Noah Could Never by Simon James Green

Now, it is not often I read a sequel so quickly, but as I am reading with pride this month, I had to find out what happened next to Noah Grimes.

I enjoyed this title even more that the first one. I mean, poor Noah’s awkward adventures do feel like they only happen to him, but – just like the first – I think we all remember how everything seems like such a big deal when you are young. Especially, in this case, if you took part in a school exchange (mine was to Italy).

However, what is really important in this book is the development of Noah and Harry’s relationship. There is such a minefield to teenage relationships and the insecurities that come with it. I felt it was handled really well in Green’s novel, He makes it clear, through Noah and Harry, that there is no ‘normal’; all relationships are individual. By the end, I think Noah learns a very important lesson about love.

There really are a lovely light-hearted read, especially in these strange times. I mean, who can’t help getting the giggles at the thought of a goose swallowing the diamonds (although I did wonder if this was a nod to ‘The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle’ by the wonderful Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). And, if you are a fan of pretty much any detective novel, you will relate to Noah’s rather over-active imagination.

There books are simply a delight, with a colourful cast of characters finding their way in the world (and that is not just the teenagers) and through relationships.

The Paper & Hearts Society – Read With Pride by Lucy Powrie

This is the second novel from Lucy Powrie about ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’, and this novel focuses on Olivia Santos founding member.

This is a fabulous book for any lover of books and great stories. This is not just a story – it is an education, too. Olivia Santos has found her book-loving people in The Paper & Hearts Society (Tabby, Cassie, Ed and Henry). However, as the new school year starts, she starts to realise that maybe she can help other people find their people and do something about the fact that freedom of choice has been removed from the school library. Why should pupils be stopped from reading LGBTQ+ books?

Yet, as Olivia becomes more involved in the project, can she juggle all her personal expectations? Or will the pressure that she is putting on herself cause her to burn out? Not only impacting her but also those that she loves.

A real positive about this novel is the fact that it entertains and educates. It discusses the importance of diverse representation in novels and for people to feel seen. It also discusses the importance of wellbeing and good mental health. But possibly the most important this it shares is how significant great friendships are.

However, a danger of these fabulous books is that you will probably finish them with another reading list. It was great that so many books I have enjoyed were mentioned and, also, so many more ideas.

So, if you love books, YA novels and great characters, then this is the book for you.

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

June continues, as does my readin books with Pride. This next one was another I chose because of Bookstagram (maybe I am easily influenced) but, in all fairness, I have had my eye on ‘Noah Can’t Even’ for a while.

Now, to begin with, I was worried this book was farce. A little too silly and far-fetched, over-emphasised the awkward humour of being a teenager. Specifically, a teenage boy. However, my opinion changed as I read more of the book. In fact, as the story and characters developed, it became more charming.

Noah Grimes’ journey of self-discovery could certainly be relatable to so many readers. I mean I am pretty sure that many of us would agree that those early to mid-teen years are a bumpy road. Especially when it comes to fitting in (although we all know now that is not the be all and end all), and the pressure surronding sexuality. Although, poor Noah Grimes does seem to experience a series of unfortunate events on his journey. He thinks he wants a ‘normal’ life but, really what is ‘normal’?

Noah is such a great character who, at times, you may think is not making the best choices, especially when it comes to his best friend Harry. But you really do hope he will find his happy ending. And, maybe, he should accept a new idea of normal.

This is probably a younger YA book and would probably be a great one if you have some reluctant readers. But, to be honest, if you love to laugh and enjoy a good story, I would recommend this book.

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

This book was in that I chose to read as June is Pride Month. It is a book that, again, I have discovered thanks to the Bookstagram community.

‘Hideous Beauty’ is quite a book. There is so much amongst its pages to think about – this is certainly not just a story. This is a book that tackles some really complex issues – well, to be honest it should not be complex but sadly for some people it is and it is reality.

This book is clever. It has within its pages a mystery that needs solving – what are the secrets that Ellis has been keeping from Dylan? However, is it just about Ellis’ secrets? This is quie an investigation of relationships. Relationships of all kinds – romantic, family, friendships – all are tackled in this book and, in parts, quite closely examined. Sometime with surprising outcomes and, sometimes, with really tragic outcomes. (There will be tears).

However, as William Hussey says himseflf in a letter to his readers, he has tackled some of the ugly reality faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. For some, that may make for uncomfortable reading, but if it makes for people think and causes them to take responsibility for their education, or re-education that can only be a good thing.

I feel I can do this book justice. It needs to be a book that is read to be fully appreciated. It is a real emotional page-turner that will stay with you for a long time. If you are going to pick this novel up, know that it does contain a trigger warning for some of the issues it tackles.

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

I absolutely loved ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’. It was one of those great YA novels that could be enjoyed by more than its ‘target’ audience. So, when I saw that the sequel was out, I knew I had to read it, especially as escapism in these lockdown times.

‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ is just as wonderful as its predecessor. Pip has found success with her true crime podcast ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’, and believes she will now hang up her (metaphorical) detective’s hat. However, when there is a local disappearance, can she avoid getting involved? I don’t think it is a spoiler to say, of course she gets involved – we wouldn’t have a book otherwise. However, this is still a fresh story; this is a current case.

