Afterlove by Tanya Byrne, reviewed by Abi

5 Word Review: Love, family, friendship, tragedy, death.

Grab the tissues, you will need them. And a blanket to combat the chills that this love story will give you. I am struggling to review this, because I loved it so much. Basically: Good book. Book booked good. Read book.

Ash and Poppy are just… They’re my OTP now, the one ship I will go down with. I loved their love, the way that even though their situations in life are so different it doesn’t matter to them. Their hearts are full of love. And when Ash becomes a reaper, I have to be honest – it broke me. Afterlove doesn’t shy away from difficult topics – whether its homophobia, or racism, or class disparity, or religious beliefs in the face of your family. It was empathetically done, carefully done, and wasn’t afraid to be ugly when it had to be. This book gently plays with the paranormal, and if I’m honest I barely realised it for what it was. I loved the lore behind it, and I thought it was very clever in the way it was executed.

The story is split into before and after and I think that was a clever way to play with the concepts of the words. It’s not just Ash’s death, but herself and how she experiences the world, her new role.

That ending though? Excuse me, I need more. I loved the ending, but it left me gasping. It wraps up beautifully but I’m aching for more. Afterlove is the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet want to be.

Afterlove is a gloriously beautiful story that will fill your heart to bursting and then break it into a million pieces. You will never be ready, and you will never get over it, but you need to read this book.

About the book

THE LESBIAN LOVE STORY YOU’VE BEEN DYING TO READ. Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death. 

Car headlights. The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars. But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?

This New Year’s Eve, Ash gets an invitation from the afterlife she can’t decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city’s dead to await their fate. 

But Ash can’t forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again … even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive …

NOT EVEN DEATH CAN TEAR THEM APART. 

The Upper World by Femi Fadugba, reviewed by Torrin

The Upper World is the stunning debut from Femi Fadugba. Interstellar meets Attack the Block in a head on collision of fact and physics.

Esso hits his head in a car crash and is transported to the mysterious “Uppper World” which may or may not facilitate a form of mental time-travel. 
Meanwhile Rhia meets her new personal tutor Dr Esso, who begins to explain not just her  homework but the physics of time-travel itself. 

This is one of the best science fiction novels I have read in a long, long time. What might seen like a time-travel story from the outside is in [reality] a carefully veiled story of redemption, loss and acceptance. Esso and Rhia have a very different dynamic to the central characters of a typical teen novel. The story is not about love but acceptance. 

Although the concept of time travel is an important aspect of the book. It often takes a backseat to so it’s effects on the novel’s characters can be explored. With something as high concept as time travel it can often be difficult to get your head around the mechanics of it. But Fadugba uses modern metaphors and simple language to make the concept accessible for all. 

This book is a truly excellent read, and one that I urge you to pick up! 

Hello, I’m Torrin. I like good books. I’m a fan of Crime, Fantasy and Sci-Fi. My favourite quote from any book is: “Doors are for people with no imagination” If it’s got too much description and emotions, I probably won’t read it.  Check out my website at www.ananonymousautistic.wordpress.com   

About the book

This epic thriller is soon to be a major Netflix movie starring Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther, Judas and the Black Messiah).  

‘Believing is seeing, Esso . . .’

Esso is running out of time and into trouble. When he discovers he has the ability to see glimpses of the future, he becomes haunted by a vision of a bullet fired in an alleyway with devastating consequences. 

A generation later, fifteen-year-old Rhia is desperately searching for answers – and a catastrophic moment from the past holds the key to understanding the parents she never got to meet.

Whether on the roads of South London or in the mysterious Upper World, Esso and Rhia’s fates must collide.

And when they do, a race against the clock will become a race against time itself . . .

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson, reviewed by Farrah

If you like to be kept on the edge of your seat, in a constant state of suspense whilst reading, this may just be the book for you. To call ‘Every Line of You’ a rollercoaster, filled with twists and turns as it was, would be an understatement. Although this is not my usual go to kind of story, I read it in one sitting as I was gripped from the very first chapter. It is packed with action and intrigue.

