Monday, 24 August 2015

Brilliant YA books that you probably haven't heard of

I read a lot. I read well known books but love to branch out and read lesser known ones as well. A lot of these books are fantastic; however they are often over looked for some reason so I thought that I would share a selection of these lesser known novels in hope that you may find a book or a writer that you love.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

This book has won a number of prizes so you may have heard of it; however I am still yet to meet anyone who has actually read it. The novel is about two teenage boys, Ari and Dante who find each other when they have no one else. The novel explains how their friendship grows and how it alters their relationships with their family. The author explores what it means to be a teenage boy but also what it meant to be Mexican growing up in 1980s America (this was an intresting issue that I hadn't really thought about before). Despite being set a number of years ago the struggles that Ari faces are very similar to a number of teenagers today and it is a very relatable book regardless of gender. You will become emotionally attached to Ari and Dante (although I didn't actually like Dante for the majority of the novel). My advice is to pay attention to what is being said, Sáenz is very good at adding subtle things that really add to the plot - I only noticed them the second time around.

I would recommend this book to people age 14+ because although the language itself is not too challenging some of the themes are and may be misunderstood by anyone younger. Also there is quite a bit of swearing at times.

Severed Heads and Broken Hearts: Robyn Schneider

This a story about love and friendship. The main protagonist is a boy called Ezra Faulkner, a teenage
boy who is still recovering after a car crash that shattered his knee, ended his athletic dreams and dramatically altered his life. Then a new called named Cassidy Thorpe joins he school and they embark on their first proper teenage romance and a very complicated friendship. The book is not a fairytale though and Schneider shows how up and down a teenagers life can be. She also explores how one event can change several peoples lives, even those you expect the least.

I would say that this book can be read from the age of around twelve. Looking back on it I can not remember any particularly 'adult' moments so you are all in the clear there!The writing style is fairly chatty so it is very easy to understand (if not a little annoying) and it is only 335 pages long so not too bad!

Hurt: Tabitha Suzuma 

This book is hard hitting and comes with a massive trigger warning. It follows the character Matheo Walsh who was a champion diver for Britain then an event happens that completely changes his life - for the worse. Matheo finds it difficult to connect with his friends, girlfriend and compete in his diving competitions. The whole affair is made more difficult by his demanding parents who expect perfection. Suzuma explores who traumatic events can ruin a life and force then to change everything they do.

This book should definitely be read by people age 15+. It covers issues and topics that will not be fully understood by people younger and could potentially upset them. It also has some graphic sexual scenes and some uses of swear words. It is a fantastic novel; however it IS upsetting and those who may be affected or triggered by novels should avoid it.

Hate List: Jennifer Brown

I am fascinated by the phycology of those who commit school shootings and this novel explores the
aftermath of one through the eyes of the offender's girlfriend, Valerie. Valerie wrote a hate list with her boyfriend that listed all of the people who upset and annoyed the pair. Nick (the shooter) then took the list and planned of killing everyone on there for revenge. He managed to kill a few and number a lot more before being stopped by Valerie. Hate List is the story of what happens next, the friendships that Valerie creates and loses and the struggles of having to rebuild yourself after such a traumatic event.

This book is not explicit as it doesn't have many scenes of a sexual nature; however there is the occasional swearword.  The book is about a school shooting though so the topic may be quite upsetting even though it is not in too much detail - Brown tends to explore the emotional effects instead of the physical ones. I would say that mature 12 year olds could cope with the subject matter as the book is not too complicated.

Heart-shaped Bruise: Tanya Byrne 

Oh this book is a fascinating concept. It is about a girl who is in the psychiatric ward of an English prison. It is written in the form of notes and journal pieces and flits from the present to the past, explaining what happened and why she is in prison. Emily, the girl, is clearly unwell and is focused on getting revenge for her fathers' own imprisonment that left her with nothing. This quickly becomes an obsession and she creates a fake identity to hurt and do anything she can to get back at the person who took everything away from her. This whole matter quickly becomes more complicated as Emily begins to fall in love with someone and it alters her plans completely.

This book may have a few swear words but there are virtually no sexual scenes. Obviously there are some disturbing scenes (she must have done something to end her up in prison!) but it is nothing that a 12 year old couldn't handle. 

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