I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

Karen Gregory is now one of those authors who, when their publisher sends an email to say advance proofs of their new novel is out I could easily break the world record for hitting reply, typing SEND ME THIS IMMEDIATELY I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE, and hitting send. Thank the publishing gods, or Emily at Bloomsbury specifically, for getting this book into my eager hands, because oh my, is this one rollercoaster ride of brilliant YA writing.

Gemma is a confident, country music singing, girl with a solid group of (bloody excellent) friends. Then Aaron enters the picture. With his beautiful face, and his adorable dog, and his ability to always say the right thing and totally sweep Gemma off her feet.

I HOLD YOUR HEART is a YA thriller that had me gripped from page one and left me desperate to find out what was going to happen next. There were times I sat reading it in open mouthed shock, and my heart broke when the truth started to ease its way into the story.

Whilst most of the book is told from Gemma’s perspective, the addition of chapters told by Aaron really gave a deeper dimension to the story, allowing us an insight into his mind. This is easily one of the best YA books of 2019, and brilliantly delves into the hidden truths of obsessive, controlling, relationships.

This is the perfect book for teenagers (of all genders) who are starting to explore relationships. Karen crafts a story that at no point felt preachy, but still has an incredibly important message for us all – of what love is, and how it should never ask us to give up parts of ourselves.

Also, my deep love for realistic bisexual representation on the page was realised fully throughout the book, which gives it extra points in my book!

I received a copy of I Hold Your Heart by request to the publishers, Bloomsbury Children’s Books. It is released in the UK and Ireland on 11th July and you can buy a copy now


Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron

Last Bus to Everland - graphic


If you’ve not yet read Sophie Cameron’s debut novel, Out of the Blue, then you won’t know what a magical treat you’re in for. With her second novel, Last Bus to Everland, Sophie has once again delivered an emotional, realistic, contemporary novel, full of love, hope, and magic.

The novel is set in Scotland as well as a magical Narnia-esque place, and delivers its story with such a light touch, while still reaching deep into some serious issues. The way the story deals with bullying is exemplary, and allows us to follow Brody through a full arc of emotions in how he deals with (or doesn’t deal with) bullies. I really appreciated how Brody doesn’t just suddenly find an inner strength out of nothing in order to cope with his bullies, but slowly builds up to a place where he can confront them and start to push back.

One of the things that is explored superbly in Last Bus to Everland is poverty. Brody is part of a working-class family, and Sophie Cameron approaches that head on, never shying away from the hardships his family faces, and providing no magical cures. We definitely need more books that deal with parents working shifts, cutting back on food, and struggling to pay bills – and discussing this with their children. How this is portrayed, and Brody’s reactions to this, are carefully weaved into the magical storyline, allowing the reader to feel a part of the family and the struggles they are going through.

Brody is not a perfect character, he has flaws and complexity. This was exhibited fantastically in how he responds to his father’s mental illness. Brody tries to sympathise, but often times doesn’t quite know how to keep being understanding when faced with all the difficulties the family faces. This  realistic response is portrayed with subtle understanding and compassion by Sophie.

As with her debut, in Last Bus to Everland Sophie Cameron delivers a novel of quietly built tension, low-key passion, and believable love and friendship between a diverse cast of LGBTQ teens. A brilliant novel that will appeal to fans of contemporary or fantasy YA.

I received a copy of Last Bus to Everland by request to the publishers, Macmillan Children’s Books. It is released in the UK and Ireland on 16th May, and in the US in June.

You can pre-order a copy now via this affiliate link: http://bit.ly/2IG0sl7


Under My Skin by Juno Dawson

Under My Skin Juno DawsonIf you’re looking for a creepy horror book to sink your teeth into this winter, I can highly recommend Under My Skin by Juno Dawson. This book reminded me why I read horror when I was a teenager, except it was infinitely better than anything I read back in the day.

At 17 years old Sally Feathers is just like a lot of young women her age, desperate to make it to the end of school in one piece without any major traumas. Her routine and ordinary life is changed when she encounters a mysterious tattoo parlour in the seedier side of town and is instantly drawn to an image of the beautiful Molly Sue.

Sally images having a secret Molly Sue tattoo on her back will inspire her with the confidence to get a part in the school musical, and perhaps talk to that hot guy who’s dating one of the cool girls. What she didn’t bargain on is Molly Sue having other ideas.

This is an exquisite YA book exploring deeply disturbing ideas of power, loneliness, confidence, identity – all through the medium of carefully crafted and interesting characters in their high school setting. I loved this book and how the strong voices and personalities of the characters shone through the fast moving plot.

Atmospheric and dark, but full of personality and courage, this book is the perfect read for a warm night inside on these dark nights.

