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 / Super Awkward, How Hard Can Love Be? and Love, Lies & Lemon Pies

What I've Read / Super Awkward, How Hard Can Love Be? and Love, Lies & Lemon Pies

Here are three books I read in September to help me with my ongoing reading slump – I always turn to YA contemporary and these are particularly fun ones! 

Super Awkward by Beth Garrod

Super Awkward was the perfect book to kick off Project Destroy Stacey’s Reading Slump. 15-year-old Bella Fisher is a not-so-academic rendition of one of my favourite funny protagonists in YA, Harriet Manners: geeky, witty and awkward, but failing maths and science spectacularly. She’s been cruelly taken by her family to Wales instead of to her best friend’s house party. (*admits that as an adult she’d much rather go to Wales*). Bella’s even more of a grumpy pants when her ex-boyfriend sends a photo of him kissing a mystery girl. Until she meets (i.e. knocks over) a gorgeous boy called Zac. And tells everyone at school that he’s her older boyfriend and is taking her to prom. Awks.

Super Awkward is a really fun, quirky story, full of teenage romance, devastatingly embarrassing moments and learning to lean on your best friends. I’m all about stories of female friendship – one of the most important things in my own life – and so it was encouraging to see that Rachel and Tegan were always mostly around to support Bella. If you loved Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, you’ll love Bella and her crazy teen voice!

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

After reading Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet?, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, especially as all my friends assured me that I’d love it – and they were right! Even though Evie’s my favourite Spinster Club member, this time it was Amber’s turn.

Amber has left fellow teen feminists Evie and Lottie at home to jet off to sunny California and stay with her absent mum and her detestable husband, working in their trendy summer camp. I adored everything about How Hard Can Love Be? (although I did worry people would think I was reading a self-help book on the train!). Adorable feminist American boy? Check. Complicated family relationships? Supportive female friendships? Check. Fulfilling my dream to visit the USA? CHECK.

I’ve not read many books where mother-daughter relationships are central to the story, but it’s huge part of who Amber is. Holly confronts this fragile relationship in such an honest and relatable way – Amber’s full of resentment for her mum, but wants nothing more than for her to love her. And then we have Amber and Kyle, who I loved as a potential couple straight away; it was a joy to watch them getting to know each other. Plus not forgetting Amber’s Camp Best Friend Winnie and the rest of the gang, who are all suitably outraged when Slytherin is replaced with Dumbledore’s Army – there are so many characters in How Hard Can Love Be? to love!

How Hard Can Love Be? is a superb second book in the Spinster Club trilogy. I want to take it to Yosemite National Park with me.  

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon

As the Great British Bake Off was about to begin, it was the perfect time to pick up Love, Lies and Lemon Pies. Lottie has been struggling with everything since her dad died and the only way she can prove to her school that she is coping is to join the school’s new Bake Club.

Love, Lies and Lemon pies is a super quick, entertaining read that I flew through blissfully. As soon as Lottie and Mac meet, they work together wonderfully (even if not without arguments!). Mac has some disdain for baking at first, but I enjoyed watching Lottie help him through his troubles, right up until their end-of-year competition. It was also great to see Lottie develop a lot of self-confidence and start to believe that she can win the competition, with support from the rest of Bake Club – Jasper, Jasmine, Grace and Ella. Even though she’s not the most likeable character, I’m looking forward to getting to know Grace more in Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines!

Love, Lies and Lemon pies is a delicious young adult contemporary novel to devour – there’s even recipes at the beginning of each chapter to help you on your way!

What I’ve Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl

What I've Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl
Here are three reviews of books I’ve read recently to get me get out of my reading slump – everything from survival stories to boyband lit and awesome girls doing sports!

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, narrated by Emily Bauer (Audiobook)

I first read Life As We Knew It five years ago when I couldn’t get enough of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. This time, I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on my commute and after a few failed attempts at reading paperbacks while squished on the train, a re-read seemed like the perfect choice!

I loved Life As We Knew It originally because it made me feel like I was surviving alongside Miranda after a meteor collides with the moon, altering the Earth’s climate, making it almost impossible to continue with life as it was. If anything, the audiobook was even more atmospheric. Miranda reading her diary aloud meant that I caught little bits of the story that I think I missed the first time – Emily Bauer has done a fantastic job at narrating the audiobook. It’s been 10 years since it was first published, but Life As We Knew It is still one of the few YA post-apocalyptic novels that had me thinking about it after I put it down.

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

I was introduced to Songs About a Girl at a blogger event at Hachette Towers, and this is where we also got to meet the fabulous author, Chris Russell, who’s an utter delight and self-confessed fanboy. He’s in a band himself – The Lightyears – and has previously written for a One Direction fansite, so is in a perfect position to write about the world of music.

I assumed Songs About a Girl would be told from the point of view of Fire&Lights – a hot new boyband – but it’s actually the incredible Charlie Bloom we get to hear from. 15-year-old Charlie is invited to be the band’s photographer after Olly, one of the band members, comes across her photos. Charlie’s a refreshing protagonist who’s simultaneously unaffected by the boy’s popularity and intrigued by their music and complicated friendship. Plus she’s being targeted on social media by jealous Fire&Lights fans; has discovered a baffling secret about her mother, who passed away; and is stuck between frontman Gabe and bandmate Olly and their curious conflict. (I prefer Yuki myself!).

Songs About a Girl was a fun story to read over the summer and I’m looking forward to meeting up with my new friend Charlie in the sequel next year.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Oh, I loved Roller Girl. I came across it during a shopping trip at Gosh! Comics with my friend Daphne and one glance at the cover me it was the graphic novel for me! Roller Girl is the heartwarming tale of friendship and roller derby over one summer, beautifully written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be growing up when you’re not a child, but not quite a teenager.

Astrid is 12-years-old and does everything with her best friend Nicole – until Astrid signs up for roller derby and Nicole starts making new friends at ballet. I wish there were more contemporary graphic novels because it’s a wonderful, underrated format for them. Not only do we get a fantastic story, but are able to experience visually the pain, frustration and heartbreak of real life.

I love coming-of-age stories and in Roller Girl, we get everything from realistic confrontations with parents to what it feels like to be the worst at something you so desperately want to conquer. I also learned a lot about roller derby and feel like I got bruises from just reading about it – ouch!