September finds us back in the classroom and dusting off the perennial Stretch and Challenge school reading lists. As part of our own ongoing Read With Your Teen series, we’re leaping to your literary assistance by selecting one of the lesser known prescribed texts for you to share and brainstorm. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes tells the intriguing story of Charlie Gordon, the first person in the world to have their intelligence increased by surgery. From ‘dimwit’ to dazzling genius, Charlie’s experimental quest is to have devastating unforeseen consequences.
The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff is a deliciously sultry tale of intrigue, seduction and power. Set over the course of one golden summer, it takes place in a characterful, periwinkle-blue house by the sea, inherited holiday home of four teenage siblings, their parents, and older cousins. Into this heady mix of hormones and domesticity come the Goddens, charismatic Kit and his sullen, taciturn brother, Hugo. As the temperature rises in more ways than one, it becomes known as the summer everything changed forever.
Sal Singh murdered Andie Bell and then committed suicide. The story of the unhinged teenager who killed his young girlfriend has passed into Little Kilton folklore, a dark stain on the town’s reputation. But how can the case be officially closed when Andie’s body has never been found? Local sixth-former, Pip Fitz-Amobi, has always doubted the original police verdict and decides to embark on her own investigation for a school project. In the award winning A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, we join Pip’s descent into a murky and villainous world.
‘Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of punishment.’ This quote by the late Alexander McQueen resonates throughout Meat Market by Juno Dawson, winner of the YA Book Prize 2020. Whilst on a school trip to Thorpe Park, 16-year-old Jana Novak finds herself scouted by an elite modelling agency, her story a tumultuous journey from obscurity to the front cover of Vogue. Naively anticipating a world of glamour, luxury and hedonism, the hapless Jana gets more than she bargained for.
‘I googled if it’s normal to hallucinate manifestations of your grief. Unsurprisingly it’s not. ‘Owen’s dad died four months ago, since when he’s been haunted by visions of ominous skeletal birds. Struggling at a new school, Owen feels overwhelmed by grief. Until fellow student, Duncan Cyman, comes into his life. In the striking and unusual Grief Angels by David Owen, we visit the domain of the male teen psyche, interwoven with an intriguing strand of magical realism.
Is it true that there are unwritten rules for girls? Star student, Marin, concludes that it is. Having seemingly coasted her way to academic excellence, Marin has never considered that her life may have been influenced by tacit societal codes. Realisation is swift and brutal, when targeted by a sexually predatory teacher, Marin’s attempts to hold him to account see her collide with both academia and her peers. Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno is a great conversation starter for any young feminists in your life.
‘Fair is foul and foul is fair,’ a famous line from the opening scene of Macbeth, itself the inspiration for this steamroller of a revenge novel. This is Jade’s story. Beautiful, fierce Jade, who gatecrashes a glittering LA party with her ‘coven’ of best friends. When her drink is spiked and she is seriously sexually assaulted, Jade swears bloody vengeance on the ‘golden boy’ perpetrator Duncan, and his band of sidekicks. Steel yourself for Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin.
‘Reese made me feel like I was wearing chainmail and he was a giant sexy magnet.’ Oh, the fizzing chemical wonder of romantic attraction. For aspiring singer/songwriter, Amelie, being with Reese is intoxicating. He’s cool, charismatic, and the lead singer of a band, their connection one of musical as well as sexual passion. It looks a lot like love. Except surely real love shouldn’t hurt like this. The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne explores the devastating emotional fallout from a mentally abusive relationship.
Lyra reveres reason above all else, numbly observing that the very stars seem dead ‘…a vast silent empty indifference, all quite meaningless.’ Can this be the feisty heroine we remember from His Dark Materials, the girl with witch oil in her soul?The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman builds on the legendary multiverse of the previous novels, and joins Lyra as an Oxford undergraduate. An ineptly executed murder triggers a tale that will encompass a great journey, monumental secrets, and jeopardy too, as the shadowy powers-that-be resume their historic pursuit of young Lyra Silvertongue.
Lil and Kizzy are twins and Travellers, their lives ostensibly nomadic and free. But this is Romania in the late Middle Ages, a time of great persecution and danger for roaming communities, and tales persist of a northern prince with a penchant for stealing young Traveller girls, drinking their blood and inducing a malignant immortality. Your inner goth will be rewarded in The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, as we are introduced to the world of the dark prince himself. In this deliciously gothic feminist novel, Lil and Kizzy confront the legends and alter our Hammer Horror preconceptions.