Sunday 22 April 2018

Brave, sophisticated and edgy - Top titles for teens this Christmas

Wondering what to buy your young adult reader for Christmas? Justine Carbery presents the definitive list.

Wondering what to buy your young adult reader for Christmas?
Wondering what to buy your young adult reader for Christmas?
Touching tale: 'I Am Malala' charts the life of the brave Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban

The depth and breadth of outstanding, well-written books for teens and young adults is clearly evident in the bookshops and libraries and many pose deep philosophical and ethical questions of today's young people.

Readers who enjoyed Wonder will like two new thoughtful books, dealing with real-life issues; The Thing about Jellyfish (PanMacmillan €10.50) by Ali Benjamin about the death of a friend, and George (Scholastic €9.99) by Alex Gino about the importance of being true to yourself.

The Honest Truth (Chicken House €11.05) by Dan Gemeinhart is a gut-wrenching page-turner about a boy who is fighting cancer. Tired of treatments and always being the sick kid, Mark takes his dog Beau, boards a bus and heads for a mountain he has always longed to climb. Very moving.

All of the Above (Hot Key Books €9.99) by James Dawson, about friends, first loves and self-discovery captures perfectly what is like to be a teenager in today's world.

All That Glitters; Geek Girl #4 (HarperCollins €11.05) by Holly Smale is a funny, light-hearted read that teenage girls will relate to. My favourite book growing up was The Call of the Wild by Jack London and I would have loved Katherine Rundell's The Wolf Wilder (Bloomsbury €9.99), which has all the ingredients for a great novel: a sweeping landscape, an unforgettable main character, a budding revolution, and wolves!

I'm a big fan of Michael Morpurgo and his powerful new book about World War I, An Eagle in the Snow (HarperCollins €12.99) does not disappoint. Brian Gallagher's Friend or Foe (O'Brien Press €8.99) is a timely book set around the Easter Rising in Dublin.

A recent trend for the 14+ is the emergence of non-fiction; the retelling of people's true stories, like I Am Malala (Orion €12.65) about the brave Pakistani girl who spoke out for the education of girls and nearly paid the ultimate price. A King in Hiding (Icon €14.20) by Fahim is the incredible story of a child refugee who became a world chess champion. Likewise Hope in A Ballet Shoe (Faber&Faber €13) by Michaela DePrince is the extraordinary story of a girl growing up in war-torn Sierra Leone, who went on to become a ballet dancer.

Also popular this year are self-help books for teenagers, such as The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager (Capstone €16.50) by Andy Cope, and This Book Loves You (Penguin €15.99) by PewDiePie. Shine: A Girl's Guide to Thriving (Not Just Surviving) in Real Life (Hachette €14.99) by two Irish secondary school teachers Mary Doherty and Siobhan Hackett deals with exam stress, negative thoughts, body confidence, and how to deal with bullies (online and in real life). Vloggers and YouTube-sensations have surfaced this year with best-selling books such as The Amazing Book is Not on Fire (Ebury Press €21.99) by Dan Howell and Phil Lester, Girl Online; On Tour (Penguin €15.99) by Zoe (Zoella) Sugg and Tyler Oakley's Binge (Simon&Schuster €18.99). Ask your teen about them. They'll explain.

Patrick Ness' The Rest of Us Just Live Here (Walker €13.99) and Rainbow Rowell's Carry On (Macmillan €14.99) ask what if you are not the Chosen One? They follow the background players, and show us that there are different types of remarkable. For fans of John Greene comes All the Bright Places (Penguin €10.99) by Jennifer Niven, about a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die. Also dealing with real-life issues is David Owen's timely novel Panther (Corsair €12.65), a candid and unsentimental look at the impact depression has on the people surrounding the sufferer. Brave and tender.

My favourite this year was Sarah Crossan's One (Bloomsbury €12.99), an exceptionally moving novel written in free verse about conjoined twins Grace and Tippi who are about to begin attending school for the first time aged 16. Will they make friends at the new school? Will they fall in love?

For the older teen, I'd highly recommend Louise O'Neill's powerful, unsettling, much-needed book about consent and rape Asking For It (Quercus €12.99), which has just won the Bord Gais Young Adult Book of the year.

Set in small-town Ireland, where traditional Irish values clash with modern morals, it's a tough book to ignore.

Silence is Goldfish (Hachette €17.99) by Annabel Pitcher features Tess, who decides to stop talking after accidentally stumbling across a secret about her which has been broadcast on her father's blog, and the coming-of-age heist novel Unbecoming (David Fickling Books €14.99) by Rebecca Scherm is a tense psychological thriller, likened to Gone Girl and The Goldfinch.

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