Under A Dancing Star by Laura Wood, reviewed by  Farrah (17)

Set in a beautiful summer in the 1930s, Bea, who has grown up rallying against patriarchal conventions of the time, has been sent to stay with her uncle in Italy, in an attempt from her parents to make her more ‘respectable’ and ‘ladylike’, and thus prepared for marriage. Little do they know that they have instead sent Bea into the heart of a bohemian household, where she will be exposed to, and encouraged to interact with art, romance and self-expression.

“A Much Ado About Nothing retelling, this book will have you glued to your seat as you read it in one sitting. . .I hope you read this book and fall in love with it too.” 

Farrah (17)

However, Bea’s idyllic bubble is not immune from the influences of fascism and patriotism that were especially prevalent, and gaining traction in the social and political climate of the 1930s. 

Bea’s epic summer allows her to further explore her love for science, and provides her with a forum to exist with autonomy, outside of the confines of the patriarchal society she is normally subjected to. She is afforded breathing space, and as the reader, we watch Bea come into her own, and affirm who she is as an individual, rather than what society, and her parents, wish her to be. She experiences a joyful and lively summer romance, which only adds to plot of this wonderful novel, but above all, this book centres around Beatrice’s growth as the hero of her own story, as she learns more about herself and the world she lives in. 

A Much Ado About Nothing retelling, this book will have you glued to your seat as you read it in one sitting. Impossible to put down, Under a Dancing Star contained all of my favourite ingredients, from the marvellous character development and strong friendships, to the delicious feasts, vibrant setting, adventurous escapades and even more. Wood vividly describes all of the places Beatrice encounters, making the experience feel tangible, as though you were there alongside her. Having read several of Laura Wood’s novels, this one certainly affirms her place as one of my favourite authors. I hope you read this book and fall in love with it too. 

What The World Doesn’t See by Mel Darbon, reviewed by Farrah (16) 

Maudie and Jake’s family is falling apart, with their mum struggling with her grief after the passing of their dad. One night she vanishes with only a note left behind, and no news of her whereabouts. When their aunt puts Jake in care, Maudie goes to desperate lengths to try to reunite her family, and she kidnaps Jake, taking him with her to Cornwall, hoping that when her Mum learns of the current situation, she will return.

“…a bond between brother and sister that is so beautiful and raw that it is almost tangible.”

Farrah (16)

What unfolds is a powerful and moving tale of grief, healing, finding oneself, first love and familial bonds. 

‘What The World Doesn’t See’ is a book that will stick with you long after you turn the last page, with very well written autism representation, and a bond between brother and sister that is so beautiful and raw that it is almost tangible.

The author Mel Darbon explains in the author’s note that she wrote from a very personal experience of having a sibling on the autism spectrum. Darbon highlights that whilst Jake’s experience (as well as that of her own brother’s) does not speak for the experience of everyone with autism, the novel clearly displays common obstacles faced by those like Jake, stemming predominately from people’s ignorance. Darbon’s writing, especially when we get to read from Jake’s point of view (since the story is told in dual narrative, allowing us to see life through the eyes of both Maudie and Jake) was very impactful. 

Ultimately, this book follows the physical and emotional journey of Maudie and Jake (and their mother), as they navigate their way through grief and towards healing, as well as the relationship between the siblings evolving as Maudie recognises what Jake is capable of, and allows him more freedom and opportunity to express his own independence. 

Hide and Secrets by Sophie McKenzie, reviewed by Rosa (11)

Hide and secrets is an amazing and thought-provoking read that has you on the edge of your seat —permanently — brimming with excitement to see what happens next. The more you read, the more the characters grow on you until you feel like you’ve been friends since birth. 

“An uncountable amount of twists and turns that keep you turning the pages at the speed of light.”

Rosa (11)

Cat is a fourteen-year-old girl who loves dress making and is having a hard time with her mum. Her sister Bess has not spoken since the devastating loss of their father. Bit by bit Cat and Tyler, who is staying at the end of her garden, uncover the lost pieces of the puzzle and go on a life-changing trip to learn more about her past and to change her future in the process. 

This amazing book has great characters and description all the way through. Sophie McKenzie has really outdone herself on this one! As well as that, it also has an uncountable amount of twists and turns that keep you turning the pages at the speed of light. Not to exaggerate. Sophie McKenzie has really outdone herself on this one!

This book fits neatly in the 10-11-12 age category but anyone (with adult permission) can. It starts with a text message and ends with a story…who knows what could happen in between.

The Girl Who Broke The Sea by A. Connors, reviewed by Farrah (16)

Lily, who has deep-rooted emotional problems, has an outburst which leads to expulsion from her school. In a desperate attempt at helping Lily and saving their family, her mother accepts a research job on a deep sea, mining rig (Deephaven), with Lily in tow.

The setting of Deephaven was unlike anything I have ever read before. It was an incredible backdrop for this story, providing a creepy, stark surrounding, to amplify the tensions and conflicts, as well as Lily’s internal battles.

