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This seminal exploration of mental health begins with an explosion. Olive is on the edge, unable to cope with the volume of noise and people in the world: “I hate humans. I hate that they’re everywhere. But the human I hate most is me”. After a disturbing episode during her dad’s birthday celebrations, she agrees to attend Camp Reset, “the country’s first residential camp for brain wellness”, where young clients are given therapy and encouraged to identify their core beliefs in a plush country setting. Olive knows what her core belief is - “I’m a bad person” - and so a key to her healing will be to switch that into “I am a good person who tries my best.” While struggling with this, and inspired by the “suicide algorithm” the Camp Reset doctors have devised, Olive is struck by her own idea for a cure. She’s a compelling, creative fireball of a character and, though her condition is complex and her journey often dark, she’s also frequently entertaining. After enlisting the help of introverted maths-lover Lewis, it’s not long before Olive’s idea evolves into a wildly big-scale project. Unflinchingly honest and empathetic, this intense novel demonstrates the primary importance of kindness and compassion, that it’s never a persons fault that they’re unwell, and just how essential self-care is. Ladies and Gents, I give you one of the year’s most important YA novels - an engaging and thought-provoking book with tremendous value. Holly Bourne has done it again.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | September 2018 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: love, trust, truth, and being true to yourself | This engaging and refreshingly candid sequel to the bestselling The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things tackles big issues (body shaming, date rape, parental pressure) with big-hearted verve, sincerity and charm. Vibrant, witty, purple-and-green-haired Virginia attends a prestigious private Manhattan school but despite this privileged background, her life’s not exactly a bowlful of cherries. On good days Virginia considers herself to be curvy. On bad days she’s “plain old fat”. She comes from “a family of fat-shamers” and is constantly undermined by her high-achieving older siblings. Virginia has a boyfriend, though, Froggy. Except she’s no longer into him, which is another source of tension – she is, after all, the girl who wrote: “if you’re a chunky chick and you managed to get a nice boyfriend, don’t ever let him go”, so it’s quite a struggle for Virginia to decide whether she should let him go. Then, while you’re 110% rooting for her to make the right decision, fate intervenes in the form of a chance encounter with cute artist Sebastian. He’s attentive, complimentary and makes her feel pretty. As they become closer (and cuter), complicated connections emerge when Virginia’s big brother Byron is arrested for a serious offence, leaving the lovebirds with a whole lot of conflicts you’ll be desperate for them to resolve. The story is a real edge-of-your-seat page-turner, but Virginia is the true star of this well-plotted piece. At once ambitious and insecure, she zings from the page as a firecracker of relatable, true-to-life contradictions, while Byron’s appalling actions – and their painful repercussions – expose male privilege with thought-provoking poignancy. Highly recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Holly Bourne. ~ Joanne Owen
Katherine Webber’s story is set in Palm Springs the desert landscape beloved of her central character Reiko and on-off boyfriend Seth providing a dramatic backdrop to a story that changes moods and directions to make this a rich and rewarding read. To most, Reiko would seem to have it all: she’s clever, beautiful, rich with a loving family, already favourite to be Homecoming Queen. Close friends know however that she’s never recovered from the tragic death of her sister five years earlier; readers know that Reiko sees and talks to the ghost of Mika in her room each night. It’s a chance meeting with Seth, one of the uncool kids, that turns into a friendship then a relationship. Her friends are astonished when they finally go public as a couple, what can Reiko see in Seth? We wonder too, but as the story unfolds perspectives change in really interesting and revealing ways. A thoughtful, intelligent and moving YA novel.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | August 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2018 | | A thought-provoking and touching story of the bond between children and nature, from renowned storyteller and award-winning author Gill Lewis. Award-winning Gill Lewis is renowned for her skilful capturing of the healing power of human/ animal friendships and the importance of nature to all – and especially to children who grow up without much chance to explore it. Searching for a secret place where they can practise their skateboarding, Izzy and Asha discover the perfect spot – the site of an abandoned gas works. But they are not the first to find it. The gas works site is also home to a wounded wolf. Knowing that they must keep its existence a secret the girls take care of the wolf and, in doing so, become involved in keeping the patch of wasteland safe from developers. It is a heartwarming story with a deep theme written in a highly readable way. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | July 2018 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | | A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | As elegant and energising as a flute of fine champagne, this enchanting novel sees 17-year-old Cornish farmer’s daughter and aspiring writer Lou embrace the dizzy decadence of 1920’s aristocracy, with life-changing results. “You can learn an awful lot from books,” according to Lou, and it’s Lou’s love of books that first brings her into contact with the wealthy Cardew family and their “exotic creature” socialite friends. One night she steals across the causeway to empty Cardew House to savour the delights of the library and unexpectedly encounters charismatic Robert Cardew. Their first ablaze-with-banter meeting leaves Lou “hot and cross” but also piercing with “pleasure and longing”, for it’s given her a tantalising glimpse into another world. Then follows an invite from Robert’s fluttery sister, Cailtin, and a summer of extravagant parties opens up. Robert’s voluptuously glamorous fiancé and her “film-star handsome” brother have quite an impact, but it’s the Cardew siblings who weave their way into Lou’s heart. Exuberantly entertaining, breezily romantic and shimmering with the delicious anticipation of pastures new, this is jubilantly fine fiction in the vein of I Capture the Castle.
