Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Fantasy is a genre that I am never sure if I enjoy or not. I am a fan of the likes of Harry Potter and Narnia, but I rarely advance on that. Yet, I had seen a lot of hype about ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ and last year it was Foyles Children’s Book of the Year.

So, again I am a little late to the party (story of my bookish life, it would appear) but I am glad I have picked this book up. It seemed like an ideal October read with its dark and mysterious cover. As I started it, I was a little put off by the length of the book – I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its length – as I often worry that it can cause a novel to lose momentum. However, this was not the case here; the narrative was broken down into individual chapters focusing on three of the central characters, Zelie, Amari and Inan, which kept up the pace of the tale. There is also so much action packed into the pages as the maji fight to have the rights they deserve and reinstate their place in society.

The novel tackles some excellent topics that are always part of the society we live in. The story addresses the fear of difference caused by lack of understanding – how easy it is for history to be moulded to suit those with power adn suppress those considered the enemy of the power. For me, it is always a clever book and talented author who can make readers think, not only about the book, but also about bigger issues.

I am intrigued where these stories continue to go. They are excellent for young adults and adults alike – especially as there are stong female lead characters in Zelie and Amari, who are keen to fight for what they believe in.

Fantasy fan or not, I would suggest giving ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ a read, because it is more than a fantastic YA novel.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

It is October and I am trying to ensure that all my reading has a thrilling or spooky the to it.

So, my first choice was the new YA novel from Kiran Millwood Hargrave: ‘The Deathless Girls’. Before I even talk about the story, I have to talk about how absolutely beautiful the cover is. It immediately evokes a Gothic atmosphere with its dark background, gold and autumnal hues, and symbols that represent various themes of the tale. Simply, it is stunning and really represents the contents of the novel.

And now to the tale – Kiran Millwood Hargrave has decided to tell the story of the Brides of Dracula; those women who do not have a voice in the myth of Dracula. She does this beautifully; you are involved in the story from the start. The twins Lil and Kizzy are captured by Boyer Volcar, forced away from their Traveller community and frightened. However, there is an even darker cloud hovering over them – the myth of the Dragon and the young girls that he takes as gifts. When Kizzy is taken, Lil must find her sister before the worst might happen…

There is so much wonderful tension in this book because the atmosphere is created through the beautiful writing. It is truly the perfect novel to read on these dark nights, especially by candlelight.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Two Sara Barnard novels in one summer – wow – I have clearly found another author who grabs my attention. ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ was another remarkable YA novel that I wish had been around when I was ‘officially’ the audience of the genre.

What has struck me over the two novels I have read this summer from Sara Barnard is that she does not shy away from tough topics, and also creates fabulous characters. Steffi doesn’t speak; she becomes anxious in public situations. She is introduced to Rhys, who is deaf. However, they really understand each other. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, in fact sometimes the quietest people can be the loudest. Together, Steffi and Rhys help each other grow and face the challenges of being a teenager in the modern world – and, together, they find their voice.

This is a wonderful love story for the modern age and demonstrates the positivity that surrounds someone finding the right person to offer them support. It shows that there can be hurdles and bumps along the way, but often they can make people stronger.

The most wonderful touch about this novel is the symbols with each chapter that demonstrate the numbers in BSL. It has certainly inspired me to want to learn and have more of an understanding of another language.

I can not wait to read more from Sara Barnard, as she really has a talent for creating tales that have you hooked.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi

This novel has an incredibly clever title and it took me rather a long time to realise this. But when I did, it made me love this book even more.

This is a tale that may seem like a popular one for YA fiction – a love story. However, this has so much more to it. Yes, it tackles the idea of love across the cultural divide (which we all know is something that maybe we should not be facing in the 21st Century), however the journey of self-discovery on these pages is fascinating. Maybe, one who fears prejudice may inadvertently demonstrate their own?

