The Most Highly Anticipated YA Sequels Of 2017

Apparently 2017 is crowning itself the queen of the young adult sequels. There are so many epic additions to series coming out this year, it’s just impossible not to try and eat them all at once! And if you’re a little behind on release dates and figuring out which series you should be caught up on…sit down and relax, my friend. I am here to help.

Here are some highly anticipated YA sequels that are either newly on the shelves or just around the corner!


 

OUR DARK DUET (published June)

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This is the sequel and finally to the incredible This Savage Song! It follows the story of Kate Harker, child of a cruel mafi overlord, and August Flynn, a violinist monster who wishes he was human and their fight to save their depraved and dying city of Verity.

It’s like Batman’s Gotham but with violins and heartbreakingly good writing. Definitely a must read!

 

 

NOW I RISE (publishing July)

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This is the sequel to And I Darken, which is a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler retelling. It follows siblings, Lada and Radu, as they’re ripped from their home and given as gifts to secure a piece to their father’s enemy. They grow up far away from home, unloved, and unwanted, until they meet the future boy sultan and both fall hopelessly in love with him. It’s full of politics and intrigue and the most terrifying bloody heroine of ever. Do not mess with Lada. Like…ever.

 

 

LORD OF SHADOWS (published May)

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This is the sequel to Lady Midnight, another addition to the ever-expanding Shadowhunter world by Cassandra Clare! If you haven’t caught up on her other books, don’t fear! This trilogy is actually possibly to read on its own. It’s a tangled mess of necromancers and dark faeries and war, and it focuses on Emma Carstairs who’s trying to solve the mystery of who murdered her parents. It also follows her parabati, Julian Blackthorn’s life as he tries to raise his siblings and keep them safe in a world that’s not kind to damaged people.

 

 

THE CROWN’S FATE (published May)

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This is the sequel and finale to The Crown’s Game, which is about two magicians vying for the spot as the Tsar’s right hand. There can only be one, however, hence a fight to the death with magical tricks, games, duels, and manipulation. The only problem is Vika and Nikolai are also falling in love, and their future Tsar is their best friend…which makes the whole “fight to the death” thing super hard. It’s also set in Russia and has a luscious backdrop of Russian culture and food. The levels of magical imagination are absolutely breathtaking!

 

ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN (published May)

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This is the 3rd book in the Lara Jean series that starts with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and then PS. I Still Love You. The story is about Lara Jean (surprise!) who is a Korean-American teenager who used to write letters to her crushes. She never mailed them of course…until one day they accidentally get mailed. It’s a really super sweet and adorable story about family, sisters, first love, and baking. There is so much baking in it, you’ll probably eat your copy of the book. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

YA Books Told In Love Letters, Notes, and Emails

Books tell amazing stories in all sorts of formats. Sometimes they use prose or poetry, illustrations or photographs. And today? We need to talk about books told in love letters, notes, and emails! Because writing is arguably the best way to learn about someone. It’s often easier to confess a secret or be venerable on paper and these books underline that fact!

If you’re looking for a book featuring letters? LOOK NO FURTHER. I have you covered.


LETTERS TO THE LOST BY BRIGID KEMMERER

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This is an absolutely beautiful, but bittersweet, tale of two teens who are dealing with extreme levels of grief. They begin writing to each other on accident. Juliet leaves letters at her mother’s gravestone and one day Declan, who’s working in the graveyard on community service, picks one up and writes back. They begin first an angry communication and then develop friendship through grief and confessions. It’s a relief to both of them to talk anonymously to someone who understands. But as they realise they also know each other in real life, they are worried the other won’t like the “real” them. It’s an absolutely poignant story of heartbreak and being judgemental of people who’s stories you don’t know.

 

 

SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA BY BECKY ALBERTALLI

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Simon has met the most amazing boy online and lives for their frequent email exchanges. Except one day he forgets to log out of the school computer and a bully discovers his emails. He blackmails Simon — threatening to out Simon as being gay. And Simon isn’t ready for that yet.

It’s a super, super cute story featuring two boys emailing back and forth. The story isn’t wholly told in messages, though, so you get to follow Simon in his everyday life of friends, awkward first love, Harry Potter obsession, drama class, and Oreo appreciation. It’s about being true to yourself and it’s the most heartwarming and special story!

 

ILLUMINAE BY JAY KRISTOFF AND AMIE KAUFMAN

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This is a sci-fi action story told solely in emails, messages, reports, and photos! It’s absolutely brilliantly formatted and the visuals totally take the book to the next level of special. The story is basically about a rogue company destroying a planet and the survivors end up on a damaged ship floating through space. The enemy is closing in and they’re trying to get the ship’s Artificial Intelligence up and active to fight for them. Except there’s also a virus sweeping through the refugees. And the AI is possibly planning to wipe out all threats — which could very well be the people it’s supposed to protect.

You will most likely be clinging to your seat through reading this with heart pounding. The action doesn’t stop and the plot twists are phenomenal.

 

WE ARE STILL TORNADOES BY MICHAEL KUN AND SUSAN MULLEN

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This is a story of two teens after high school: Cath has headed off to college and Scott is stuck working in his family story after he bombed his highschool finales. They’ve been best friends all their lives, so they write avidly to each other as they explore the world of just-becoming-adults. The letters are packed with so much complexity and meaning and even though the entire book is just told in epistolary format, you get to know the characters so well. And you can’t help rooting for them to stop living in denial of their feelings for each other and to follow their dreams and live the kind of life they hunger for.

Amazing YA Mothers You Definitely Want To Read About

Good parent influences in Young Adult books can be as rare as finding a unicorn. However they do exist! And when we find them, life is glorious! I love reading about epic fictional women who inspire and also delight. In honour of Mother’s Day today, I’d like to present a list of some really wonderful mothers in YA books. These are also underrated fictional mothers (because we all know we already love Molly Weasley) so hopefully you find some new glorious books to add to your to-be-read pile!


RADIO SILENCE BY ALICE OSEMAN

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Not only is Radio Silence a complete geek-fest, it features a mother-daughter relationship that is just so gloriously wonderful and special. Frances has been raised by a single mum who’s really busy with work, but is still always there for her daughter. And when Frances runs into trouble with friends, her mum is totally volunteers to step in and help out. Better yet? Frances actually lets her.

It’s really important, I believe, to have books where parents are the antagonists and are shown supporting their teens and helping them through super difficult times. #precious

 

THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS

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This has been one of the most famous YA books of 2017, which is excellent, because it thoroughly deserves the hype and love! It’s about the #BlackLivesMatter movement and features Starr, who has watched the murder of two of her friends. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming….aaaaand Starr has an amazing set of parents!

Not only are her parents strong and wise, they’re super involved in their kids’ lives. Starr’s mum spends time with her and encourages Starr to be the best she can be in all things. Also Starr’s parents are super in love and that’s just so adorable to read about. Starr says her parents are her OTP and if that isn’t the best thing then what is.

 

THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED BY BECKY ALBERTALLI

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This is a super cute tale about romance, love, and family, from the point of view of Molly, who is a rather anxious teen who is obsessed with Pinterest crafts and delicious things like mini chocolate eggs. Basically she is the best kind of person. I really love and adored her two mums!

Not only are they raising a splendidly kind and loving person (hello, Molly!) but they’re super sweet and loving to each other. And they listen to their kids. And they’re hardworking women multitasking jobs, teenagers, and a baby. Like, woah, just hats off right here.

 

THE SERPENT KING BY JEFF ZENTNER

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This is actually from the point-of-view of three teens: Dylan, Trevor and Lydia. Unfortunately only Lydia’s parents are awesome (Dylan and Trevor break my heart with how callous their parents can be, unfortunately) but the contrast of Lydia’s folks is beautifully written. So much adoration here. SO MUCH. Her mum and dad not only support her, they joke around with her and make their house a welcome and loving place. You can see the affect it has on Lydia too, with her being confident about her life and career and knowing she can come to them for emotional support. The best kind of parents.

