Her foster mother, Annie, favours yoga as a de-stressing activity, but for Charlene it’s knitting, the rhythmic clickety click of the needles calming her troubled mind. An angry soul, she’s been knitting an awful lot lately, in a bid to deal with the death of her mother and life in the care system. When Annie’s antagonistic son destroys a very special blanket she’s making, Charlene’s rage leads to her stabbing his hand with her knitting needle. In Needle by Patrice Lawrence, we accompany an unrepentant Charlene on her journey to a police cell, and learn why sorry really is the hardest word.
Congratulations to Danica Novgorodoff, worthy winner of the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 2022, for her stunning illustrative interpretation of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Reynolds’ blistering American verse novel tells the story of Will, witness to his brother Shawn’s death in a turf war shooting. Schooled in the ways of gang life, Will believes his only option is bloody revenge. In an elevator ride encompassing a mere sixty seconds and seven floors, he will be forced to confront some long overdue truths.
Teenage girls today have a freedom and power that their foremothers could only imagine, and yet with it has come an unprecedented level of pressure and expectation. In You Don’t Understand Me by Dr Tara Porter, we look at a 21st century society that sometimes seems ‘awash with emotion.’ Navigating the perennially thorny issues of teenhood, Porter provides a refreshingly free-thinking perspective on maintaining emotional stability in a world in which all the game rules have changed. Using case studies and observations gleaned from many years of clinical practice, she lights the way for young women (and their often flummoxed parents).
A contender for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, springs from the longlist with its eye-catching title. Set in the American West, it’s a series of interlocking teen stories that roam from Alaska to Colorado. Characters and events intersect throughout, often oblivious of their roles in each other’s tales. Only the reader sees the big picture, and the motifs of wildfire, tainted priesthood, and a missing child. Likely the first time you’ve ever encountered amnesiac shellfish poisoning as a plot device, it’s an inventive portrayal of young small town life.
The English Channel has long been a scene of triumph for long-distance swimmers keen to front crawl the 21 miles between England and France. But this often tumultuous seaway is also notorious for being a watery graveyard of migrants and refugees. In The Crossing by Manjeet Mann, the lives of Nat, a young English Channel swimmer, and Sammy, an Eritrean refugee collide. Winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2021, this quietly devastating verse novel explores the perspective of two teenagers from very different worlds.
Medusa by Jessie Burton gives us a compelling spin on the legend of the snake-haired girl whose gaze turns onlookers to stone. Mythology buffs will know her as a monstrous character, ultimately beheaded by one of the most famous heroes of Ancient Greek folklore. Here, however, she is a young woman with her own take on events. This gloriously illustrated book brings us Medusa’s story, a heady tale of love, betrayal, tyranny, and ultimately, the path to self-acceptance.
Stay Another Day by Juno Dawson is a glitter-laden delight and I’m hoping Santa pops a copy into every discerning teen reader’s Christmas stocking. Written with Dawson’s trademark brio and wit, it’s the story of three siblings, reunited for a festive family gathering. Coming home from uni, student Fern is longing for the perfect Christmas, her twin Rowan bitingly dismissive of his uncool, drab family, while younger sister, Willow, awaits them, ‘pale and tragic, some gothic attic secret.’Rowan’s fears of dullness are decidedly misplaced. Hold onto your party hats as the tinsel hits the fan.
Buffeted by the storms of Covid-19 and climate change, our teenagers are navigating turbulent times, and that’s aside from the fizzing hormones and usual angst-inducing challenges. For those young readers who are feeling mentally fragile as we approach the new school year, Be Resilient by Nicola Morgan provides balm for the troubled soul. With compassion and clarity, the award-winning teenage brain expert gives us five practical steps towards cultivating resilience, the happy reward being a strong mind, capable of surviving and thriving in an uncertain world.
Don’t let the melancholic title mislead you, Loveless by Alice Oseman is a novel absolutely brimming with love in a myriad of guises, some of which you may never have considered. Awarded the YA Book Prize 2021 by judges keenly aware of the literary zeitgeist, this warm and engaging story introduces us to Georgia, a young woman coming to terms with her asexuality. A decidedly 21st century campus drama, Loveless contains the classic elements of a coming-of-age tale, while also presenting a welcome challenge to lazy heteronormative thinking.
‘London stank.’ The punchy opening line to The Dark Lady by Akala sets the tone for this smart and inspired YA adventure, set in the fetid and brutal streets of Elizabethan London. A novel laced with the supernatural, it gives us Henry, an orphan and pickpocket possessed of extraordinary powers, in thrall himself to the poetic magic of William Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. An intriguing combination in a tale that will take Henry from London’s foulest gutter to its most exclusive gentlemen’s society.