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November 2021 Debut of the Month | A raw and lyrical power surges through Lisa Fuller’s Ghost Bird debut as it tells the gripping story of a First Nations teenager who’s gone missing from her rural Queensland town. This is YA fiction at its most thrilling and enthralling. Stacey and Laney might be mirror twins, but they have vastly different personalities. While Stacey is keen to get her head down at school, Laney skips lessons and sneaks out to see her boyfriend, until the night she doesn’t come home. While the white townsfolk and white authorities assume this is just another of her rebellions (as Stacey remarks, “all the positions of power are held by property owners, all white, and all with memories of when they ‘owned’ us”), Stacey knows different. She can see and feel this is different too, through the vivid dreams that haunt her. If only her Nan were still alive. She’d know what to do, she could guide Stacey to harness her dreams: “I’d spent the most time with her listening to the old stories, learning the things that Nan always said would keep me safe. There were things she’d promised to tell me when I was older that I’d never get to hear now.” The sense of kinship, community, spirituality and ancestral bonds is tremendously powerful, and the writing uniquely beautiful. “I’ve always seen the golden core of her”, Stacey says of her twin. “The soft melting heart that the hard shell protects.” Driven by desperate love for Laney, and by the terrifying urgency of her dreams, Stacey seeks advice from “Mad May Miller”, the elder of a family her own family has long feuded with, but a woman who can help Stacey use her dreams to find her sister. At once brutal and rivetingly lyrical, this is a multi-layered contemporary YA masterwork.
October 2021 Debut of the Month | 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.
Pacey, racy and reeling with real-life struggles, comforts and joys, Juno Dawson’s Stay Another Day is a cracker of a Christmas novel, with a compelling home for the holidays set-up - if you watched the TV series Why Women Kill, you’ll also appreciate how the novel is framed through the 120-year history of the family home. Sparkling with the author’s trademark talent for writing authentic dialogue (funny, thought-provoking, always on the mark) and rounded characters, this seasonal story is as satisfyingly-formed (and moreish) as a chocolate orange. When the three McAllister siblings convene at the family home in Edinburgh for Christmas, secrets, lies and lusts come together to create an absolute banger of a novel. Star student Fern, a self-professed embodiment of Lisa from The Simpsons, arrives from London with her stunning boyfriend, Thom, while her twin Rowan (gay, an aspiring actor, and consumed by FOMO) brings his best friend Syd. Though Fern is, as always, determined to enjoy the perfect family Christmas, she notes that “Christmas with a mixed-race boyfriend and a non-binary and mixed-race best friend is a potential minefield. Where are you from? But where are you really from?” Then there’s the twin’s younger sister, Willow, still living at home and constantly scrutinised due to her anorexia. As the big day draws closer, past liaisons and unfolding secrets envelop the family like a tangle of Christmas tree lights, setting the scene for a series of snowy showdowns and a whole lot of soul-searching. Hearty, satisfying stuff, with seasonal cheer shining bright through the real-life strife.
From the bestselling author of TikTok sensation Girl in Pieces | From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces and How to Make Friends with the Dark comes a breathtaking contemporary YA about addiction, family and finding your voice. The quiet one, the obedient one, the reliable one. Emmy has spent her life being told exactly who she is. Not strong-willed like her beautiful sister Maddie and not in rehab like her wild brother Joey. But when a tragic accident changes life in her small town forever, can Emmy keep up the act?
December 2021 Book of the Month | Gritty, authentic and inspirational, Jennifer Mathieu’s Bad Girls Never Say Die explores the tangled aftermath of an assault with incredible power. There’s tragedy, there’s heartache and, above all, tremendous love felt through this story of a young woman who bravely resolves to forge her own path (“I refuse to live my life for someone else”). In short, it’s the perfect coming of age novel. Like SE Hinton’s The Outsiders (on which this is based), Bad Girls Never Say Die is set in the sixties against a backdrop of deep social divide. Evie and her friends are from the wrong side of the tracks - bad girls who are seen as “trash.” But when Evie is assaulted by a rich kid, she’s saved by one of his kind - beautiful, wealthy Diane, but her sisterly action has tragic consequences. Though set some decades ago, the themes of Bad Girls Never Say Die remain as resonant today - class division, class conflict, and the bad that comes from making judgements on the basis of background and appearance. Then there’s the friendship, peer pressure, loyalty, and falling in love. The unfair family expectations, troubled home-lives, and the fact that it’s “different for boys”, who are afforded greater far freedoms than girls. Gripping, relatable and emotionally engaging, Bad Girls Never Say Die is a triumph.
Sophisticated in style, complex in construction, and exhilarating in delivery, Rose Edwards’ The Ember Days is a thrilling fantasy for readers who like plenty of meat on the bones of their stories. Sequel to The Harm Tree, a LoveReading4Kids Debut of the Month, timeless themes of trust, betrayal, guilt and survival smoulder through a story that’s altogether mythic in scope. Living in exile in a remote area of the Southern Kingdom, Torny and Ebba find themselves faced with a succession of dangerous situations and ordeals in the aftermath of bloody political battles - a distant cry from the sanctuary they’d longed for. The landscape is scarred; scattered with false hopes, lost souls, and the struggle of two young female protagonists seeking some kind of peace in a world that’s anything but peaceful. With snappy, modern dialogue interspersed with pacey action scenes, and lively details evoking the author’s highly developed world, this is a satisfying sequel if ever there was one.
