The Songs You’ve Never Heard by Becky Jerams and Ellie Wyatt, reviewed by Tegen (15)

The Songs You’ve Never Heard is the touching story of young social media influencer, Meg McCarthy. Meg is known only because of her brother, Casper. He is a famous singer who all the girls adore. Meg has always felt ignored by her parents, who focus all her attention on Casper. Little do they know, Meg writes her own songs and records them. But she never shares them with anyone. Except for her friend on a music social app, called Band-Snapper.

I could read this book over and over and never get bored. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves music because it is the main theme that runs through the whole book. 

Tegen (15)

But soon her life is going to take some very positive and very negative turns and Meg is going to figure out who she wants by her side to help her. 

I loved this book because it was the perfect pace. I could understand everything that was going on without things getting repetitive or boring. But at the same time, there were plot twists when you least expect them. I also loved it because it portrays the feeling of being the gifted child’s sibling and the suffocation you can feel, really well. The authors portrays the sort of world that Meg is growing up in and show that being a rich, popular, famous teenager is not everything people hype it up to be. 

I would recommend this book to ages ten and upwards. This is because it’s easy-going, simple to understand, yet an engaging storyline that could keep anyone hooked from start to finish. I could read this book over and over and never get bored. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves music because it is the main theme that runs through the whole book. 

When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando, reviewed by Abi

Themes: Knife crime, racism, LGBT, love, friendships, fostering

When fourteen-year-old Shaq is stabbed outside of a busy shopping centre in Manchester, three teenagers from very different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together. What follows flips their worlds upside down and makes Chantelle, Jackson, and Marc question the deep-rooted prejudice and racism that exists within the police, the media, and the rest of society.

Like Stars this is another hard-hitting book from Danielle but the focus of this one is knife crime in the UK, which is such an important topic to talk about and I haven’t read many books on it. Chantelle lives with her grandma and sister, their Mum abandoned them, and she is really smart but targeted a lot by a specific teacher who can’t even begin to imagine that she could be intelligent. Marc is a very talented artist, is openly gay and is currently being fostered. Jackson is smart, privileged and I think is the most affected when the knife attack happens because it’s so out of his ‘world.’

The book explores how these three strangers are affected by the knife crime they witness on a teenager they’re age and how it bonds them together. I really related to this book especially with Chantelle and school. I had teachers who seemed almost shocked with how smart I was and were always trying to find ways to kick me out of class or accuse me of doing something and as I was reading her storyline, I felt like I had a flashback.

I don’t want to giveaway too much and spoil it, but I will say there is so much deep-rooted racism and I’m so glad Daniele highlighted what happens in the UK to Black people. There is an assumption that racism doesn’t exist only in America and we know that isn’t true. I think this is a book that will really educate and trigger conversations.

About the book

A powerful coming-of-age story about chance encounters, injustice and how the choices that we make can completely change our future. The second YA novel from the critically acclaimed Danielle Jawando, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Gayle Foreman, Jennifer Niven and Nikesh Shukla. ‘Jawando’s writing is incredibly raw and real; I felt completely immersed’ Alice Oseman When fourteen-year-old Shaq is stabbed outside of a busy shopping centre in Manchester, three teenagers from very different walks of life are unexpectedly brought together.

What follows flips their worlds upside down and makes Chantelle, Jackson, and Marc question the deep-rooted prejudice and racism that exists within the police, the media, and the rest of society.

Praise for And the Stars Were Burning Brightly: ‘An outstanding and compassionate debut’ Patrice Lawrence ‘An utter page turner from a storming new talent. Passionate, committed and shines a ray of light into the darkest places – the YA novel of 2020!’ Melvin Burgess ‘One of the brightest up and coming stars of the YA world’ Alex Wheatle

When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, reviewed by Abi

This impactful tale is beautifully crafted from a variety of viewpoints, written in a mixture of prose, narrative verse and journal entries, woven together with evocative illustrations by Natalie Sirett.

While it is Kai’s story and his fall into darkness that is at the heart of the story, we also hear the voices of Orla, from the high-rise flats like Kai, and Zak from the big houses across the other side of the wilderness. This is the place where they spent most of their out of school time growing up and where they discovered and restored the bothy, which becomes the dramatic backdrop to astounding creativity but also danger, degradation, despair and near death.

We later hear from new arrival Omid who has faced trauma and loss himself, which helps him make the connection with Kai, whose family has fallen apart following the loss of his beloved baby sister Sula. Despite the best efforts of his friends, Kai falls in with a dangerous crowd, gets excluded and his self-destruction seems inevitable. But the bonds forged in their childhood ultimately prove stronger. Kai’s deep connection to nature and in particular to a pair of ravens, who have their own narration, and the creativity, which is sparked by Omid’s inspiring art, help to bring him home.

There are so many important themes in this multi-layered novel which speaks so powerfully about the importance of urban green spaces and community and the way society can fail to recognise the true value of things. This highly original novel perfectly captures raw adolescent emotions and fills the reader with empathy and understanding. Highly recommended.

