There have been quite a few books inspired by King Arthur published in recent years. Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke… The …
Tag: young adult
My favourite day of the year is almost here, with the YA Book Prize shortlist being announced on March 11th! So, as always, it’s time for my YA Book Prize predictions post.
Without further ado, these are the ten books which I’m hoping to see shortlisted for this year’s prize:
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is basically the UKYA answer to One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. UKYA has a notoriously hard time getting recognition across the pond, so the fact that this book hit the top of the New York Times Bestseller List last week says enough about why I think it might end up appearing on the YA Book Prize shortlist.
This book follows a girl called Pippa who decides to investigate the murder of a schoolgirl which was allegedly ‘solved’ by the police years ago. When Pippa starts digging, though, it becomes apparent that someone is trying to stop her from finding something out, and she’s sure that the explanation isn’t as cut and dry as the police first thought.
All The Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
I haven’t read any of Moira Fowley-Doyle’s other books yet, but I read All the Bad Apples back in December and I really enjoyed it.
Set in Ireland, All the Bad Apples follows Deena, who is the only member of her family to doubt the fact that her aunt Mandy is dead. When she starts receiving letters from Mandy containing all of the sordid details of their family history – the reason why every woman in their family is thought of as a ‘bad apple’ – Deena embarks on a trip across the country with her closest friends, discovering the truth about her past in the desperate hope that she’ll find Mandy alive at the end of it.
All the Bad Apples is very relevant novel, written at the height of the #MeToo movement and during the recent vote in Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment and legalise abortion. Not only does it have a brilliant focus on family and friendship, it also frames Deena’s family’s past within the history of Ireland, making it a love letter to a country with a troubled past.
Furious Thing by Jenny Downham
Jenny Downham is brilliant. I’ve read every one of her books and none of them have taken me more than two sittings to fly through. There’s just something about her writing which is accessible and easy to digest, and every time she releases a new book I find myself foaming at the mouth, desperate to read it as soon as I possibly can.
Furious Thing follows Lex, who has really bad anger issues. She is angry at her soon-to-be stepfather, who treats her as irrational and crazy for her volatile emotions, constantly gaslighting her whenever she calls him out on his bullshit. She’s angry with her mother, for letting him get away with it all. She’s angry with his son – her only ally in their household – who ups and leaves for university, abandoning Lex for what she sees as bigger and better things. All that anger bubbles up and Lex finds herself exploding at regular intervals, sometimes even forcing herself to have one of her tantrums to stop arguments in the house and shield her little sister from the knowledge that her parents aren’t perfect.
I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory
Karen Gregory is one of my favourite UKYA authors. Each of her releases has been equal parts stunning and heartbreaking, and I Hold Your Heart is no exception.
Following the relationship of Gemma and Aaron, I Hold Your Heart explores abusive relationships and the different ways that they can play out. Aaron isn’t your typical bad boy and Gemma isn’t your typical victim, but Karen Gregory crafts her characters to prove that neither of those ideas are real – these situations can happen to everyone regardless of their backgrounds, and it’s important to look out for the warning signs which she portrays very authentically throughout her third novel.
It’s a crying shame that neither Countless nor Skylarks was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, and if I Hold Your Heart is snubbed too I will be infuriated! More respect for Karen Gregory, please – she’s one of the best names in UKYA at the moment and I’m surprised I’m not seeing more love for her novels.
Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan
I’ve been debating whether to include Kick the Moon in my predictions, because I wasn’t a huge fan of the book myself, but it’s impossible to deny that Muhammad Khan is unflinching in his portrayal of the experiences of Pakistani teens.
Ilyas has been friends with his group forever, so when leader Imran tries to get him to humiliate a girl as a gang initiation ritual he’s torn. These guys have always been there for him – even back when he was being bullied for dressing up as Superman, his favourite comic book hero, on World Book Day – so why are they asking him to do something haram?
I’ve seen a lot of people criticise this book for playing into a lot of stereotypes surrounding teenage boys and that was one of my criticisms too. However, there’s a reason that stereotypes exist and authors will need to embrace them into their stories to be able to effectively critique them. I’m always happy to see UKYA which is aimed at boys as there seems to be so little of it, and if this novel has helped even one person be true to themselves – whether by standing up to their friends or following their dreams against all odds – then it deserves a place on that shortlist.
