Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

The rookie error of a bookworm – needing an emergency book because you have finished the one you have with you. However, often that leads to some wonderful book discoveries, and that is how I found ‘Wranglestone’. I was aware of the book but did not know a great deal about it.

‘Wranglestone’ is a book about acceptance, but wrapped up in a zombie story. Wranglestone is a settlement of those that are ‘alive’, trying to stay safe from the ‘dead’. Peter lives with is dad and is in love with Cooper (although he is pretty sure he does not see him). However, Cooper has seen him and together they find out that the life they have accepted may not all be as it seems.

I really enjoyed this book – and the message that it delivers to its readers. This would not always be my first choice of book, but I am so glad that I took a chance on it, because it is a brilliant YA read.

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

We have been reunited with Pip for one final time as we reach the end of her trilogy. Like so many, this was a most anticipated read of 2021 for me. I was so excited to see how Holly Jackson would conclude this for us all.

You can feel the tension from the first page of this YA thriller. Pip is clearly suffering from the events of her last case, but there is still a mystery to solve. Who is taunting her and stalking her? And why? And is it linked to the case of the Duct Tape Killer and another miscarriage of justice?

This book has everything we love: Pip, Ravi, Pip’s family and friends, and her usual determination. However, as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I am not sure if all of the action was ‘realistic’ or true to the Pip we know. I realise that this is about Pip dealing with trauma and her own ideas about a miscarriage of justice, but I was just not completely convinced I could see some of the behaviour as true to her previous actions.

But, don’t get me wrong, I loved the book and, like so many, I am sad that we have come to the end of Pip’s story. And I am definitely imagining the best future for her…and Ravi.

Holly Jackson has given us a wonderfully engaging YA trilogy, and I hope that we will hear more from her soon.

Boy Queen by George Lester

I absolutely loved this YA book and feel that I could stop there. This is honestly one of the most fabulous books I have ever read.

Robin is gay, has a great group of friends and absolutely loves to perform; in fact, in his eyes, his whole future happiness rests on getting into drama school. However, when life appears to be taking a different turn, he begins to enter the world of drag and starts on a real journey of self-discovery.

What makes this book so wonderful is not just Robin’s journey into becoming a drag artist, but also all the key issues it tackles. It takes a look at healthy and unhealthy relationships – between all sorts of people that enter into our lives, As well as what makes a positive relationship with yourself. And, the prejudice that sadly the LGBT+ community faces every day.

This book will make you laugh and cry but, most importantly, this book will teach you something. It really is a 5 star read.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

This book has been all over bookstagram and I have had my eye on it for ages – so, this pride month I was so pleased to get a copy.

I can totally unerstand why there is so much love for Felix and his story. Felix is transgender, living in Brooklyn with his father and studying Art with a hope of getting into Browns. However, there is quite a journey ahead of Felix – as they are forced to explore his identity and relationships after being deadnamed and exposed by a troll in front of the whole school.

It is a really quite emotional read, as so many themes are explored throughout the story. However, most importantly it teaches that you have to be willing to accept yourself and focus on your happiness and remove those who risk that for you. Even if that can be incredibly hard.

This is a book that I will be recommending to readers because it is not just a story – it is an education. And, as Kacen Callender says in the ‘Author’s Note’, I hope it really helps young people and readers who may find themselves in a similare situation to Felix to feel supported and not invisible. A really beautiful book.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

I absolutely love the books of Becky Albertalli. She writes the books I wish had existed when I was a teenager, And ‘Kate in Waiting’ did not disappoint.

I chose this to join in with ‘Pages of Pride’ over on Instagram, and it was a lovely way to start.

Kate and her best friend Andy always seem to have crushes on the same boy. And it has never been a problem, until Matt arrives in town.

This book does what Becky Albertalli does best and explores relationships of all kinds in a relatable way. You can often imagine knowing the characters or having a very similar experience to them.

Although Kate doesn’t replace Simon in my affections, she is a fantastic character and her story is a great read.

Thursday Thoughts: Graphic Novels

‘Heartstopper: Volume 4’ was recently published and, of course, I had to purchase it immediately. And then of course, I read past my bedtime because I can never leave Nick and Charlie part-way through a story. I absolutely loved the book, as I knew I would.

