Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thursday Thoughts: YA Yeah Yeah Recommendations

I accepted a few books in exchange for considering them for recommendation requests a while ago, and unfortunately circumstances have stopped me getting them done. I've decided to combine mini-recommendations of three of them here, along with Weirdos vs Quimboids and The City's Son, which I really enjoyed.

Weirdos vs Quimboids by Natasha Desborough is frank, frequently fairly filthy, and flipping funny!  I laughed out loud a lot, but am not prepared to admit which parts I was laughing at. (Although it's pretty close to 'all of it'!) When The Daily Mail get their hands on this one, they'll be running an outraged article about the disgusting state of YA today. However along with the rude humour, we get a great trio of friends, a bit of romance, and a story about a 'weirdo' finding herself, with some brilliant character development. I've heard a rumour that the upcoming sequel is even funnier. I'm finding this rather hard to believe, but am looking forward to finding out!

The Million Dollar Gift by Ian Somers is a strong action thiller about a boy with the hidden gift of telekinesis. Entering a contest which challenges people to prove they have superhuman skills. Ross enters the contest in an attempt to break free of his mundane life, but a good performance in it could turn out to be only the beginning of his problems. Ross's relationship with the man who becomes his mentor is excellent, the plot has a few real surprises in (although it's fairly obvious from the start that the contest is extremely dubious, once Ross realises this it gets much harder to predict what's coming next,) and it's a quick read which had me glued from start to finish. I also really enjoyed the clever world-building here as Somers does a great job of explaining the 'gifts' to his readers.

Somers' book is from O'Brien Press, as is Missing Ellen by Natasha Mac a'Bhaird. This contemporary goes back and forth between narrator Maggie struggling to cope with her friend Ellen's disappearance, and flashbacks showing her earlier friendship with Ellen leading up to the time she went missing. Maggie is a strong enough character, and Mac a'Bhaird's writing style is engaging enough, that it's a good read. Having said that, it's on the predictable side and Ellen and Maggie (particularly Maggie) seem rather young for their age. That's not a deal-breaker, though, and this is still worth checking out.

Skulk by Rosie Best and The City's Son by Tom Pollock have several similarities. They're both set in version of London with supernatural elements added - shapeshifters in Best's book, and almost indescribable things in Pollock's. They both have strong heroines who love graffiti. They're both books which have me desperate to read the sequels. And of all the hundreds of teen fantasy novels I've read in my life, I think they may be about the two best at melding the protagonists' 'normal' problems to the fantasy world they find themselves involved in.

The City's Son sees Beth Bradley stumble into a secret city where the ghosts of trains rush around, and glass-skinned dancers light the streets. It's notable for exceptionally strong character arcs for several characters - Beth herself, her father and her best friend all develop brilliantly. If anything, my one issue with this one is that I think I would probably have enjoyed it even more if I'd read it fifteen years ago when I was younger and had more of an imagination. Darn you, Tom Pollock, for not writing it a couple of decades earlier!

Best's Skulk also sees its heroine plunged into a secret London, where raggedy groups of people transform into animals. The shapechangers have never got on with each other, but with a mysterious stranger trying to claim the strange gemstone Meg was given when she inherited the shift, she's forced to try to lead this ragtag bunch. The main strength is a wonderful narrator in Meg - bullied by a tyrannical mother for being a size sixteen and not fitting in with the image her family are trying to project, and catapulted into a world she doesn't understand. However it also has a brilliant plot and some great supporting characters.

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