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.
Rewilding is the practice of taking the landscape back to a more natural ecosystem, recalibrating the environment and allowing its man-made bruises to heal. In Bone Music by David Almond, we contemplate whether the philosophy of rewilding should be applied to our very own selves. It tells the story of young urbanite, Sylvia, reluctant newcomer to a Northumbrian village of too much sky and capricious mobile connection. Initially hostile to rural life, Sylvia is about to undergo a profound transformation in this absorbing contemplation of the connections between ourselves and nature.
The 15th of March 2019 was an extraordinary day in history, marking as it did, the very first global school strike for climate. Raising their collective voice, more than a million and a half school children across the world took to the streets, demanding immediate action on climate change. How to Change Everything by Naomi Klein is inspired by this new wave of bold, young campaigners. Aimed at teenagers who wish to understand the history, science and politics of climate change, while also acquiring the tools for activism, the renowned social activist and writer shares her decades of accumulated wisdom.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas is the third novel from this brilliant chronicler of young, urban black experience. Having previously tackled institutional racism and stereotyping, here she turns her gimlet eye on the complexities of black manhood. In this prequel to her outstanding debut novel, The Hate U Give, Thomas presents us with a morally conflicted young man named Mav. Firmly entrenched in gang life, an unexpectedly early fatherhood shocks the 17-year-old into reconsidering life’s priorities. Maybe it’s time for this self-confessed ‘drug-dealing, gangbanging, high-school flunk out’ to go straight.
Why Your Parents are Driving You Up the Wall and What To Do About It by Dean Burnett, a marvellous title that delivers on its promise. In a world full of books advising parents on how to deal with their troublesome teenagers, how refreshing to discover a manual for dealing with parents, ‘…literally the most annoying people in the world.’ Covering potentially volcanic issues, from school to social media, to leaving wet towels on the floor, advice is on hand from a friendly neuroscientist.
In this year of racial unrest and protest, the world of children’s literature has responded with a welcome wave of history and fiction books concerning multiculturalism and prejudice. Several of these make it their business to shine a light on systemic racism, the very brightest being, for me, Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. Applauded as a depiction of what it means to be young and black in America, this is the story of Amal, a thoughtful and artistic teenager, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.
Did you know that the collective noun for a group of flamingos is a flamboyance? A flamboyance of flamingos, how well that rolls off the tongue, and such a fitting word too for this gloriously 21st century coming-of-age novel. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta gives us Michael’s story. From birth to the cusp of adulthood, we bear witness to Michael’s voyage of self-discovery, via the challenges of growing up as a mixed-race gay teenager in London and the electrifying allure of the world of drag.
At Puerto Plata Airport in the Dominican Republic, a teenage girl named Camino waits for her beloved father’s plane to land. After a three and a half hour flight from New York, Papi will be greeted by ‘…his favourite girl waiting at the airport.’ Papi, however, never arrives. His plane crashes into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving no survivors, and a devastated Camino discovers that maybe she wasn’t his ‘favourite girl’ after all. Maybe that accolade belongs to his hitherto secret daughter in New York. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is a compelling exploration of family secrets, identity, and forgiveness.