Book Spines at a site for book reviews and reading ideas for teenagers
The Book Gnome
The Book Gnome, a site for book reviews and reading ideas for teenagers

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

It became the bestselling young adult hardback debut of 2015 for very good reason. "By turns almost unremittingly poignant, caustically honest and very, very funny, The Art of being Normal, is, as you might expect, the antithesis of what it says on the tin." Lisa Williamson writes with remarkable clarity on a controversial and difficult subject.

David Piper and Leo Denton appear to be very unlikely friends because they seem so different. However, they become very good friends after when Leo stands up for David in a fight, on Leo's first day at Eden Park School. The friendship works because both boys are wrestling with great personal problems.

David has always been an outsider at school, and the secret he has, makes matters worse. He's a girl in a boy's body and not gay as his peers and parents assume. Leo also has a secret. He has numerous issues because of a difficult background and simply wants to attend school without being noticed by anyone.

While written for young adults, this is a book that all ages will enjoy and appreciate.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Growing up, Nix has accompanied her father on his ship Temptation around the world, however, her father's ship is not any ordinary ship.

With her talented but addicted father and a mixed group of individuals for a crew, Nix travels with her father through time and space, and between fantasy and reality. The ship Temptation is a "time traveling pirate ship" which as long as her father has an original map that has been signed by its creator and has never been used before, the ship can follow the map to its destination whether it is part of real history or from a mythical world.

She travels to nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, and a mythic version of Africa meeting people and making friends.

Every journey is subjected by her father's obsession to find the 1868 Honolulu map which he hopes with take him to Nix's mother, the love of his life. As much as Nix would love to meet her mother, the journey could have more far reaching consequences erasing her completely from time.

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

Natalie's summer in her small Kentucky town is going really well until she starts seeing things that shouldn't be there.

At first, they are brief and unimportant. For example, she looks at her front door and instead of it being red, it appears green. Also, a pre-school appears where the garden store should be. Before long though, matters escalate - her whole town disappears for hours, replaced by rolling hills and grazing buffalo. It is then clear to Natalie that something is horribly wrong.

Natalie is then visited by a kind but enigmatic apparition that she calls "Grandmother" and who announces mysteriously, "You have three months to save him." But who?

The very next night at the high school football field, she meets Beau, and it is as if nothing except Natalie and Beau exists. She falls head over heels in love instantly, beginning a beautiful and profound tale that captures the joy and hurt of high school, love, and shaping a future.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

The novel features the great-great-grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, so unsurprisingly, the title is a play on the famous Sherlock Holmes title "A Study in Scarlet".

Jamie Watson (no prizes for guessing to whom he is related) receives a scholarship to a school in Connecticut, where Charlotte Holmes (the clue is in the surname) is already a student. She is a genius, loves playing the violin, and has severe mood swings. People stay away from her both because of her temperament, and she makes it very clear that she is not interested in friends. Does this remind you of anyone?

Then a fellow student with which they both have a history is murdered, and the pair are framed for the murder. features the great-great-grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Very quickly, they realise that they cannot trust anyone other than each other, and are forced to work together to solve the murder.

The book is a real page turner that simply flies by. An excellent read based on a clever idea.

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

This book is part of a collection of books by Ransom Riggs that reveals the secrets of peculiar history.

If you are new to his work, this volume of short stories is an excellent place to start. While the book draws on Riggs' bestselling Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, it stands alone so it is not necessary to have read any other books in the series to enjoy it and become a scholar of all things peculiar.

Stories cover a wide range of creative ideas including wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars, a fork-tongued princess, and the origins of the first ymbryne, as they reveal the secrets of the peculiar world.

Not only are the stories intriguing, but the stunning illustrations enhance the weird and wonderful characters and tantalisingly original plots. If you enjoy this brilliant book, you will want to read the entire peculiar world series.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli

Sixteen-year-old Simon Spier is gay but not openly at school. However, when one of his emails falls into the wrongs hands, his secret is about to be revealed to his whole school. He is blackmailed into being a wingman for Martin, the class clown, to avoid having his sexual identity revealed.

The issue is not just that everyone will find out Simon's sexuality, but the boy that Simon has been emailing, known as Blue, will also be exposed.

As the emails from Blue become more intimate, Simon is faced with difficult choices. He doesn't want to alienate his friends, expose his identity, or destroy his chances with a guy that he thinks of as adorable. To make matters worse, Simon is not comfortable with change, and the dilemma's of his current life require him to deal with many changes.

The novel is both funny and poignant, making it thought-provoking and enjoyable to read. It is a coming-out and coming-of-age romance told with humour and insight by talented author Becky Albertelli.

Moths by Anne Cassidy

Two girls are drawn to the dilapidated house on Princess Street, like moths to a flame, and are never heard from again. That same night, the old man who lived in the house was murdered and his killer never found.

Five years pass, and Mandy contemplates the disappearance of her best friends Tina and Petra. She is now 18 years old and still blames herself for what happened to them, plus has never got over it.

The police and the community assume that the girls had stumbled in on the old man's killer, and so were themselves killed even though their bodies have never been discovered. However, their disappearance, turns out to be far more complex than the police presumed as they discover when the house is knocked down, that one of the girls, isn't gone after all.

