. With their very different worlds collapsing around them, Mikey and Ellie should hate each other; instead they fall in love. Shot through with romance this is a gripping and realistic look at how teenagers deal with big issues and face up to tough consequences when things go wrong. The LoveReading Comment: This is a brave and unflinching novel from the award-winning and bestselling author of Before I Die. It’s a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all, it’s a book about love.
Imparting an infectious passion for politics, speaking-out and trying to make a difference, Yes No Maybe So, co-authored by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, is a resonant, readable page-turner with an adorable cross-cultural romance at its heart. Jamie Goldberg is a self-professed klutz with confidence issues and a commitment to campaigning for his local Democrat candidate. While he hates being the centre of attention and has no interest in “power for its own sake”, Jamie is certain that “I want to be a history changer. I want to help draw the line.” It’s on the campaign trail that he meets Maya. With her parents recently separated, their vacation plans cancelled, and her best friend distracted with college plans, Maya figures she’d just as well do something during the summer. The Islamophobia Maya experiences while canvassing elicits a mix of shock, anger and defiance. “We don’t want the racist asshole guy to win, right?” she says of the bigot who slurs her during one doorstep encounter. “He already did win. In 2016,” Jamie quips of the US President. As the heat of the campaign intensifies, not least when they stand against a Republican bill seeking to ban head and face coverings in public spaces, and Jamie’s car is defaced with an anti-Semitic sticker, so too does their friendship, with their cross-cultural relationship portrayed with authentic empathy. Maya and Jamie’s dual narrative plays out with page-turning urgency and their awakenings – political, personal and romantic – are a genuine joy to experience. While Jamie has to learn from his Ramadan-related gaffes, and there are conflicts to navigate, their friendship – and more – transcends boundaries.
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.
The school play has long been known as the best place for romance…Emily’s ambition is to star in the school play and to fall in love so everything should be going fine. However, Emily’s outburst against the choice of Wuthering Heights as the play puts everything in jeopardy and the new boy doesn’t come up to standard either. .. A romp of a novel with school, drama and badly behaved teens all featuring strongly.
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.
Powerfully thought-provoking alternate-history thriller in which an unforgettable heroine seeks revenge on Hitler. It’s 1956, more than ten years since the Nazis won the war, and 17 year-old Yael belongs to a resistance movement. After enduring scientific experimentation as a child in Auschwitz, she possesses the power to change her appearance at will, along with tattoos of wolves on her arm, and a single-minded determination to kill Hitler. To this end, Yael must embark on a road-trip like no other; she must win a motorbike race that sees her traverse the world. Alternating between Yael’s epic journey as a young woman and events from her childhood, this is an extravaganza of a story, a multi-layered tapestry of alternate-history, dystopian thriller and heroine-driven quest. Like Yael, the writing is fearless, smart and energetic, and readers will be left desperate for the sequel. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: Extreme sacrifice | Epic apex Fans left desperate for more by Firewalker’s finale will be more than satisfied with this final feverish instalment of the Worldwalker trilogy in which heroine Lily is tested to the most intense extremes yet. Which is exactly what you’d expect of the conclusion to an adrenaline fuelled series but - rest assured - the action unfolds in ways you won’t expect. Lily may have survived fighting the Hive, but many among her “small band of braves” did not. She lost the battle, many lost their lives, and now she and those who remain must find a fresh way to defeat the Woven. Driven by high-octane action and the concepts of alternate worlds and alternate selves, this trilogy offers an exciting alternative to fans of the fantastical. The smooth entwining of magic, myth, science and sass is refreshingly ambitious and executed with flair. Buckle up for the wildest Worldwalker ride yet! ~ Joanne Owen
January 2017 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Losing your way | Running for your life | Finding your feet | 12+ A beautifully bittersweet debut in which a teenage girl discovers a latent talent that shines light on the darkest of times. Fifteen-year-old Wing Jones lives with her mom, her big brother Marcus (a high school sports hero), and her brilliantly portrayed, bickering grandmothers, Chinese LaoLao and Ghanaian Granny Dee. “I can’t blend in but I don't stand out” is how Wing sums up her place in the world, and her insecurities are cruelly exacerbated by the racist prejudice of peers who mock her appearance and mixed race heritage. The family are doing their best to get on with their lives (Wing lost her cop father in a shooting) when a second tragedy strikes. But, in the midst of this agony (“I didn’t know it was possible for a heart to break in so many ways”), Wing is struck by an overwhelming urge to run and discovers that she’s an incredibly talented athlete. It turns out that nurturing this gift - and not blending in - might just be the very thing that gets her family back on track. Set in the run-up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, this is an expansive, heartfelt tale of loss, first love and self-discovery, and readers will truly root for Wing. Highly recommended for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: A heart-warming story about first loves, friendship and the power of kindness What’s important in life? Money, success, popularity are all words that float to the top of the list yet friendship, empathy, kindness and love are possibly where happiness really resides. This warm, heart lifting novel from Jennifer E. Smith encourages us to question what is really important in life. Alice buys best friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his birthday as a joke. She doesn’t believe in luck and the last thing she expects is for Teddy to win and win big. Suddenly the comfortable life she has come to know is thrown in to disarray and things begin to change and the Teddy she thought she knew so well and who she’s secretly been in love with for years, begins to change. As she sees his popularity rise along with his bank balance and their hopes and dreams change, she begins to feel that she is losing him. But soon Teddy discovers that using his new found wealth committing random acts of kindness is the way forward and Alice joins him on helping to change the lives of random strangers. This thoughtful, inspiring story follows them on their adventure as they grow, sometimes together and sometimes apart, but both discovering a little more about each other and themselves along the way. For me Alice and Teddy’s story highlights the changes we can all make within our own world and the knock on effect that can have. It’s a wonderful message about love, hope and friendship, and ultimately about acceptance; acceptance that we can’t always control what happens in our lives but that our own actions have the power to change, maybe not the whole world, but certainly the world for at least one person through the kindness we can share. And that is a wonderful power to have indeed. ~ Shelley Fallows
Welcome to Stardust Stables - the stunt horseriding school where only daredevil riders need apply!Alisa struggles to deal with her co-rider Sophie, who seems hell-bent on ruining everything for her. This is the second in the series which has already taken 9-12 year olds in the US by storm. To view the first title in the series, A Star is Born, click here.
Interest Age Teen, Reading Age 8+. A strong and dramatic story which tells how a young girl is kept living on an island and completely removed from the world by her father until her eyes are opened by the arrival of a strange young man. Anna has always though that Max, her father’s assistant, had her best interests at heart. He seems more fun that the other servants in the house. In fact, she’s beginning to think about him romantically…But then a young man is mysteriously washed ashore. Who is he? And how will he change Anna’s life. An atmospheric historical romance for teens, from a gifted and acclaimed author. Beautifully packaged with a foiled jacket. Particularly suitable for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic teens.
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