Monday 9 January 2017

100 Recommendations For Secondary School Librarians: Part 1 of 10

Inspired by a tweet last week, I thought I'd have a go at providing a list of some fairly recent books I thought librarians should definitely be aware of!

Help needed! I've been asked to support a secondary school library to buy new books. All recommendations appreciated. Please RT Thank you
— Jo Clarke (@bookloverJo) January 4, 2017

A few things - firstly this is only covering 2012 onwards (except for two exceptions which are SO good and SO underrated that I can't leave them out!) Secondly I have tried to go for a wide range of genres and I've tried to be inclusive in choices of authors. I've limited myself to one book/series per author but even so there are some AMAZING books that haven't made it in. In some cases that's because I had lots from a particular genre and had to make tough decisions, in some cases it's because talking to librarians has left me feeling that lots of people already have certain books in stock and it would be more useful spreading the word about slightly lesser-known ones. (There ARE a few really big ones in here anyway, for various reasons.) I've also tried to go for mostly UK authors - and obviously all books here are published in the UK, as far as I'm aware.

Basically what I'm trying to say is this is IN NO WAY a definitive list and shouldn't be taken to be THE 100 BOOKS YOU MUST HAVE or anything. However it is a list of 100 books which I have (mostly) read and loved or (in a few cases) haven't read but have had recommended to me incredibly highly, and which I think would be great ones to have in your secondary school library.

I'm aiming to split this up over ten parts, probably fortnightly. Each week will have six books or completed series from 2012 - 2016, two ongoing series, and two coming out this year to watch out for. 

So, here's part 1!


I'll Be Home for Christmas by various authors (Stripes) - While this anthology of stories is centred around Christmas, they are perfect reads for any time of the year! Featuring a host of incredible authors - including Juno Dawson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Sita Brahmachari and Holly Bourne - this collection of tales on the themes of home have something for everyone. I haven't quite finished this myself but it's so strong that I'm happy to recommend on what I've read! Stand-outs for me include Juno's Homo For Christmas, about a boy going home from university to tell his mother he's gay, Cat Clarke's Family You Choose - a gorgeous story of acceptance - and Sita's Amir and George, about a refugee from Iraq who enters the George Orwell public speaking competition having been in the UK for just a year.

Six of Crows (and sequel Crooked Kingdom) by Leigh Bardugo (Orion) - This fantasy duology gives us a compelling heist thriller set in Bardugo's rich and compelling Grisha-verse, introduced in her debut trilogy. As great as those books were, these are even more exciting and add an amount of (often quite dark!) humour. I love the central six characters here - all wonderful creations in their own right, but the relationships between them really add to the story as well. Kaz, leader of the group, shows that someone using a cane to walk can still be ferocious, while his mental trauma at his past is sensitively dealt with. It's also got one of the relatively few portrayals I've seen of gambling addiction in YA, which again is really well-written.

After Iris (and the rest of the Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series) by Natasha Farrant (Faber and Faber) - Hard to choose one from Natasha Farrant because wartime story The Things We Did For Love is utterly gorgeous and I'm hearing great things about Pride and Prejudice-inspired Lydia as well. However I'll go for this series because it's a perfect read for younger teens, centred around a really lovely family. Narrator Bluebell is a great character and I love the way this is written to include the videos she films of her family and friends. This first book is a really moving look at the grief suffered by a family who are still trying to figure themselves out three years after Bluebell's twin sister's tragic death. This is warm, surprisingly (given the subject matter) funny a lot of the time, and really wonderful in the way that it shows how everyone has been affected by Iris's death, even though Bluebell initially thinks life has moved on for the rest of them.

Mars Evacuees (and sequel Space Hostages) by Sophia McDougall (Egmont) - I'm not 100% sure this is in the right place; if there's more in this series to come from Sophia then I will be VERY happy to be wrong! The story of children sent to Mars after aliens attack Earth, this is funny and exciting but it's also surprisingly deep a lot of the time. I love the way this looks at the effects of war on the children and that it doesn't just make the aliens into one-dimensional villains - they're really well-rounded characters. Book two in the series is even better, introducing non-binary genders which is awesome to see, and bumping up the action AND the humour.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate (Abrams) - This book about seven teens caught up in the fallout of a teacher/student affair is a great read which tackles lots of important topics without sensationalising them, Juggling a story from 7 POVs seems hugely ambitious but Riley Redgate pulls it off brilliantly in her debut. In addition it has the first character I've seen in a YA novel who defines themselves as pansexual, and a character who strongly reads as aromantic/asexual. (In this case, the character doesn't use these words, but it fits their character NOT to.) 

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (Corgi) - Nicola Yoon's second book is the story of two teens over the course of one day. Natasha is desperately trying to stop her family from being deported to Jamaica, while Daniel is a Korean-American boy who falls for her straight away but who knows that his parents won't approve.  The unique structure - mostly a dual narrative, but interspersed with stories of lots of people the MCs meet - got my attention quickly but Nicola's beautiful writing and the superb central pairing are even more impressive. I loved the chemistry between them while the author also brought New York to life perfectly. A stunning look at love, science, poetry, fate, and so many other topics. And oh, that ending! An incredible read.

Ongoing series

Ms Marvel by G Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona/Ian Herring/Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel) - Marvel's first Muslim character to headline her own series is a complete and utter delight. With an easy to relate to teenage MC who manages to do a great job of saving the day while also fangirling over more experienced heroes (who wouldn't?), and gorgeous artwork, this is my favourite superhero comic from the big two for some time.

House of Eyes by Patricia Elliot (Hodder Children’s Books) - There are SO MANY amazing historical MG mystery series out there at the moment! While I love the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens and the Sinclair's series by Katherine Woodfine, the Connie Carew books by Patricia Elliott are underrated gems. Connie is very much the lead here - accepting help from others but playing the main part in solving the cases. It's a really interesting dynamic especially since many of the other awesome mystery series out there involve groups or duos working together.

2017 releases

See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng (Puffin) - This is one I haven't read but am hearing brilliant things about. Written as a podcast, it's the story of a space obsessed boy who wants to capture things on his iPod and then send it into space so that aliens can understand people on Earth. I love books about road trips and I love ones written in unusual ways so this sounds fabulous! 

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber (Walker) - Released last week, Katherine Webber's much-anticipated debut is just as gorgeous as you'd expect from such a big fan of YA. Her main character - a teenage girl who discovers a previously unknown talent for running after her sports star brother is struck by tragedy - is a wonderful lead. I thought the love interest here was great, but even more so than the romance I found Wing's self-discovery as she grew more confident - in running and in life - to be utterly compelling. As well, her grandmothers - one from China, the other from Ghana - are fabulous characters and I particularly loved the scenes they were in.

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