The novel is an exciting thriller, skillfully crafted with unexpected twists, and hard to put down. Through the characters, it explores female friendships and bullying. As the reader progresses, they realise that nothing is quite what it seems. It is a compelling read.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon is a heartbreaking but hopeful. It explores a very controversial topic with incredible skill and honesty.

The novel set in a refugee camp in the Australian desert where the boy Subhi has spent all nine years of his life.

Subhi is a Rohingya Muslim whose family fled persecution in Myanmar. His father is missing, his mother is dying, and his older sister is focussed on making the outside world aware of their plight. Subhi is left to himself.

Subhi escapes the camp in his dreams, in which the sea reaches his tent and brings treasures with it, until he meets local girl Jimmie.

Jimmie lives near the refugee camp, and carries with her a notebook that she cannot read. In addition, she wears a sparrow made out of bone around her neck. Subhi reads aloud from Jimmie's notebook, and together the friends learn about the importance of their own stories in shaping their futures.

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss is the touching story of young Hattie, who as a result of time spent with her long-lost great-aunt Gloria, faces and resolves the predicaments in her own life.

Hattie is stuck at home, facing a summer without her friends. Reuben is 'trying to 'find himself' somewhere is Europe, while Kat has headed for Edinburgh with a new girlfriend. Hattie is, in effect, home alone.

Hattie's mother is focused entirely on her wedding. She engages with Hattie whenever she needs help with an endless string of impending disasters in the wedding arrangements. In addition, Hattie is left taking care of her twin siblings. Then to add to her problems, she discovers that she is pregnant with the absent Reuben's child.

Enter Gloria, Hattie's charismatic great-aunt, who no-one even knew existed, with an over-fondness for gin and in the early stages of dementia. She takes Hattie with her on a road trip to revisit her life before she forgets it, and Hattie is forced to face difficult decisions as a result.

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

Panther by David Owen

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick has written across the age ranges, from children to adults, but it is his dark and atmospheric YA branded work that best shows off what he can do. In Revolver, all his skill is compacted into something small and potent, controlled and devastating. As it begins, 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in 1910, 15 year old Sig discovers his father's corpse; but how did he die? The arrival of a threatening stranger forces Sig to investigate his parents' past and confronts him with big questions about his own future. Set over just a couple of days, Sedgwick's spare, crisply written narrative flips between the past and recent present, but the tension never disappears, and as he creates this most hostile of environments, it's impossible not to be drawn in.

A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

This debut introduces the small town community of Coolbar in mid 80s Ireland, where we meet Shell and her young siblings. Dowd was a writer of immense sympathy and insight, and in A Swift Pure Cry she takes Shell, and her reader, on a journey. Many people assume young adult fiction will always be heavy on issues, and there are some big ones in this book, which tackles faith and death, but the questions are born out of, and always in the service of, the story and characterisation. A Swift Pure Cry is never wilfully bleak, never heavy handed, never moralistic. A fine piece of writing.

Other young adult novels worth reading include

  • Malorie Blackman's Chasing The Stars
  • Riverkeep by Martin Stewart
  • Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle
  • The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
  • Sweet Pizza by GR Gemin
  • The White Darkness: Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Kit's Wilderness: David Almond
  • Henry Tumour: Anthony McGowan
  • The Graveyard Book: Neil Gaiman
  • Chaos Walking trilogy: Patrick Ness
  • Life: An Exploded Diagram: Mal Peet
  • The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy
  • The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
  • Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
  • The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  • A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond
  • We Were Liars by E Lockhart
  • Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
  • Blue by Lisa Glass
  • The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
  • Spotlight on Sunny by Keris Stainton
  • The Paradox by Charlie Fletcher
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass
  • One by Sarah Crossan
  • Remix by Non Pratt

TOM ELLEN AND LUCY IVISON: NEVER EVERS GARY D SCHMIDT: ORBITING JUPITER (ANDERSEN PRESS) MARIA TURTSCHANINOFF: MARESI, THE RED ABBEY CHRONICLES (PUSHKIN PRESS) HELEN DENNIS: RIVER OF INK (HODDER CHILDREN'S BOOKS) ANNE CASSIDY: MOTH GIRLS (HOT KEY BOOKS) GAVRIEL SAVIT: ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN (BODLEY HEAD) RAZIEL REID: WHEN EVERYTHING FEELS LIKE THE MOVIES (ATOM) NICCI CLOKE: FOLLOW ME BACK (HOT KEY BOOKS) SARAH PINBOROUGH: 13 MINUTES (ORION) JOAQUIN LOWE: BULLET CATCHER (HOT KEY BOOKS) SOPHIA BENNETT: LOVE SONG (CHICKEN HOUSE) MATT DICKINSON: NORTH FACE (VETERBRATE PUBLISHING) MALORIE BLACKMAN: CHASING THE STARS (PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE) BONNIE-SUE HITCHCOCK: THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES (FABER) ALICE OSEMAN: RADIO SILENCE (HARPER COLLINS) JEFF ZENTNER: THE SERPENT KING (ANDERSEN PRESS) Heather Has Two Mummies by Lesléa Newman Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp The Last Beginning by Lauren James

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