”There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book. —Frank Serafini’
The following list are suggestions of books I’ve read recently that I think would make for perfect reading for young adults, aged 13+ years. Not only are there academic benefits to reading (reading just 20 minutes a day can improve a young person’s vocabulary dramatically as outlined here) there’s the impact it can have on empathy levels and general well-being – both of which are immensely important right now.
If you’re able to, please try and make any upcoming book purchases from an independent bookseller as opposed to Amazon. Please support your local bookshops during this tumultuous and uncertain time for them, doing so could be truly invaluable. Hive is a fantastic website for coordinating purchasing from local bookshops. Most independent bookshops will send books directly if you give them a call, this directory will help you find your nearest store.
All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth
One summer day, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Alistair Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions. Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd. Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s–the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood. As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death. In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes’ apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do. Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser. (Book one in the ‘Arc Of A Scythe trilogy, one of the few examples of a perfect trilogy)
Big Bones by Laura Dockrill
‘It’s a food diary. I have to tell the truth. That’s the point.’ Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Big Bones – is a sixteen-year-old girl encouraged to tackle her weight even though she’s perfectly happy, thank you, and getting on with her life and in love with food. Then a tragedy in the family forces BB to find a new relationship with her body and herself. . .Tuck in for best mates, belly laughs, boys and the best Bakewell tart.
Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Michael waits in the stage wings, wearing a pink wig, pink fluffy coat and black heels. One more step will see him illuminated by spotlight. He has been on a journey of bravery to get here, and he is almost ready to show himself to the world in bold colours .
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
After Will’s brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don’t cry. Don’t snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn’s gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will’s friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he’s doing.
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Loved this book! So utterly charming and really timely. A romantic comedy centred on politics – in the run up of a local election – told from two points of view. Jamie and Maya were friends as young children, ten years on and they don’t know each other any more. But fate throws them together when both end up signing up to help with the campaign for their local state candidate. The end result is a read that is funny, charming and utterly delightful.
Rules For Being A Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno
It’s scathing, fierce, funny and truly enpowering. Marin is a superb character, whose journey into self-awareness and feminism was one I really enjoyed being a part of. When Bex, her English teacher, crosses the line in his interactions with her – Marian is shocked by the divided reaction of those around her. It makes her realise just how many rules there are for a being a girl – and she becomes determined to do all she can to prove that rules are there to be broken! A compulsive and binge-worthy read that I’m certain will be one of my favourites of 2020.
Monsters by Sharon Dogar
Wow! Few books that I’ve read recently are as pathologically compelling as this one was. A recount of the woman who starts at Mary Godwin and ends as Mary Shelley. The book opens in her teens, with Mary being idealistic, bored and cynical. When Percy Shelley enters her life, it instantly changes – his magnetism, passion and ideals transform every aspect of her life. Both good and bad. Told through diary entries and letters, we learn all about Mary and those around her to an incredible and insightful extent. A must for anyone studying either Shelley, or is just interested in the unique voice of a thoroughly modern 19th century woman.
Bookish And The Beast by Ashley Poston
I really love this series, of geeky retellings of fairytale. And, if I had to rank the three that have been released so far I think this might just be my favourite. The Beauty and The Beast is an extremely problematic story when you really think about it – particularly Stockholm syndrome! – yet Poston reinvents the tale with ease. This story, of a book nerd meeting a fallen prince of Hollywood is engrossing and incredibly lovely. There’s a great balance of references to the other two stories – you don’t have to have read them, but you are rewarded on updates on those characters if you have. A really sweet romance that is utterly charming! (Out June 16th, why not give the first two books in the ‘One Upon A Con’ trilogy a try whilst you’re waiting?)
Crossfire by Malorie Blackman
Returning to the world of Noughts and Crosses was a treat I thought would never happen. It was a series that meant so much to me when growing up, easily up there in the five most influential reads I read as a teen. Whilst I needed a brief refresher course to start with (courtesy of Wikipedia) I was straight back into this world, which seems timely and more necessary than ever. Phenomenal!
Toffee by Sarah Crossan
Allison has run away from home and with nowhere to live finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn’t empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there – and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee. Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be. But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself -where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?
No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter
Emily knows she’s smart. Emily knows she’s funny. Emily knows she’s awesome. Emily knows she’s fat. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her any of these things – she likes herself and she likes her body. She just thinks it’s time everyone else caught up. With a newly-slim bestie, a mum knee-deep in fad diets and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to be her true self. But when she meets gorgeous Joe, things start to change. Somehow, she’s going to have to convince everyone, including herself, that it’s no big deal.
Home Girl by Alex Wheatle
Home Girl is the story of Naomi, a teenage girl growing up fast in the care system. It is a wholly modern story which sheds a much needed light on what can be an unsettling life – and the consequences that can follow when children are treated like pawns on a family chessboard. Fast-paced and funny, tender, tragic and full of courage – just like Naomi.