Shirin feels that there is absolutely no need to become part of the school community. After all, they will all have made their mind up about her, judging her on her hijab. However, she meets Ocean, who goes out of his way to find out more about her – and will not give up easily. As a friendship and relationship blooms between the two, it comes to light that Ocean is basketball player and the labels the two feel they carry lead to difficult consequences for both.

A I read this book I went through all the emotions for all the characters. It is quite an emotional page-turner. You certainly feel that, by the end, Shirin and Ocean have been on quite an adventure together – and maybe they are a little happier in their own skin by the end.

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

When I spotted that ‘Rose, Interrupted’ was out in the world I knew I had to read it. ‘Orangeboy’ and ‘Indigo Donut’ had both been books which I adored and I could not wait to read more from the pen of Patrice Lawrence.

I did not even read the blurb to this novel because I was convinced that, whatever the tale may be, I was going to enjoy it and I did. Patrice Lawrence again tackles some key topics that become entwined in the fascinating tale of Rose and her family.

Rose, and her brother (Rudder) and their mother are now part of the ‘real’ world after leaving a strict religious cult which their father is still part of. However, neither Rose or her brother, are really fully equipped for some of the modern dangers that young people face everyday with our internet world. So, they may now have more freedom, but does that also mean more danger – was the world with their father safer after all? Or does it have dangers of its own?

This book does not just tell a fascinating tale, but handles the ideas of liberty, identity and internet safety really well. It educates the reader as well as engaging them in the story of Rose and Rudder.

This is a YA book that I would recommend all young people and adults should read, as I think we could all learn a lot from such a wellcrafted tale.

I hope that there is more to come from Patrice Lawrence because I have enjoyed every book that I have read so far, and would love to read even more.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

This was a book I knew nothing about other than that I had seen it in the bookstgram world. Oh my word, I am glad that I had found it in the real world, because it was quite a read.

The brilliant thing about YA fiction is that many of the authors have the confidence to tackle some topics that, not so long ago, people may have considered a little taboo. ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ tackles the subject of mental health, which is something that is becoming much more talked about – and rightly so.

When new girl Suzanne arrives in Brighton and becomes friends with Rosie and Caddy, she turns their lives upside down. Is she new and exciting? Or is there something deeper that appears to fuel this fun-loving girl? As the story unfolds, and clues to Suze’s past begin to be revealed, Caddy and Rosie are forced to reflect on themselves and their friendships – and how far do things have to go before things go too far?

Sara Barnard creates characters that are relateable and reflect experiences many people have as teenagers, especially that difficulty many have in finding their identity. However, the bond of friendship is often the strongest, and young people are often far more willing to see past the potential character ‘flaws’ in others and support those around them to offer strength.

The subject of mental health is handled well, with great sensitivity, but is also makes it accessible as a subject. The great thing about books is that they start conversations and remove the stigma from some topics.

I can’t wait to read more of Sara Barnard’s work, as I could not put this book down. Have you read any of her novels? What are your thoughts?

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

My final title for my ‘Reading with Pride’ month was ‘What If It’s Us’. I had seen this book around a few times and have read other titles by Becky Albertalli, so I thought it would be a good read. And, oh it was!

This is a perfect book for any teenager who has struggled with first love and friendships, and all the complications that come with them.

This starts in the most ideally perfect romantic fashion. Boy meets boy but neither boy actually makes sure that they can see each other again. Although that does not put Arthur off searching for Ben using his best detective skills. Luckily, the universe intervenes and they embark on the adventure of a relationship and all that comes with it.

It tackles all the usual angst that comes with being a teenager, especially one starting a new relationship. Arthur has never had a boyfriend before and has quite a romantic view of life. Ben seems to be so much more experienced with his handsome ex, Hudson. But, really, they are both just boys finding their way in life. They just need confidence, their friends, family and, of course. each other to get them there.

This is a brilliant book, as it simply tells a wonderful LGBT+ love story. And this is totally how it should be in the 21st century – these stories should be mainstream and readily available for all to read. The range of YA fiction is brilliant and I am a little sad that there was not so much when my generation was growing up, because books can be so much support for so many people.