Meat Market by Juno Dawson
I haven’t read Meat Market yet, despite the fact that I bought it the day it was released, because I have convinced that it was going to be shortlisted since it was first announced and I wanted to read it close to YA Book Prize time so that it was fresh in my mind when I started thinking about who might win.
Even if it’s not shortlisted, I’m so excited to get to Juno Dawson’s latest YA novel. Following a girl called Jana who is scouted for her androgynous looks and her gangly height, this book has been described as a ‘timely exposé’ of the fashion industry and a highly relevant book to the #MeToo movement, so I’m sure it’s going to be equal parts infuriating and upsetting, but Juno Dawson handles sensitive subjects with aplomb so I’m sure this is going to become a new favourite of mine.
I still think Clean should have won last year (although I do love Sara Barnard, so I can’t complain that Goodbye, Perfect came out on top!). If Dawson is shortlisted it will be her third time appearing on the list – could 2020 be the year she finally takes home the prize?
The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
Lucy Powrie has judged the YA Book Prize in the past, so her debut novel should be a shoo-in for this shortlist.
The Paper & Hearts Society follows a girl called Tabby who moves schools after something terrible happens. In the effort to fit in in a new town she joins a book club and finds a group of friends, making this book perfect for bookworms everywhere.
There’s normally at least one book on the YA Book Prize shortlist which is aimed at the younger end of the YA spectrum, and Lucy Powrie is proud of the fact that The Paper & Hearts Society is a teen book, so I’m hoping it’ll be eligible!
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Holly Bourne should have won the YA Book Prize by now. She’s the leading lady of YA contemporary – her experience working with teens has made her impossible to beat when it comes to tackling mental health issues, as shown in Am I Normal Yet? and Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? – and she’s no stranger to helping teens with relationships either, experience which she puts to good use in her eighth YA novel.
The Places I’ve Cried in Public is her strongest book yet. Jumping backwards and forwards in time – something which has been a huge feature in the last two YA Book Prize winners, and could be a huge point in her favour! – The Places I’ve Cried in Public tells the story of a girl called Amelie who is coming to terms with a break-up by visiting all of the places where her ex made her cry in public. As soon as I read the synopsis of this one I knew it was going to become my favourite Holly Bourne release, and I wasn’t wrong: Amelie and Reese’s story is impossible to put down. Just be warned if you read this one in public, because it will make you cry, too.
Toffee by Sarah Crossan
I always find books written in verse to be hit or miss. I love them when the story makes sense written in verse – Sarah Crossan’s One, a previous YA Book Prize winner, is a great example of this – but this stylistic choices baffles me when I feel that the story could be stronger in a different format (which is how I felt about Crossan’s Moonrise – can you see my conflict?!).
I was a bit worried going in to Toffee, but it ended up falling in the ‘hit’ category for me. Telling the story of a girl called Allison who runs away from home to escape from her abusive father and ends up living with a woman called Marla who is in the throes of dementia, Toffee tackles a lot of hard-hitting subjects and the disjointed verse complements the characters perfectly. Marla’s mind is breaking – sometimes she can remember things, sometimes she is tossed into her past or wracked with confusion – while Allison is torn between love and hate for her father, and these conflicts are encapsulated perfectly in the rapid-fire verse.
Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood
I’m yet to read Under a Dancing Star, but A Sky Painted Gold was one of my favourite books on last year’s shortlist, so I couldn’t resist adding this one in. I’m not sure whether it’s going to get shortlisted, as I haven’t heard as many people raving about it as they did about Laura Wood’s first YA novel, but this is my blog so I’m allowed to play favourites!
Set in the 1930’s, Under a Dancing Star follows a girl called Bea who goes to Italy and tries not to fall in love during a summer fling with a boy called Ben. If this was a contemporary I think I would have eaten it up by now, but I’m apprehensive because it’s historical fiction – exactly the reason I was scared to pick up A Sky Painted Gold, so you’d think I’d have learnt by now to just bite the bullet! This is another book which I bought the day it came out and still haven’t read, but whether it’s on the shortlist or not I’ll definitely be getting to it during the summer months.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this YA Book Prize predictions post! Are there any books that I’ve missed which you think will definitely be appearing, or do you agree with my choices? Leave your comments down below, and we can try to guess all 10 titles before the shortlist is revealed on Wednesday!
