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UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | February 2018 Book of the Month | This inspirational novel about three young Suffragettes from very different backgrounds is at once a riveting character-driven read, and an outstandingly rich account of British social history between 1914 and 1917. Seventeen-year-old Evelyn is exasperated by the unfairness of a society in which her academically disinterested brother is afforded the expensive privilege of going up to Oxford while her genuine desire to broaden her mind is dismissed as pointless. “These university women lead very sad lives, I'd hoped for better things for you - a husband, and a family, and a home of your own,” her mother poo-poo’s. But, shirking familial disapproval, Evelyn joins the Suffragette movement and finds herself at the heart of a highly-charged rally, with serious repercussions. Then there’s May, a flamboyant fifteen-year-old who revels in being different and is encouraged to do so by her liberal Quaker mother. May is also a passionate Suffragette, and passionate, too, about Nell, a working class girl from Poplar. The flowering of their love and lust is brilliantly portrayed, as is the contrast between their respective backgrounds. Then, the political conflict of WWI heralds personal conflicts for the three young women, not least when Nell’s desire to contribute to the war effort angers pacifist May. The nature and struggles of masculinity are also excellently explored through, for example, Nell’s brother who wrestles with "feeling much less of a man than he should be”. This novel is the perfect tribute to the incredible women who blazed a trail during the early twentieth century, and its inspirational scope and storytelling excellence cannot be praised enough. I loved it.
Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is - and what he's looking for. But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated. Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal... It's a holy freaking huge awesome deal. Originally published as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2019 | February 2018 Debut of the Month | February 2018 Debut of the Month In a Nutshell: Brave British Muslim keeps her head after losing her heart An important, engaging debut in which a bright British Muslim is drawn down a dark path. Tingling with heart and urgency, and astute on the complexities of radicalisation, this rivetingly authentic read shows that representation really does matter. Fifteen-year-old Muzna has a passionate ambition to become a novelist, but her parents have other plans. Boys, make-up and hair removal are strictly forbidden, and they want her to become a doctor – “#BrownGirlProblems”, as Muzna describes her predicament. When labeled a terrorist by a classmate in her new school, “Guy Candy” Arif sticks up for her, and it’s not long before they strike up a friendship, and more. She starts attending meetings with Arif and his older brother Jameel, and her eyes are opened to the media’s anti-Muslim bias, and to Western demonisation of Islam. The brothers encourage her to pray, and she’s gifted a hijab, which she hides from her parents, since her father insists “it was only the 'ignorant’ who clung to Islamic teachings”. Being sharp-minded and questioning, Muzna is keen to understand different facets of Islam, but she’s conflicted when Jameel says her parents aren’t “real Muslims”, and he can’t be right when he declares “writers of fiction are among the worst of people”, can he? Muzna’s conflicts are sharply evoked, and there are moments that will have you begging her to listen to her friends when they reach out to her. But the truth only fully hits Muzna as time is running out, and she must summon the strength to remain true to the talented, intelligent young woman she is. Inspired by author’s shock at hearing that three British schoolgirls had flown to Syria to join the ‘Islamic State’ in 2015, this is a timely, thought-provoking debut that also packs in powerful universalisms about growing up, falling in love and discovering who you are. ~ Joanne Owen
Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine's life has completely fractured - all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret - one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed...?
Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award | January 2018 Book of the Month | Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan are two of our most garlanded YA authors: she won the 2016 Carnegie Medal, the UK’s top children’s book award; he has just been awarded the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. In this fine and extremely moving novel, they share the writing honours. The narrative is split between two young protagonists, English Jess, whose lines are written by Crossan, and Nicu, newly arrived from Romania, voiced by Conaghan. The two meet on a programme for young offenders and secretly, necessarily without the knowledge of friends and family, become close. We suspect it’s unlikely things will end well for these star-cross’d lovers but the authors keep us hoping for the happy ending we want for them and to the very last page. Nicu’s narrative in particular lightens the tone, sharp and often funny, his interior monologues disarmingly honest. The authors have chosen to write in blank verse, and it strips setting and emotions to the absolute essence, succinctly creating the dull North London streets, and distilling the characters’ experiences and emotions into spare, shining lines. Highly recommended.
