Title: All of This is True

Author: Lygia Day Penaflor

Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Blurb

When four Long Island teens plot to meet Fatima Ro, the elusive author of their favourite novel, they’re stunned when she befriends them and invites them into her eccentric life. Suddenly their lives seem charmed, and as they grow closer to their idol, they find themselves revealing their darkest secrets to her.

But a year later, Miri, Soleil, Jonah and Penny are shocked to discover that Fatima’s newly released YA novel is based on those same secrets. The revelations are devastating, and they can’t escape the spotlight. The friends’ interview transcripts, emails and journal entries reveal how willing they were to sacrifice everything to win Fatima’s approval – and how those sacrifices led to a tragedy from which one of them will never recover.

The Review

One thing I really like in books is when I have a handful of narrators that all see the story a specific way. They are all unreliable because their truth is not the same as someone else’s. This is why I really enjoyed All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor.

It is a story set in high school so there is already a he-said-she-said element to the narrative. Add in a mystery, an author, and a character in hospital with life threatening injuries then you really do have the making of a good thriller.

What the author really manages to highlight is the fundamental need to be seen and acknowledged. She shows how this is a spectrum depending on the need of the character and how that can be manifested in both good and negative ways.

I really liked All of This is True. I loved the mixed media element of storytelling and how distinct the different character voices where. As far as YA Thrillers go then All of This is True is a brilliant poster book for the genre.

All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor is available now.

For more information regarding Lygia Day Penaflor (@lygiaday) please visit www.lygiadaypenflor.com.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit www.bloomsbury.com.

Title: Long Way Down

Author: Jason Reynolds

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

AND THEN THERE WERE SHOTS
Everybody
ran,
ducked,
hid, tucked
themselves tight.

Pressed our lips to the
pavement and prayed
the boom, followed by
the buzz of a bullet,
didn’t meet us.

After Will’s brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don’t cry. Don’t snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn’s gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will’s friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he’s doing.

This haunting, lyrical, powerful verse novel will blow you away.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I genuinely believe that YA fiction is opening up conversations about difficult topics to an age group who are on the cusp of forming their own opinions about society. When I was younger, the YA fiction was soft; it skirted around issues and acted like teenagers were too delicate or were unable to discuss difficult topics. Not anymore; the world of literature is a better place for it.

Jason Reynolds discusses knife crime in the book Long Way Down. It is the story of Will who has just seen his brother shot and killed due to gang crime. It is time for him to take his brother’s place on the street. He knows it. He also knows who has killed his brother and he is out for vengeance.

Told entirely in verse, we track Will as he goes to avenge his brother’s murder. We watch as people try to talk him out of his actions. We watch as those people – who are not who you would expect – reveal how gun and gang crime have impacted their own lives.

Long Way Down is hard hitting but it needs to be. It doesn’t paint a happy picture; it is gritty and it is realistic. Long Way Down is, for want of a better word, brilliant.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is available now.

For more information regarding Jason Reynolds (@JasonRenolds83) please visit www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

Title: I Am Thunder

Author: Muhammad Khan

Pages: 310 Pages

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

The Blurb

A shy girl trying to find her place in the world is forced to stand up and be heard when she uncovers a dangerous secret.

Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is passionate about writing and dreams of becoming a novelist. There’s just one problem – her super-controlling parents have already planned her life out for her:

Step 1) Get educated
Step 2) Qualify as a doctor
Step 3) Marry a cousin from Pakistan. Oh, and boyfriends are totally haram.

No one is more surprised than humble Muzna when high school hottie, Arif Malik, takes an interest in her. But Arif and his brother are angry at the West for demonizing Islam and hiding a terrible secret. As Arif begins to lead Muzna down a dark path, she faces a terrible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak up and betray her heart?

A stunning new YA voice which questions how far you’ll go to stand up for what you believe.

The Review

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan is one of the most powerful YA books that I have ever read.

In a political climate that seems to encourage hate I Am Thunder holds a mirror up to society and shows just how complicit it is in perpetuating the negativity. It shows how people will not blame one person, they will homogenise a group of people with the same attributes. It also shows how easy it is for young people to become embroiled in events so far out of their control and how we should show understanding.