 

5 YA Books With Jaw-Dropping Plot Twists

Books with amazing plot twists are arguably the best kind. Who doesn’t want to have their mind totally spun in dizzying circles after a thrilling plot reveal?! It makes the book stand out! It makes you sit in awe of the author! It also makes you distrust everyone evermore, but pfft, that’s just a minorly inconvenient side-effect.

Today I’m listing 5 Young Adult books that have simply superb plot twists and reveals! I won’t be giving spoilers, but obviously you need to get your clammy paws on these books ASAP and have your mind blown. Thank me later.


DANGEROUS GIRLS

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BUY HERE

Not only is this book perfectly thrilling, the ending will absolutely bend your mind. It’s about a group of teenagers who go for the perfect holiday on the island of Aruba…but not all of them come back. There’s a murder. There’s pretty damning evidence that Anna, a quiet a studious girl, killed her best friend, Elise.

I really loved how the story was mostly told by Anna’s perspective, as she went through the harrowing ordeal of trials and court cases and listening to TV reporters and the world in general tear her apart and condemn her — but it also had news clips to add extra perspective. There’s a huge cast of characters (SUSPECTS!!) and this was the first YA thriller that ended with my brain screaming. As a good thriller should.

 

THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY

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This story centres around Minnow Bly, who’s grown up part of a cult with limited contact with the outside world. But when the cult leader is murdered and their homes burned down, Minnow is the one they have in custody. She knows things. She is not talking about them. She also has no hands due to some macabre punishment from the cult…

Oh this book was really harrowing. It’s impossible not to have your heart break for Minnow and the suffering she’s been through. It also is a slight twist on the fairy tale, The Girl With No Hands, and I loved that spin!

 

WHITE CAT

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BUY HERE

How about a thriller with paranormal aspects?! This one is set in a world where you can curse someone with a touch, and everyone wears gloves to prevent being manipulated. Cassel’s family are basically crime laws, and yes he wants out and is getting himself through an elite private school to get away…but he’s haunted by his family’s dark work and also the question of what really did happen to his best childhood friend, Lila? Who really killed her?

I loved how it mixed a highschool contemporary setting with the Mafia aspects and also magic. Every book should have magic! Dangerous magic all round!

 

ALLEGEDLY

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This is one of my all time favourite books because I’m still not over the jaw-dropping ending! It’s the story of Mary who, at 7 years old, was accused of murdering a baby. Now she’s 16 and out of prison and trying to make a life for herself after discovering she is now pregnant. She wants to keep her baby, go to uni, get her charges cleared because she swears she didn’t do it. But then who did?

This book was sad and brutal to read but absolutely captivating! It’s impossible to put down and your heart will just break for Mary as she’s abused and mistreated at every turn. I’m still reeling over the ending reveal!

 

THE LEAVING

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6 children were kidnapped one day and then, years later, only 5 are returned. And to make the mystery even more complex, none of the returning teenagers remember a single thing about their time away. The story flips from several of the kids perspectives and also to the sister of the one kid who never came back. They all want to know what happened to these kidnapped kids and the town is getting rapidly suspicious that someone isn’t telling the truth.

I particularly loved the raw and emotional writing in this one and the book’s tendency to use unique formatting to tell the story. Sometimes the font will explode into huge letters or the sentences will fall to pieces and run off the page. I think it’s such a great visual experience of the kids’ PTSD as they try to cope with no memories and being reunited with suspicious families.

 

YA Books About Artists

There are countless types of art, but one of my favourites is definitely drawing and painting. And since I’m entirely hopeless at both of those, I like to live vicariously through fictional characters who are actually awesome at wielding a paintbrush. Then I can pretend not to feel so bad about my stick-figures.

Today I have a list of Young Adult books that involve art! So either you can relate or realise how extremely untalented you are. You’re so welcome for this list!


I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN BY JANDY NELSON

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PURCHASE HERE

This is one of my all time favourite books because the book feels like a piece of art itself! The visuals are fairly dripping off the page in the form of two siblings who excel in different types of art.

Jude is a sculptor and Noah is all about charcoals and paints. It’s actually the kind of story that will make your heart beat somewhat tragically because of the pain they go through trying to figure out their futures and the fear of not being good enough to get into an art school. It’s just so beautifully written you’ll want to eat your copy. Wise suggestion: buy both editions. Eating problem solved.

 

THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF CINNAMON GIRL BY MELISSA KEIL

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PURCHASE HERE

This is set in a small Australian town and features Alba who isn’t sure whether to stay with her family’s bakery or leave to pursue art school in the big city. She draws! And, as if life couldn’t get any better: she draws superhero comics. Exciting nerd alert!

The story is filled with delicious cakes (which makes me happy but also very unfortunately hungry) and two lovers in denial of their feelings and a sleeping country town being jolted awake by the announcement that the end of the world is nigh and this town is the only safe place. Apparently. There are more than a few skeptics. It’s such a fantastic #LoveOzYA coming of age story that I couldn’t put it down!

 

SPLINTERED BY A.G. HOWARD

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PURCHASE HERE

If you need arty books with a dash of fantastical magic — this one is for you. It’s a Wonderland retelling that centres around the original Alice’s descendant: Alyssa. She gets caught up with a dark and twisted version of Wonderland that involves a dashing and manipulative moth named Morpheus and a childhood best friend trying to get her home.

Alyssa’s preferred art style is paintings and 3D collages and she veers towards the dark and macabre. So imagine skewered butterflies and fake blood and you’ve got a good idea of what her style is. Lovely. It fits the darkly magical tone of the book completely!

 

NIGHT OWLS BY JENN BENNETT

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This is a contemporary story about two different types of artists: Beatrix is an anatomy artist and draws corpses for medical reasons. She hopes to get into an excellent medical art school, but her parent is exactly supportive of this extremely dark career path she plans on. Jack, on the other hand, is a graffiti artist…not that he’s admitting it. The two meet on a bus and their adventure starts from there!

It’s such a cute and fun story, so well written, with wit and humour and a few gut punching moments. It also goes by the title The Anatomical Shape Of A Heart which is quite fantastic. The story is full of secrets, skeletons in the closet, and two people who are so different trying to align worlds.

YA Books About Missing People

Thrillers come in all manner of delightful shapes and sizes — including a penchant for featuring stories about missing or kidnapped or vanished people. This is always equally frightening and enthralling because this is could happen to anyone, which makes the thriller all the more terrifying. Plus a well written missing-persons-thriller will definitely keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat as you wonder which way the mystery will spin.

Today I’m going to be listing some Young Adult thrillers that feature missing people and will, quite hopefully, freak you out like a good book should. Enjoy!


THE STRANGER GAME

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This is the story of Nico who’s older sister Sarah was missing for four years…but now she’s back. Or is she? There are things that don’t match up with the new-Sarah and she has amnesia and PTSD so everyone is walking on eggshells around her. Nico also knows more than she’s telling which makes the book endlessly twisted with unreliable narrators and questions popping out of your ears.

I basically couldn’t put this one down UNTIL I KNEW and while it does require a bit of suspension of disbelief, it’ll definitely keep you wondering about that fateful day Sarah disappeared. It also, blissfully, features a non-romantic story line (which is unusual for YA books) and focuses on the thriller aspects and the sisters’ relationship dynamics…however messed up they are.

 

THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING

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This book is just out into the world! It’s a paranormal story set during a fearsome blizzard that has Zoe running for her life — only to be saved by a soul-catching-bounty-hunter-hot-supernatural-boy who is from hell and doesn’t deserve it. The story ties in with her father who went missing when he was caving several years ago. Zoe’s always had questions and now she might get answers. If she and the mysterious boy X can figure out how to free him of his terrifying bonds.

The book mixes quite a dark storyline with a lot of lighter humour. Zoe is a rather hyberbolic mess who will protect her little brother fiercely buuuut also instagram the paranormal soul-snatcher in her spare time. As you do.

 

THE LEAVING

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This is an absolutely intriguing tale of six children who went missing one day…but now they’re back and have no memories of their missing years. They’re all teens now and trying to fit back into their families. People don’t quite trust where they’ve been and there are theories from aliens to one of the kids is lying. Also: one boy never came back. So QUESTIONS.

