Title: Guard Your Heart

Author: Sue Divin

Pages: 337 Pages

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

The Blurb

Boy meets girl on the Northern Irish border in Guard Your Heart, by Sue Divin.

Derry. Summer 2016. Aidan and Iona, now eighteen, were both born on the day of the Northern Ireland peace deal.

Aidan is Catholic, Irish, and Republican. With his ex-political prisoner father gone and his mother dead, Aidan’s hope is pinned on exam results earning him a one-way ticket out of Derry. To anywhere.

Iona, Protestant and British, has a brother and father in the police. She’s got university ambitions, a strong faith and a fervent belief that boys without one track minds are a myth.

At a post-exam party, Aidan wanders alone across the Peace Bridge and becomes the victim of a brutal sectarian attack. Iona witnessed the attack; picked up Aidan’s phone and filmed what happened, and gets in touch with him to return the phone. When the two meet, alone and on neutral territory, the differences between them seem insurmountable. 

Both their fathers held guns, but safer to keep that secret for now.

Despite their differences and the secrets they have to keep from each other, there is mutual intrigue, and their friendship grows. And so what? It’s not the Troubles. But for both Iona and Aidan it seems like everything is keeping them apart , when all they want is to be together . . .

The Review

Guard Your Heart is a modern day Romeo and Juliet story set in Ireland that shows the modern day impact of the troubles and how years of prejudice still runs rife in the country. In this story Aiden (a catholic) and Iona (a protestant) are thrown together when Aiden is attacked and Iona films it on her phone. She manages to stop the attack by threatening to go to the police with the evidence. Iona and Aiden’s love story starts with this one act of selflessness.

Among this story of forbidden love, prejudice, and religion is a story of class difference. How a persons station in life is determined by so many different factors and the hopelessness that you feel can be overwhelming.

Overall, I really liked Guard Your Heart. At times, I did feel the pacing of the story was a bit slow but the final third of the novel had me reading as fast as I could and making me lose my breath. The sign of great writing in my opinion.

Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin is available now.

For more information regarding Sue Divin (@absolutelywrite) please visit www.suedivin.com.

For more information regarding Macmillan Children’s Books (@MacmillanKidsUK) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.

Title: This Can Never Not Be Real

Author: Sera Milano

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Egmont Books/Electric Monkey

The Blurb

A compelling, heartbreaking and hopeful book for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Jennifer Niven and Holly Jackson.

In the unremarkable town of Amberside, the unthinkable has happened: Terrorists have attacked a local festival. No one knows why, and no one knows who the attackers are, but that doesn’t matter. What matters first is survival. And what matters after that is survival, too.

In this brilliantly written account of hope, humour and humanity, five ordinary teenagers are caught up in a truly extraordinary situation. It’s a heart-pounding and gripping account of the fight for survival as the attackers prowl the festival grounds, told from multiple perspectives.

This is a book for anyone facing the barrage of bleak reports that fill our newsfeeds and for anyone who needs to see that behind the hate that makes the headlines, there is always love.

The Review

I won’t lie to you, I am a traditionalist when it comes to literature. I like it to be narrative, speech marks, proper punctuation – the whole shebang and normally when a book veers away from this I get frustrated. However, with This Can Never Not Be Real I was able to get past the non-traditional format because the story is so damn good.

It is a story of a terrorist attack that happens during a local festival in a small town and it is told from the perspective of several people. It is told in what can almost be described as soundbites of information interspersed with police reporting. The style is similar in style to how you feel an interrogation would go but also shows how one event can be experienced by several different people in many different ways.

What it also does is highlight underlying prejudices and challenges them. It shows how communities – big or small – can be brought together through tragedy and how powerful the shared experience is.

I thoroughly recommend This Can Never Not Be Real and will be foisting it into the hands of the students I work with whether they want to read it or not.

This Can Never Not Be Real by Sera Milano is available now.

For more information regarding Sera Milano (@seramilano) please visit www.seramilano.com.

For more information regarding Electric Monkey (@EMTeenFiction) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: Indigo Donut

Author: Patrice Lawrence

Pages: 451 Pages

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Indigo has had a tough start in life, having grown up in the care system after her dad killed her mum. Bailey, also seventeen, lives with his parents in Hackney and spends all his time playing guitar or tending to his luscious ginger afro.

When Indigo and Bailey meet at sixth form, serious sparks fly. But when Bailey becomes the target of a homeless man who seems to know more about Indigo than is normal, Bailey is forced to make a choice he should never have to make.

A life-affirming story about falling in love and everyone’s need to belong.