Farrah (16)

Initially Lily feels just as unbalanced and isolated there as she did topside, but as the story unfolds, and she discovers more about her surroundings (and the suspicious nature of certain events), Lily gradually grows and adapts to her new-found environment. She begins investigating the death of a scientist on the rig, suspecting that his death is not all it seems, and discovers many enlightening things. With a blossoming friendship under her belt, Lily goes on a multitude of deep-sea exploits, ending up in several death-defying circumstances, as she attempts to untangle a web of mysteries, lies, and fascinating scientific discoveries. 

The setting of Deephaven was unlike anything I have ever read before. It was an incredible backdrop for this story, providing a creepy, stark surrounding, to amplify the tensions and conflicts, as well as Lily’s internal battles. The worldbuilding was expertly crafted, and you will be able vividly picture all of the action in your mind’s eye. 

Lily is a compelling main character, whose growth you root for, as you follow along with her identity- asserting journey. This fast-paced sci-fi thriller will have you enthralled, and on the edge of your seat, as you venture to the depths of the sea, with both villainous and courageous characters alike. 

I would recommend this novel to fans of ensnaring mysteries, as well as lovers of sci-fi and anything that will question and engage your mind. 

Teenagers! Swap the doom and gloom for a belly laugh or two…

Are you a teenager who loves to read but is feeling the need for something light hearted? Maybe you’re a parent who thinks their teenager needs something less  gloomy to read.

We’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with sad and tragic tales of lost love and family upset, dark dystopian worlds, crazy cults or chilling crimes committed by or to teenagers  – they’re some of our bestselling YA books. In such a bizarre, and often jarring, time of self-isolation it’s feasible that you may be looking for something that might make you crack a smile or even belly laugh. If this is the case then keep reading…

Pretty Funny by Rebecca Elliot

In Haylah Swinton, Rebecca Elliot has created a loveable, flawed and fabulously feisty protagonist who’ll make you giggle and guffaw.

Haylah has always wanted to be a comedian but has never had the courage to perform. Somehow she finds herself staring out at an audience during an open mic night; oh, and the audience includes the boy she has a very big crush on.  When it all goes a little awry she is mortified but could this embarrassing situation lead to greater things?

If you’re looking for a strong and funny female protagonist, some hilariously awkward teenage exchanges and some truly endearing characters then this is the book for you.

Girl Out of Water by Nat Luurtsema

This is one of my go to recommendations for customers when they’re looking for a more light-hearted book to read.

Lou is one of the funniest narrators I’ve come across in YA books. I definitely snorted on public transport a few times whilst reading this. When her best friend Hannah sails through Olympic time trials Lou is left flailing in her wake. Her failure to qualify and the loss of her best friend sends Lou into a crazy world of underwater somersaults, talent show auditions, gossiping girls and one great big load of awkward boy chat. This is a thoroughly British teen comedy starring a hilariously flawed heroine with a quip for every occasion sure to make you giggle

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

Meet Noah Grimes. He’s unpopular at school, his mother has a Beyoncé tribute act, his father is absent, he’s completely obsessed with Murder She Wrote and he has only one friend, Harry. When he gets the chance to work on a project with a popular girl, he figures this could be his chance to integrate with the normals, even get a girlfriend. However this plan comes crashing down when, instead of Noah kissing Sophie at a party, Harry kisses Noah. Cue chaos.

This book will make you laugh out loud repeatedly. Noah is endearing in spite of his many flaws and I found myself really wanting him to succeed in life. The journey he goes on with his sexuality and family feels completely natural and believable. It’s a funny and light read but the emotional moments still pack quite the punch.

Simon Vs The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is – and what he’s looking for. But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated. Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal … It’s a holy freaking huge awesome deal.

This book will give you lovely fuzzy feelings inside.  Simon is completely loveable and I spent the whole of the book just rooting for him. It is simultaneously hilarious and heart warming and I guarantee you will want to read it again.

We have stock of all of the above titles available at the moment however our staff are also able recommend a book for you or your teenager if you call the shop on 01273911988 or email us on info@booknookuk.com. Just let us know who the book is for and their age – it’s as easy as that.  

Jemima Small Versus the Universe – Q&A with Tamsin Winter

Jemima Small is funny and super smart. She knows a lot of things. Like the fact that she’s made of 206 bones, over 600 muscles and trillions of cells. What she doesn’t know is how that can be true and yet she can still feel like nothing… or how being made to join the school’s “special” healthy lifestyle group – A.K.A Fat Club – could feel any less special, and make her question her dream of applying for her favourite TV quiz show. But she also knows that the biggest stars in the universe are the brightest. And maybe it’s her time to shine…
A brilliantly funny and touching new novel exploring bullying, body confidence and, most importantly, learning how to be happy with who you are.

We love this brilliantly accessible book about the power of positive representation and role models. Witty and fun but also painfully honest, it will appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Howe.

We asked our young reviewer, Mollie (10), to give us her verdict and to pose some questions for Tamsin Winter. Read on to see what they both have to say about this stunner.


