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Especially compiled for Young Adults, this section is awash with wonderful worlds to escape to, great stories and characters you’ll love. Please note that some of these books have more adult content and are generally suitable for 16+ readers. The books in this section might also be given a secondary age range. Some are suitable for 13+ year olds reading above their age and looking for a challenging read. Please note, content & subject matter will be suitable for a 13 year old. Non-Fiction in this section is often fascinating and educational to a wider age range.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Co-written by award-winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and Dr Yusef Salaam, a prison reform activist, poet and one of the Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a timely, heartachingly powerful free verse novel. Through its shatteringly succinct lyricism, Amal’s story is a mighty call to action that rouses readers to question the deep-rooted and damaging consequences of racially biased societal systems, while radiating the light and hope of art and Amal himself. Sixteen-year-old Amal is a talented poet and artist, but even at his liberal arts college, he’s victimised by destructive preconceptions, deemed disruptive by people who “made themselves a whole other boy in their minds and replaced me with him.” Amal’s budding life careers off-course when he’s wrongfully convicted of a crime in a gentrified area. Even in the courtroom it feels to him “like everything that I am, that I’ve ever been, counts as being guilty”. Standing before judgemental eyes in his specially chosen grey suit, he’s aware that “no matter how many marches or Twitter hashtags or Justice for So-and-So our mind’s eyes and our eyes’ minds see the world as they want to/Everything already illustrated in black and white.” In the detention centre, Amal considers his African ancestry: “I am shackled again,” he says. “Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my ancestors. Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my father and my father’s father and all the men that came before.” He expresses society’s double standards with searing clarity too - Black boys are “a mob/a gang ghetto/a pack of wolves animals/thugs hoodlums men” while white boys “were kids having fun home loved supported protected full of potential boys.” But through the beatings and despair, through anger and frustration, Amal finds solace in the supportive letters he receives from a girl in his school, and his “poet, educator and activist” teacher. By turns soul-stirring and inspiring, this sharp exposure of injustice and testament to the transformative power of art comes highly recommended for readers who love the work of Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo. Find a selection of recommended books that celebrate difference in our blog, Diverse Voices.
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…
An absolutely charming addition to a much loved series. There is something so uplifting about these novels, Alexander McCall Smith has the ability to embrace the intimate in order to open far-reaching views. Mma Ramotswe is troubled by a strange smell in her van, her new neighbour causes concern, and a distant cousin asks for help. Can you believe that we are now at book twenty-one in this evocative series which began with The No:1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 1998? Do you have a favourite, I think this could well be mine…though as with all good series that create a world for you to inhabit, the latest usually becomes your most treasured! There is a graceful ease to the words of Alexander McCall Smith, he is so gently yet evocatively descriptive and as soon as I started to read a sense of ease enveloped me. The pace slows, the small things matter, and Mma Ramotswe is just glorious.
From #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Cassandra Clare and award-winning author Wesley Chu comes the second book in the Eldest Curses series, which continues the love story between Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood. The Lost Book of the White is a Shadowhunters novel. Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood are settling into domestic life with their son Max when the warlocks Ragnor Fell and Shinyun Jung break into their loft and steal a powerful spell book. Realizing that Ragnor and Shinyun are being controlled by a more sinister force, Magnus and Alec set out to stop them and recover the book before they can cause any more harm. With the help of Clary Fairchild, Jace Herondale, Isabelle Lightwood, and Simon Lovelace (who is fresh from the Shadowhunter Academy), they track the warlocks to Shanghai. But nothing is as it seems. Ragnor and Shinyun are working at the behest of a Greater Demon. Their goal is to open a Portal from the demon realms to Earth, flooding the city of Shanghai with dangerous demons. When a violent encounter causes Magnus's magic to grow increasingly unstable, Alec and Magnus rally their friends to strike at the heart of the demon's power. But what they find there is far stranger and more nefarious than they ever could have expected... This edition also includes a never-before-seen wedding scene featuring fan favourites from the Shadowhunters universe. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas.