Cathy Cassidy has a talent for writing positive and life-affirming stories even though they’re about young people facing really difficult situations. Sami’s story is almost too sad to be told. He’s a refugee from Syria, and lost his father, mother and little sister in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach the safety of Europe. That story is told through the pages of his notebook, but it’s interspersed with the story of his life now, living in England with his aunt and uncle and playing in the band Lost and Found. The friendship of the other band members is the best healing possible, and he has a special friend in Lexie, star of the first book in this series. Sub-plots provide light relief, e.g. when Marley recruits tone-deaf Bobbi-Jo into the band convinced her record-producer dad will make them stars. It’s a lovely and very successful mix of music, friendships and the power that comes from kindness and compassion, and classic Cathy Cassidy.
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 | An eye-catching tattoo of a tiger links four people in Bernard Ashley’s new book. Against her parents’ wishes, Sofia has a tiger head tattoo; screwing her courage to the sticking point while the young tattooist inks it on her leg, she is delighted with the result and what it says about her and her plans for her life. When her actor father sees it, he uses the tattoo as inspiration for a new role, which gives the image more exposure. A thuggish boxer has the same tattoo and is furious that the image is now being shared on others. The drama that follows is both crime thriller and romance, but also a meditation on art, what it stands for, how it connects us, and whether anyone can claim ownership. Exciting and thoughtful contemporary drama from a literary old master. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 12+
June 2018 Debut of the Month | This ambitiously epic fantasy debut sees a captive princess rise from the ashes of her traumatic childhood to combat a cruel Kaiser. At the tender age of six Theodosia witnessed the brutal murder of her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury. Now, ten years on, and backed deeper into a no-hope situation by the cruel Kaiser who’s forced her to live in a degraded state as the Ash Princess, Theodosia is driven to concoct a scheme to exact her revenge. With the assistance of a band of magical rebels she will seduce the Kaiser’s son and ruin him from within in order to reclaim the throne. While this motif is far from new, the writing is bold and fresh, and this promising debut sparkles with Theodosia’s drive and desire. But, while she’s a straight-talking, sharp-thinking young woman, her lively first-person narrative also reveals hidden fears, doubts and personal conflicts which, alongside the gory grimness of the political climate (slavery, brutal colonisation) and a backdrop of elemental gods, makes for a riveting reading experience that comes recommended for fans of Sarah J Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
Everyone loves a wedding, right? Especially when you’re Charlie and your beloved big sister is about to get hitched with all your siblings reunited for the big occasion. Focusing on this event is Charlie’s only source of stability right now, what with her parents selling the family home, her Mom’s long-running family-inspired comic strip ending after 25 years, and her having to make huge decisions about her future. It’s the end of an era every which way you look at it, so this weekend “had to be perfect. I would make sure of it,’ Charlie resolves. But, with so much outside her control, Charlie’s dream of a perfect wedding weekend is threatened by a succession of obstacles, errors and unexpected encounters, including an intense reunion with her long-time crush (cue a whole lot of complicated cuteness and deep and meaningful realisations). Alongside the humour, the daunting giddiness of being of the verge of everything changing is brilliantly evoked. Charlie has pushed aside making college decisions for months and instead been utterly preoccupied with the wedding. The million-dollar question is, as her best friend posits, “What happens when this weekend is over?” It’s by no means easy, but since she’s a thoughtful, resourceful young woman, “the one who came to help, who tried to make things work”, the one her siblings called when “they were in trouble”, Charlie realises that while the tides of change are strong, she’s strong enough to ride them out. She and her family will always be there for one another, and you never know what wonders await further out at sea. I adored the author’s The Unexpected Everything and this confirms her status as a mighty fine creator of exuberantly entertaining coming-of-age dramas with authentic emotional depth.
Surely one for fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, this smart coming-of-age story reels with romance, life lessons and big questions about finding your way. Seventeen-year-olds Reagan and Dee are “friends for infinity”, but they’re also opposites: “In a fairytale, she’d play the good fairy. I’d be the evil witch’s screwup step cousin”, Reagan remarks with characteristic wryness. While Reagan has a history of bad girl behaviour (underage drinking, court appearances and picking bad boys), Dee is a country music superstar who “acts either thirty years old, like a composed professional” or, when she’s with Reagan, “like a twelve year old”. But this summer Reagan plans to get her life back on track as she joins Dee’s first major headline tour. With both girls trying to get over broken relationships, this summer road-trip is a fresh start for them both, but their plans are immediately tainted when a magazine runs a salacious story about Dee. Enter Matt Finch, Dee’s wholesome label-mate. He’s invited to join her tour as a ploy to shift press attention from the alleged “scandal” to speculation that there might be something between him and Dee. The truth is, it’s Reagan who falls for Matt, with his understated handsomeness and a straight-talking vibe she totally relates to. As their romance ignites with electrifying passion, there’s a rocky road ahead for all three as further salacious allegations are made and various mounting pressures threaten friendships and burgeoning romance. The music tour set-up makes this an entertaining escapist page-turner, with the relatable real-life conundrums and dramas providing thought-provoking profundity – the essential ingredients of a rollicking summer read.
This story begins in a spiritual retreat. 17 year old Nora is there to recover from an accident and promises readers she will describe the chain of events that brought her there. It will, she says, be a true story, before immediately admitting that she hasn’t always told the truth. This is putting it mildly: Nora’s whole life is a series of lies and deceptions. She has a library of stories to explain her father’s death for example, and in an early incident in the story orchestrates the sacking of a young art teacher. A skilful and convincing liar, Nora has always got what pretty much what she wants. When she meets the Ingram family, a theatrical dynasty, the part in a new film seems within her reach. But in Bel Ingram, wild, reckless and ruthless, has Nora finally met her match? Nora is a fascinating character who will have readers completely in thrall, while her ‘true story’ is full of shocks and surprises. Intelligent, gripping, highly original.