The Places I’ve Cried In Public by Holly Bourne
Amelie fell hard for Reese. And she thought he loved her too. But she’s starting to realise that real love isn’t supposed to hurt like this. So now she’s retracing their story, revisiting all the places he made her cry. Because if she works out what went wrong, perhaps she can finally learn how to get over him.
Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence
Eighteen months ago, 17-year-old Rose and 13-year-old Rudder escaped a strict religious sect with their mum. They are still trying to make sense of the world outside – no more rules about clothes and books, films and music, no more technology bans. But also no more friendship with the people they’ve known all their lives, no community and no certainty. It doesn’t help that their mum has to work all hours to pay rent on their cramped, smelly, one-bed flat above a kebab shop in Hackney. While Rudder gorges on once-taboo Harry Potters and dances to Simon and Garfunkel and show tunes, Rose swaps the ankle skirts and uncut hair of the Woodford Pilgrims for Japanese-cute fairy dress and her new boyfriend, Kye. Kye, who she wants with all her being. But there’s loads of scary stuff about their new life that Rose and Rudder have no idea how to handle – it’s normal for girls to let their boyfriends take naked pictures of them, right? When Rudder accidently sets a devastating chain of events into action, Rose must decide whether to sacrifice everything and go back to the life she hates, in order to save the people she loves.
The Boxer By Nikesh Shukla
Told over the course of the ten rounds of his first fight, this is the story of amateur boxer Sunny. A seventeen year old feeling isolated and disconnected in the city he’s just moved to, Sunny joins a boxing club to learn to protect himself after a racist attack. He finds the community he’s been desperately seeking at the club, and a mentor in trainer Shobu, who helps him find his place in the world. But racial tensions are rising in the city, and when a Far Right march through Bristol turns violent, Sunny is faced with losing his new best friend Keir to radicalisation.
Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard
Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind? (The sequel to the incredible Beautiful Broken Things)
Meat Market by Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson can do no wrong in my eyes, as proved by this incredible book. Jana and the world she lives in so brilliantly rendered. Everything that occurs, and everything that Jana does, is presented as truly believable – which becomes increasingly horrifying as you read on. A modern day fable and a total must-read.
Wranglestone by Darren Charlton
In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there’s nothing to stop them from crossing the ice. Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he’s forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he’s always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over. But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they’ve ever known.
Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community. Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts. They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…
Summer Of No Regrets by Kate Mallinder
After their exams, four sixteen-year-old best friends pledge to live a summer regret-free, doing what they want to do however much it scares them: Sasha agrees to spend the holiday with her father in Geneva, having not seen him for six years, but is not expecting his new girlfriend, or the young man in the cafe. Shy Hetal decides to go to science camp, and finds a new competitive spirit. Nell gets a summer job, but after her accident her mother is scared to let her out of the house – so to do what she wants she will have to lie to her parents. Cam goes to look for her birth father, scared of the future when she can no longer stay with her foster family. What will she find? As all these choices become difficult, even dangerous, they will need to turn to each other for the strength to face the future.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.
Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt
This is Littlehaven. Nothing ever happens here. Until the spotlight hits my family. Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Izzy is terrified her family will be torn apart. Will she lose her dad? Will her parents break up? And what will people at school say? Izzy’s always been shy, but now all eyes are on her. Can she face her fears, find her voice and stand up for what’s right?
Gloves Off by Louisa Reid
Lily turns sixteen with two very different sides to her life: school, where she is badly bullied, and home with her mum and dad, warm and comforting but with its own difficulties. After a particularly terrible bullying incident, Lily’s dad determines to give his daughter the tools to fight back. Introducing her to boxing, he encourages Lily to find her own worth. It is both difficult and challenging but in confronting her own fears she finds a way through that illuminates her life and friendships. Meeting Rose, and seeing that there is another world out there, enables her to live her own life fully and gives her the knowledge that she is both beautiful and worth it.
Diary Of A Confused Feminist by Kate Weston
15-year-old Kat wants to do GOOD FEMINISM, although she’s not always sure what that means. She also wants to be a writer, get together with Hot Josh (is this a feminist ambition?), win at her coursework and not make a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT of herself at all times. But the path to true feminism is filled with mortifying incidents, muddling moments and Instagram hell. And it doesn’t help that Hot Josh is just, well, properly, distractingly hot. And when everything at school starts to get a bit too much, Kat knows she’s lost her way, and the only way forward is to ask for help …
Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau
An immensely compelling period drama, set in the early 20th Century. The story of a wiser than her years and thoroughly modern socialite balancing family & wanting to live for herself, not them. Peggy is an excellent protagonist – it’s a real joy to follow her on her journey. Part drama, part criminal investigation and part social-historical critique – Dreamland makes for a really pleasurable and page-turner of a read.