‘Every Line of You’ follows Lydia and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) she has created as it develops and gains power. The author, Naomi Gibson, examines grief, loneliness and the effects of bullying through the metamorphosis of her AI as it acquires human characteristics. You’ll continue thinking about the characters and the themes explored long after you’ve finished reading the book.

About the book

The edge-of-your-seat thriller you’ve been looking for this summer … ‘What a debut. So tense – and it didn’t lead where I thought it was going.’ SUE WALLMAN, author of YOUR TURN TO DIE

Lydia has been creating her AI, Henry, for years – since before her little brother died in the accident that haunts her nightmares; since before her dad walked out, leaving her and Mum painfully alone; since before her best friend turned into her worst enemy.

Now, Henry is strong, clever, loving and scarily capable: Lydia’s built herself the perfect boyfriend in a hard-drive filled with lines of code.

But what is Henry really – and how far is he willing to go to be everything Lydia desires?

This summer’s must-read: EVERY LINE OF YOU’s twist after twist will have everyone talking about Lydia and Henry’s complex Bonnie-and-Clyde relationship

Elements of thriller, psychological drama and love: Her meets Girl, Interrupted with hints of Black MirrorThis dark, modern twist on young love explores the complexity and scope of artificial intelligence while also examining bigger themes of humanity, revenge, grief, love and forgiveness

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland, reviewed by Sophie

This book is a mystery that will capture your attention as the bond between the three Hollow sisters Grey, Vivi and Iris is deeply explored. A uniquely horrifying story, where the beauty of language is entwined into the very soul of this tale and Krystal Sutherland knows how to tell a tale. 

So when an unknown man in a bull skull kidnaps Grey, it is down to Iris and Vivi to find her – but where and from what? It really is a story of dark, dark secrets.

House of Hollow is a modern-day thriller like you’ve never read before. I ask you now, will you be prepared for the unexpected when it comes sinisterly crawling nearer?

Hi, I’m Sophie and I absolutely love books, tv, music and films. My favorite film has to be How to train your Dragon. I play the Saxophone and I’m studying English Lit/Lang, Film studies and Textiles for my A-levels.  

About the book

‘This story will steal up your spine, slip beneath your skin, and stick to you like honey.’ — Samantha Shannon

The Hollow sisters – Vivi, Grey and Iris – are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious. They have black eyes and hair as white as milk. The Hollow sisters don’t have friends – they don’t need them. They move through the corridors like sharks, the other little fish parting around them, whispering behind their backs.

And everyone knows who the Hollow sisters are. Because one day the three Hollow sisters simply disappeared. And when they came back, one month later, with no memory of where they had been, it was as if nothing had changed. Almost nothing, Apart from, for example, the little scar that had appeared in the hollow of their throats … and a whispering sense that something is not quite right about them, despite (or maybe because of) the terrible passion to be with them that they can exert on anybody at will…A thrilling, twisting, novel that is as seductive and glamorous as the Hollow sisters themselves….

The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky, reviewed by Torrin

Goldy Moldavsky has crafted an excellent novel that is deeply rooted in Stephen King, R.L.Stine and John Hughes. It’s a film buff’s dream. And it’s a great book as well.

The story follows Rachel who joins the mysterious Mary Shelley club where she and her new friends challenge each other to more and more daring pranks.

Rachel is a well rounded protagonist with none of the usual headstrong attitudes this kind of character would normally be saddled with. She suffers a deeply scarring incident at the start of the novel which not only shapes her but the story as a whole. Besides Rachel the other characters are written in such a way that they feel like real people which teen novels often struggle to achieve. These teens have motivations and goals that are fitting for someone of their age and also ones that most definitely are not. At the heart of the story is a well rounded and realistic romance which never feels forced and is believable.