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

I discovered that this book was going to come into the world by first following Lucy Powrie on Twitter. When you find out that people have had the chance to publish a project that means so much to them, I think it is important to support them.

So, as soon as I found ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’ in the wild I knew I had to purchase a copy. I am so glad that I did because this turned out to be the book I needed to read when I was an awkward teenager – in fact, I think it is the book that many of us bookworms needed as teenagers.

This novel brings together Tabby, Henry, Ed, Olivia and Cassie, who are all completely different but are totally and utterly unified by their love of books, leading to the deepest of frienships. It is a great cast of characters, and with my reading with pride month, it brings LGBT+ to the centre of the novel too (which, as recently announced, also lines up with Lucy Powrie’s second novel perfectly).

The thing I admired most about ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’ was the different topics it tackled, which must throw more challenges at young people as they try to carve their own path. Tabby faces bullying from her ‘friend’ Jess, which impacts her mental health and her friendships; social media impacts their friendships and each character has their own background struggles. All of this is handled well and you will laugh and cry with all of the characters along the way.

The final pages didn’t just leave me wanting more, and with yet another reading list – but also with a deep desire to become a member of ‘The Paper and Hearts Society’, and set off on a literary road trip.

Have you ever finished a book, hoping you could be part of the story?

Reading for Pride Month

I have decided that I wanted to try and complete June reading books to celebrate Pride month. This, of course, does not mean I do not read books with LGBTQ+ characters or themes the rest of the year, but it has been good to have a focus this month.

I have based all my choices on books that I have seen on Instagram or in the press. I did not read what they are about before I start, but just dived right in to find out more.

Unintentionally, the first two titles I chose had the same theme, and it has been fascinating to see how two different authors have handled the same theme.

First up is ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’ by John Boyne. Aimed at 9-12 year olds this book tackles the issue of Sam having to understand his brother’s desire to transition to become his sister – the person she believes she should always have been.

I was really pleased to find a novel that tackled such a subject for younger readers. Boyne tackles not only the emotions that Sam goes through, but also for so many different people that are impacted by Jason’s secret. You go on an important journey of self-discovery with all all the characters and I am not ashamed to say that I shed a tear or two as I reached the story’s conclusion. Boyne’s writing is so engaging that this was a novel that I struggled to put down.

My second novel this month was ‘Birthday’ by Meredith Russo. This has a similar theme as ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’ but is a YA novel. Morgan and Eric have spent every birthday together and have grown up together. However, Morgan has been struggling with a decision: should she live as her true self and will she be accepted if she does? Aimed at older readers, this novel is grittier at times and full of raw emotion. I felt as though I was living every emotion that Morgan and Eric were. And, there are some twists in this tale which make this book a gem and one of the happiest endings I have read in a while. (Although it is an emotional roller coaster).

It is great that there are now so many more books with a diverse set of characters and story lines for younger readers.

Have you read with Pride this month? Any recommendations?

Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Earlier in the year I absolutely loved ‘Simon Vs the Home Sapiens Agenda‘, so was excited to read more about these fabulous characters in ‘Leah on the Offbeat’.

We first met Leah as one of Simon’s best friends in the first novel, but this time she takes centre stage in her own story of self-discovery. Just like her best friend Simon, Leah is handling the complex and emotional world of her own identity and sexuality. Especially when she realises that she may love one of her friends more than she ever realised.

One of the best things about this novel is that Leah is a character that we can all identify with on some level or another. We all remember what it was like to navigate those teenage years and always being self-conscious about something as we grow into who we are.

However, what makes this book a great YA novel is that it is tackling LGBTQ+ issues from the point of view of a strong female lead, who does not simply fit into a clearly defined bracket. Yet, the struggles of being a senior are not really that different whoever you are.

This novel has so much humour and warmth that it was a joy to read. You don’t want it to come to an end, as you really want to know what else happens with each and every one of the characters.

I do hope that Becky Albertalli takes us on more of the adventures of the lovely Creekwood gang. I would love to know what their university adventures are like.