What I’ve Read / The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, What Light & I’ll Be Home for Christmas

What I've Read / The Twelve Days of Dash Lily, What Light & I'll Be Home for Christmas
Here’s what I thought of three festive books I picked up over Christmas!

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is one of my favourite YA festive novels. I’ve read it three times, over Christmas 2011, 2013 and 2016, so I was elated to discover that there would be a sequel.

Dash & Lily
The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily
is sadder, more melancholy than its predecessor. Lily’s grandfather is sick and she’s unable to appreciate her favourite season. For this new Lily, there’s no magical Christmas tree and no festive reindeer skirt. She is depressed and grieving, insecure about both her relationship with Dash and her place in the world. It was tough to see Lily going through such a hard time – quite different to the bouncing, positive and enthusiastic girl we’ve all come to know and love – but it was important to see a different side to her. And that goes for Dash, too. He joins forces with her older brother to cheer Lily up. It was lovely to see his romantic and thoughtful side (even though he can be a bit clueless at times!).

I cannot say that I preferred the sequel to Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – it didn’t fill me with as much festive glee as the first book did, but it was an unexpectedly complicated journey for the two teenagers. Even though it can be read as a standalone, I’d suggest reading the books in order to get the full experience of how Dash and Lily came to be.

Books On My TBR / Winter

What Light by Jay Asher

What Light is a contemporary story set on a Californian Christmas tree farm, a setting that has intrigued me ever since I discovered that Taylor Swift grew up on one in Pennsylvania (because I know you’re all dying to know that). As it’s set in California, I had to keep reminding myself that the weather probably wasn’t as cold and frosty and picturesque as I was imagining. I’ve seen The OC. I should know better.

Sierra has spent her life living in California for the Christmas season and the rest of her time in Oregon. She’s away from her East Coast friends and back with her other best friend, Heather. And she meets Caleb, who buys Christmas trees for impoverished families and has a family secret that she’s desperate to unravel. As someone who has small friendship groups, it was interesting to see how Sierra was torn between them. (Although I wish she had spent more time with Heather, who only gets to see her a month out of the year!). Caleb was really sweet and I enjoyed his banter with Sierra about peppermint mochas.

What Light is a cute, quick read if you’re looking for something Christmassy!

Behold the Pretty Books! / August Book Haul

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Various

As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a huge fan of short story collections, but I was curious about I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Festive YA is a favourite of mine – and I’m happy to report that I’ll Be Home for Christmas is the best collection I’ve read so far!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas features many of my favourite authors – Lisa Williamson, Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and more – all writing about the theme of ‘home’, with each copy of the book sold supporting the charity Crisis. Because there’s so many to talk about, I’ll pick out four favourites.

Cat Clarke’s Family You Choose – a super cute story about Effie, hiding from her family and discovering a whole new one in the process (plus delicious food) and Lisa Williamson’s Routes and Wings – a bleak story about Lauren, who travels around East London on buses, keeping her homelessness a secret from colleagues. I also enjoyed Juno Dawson’s Homo for Christmas – the cheeky and surprising story about Duncan, who is on his way home to tell his mother that he’s gay – and Tracy Darnton’s The Letter – a short but poignant story of Amber, who is living in care. Tracy was the winner of the short story competition and I’m looking forward to her first full novel in 2018!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a wonderfully diverse collection of stories and one that I’m sure to return to year after year.


What I’ve Read / Wing Jones, A Quiet Kind of Thunder & …And a Happy New Year?

Here are three heartfelt reviews of contemporary novels, written by some of my favourite voices in UKYA, that I’ve read recently!

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Wing Jones had been on my wishlist ever since it was first announced over a year and a half ago, written by one of my marvellous Twitter buddies, Katie. Set in 90s Atlanta, Wing Jones is the spirited story of one girl trying to fit in, the joy of running and the complexity of family. Wing doesn’t feel at home at all when it comes to fitting in, sport or family, but when tragedy strikes and she loses the one person in her life who just gets her, she is left to find herself on her own.

I’m not a runner, but ever since reading Wing Jones, I find myself wondering what it would be like to fly as gracefully as Wing does – running in the dark, with only the sound of her footsteps and the thoughts in her head. (It’s something I’d love to give a go, but living in inner-city London holds me back!). And in Wing Jones, we rediscover the love-hate relationship with family, from Wing’s grandmothers (one Chinese, one Ghanaian) to her homemade family: brother Marcus, his girlfriend Monica and best friend Aaron (not to mention all the glorious time they spend in their favourite diner, eating southern chicken and waffles). I especially enjoyed the comical relationship (note: lots of bickering) between the two grandmothers.

There’s lots to admire about Wing Jones and it’s one UKYA novel one you won’t want to miss. Sporty girls ftw!