January 2018 Debut of the Month High school student Dill knows what it is to feel “the crushing weight of destiny”. His granddad went mad after a copperhead viper killed his daughter, and his dad, a fanatical Pentecostal minister, makes his congregation handle deadly serpents to prove their faith. While his father is now in prison for a terrible crime, Dill feels shackled by these family demons, and also by poverty, bullying and a fiercely religious mum who blames Dill for his father’s imprisonment. Dill also knows he’s lucky to have friends like Travis and Lydia. While staff-wielding Travis finds sanctuary from his violent drunk of a dad in fantasy books, Lydia is an energetic fashion blogger from the right side of the tracks. But everything shifts as the three friends embark on their last year of high school. Lydia is all set to study journalism in New York, Travis is excited about his burgeoning relationship with a fellow fantasy geek, but Dill has no hope for his future. He’s terrified of losing Lydia, and terrified that he’s already been poisoned by his family’s legacy. He finds some solace in song-writing but, when tragedy strikes, Dill descends to a very dark place and it takes supreme strength and love to untangle himself from the strangling grip of grief and despair. This southern gothic story about small-town small-mindedness, religious fanaticism, wrestling family demons and the redemptive power of friendship really is an exquisite gem; an unforgettably haunting tale that imprints itself on your heart. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | October 2017 Book of the Month A feast of feel-good funniness and feminism that cleverly contrasts the impossible magic of movie romance with the heady complexities of real-life love. Talented actress Audrey (named after Hepburn) has just started working in an indie cinema where she begrudgingly serves gourmet hotdogs to the well-heeled inhabitants of Bridgely-upon-Thames alongside zombie-movie-maker and “player” Harry. When set a Critical Research project by her media studies teacher, Audrey decides to write about “why love is never like the movies”, and boy does she know about the devastating disappointments of real-life love, what with her mum seeking solace in alcohol as a result of her dad starting a new family with someone else, and her own experience with an ex who dumped her a week after she lost her virginity to him. No wonder, then, that Audrey’s left wondering what the point of love is, and the project excerpts that appear as chapter intros wittily expound her views. But this hard-held conviction is put to the test when Audrey agrees to play a “feminist freedom fighter zombie bride” in Harry’s new movie, and finds that she might just be falling for him. Tackling complex issues around relationships, sex, alcoholism and movie cliché madness with a nimble lightness of touch, this is contemporary YA at it’s finest: hilarious, heartfelt, and wholly recommended. ~ Joanne Owen
In a nutshell: contemporary drama gives us hope Hope Baldi has more problems than the average teenager: she’s mourning the sudden death of her father, and having failed to win a place at drama college has no idea what to do with her life. On top of that she suffers from a disorder that causes extreme mood swings and terrifying uncontrollable fits of rage. Various things help her through however, not least the love of family and friends, and a long distance text/email relationship with the charming, no-nonsense Riley. Rhian Ivory has a real ear for dialogue and understands her audience very well; readers will be gripped by Hope’s journey of healing and self-discovery. One to add to the ‘you’re not alone’ category alongside books by Holly Bourne, Lisa Williamson and Eve Ainsworth. ~ Andrea Reece
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Book of the Month This inspirational novel about three young Suffragettes from very different backgrounds is at once a riveting character-driven read, and an outstandingly rich account of British social history between 1914 and 1917. Seventeen-year-old Evelyn is exasperated by the unfairness of a society in which her academically disinterested brother is afforded the expensive privilege of going up to Oxford while her genuine desire to broaden her mind is dismissed as pointless. “These university women lead very sad lives, I'd hoped for better things for you - a husband, and a family, and a home of your own,” her mother poo-poo’s. But, shirking familial disapproval, Evelyn joins the Suffragette movement and finds herself at the heart of a highly-charged rally, with serious repercussions. Then there’s May, a flamboyant fifteen-year-old who revels in being different and is encouraged to do so by her liberal Quaker mother. May is also a passionate Suffragette, and passionate, too, about Nell, a working class girl from Poplar. The flowering of their love and lust is brilliantly portrayed, as is the contrast between their respective backgrounds. Then, the political conflict of WWI heralds personal conflicts for the three young women, not least when Nell’s desire to contribute to the war effort angers pacifist May. The nature and struggles of masculinity are also excellently explored through, for example, Nell’s brother who wrestles with "feeling much less of a man than he should be”. This novel is the perfect tribute to the incredible women who blazed a trail during the early twentieth century, and its inspirational scope and storytelling excellence cannot be praised enough. I loved it. ~ Joanne Owen
In a Nutshell: Killer concept sci-fi with contemporary kick Extra-terrestrial invasions, an honourable teen girl fighting to save the human race, this UK debut for a much-admired, bestselling Icelandic author is a Pandora’s box of page-turning action, with added aliens. Think War of the Worlds meets The Hunger Games, meets Michael Grant’s Gone. Amy’s story begins in a recognisable London, in which she watches cat videos on YouTube, chats to best friend Matilda online, and where she and her brother try to bypass parental Internet restrictions. But this is also a London in which sinister metallic arms snake down from the sky and suck teenagers from sight, among them people Amy holds dearest. An atmosphere of devastating distrust and tension is evoked as Amy realises that the survival of the human race might just depend on her. It really is refreshing to see such sweepingly original sci-fi with a relatable, fully formed female protagonist and, what’s more, Amy must volunteer herself and fight without recourse to special powers – it’s her humanity that sets her apart. Suzanne Collins fans, meet your new must-read author. This is a blast of a book. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | In a Nutshell: Death row injustice | Undying brotherly love A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing. ~ Joanne Owen The Costa Judges say: ‘An exceptional, compelling book for our time – its analysis is devastating but its message is hope.’
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