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genres: YA, Horror
Available to buy now


Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Running With Lions by Julian WintersI’m gonna be honest with you, full disclosure, I only started to read Running With Lions because I’d been told it was super queer. I’m not a soccer fan, am dubious about most team sports in fact, and wasn’t sure it would be my kinda thing at all. But I read it because I’m always here for the LGBTQ books, and I figured if it was good I could recommend it to others who might like it.

Predictable plot twist: I think this is one of the best LGBTQ YA novels I’ve read this year.

This book is getting a lot of love online, all of it deserved. I think one reason people are so passionate about it is that it speaks to its readers on so many levels. For those who read wanting to see themselves in a book, there is an outstanding range of people represented (sexuality, gender, religion, race, ethnicity – all are dealt with sensitively and effortlessly). For those who read wanting to be taken into a world that isn’t theirs, I guarantee you’ll finish the book wanting to play Soccer (admittedly very briefly, my consideration of team sports lasted a whole hour, but for that hour I was deeply passionate about my new love).

It’s one of those brilliantly written YA novels that is so subtle at drawing you in and getting you inside the minds of characters whose voices are so strong they seem like friends you’ve always known. I did love main character Sebastian and found him rather charming, but I totally fell in love with Emir.

This fantastic novel is the summer soccer camp romance between a bisexual American goalie and his gay British Pakistani former-best-friend-now-enemy YA novel that you’ve been waiting for. This is a funny, uplifting, sexy, romantic, and bloody excellent novel! I can’t wait to read what Julian Winters writes next.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but I’ll be buying my own copy very soon and you should too – you won’t regret it!

Publisher: Duet
Genres: LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Young Adult
Published: 7th June 2018
Available to buy now

Noah Could Never by Simon James Green

Noah Could Never by Simon James GreenLast year Noah Can’t Even made us all fall in love with the chaotic and mostly hapless Noah Grimes (sorry Noah, we love you, but how do you get yourself into these situations?). This year, be prepared to launch yourself back into Noah’s whirlwind of drama and angst, with the brilliant follow-up Noah Could Never.

Now that Noah and best friend Harry are boyfriends, how is this going to change their friendship? What if Harry decides he’s actually not that interested in weedy Noah but would prefer the much sexier French exchange student Pierre? What disasters will befall Noah when his gran’s diamonds are stolen and he finds himself in the middle of an epic drag queen feud?

I adored Noah Can’t Even and had high expectations going into Book 2. I was worried it might not be as funny, I was worried that it might just be more of the same high-jinks chaos. I didn’t need to worry. Yes, it’s just as funny. Yes, it’s the same chaos you’d expect from Noah Grimes. However, there is so much heart to Noah Could Never. Noah’s life isn’t just a series of chaotic mistakes, they’re believable episodes in the life of someone unsure of themselves and trying to find their way.

I loved that characters we saw briefly in Book 1 (e.g. Bambi Sugapops) are fully realised and developed. I loved that Harry, who we know a bit from Book 1, is explored in greater depths as a person, not just in his relation to Noah. I love that there’s more Gran and I identify with her sassiness in so many ways.

Noah Could Never is the perfect follow-up to the first book. It’s full of emotion, drama, humour, and love. Plus, it made me cry lots, in a good way.

Book 3? I would very much love a book written from Harry’s perspective because I adore him so much, but anything featuring more of the adventures of Noah would be very welcome.  Another Book 3 suggestion – Bambi Sugapops, the Novel – you know it makes sense Simon!


Publisher:  Scholastic
Genres: YA, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Funny
Published:  7th June 2018
Available to buy now

The Sin Eater’s Daughter Trilogy

When a trilogy comes to an end what do you do with your life? Go back to staring at walls and mumbling about how the world is a cold and lonely place, obviously.

Let’s look back to 2015, when I first encountered the world gifted to us by Melinda Salisbury in The Sin Eater’s Daughter. Little did I know what joys I was letting myself in for.

Before I read The Sin Eater’s Daughter I didn’t read much YA, or fantasy, or trilogies – now I’m addicted to all three.

It tells the story of Twylla, the living embodiment of a goddess, betrothed to the prince, and with the ability to kill with a single touch.

What I loved so much about this was all the things I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting Twylla to be as vulnerable and lacking in power over her own life, but still be able to take charge and face up to a world that feared her, with courage and dignity.

My favourite character after Twylla was Lief, her guard. I loved his complexity that was never fully explained but seemed so very human.

I remember where I was when I finished reading the book, because I screamed out loud and ran around telling everyone how amazing it was.

I was expecting a lot from the second book, The Sleeping Prince, and I was not disappointed. Once again the book hit me in unexpected ways. I thought it would continue right where we left off, but instead we get told another person’s story.

