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Sequels, finales, debuts - a selection of new must-read young adult fiction for the 'Twenties

From sequels, finales, collaborations and debuts, it's difficult to single out the must-reads in great choice of YA fiction, says Justine Carbery


Fans of the Netflix series The Good Place will love Layoverland by Gabby Noone

Fans of the Netflix series The Good Place will love Layoverland by Gabby Noone

Fans of the Netflix series The Good Place will love Layoverland by Gabby Noone

There are so many great books for teens and young adults this year, that it's hard to single out just a few. From favourite authors teaming up for a one-of-a-kind story to stand-alones, from sequels and finales to highly anticipated debuts, 2020 has so much to offer. If you're a fan of romance, fantasy, historical or contemporary fiction, there is something here for you.

Launched recently, Sheena Wilkinson's third historical novel, Hope Against Hope, (Little Island €11.40) could not be more relevant in today's post-Brexit Northern Ireland. Set in 1921 Belfast, a city beset with political unease and the threat of partition, this novel brims with life, peopled by a wonderful cast of politically-engaged women from across the social and political divide.

The young protagonist, Polly, follows her cousin Catherine to Belfast, to live in an unusual cross-community women's hostel called Helen's Hope. The feisty feminist inhabitants of this social experiment try to find their place in a society that doesn't always share their ideals, in a city fracturing along sectarian lines. A gritty but warm read with engaging characters and engrossing storyline, this historical novel has a distinctly modern feel.

Wranglestone (Stripes €9.99) by Darren Charlton is a surprisingly well written post-apocalyptic zombie queer novel; creepy, compelling and cute all at the same time. What more could you want?

It tells the story of 16-year- old Peter, who lives with his father in an isolated community perched on stilts above islands in a huge lake. Most of the year they're safe, protected from the Dead by the water. But when winter comes, the lake freezes solid and every villager lives in fear until the next thaw.

This year, the freeze exposes secrets that some of his people would kill to protect. Fresh and chilling and totally immersive.

Reading Karen McManus's One of Us is Next (Penguin €8.24) is another great way to start the year off. Just when the Bayview four thought they could finally move on with their lives after everything that happened in the prequel One of Us is Lying, an app appears on everyone's phones initiating a game of Truth or Dare.

There is no way of opting out. If they ignore their turn then a truth about them will be revealed. Now they have to try to survive, while also trying to figure out who is behind this strange and sinister game that they didn't sign up for. Twisty high-octane drama.

For fans of the Netflix hit The Good Place comes Layoverland, (Penguin €19.59), a sassy, thought-provoking novel by Gabby Noone about a 16-year-old-girl who dies in a car accident and ends up in purgatory in an airport-like dimension.

She is tasked with helping 5,000 people move on to heaven before she, herself, can move on, but one of her first assignments is Caleb, the boy who caused the accident that killed her. In this, her debut novel, Noone has constructed a unique plot, with interesting characters and a story that is so well-paced that you will stay up all night to finish it. A darkly humorous read.

A book that gets my vote is Yes No Maybe So (HarperCollins €8.24) by New York Times bestselling duo Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. This heart-warming novel follows two teens from different cultures going door to door canvassing for their local state senate candidate. As their paths intersect, they get to know each other and come to respect their different cultural identities.

Jamie Goldberg is an awkward 17-year-old Jewish boy, who is happiest working behind the scenes, while Muslim girl Maya is having the worst Ramadan ever, forced into political canvassing by her mother. But mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating a cross-cultural romance is another thing entirely. A sweet yet relevant and realistic novel that will keep the reader engaged throughout.

On our radar too are the following books which will be published before the summer. The Gravity of Us (Bloomsbury €15.09) is a warm, sciency, boy-meets-boy romance about a 17-year-old aspiring journalist/social media blogger, whose pilot father is selected by NASA as a potential astronaut on a mission to Mars.

There's not much to go on yet about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Scholastic €18.99) but what we do know is that Suzanne Collins returns to the world of Panem with a new story set 64 years prior to the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games. Available on May 19, 2020.

A much anticipated YA coming in May is Burn (Walker €20), an all-consuming story of revenge, redemption and dragons from the twice Carnegie Medal-winner Patrick Ness.

We can't wait.

Sunday Independent