So, this has made me think about graphic novels. They were something that I had not really considered until the Heartstopper universe because I always thought they were only fantasy and sci-fi books. However, I have slowly started to realise that this is not entirely true. In fact, there is a whole world of wonderful graphic novels out there that cover all sorts of fabulous genres.

Now, I do have to admit that I have only really read the Heartstopper volumes (and my other love, Shakespeare manga, which I know is another genre again), but I have seen so many brilliant books being shared on bookstagram. That means the wishlist has grown.

I guess what I am trying to say is that books and genres should not be judged by their covers and that books full of illustrations are just as wonderful as books full of words, even when you are an adult.

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

I am not sure I can do ‘Moonrise’ the justice that it deserves. Sarah Crossan’s novel in verse is one heck of a powerful story, the sort that will stay with you for eternity.

Joe has not see his brother for a long time. His brother is away. His brother is on death row. Joe visits his brother reguarly in the days and weeks leading up to his execution date, trying to get to know him again, reflecting on the events that got them there and the memories he has of his older brother as his greatest protector from childhood. It all creates a completely heartbreaking story as the family looks for hope in the darkest times, right up until the very last moment.

It also really makes you reflect on the system that is supposed to offer fair justice. I found it particularly poignant with current events in the media from America. But, also hopeful that it will encourage readers of all ages to reflect on what justice means.

This is a beautifully written book that demonstrates again the power of verse to crate a narrative full of emotion.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

I have had my eye on Holly Bourne’s books for a while and, in a lovely bookswap for spring, I was sent ‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public’. And, I do think this is YA at its finest – this is a book that I hope all young people will read. It is quite an eye-opening story about relationships and what makes a healthy one – something that many young people may think they understand but possibly don’t.

Ameliw and her family move from Sheffield to the South of England. For Amelie, this is a huge change as she starts her new college, and is anxious about fitting in and making friends. Then she meets Reese and falls in love – or so she thinks.

As she attempts to understand the relationship she believes she had, she revisits all the places she cried in public. We embark on this journry with Amelie and, with her, we discover that Reese was not the boy she believed he was. Amelie reframes her memories and begins to see the relationships for what it really was – and education for her and for readers. Especially as experiences do not have to define us.

This is a beautifully written story – and Amelie is a great representation of the feelings, emotions and fears of so many young women. But she also demonstrates the strength of so many.

This does tackle some of the worst traits of unhealthy relationships, so some may find it a challenging read. However, it is a powerful book that shows how important YA fiction can be for its readers. I will certainly be giving more of Holly Bourne’s books a read.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I love the Simonverse and was so glad that this book took me back there as my March choice for ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2021’. Becky Albertalli books are beautiful pieces of YA fiction that I honestly believe can and should be enjoyed by readers of all ages. And ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ is certainly a book I wish I could have read as a teenager.

Molly was the perfect star of the novel for me. She has all the insecurities that I remember having as a teenager – and all the worries. But, through Albertalli’s great storytelling, we see how Molly tackles world – and this is something that I think so many readers could relate to and find comfort in. Especially about the complex world of relationships of all kinds.

As always, there is also a brilliant collection of characters. Diversity is celebrated, as it should be, through these fantastic characters. However, flaws and issues within society are also tackled. These books educate as well as entertain, which, to me, is a perfect read. And, of course, there is the fact that you want to become best friends with Molly and her gang.

If you are looking for a comfort read, then this is a book I really recommend as Becky Albertalli gives us another story full of joy.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

When I heard there was a prequel to ‘The Hate U Give‘, I knew I had to read it (bye, bye, book-buying ban).

This is the story of Starr’s father, Maverick: a character so many if us loved from the original story. We are with Maverick in his late teen years. He is navigating the challenges of growing up in a town where being a young black man more or less guarantees you will be a member of a gang, and all that entails. As well as finding out he has become a teenage dad – and that is something that is about to happen again.

In this book, young Maverick has a lot to deal with. Yet, he realises that this is not how his life has to be – in fact, he can break the mould. He realises that he can carve out his own destiny and become a better man.

This is a book ful of lessons for all of us about taking responsibility for our actions. And that we should not let anyone tell us what we should be, because that does not always lead to change.

You can read this book without having read ‘The Hate U Give’, but I highly recommend both. Especially as it is great to see contrasting perspectives over time – Starr and her father.

This was certainly a book that makes breaking the book buying ban worth it.