About the book

Kai, Orla and Zak grew up together, their days spent on the patch of wilderness in between their homes, a small green space in a sprawling grey city. Music, laughter and friendship bind them together and they have big plans for their future – until Kai’s family suffers a huge loss. Trying to cope with his own grief, as well as watching it tear his family apart, Kai is drawn into a new and more dangerous crowd, until his dreams for the future are a distant memory.

Excluded from school and retreating from his loved ones, it seems as though his path is set, his story foretold. Orla, Zak and new classmate Om are determined to help him find his way back. But are they too late?A heart-breaking and poignant novel from award-winning author Sita Brahmachari, for fans of THE BLACK FLAMINGO, AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY and POET X.

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….

Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide, reviewed by Abi

When I finished reading Ace of Spades, I was overcome with a very unfamiliar feeling: I wanted to go back to the very first page and read it cover to cover again. Set in an elite private school and told in alternating perspectives, we follow two Black teens: Chiamaka, a Italian-Nigerian-American teen who is Head Girl, popular, and isn’t afraid to get what she wants to stay in power; and Devon, a Black American teen and talented musician who just wants to keep his head down, focus on his music, and protect his secret. When an anonymous texter named Aces begins bringing Chiamaka and Devon’s secrets to light, Chiamaka and Devon reluctantly team up together to take the anonymous texter down.

The story is excellently paced, the mystery dark and delicious and addictive. Faridah plays with our emotions, dropping hints here and there, expertly instilling a growing sense of dread and horror that I really enjoyed. Yet, when I think about Ace of Spades, its brilliance isn’t just because it is mind-blowing and terrifying. Rather, the genius in the mystery is its thoughtfulness and that is speaks to real experiences that will resonate with readers – and I wish I could elaborate on this, because if this book wasn’t spoiler-free, this review would be twice as long with my thoughts on how I thought the reveal was brilliant. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s an amazing read and will leave you shocked.

I have two sisters, both are younger than me (I’m the oldest child). I’ve lived in Brighton and Hove my whole life. I live with both of my parents and siblings. I have 6 cats which can be very stressful at times. I’m currently in Year 10 but I only have a few months till Year 11. When I’m older I want to become an English teacher, I want to inspire young people to follow their dreams.

About the book

“One of 2021’s biggest books.” gal-dem

“This summer’s hottest YA debut.” Entertainment Weekly

An instant New York Times bestseller, ACE OF SPADES is Gossip Girl meets Get Out, with a shocking twist. Buried secrets come to light when two students are targeted by an anonymous bully with an explosive agenda.

Hello, Niveus High. It’s me. Who am I? That’s not important. All you need to know is…I’m here to divide and conquer. – Aces

Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is revealing the darkest secrets of two students.

Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public.

Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power.

Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Unputdownable and utterly compulsive, this high-octane thriller takes a powerful look at institutionalized racism. As seen in Vogue, The Guardian, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Elle, Buzzfeed, Cosmo and Entertainment Weekly, and on BBC Front Row, perfect for fans of Karen McManus, Holly Jackson and Angie Thomas.

“ACE OF SPADES is the thought-provoking thriller we ALL need.” Nic Stone, #1 NYT bestselling author

“A heart-racing and twisty thriller.” Alice Oseman

“Strong Gossip Girl vibes and a whole lot of mystery.” Buzzfeed

“Thunderous and terrifying. There’s no way you’re putting this down until you get to the last page.” Maureen Johnson, NYT bestselling author

Boy in a White Room by Karl Olsberg, reviewed by Tegan

This book was definitely an interesting read. From the first line, I was hooked.

Olsberg created a character that you wanted to read more about without even knowing lots of things about him. The book explores the story of a young boy called Manuel who wakes up in a white room and doesn’t know where he is. As he investigates his life from inside the room, he discovers things that would turn his world upside down.

I would say that this book is for 14+, as it does delve quite deeply into some quite complex things. However, I very much enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery or science fiction. 

Hi, my name is Tegen and I am fourteen years old. I enjoy reading book genres like fantasy, crime and adventure. Some of my favourite authors are Holly Black, Alice Oseman, Stephen King and John Green. My other interests include playing chess, horse riding and writing. My favourite quote from a book is ‘that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt’ from the fault in our stars.’ 

About the book

A gripping YA sci-fi thriller perfect for fans of Ready Player One and The Maze Runner. A boy wakes to find himself locked in a white room. He has no memories, no idea who he is and no idea how he got there.

A computer-generated voice named Alice responds to his questions – through her, he is able to access the internet. He gradually pieces together his story – an abduction, a critical injury, snippets of his past … But how can the boy tell what’s real and what’s not? Who is he really? A gripping YA sci-fi thriller by German and Spiegel-bestselling author, Karl Olsberg.

The novel has sold 40,000 copies in Germany alone and been optioned for TV development by Netflix. Explores themes of virtual worlds, artificial intelligence, philosophy and identity.

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.