Irish YA Showcase
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
In honour of today’s celebration, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about five of the best YA books I’ve read by Irish authors. I’m also going to feature five Irish YA novels that I can’t wait to pick up. Hopefully you’re about to discover an Irish author who will become a new favourite.
All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
All Our Hidden Gifts follows a girl called Maeve as she begins doing tarot readings. Unfortunately, things end up going awry. Maeve is forced to do a reading for her ex-best friend Lily which turns heated. The day after their argument, Lily doesn’t turn up to school, and it doesn’t take long before Maeve discovers that Lily has completely disappeared. With the help of new friend Fiona and Lily’s brother Roe, Maeve has to get to the bottom of the power of the tarot and how she can bring Lily home.
With a lot of discussion on the political values of Ireland and the shifting nature of a traditionally Catholic country, I found myself learning a lot about the Ireland of today.
I wrote a full-length review of All Our Hidden Gifts – which is Caroline O’Donoghue’s first YA novel – last week, so feel free to check that out if you’d like to hear more in-depth thoughts on this novel.
All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
On the other hand, All the Bad Apples taught me a lot about Ireland’s history.
If you know anything about the history of Ireland, you’ll probably know something about mother and baby homes and the way that unwed mothers were treated in the majority Catholic country. Exploring not only this topic, but also various issues in Ireland which impact upon women, All the Bad Apples was inspired by Repeal the 8th and is a passionate look at women’s rights throughout the country both now and in the past.
Deena’s sister Mandy disappears, but while the rest of Deena’s family assumes that Mandy has died, Deena is certain that her sister is out there somewhere waiting for her. Her belief in Mandy pays off. Letters from Mandy begin arriving, divulging long hidden family secrets to Deena. It turns out that their families run of bad luck might actually be a family curse, and it will take Deena diving back through the generations – and through Ireland’s history – to get to the root of it.
Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
Asking For It is another passionately feminist novels (and one which I featured in my feminist YA recommendations video to celebrate International Women’s Day earlier this month).
Following a girl called Emma who is sexually assaulted at a party, Asking For It explores slut shaming, revenge porn and the ridiculously judgmental attitude displayed towards victims of violent sexual crimes. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about this book even though it’s been five years since I read it, because this is a powerful novel.
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan
Perfectly Preventable Deaths is a dark story, featuring witchcraft and obsession, so I wouldn’t recommend this if you have a sensitive disposition. There are scenes from this book which still haunt me because they’re so uncomfortably vivid, and I had to put the book down a couple of times while reading it because I was feeling so unsettled.
Following twins Madeline and Catlin as they move to the isolated town of Ballyfran, the setting is one of the best things about this novel. It’s creepy, mysterious, and made me feel extremely grateful that I no longer live in the small village where I grew up!
The Grey Lands duology by Peadar O’Guilin
The Call and The Invasion are two more Irish books that have a strong sense of setting. In this world teenagers are Called to the Grey Lands, where they must survive being hunted by the vicious Sídhe. Steeped in Irish folklore, this is probably the most Irish of the YA books that I’m recommending today, and it taught me a lot about Irish folktales and the mysterious Sídhe (who are absolutely terrifying!).
This is another book which is quite unsettling, so if you’re opposed to reading scenes of body horror and torture I would definitely recommend skipping it.
Now, for the five Irish YA novels which I can’t wait to pick up…
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
I’ve owned The Accident Season for as long as I can remember, and I don’t know why I’m still sleeping on this novel. I’ve even read a chapter sampler, so I know how intriguing the start of the story is and I know how badly I want to continue with it!
The Accident Season follows a girl called Cara, whose family become inexplicably accident-prone towards the end of October (a time which they refer to as the accident season). It sounds like this novel is going to be similar to All the Bad Apples – featuring a family curse and a girl determined to discover the truth and break free of the curse – and I can’t wait to discover which novel I will end up enjoying more.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you say? Well, both of those books were 5 stars for me, so that means The Henna Wars is well on its way to becoming a new favourite.
The Henna Wars tells the story of two girls with rival henna businesses. Nishat is a Muslim, and feels as though Flávia is appropriating her culture, but she falls for her instantly. Struggling to reconcile her religion with her sexuality, this sounds like it’s going to be a book about discovering yourself, and combining those aspects with the Irish setting is bound to add an even greater dynamic to this debut novel.
Needlework by Deirdre O’Sullivan
Having enjoyed Perfectly Preventable Deaths, it’s only right that I finally pick up Deirdre Sullivan’s Needlework (the book which put her name on my radar).
Needlework follows a girl called Ces who wants to be a tattoo artist. I’ve never seen an aspiring tattoo artist in a YA novel before, so it certainly sounds like it’s going to be a unique story! From what I can gather Ces is a survivor of abuse, and Needlework follows her as she struggles to move on with her life and to envision a future for herself with the shadow of abuse still hanging over her. Sounds like a tearjerker to me.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
This is one of the most hyped UKYA debut novels to have ever been released, and something about that hype is still intimidating me. Although I loved Asking For It, I’ve heard even better things about Only Ever Yours, and I’m putting off reading it in case it doesn’t live up to my expectations.
Heralded as the YA answer to The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m expecting this novel to be emotional, inspiring and infuriating in equal measure.
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
The only book of Siobhan Dowd’s that I’ve read so far was her middle grade novel The London Eye Mystery, which I really enjoyed. Shortly after reading that story I picked up Solace of the Road at the library book sale, but for some reason it’s still sitting on my shelf unread.
Solace of the Road is the story of a girl called Holly, who hates her foster parents. She decides to run away from their home in London, planning to hitchhike her way to Ireland, where she is hoping to track down her birth mother. It sounds as though it’s bound to be a poignant and emotional novel, and judging by what I’ve heard about Siobhan Dowd’s writing it’s going to be a very skilfully written story.
I hope you enjoyed this St. Patrick’s Day celebration post! Are there any Irish authors you recommend, or stories set in Ireland which you’ve loved?
Thanks for reading,