Errin is not living so much as surviving. After the death of her father and the disappearance of her brother Lief she finds herself caring for her sick mother and barely managing to keep her head down and unnoticed by those around who who might not have her best interests at heart. When war comes to the village Errin is forced to make difficult decisions and rely on those she isn’t sure she can trust in order to save what is left of her family.

The Sleeping Prince delivers a complex and well developed plot, drawing in multiple layers of folklore and history. Errin’s world is full of uncertainties and her cautious but confident approach to getting what she wants makes her a character that I instantly loved.

By the second half of the book all the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together and draw the first two books closer. I love the way Melinda shows us the interconnected nature of the characters’ lives and how there can still be strength in vulnerability.

By the time book 3 came out I was not emotionally ready for this story to be over.

The Scarecrow Queen takes us into the final battle with Errin and Twylla fighting to save the people they love and themselves from The Sleeping Prince as he attempts to destroy everything around them.

I’m not going to say any more about the book so I don’t give away any spoilers, but if you’ve not read any of them I urge you to get hold of a copy now.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy is a brilliantly written tale. It gives us two young women who find the strength to stop all the forces that are intent on taking away control from their lives. It gives us flawed characters that aren’t romanticised or excused, but are presented to us as real and oh so human. It is a gripping, beautifully imagined, rich fantasy world you won’t want to leave.

To find out more check out Mel’s website, Twitter, and just go and buy the books dammit!

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Should you believe the hype? Yes, but it’s even better than everyone is telling you.

This is such an unexpected book because like a lot of people you may assume it is mostly about running, but it is so much more than that. In fact, I thought there was barely any running in it at all when you weigh that up with everything else going on in the novel.

This is the story of Wing Jones, her brother, her brothers best friend, but most importantly her amazing grandmothers. Wing thinks that her older brother Marcus is perfect, until one night everything changes.

Wing Jones is a story about one girl finding the strength within herself to rise above some pretty significant difficulties in life and discover a power and determination that no one, not even she, knew she had.

I loved this book for the daring way it chose not to have everything work out perfectly, for the brilliant diverse characters who I hope many young people will read and see themselves in. I loved it for the beautiful lyrical writing, weaving magic and love throughout each sentence. Mostly I loved it for the hope. Wing and her family face social and economic difficulties, but this is never sugar-coated or magically waved away, and that is so vitally important to read in a YA book. Instead Katherine presents us a vision of hope, that through hard work, determination, and the love and support of those around us, things can get better.

I can’t wait to read what Katherine writes next, because if this stunning achievement is her first novel, we’re in for a lifetime of brilliant stories.


The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Flora Banks suffers from amnesia, but there is one thing she remembers, she kissed a boy on a beach. Now she’s going on go on an adventure to find the boy who’s brought her memory back.

I thought this book was going to be a love story. It isn’t. This is a story about Flora, about her strength, bravery, and determination to be ‘normal’. This is a story about a young woman who desperately wants to remember who she is and what is happening with her life. This is a story about vulnerability and the attempt, against all odds, for Flora to gain control of her life and not let her vulnerability control her.

When I finished this book I felt like I had been completely swept up in a whirlwind of emotion. The story is written superbly so that the reader really feels like they are inside Flora’s head, full of confusion and desperation. The constant repetition of facts is a fantastic tool for drawing us into Flora’s world. The final few chapters show us how unreliable it is to rely on memory, and how even memories we think are true can be manipulated by others.

This novel is a uniquely brilliant and thought-provoking read that you won’t want to put down.

Buy a copy of The One Memory of Flora Banks 

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

We’re barely into 2017 and this is an early contender for book of the year. It is simply beautiful.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

The slowly building friendship that turns into love between Steffi and Rhys takes us on a journey as they both discover more about themselves and the depth of their strength of character. This book is a sensitively handled insight into social anxiety and I was impressed by the way Steffi’s personality developed. Her own lack of confidence, despite evidence to the contrary of what she could achieve, was realistic and cleverly conveyed to the reader as we follow her on her journey.

You should read this book if you want to understand the quiet people in your life, and how they aren’t broken and don’t need fixing, but are able to communicate in their own way and in their own time.

This book is full of hope and love, both romantic as well as friendship and family love, and is the perfect way to start 2017. Utterly and totally mesmerising. A brilliant second novel from Sara Barnard.


Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

This is a book about love, but about what it means to really be in love with a person and everything they are, not just the idea of what you want them to be.

This book is about grief, about how there is not one way to try and live after you’ve lost someone you thought would always be there.

This book is about the way we build a dream of what our future will be, and how we cope when it doesn’t quite come true.

A brilliantly paced intimate look at love and loss narrated by the instantly relatable and funny Henry. This is a story for anyone who wants to laugh and cry in equal measures and who wants to follow flawed human characters (who don’t always behave in likable ways) as they grow through their responses to adversity.