Children born on the 29th February are special beings indeed. These Leap Year babies, known as leaplings, have beaten odds of 1 in 1,461 and arrived in calendric style. So consider then how eye-poppingly special Elle, the heroine of this tale, must be, for not only is she a leapling, but she has been born with The Gift, the ability to leap through time. Unfortunately, it appears that no corner of our Space-time continuum remains free from villainy and in The Infinite by Patience Agbabi, we join Elle as a school trip propels her into a truly epic crime-fighting adventure.
‘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.
The wonderful shortlist for this year’s Carnegie Book Award included such luminous characters as a rapper, a drag artist, and a lighthouse keeper’s daughter. But in the end, two everyday teenagers from Yorkshire have scooped the coveted Carnegie crown in Lark by Anthony McGowan. Brothers Nicky and Kenny may seem ordinary but their tale is anything but when they become stranded on the Yorkshire Moors during a day trip. What was meant to be ‘ a stroll, a laugh,’ a lark, is set to become a test of brotherly bonds and a fight for their very survival.
America’s excellent National Public Radio conducted a Best Ever Teen Fiction poll a few years ago and this list still stands in my opinion. Some fantastic books here for every teen age, taste and gender.
Situated next to the village church in Little Wyverns, is the remarkable Strangeworlds Travel Agency. To all appearances a dusty Victorian relic of a shop, when 12-year-old Flick Hudson stumbles across its threshold she discovers a travel business unlike any other. Rows of suitcases line the walls, each one a portal to a mysterious parallel world. No discounted fortnights on the Algarve here, instead the heady possibility of kaleidoscopic world-hopping adventure. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski joins Flick on the most magical, mind-bending, and frankly dangerous package holiday ever.
‘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.
11-year-old Margaret Simon is fairly sure that deodorant is unnecessary until at least the age of twelve, when the advent of body odour will also shoo in periods, bras and with any luck, first kisses. As if looming adolescence wasn’t taking up enough of her waking thoughts, Margaret is also caught in a whirl of moving house, changing school and wondering if she’ll fit into this new suburban world. 50 years since publication, the candid and perceptive Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret byJudy Blume remains the quintessential pre-teen read.
‘Our apartment door was unlocked when I got home from school that Friday, which was strange.’ Nothing appears to have been stolen from 12-year-old Miranda’s home but she subsequently discovers a cryptic note, informing her that someone she loves is in mortal danger. In order to avoid catastrophe, Miranda must turn detective cum scientist and challenge her own received notions of the nature of time. A 2010 Newbery medal winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is an inventive time travel mystery set in 1970’s New York, ideal for canny young sleuths in search of an invigorating read.
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.
At what age should young readers be introduced to the delights of Charles Dickens? Never one for skimping on his sentences, Dickens’ renowned wordiness and convoluted plots present a challenge for even the most determined bookworm. Welcome then to Great Expectations by Jack Noel, a humorous reinvention of the classic novel.