The film references peppered throughout made me smile and they also achieved what Ready Player One wishes it could’ve. I adored this book and I thoroughly recommend it! It’s a novel that wears it’s influences proudly and had me totally engaged at all times. This book NEEDS to be read!

Hello, I’m Torrin. I like good books. I’m a fan of Crime, Fantasy and Sci-Fi. My favourite quote from any book is: “Doors are for people with no imagination” If it’s got too much description and emotions, I probably won’t read it. Check out my website at www.ananonymousautistic.wordpress.com   

About the book

Scream meets Gossip Girl with a dash of One of Us is Lying! When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:- Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times. – Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out”…. – If there’s a murderer on the loose, do NOT make out with anyone …

New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring them to the bored rich kids of her fancy New York High School. But then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious student club that sets up terrifying Fear Tests; elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and horror movies. But when a sinister masked figure appears, Rachel realises that her past has caught up with her.

It’s time for the ultimate prank to play out … An atmospheric page-turner about loving scary movies, longing to belong, and uncovering the many masks people wear. 

The Boy I Am by K.L. Kettle, reviewed by Mel

Wow. When I read that this book was a dystopian thriller, I didn’t really know what to expect as I’m not the biggest fan of dystopians, yet I am a huge fan of thrillers. The Boy I Am was everything and more you can get from a book. There is an insane amount of plot and character building right from the get go, with carefully placed flashbacks which really let you connect with the main character, Jude Grant, in a way which I find rare in a book. The conflict/battle scenes were detailed on a level similar to The Maze Runner- every scene was clear and I didn’t get confused once. Jude Grant undergoes insane character development throughout this book as his beliefs of the world around him slowly crumble as the reality of the situation is revealed.

Such an interesting and well executed look into different types of power and gender roles.

A fantastic book for anyone who loves plot twists, thrillers, dystopians and fight scenes!!!!

 As I kid I always adored reading, and it was my number one hobby. That filtered away for a bit when I started secondary school, but since getting back into it again over lockdown I haven’t been able to stop. My mums an english teacher, so
she’s always encouraged me to read and help me understand how amazing it is. I am an optimistic, chatty, kind person with a big love for animals and treating the planet kindly. I took Early Modern History, Psychology, and English Lang/Lit (combined) for A level to help myself gain a better understanding of the reasons behind people’s actions

About the book

They say we’re dangerous. But we’re not that different.

Jude is running out of time.

Once a year, lucky young men in the House of Boys are auctioned to the female elite. But if Jude fails to be selected before he turns seventeen, a future deep underground in the mines awaits. Yet ever since the death of his best friend at the hands of the all-powerful Chancellor, Jude has been desperate to escape the path set out for him.

Finding himself entangled in a plot to assassinate the Chancellor, he finally has a chance to avenge his friend and win his freedom. But at what price?

A speculative YA thriller, tackling themes of traditional gender roles and power dynamics, for fans of Malorie Blackman, Louise O’Neill and THE POWER.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed – review

The Black Girls is a brilliantly written and engaging book, with a deceptively chatty tone that lures you in to a sense of comfort, before a perfect, powerful sentence snaps you to attention.

Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel is an unflinching exploration of race, class, and violence as well as the importance of being true to yourself. 

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

This is a timely and arresting book about growing up and drifting apart from your friendship group, learning who you are and who you want to become. It’s about facing history head on and understanding how the past impacts the present and the future.

It hits hard on social injustice, race and class, opening the eyes and hearts of the characters and the reader. Although Christina Hammonds Reed doesn’t gloss and filter or provide unrealistic happy endings, The Black Kids is an ultimately hopeful book, looking to a future that could be better. Should be better.

The comparisons with The Hate You Give are well deserved. We loved it.

You can order your copy here.

Pretty Funny by Rebecca Elliott

This book is spit-your-drink-out and snort with laughter funny. And let’s face it, we all need a bit of that right now!

A riotous journey through school days and friendship dramas and surviving those horrendously embarrassing moments that feel like the end of the world, all whilst trying to break down gender barriers and break in to stand up comedy. Pretty Funny is here for you and all your self-care laughter medicine needs.