Great read, really makes you feel empowered, sad, inspired, angry and happy all at the same time. It feels so real, like you’re actually talking to Jemima about her experience. It’s so wrong, sad and sort of makes you angry body shaming is happening to beautiful, lovely people. If you read this book you will realise just how wrong and horrible it is to body shame or be body shamed. I would recommend this book to confident readers from the age of 9 and I think you would definitely enjoy it if you have been bullied, are being bullied or just like a good read with wonderful descriptions. You might like it if you like the Girl Online books. Overall it is a fantastic read! – Mollie aged 10



M: What was your main inspiration for Jemima Small Versus the Universe?

T: I’d read a newspaper article about a girl who received a letter from her school telling her she was overweight, and it really stayed with me. The article was written very much from the mother’s perspective – about how outraged she was (quite rightly, in my opinion). But there wasn’t really anything about how the girl felt. I can remember that feeling of awkwardness and self-consciousness about my body that sort of hit me aged 9 or 10, and wishing I could look like someone else. I guess I wanted to write a story about a girl who experiences that kind of feeling. But who is definitely a lot smarter than I was. 

M: Are there any characters you feel you connect with?

T: The story is written from Jemima’s perspective, so naturally I feel very connected to her. Anytime she is laughing or crying in the book, you can be sure that’s exactly what I was doing while I was writing it. She made me rock with laughter, and made me shed enormous tears of sadness. Writing the final chapters was a strange mixture of emotions, because I felt so proud of her, but I was sad to be letting her go. My other favourite characters are Jemima’s auntie Luna and her “Fat Club” teacher, Gina, although in very different ways. Luna’s belief in connecting with the universe is something I believe in myself. Gina’s relentless smiling and enthusiasm always lifted my spirits when I was having a tough writing day. As did Miki’s practical jokes! 

M: What was your favourite part of writing your book?

T: I have to say the ending! It was tough getting Jemima through some of the difficult scenes, particularly when she was treated cruelly by people at school, and strangers. The scenes where she is missing her mum, who left when Jemima was six, were exceptionally heartbreaking to write. So, writing those final few chapters were a joy. There’s also a scene on a cliff top between Jemima and her brother Jasper which felt like the writing equivalent of a hug. I am rather fond of Jasper, despite his ferocious showing off.

M: Have you got any writing tips for kids like me who want to be writers?

T: Don’t give up! That’s the main one. Keep practising. No piece of writing is a failure. It is a step towards getting better and finding your own style. Don’t try to write like anyone else because no one can write like you. And read lots of books, obviously.

M: How do you make up your characters?

T: My characters kind of appear inside my head and then never leave. It’s an odd feeling sometimes, because they feel so real it’s like poking your head into someone else’s life. I do a lot of character profiling, and for the main characters I always write a little timeline of their life, whether or not it will be referenced in the book. It was a lot of fun to do this for the Small family, as they have so many weird and wonderful members, like Jemima’s great-great auntie Lilian. By the time I’m editing the book, the characters don’t feel made up any more.

M: How do you make your characters, situations and their world so realistic and convincing?

T: I draw maps of all the locations in my books, including a floor plan of the houses and the school. I sketched the wooden cabin Auntie Luna lives in, even down to the fairy lights and where the trees are in the garden! Imagining the characters as real people, and the places they inhabit as real places is a really important part of the writing process for me. I am also exceptionally forgetful, so it helps me remember where on earth they are supposed to be! I also do a lot of research. I interview people, read articles, blogs, books. Jasper’s magic tricks are based on magicians I’d watched on YouTube. There’s one line Jemima says about Jasper’s pet tarantula and I tracked down a pest controller to answer my very-much hypothetical question! Little details like that matter, even in a fictional world. If it doesn’t feel real to me, it won’t feel real to my readers. 

M: Is there a place where you like to go to come up with ideas and write?

T: I’d like to say there is a beautiful lake or something that I sit by and ideas appear like clouds, but it doesn’t work like that for me. I always have lots of ideas buzzing around in my head, lots of lines, fragments of conversations, so the notes page in my phone is always full, because it tends to be very late at night when I am supposed to be asleep. If I’m struggling with writing a scene, I usually head to a forest for a walk. It usually brings me some kind of inspiration or comfort. I also just love walking in wellies.

BookNook: And the killer question that we ask everyone who does a guest piece with us at The Book Nook…Wow us with something we didn’t already know…

T: I used to be afraid of the sea when I was little, mainly because my big sister would shout “SHARK!” as a joke whenever we were swimming in it. I couldn’t even bear to dip my toes in the sea. Weirdly, learning to scuba dive got me over my sea phobia. A few summers’ ago, when I was travelling across Indonesia, I took a boat trip and went scuba diving.  Just as I’d put my mask in the water, I spotted a tiger shark. It must have been five metres long. It was an exhilarating experience. Probably my favourite scuba diving memory. But for a moment, I was transported back to my childhood and my sister’s voice yelling dramatically: “SHARK!” and then laughing as I swam for my life towards the pebble beach. As Jemima Small Versus the Universe is set by the sea, I had to sneak in a reference to it! 

Thank you to Tamsin and Mollie for a fab review and Q&A. Coming soon we have a guest post from Tamsin Winter about body image and positivity. Watch this space!

You can get your copy from our online shop here.