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.

Title: The Astonishing Colour of After

Author: Emily X. R. Pan

Pages: 480 Pages

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

The Blurb

Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: ‘I want you to remember’. Leigh doesn’t know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died – leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn’t home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.

Overwhelmed by grief, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

The loss of a parent is something that I find unthinkable. I have been lucky, I am well into my thirties and both of my parents are still alive so I find stories with this as its premise really hard to take. It just seems so unjustifiably unfair.

It is this premise that The Astonishing Colour of After follows. Our protagonist, Leigh, is dealing with the death of her mother. Suffering with depression, Leigh’s mum took her own life and Leigh embarks on a journey to find out about her past on her mother’s side. It is a journey that takes her to the other side of the world, to a family she has never met before to figure out just who her mum was.

The Astonishing Colour of After is an interesting story, one that is both uplifting and devastating at the same time.

For more information regarding Emily X. R. Pan (@exrpan) please visit instagram.com/exrpan.

For more information regarding Orion Children’s Books (@the_orionstar) please visit www.hachettechildrens.co.uk.

Title: Fierce Fragile Hearts

Author: Sara Barnard

Pages: 354 Pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

The Blurb

A powerful new novel from the YA author of Beautiful Broken Things, A Quiet Kind of Thunder, and Goodbye, Perfect.

The stunning companion novel to Sara Barnard’s bestseller Beautiful Broken Things – which was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and a Zoella’s Book Club Selection – Fierce Fragile Hearts is about leaving the past behind, and learning to find love, in all its forms.

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. (Again.) She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university.

When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?

The Review

Sara Barnard is one of those authors whose books I anticipate. I think she is one of the best YA fiction writers and I get swallowed whole by her stories. Fierce Fragile Hearts is no exception to this praise.

In Fierce Fragile Hearts we return to Brighton and to the life that Suzanne once knew. Fresh and optimistic she is trying to become an adult and even though things haven’t been easy for Suzanne so far it turns out that adulthood is no easy picnic. It is especially hard when her support system – her friends Caddy and Rosie – are off to pastures new for university.

Feeling alone and a little bit lost Suzanne starts to fall back on old, dangerous habits.

Fierce Fragile Hearts was a brilliant sequel to an already amazing book. Barnard manages to capture the loneliness and isolation of Suzanne, the struggles with being a child of ‘the system’ and also the difficult journey of trying to grow up. It encapsulates all the things I love, a book with friendship at its core, a coming-of-age tale and an awesome soundtrack to accompany it. If there was an extended road trip added then I would have been in book nirvana.

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard is available now.

For more information regarding Sara Barnard (@saramegan) please visit www.sarabarnardofficial.com.

For more information regarding Pan Macmillan (@panmacmillan) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.