Does anyone ever really want to ‘fall’ in love? Knowing me I’ll just trip over it and graze my knee on the gravel of humiliation.
Haylah Swinton is fairly confident she’s brilliant at being a girl. 
She’s an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an INCREDIBLY patient sister to her four-year-old total nutter of a brother, Noah. 
But she has a secret. She wants to be a stand-up comedian, but she’s pretty sure girls like her – big girls, girls who don’t get all the boys, girls who a lot of people don’t see – don’t belong on stage. 
That hasn’t stopped her dreaming though, and when the seemingly perfect opportunity to write routines for older, cooler, impossibly funny Leo arises . . . well, what’s a girl to do? But is Leo quite an interested in helping Haylah as he says he is? 
Will Haylah ever find the courage to step into the spotlight herself? And when oh when will people stop telling her she’s ‘funny for a girl’?!

We love this book!

It’s about families and first love and finding your true self… and then finding the strength to actually like and comfortably become your true self.

Rebecca Elliott has perfectly pitched the young teenage voice and created a painfully funny and realistic picture of the early teen years. It’s a joy to read and an absolute page turner.

Mostly, this is a tonic. A healthy dose of self-worth and confidence building. A hugely positive and powerful hug of a book. It shows young teens how resilient and awesome and brilliant they really are and how to hold on to that power and smash their way through life, smiling and laughing and loving themselves.

Perfect for fans of Girl Online, Tamsin Winters and Louise Rennison, and a book that should be in every secondary school library. Perfect for 12+ but there’s nothing here that wouldn’t be appropriate for discerning 10+ readers who need a good old belly laugh.

You can get your copy here.

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

(TW - Domestic violence, coercive control)

This book is immensely powerful. The kind of book that will leave you staring at the wall and trying to make sense of the world. In a really good way. It is clear to see why it has been shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award.

Furious Thing tells the story of 15 year old Lexi who is swallowing her fury with the world around her. She lives with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend John and her young half-sister Iris. Her mother and John are planning to marry but Lexi has other ideas. She can see that John is not a good man and is manipulating her mum. She is also in love with John's son, Kass.  Can she open her mum's eyes and show the world what is really going on? Can she show Kass what is real and what is making her a furious thing?

Domestic violence and coercive control and manipulation are strong themes running through the entire book. Lexi is an unreliable narrator; her anger and pain is visceral and complex and as a reader it is often painful to watch. She makes decisions that will have you shouting at the pages of the book, but shouting from a place of empathy and understanding and your own raw fury. Because Jenny Downham has perfectly crafted Furious Thing to engage, enrage and empower its readers. She twists the tale so expertly that you are drawn into John's lies and then slapped by the reality of his manipulation, she brings you along a fiercely emotional journey and, in some ways, is just as unreliable as Lexi. Just as you think you have your full fighting fury at the ready she adds another twist and another layer of injustice to the pile. Buy this for all the young women in your lives and watch them stand tall.

Ultimately, this is a book that will empower its readers to speak out, unleash their fury and stand up to injustice and manipulation.

Feel the fury, find your voice and fight for your future. It's in your hands.

You can get your copy here.

 

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory.

Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker.

Newt accepts everything – that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives.

Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world.

In this powerful and brilliantly original debut novel, friendship creates strength, courage is hard-won and hope is the path to freedom.

Bearmouth is a darkly beautiful and gritty story of courage and friendship in the face of religious tyranny and social injustice. Newt creates his own language as he is taught to read and write by the men he works and lives with in the mine. As he becomes more able to express himself he begins to question the world he is caught in and seek justice and equality for himself and his fellow labourers.

Reminiscent of Victorian child-labour, Bearmouth is a haunting setting. Atmospheric, rich and breathless, this is an immersive book that will leave you feeling empowered and emboldened. A fantastic debut.

You can get your copy here.