Shot-through with a vital message about the importance of giving voice and rightful representation to women who’ve been silenced by centuries of patriarchy, this smart novel melds an intriguing art history mystery with Parisian amour. While Khayyam is clear about what she wants to do with her life - become a respected art historian - her identity is more complex. She’s “French American. Indian American. Muslim American. Biracial. Interfaith.” As such, “Others look at me and try to shove me into their own narrative to define who and what I am. But I’m not a blank page that everyone else gets to write on. I have my own voice.” This statement weaves through the whole novel, which sees Khayyam in Paris for the summer, still reeling from a relationship gone awry back home in Chicago, and from her Young Scholar Prize essay being dismissed as “the work of a dilettante, not a future art historian”. When she happens to run into a cute Parisian boy, who happens to be a descendent of bi-racial French writer Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam and said cute boy (also called Alexandre) embark on an intellectual voyage that leads them to Leila, a nineteenth-century Muslim woman connected to Dumas and Byron. Leila’s forgotten life and silenced voice is revealed through her letters, with Khayyam frequently asserting her desire to right the wrong of “the entire world dehumanizing and erasing this woman who had a life, who mattered.” Through Khayyam the novel also addresses issues around representation and cultural appropriation as she wrestles with determining who has the right to tell Leila’s story, including herself. As Khayyam’s findings hot up, so too does her love life. First there’s the spark between her and Alexandre, then there’s the simmering presence of her Chicagoan ex. With Paris vibrantly evoked as her stage - its history, architecture, secret gardens and food - Leila’s personal life and intellectual prowess combine to create a life-changing summer. This comes hugely commended - and recommended - for its portrayal of an intelligent young woman who refuses to bow to expectations, and who’s determined to give voice to the voiceless. Like Khayyam, it’s smart, thoughtful and inspirational. For more books with a strong, feminist theme, visit our Girl Power feature.
Winner of the Wainwright Prize 2020 | Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty's world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head. Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.
Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2020 | March 2020 Debut of the Month |Winner of the Older Readers' category of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020 | Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence. The Branford Boase judges said : ‘Astounding!’; ‘I loved every single second’; ‘plot, story and voice are superb’; ‘I was totally invested in the characters’; ‘interesting, challenging and original’.
In the summer we all fell in love By the winter we had fallen apart For Quinn and her sister, Fern, and brother, Reed, summer means working as counselors at their family's summer camp: months of bonfires, bunks, and friendships made and broken. But last summer was different. Last summer they all fell in love with the same boy - Dylan, their best friend since forever, suddenly seen through new eyes. Six months later and everything has changed. The summer camp is empty and covered in snow, and Quinn, Fern and Reed aren't speaking to each other anymore. Something happened that summer that tore them apart, and their memories won't let them forgive. Wild Blue Wonder is the gorgeous, achingly beautiful novel from Carlie Sorosiak, author of If Birds Fly Back.
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | From acclaimed author Eve Ainsworth comes this new novella that packs a powerful punch in its openhearted, honest account of a teen girl trying her hardest to cope with her mum’s alcoholism. Violet has always seen her mum as being “strong, funny and in control”, as a “pretty, glamorous and confident” person who firmly believes, “You have to give a good impression at all times.” In contrast, Violet is “the quiet one …I’m the worrier who can never be confident.” But since her mum’s boyfriend left, Mum’s “it’s just one glass” of wine is starting to have an affect on their family life, with Violet increasingly having to pick-up caring for her little brother when Mum’s too hung-over to get out of bed. As Violet finds more empty bottles around the house, and finds herself having to lie to cover her mum, matters come to a scary head and she knows she has to be brave and seek help. Truly brilliant at capturing Violet’s conflicted feelings – an excruciating pull between love and anger – this compelling, moving story will engross fans of true-to-life fiction, while casting sensitive light on a tough subject. And, since this is published by the ever-brilliant Barrington Stoke, this book is especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, with its expert attention to vocabulary, layout, font and paper.
Beautiful Sophie, with lips as red as blood, skin as pale as snow, and hair as dark as night, is about to come of age and inherit her father's throne. But Sophie's stepmother wants rid of her - beautiful she may be, but too weak and foolish to reign. And Sophie believes her, as she believes all the things that have been said about her - all the poisonous words people use to keep girls like her from becoming too powerful, too strong. When the huntsman carries out his orders of killing Sophie, she finds a fire burning inside her that will not be extinguished, and sets off to reclaim what was taken from her. Jennifer Donnelly turns her feminist eye to this most delicious of fairy tales and shows Snow White as she's never been seen before.
