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.
‘My heart feels like it’s been sliced down the middle and every painful thing that’s ever happened is oozing from it.’ Olive is standing on the edge of a cliff, screaming up at the sky. Screaming because she feels scared and worthless and wants that feeling to end. The outstretched hand of a policeman coaxes her away from oblivion, and Olive finds herself agreeing to a month’s trial treatment at a teenage mental health facility. We join her at Camp Reset, as she struggles with therapy, relationships, and the biggest dilemma of all, how to make this crazy world a kinder place. Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne is the latest from one of our most popular YA authors.
So let’s take a towering classic of Russian literature, re-imagine it with lashings of adolescent angst, and then offer it up in its original verse form to a contemporary teen readership. You’d be forgiven for having your doubts, but I’m happily applauding In Paris With You by Clémentine Beauvais for the vision and audacity in this unique take on Eugene Onegin.
So how does it feel to be ‘eighteen and internationally reviled,’ the prime casualty of a slut-shaming scandal? Izzy O’Neill tells us straight in this sparky YA debut by Laura Steven. When photos emerge of Izzy, a senator’s son and a frisky episode on a garden bench, she is propelled into a scandal of epic proportions, one in which she is hounded by a society that simultaneously objectifies and shames sexually active young women.
What happens to the child survivors of a brainwashing cult? How do they begin to process the horrors they have seen? Loosely based on the Waco siege of 1993, After the Fire by Will Hill is a stunning depiction of the lead-up to and aftermath of an armed siege on a Texan cult compound. This highly original novel has scooped the YA Book Prize 2018, and is undoubtedly the best book I’ve reviewed so far this year. Events unfold through the eyes of Moonbeam, a teenage girl at the heart of the drama. Moonbeam knows no life outside The Holy Church of The Lord’s Legion and its formidable leader, Father John.
First published in 1971, Go Ask Alice was the YA phenomenon of its day, and features prominently on America’s Most Banned Books List. It’s the cautionary tale of a vulnerable teenager, lured into the heady world of the 1960’s counter culture. Even the squarest parents know what that means. Drugs, sex and general depravity must surely follow. Originally purporting to be the most sensational of real-life diaries, these days Go Ask Alice is viewed as a fictional and somewhat hysterical piece of anti-drugs propaganda.