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A book about finding hope in the darkest of times | An extraordinary, powerful, and important book, based on the true story of how Liz Kessler’s father escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe thanks to a British couple his family had met once. But what elevates this book about three friends and their different fates in World War Two is the story of Max, the nice, ordinary boy who gradually becomes seduced into hatred and prejudice. The ringing question, ‘What would I do under these circumstances?’ echoes on every page. ~ Francesca Simon
The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes. It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight. The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.” Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve.
Jessie Burton’s fiery feminist re-telling of the Greek myth of Medusa blazes with intrigue and beauty courtesy of author’s elegant style and Olivia Lomenech Gill’s fabulously evocative colour illustrations. It’s an incredible feat of intellect and imagination that takes down toxic masculinity and victim-blaming culture through an ingenious reframing, reclaiming of Medusa. The gods have exiled Medusa to a remote island, with no one for company but the snakes she has for hair. That is, until impossibly beautiful Perseus arrives and transfixes her: “I know a lot about beauty. Too much in fact. But I’d never seen anything like him…I wanted to eat him up like honey cake.” Desires awoken, Medusa won’t reveal her name, or let him see her: “I was just going to sit on the other side of this entrance rock and pretend that boys like him washed up on desert islands all the time.” This excerpt encapsulates one of the many marvellous things about this book. The writing - cleverly, and compellingly - feels both timeless and modern. Medusa’s narrative, and the dialogue, is laced with wit, and infused with tremendous detail. But betrayal swoops in the wake of desire, and all-too familiar mechanisms of patriarchy come into play with ferocity. Ultimately, though, and with a magnificent sense of sisterhood, Medusa comes to a new state of being: “Self-awareness is a great banisher of loneliness. And my sisters, the immortals, are with me.” This is terrifically inspiring and empowering in the ways of timeless myths, but also in ways that are very, very real - “you will find me when you need me, when the wind hears a woman’s cry and fills my sails forward. And I will whisper on the water that one must never fear the raised shield, the reflection caught in an office window, or the mirror in a bathroom.”
Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award | A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
In this riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy, Jennifer Mathieu reimagines S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders from a female perspective. Bad Girls Never Say Die has all the drama and heartache of that teen classic, but with a feminist take just right for our times.
Your big sis in book form, Grown is a celebration of Black British girlhood that will empower you to live your very best life. Grown. It's a mood. It's a mindset. It's a mantra. It's a lifestyle. It embodies everything that makes us who we are. Being a teenager and trying to understand who you are and what you stand for is hard. Period. But if you're a Black girl and don't always see yourself represented in the books you read, the films you watch, the adverts you see or the history you're taught, it can be even tougher. Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up was written with one thing in mind sis. You. From understanding identity to the politics of hair to maintaining squad goals to dealing with microaggressions to consent to figuring out what career you might want, Grown has got your back. Natalie A. Carter and Melissa Cummings-Quarry, founders of Black Girls' Book Club, share stories - the wins and the Ls - and offer honest, practical advice that will show you how to own your choices. To live your truth without fear. To be grown on your own terms without limits or apologies. With a foreword from the inimitable Spice Girl Melanie Brown and contributions from inspirational Black women such as Diane Abbott MP, Dorothy Koomson and Candice Carty-Williams and gorgeous illustrations from Dorcas Magbadelo, Grown is a celebration of Black British girlhood that will empower you to live your very best life.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | Refreshing, funny and packed with essential feminist themes, not to mention an authentic, engaging protagonist in Eliza Quan (a no-nonsense teenager who doesn’t give two hoots about what people think of her), Michelle Quach’s Not Here To Be Liked is at once deliciously entertaining and empowering. With pithy observations like “Girls get judged for their past; guys get judged for their potential”, it’s also a thought-provoking reminder (if one were needed) that there’s some way to go before patriarchal structures are disassembled - thanks goodness, then, that Eliza is on hand to speed up the process. Oh, and the novel features a whole lot of cute kissing to boot. Eliza is set to be the new editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. Firstly, she’s the most qualified candidate. Secondly, she’s the only candidate…until former baseball player Len joins the paper for want of something better to do and winds up winning the vote. Justifiably angry that he - male, handsome, popular and utterly inexperienced - was picked over her - Eliza’s venting inspires a feminist movement that exposes the gulf between those who want - and recognise the need for - gender equality, and those who think she’s just annoyed about being overlooked. Alongside exploring such pertinent themes in slick style, the novel also sees Eliza face the ultimate conflict when she finds herself falling for Len. Fast and furious, Not Here To Be Liked flies in the face of anyone dumb enough to think that books about feminism (and feminists themselves) can’t be smart and funny.