See you soon,
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I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to tell you that this collection of LGBTQ+ stories was just as delightful as I’d expected it to be.
I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the individual stories, as that’s how I’ve worked out my overall rating for the collection, so if you’d rather pick up your copy of Proud without knowing too much about the stories included I’d suggest looking away now!
Dive Bar by Caroline Bird:
Dive Bar – the first inclusion in the collection – is a poem that I just really didn’t understand? I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry though, so I’m probably missing some aspect of it that would make it make more sense to me… But as it stands currently I don’t have strong feelings about it either way. 3/5
Penguins by Simon James Green:
Absolutely glorious. Accompanied by art by Alice Oseman, Penguins is one of my favourite stories in the collection. I haven’t read any of Simon James Green’s other novels yet, but I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points as Cameron’s attempts to come out were constantly thwarted by the gay penguins at the zoo. 5/5
On The Run by Kay Staples:
Kay Staples spoke at the Stripes event, so I’d already heard her read the first page or so of On The Run, but it still made me chuckle when Nicky shared the story of how they ended up running away from home… to a Travelodge. Glamorous! 4/5
The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So:
Another story I was already slightly familiar with was The Phoenix’s Fault, the concept of which grabbed me when Cynthia So introduced her story at the Stripes event. This is a world in which the phoenix and the dragon are the marriage symbol, and Jingzhi is expected to audition to marry the prince – searching for a wife based off of whether their phoenix responds to his dragon. I had an idea in my head of how this story was going to go, so I was pleasantly surprised when it went a completely different direction! I’m hoping that So will revisit the world she creates in this short story, because there is so much more potential here. 5/5
As The Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… by David Levithan:
Not a fan of this one. I can see what David Levithan was trying to do – each characters innermost thoughts are justified slightly different on the page, so you can read the piece as a whole or read each character individually – but it just seems a bit too artsy, taking away from the impact of the message that he’s conveying. 1/5
Almost Certain by Tanya Byrne:
Another brilliant story. Orla is painfully cool – obsessed with music, constantly hanging out at her local record store and getting personal recommendations from the owner – but she’s also plagued with anxiety. When Mal introduces her to the music of Reeba Shah, she knows she has to get past her apprehensions and go to the gig, but although she gets to meet Reeba she still doesn’t get to see her perform. Almost Certain is a great reminder that having an LGBTQ+ identity is just one facet of a character and doesn’t have to be their whole story. 5/5
The Other Team by Michael Lee Richardson:
When a team are told that they can’t play in a league match because of their transgender teammate, they decide to play anyway – even if it they won’t get any points and it won’t exactly ‘count’, it’s the principle. A funny cast of characters from a new voice who’s certain to have a bright future ahead of him. 4/5
I Hate Darcy Pemberley by Karen Lawler:
A lesbian Pride & Prejudice retelling? Yes please! I really enjoyed the over-dramatic high school scenes and how brilliantly they mirrored the high society drama of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m glad that Karen Lawler decided to take the prompt of what pride meant to her so literally. However, if a reader hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice yet it might go right over their heads, as the supporting cast of characters aren’t thoroughly introduced.4/5
The Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell:
I’m sad to say that The Courage of Dragons was my second least favourite story in the collection. I absolutely loved The Last Leaves Falling and have been looking forward to reading more of Fox Benwell’s writing, but this story just didn’t appeal to me. I loved the concept – a non-binary kid and their group of friends overthrowing the school’s gender-conforming bathrooms and legislation – but the Dungeons and Dragons aspect of it just didn’t translate well (and I love D&D, so I can’t believe I’m saying that!). However, it was accompanied by the most beautiful piece of art in the entire book, so that was a redeeming feature. 2/5
The Instructor by Jess Vallance:
The Instructor is a predictable story, but it’s so very cute. A girl’s father is a plumber, and he gives one of his clients a reduced fee in exchange for his daughter getting free driving lessons from the instructor. 4/5
Love Poems to the City by Moira Fowley-Doyle:
My favourite story in the collection, and I would give this 10/5 if I could. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s language is beautiful and poetic, and the story that she tells – of two girls who aren’t necessarily in love, both with separated parents, campaigning for the right to marry – is passionately told. I cannot recommend this one enough. 5/5
How to Come Out as Gay by Dean Atta:
Another poem to round out the collection. How to Come Out as Gay is far more straightforward than Dive Bar and I enjoyed it a lot more. 4/5
So there you have it! Overall, Proud gets a rating of 3.8 (but I round my ratings up, so that makes it a four star read!).
