Monday 6 February 2017

100 Recommendations For Secondary School Librarians: Part 3 of 10

Reposting my intro to this feature. Part 1 can be found HERE and part 2 HERE.

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 3!


Book by John Agard (Walker)

The story of how books came to be - tracing their development from papyrus and scrolls, to books, to e-books - this is a delightfully told work of narrative non-fiction. Told as the autobiography of Book, there's a lively, witty voice which is supplemented by infographics and quotes from lots of key people in the world of literature.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard (Macmillan)

This is a wonderful book that handles friendships with great delicacy. In it, best friends Caddy and Rosie meet a third girl, Suzanne. Suzanne is originally introduced to Caddy (the narrator) by Rosie. But while Rosie and Suzanne met at school and quickly became friends, Suzanne and Caddy become even closer - only for Suzanne's hidden secrets to cause problems. It's a stunning read which deals with so many hard-hitting themes brilliantly - trauma, the aftermath of terrible events (which we seem to see less often in YA than the actual terrible events), and jealousy. It also shows us how quickly a friendship can develop, and how not all friendships are always positive.

Am I Normal Yet?  by Holly Bourne (and the rest of the Spinster Club trilogy) (Usborne)

This is just about my favourite of the series, but all 3 novels (and the final novella) are of an incredibly high standard! This one, which sees Evie try to live a 'normal' life in the grip of OCD and anxiety, is a particularly massive recommendation as with so many teenagers today facing mental health problems it's incredibly important that books like this are available to them. I love the positive portrayal of therapy and medication, too!

Have A Little Faith by Candy Harper (and sequels) (Simon and Schuster)

Faith has been moved into a different form to separate her from her friend Megs, as the teachers seem to think they're a bad combination. On the plus side, the school are bussing in cute boys for their choir - and Faith is ready to get to know the dreamy Finn a lot better. Until she realises he's singing a duet with her sworn enemy, at least. Can Faith get the boy? And will she be able to move back into the same form as Megs by impressing Miss Ramsbottom with her new found maturity?

My all-time favourite fun contemporary read - although both sequels are REALLY high up on my list as well - this is one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. It also features a fabulous group of friends, male and female, with the friendship being more of a focus than the romance hinted at in the description. I love that Faith and the rest can fall out but also make up, they care about each other deeply, and they work so well together. (Also her gran is an outstanding character who would steal the limelight completely from nearly ANY other narrator!)

The Good Immigrant by various, edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound)

Published for adults but required reading for older teens as well, this is a fantastic collection of essays about what it means to be BAME in Britain today. There are so many incredibly powerful pieces here (Daniel York Loh's, on growing up idolising mysterious wrestler Kendo Nagasaki, is a particular favourite of mine.) Definitely one that shouldn't be missed!

The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan

Sam and his new friend Lloyd make a horrible mistake and end up trapped in a car speeding far away from their hometown, with a strange and creepy driver. Once they reach a big house, Sam is quickly separated from Lloyd - can he figure out a way to escape alive?

Sam is a fantastic main character, brave and resourceful but never implausibly so, while Lloyd and their kidnapper are also vividly realised. Kalhan also deserves huge plaudits for her writing style; it's pacy, ratchets up the tension, and the vocabulary she uses is simple and makes the book very accessible, even to reluctant readers. The realism of the book makes it extremely uncomfortable reading at times, but this is a must read for kids who are growing up and think they're ready to be allowed off by themselves. While teachers and parents can lecture and talk to them about 'stranger danger' for hours and hours, this is so impactful that it will stick in children's minds for far longer than any number of talks. It may well scare the living daylights out of them - but in this context that's probably a good thing, if it helps them to think about staying safe.

Ongoing series

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl (Usborne)

With Lily's father missing and silver-eyed men stalking her, the only help she has comes from new friend Robert and mechanical fox Malkin. Can they survive?

Gripping steampunk adventure, with some strong characters (Malkin especially!) and fabulous world-building. I'm really excited for Moonlocket, the next adventure in the series, coming in May.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key)

Blackmailed by her father into helping him try to stop her mother's death, time traveller Nix is forced to aid him despite not being sure what a successful attempt will do - could it erase her from existence? Really exciting story, with amazing chemistry between Nix and love interest Kashmir, and the settings - especially Hawaii prior to joining the USA - are fabulous.

2017 books

The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)

Young dragon Aventurine sneaks out by herself to try and capture a tasty human, only to be tempted by his hot chocolate and find herself magically transformed into a human girl. Declawed and defanged, she sets out to make the most of the transformation by getting a job as an apprentice chocolatier, but things don't go quite according to plan.

Completely and utterly gorgeous MG - the best MG I've read in 2016 - about dragons, chocolate, friends, family and finding your passion in life. I read this one with a massive smile on my face right the way through, and adored Aventurine and new friend Silke. I'm also left in awe of Stephanie after the ending - close to the end I couldn't see how she could wrap things up quickly enough but she pulled it off perfectly.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (Simon & Schuster)

Oh wow! My first Adam Silvera and it's just as wonderful as I'd been told his writing is (but a serious tearjerker; stock up on tissues.) I fell totally in love with Griffin, Theo and Jackson, all three are amazing characters and I thought the details of Theo's relationships with both other boys were incredibly well-portrayed. In addition, I loved Adam's really perfect depiction of Griffin's OCD; definitely one of the best I've seen in YA. In addition, as devastating as it is, it's also hopeful - a stunning look at heartbreak, grief and forgiveness.

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