Elizabeth Gibson updates us on the thriving Young Adult books scene
Young Adult fiction is flying high, with titles from the UK, US, and beyond crowding bookshops. Primarily aimed at around ages 13 to 25, YA can just as easily be enjoyed by older readers, since it tends to deal with big issues often associated with adult literature. Here are some recommended recent releases. Between them they tackle illness, trauma, suicide, abuse, addiction, murder, but also love, including LGBT*, family, friendship, redemption, and empowerment.
Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton (UK)
Unspeakable is very much a setting-based novel. While its premise, the story of a girl who becomes mute after witnessing a death, is fascinating, it is the glorious descriptions of the New Forest that make this book. Prepare to be transported to a land of ancient trees, magical clearings, and camping under the stars. Explorations of many different kinds of love combine with a thriller element to create an engaging read.
This Raging Light by Estelle Laure (US)
Full of flowery prose and big ideas, the hugely hyped This Raging Light offers us a window on the sad day-to-day life of Lucille, who is responsible for her little sister after their mother’s disappearance and who is falling for a highly unsuitable boy. Poetry is integrated nicely into the story, as is art. The frilly metaphors can be over the top but there are some very strong moments and the sisters are great characters.
7 Days by Eve Ainsworth (UK)
Many books about mean girl behaviour are American, so to read one set in a British school was refreshing: the character, named Keren, who goes by Kez, brought the memories flooding painfully back of when everyone did that with their name. It is interesting to read the same set of events from two points of view: the chief mean girl and her victim. While it is slightly hard to believe that so many big things could happen to a small group of people in just one week, Eve Ainsworth’s debut is still a powerful and emotive novel.
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain (US)
Although not officially a YA book, The Silent Sister has great crossover appeal because the two protagonists are 25 and 16 at the time of their respective narratives. In leafy North Carolina, Riley uncovers unwelcome secrets about her family and tries to bond with her veteran brother, while in hot, chilled San Diego Lisa tries to build a new life. Bluegrass music plays a major role and as in most Diane Chamberlain books, there are plenty of twists and turns as well as moving moments and one particularly tear-jerking reunion scene.
Love Bomb by Jenny McLachlan (UK)
Love Bomb is the sweet, sad, but ultimately uplifting tale of quirky Betty Plum, who is going through a hard time and wishes her mum was still alive. When she finds some letters written to her from her mum before her death, she begins to embrace life and discover love. Betty is an adorable protagonist and again, it was a pleasant change to have a British book dealing with some of the subjects that Love Bomb covers. Her mother’s final letter is genuinely heartbreaking yet simultaneously wonderful.
Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick (US)
Dangerous Lies hops neatly between inner city crime drama and rural romance, with a major twist. Parts did feel a little sensational and the characters act much older than they are; however, it is lovely watching the development of certain relationships and trying to guess what on earth is coming next in this rollercoaster ride of a book.