It has a bit of a sci-fi twist to it and also features an artistic angle with using creative text formatting to convey more emotions and feeling of the story. I was totally in love with that aspect of it!

 

THE LAST GOOD DAY OF THE YEAR

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This is set back in the ’60s, when Sam watched a stranger kidnap her baby sister from her bed. Only a kid herself, Sam didn’t know what to do — and now her lack of action haunts her. No one’s ever found the toddler’s remains and they can’t help but hope she might be out there somewhere. But as the family return to their old home — where the toddler was taken — it can’t help but stir the mystery back up and reopen old wounds and old cases.

This is a very sad story, written in a reflective memoir like tone. It’s narrated by Sam but it’s not really about Sam — instead it focuses on the convoluted family and neighbour dynamics that maybe are a little more sinister than they seem.

 

 

List of YA Alice in Wonderland Retellings

If there’s one thing I absolutely adore it’s: fairy tale retellings. And what could be better than an entire list of Alice in Wonderland retellings?! Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland is such a classic and it’s inspired so many writers to work madly at their own versions, from prequels to sequels to reinventions of the original tale completely. I love it! I can’t get enough! And just in case you can’t get enough either, I have compiled a list for you.

May we all think of six impossible things before breakfast and fight our daily Jabberwockies.

(Also see my list of Peter Pan retellings!)

 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND RETELLINGS


9781925479478HEARTLESS

[buy]

Written by the NYT bestselling author of the Lunar Chronicles — this is a prequel story from the point of view of the Queen of Hearts! You know that lovely lady who says “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS” frequently throughout the Alice tales? Yup. Here she is. But before she was a head chopping queen, she was called Cath and loved to bake. This is one of the most delicious books in existence basically since it’s loaded with delicious foodie descriptions. Expect desserts, mad tea parties, and a Victorian setting with balls and talking cats and a swoon-worthy Joker that might just steal a girl’s heart.


9781419706271SPLINTERED

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This is an “after Alice” sort of story and centres around one of Alice’s descendants, a girl named Alyssa who is visited each night by a wickedly charming moth named Morpheus who means to lure her into Wonderland to fight evil and return Wonderland to its former glory. Except her magical moth boy guide isn’t being honest and Wonderland is out to, well, kill all the things. This is a retelling worthy of Tim Burton’s dark and twisted Alice movies. It’s beyond brilliant and the descriptions are so lush and entrancing!


9780008175399QUEEN OF HEARTS

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Another tale that starts with the origin story of the Queen of Hearts before she was into lopping off heads. (This is a popular point of view it seems.) It follows the story of Dinah, an unloved and neglected princess who must suffer with her royal father’s maliciousness and try to stay ahead of enemies that want to kill her, all the while vying for the throne. Life ain’t easy when your royalty apparently.


25926238MAD ABOUT THE HATTER

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This one takes a sequel sort of approach and follows the brother of the original Alice as he too loses his way into Wonderland. Henry isn’t exactly fond of nonsense and magical worlds, but he accidentally gets caught up in Wonderland and ends up being taken to the Red Queen by none other than the Mad Hatter. The two hate each other as they journey through Wonderland until they gradually find hate turning to love. It features a lovely whimsical Wonderland and grand character development and a romance to fall for.


9780142409411THE LOOKING GLASS WARS

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What if Alice wasn’t really a girl falling through a rabbit hole into Wonderland? What if she was a princess and on the run from her evil aunt (the Red Queen) before she’s murdered for her crown?! This is a very imaginative approach to the original tale and completely changes everything. It features wars and conspiracies and Alice trying to convince a writer of her tale and reclaim her kingdom.

5 Reasons You Should Listen To Audiobooks

I am a huge fan of audiobooks. What could be better than absorbing an epic story and not having to do the eyeball work of reading it yourself? So much brilliance. So much win. Today I’ve compiled a list of reasons why you should definitely considering filling your life with audiobooks. Or filling your ears with audiobooks, I should say.

 

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO AUDIOBOOKS.

  1. They’ve very helpful for multitasking! Are you doing a mindless task like cleaning or driving or exercising? Listen to an audiobook! It not only makes the task 100% more epic (like who doesn’t want to listen to an action adventure while you’re jogging around the block?!), it also helps keep on top of that endless TBR pile you know is stalking you in your sleep. Plus fare thee well boredom. You now have audios to keep your brain busy.
  2. They’re helpful if you read fast and miss things. I am totally guilty of being a speed-reader and, well, sometimes I read too fast and miss things. Audiobooks help me slow down and enjoy all the words and the story in full! I’ll appreciate the description and details more if I listen to an audiobook.
  3. You can learn complicated pronunciations. This is particularly helpful if you love epic fantasy which is notorious for slapping a keyboard and coming up with a character name. I mean, why call someone Joe when they could be Jo’ylufgy Son Of Yu’lynnnui. (I know that’s totally how fantasy authors name their characters, of course.)
  4. It’s a little bit like watching a movie! Because a lot of narrators, particularly good ones, use different voices for characters. They have different accents and inflections and don’t underestimate how easily that makes a book come alive in a whole new way. I also love dramatised audiobooks (although they’re not that common) where they’ll be sound affects and music playing in the background during some scenes.
  5. If you’re too tired to read, NEVER FEAR! You can listen to an audiobook! You can rest those weary little eyeballs and still get some reading done, particularly at night. Just don’t lie down to listen to your book and fall asleep. Not that I’d ever do that of course. Ha ha how could you think that?

 

Excellent AudioBook Recommendations:

I must, of course, also give you some recommendations on what audiobooks to start with! There are so many and not all audiobooks are made equal. Unfortunately an irritating narrator can totally ruin a book for you. So take note of your preferences as you listen and don’t forget to listen to samples before you buy so you know if the narrator is going to suit you.

9781491515013 9781101916629 9781491512463

  • The Name Of The Wind [buy here] — I particularly adored this one by Brilliance Audio because the narrator used several difference accents throughout the book and it made it easy to tell characters apart.
  • Illuminae [buy here] — this is one of my favourite audiobooks ever because it’s dramatised! There are sound affects and music playing and it’s basically a movie in your head.
  • Steelheart [buy here] — Again, the narrator made this absolutely perfect by capturing the protagonist’s personality in voice inflections. I listened to the whole trilogy via audio and it was the best experience!

Best YA Classic Retellings

Retellings might just be my favourite genre of them all. And we all know how popular it is to write retellings on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood. Been there. Read that a million times. So what about retellings based of classic novels?!? It’s so exciting! And it’s a rising trend which is pleasant to behold (especially if you are me and adore classical retellings). It’s like reliving an old favourite in a new way!

So let’s get to my list of some of the best YA retellings of Classic novels!


9781627792356FIRST & THEN

[buy]

This is a retelling on Pride and Prejudice…except it involves footballs and college applications. But the romance between socially awkward teens is perfection. Tennyson basically doesn’t know what she wants with her life, but her Plans didn’t involve her parents semi-adopting her cousin Foster (who is a surprise football protegee) and definitely didn’t involve getting involved with the snobby school jock. Cute hate-to-love romance with beautiful writing and winning characters.


9781743316429Every Breath

[buy]

Hello Sherlock Holmes retelling! And to make matters even more awesome, this is set in Australia with a gender-swapped Watson! Rachel Watts and the boy next door, Mycroft Holmes, end up embroiled in a local murder case. The twists are amazing, and the Australian culture is so refreshing and perfect. Plus this kicks off a brilliant trilogy. So if you get addicted, good job. There is more.


9780062280688Dorothy Must Die

[buy]

How about a retelling of The Wizard of Oz? And instead of the perky colourful world in the originals…welcome to this new Oz, where everything is twisted and creepy and Dorothy might just be the most evil of them all. We get to travel with Amy on an accidental adventure through a tornado and into Oz where she must learn to be a witch and defeat Dorothy and, you know, not die in the process.


9781442465985Winterspell

[buy]

This is a retelling of the Nutcracker ballet! And I do wish there were more ballet retellings out there, because it’s such a stunning idea set in a vividly snow landscape of the world of Cane. Here we meet Clara who ends up on a rescue mission to find her father before it’s too late, with the help of a cursed boy. The writing is very dark and a bit on the steamier side for romance.