The Review

I am often heard saying that YA Fiction is the best fiction being released. That the authors of YA fiction are dealing with topics that are so respectful to their audience and realising and indeed relishing in the fact that a YA audience is mature and can deal with harsher topics. Things have certainly changed since I was a teenager and thank god it is for the better.

Indigo Donut is one such book that deals with difficult topics. It deals with: death, murder, the foster system, divorce, bullying and yet you still come away from the novel feeling positive and that change is just around the corner.

Indigo Donut focuses on the relationship between Indigo and Bailey. Bailey, to some extent is the antithesis of Indigo. He has had a far more “normal” upbringing and has been sheltered from the cruel realities of life. Indigo, on the other hand, has been hardened by life and wears an impermeable shell of armour and seen by others as an attitude problem. It seems strange that they would fall for each other.

Above everything else Indigo Donut is a love story – not just a physical love story but the love story of finding a friend who understands you and in Bailey Indigo finds just that and in doing so allows herself to be vulnerable.

Indigo Donut is a commitment of a book at 451 pages but it is a great story.

Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence is available now.

For more information regarding Patrice Lawrence (@LawrencePatrice) please visit www.patricelawrence.wordpress.com.

Title: How to Talk to Black People

Author: A. Anon

Pages: 217 Pages

Publisher: Self Published

The Blurb

Can someone break through the boundaries they are subconsciously taught to place on other people?

Ivy wants more from life. She wants more than her double-wide trailer, more than her dead father and drunk mother, and more than her clearance rack clothes. Her one comfort is the quirky and unpredictable Magnus: childhood best friend and member of the Dead Parent’s Club.

New student Alex might be her ticket to graduation. Alex has it all: an award-winning neurosurgeon for a mother, a world-famous athlete for a father, brains, and brawn.

When Ivy and Alex get stuck as Chemistry partners, Ivy rejoices. Alex is her ticket to an easy semester, maybe even college. But high school isn’t enjoyable for any of them.

Magnus is misunderstood, Ivy is poor, and Alex is the first black student in the entire school system.

By prom, their lives will completely change. One will learn who they really are, one will come to terms with their past, and one won’t make it out alive.

How to Talk to Black People is an honest and challenging look at how we subconsciously teach those in our community about race and what we’re willing to believe about ourselves based on those lessons.

The Review

Okay, so I know that writing is difficult and I know that it is easy to fall into writing tropes but How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon takes it to a whole new level.

How to Talk to Black People reads like a paint by numbers. The main character is given some unlikable qualities but we also are meant to feel sorry for her because of her alcoholic mother and deceased father. She is held back in school because of her social status – she is poor therefore she cannot be smart. She is affected by the people around her and doesn’t know any better – vis a vis race. The whole set up was to problematic, twee and due for a moment of realisation to neatly wrap up all of the storylines. However, I cannot tell you if that happens because I had to DNF this book.

It was awful. The narrative was over written – seriously just call a bus a bus not a banana yellow machine to take me to my scholastic destiny – okay I’m potentially exaggerating with my example but there were several times when the writer just didn’t call nouns by what they actually were. It was tedious.

I read about 30% of this book and I realised I have several hundred other books that are worthy of my attention and this was draining me of potentially reading a great book.

I’m sorry but How to Talk to Black People was a big, fat DNF for me.

How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon is available now.

Title: The Memory Book

Author: Lara Avery

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

The Blurb

“They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I’ll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I’m writing to remember.”

Samantha McCoy has it all mapped out. First she’s going to win the national debating championship, then she’s going to move to New York and become a human rights lawyer. But when Sammie discovers that a rare disease is going to take away her memory, the future she’d planned so perfectly is derailed before it’s started. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. Realising that her life won’t wait to be lived, she sets out on a summer of firsts: The first party; The first rebellion; The first friendship; The last love.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it’s not the life she planned. 

A life-affirming, heart-breaking and dazzling novel for fans of All the Bright Places and The Fault in Our Stars.

The Review

There has been a trend over the past few years that has seen YA fiction focus on life-limiting illnesses. We have had The Fault in Our Stars and Five Feet Apart among many others. Whilst these books were great I think I was a little bit unsettled by the thought that teens were being exposed to such sadness but then I had a word with myself and remembered that this is how people learn and how people are exposed in a healthy way to things that they may know nothing about and how empathy is created.

The Memory Book is about early dementia – a disease often associated with the elderly but in rare cases it can affect teenagers. Samantha McCoy has this rare condition and she is doing everything she can to fight it. The feeling you get from Samantha is that she feels that it is just so unfair. Your heart breaks for her as you see her disintegrate in the novel. It is the kind of novel that will remind you how lucky you are.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery is available now.

For more information regarding Hachette Children’s Group (@HachetteKids) please visit www.hachetechildrens.co.uk.