October 2021 YA Debut of the Month | From Queenie to Empress, Candice Carty-Williams’ first YA novel is a fresh, authentically engaging, read-in-one-sitting exploration of class, compassion, friendship and empathy that uses a fab Trading Places/Freaky Friday device to tell the tale of two teenage girls who form a life-changing friendship. Empress lives in poverty on a South London estate. Being a bright, young thing, she’s won a scholarship to a fancy school, where she’s thrown in with a bunch of privileged girls who (mostly) mock her poverty. It’s also where she meets Aniya, who’s assigned to help her settle in. They share a birthday, but (on the face of it), not much else, given that Aniya lives in a huge house and her parents have high-profile jobs. The rich-poor divide is thrown into stark contrast when Empress goes to Aniya’s house (Aniya wants to make sure Empress eats) and meets her family. Her kindly, successful barrister dad is “a tall, handsome man who looked a bit like a budget Obama”, though their home and lifestyle are anything but budget. When Aniya resolves to understand how it feels to live in Empress’s shoes, they cast a spell that sees them swap bodies, setting in motion a succession of life-changing circumstances. Honest, warm, and utterly gripping, this heart-felt page-turner also provides generous insights into managing emotions and fostering empathy.
Narrated by Ben Onwukwe Adapted for younger readers from his seminal adult edition of the same book, David Olusoga’s Black and British presents an engaging, illuminating and critically needed account of Black British history. Indeed, this succinct, impactful edition also serves as an excellent primer for adults. The introduction frames the book in the context of contemporary Britain - “Britain’s population is changing. More of us than ever are members of families that include people of different skin colours and ethnicities. Black history helps explain how national history is intertwined with our family histories. It helps us make sense of the country we are today.” And of course, contrary to popular perception, Black history has long been entwined with British history - it is British history. As the book reveals through lively, clear text - supplemented by fascinating maps and visuals - there’s evidence that Africans were part of the Roman army stationed in Britain as far back as 253AD. And contrary to the typical representation of Tudor England as being a white entity, several hundred Black Tudors have been found in historical records. Then, as European trade with Africa exploded - spearheaded by the Portuguese and Spanish who’d begun to buy and transport slaves from Africa - Britain wanted in on the lucrative action, and soon started shipping slaves to their Caribbean colonies. Come the early Georgian era (1714-1776) an increasing number of enslaved Africans were brought to Britain to serve wealthy families, as evidenced by the portraits and newspaper pieces reproduced in this book. Also covering the late Georgian era, the Victorian period, the two World Wars, through to the continuing Windrush Scandal, Olusoga has done an incredible job of correcting misconceptions and presenting the truth of Black British history in engaging, lucid style.
The authors of this excellent book have been friends since school and the book grew out of their own experiences of life as teenagers, the things they wish they’d known or been told. They write as if they are addressing younger sisters, recognising the extra challenges their readers will face growing up as Black girls, and that makes this an extraordinarily direct, authentic and empowering guide. There are chapters on subjects such as identity, friendship and understanding your body, as well as on hair, make-up and feeling your best, plus an excellent section on managing your finances. Quotes, anecdotes and advice from other influential Black women is included too, making the book even more effective and inspiring, and establishing a wider sense of community. “My wish is that this book can be the safe space you turn to when you need inspiration or comfort” says Natalie A. Carter in her introduction and the book is all that, and more.
Marcus is so good at football that there's a very real chance he'll be signed by Manchester United. But when he discovers he may be losing his hearing, his whole world falls to pieces and he finds himself having to put them back together on his own. But is this feeling of isolation real or just a consequence of his own behavior? While dealing with parents, friends and first girlfriends, Marcus gradually understands that accepting the help of others is ultimately an acceptance of self. A novel about friendship and family, The Silent Striker explores the issue of disability, identity and deafness, and the different ways in which we can choose to handle it.
October 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.
October 2021 Book of the Month | Utterly gripping and of-the-moment, The Trial addresses vital issues around consent, coercive control, victim-blaming and male entitlement with a desert island survival scenario providing the perfect set-up for a tinderbox situation. With this novel, Laura Bates, award-winning writer, activist and founder of the Everyday Sexism project, has created a thought-provoking thriller with page-turning potency and resonance. When a group of cheerleaders and footballers are washed up on a desert island following a plane crash (and a post-game party no one seems comfortable talking about), their attention is initially focussed on survival - what they’ll drink and eat, when they might get rescued. But then, as time passes and a series of strange, apparent accidents befall them, suspicions mount and paranoia reigns: “There’s something ‘off’ about the fabric of the group. Like a jigsaw where all the pieces have been reshaped and none of them fit together any more”. As the tension escalates, vital truths about gender relations are raised (and class disparity, too), such as when one of the characters observes, “The things that scare us are very different from the things that scare them” of the differences between her female peers and the guys in the group. This is Lord of the Flies with a powerful feminist message and cinematic scope.