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


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.


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.

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence


Sixteen-year-old Marlon has promised his widowed mum that he’ll be good, and nothing like his gang-leader brother Andre. But everything changes when Marlon’s first date with the beautiful Sonya ends in tragedy; he becomes a hunted man and he has no idea why. With his dad dead and his brother helpless, Marlon has little choice but to enter Andre’s old world of guns, knives and drug runs in order to uncover the truth and protect those close to him. It’s time to fight to be the last man standing

Some people may read Orangeboy thinking Marlon Sunday is one of the most infuriating young men you have ever encountered. Why does he do things the way he does? Why does he make decisions that those of us who don’t live the life he does would consider damaging? Patrice Lawrence’s writing is so superbly that you can’t fail to become fully immersed in Marlon’s world and completely understand why he decides to follow the course of action that he eventually takes.

I read Orangeboy through screams at the book of “WHY….NO….DON’T DO THAT MARLON…THERE IS ANOTHER WAY”, and the last few chapters I read almost without breathing, trying to simultaneously hide behind my hands and read to the end as fast as I could to find out what happens to Marlon and his family.

Marlon is a completely ordinary young man who reacts to the circumstances around him in a believable and natural way. His desire to protect his family and friends is what makes this story, at heart, one about how far a person will go to protect the people he loves.

Orangeboy is one of those books I wish had been written when I was a teenager. This is an important book for anyone living through the circumstances depicted in the story to read, but also vital for everyone else who pretends that these things don’t happen. Sometimes people do make the wrong decision out of good intentions, and that shouldn’t be ignored.

A gripping rollercoaster ride through a young man’s brave attempts to save those he loves, as the past chases after them and threatens to destroy everything. This book is simply brilliant and if you’re looking for a story full of drama and real life experiences, that will grip you until the last page, then you’ve found the right novel.

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