9781743315132Man Made Boy

[buy]

Or how about Frankenstein retelling? Better yet, let’s talk about Frankenstein’s monster’s son…because that’s a story you definitely want to hear. This is a quirky book, full of wry humour and ridiculously impossible scenarios that will make you laugh. It has an amazing cast of characters that even include some from other classics like Jekyll and Hyde! It’s about roadtrips and friendship and what it means to be considered a “monster”.


9781471116612Lady Midnight

[buy]

This might seem a strange one to linclude…but it’s actually a retelling of the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe! It’s part of the Shadowhunter world, but also can stand on it’s own as a new adventure involving Emma Carstairs’ quest to find the culprits behind her parents murder. It’s a magical-focused murder mystery that is seriously creepy in some places and twirls in references to the poem so amazingly. This book is totally addictive. You want to read it, trust me.

The Best YA Fictional Families

There comes a time in every bookworm’s life where they secretly would like to be adopted by an amazing fictional family. No shame! Sometimes we just want to dissolve into a book with a quirky or magical or epic family whose lives are 78% more exciting than our own.

Today I’m listing some of my top favourite fictional families that appear in Young Adult books across a variety of genres. And hopefully I’ll find a wish-granting factory to let me turn into a book for day and visit them. Because that would be awesome, yes please and thank you.


9780575096721WHITE CAT

[purchase]

This is one of my all-time favourite fictional families because they’re like the magical Mafia! This is set in a world were you can curse someone with a simple touch. And obviously not everyone is using this talent for good. Cassel’s family is a bunch of con-artists who definitely make use of their skills — with crime. It’s exciting, sassy, and devious and there are plot twists that will fairly knock you over. Plus who doesn’t want to read about a family of conartists and sociopaths?!


9780525428688ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES

[purchase]

Aspen’s family are also most definitely magical. They have to constantly preform rituals to keep the cliff above the town from breaking apart and falling and crushing everyone flat. How do they do this? They have this magical ability to “pull” things out of people. Like your over-achieving tendencies. Or your hope. Or your pain. Or your ability to see. Things are a little morally grey around here. This is a perfectly amazing magical realism story and you’ll be wondering just how far Aspen’s family will go.


9781408845646HARRY POTTER

[purchase]

Of course I can’t help but mention the Weasley family! They basically act as Harry’s adopted family during the holidays and I adore how supportive and kind and loving the parents are. (An actual rare thing in books it seems…) Also the big family dynamics are hilarious and perfect, because when there’s a dozen kids running around, things are going to get hectic. Whenever Harry spent Christmas or his holidays with Ron’s family, I always got all the warm squishy feelings. The Weasleys are perfection.


9780142426043MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

[purchase]

Just in case you didn’t want a magical family  (pfft, what’s wrong with you though?!) here is one of my favourite big-families in a contemporary novel! The Garretts have half a dozen kids in all ages and their life is happy, warm chaos. The book is about Sam who, in contrast, lives in a rather cold and very particular house with her politician mother who really has nothing to do with her daughter. The story is heartwarming with the cutest romance and some seriously tragic moments to make you sniffle into your popcorn as you read.


9781408870082WHEN WE COLLIDED

[purchase]

This is Emery Lord’s latest book and it’s half narrated by Viv, who has bipolar, and half by Jonah, who is doing his best to keep his family together after their father died. Jonah has several little siblings he looks after and he’s also an insanely talented cook. So not only will you melt at the severe adorableness of a big brother babysitting, you’ll also get so hungry you’ll feel like devouring the book at dawn. Perhaps eat before you read. That should help.

YA Books About Superheroes

If there’s one topic that never gets old, it’s certainly superheroes. Everyone loves a good superpower book, with good vs evil and a good dash of explosions. Marvel and DC movies are always smash (har har, pun intended) hits in the cinemas and comics have been popular for decades.

But what about novels about superheroes? If you’re craving more heroes (or villains!) in your life: I have some Young Adult books that you most certainly need to try. It’ll tie you over between waiting for the next Marvel movie to be spat out. And these books will also give you tips in case, you know, you get bitten by a spider and greatness descends upon you. Must be prepared!


9781423157496V IS FOR VILLAIN

[buy]

As you can see this doesn’t just feature superheroes — it focuses on the VILLAINS. WHich means the book is automatically 10005% cooler than anything else. So bring on a plot of criminals and a teenage highschool misfit who turns to the dark side. Where there are cookies, or so I’ve heard.


9780062085504SHATTER ME

[buy]

This is the beginning of an amazing trilogy about a girl who touches people and…they die. Which is definitely not the kind of power you save the world with, but whatever. Look at this girl go! Juliette has to piece herself back together after years of being locked in a dark prison and then figure out how to use her powers for good…or evil.


9780062120168TRANSPARENT

[buy]

This one is about a girl called Fiona who is invisible. Not just sometimes. All the time. She doesn’t even know what she looks like! She’s basically enslaved by her crime-boss dad until she and her mother run away to a little desert time and Fiona tries to fit into a “normal” life. Except her crime origins don’t exactly go away…


9781922179623SPARK

[buy]

This is by a New Zealand author, so yay for (semi)local writers! Meet Evie: who is pretty normal until suddenly her body explodes into super-powered, amazing solider material. Turns out she’s born to protect her best friend from being murdered. Say bye-bye to the good ol’ life and hello to conspiracies, dark government agencies, and a superpowered boy she’s so totally not supposed to be in love with.


9780385743563STEELHEART

[buy]

This is, without doubt, one of the best superhero books I’ve ever read! It’s set in a dystopic universe where those with powers are called “Epics” and they like to…kill everyone. And everything. And it’s very unfortunate. David’s father was murdered so his #1 goal in life is to take down the immortal, invisible Steelheart. It features terrible puns and even worse metaphors (which somehow makes them glorious?!) and a team of highly trained superhero assassins.


9781406367478THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE

[buy]

This one is a little different to the others because it actually features the people around the superheroes. So while those superheroes are smashing evil and destroying cities on accident…what are the average people doing? So meet Mikey: an anxious teenager just trying to survive while the world blows up around him. It’s such a beautifully written and winning coming-of-age story and since it’s by the master, Patrick Ness, you do not want to miss this gloriousness.

YA Books About Musicians

Music is one of humanity’s favourite things, so what could be better than books about music?! I am here today to list some amazing YA books that involve characters who play musical instruments. There are plenty of guitar and band themed books out there, but I’ll be zeroing in more on classical instruments. Because I’m a classical musician myself so excuse me while I’m entirely biased that the cello is better than the guitar. (Not even sorry. That opinion is just truth.)

And while I did find a fair few music-orientated books, I’d love to see more on the shelves. Music is such an important part of culture and it’s so exciting to find books dedicated to it.

 

YA Books About Musicians


9781909531239IF I STAY – CELLO

[purchase]

This is definitely one of the most famous musician-orientated YA books out there! It’s about Mia, an aspiring Julliard cellist, who gets into a terrible accident and ends up in an out-of-body experience wondering if life is worth continuing after this tragedy. It flips to flashbacks to show us how she grows up with the cello and falls in love with a rock band guitarist. Basically the story is amazing. Read it.


9781481461153TELL ME SOMETHING REAL – PIANIST

[purchase]

This is about a talented pianist whose mother gets diagnosed with leukemia. While Vanessa really wants to move cities and go to a prestigious conservatorium, she feels she can’t do that to her family and risk missing time with her mother or leaving her two sisters behind. The book is totally family orientated and set in the 90s. It has a lazy summery vibe with a good dose of sadness and grief and it’s just purely amazing.


9781407120317LAMENT – HARPIST

[purchase]

This is a paranormal faerie story that centres around Dee, who is a harpist. And also she can see faeries, and we’re not talking nice sparkly faeries…we’re talking about the ones that want to eat your soul. It involves (A) a mysterious boy who is possibly in love with her, possibly wants to kill her, (B) a hilarious best friend who is a bag piper, and (C) a dark magical adventure.