I’d like to say another huge thank you to Stripes, for allowing me to read an early copy of Proud in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the second anthology they’ve curated (the first, A Change is Gonna Come, being just as successful) and I’m looking forward to finding out which gap in the market they’re going to be tackling next. Keep up the good work!
After Shane Ferrick dies in suspicious circumstances, rumours point the finger of blame in a few different directions. At the party where Shane was last seen alive, Juniper, Gavin and Brett all did terrible things to him, and everyone knows Parker hated Shane after he …
New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see.
While the other students embark on a slut-shaming mission against her, Anna has a project of her own to focus upon. She’s investigating the possibility that there may have been witches living in the little village she’s moved to, and that she may have found a necklace belonging to one of them hidden up in her attic.
As someone who has read and loved most of Laura Bates’ releases – particularly Everyday Sexism, which I would recommend everyone grab a copy of – I thought The Burning was bound to get five stars from me, but that wasn’t the case.
One of the first issues I had with the book was how unoriginal Anna’s story was. With the blurb and the cover nodding towards some kind of deep, dark secret, I was expecting something other than leaked nudes to be plaguing her. I’m not negating the seriousness of the events that Anna has to cope with, but I am criticising the way that the book was marketed. Knowing that Anna is investigating a girl from centuries ago who was accused of witchcraft, I was holding out hope that Anna’s secret might be more magical.
The pacing of the book was also very odd. When Anna is first settling into the school the pace is very fast even though it’s only focusing on everyday occurrences, but when her intimate images hit Facebook and the main story kicks off it all starts moving very slowly. In my school experience, if anything like this happened the school staff members would find out and get involved very quickly. Anna’s plight remaining undiscovered for weeks didn’t seem true to life.
I also felt as though the climax of the novel wasn’t realistic in the slightest. I’m not going to reveal what happens at the end of the book, but Anna’s actions didn’t feel authentic. Again, this issue could be chalked up to me setting my expectations too high: due to Bates’ history – tackling sexism by creating the Everyday Sexism project – I was hoping Anna would do something just as proactive as a response to her own troubles.
When I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in feminism at all, and I can’t think of a single one of my friends who identified themselves as a feminist. My interest in feminism didn’t develop until I was 18 and one of my colleagues introduced me to Laura Bates’ work. The Burning had the potential to be an accessible way to introduce young adults to feminism and its continued relevance, but the language used and the internal monologues showing the reader how Anna’s feeling just aren’t as engaging as they could have been.
I’m a fan of Bates’ and even I found my attention wandering, so it’ll be interesting to hear the thoughts of some younger reviewers as to whether this book had the intended impact upon them.
However, I did enjoy the way Bates’ linked the need for feminism in the modern era with the way that it was absolutely vital back in the 17th Century. Maggie’s story is harrowing and emotional, and I found myself wishing that she’d decided to focus on that story and tell it in its entirety, rather than just splashing it through in irregular flashbacks.
If you’re a young person who is interested in feminism but aren’t sure where to start, I would highly recommend trying Everyday Sexism or Girl Up! before you give The Burning a go. Despite the fact that they’re both non-fiction books, they’re a lot less dense and far more engaging than The Burning, so they should make it very interesting for you to learn more about feminism. It’s a good idea to get to grips with the basis of feminism before you read this book to see instances of everyday sexism and misogyny in action, because that’ll make The Burning far more influential upon you.
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