Bonnie Wiston-Stanley is 15 ¾ years old, a fact of some significance in this unputdownable novel. She is also, according to her best pal, Eden ‘…the most steady, most reliable friend in the world.’ Except, wouldn’t you expect your closest friend to tell you if she was planning to run away with a secret boyfriend? And what horrors would be unleashed if that boyfriend turned out to be your school music teacher? Recently crowned winner of the YA Book Prize 2019, Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard is simply the most riveting book I’ve reviewed so far this year.
‘Welcome to being LGBTQ+. Your life is inherently political.’ Stirring words from Proud by Juno Dawson (editor), an uplifting anthology of stories, poetry and art on the broad theme of Pride. 2019 marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and a sea change in the course of LGBTQ+ history. With the annual Pride Parades in both London and New York commemorating this half century, now is the time to press this book into your teenager’s hands and introduce them to a glorious rainbow of party and protest.
The only people for writer, Sal Paradise, are ‘the mad ones.’ The type who ‘burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles…’ The type like Dean. Fresh from reform school, charismatic Dean Moriarty covets the East Coast intellectual life that Sal represents. Each can provide what the other needs, and as they gravitate inexorably towards each other, their resultant hedonistic adventures reflect a new generation, ‘…the sordid hipsters of America.’ A book rich with the possibilities of being young and alive, On the Road by Jack Kerouac is an essential teen read.
The shortlist for this year’s YA Book Prize is brilliantly eclectic, but White Rabbit Red Wolf by Tom Pollock lured me with a cover blurb promising maths, murder, and the human psyche. This startling combination will mesmerise you in the unfolding story of young maths prodigy, Peter Blankman. Prone to extreme anxiety, a public awards ceremony triggers a severe panic attack and an inexplicable sequence of events, including the stabbing of Peter’s mother and the disappearance of his beloved sister, Bel. Sharpen your brain. You’ll need it in this complex encounter with the darkest workings of the mind.
Holden Caulfield wants to tell us a little about his life, not his ‘whole goddam autobiography or anything,’ just the crazy stuff that happened to him the day he was kicked out of Pencey Prep School. We join Holden, surely one of literature’s great anti-heroes, on a mad and sad few days in New York City, as his troubled mind begins to unravel. Revisiting The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger seems most apt in this centenary year of his birth. Is there still a place for this once controversial novel in the hearts of today’s young readers?
The Urban Dictionary defines the expression ‘on the come up’ as ‘somethin’ that’s not quite happenin’ yet, but on the vurge (sic) of blowin’ up or makin’ some serious noise,’ a definition that perfectly sets the scene for On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, her second brilliant YA novel.
‘Sucks how people in this town keep getting away with murder doesn’t it?’
When twins Ellery and Ezra come to stay in Echo Ridge, they’re already acquainted with its unsettling history. On the surface, a bastion of decent small-town America, Echo Ridge has witnessed the murder of not one but two homecoming queens. Does the town’s respectable veneer conceal a shocking trail of deceit, conspiracy, and sheer bloody murder? You bet. As the unknown killler stirs once more, it’s time for a screamfest in the thrilling Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus.
How about making 2019 the year you introduce your teenager to more challenging literature? The Strange Library, a novella by Haruki Murakami is the ideal gateway to his adult fiction. Complemented by bold and fantastical illustrations, this 2014 reissue is set in a city library, or more accurately, in the hellish alternative-library-universe that appears to have subsumed its basement. Sucked into a labyrinthine nightmare, both narrator and reader are set to experience an extraordinary mind trip.
The intro to What Would Boudicca Do? by Elisabeth Foley and Beth Coates, a cheerfully irreverent advice guide for young women, tells us that ‘life can be troublesome for modern gals.’ Whether it’s being generally underestimated, or dealing with the specifics of bullying, body shaming, or toxic relationships, our girls are still, in 2018, living under the shadow of centuries of patriarchal oppression. But what of our foresisters, those who lived in a world where feminism hadn’t even been invented? Take a dip into this collection of everyday problems as tackled by inspirational women in history. Your very own agony aunts from a bygone past.
Davie is in bed, hiding in the shadows behind his bedroom curtains. Aching from the recent death of his father, a bright future seems an impossibility. But change is a-coming and the extraordinary events of one summer’s day in a northern English town will set this sad boy on a quest to find a murder suspect and rekindle his own vital spark. Laced with the supernatural, David Almond’s latest offering is an enigmatic tale. You’re in for a spellbinding treat.