9780062380852THIS SAVAGE SONG – VIOLINIST

[purchase]

This one is all about dark cities overrun with monsters — and one particular monster who plays the violin. Okay, so August’s violin playing also sucks out people’s souls so he can eat them. But you do what you must for music, right?! This story is dark and addictive and talks a lot about what makes a monster. It’s basically one of the best books I’ve ever read! And that’s despite me (as a past violinist) being totally biased. Hey it’s a cool instrument, okay?!


9780732299507YOU’RE THE KIND OF GIRL I WRITE SONGS ABOUT – GUITARIST

[purchase]

I have to have at least one guitarist here…and plus this is an Aussie novel! So hurrah for homegrown literature! It’s partially narrated by Tim, who’s an indie guitarist, and trying to make his break into the music world. There is plenty of old-style music appreciation here, as well as good ol’ coming of age themes as Mandy and Tim try to figure out what to do with their lives after highschool.

YA Books With Ships And Sea Settings

There comes a time in most everyone’s lives when they have a small desire to be a pirate. Usually it happens when you’re 5 years old. But never mind that. If you never grew out of that desire and ever dreamed of taking to the high seas to sail the ocean blue, then I have a list of Young Adult books that will help you live vicariously through fictional characters. They’re not all strictly “pirate” stories, but they involve ships and crews and a bit of ocean. You will definitely want to get on board with these ship and sea stories!


9781481432696BLACKHEARTS

[purchase]

Ever heard the name “Blackbeard”? Well this is his origin story! While the book reads more like a historical romance and is actually devoid of pirates in the first volume (the sequel promises more!) it is all about the boy who’ll become the infamous Blackbeard and the girl he names his ship after (Queen Anne’s Revenge)! It’s marvelously written and there is sass and arguing with Teach and Anne having, well, sort of a pepper and vinegar relationship at first. They both dream of running away to sea, but they’re both rather stuck. Except ships, a few fist fights, complicated relationships, manors and lords and ladies, and grand ships of the ocean!


9781471405105THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE

[purchase]

What if you could sail on any ocean in any year? Welcome to this incredible book! Which is all about a time-travelling ship where you need specific maps to go to specific times in history. Nix is a fabulous narrator and, along with her father, they’re travelling through time to try and save her mother from dying. This requires a specific map however, and they can’t find it. The best part of this book is definitely how we flit from era to era! But let’s not forget that there are also sassy thieves, a pocket-sized dragons, so many gorgeous map illustrations, and plenty of sailing.


9781460752043PASSENGER

[purchase]

Another time travelling story! And while this one doesn’t centre on using a ship to time travel, it definitely plays a part in the first half of the book. Etta is a violinist but during a fated recital, she accidentally gets thrown back in time to a dubious ship in the 1700s. A dashing young man, Nicholas, has been charged with bringing Etta to his very powerful time-travelling-controlling family. There is a lost magical item to be found. Etta wants to go home. And don’t forget a whirlwind of eras to travel through!


9780061134111CHALLENGER DEEP

[purchase]

This is definitely a very different book compared to the first three, because it’s about a boy with schizophrenia, but he believes that he’s occasionally trapped on a ship. It’s a strange ship with a bizarre crew and it takes a little getting used to as you figure out how Connor’s mind works. But then it’s incredible. The writing sucks you in and the story is poignant and heart-wrenching and full of symbolism for life with mental illness and what it means to fall deep and then look for recovery.

List of YA Peter Pan Retellings

Do you find yourself mildly terrified of being an adult? I think you and I need to have a talk about Peter Pan. YES! The immortal, ageless classic fairy-child created by J.M. Barrie in the 1900s. And considering Peter Pan is still popular even to this day, I think he’s successfully achieved that “ageless” genius.

But if you’ve already read the original Peter Pan and don’t want to re-read it 78 times…NEVER FEAR. I have a list of retellings that might interest you! Now you can read Peter Pan retold in different, delectable styles and satisfy your inner child.

PETER PAN RETELLINGS


9780062003263TIGER LILY

[purchase]

Tiger Lily is a seriously whimsical retelling of Peter Pan, that focuses on…TIGER LILY HERSELF! (Surprise!) It’s more about her people and their culture, including her mentor, Tik Tok, and the shame and hardship the villagers put him and Tiger Lily through because they’re different and quite odd. Plus it’s narrated by Tinkerbell. Which is quite enlightening because Tink can’t speak.


9781481432047UNHOOKED

[purchase]

This one features two girls who are kidnapped by rougish pirates and taken to a deathly island of evil creatures and freaktastic beasts. It blurs the line of “good vs evil” in this new, vicious Neverland. If you’re looking for a dark side to Neverland, I think this is it.


9781940716954WENDY DARLING

[purchase]

Here we have a more classic approach to the tale, where Peter Pan comes for Wendy Darling in nursery one evening. But Neverland has a bloody, dark side here too, and all the frolicking with the Lost Boys isn’t going to cover that up. Did Wendy fall into a wonderland or a nightmare? Let’s ask the tough questions here.


9781634221351NORA & KETTLE

[purchase]

Despite sounding like a packet of potato chips, this is actually a retelling! It’s set in the 1950s and takes a more historical fiction approach to the old tale. Kettle is an orphaned Japanese-American trying to live on the streets in the aftermath of WWII when the world is basically against him.


9781633920392NEVER NEVER

[purchase]

Forget Peter Pan, let’s talk about Captain James Hook! This one is from his perspective and rather views Peter as an impish little demon. (Fair enough, I suppose. They did have quite the rivalry there.) At first James wants to be in Neverland, but then he decides growing up doesn’t sound so bad…except Peter won’t take him back home. #awkward Thus ensues the beginning of James Hook being in a world that pretty much hates his guts. Not fun.


9780451475763NEVER EVER

[purchase]

A slightly more contemporary retelling approach to the classic Peter Pan story! This features Wylie who gets entranced by the mysterious Phinn and ends up following him to an island of fun times and parties and no responsibility. Except things aren’t what they seem. (I mean, are they ever when it comes to the slightly devious, slightly evil Peter Pan?? Hmm?)


9780545836944EVERLAND

[purchase]

It’s about time things got steampunky! This one is set in London after the WWII blitzes and there’s an evil German scientist snatching children from the streets and experimenting on them. Gwen and a impish hellion named Pete set out to rescue the kids. The story promises sharp-shooting and blood promises and gangs.

YA Roadtrip Books

There’s nothing like reading Young Adult books about roadtrips to remind you of good ol’ adventurous times. Or remind you why you don’t take roadtrips? Because everything honestly seems to go wrong and sometimes monsters try to eat your face. So that’s also a downside.

In case you want the roadtrip experience, sans squashing yourself in a car for days, I have a list of glorious YA roadtrip books you should try immediately. And bonus points if you read them while on a roadtrip.


9780008141233DEMON ROAD BY DEREK LANDY ~ PURCHASE HERE

This is one of my most favourite roadtrip stories because it’s also a paranormal adventure. Amber is on the run from her demon-parents who also want to eat her. (Stop complaining about your parents.) She teams up with an old dude who has a man-eating car and they drive across the good old US of A.

There are plenty of creeptastic moments. And creeptastic monsters. Vampires. Demons. Ghouls. Serial killers. Creepy trees. It’s glorious. Also deadly.


9780732289003PAPER TOWNS BY JOHN GREEN

If you’re looking for a roadtrip that isn’t quite so demonic as the one above….then Paper Towns might suit you better! It’s a contemporary about Q who is quietly in love with a girl who then disappears. So, logically, he has to find her — which ends up in an interstate roadtrip in a minivan with a bunch of rowdy teenagers. I think they nearly hit a cow at one point.

This one definitely features hilarious conversations and poignant messages about not putting people on pedestals because that’s unhealthy for everyone involved.


9780571308293DEAD ENDS BY ERIN LANGE ~ PURCHASE HERE

Another excellent contemporary roadtrip! Although this one is about 50% school life and 50% spontaneous roadtrip at the end between Dane, who is a bully, and Billy, who has Downs Syndrome. It’s a really heartwarming story, especially since Dane (who’s known for being awful) is really protective of Billy. They take to the road and the car to find Billy’s estranged father.

