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The must-read books in young-adult fiction this Easter holiday

The must-read books in young-adult fiction this Easter holiday

The must-read books in young-adult fiction this Easter holiday

It's a cracking season for new Young Adult (YA) fiction and one of the strongest titles comes from award-winning Irish writer, Sheena Wilkinson.

STILL FALLING

Sheena Wilkinson

Little Island

This is the hard-hitting tale of Luke, a troubled teen in foster care and Esther, a girl from a religious background who falls for him. Esther is also questioning her beliefs and it's unusual and refreshing to see such soul-­searching in contemporary teen writing.

Set in Northern Ireland, the book grips the reader from its arresting opening line: 'It's not unheard of to wet yourself on your first day of school. But not normally in sixth year.' Luke has epilepsy and when he has a seizure, Esther (who has witnessed them before) steps in to help him. A thoughtful, serious girl, Luke sees past her quiet exterior and they fall in love. However, when she tries to get physically close to him, Luke pushes her away. But Esther isn't willing to give up on their relationship and in the end her quiet, loyal determination makes all the difference.

The book is narrated by Luke and Esther in alternative chapters, which keeps the book taut and pacey. Luke is a complex, damaged and beautifully drawn character. His backstory is dark and disturbing but Wilkinson is an honest, mature and confident writer and does not shy away from the horror of what happened to him, while still being mindful of her audience.

She takes the reader's hand, leads them to dark places and guides them out again, towards the light. - SW

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

THE ART OF BEING NORMAL

Lisa Williamson

David Fickling Books

Lisa Williamson's debut YA novel, The Art of Being ­Normal, is a powerful tale of a transgender teenager's struggle with identity.

Although the prejudice the ­characters face is depressing - and we see how easy it is to make ­assumptions about what is a ­"typical" boy or girl - there is hope, not least in the love and understanding that some of the friends and family members display. - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

GAME CHANGER

Tim Bowler

Oxford University Press

"Let's make it a school day, Mickey."

"Rather than a ­wardrobe day?"

"Exactly."

That's just one small example of the moving dialogue between 15-year-old Mickey, the protagonist of Tim ­Bowler's new YA novel, and his younger sister, Maggie. We all have days when we feel like hiding in a wardrobe but Mickey (Michael ­Molyneux) has them all the time. The novel could be totally bleak - "No root cause, no trigger. You're born terrified, you live terrified, you probably die terrified." - Mickey says.

That it's not is down to the wonderful way that sister and brother do what they should do: help each other through the worst of things. There is also an engaging humour to the protagonist (he dismisses his shrink for talking "big crazy b*******s"), an unusual and ­interesting boy who finds solace in reading Moby Dick and Charles Dickens.

When Mickey feels ready to face the world outside, something goes horribly wrong and he witnesses a savage crime. The gang knows where he lives. What happens next is gripping and scary. The depiction of Mickey is shrewd and tender and it makes an interesting counterpoint to the melodrama that follows. Although it's a short novel, it's powerful and exciting and contains scenes as claustrophobic as Mickey's small wardrobe. - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

CAPTIVE

AJ Grainger

Simon & Schuster

There is a grim reality to Captive, the debut YA thriller by AJ Grainger, partly because it involves a terrorist (eco-terrorist) incident in Paris, where there is an assassination attempt on the British prime minister. Back in London, some time later, the same group manage to kidnap his 16-year-old daughter, Robyn ­Elizabeth Knollys-Green, who tells the story of how this drama unfolds.

Some of the best moments are when we are shown Robyn's sense of bewilderment at her tricky family life and having to live in the public eye. The drama is initially taut (after she is kidnapped) but begins to stretch credibility, and there is a sense that the story is striving too hard for the "cinematic" drama marketed in the promotional blurb.

The saddest message of the book, however, is when Robyn says: "The world is not safe. I know that now and I can't unknow it." - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

I WAS HERE

Gayle Forman

Simon & Schuster

The suicide of a young girl is obviously one of the most sensitive topics you could tackle and Gayle Forman, the American author, is clearly conscious of that in the way she deals sympathetically with the impact of such a tragic event in her mystery/thriller YA novel I was Here.

The opening sections of the book, in which we are shown Cody's reaction to the death of her best friend, Meg, are the strongest. It's a mystery story, with some snappy dialogue, but hampered by a few too many clichés. - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

SEVEN DAYS

Eve Ainsworth

Scholastic

Life at home is miserable for Jess since her father left. School is even worse. She is tormented by a girl called Kez, for being fat and scruffy (they call her The Stig). What makes the book interesting is that we see the bullying from both sides and see that Kez has her problems too, particularly with a violent father.

It is a gritty and painful tale - "people always find a weakness," - but ultimately one of redemption, even if it is all wrapped up a little too neatly (in seven days). But the characters are strong and the message important. - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

VE Schwab

Titan Books

Fans of fantasy (adults and young adults) will enjoy A Darker Shade of Magic, the new novel from Victoria 'VE' Schwab. Unusually for YA, it has a male lead - the confident magic man Kell, with his jet black eyeballs - in an action-packed adventure ranging across four different Londons: Grey, Red, White and Black. The depictions of the dirty and crowded Grey London (home to the bonkers King George III) are particularly strong. - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

 

LICCLE BIT

Alex Wheatle

Atom Books

"Some girl called me Liccle Bit in Year 7 and it stuck," says 14-year-old Lemar, the protagonist of Alex Wheatle's debut YA novel.

The humour is strong and edgy. A boy called McKay teases Liccle Bit about his "Oompa-Loompa height and slavery days haircut".

Someone overweight is called a "fat salad-hater". The novel shows how easy it is for an inner-city youngster to get drawn into a bad situation. Manjaro, who manipulated Lemar, is a menacing gang figure. Although the parts about a turf war on an estate are very bleak (victims of killings are referred to as having been "deleted" or "blazed"), the book does contain strong messages about love and loyalty. And hats off to designer Sophie Burdess and illustrator Dan Evans for an arresting front cover. - MC

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie

© Telegraph

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