Behold the Pretty Books! / September & October Book Haul

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of Thunder surprised me. I thought I would like it. I enjoyed Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things. But as soon as I’d read a few pages, I fell in love. Beautiful Broken Things was one of the most honest accounts of friendship I’d read so far – and A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of the most honest stories of anxiety and depression. Sara’s strength is her ability to describe incredibly intense feelings – the ones that are difficult to experience because it’s a struggle to explain it to yourself, let alone to anyone else – and she does it skillfully and realistically.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the incredible story of Steffi, a selective mute, and Rhys, who is deaf. Sara has done so much research and that’s what makes her story feel authentic. I discovered the meaning of selective mutism – it’s not when someone simply chooses not to speak – and what it’s like to be deaf. Steffi and Rhys are put together because they can communicate using BSL, and it’s one of the best things to happen to them. They embark on an important friendship – which goes a little further than either imagined – and it’s simply wonderful to read.

I’ll be re-reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder soon, even though I only finished it in October. It may be 4th January, but it’s already my favourite book published this year!

Books On My TBR / Winter

. . . And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

What better way to end 2016 than by reading . . . And a Happy New Year? I adore the Spinster Club girls – Amber, Lottie and Evie – and I read all three books in the series last year, so it just seemed right. In this festive novella, we hear from each of the girls as they struggle with the events of the past year: broken friendships, new university lives and old boyfriends (that is, except Kyle, because Kyle is American and adorable and perfect). It’s Amber’s new year’s party and the first time they’ve hung out together since leaving college – and they all have a secret. But how long can they keep secrets from their best friends – even if it might tear them apart for good?

. . . And a Happy New Year? was a wonderful end to the Spinster Club trilogy. It wasn’t as light-hearted as I thought it would be (gosh, being a first year at university is hard), but I love Holly Bourne’s energetic, relatable writing and admirable feminist characters (I’m a cross between Amber and Evie, if you ask me). If you’re looking for some fun yet important UKYA, pick up this trilogy!

What I’ve Read / Unboxed, Our Chemical Hearts & The Sun is Also a Star

What I've Read / Unboxed, Our Chemical Hearts & The Sun is Also a Star
I recently raved about three fun contemporary novels I read, but right now, as I’m listening to Bastille’s Wild World on repeat, it’s time for a little cry!

Unboxed by Non Pratt

I didn’t know what Unboxed was about before I picked it up at this year’s Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC). It’s Non Pratt, it’s always going to be amazing! But Unboxed is a breathtaking novella about four teenagers who come together after a tragedy. It’s about the power of close friendship. It’s about letting go of secrets kept from the people who know you best.

Alix, Ben, Dean and Zara have not seen each other in months, but a few years ago – before Millie passed away – they created a time capsule to mark their friendship, their best summer together. And now they want to find it. Unboxed may be short, but it’s tiny, powerful and demands to be read in one sitting. We get to know each teenager over one evening spent together, learning the part they used to play in their tight group. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that they do find the time capsule, and I loved what happened next. I loved each of the characters’ reveals and discovering what each of them put in the capsule. Unboxed is a wonderful book to curl up with over these cold winter nights, reliving your best summer.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

As soon as Grace walks into class, Henry is intrigued. But it’s not insta-love. He’s too busy focusing on grades, college and making editor of the school paper – and then Grace is made co-editor. Henry’s uhappy to say the least. Grace is not a likeable character – and she’s not meant to be – but to Henry she’s fascinating. In Our Chemical Hearts, we trundle along with Henry as he attempts to work out his feelings for this new girl. Slowly, Henry and the reader discover who Grace used to be. I know a lot of my friends weren’t a fan of him as our protagonist, but I liked him a lot. In one chapter, Henry makes a presentation to show Grace why she should date him and even though it’s a little self-absorbed (why not make it about why he wants to date her?), it was lovely and nerdy.

Our Chemical Hearts is a story that had an unexpected emotional impact on me. Grace has been through a difficult and painful time, and it was tough watching Henry try to match up the girl in front of him with the girl in his head. And then there’s many side characters to love – Henry’s parents and sister, and his best friends Lola and Muz, who are ecstatic that Henry finally has a love interest. Is Grace Town a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? I’ll let you decide, but I loved what Krystal Sutherland did with her characters, smashing what you thought you knew about them.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Sometimes I read a book and think ‘people who don’t usually read YA would love this’. The Sun is Also a Star is one of those novels.

Set over one day, it’s the story of Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers with different stories and who see the world in different ways, but whose worlds collide when everything is about to change for both of them. Natasha is living in the US as an illegal immigrant and her family is being forced to leave for Jamaica, despite the fact that Natasha has lived in New York City most of her life. Meanwhile, Daniel’s in constant battle with his strict Korean family, unable to live up to their high expectations, competing with his older brother. If you think a love story set over a day is unbelievable, think again.

The Sun is Also a Star does a wonderful job of making the reader connect with both teenagers – and believe that the teenagers could possibly connect with each other in some meaningful, life-changing way. Natasha and Daniel do not change each other but help each other see another way of thinking, of approaching life. And it has more of an effect than you may think. The Sun is Also a Star is told in dual perspective, with short chapters that make the story feel as intense and energetic as the romance/friendship itself. It’s bright and magnificent, and I hope more people get to read it. I now need to pick up Everything, Everything!

Behold the Pretty Books! / July Book Haul