You may think that our current political crises are staggeringly unprecedented but picture this: a power-hungry and newly elected Prime Minister, charged with the violent murder of one of the underworld’s shadiest characters. This is merely the first in a chain of explosive events in Crossfire by Malorie Blackman, the fifth instalment in her applauded Noughts & Crosses series. A clever thriller with the emphasis firmly on the political, it’s a challenging read for young adults beginning to consider their place in the world.
Emily Daly is 17-years-old and a bright, stylish and very cool young woman. She is also officially a ‘romance-free zone’ and has reached the inescapably grim conclusion that this is because she is fat (an adjective the author embraces). No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter charts Emily’s last year at school before uni beckons. A spirited and sometimes fierce call for self-acceptance, I’m intending to hand out copies to every teenager I know.
Is the child in your life of the decidedly average variety? Or are you bristling at the suggestion? Your child is infinitely special. You haven’t quite discovered what their gift is but you’re sure to unearth it any day now, an attitude employed by teenage Sam’s parents in The Gifted, the Talented and Me by William Sutcliffe. This hugely entertaining novel chronicles Sam’s life after he is ill-advisedly enrolled at the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented. A comedic treat is in store.
‘This wasn’t how I imagined being dead…’ The victim of a fatal car crash, Beth is dead but not departed. Instead her ghost is lingering by her widowed father, unwilling to leave him in his lonely devastation. Beth’s dad, a police detective, is the only person who can see and hear her. Embroiled in a murder investigation, he will come to rely on Beth’s budding talent for supernatural sleuthing. Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is a uniquely Australian novel, weaving indigenous history into a clever metaphysical thriller.
Xiomara is voluptuous, but sadly not unashamedly so. At the age of fifteen, she has never been kissed, and now that her baby fat has ‘…settled in D cups,’ there are plenty of male admirers hoping to change that, a fact that horrifies her pious mother. Trapped in the chrysalis of adolescence, Xiomara feels that her body takes up more room than her voice, and in this searing Carnegie Prize winning novel, attempts to discover her own words and story. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is an extraordinary read.
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?