It’s also a really fast read and definitely entertaining.


9781442429987BLOOD RED ROAD BY MOIRA YOUNG ~ PURCHASE HERE

I’m going to call this a “roadtrip book” even though there are no cars…because there’s a road. A dusty one. And as the title suggests, fraught with peril and blood, basically. This is a dystopian story about Saba who’s off to find her kidnapped brother. Unfortunately her universe is basically dust and evil people who want to stab you, so this does complicate the mission.

It features horse riding, cage fights, unlikely friendships forged, and a good dose of sass. It’s also written phonetically and in slang, which takes some getting used to, but also just makes the whole experience fantastic.


9780857984739ARE YOU SEEING ME BY DARREN GROTH ~ PURCHASE HERE

This is one of my favourite Australian books! Despite the fact that it’s actually set in…Canada. But whatever. 18-year-old twins, Justine and Perry, are on the Last Holiday of Ever before Justine goes to university and Perry goes to a home that will cater to his needs as a person with Autism. It’s a really sweet holiday and I loved that we also got chapters by Perry’s point-of-view.

While there is car-tripping about, it’s also just a travelling adventure. It features the twins looking for their estranged mother, too, and that hugely stressful part of a teen’s life when they have to decide what their future will hold. Much fun. This is an undoubtedly excellent book!

YA Book List ~ Heists, Spies and Con Artists

There is something dramatically wonderful about reading spy or heist books. Possibly because it’s bad to steal (tut, tut, don’t do it) and but the thrill of the chase lures us into wanting the adventure stories anyway. Dashing criminals. Masterminds. Near misses. Oh do I have the list for you.

Here are some Young Adult books that deal with heists, spies and con artists. Read them immediately. But don’t steal them, okay? Okay.

 

 

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  • GALLAGHER GIRLS: This is a series about a boarding school for spies — awesome clever genius girl spies, to be exact. And it’s hilarious and awesome. It is aimed at lower YA audiences, so go in expecting a lighter reader but with plenty of awesome spy gadgets and action scenes.
  • HEIST SOCIETY: This is by the same author as Gallagher Girls but while they bring crime to justice, Heist Society is about committing the crime. It’s FANTASTIC. (Ahem.) The plot is clever and twisty and it features a huge cast of quirky, clever characters. It’s like the YA version of Ocean’s Eleven.
  • SPY SOCIETY: This is, oddly, not any relation to Heist Society — but still good! Again, it’s for lower YA, so expect a funny, light-hearted spy adventure. It’s about highschool and first love…and stealing things on the side, and there is so much coffee. Like, this book literally drowns in coffee.

 

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  • WHITE CAT: This is a fantasy about a family of con artists who have epic powers. Mainly it features Cassel, who is probably a murderer, and almost definitely the most endearing anti-hero you’ll ever meet. The plot is so clever and trust me when I recommend you buy the entire trilogy and just binge read it. You don’t want these cliffhangers, TRUST ME NOW.
  • SIX OF CROWS: Ready for some dark fantasy? (Of course you are, oh my gosh.) This is set in a fantasy world inspired by Russia where a group of uncanny criminals band together to pull off the heist of a lifetime. It’s gritty and dark and tears might be shed (by you) and magic will be used (by them) and awesome will be felt all around.
  • HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME: Again, another dark one, where there’s a school for psychopaths and sociopaths, who go to learn how to be the ultimate criminal masterminds. The plot is intense and it’ll keep you on your toes. Much things are stolen. Much agonies are shrieked.

 

9780385744133 9780340881538 9781780876825

  • TRUST ME I’M LYING: Don’t trust this book. IT’S LYING. But it has con artists, scams, disguises, and masterminded evillry.
  • THE RECRUIT: Technically this is middle-grade? But it’s also epic. Think of a school for orphan teenage spies called “CHERUBS”. They’re special agents and sent on all sorts of missions. The books get darker and more intense as they go on, too.
  • THE NATURALS: Hello to the teenage special agents (with supernatural powers) who double as spies and detectives. This is about serial killing and it seriously gave me the shivers. I’m not easily scared, either! But when they got close to that serial killer I may or may not have squeaked. A must-read if you want a thrilling chase.

 

Zombie Books For The Deadly YA Reader

There is something decidedly fantastically creeptastic about zombie books. I’m basically the lone zombie enthusiast in my family, but they’re all missing out — and you might be too. Which is why I’ve graciously collected a list of zombie novels you should definitely try. Maybe with the lights on, though.

Caution: Brains and dead things ahead.

 

Y A     Z O M B I E     N O V E L S 

 

9780062201812 9780062217080 9780062083272

  • THE END GAMES: Not only is this one of my all time favourite books, it is an incredible zombie apocalypse tale. It’s about two brothers who are trying to survive (obviously) while dead things want to eat them (obviously). The special twist is the older brother has convinced his 5 year old brother that it’s just a “video game”. It’s mildly heartbreaking and extremely well written.
  • REBOOT: What if being a zombie was a semi-regular occurrence? This one is set in a world were zombies are soldiers and the longer you “were dead” before “rebooting”…the more not-human you are. And besides breaking bones and guns and screaming — there is quite a cute romance between a very emotionally dead zombie girl and a barely zombie adorable boy. This book calls to you, I just know it.
  • SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY: But how about a zombie tale set in the 1800s? Eleanor Fitt is a Proper Lady, and also investigating her brother’s disappearance. She’s cautiously worried about the dead rising and necromancers too — AS IS LOGICAL. It’s a very proper book with tea and scones and the undead.

 

(Apparently zombie covers are either black and red or yellow and black? I’m not complaining! It’s awesome.)

9780062200341 9781606845424 9780316334754

  • EAT BRAINS LOVE: The title is a parody off “Eat, Pray, Love” and the book is just as ridiculous as the title promises. It’s funny and lighthearted and seriously gross. Basically there’s a zombie outbreak in the high school cafeteria. Jake and an unattainable-beautiful-wonderful-girl are stuck on the run together. It’s hilarious and mildly silly!
  • CONTAMINATED: It is always awkward if your mother is a zombie. This one is set in a world were the zombie outbreak has been “stabilised” and zombies are being returned home to their families. Their brains have basically been zapped and they’re little more than vegetables…leaving devastated families trying to patch their lives back together and look after disabled loved ones. It takes a more serious look at the moral side of being a zombie. And it’s VERY family focused, which is an insta-win for me!
  • THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: Okay, this is cheating. This is an adult book, not a YA one, but it’s partially narrated by a 10-year-old zombie, so I’m sneaking it onto this list anyway. This is one of my top zombie reads. It’s all about the apocalypse and the fighting — so cue guns blazing and zombies screaming. It’s also very science-y (I confess to getting lost there) and the author does not spare the characters. It’s basically the most EPIC book of them all and then ending had me howling. Go read it.

 

2015 YA Debuts You Should Catch Up On

It’s nearly 2016 (sheesh, how did that happen?!?) and, if you’re anything like me, there’s no WAY you’ve read all the 2015 releases that you wanted to. And pretty soon there’ll be an onslaught of NEW books that will demand your attention and your soul and other minor things.

But there are several Young Adult debut authors you really cannot miss. Especially when most of them have new books coming out in 2016! Debut books can be tricky beasts, because often you can tell the author isn’t a pro yet. But this list? Ohhhh, my friends, these authors are already so stunningly talented, I can barely WAIT to see what their next novels will hold!

 

2 0 1 5     Y A    D E B U T S

673d5ab0-7ffd-0133-0c58-0e76e5725d9d 9781460750780 9780141356099

  • MADE YOU UP: This is such an important book because it’s about a girl with schizophrenia, but it’s not about her schizophrenia. Her illness doesn’t solely define her, and I think that’s a really important message. Plus it’s gorgeously written.
  • THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY: Okay but WOW, this book is creepy! It’s about cults and murders and juvie — and the protagonist has no hands.
  • SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA: This is probably the most adorable LGBT book of the year. All the characters are entirely relatable and realistic. Don’t get me wrong — I do love a contemporary where the characters wax poetic with soliloquies of love and meaning. But I also love books that are awkward and realistic. Plus there are Oreos in here. So. many. Oreos.