Kindred in spirit to The Lost Words but fresh in its form, The Lost Spells is a pocket-sized treasure that introduces a beautiful new set of natural spell-poems and artwork by beloved creative duo Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. Each spell conjures an animal, bird, tree or flower -- from Barn Owl to Red Fox, Grey Seal to Silver Birch, Jay to Jackdaw -- with which we share our lives and landscapes.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | In this rip-roaringly feminist re-imagining of Cinderella, our justice-seeking heroine, Sophia, seeks a princess rather than a prince, and bodice-ripping is done in the name of shedding the shackles of patriarchy. Giddily entertaining, and spiced with dagger-sharp dialogue and romantic attraction, one message beams bright through Sophia’s story - “do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.” Though 200 years have passed since Cinderella’s time, a twisted version of her legacy lives on in Lille, where the present-day Prince Charming, King Manford, has decreed that girls must recite the fairy tale daily and, at the age of sixteen, they will be sent to the palace to be chosen by a man at a grand ball. Attending the ball is law, and, in the words of Erin, Sophia’s best friend and lover, “It is our only hope for making some kind of life”, for those not chosen are doomed to an even worse existence than being married off. As Sophia’s father admits, “I’d rather see you unhappy than imprisoned or killed.” Such is the impossible situation. So, Sophia goes to the ball, still hoping to escape with Erin, still burning with anger that the “founding tenet of our laws is that women, no matter their standing, are at the mercy of the fickle whims of men.” At the grandiose selection event, girls are put on show for the male suitors, some of them old enough to be Sophia’s grandfather, “but that doesn’t stop them from shamelessly ogling the young girls.” As shocking events unfold here, she flees and finds a sisterly comrade in flame-haired Constance, who also sets her heart alight. As the feminist fugitives go on the run, Constance reveals truths about Cinderella’s real story - a story that was suppressed and twisted into patriarchal propaganda by men in power. And so they embark on a quest to find the White Wood, the last known location of the original fairy godmother, who might just hold the key to further truths that will help Sophia rouse revolution. What an inventive, entertaining and flamboyantly feminist treat this is.
August 2020 Book of the Month | “Don’t take things for granted – challenge everything. That means challenging big business and your governments and, most of all, challenging yourself to act now and save the planet,” so writes activist author Blue Sandford, the seventeen-year-old founding member of Extinction Rebellion Youth London, in her inspiring call-to-action introduction to Challenge Everything. The only official handbook from Extinction Rebellion, this youth-driven, youth-oriented manifesto speaks loud and clear to the legions of young people who feel disenchanted with world leaders, and angry at the greed of big business dictating the downward direction of the world, all enhanced by strikingly designed slogans and illustrations. At the book’s heart is the powerful message that, “you are responsible for your own actions.” For example, “every time you take an uber, go on holiday on a plane, buy new trainers, even turn on the lights and heating, you’re contributing to climate and ecological collapse, you’re indirectly destroying rainforests and wildernesses.” This is typical of the book’s punch-packing perspective. Above all else, the author seeks to empower her readers with a change of mindset, one that challenges all aspects of the status quo, with the ultimate aim of saving the planet. Covering everything from the destructive effects of flying and the fast fashion industry, to the importance of re-wilding and reconnecting with nature, this potently persuasive manifesto also has a powerful practical emphasis, with details on the forms challenges might take, such as boycotting, non-violent direct action, campaigning and government lobbying. For more books on an eco theme try our Green Reads.
“How can a dog and a girl who can’t see solve a crime?” visually-impaired Libby asks herself partway through this pacey novel by the award-winning author of I Have No Secrets. But that’s exactly what Libby sets out to do. Fearing her missing classmate Charlie is in danger, Libby and Kyle make it their mission to find him. As the perilous mystery unfolds, Libby’s story gives valuable insights into living with visual impairment, including the tactless comments and “help” from strangers that hinder her day-to-day life. Her determination is nothing short of inspirational. The author’s unfussy style makes this novel particularly suitable for reluctant readers - the story is driven by snappy dialogue. The plot moves at pace. Timely insights into county line grooming are delivered in an impactful, easy-to-digest way. To add to the tension, the drama plays out against Libby’s complex family dynamics – an insensitive gran, an over-protective dad, and a high-achieving mum who wants her to be more independent. All in all, this is a strong springboard for discussing pertinent issues, and a gripping, romance-tinged thriller to boot.
