The Agency For Scandal by Laura Wood, reviewed by Farrah (16)

With its vivid setting, gripping plot-line, and both loveable and villainous characters alike, ‘The Agency for Scandal’ instantly became one of my top reads of the year 2022. 

An expertly crafted combination of swoon-worthy romance and a spy-thriller, with the buzzing backdrop of London.

Farrah (16)

Following Isobel Stanhope, the eighteen-year-old member of The Aviary (an elusive society, aiming to protect women in a society where their rights are severely limited), we witness the unfolding of a mystery involving gaslighting, blackmailing, and some very special jewellery.  Alongside her friends and fellow Aviary members, as well as a very dashing Duke, whom Isobel happens to be secretly besotted with, she sets out on an epic journey to untangle the cryptic web of lies, secrets and deceptions, and thus protect the innocent victims of these schemes. 

As a main character, Isobel is resilient, inspirational and capable, juggling not only the mystery, and her job at The Aviary, but also dealing with the repercussions of her father’s death, and the fact that he has left the family penniless. ‘An Agency for Scandal’ discusses the struggles women face in this society (the novel is set at the beginning of the nineteenth century) and The Aviary is a fantastic addition to the story, as a society run by women, in order to aid other women, often by digging up scandal on powerful men.

Isobel forms meaningful relationships with those around her, and this book is an expertly crafted combination of swoon-worthy romance and a spy-thriller, with the buzzing backdrop of London.

Do yourself a favour and read this wonderful book. 

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron, reviewed by Torrin (16)

Jess Choudhary is a pupil at Heybuckle, the most exclusive private school in England. Ex- Alumni have gone on to be significant politicians and journalists. Then a pupil is murdered, and Jess finds herself at the heart of the investigation.

The death of a pupil at such a well renowned  school obviously has consequences; especially if, like Jess, your prestigious scholarship is threatened by a dangerously classist schoolboard. The stakes of the plot are ludicrously high because not only does Jess face the threat of an actual murder but everything she’s worked hard for could be taken away. At its core this is a YA mystery in the vein of “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” or “One of Us is Lying”, but author Ravena Guron injects it with the poignant themes of elitism and class.

A tone is set in the opening pages which is then twisted in a number of fun and interesting ways.

Torrin (16)

She successfully juggles these themes whilst also delivering a compelling murder mystery. I feared that the story might get bogged down in some of the more complex ideas, but the novel remains broad enough that teens aged 14 and up can comfortably enjoy it.

A tone is set in the opening pages which is then twisted in a number of fun and interesting ways. While I felt that some of the clues were a little heavy-handed, especially towards the end, the mystery is wrapped up nicely in the end with some genuine surprises.

At first glance the book may look daunting, 400 or so pages is a big ask for even the most hardy bookworm. But don’t be put off, I absolutely raced through it. In part due to the constantly mounting tension but also because the characters were likeable, and I wanted to see how it turned out for them.

A challenge when reading a murder mystery is keeping all the suspects in your head at once. A good author is able to keep each suspect distinct and memorable, Guron made this even more challenging for herself by setting the story in a school; she needs enough characters that the place feels alive and busy but not too many or the reader may lose track. I’m happy to report that she was successful. Not only does each and every character feel unique (even the side-characters are memorable) but they have goals and motivations outside of the main plot – they’re truly characters and not just plot devices.

The murder mystery genre seems to be having quite the resurgence in both books and film. And This Book Kills is a worthy addition to the pantheon of modern whodunnits.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, reviewed by Farrah (16)

In a deeply patriarchal society, where young girls undergo a ‘purity ceremony’, our main character Deka is forced to lead a different life than the predetermined path set out for her, when her blood runs gold with deemed impurity.

I massively enjoyed the experience of living inside Deka’s brain as she undergoes all of these shocking and exciting new experiences.

Farrah (16)

Snatched from her village, she is thrust into a world of battle and demons and is forced to deconstruct the indoctrinated misogyny housed in her brain, as she enters the Emperor’s army, as a special sector of the legions. Along the way she makes alliances and bands together with others, in the kinship of sisterhood, whilst also blossoming as an individual, piecing together her past and fighting for her future.