From the creator of the Mortal Instruments series and Infernal Devices trilogy comes this epic first instalment of the author’s highly anticipated The Dark Artifices series. Lady Midnight is populated with pretty much every kind of mythological and supernatural being you could wish for (witches, warlocks, werewolves, vampires, faeries to name a few), but none more intriguing than the Nephilim Shadowhunters, part-angel, part-human beings who adorn themselves with protective runes. Emma Carstairs is a Shadowhunter and, as such, she’s bound to her parabatai platonic soul mate Julian for life. Emma is also set on avenging her parents’ death. Then, when bodies bearing the same marks as those on her parents’ are found in her home city of Los Angeles, Emma’s search for their murderer leads her down all kinds of treacherously demonic paths. Clare has a real talent for creating richly-realised fantasy worlds and plummeting her gutsy, larger-than-life protagonists into seriously high-stakes situations. This is a hugely entertaining and expansive start to her new series, with more glamour that you can shake a stele stick at, and more than enough intrigue to keep forum threads spinning furiously as fans await book two. Take a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Dark Artifices.
Hard-hitting and, ultimately, infused with hope, Shappi Khorsandi’s Kissing Emma tackles big issues (poverty, class divisions, toxic masculinity, victim-blaming, and male coercion of women) with incredible honesty and authenticity. Inventively riffing on the true story of Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress, this tells the gripping story of a young women’s journey to self-determination in a society obsessed with looks and economic status. Emma and her mum have long lived with her father’s abusive, controlling ways: “Sometimes he said to Mum, ‘Put some slap on, you look half-dead,’ so she’d do her face. But if she put on some lipstick and a bit of mascara without him telling her to, he’d scream, ‘You look like a tart!’ till she cried and took it off. No way of predicting it”. When he’s suddenly gone from their lives in extreme circumstances, Emma and Mum are forced to move into her grandmother’s small flat. There’s never enough money, and her mother hopes that attractive Emma will find a nice rich man to rescue them both, while Nan advises her to “Put less on show, love. Men can’t help themselves around a bit of flesh. You can’t dangle a lamb chop in front of a lion and expect it not to bite”. Amidst such poor advice, Emma discovers she has a talent for acting and resolves to up her aspirations, deciding, “I had to kill the girl from the estate. It was time to reinvent myself.” As a result, when Emma meets a couple of apparent nice guys from a modelling agency, she’s quickly coerced into an abusive situation while hoping to find Instagram influencer fame and fortune. Emma’s story is utterly gripping - readers will come to really care for her, and find themselves urging her to make different decisions, to find a different path in life. Being an authentic kind of novel, there’s no simplistic happily ever-after-ending here, but there is a glorious sense of triumph and transformation as Emma feels a surge of enough-is-enough self-pride and vows to live a life free from male coercion; a life in which she’s in control and happy, as she deserves to be.
Co-written by Angelina Jolie, Amnesty International and Geraldine Van Bueren QC, Know Your Rights and How to Claim Them is underpinned by an inspirational knowledge is power ethos. That is to say, it sets out the human rights of under 18-year-olds and aims to “help you to identify who or what stands between you and your rights, and the action you can take if you choose,” as Jolie explains in her introduction. After talking through the principles and history of human rights in lucid style, Know Your Rights explains their practical implications - “your rights in reality” - covering everything from poverty and racial and gender equality, to health and climate, with rousing examples of how young people around the globe have taken action, from gay rights activists in Colombia, to a disability rights activist in Kyrgyzstan. The book also explains how young people can safely, effectively campaign for rights, with detailed insights into how to speak in public, how to debate, how to safeguard your personal mental health, how to raise awareness through engaging politicians, and how to amplify the reach of your campaign. At once informative and practical, Know Your Rights is a dazzling, potent toolkit for justice and change.
Translated by Rachel Ward | With an illuminating contextualising foreword by Michael Rosen, Dirk Reinhardt’s The Edelweiss Pirates is a tremendously-told story of astonishing courage as a group of young people living under the brutal Nazi regime launch risky rebellions. The graceful, pacey story begins when sixteen-year-old Daniel encounters an old man, Josef, at a cemetery. Josef is there visiting the grave of his brother, who was murdered during the war. “It’s a long story,” he explains. “But it might interest you. You especially!” Intrigued, Daniel discovers where Josef lives and visits him, whereupon he shares his diary, which reveals how Josef and a band of fellow brave teenagers rebelled against Nazi atrocities. As a teenager, Josef left the Hitler Youth for The Edelweiss Pirates - a group of compellingly cool youngsters. In his words, “they’ve got style: checked shirts and bright neck scarves, leather jackets and belts with huge buckles. Some have straps on their wrists and kind of fancy hats on their heads”. Driven by a motto of freedom, the Pirates initially hang out together to enjoy themselves and let loose but, as Nazi atrocities escalate, they plot and implement perilous missions to undermine the regime. Reeling with details of real-life struggles and feats, and a riveting sense of drama, this is an extraordinary novel about an extraordinary group of youngsters whose lesser-known story reveals the capacity of the human spirit to stand up and risk all to confront barbarism and injustices. It’s a poignant page-turner to the nth degree.
August 2021 Book of the Month | Life in a small Tennessee town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his smart but troubled best friend, Delaney, is second nature to Cash. But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full scholarships to an elite school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his fears about abandoning his old life.