An inspirational history of the LGBTQ+ movement | With activist and founder of LGBT History Month and Schools OUT UK, Susan Sanders, as consultant, you can be confident that the information in this essential resource is reliable as well as being engaging and highly readable. The foreword by celebrity actor Layton Williams and the Why I Have Pride vignettes interspersed throughout the book, featuring young people from across the whole spectrum of the LBGTQ+ community, will ensure a high level of interest from young people and provide empowering messages for them to read. Starting from the evidence of acceptance in ancient history through the growth of persecution as Christianity flourishes in Europe, the brutality of the Inquisition, the recurrence of the death penalty for homosexuality around the world and the disaster of the Aids epidemic, this book does not hide the darker side of the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, but the emphasis is very much on the brave people who took on the fight against discrimination, prejudice and injustice. So, although agonising setbacks occurred, the overall progress has been upwards and the overall impact of the book is to inspire and celebrate. Helped, no doubt, by the rainbow coloured cover and vibrant illustrations. The timeline of milestones, comprehensive index and glossary and guide to sources of further information add value as a reference tool, but this is very much a book that will be read with pleasure and I hope with pride!
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.
Kesia Lupo's We Are Bound By Stars is a fine follow-up to We Are Blood and Thunder, a richly-realised fantasy epic in which intrigue, trickery and powerful gifts from the gods throng through a cast of colourfully compelling characters. If you’re a fan of female-fronted fantasy, of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas, this series is sure to be your chalice of char. Beatrice is one of three female mask-makers in the kingdom of the Wishes, a cluster of volcanic islands ruled by a Contessa. As a result of a secret pact the Contessa made with Mythris, patron god of the Wishes, the chosen triplet mask-makers are taught to create masks with powers that aid “the Contessa in discovering and destroying her enemies”, as long as the chain of inheritance remains intact. As a middle sister, Beatrice makes Grotesques, masks that “draw power from expression”, creations with the power to manipulate emotions, but she’s desperate to flee this life of bondage. Then there’s Livio, born into a powerful family, destined to be the first male leader in aeons, but his magic is overwhelmingly wild. When his path collides with Beatrice’s, it falls to them to prevent devastating insurgency, as menacing masked assassins close in on their heels. Can they cut the strings of a controlling puppet master? Can they change the course of destiny? As their tales twist along a troubled path, the sense of time running out, of high-stakes decisions, of human emotions are grippingly evoked within a tangled web of magical trickery.
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 | Telling the affecting story of sixteen-year-old Cal’s battles with homophobic bullies, family upheavals, mental health and heartbreak, this hard-hitting page-turner pulls no punches from the opening coming-out scene that results in Cal’s mum needing medical attention and an almighty clash with his dad. Reeling from strife at home and school, along with a series of ill-advised one-night stands, Cal’s life seems to take an upward turn when he falls for handsome, wealthy Matt. But since the course of passion and romance rarely runs smooth, thank goodness Cal’s best friend Em and her joyous Scotch-drinking, straight-talking nan are there when he needs them. Exploring themes of homophobia, self-harm, complex family dynamics, friendship, and intergenerational bonds with clarity and sensitivity, Fall Out is underpinned by a warm message of hope and the possibilities of starting afresh. As Cal says, “You can’t pave over the faults; you can’t wash away the past but sometimes, when you make mistakes, you get a second chance.”
The teenage years are such a vibrant and vivid time in your life. Adventure, friendships, self-discovery are all there in spades, but there’s frustration too, impatience and a strong desire to be understood.
This section of fantastic books for teens and young adult readers is filled with stories that reflect all of these feelings in settings that will give flight to your imagination. Be inspired by tales of self-discovery, run the rocky road of first romance, battle big issues in mysterious worlds, beat the bleak future of dystopian regimes, or laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. There’s something here for all tastes and moods from half-god heroes to horseback holidays and literally everything in between.
You can download a free Opening Extract of each book, usually about the first chapter. Read it on your screen, or print it off and enjoy anywhere. We give you enough of a book to see whether it’s your sort of thing.