 

9780399176654 9781471124235 9781408862629

  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: Definitely one of my all time favourite fantasies!! And it’s only a debut?! So I can only imagine the talent this author is going to bring to the table over the years! It’s a Persian folklore retelling of A Thousand and One Nights and has a good dash of magic with a mountain of delicious food descriptions.
  • DENTON’S LITTLE DEATHDATE: This book is hilarious. It makes fun of death rather ridiculously…so make sure you’re okay with gallows humour before devouring this!
  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MET ME: This one is told in letters between two boys with unusual disabilities. One is allergic to electricity. One was born with no eyeballs and has a pacemaker. Ergo — they can never meet or they’d kill each other! But the character development is phenomenal and you’ll never guess the ending….

 

9781509805143 9780552571302 9780062367884

  • FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE: Another super realistically cute contemporary. Why is this one special?! It’s narrated by 3 characters in 1st, 3rd, and 2nd person! The characters basically burst off the page and one character has chronic-fatigue, which I hadn’t read in YA until now!
  • THE ACCIDENT SEASON: It’s beautiful. Absolutely mind-stunningly beautiful. It’s kind of an eerie book, set in October, so it’s all pumpkins and autumn and Halloween. And it’s magical and mysterious and — did I mention — the writing is gorgeous?!?!?
  • FALLING INTO PLACE: This is written by a 16 year old author. TALENT ALERT. It’s not the average contemporary either, because it’s narrated by a childhood imaginary friend. Unique, right?! It’s written in tiny chapters and it’s barely 300 pages so you can eat it in two bites, basically. The author has two books coming out in 2016, so her debut is a MUST read before they arrive!

 

YA Books For Blisteringly Hot Summer Reading

Since summer in the fabulous land of Oz can be so incredibly hot, sometimes it’s excellent to just curl up in the air-conditioning and read. And if you’re fond of reading books to match the sweltering weather you’re experiencing…I CAN HELP. I’ve compiled a list of YA summery and burningly hot books.

S U M M E R   R E A D S

9781250068088 9780142426043 9781471122668

  • I KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD: This is about 3 kids on the brink of high school who decide to make Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” book…wanted. With reverse psychology. GENIUS, NO? They hide it! And create a huge demand for copies! It’s really funny and endearing and it’s barely over 100-pages, so perfect for a summery snack.
  • MY LIFE NEXT DOOR: This is about Sam’s summer where she kinda accidentally falls in love with the next door neighbour…who has a HUGE chaotic family that are utterly endearing and hilarious to read about. It also has a surprisingly intense ending for an other wise “light, fluffy” contemporary. Seriously. Pull out the moral dilemmas and nervous finger-nail chewing.
  • SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE: This one features Emily who’s best friend, Sloane, just suddenly…vanished. But Sloane left her a list of summery things to do, so Emily is completing it. It’s like a summer “bucket list” sort of book, with crazy stuff like “Hug someone named Jamie” and “go skinny dipping”. Emily collects a bundle of odd friends and they try to complete the list to find the missing Sloane. LISTS, FOLKS. I do so love lists.

 

9781906427795 9781407124261 9780141354439

  • THE SCORCH TRIALS: Technically this is the sequel to The Maze Runner, which you do need to read first. So go do that. Off you pop. But then come back and read the blisteringly hot Scorch Trials because hooooly desert. It’s hot. This has action and mystery and…zombies. I’m pretty sure this book is perfect.
  • BLOOD RED ROAD: This is one of my favourite reads of 2015! It’s totally underrated in it’s intense awesomeness, trust me. It features Saba who’s brother is kidnapped and she must travel the dusty, dangerous universe to get him back. It’s set in a sort of apocalyptic world and it’s written in slang. Saba is AMAZING. She’s tough and gritty. This book has guns and cage fights and siblings willing to die for each other. Be still my beating heart.
  • STONE RIDER: How about a motorbike ride across the desert!? This, again, is an apocalyptic (possibly dystopic?) universe where they have motorbikes with feelings. It’s pitched as the YA version of Mad Max Fury Road!

 

9780451472397 9780062026484 9780399176654

  • INK AND BONE: While it starts off in England, the story is mainly set in…EGYPT! How awesome is that?! And why? Well, this story is about “what-if-the-Alexandria-Library-had-never-been-destroyed?” which is a grand question and makes for a magical world…where libraries can be evil and control reading. Basically, all bookworms need this.
  • THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS: This is an epic fantasy but set in a Middle Eastern type landscape with deserts and silks and sweltering sun. It’s basically one of my favourite fantasies of ever because it’s so diverse!
  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: And I’ll finish up with my favourite retelling of 2015. Have you ever heard of the Arabian Night stories and Shahrazad who told 1,000 stories to a Sultan so he wouldn’t kill her? WELL. This is the retelling! It features Shazi in a Persian fantasy world with magic and evil and intrigue. Plus there are so much delicious Persian food descriptions in here, I nearly ate the book.

 

6 Young Adult Books That Use Illustrations

Is it possible to grow out of picture books? Because I HAVEN’T YET. The highlight of my week is taking my pre-schooling niece and nephew to the library and getting to reread all my favourite childhood picture books. Young Adult books are totally missing out. Seriously.

But there are some YA books that make use of art and illustrations to help tell the story. And I praise the bookish universe for their existence. There should be more of this! Huzzah!

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  • ILLUMINAE: This book is brand new (released just a few weeks back!) and it. is. amazing. It’s a sci-fi but it’s told purely in transcripts, instant messaging, emails, and diagrams. Yup, that’s right folks. SOLELY. So there are pictures of space ships in here. Space ships I tell you. It’s glorious! Plus the book felt like reading Star Trek but with sassy teens and zombie-viruses.

 

  • INK: I raved and hugged this book in a review a few weeks back, and I pointed out (um, basically I screamed about it) the fact it had illustrations! Not many! But every few pages we got an inky, calligraphy sketch that just added to the story so, so much. Particularly since Ink is focused on Japanese culture and art — it just worked SO WELL.

 

  • A MONSTER CALLS: Oh this book has some of the most beautiful illustrations of ever. The artist is Jim Kay, who also does copious illustrations for Harry Potter (!!). I just love his depiction of the dark tree monster. Also, fair warning, but this book will probably make you cry.

 

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  • THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET: This book is a great big blob of WOW. I’m particularly fond of that reaction to books, I might add. And you might have heard of it from the movie?!? The movie is only called “Hugo” (and stars Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Mortez) but it’s exceptionally beautiful and I recommend you go swallow it immediately. Go! Go! NO WAIT…finish this post first because I have more picture-y goodness to show you. But The Invention of Hugo Cabret is set in Paris and is about clockworks and orphans. Quite a huge hunk of the book is told solely in black-and-white pencil drawings!
  • THE MARVELS: Speaking of HugoThe Marvels is by the same author. But this time it’s not just a smattering of pictures…HALF THE BOOK is done in pictures!! The first 400 pages are drawings! It flows so seamlessly and for a while I forgot I wasn’t even reading because the pictures told the story so strongly and well. Also you might want to take a moment to admire the cover. Pet it a little even. Don’t worry, I won’t judge. It’s gorgeous.

 

  • MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN: This is kind of cheating because the illustrations are photos instead of drawings. But just pause with me for a second — PHOTOS. The photos play a huge part in the story and they’re absolutely…weird. They’re really old vintage photos of “freaks” and human oddities. Like just check out the girl on the front cover who is levitating…okay. YAY. And freaky. Definitely an illustrated book to snabble up!

 

A Glorious List of YA Books Narrated By Boys

I occasionally hear murmurs in the back row that most Young Adult books are narrated by only girls. This is totally untrue, of course. But I DO SEE why you’d think that! All the “famous” books, like The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent and The Hunger Games all have female protagonists who kick butt or fight for scrambled eggs rights (a noble cause). So! I shall bring you a list of books narrated by the dudes, today. You are so welcome.

