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.
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.