As this is a book told in first-person, I massively enjoyed the experience of living inside Deka’s brain as she undergoes all of these shocking and exciting new experiences. The overall message and themes contained within the pages, such as the importance of friendship and defiance, with the feminist overtone make for an impactful fantasy. The world building is unique, and the characters feel fleshed out and multi-faceted. As a debut novel, this is certainly commendable.

If you are a lover of the fantasy genre, or if you are interested in trying fantasy, I would definitely recommend ‘The Gilded Ones’. The writing style is eloquent, but easy to read, and you will find yourself gripped in no time. It’s sequel, ‘The Merciless Ones’ has recently been released, and therefore if upon finishing, you are eager for more, there is a whole new novel for you to devour. If however, you would prefer to read it as a stand-alone, then ‘The Gilded Ones’ will not disappoint. The ending ties the tale together neatly,  and you could leave the story there.

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. 

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.

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.  

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.

 

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

Being a teenager is hard enough, but it’s even harder in a world you’ve never known… Eighteen months ago, 17-year-old Rose and 13-year-old Rudder escaped a strict religious sect with their mum.

They are still trying to make sense of the world outside – no more rules about clothes and books, films and music, no more technology bans. But also no more friendship with the people they’ve known all their lives, no community and no certainty. It doesn’t help that their mum has to work all hours to pay rent on their cramped, smelly, one-bed flat above a kebab shop in Hackney.

While Rudder gorges on once-taboo Harry Potters and dances to Simon and Garfunkel and show tunes, Rose swaps the ankle skirts and uncut hair of the Woodford Pilgrims for Japanese-cute fairy dress and her new boyfriend, Kye.

Kye, who she wants with all her being. But there’s loads of scary stuff about their new life that Rose and Rudder have no idea how to handle – it’s normal for girls to let their boyfriends take naked pictures of them, right?

When Rudder accidently sets a devastating chain of events into action, Rose must decide whether to sacrifice everything and go back to the life she hates, in order to save the people she loves. A story about coming of age, slap-bang in the middle of a strange new world.

Rose, Interrupted is a feminist YA stunner! Infatuation vs indoctrination, the importance of friendship and role models in finding yourself and your people, and a glorious celebration of the healing power of books and the creative arts.

Full of characters who you will be cheering for and screaming at in equal measures, Rose, Interrupted shows us real people trying their best in extreme situations. Love their flaws, love their optimism, love their reality. This book has it all.

You can order your copy here.

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Meet Eric and Morgan. Born on the same day, at the same time, in the same place. They've always shared this one day together, but as they grow up they begin to grow apart. Everyone expects Eric to get a football scholarship, but no one knows he's having second thoughts. Former quarterback Morgan feels utterly alone, as she wrestles with the difficult choice to live as her true self. Both of them are struggling to be the person they know they are.

Who better to help than your best friend? Told on one day every year, over six years, this is a story about how change pulls people apart... and how love brings them back together.

Birthday is a beautifully authentic #ownvoices coming-of-age story about surviving prejudice and finding self-acceptance. Prepare to be emotionally invested in this glorious will-they-wont-they with a heartwarming ending that will leave you grinning for days. The perfect summer read. We loved it.

And just look at those rainbow sprayed edges!

You can get your copy here.

Heartstream by Tom Pollock

A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror. Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star.

But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time.

Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want? Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

Tom Pollock’s previous book, White Rabbit, Red Wolf was a Book Nook favourite, so we knew we were in for a treat with Heartstream. Pollock’s work is unique and fiercely intelligent; you know you’re going to get something wildly different and fresh.

Heartstream examines obsession, online community and belonging. It imagines the future of social media and explores the concept of how much of ourselves we share online – and when it crosses the line and becomes too much. The examples of the anonymity of online bullying are brutal and wholly relevant.

Heartstream is reminiscent of Years and Years and Black Mirror and shares their tension and visions of a technological online future. But it is when it looks at the relationships between all the characters- their uncertainty and confusion and soaring, conflicting emotions – that it really holds your heart.

This is a gripping, whirlwind of a book that will play with your emotions and keep you guessing until the very last page.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.