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CONTEMPORARY

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  • ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL: This is such a snortingly (that totally is a word, don’t doubt me here) good book! It’s narrated by Greg, who is has a very self-deprecating sense of humour and is very down-to-earth.
  • WINGER: It’s about boarding school and this little squid of a kid called Ryan Dean who is very stupid and funny and gets into all sorts of sticky pickles.
  • ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE: Once you get past how exhausting the title is…this is an excellent book. It’s set in Mexico and narrated by Ari and it’s very dialogue heavy (which I love!) and has an LGBT romance.

FANTASY

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  • INK AND BONE: It’s narrated by Jess, who is the BEST dude of ever because he loves books. Like really loves them. It’s a reimagined future where the Alexandria library still existed! And said library is…kind of psychotic.
  • THE FALSE PRINCE: This is more lower YA, but it’s epic fantasy and wonderfully funny with some HUGE plot twists you won’t see coming. Orphan boys pretending to be princes? What could go wrong?
  • FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK: Ahhh, I love this book! This is a spectacular high fantasy adventure with a super detailed fantasy world of corruption and murder and bad guys. Finnikin is the narrator. I’m hoping your super sleuth skills already guessed that, though.

 

MENTAL ILLNESS

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  • CHARM AND STRANGE: This one will probably break you. It’s endlessly emotional. It’s about Drew who has delusions and PTSD and — wait…you want to know why? WELL READ THE BOOK.
  • IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY: is not actually a funny story at all. It’s about Craig who has depression and his journey through a mental health hospital.
  • FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK: Ahhh this book is incredible. Seriously, INCREDIBLE. It’s about depression and possibly Autism (though it’s not stated directly) and it’s about Leonard the day he took a gun to school. It takes place over one day!

 

SPECULATIVE FICTION

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  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME: This is super interesting because it’s narrated by two boys who have disabilities that will let them never meet! Moritz is blind and has a pacemaker, and Olly is allergic to electricity. It goes all X-Men at the end. Super cool.
  • NOGGIN: This dude, Travis, is dying of cancer, so he elects to have his head CUT OFF AND FROZEN, and then they “bring him back to life” 5 years later. Is that not interesting?!? IS THAT NOT COOL?!
  • PLAYING TYLER: It’s about Tyler (duh) who has ADHD and ends up testing out some video games for a dubious company…but the games aren’t always what they seem.

 

DYSTOPIAN

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  • THE GIVER: This is like the forefront of YA dystopian and is so a must read. It’s about Jonas who’s in this “perfect” society that (of course) isn’t what it seems. It’s told so simply but GAH. It’s powerful.
  • UNWIND: It’s set in a society where if you don’t want your kids, you can totally just use them for spare parts. I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING. It’s entirely chilling. Conner is going to be “unwound” because no one wants him, so he’s on the run.
  • STONE RIDER: It’s a futuristic motorbike race! Woot! Lots of action and adventure and dead people everywhere. Adam is signing up to the race, despite facing certain possible death, for the chance to win money and get a better life.

 

Best-Of Book Lists

In Cold BloodI have a love–hate relationship with best-of book lists. I find sometimes people try too hard to seem clever about what they’ve chosen and not hard enough about including honest-to-goodness good reads.

But I am simultaneously unable to abstain from perusing said lists. I feel an innate need to gauge whether or not I think they’re on the money and to measure my own reading habits against theirs.

This year’s lists seem relatively bumper. That impression is arguably skewed by the fact that my recreational reading has been necessarily curtailed due to apparently never ending study. No matter. I for one am poring over this year’s lists and making a list of my own, albeit one entitled: To Read If I Ever Manage To Get Through This Study.

Lists activate our fast thinking. That is, they light up the bits of our brains that skim and cherry pick key information. Of course, books themselves activate our slow thinking—our brains pause when considering books, their titles, their topics, their cover art, and why they have or haven’t made the cut. I’m no expert, but I’d wager the combination of the two factors is why I’m unable to go past best-of book lists, regardless of whether or not I know they’re going to infuriate me.

I’ll not deny either that I’m fairly partial to the more visual lists, something I wouldn’t have expected of text-driven me. The Guardian , for instance, has come up with an infographic of non-fiction books everyone should read. In Cold Blood looms large, centred and in large font.

I’d attribute that to the current frenzy and fever around the Serial podcast, which I swore I wasn’t ever going to write about but seemingly just have (on the off chance you missed it, Serial is a podcast trying to unravel a true crime. In Cold Blood has been one of the books worth revisiting to fill the gaping whole the final episode, which airs this week, will undoubtedly bring).

Silent Spring is pretty big in there too, and I’d highly recommend that one. It’s credited with kicking off the environmental movement, something which, given the state of the environment, I can’t help but think is making a comeback slash ‘kicking ourselves, if only we’d listened in the first place’ kind of thinking.

A Girl Is A Half-Formed ThingBuzzfeed Books has compiled a list of fiction books its employees loved, picturing the covers alongside the authors’ photos, with the cover art the thing that probably most attracts and intrigues me. Book covers are contested spaces, with the tension between art and the ability to sell playing out in their designs.

I’m more a non-fiction reader than a fiction one, but I have to confess I recognised only one book on Buzzfeed’s list: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. Am I the only one? I know the authors David Mitchell and Lev Grossman, but I had no idea they had new books out. Perhaps it’s a case of I’ve spent too much time in a study bunker and not enough timing salivating over forthcoming books lists.

What I will say is that pretty much all of them have magnificent titles and cover art. I wonder how much that had to do with them being expected to be bestsellers and therefore having the publishers invest resources into making them walk of the shelves?

A few lists (including The Atlantic’s), point to The Empathy Exams, a book I’d not heard of until now but which piques my interest. It also points to Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. The book is reportedly a collection of essays based on Joan Didion’s 1967 piece ‘Goodbye to All That’, about her arrival in and eventual disillusionment with New York City. ‘Nuff said.

It also lists Americanah, which I’ve been meaning to get round to reading and yet haven’t (I’ve heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak and I figure if her writing is anywhere near as articulate and intelligent as her speaking, it’s a worthy read). And That Book About Harvard, which I’m unfamiliar with but could be persuaded to pick up.

The Guardian’s writers list includes recommendations from esteemed writers we all admire, opening up with Margaret Atwood giving the nod to This Changes Everything. With subject matter featuring the last day’s of a writer’s husband suffering from brain tumours, The Iceberg is likely to be absolutely wrenching, but such tearjerking books are also what makes us appreciate life in times when we haven’t got a lot to be happy about (I write this in the aftermath of the Sydney Siege).

The Empathy ExamsQuentin Blake is one I’d love to pick up, keen to know more about the illustrator who so iconically realised some of my favourite childhood tales. Meanwhile The Paying Guests is a book I’ve now heard raved about both in print and on podcasts.

Bustle give the book list a different and enticing spin, by listing 18 Pulitzer award-winning books by female authors we should be reading. These include March, a retelling of Little Women from the father’s perspective (should I admit I’ve read neither Little Women nor March and, yes, I consider it completely remiss of me).

Radio National hosts’ recommendations include Only the Animals and The Ukraine Diaries. As well as Far From The Tree, a book I’d bought but cowered in the face of its enormity (seriously, this book embodies the term ‘doorstop’ if any book did).

NPR’s Book Concierge is, without doubt, a black hole of a book recommendation list. Consider yourself if not forearmed, then at least forewarned. Comprising a visual smorgasbord of enticing book covers you can work your way through or sort courtesy of the filters lining the page’s left-hand side, this app is a kind of electronic bookshelf p%&n. I’d have written this blog sooner had I not spent innumerable hours sorting and re-sorting the list to ensure I hadn’t missed any great reading options.

This Changes EverythingHumbler, but just as worth is The Guardian’s crowdsourced list of readers’ 10 best books of 2014. It includes The Goldfinch, which is reportedly both exquisite and the book most not finished on electronic reading devices (or something—that’s another blog post).

I’m a big fan of The Secret History but had been holding off reading The Goldfinch lest it turn out to be of the ilk of The Little Friend. It seems it’s not and, between that and the billion other books I’ve not got time to read just yet, I’ve got plenty of books to look forward to in just over a year’s time.