Zen Starling, petty thief and one of the ‘…low heroes of this infinite city’, rides the rails in a distant future. His exploits are often nefarious, but he also has an abiding love for the romanticism of the K-Bahn, a galactic train network that traverses the very stars. Desperate to escape his bleak existence, Zen accepts a dangerous proposition, one that will leave him in possession of the very key to the universe. The award nominated Railhead introduces us to an intriguing new universe. Picture a gilded and lamplit locomotive, its huge engine idling ‘like a heartbeat deep inside it’.
July in London brings the annual Pride Festival and Parade, a joyful celebration of LGBT culture and history. It’s the ideal opportunity to highlight This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, a warm and supportive guide to all aspects of LGBT life. There’s no doubt that fizzing hormones and emerging sexuality can lead to tumultuous times. If that sexuality feels different or ‘other’ to the mainstream, then embracing it must sometimes seem impossibly hard and terrifying.
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‘Too old for Wimpy Kid? Meet Joe Cowley’. A fitting tag line to lead us into the fourth instalment of this series. 16-year-old Joe and his band ‘Sound Experience’, move to London, in pursuit of stardom and cosmopolitan living. A squirm- inducing comedy of embarrassment is to follow. Do you have a teenage boy in your life who chuckles at flatulence, cringe comedy, and the word ‘knobber’ as a term of insult? If they also happen to be reluctant readers, then the Joe Cowley series could well be an essential purchase.
Hannah Baker is dead. She committed suicide two weeks ago, shocking her local community. But there are thirteen reasons why she died, and she wants Clay Jensen to know what they are. Her secrets call to him from beyond the grave, and what they reveal blows his world apart. The buzz around 13 Reasons Why has been huge. First published a decade ago, public interest has been reignited by the recent 13-part Netflix series, rocketing it into the bestseller charts.
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Starr’s best friend, Khalil, is murdered by a police officer, in front of her eyes. Khalil, a young black man, is unarmed. The officer, who is white, shoots Khalil in the back. In this electrifying new YA novel, we join Starr, in her fight for justice against the hostile might of the U.S establishment.
Just announced as Waterstone’s Older Fiction category winner 2017, Orangeboy is a maximum impact read. It tells the story of 16-year-old Marlon, who gets sucked into a teen gang vortex of drugs, violence, and ultimately, a dicing with death. Is he strong enough to stand firm against the gangstas who would crush him and those he loves?
Michael Grant is one of this year’s celebrated World Book Day authors. He belongs in the pantheon of YA writers, and Silver Stars is the second in a planned trilogy which imagines an alternative World War Two history, one in which women served alongside men in the armed forces.
Charlie lives in Little Town, under a corrupt and repressive regime. His friend, Pavel, is a refugee from hostile, neighbouring Old Country. When the inevitable bombs come, the boys are drawn into a chain of dark and traumatic events, that threatens not only their friendship, but also life itself. This isn’t a book I’d ordinarily be drawn to but I feel rewarded for stepping outside my comfort zone.
To touch once again on perhaps the most popular romantic Young Adult novels of our day, Twilight; this is Bella Swan’s favourite book. From the brooding, mysterious and ghostly beginning, to the cruel and dreadful end, it is a book that wraps you with the howling wind and the desolation of the wild Yorkshire moors. The more beautiful, poetic, and romantic of the classic novels, I remember Wuthering Heights as the indisputably favourite – particularly when I wanted to absorb myself in the drama of being a teen! With its dramatic setting, including a perennially louring sky (“a perfect misanthropist’s heaven”), a pervasive sense of the impending and inevitable tragedy, and the desperate (both unrequited and requited) love stories, it is not surprising that it resonates with teenage angst.
A wonderful experience also in the audio version, with some excellent recordings by Juliet Stevenson, Patricia Routledge, Michael Kitchen respectively and one with both by Janet McTeer and David Timson, to name but a few. Sample Versions Here
A contemporary of Thackeray, Trollope, Dickens and George Eliot, Wilkie Collins was not only at the forefront of the detective novel (The Moonstone) but, as the hugely successful author of mystery and the sensational novel, he was also the celebrity of the time.
Lesser known, but much like its more famous sibling The Woman in White, the story revolves around the tangled threads of identity and destiny (though less saccharine than Collins’ The Two Destinies). Throw in a handful of revenge, and a femme fatal, and this thrilling nineteenth century ‘bestseller’ is hard to put down.
On an aside: The Woman in White is fantastic too and one of my favourites – read to perfection by Ian Holm. Sample Audible Here