This novel is an excellent continuation from book one. The characters evolve naturally (you find out so much more about Pip) and there are links to the previous tale.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that it is not simplistic – it is a well-constructed crime novel. I worked out one teeny, tiny part of the story but that was it – the rest I discovered alongside Pip and her friends as they carried out their investigations.

I really hope there is more from the pen of Holly Jackson, because she really knows how to put together a contemporary and engaging thriller that can be enjoyed by so many fans of the genre.

Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

I have been desperate to read this book for ages – so decided to order a copy as a lockdown treat. And what a treat this book is – I am not sure that I can do it justice.

This is a stunning novel, in more ways than one. Just starting with the cover; what a beauty. The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful and bring the wonderful words to life.

We follow Michael in this coming of age story. Michael blossoms into the beautiful Black Flamingo – as his find his identity and place in the world as a gay man. This touches on so many subjects, like racism, homophobia, realtionships (of all kinds) and identity; all handled so well through the beautiful writing of Dean Atta. His perfect prose tells Michael’s story with such warmth and emotion, creating a beautiful page-turner that is impossible to put down.

This lovely YA book is one that I will be recommending to everyone to read, as it is absolutely brilliant – I can already see a re-read on the horizon.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Sara Barnard writes books that tackle some excellent key issues. I didn’t read the blurb before I read the book – I just dived straight in. I was struck immediately by the subject of this novel. Barnard tackles the subject of ‘grooming’ in this YA book. However, this is not the only significant issue – relationships of all kinds are tackled, adoptive parents and their children, that ‘perfect’ family and what does it really mean to be ‘best’ friends?

In the eyes of Eden (who feels she is not quite as good as she should be), Bonnie is perfect and the friendship is perfect. Or is it? Is there, in fact, any such thing as perfect?

I really enjoyed this book, it really is a thought-provoking tale. And really brings to the attention of readers some key issues that may not be discussed quite as much as they should be.

I have enjoyed every book I have read by Sara Barnard but I feel that this was the best. Engaging, thought-provoking and wonderfully written, it is a book I hope a lot of young people will pick up and take important lessons from. Especially about relationships.

Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Miss W loves Sarah Crossan’s novels and, not that long ago (although maybe it was quite a while ago), she lent me ‘One’. That was an incredible book but then somehow, I paused on reading any more. However, that changed when I saw the amount of love for ‘Toffee’ everywhere.

Sarah Crossan writes in a wonderful prose style, short chapters that even laid out in the book to represent the narrative. It is always difficult to put Sarah Crossan’s work (that I have read) into words. What impresses me the most is that she tackles some really interesting topics. In ‘Toffee’ there was so much discussion about relationships (good and bad), dementia and youth. They come together in this beautifully emotive novel.

I think it is so important to bring some of these issues to the attention of the YA audience because life can be strange (as we are all currently discovering) and young people do not always have the chance to discover the stories of others. This book can start conversations and even, possibly, encourage people to find help and support.

Toffee is a book that I would suggest everyone should read, because it is simply beautiful and will make so many reflect on their lives and experience.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to go to an event at Birmingham Waterstones with Becky Albertalli and Aishs Saeed. Two American YA authors who have co-written the wonderful ‘Yes No Maybe So’.

This is such an appropriate novel for the current age, and was inspired by the experiences of Becky and Aisha when they decided to canvass for their local Democratic candidate – as they are not huge fans of the current political situation. It is so wonderful to come across two people who are so passionate about playing their part – and writing a novel which will hopefully so the same for their fans.

Jamie (written by Becky Albertalli) and Maya (written by Aishs Saeed) are reunited when they are both encouraged to canvass for their local Democratic candidate in a special election. Neither of them is old enough to vote but both have families who are keen for a bit of political change and think you are never too young to become involved with some political campaigning. However, as a young Jew and a young Muslim this was of passing the summer becomes something so much more. They both have personal reasons to want to see change and learn so much about themselves and their friendship along the way.

This book is one that tackles so many relevant issues to create a story that is relatable and entertaining. Audiences will be left reflecting on their involvement in politics – are we doing enough to ensure change – and considering some of those injustices and prejudices that people sometimes turn a blind eye to, or just don’t seem to care about.

I thought this book was brilliant. Such a great read for the current time – and, sadly, possibly for some time to come.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Crime fiction has often been my genre of choice in February. I am not sure why, but it just seems to have been the theme.

‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ has been on my tbr pile for a little while but, as it has been nominated for the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020’, I thought it was about time I picked it up.

This is a great piece of crime fiction – that all readers can enjoy, it does not need to be defined by YA.

Pip decides to tackle a cold case as part of a college project. She is convinced that Sal was not responsible for the disappearance of Andie. As Pip investigates the case, with the help of Ravi, Sal’s brother, she uncovers far more secrets and mysteries that she was expecting.

Although, I solved a small part of it as I read the book (too many crime novels and TV shows in my formative years), there was plenty I did not work out; plot twists galore.

Pip is a great lead character. A strong-minded, determined young lady – who values education and is loyal to those that matter to her. It is great to see another strong female lead in a novel who can be an inspiration, although of course I would not expect us all to go off and investigate cold cases.

I really enjoyed this book and wish it lots of luck in the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’. I, also, can not wait for the release of ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ later in the year to join Pip on her next escapade, and enjoy more of Holly Jackson’s writing.