I Am Thunder is the story of Muzna, a young Muslim girl who is struggling with the different strands of her identity: she is British, she is Muslim, she is Pakistani, she is a girl and she is a daughter among many other things. She struggles to be all of those things; worries that if she does something wrong then she will be a disappointment.

It is Muzna’s vulnerabilities that get her caught up in a world of aggression, one she really has no knowledge of and one that ultimately leads her to make some bad decisions.

You cannot help but feel sorry for Muzna. She is just a young girl trying to find her way. What Muhammad Khan has successfully done is shine a light on a forgotten aspect of radicalisation, how young people are groomed.

I Am Thunder is an extremely powerful read and should be added to the high school curriculum.

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan is available now.

For more information regarding Muhammad Khan (@mkhanauthor) please visit his Twitter page.

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

 

Title: We Come Apart

Author: Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

The Blurb

YA rising stars Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan join forces to break readers’ hearts in this contemporary story of star-cross’d lovers.

Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn’t left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they’re picking up litter in the park for community service. He’s so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She’s got a lot to hide.

Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad’s fists are the most powerful force in Nicu’s life, and in the end, he’ll have to do what his dad wants.

As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can’t be together, forever, and stay safe – can they?

An extraordinary, high-impact, high-emotion collaboration between two Carnegie honoured rising stars of YA. Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness, Malorie Blackman, Rainbow Rowell and John Green.

Sarah Crossan received the 2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal for her astonishing novel One, which also won the YA Book Prize,CBI Book of the Year Award and the CliPPA Poetry Award. Brian Conaghan’s powerful debut, When Mr Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, Peters Book of the Year and CBI Book of the Year Award

The Review

Well blow me over with a feather; We Come Apart is bloody fantastic.

We Come Apart is by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan and it is a story compromised of dual-perspective poetry. It focuses on the lives of Jess and Nicu. Both are young offenders and both have their own interesting backgrounds. Jess is from a broken family struggling to get along with those in her life – friends and family. Nicu and his family have emigrated from Romania and he is struggling to fit in with the ways of life in the UK.

The two of them form a friendship and together try and fight the forces that are against them.

We Come Apart is both heart-warming and heartbreaking. I consumed it in one sitting and at times was genuinely holding back the tears. It is a brilliant story that should be read by all.

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan is available now.

For more information regarding Sarah Crossan (@SarahCrossan) please visit youtu.be/0szY-FFsOIQ.

For more information regarding Brian Conaghan (@BrianConaghan) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury Publishing (@KidsBloomsbury) please visit www.bloomsbury.com/childrens.

Title: The Gatekeepers

Author: Jen Lancaster

Pages: 448 Pages

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

The Blurb

“How could we know that forever could end at seventeen?”

Anyone passing through North Shore, Illinois, would think it was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of commuter trains.

Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange new reality of an American high school; Mallory, the hypercompetitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first-generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when a popular classmate takes his own life…except not too shocked. It’s happened before. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?

The Review

I have read a lot of YA novels – a lot so it always takes me by surprise when a book comes along and completely blows me away. This – The Gatekeepers – is my first 5 Star read of 2019.

It is the story of an idyllic town in middle America. The houses are perfect, the neighbours keep their lawns trimmed to a certain height, and the local high school has the best academic record around. Equally – and less talked about – is how it also has an unusually high suicide rate amongst its teenage population.

Told from multi-perspective, The Gatekeepers shows you just how much pressure teenagers are under to try and attain a level of perfection that doesn’t exist. It comes from either the school pressure, parental pressure or even just the pressure they put on themselves.

I work in a high school and the one thing that is not taught on the curriculum is how to fail and how failing isn’t the end of the world. But it is all ok because they teach you the hypotenuse of an angle. That’s…useful?

I genuinely loved this story. It was heartbreaking and it had me in tears and I will admit I had a severe headache at the end – too much emotion plus the inability to put the book down led to said headache – but it was worth it.

I don’t know anyone else who has read this book which is a shame because this is a book that needs to be shouted about. It should be in every school library and it deserves a higher place on the curriculum than the hypotenuse of an angle.

The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster is available now.

For more information regarding Jen Lancaster (@altgeldshrugged) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Harlequin Teen (@HarlequinBooks) please visit www.harlequin.com.