The secret is out – YA (Young Adult fiction) is one of the most exciting and popular book categories at the moment. Gone is the stigma of grownups reading ‘kids books’ – readers of all ages are attracted to YA for its strong narratives, awareness of social causes, and championing of diversity and the authenticity of #ownvoices experience. With strong new releases every season, we’ll take a look at some recent hits:
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Virtue and Vengenace is the highly-anticipated sequel to Children of Blood and Bone, one of the strongest YA debuts ever. Having brought magic back to the kingdom of Orisha, the feisty heroine, Zelie Adebola, finds out that the unexpected consequences of her actions may derail her fight against oppression. This fantasy trilogy is set in West Africa, with inspiration from Harry Potter, West African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement. Tomi Adeyemi deftly uses her fictitious realm to explore issues of racism, oppression and slavery. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a solid second instalment, leading up to a huge finish in the third and final volume.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for one of the wealthiest families in Atlanta. By night, she moonlights as Miss Sweetie, the author of a newspaper advice column. When her column becomes popular, she uses it to challenge society’s ideas about race and gender, and must step up to overcome the backlash that follows. Stacey Lee is a Chinese-American writer whose stories reinterpret historical events from a Chinese-American perspective. Downstairs Girl is a powerful novel about identity, betrayal and the meaning of family.
Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto
If you love High Fantasy with mythical creatures then be sure to check out The Crown of Feathers saga. Heart of Flames is the second instalment, continuing this story about siblings Val and Veronyka, who dream of joining the Phoenix Riders, a disbanded band of elite warriors who have empathic links to the phoenixes they ride. Within the political machinations and tensions of an unstable world, Val, Veronyka and their friends discover their distinct identities, fall in love, and strive towards their goals. Nicki Pau Preto does a great job of world-building, and of fleshing out her characters, by telling the story from multiple perspectives.
Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
Award-winning author Renee Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan to give us a stirring story about feminist activism and empowerment. Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends attending a social justice-focussed high school in New York. When they realise that sexism and racism are rife even in their progressive school, these strong-willed teens fight hard to make sure their voices – and those of other young women – can still be heard. Watch Us Rise is a dynamic, complex story with a multidimensional, diverse cast. The use of a dual narrative, and the inclusion of art, poetry and blogs to drive the story, add extra interest.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
We Hunt The Flame is a new quest adventure set in a realm inspired by ancient Arabia. Zafira is a strong, skilled hunter tasked to bring back a magical artefact in order to save her world. Disguised as a man for self-protection, Zafira is pursued by, but eventually forms an uneasy alliance with, the King’s Assassin. Will they succeed on their perilous journey? We Hunt the Flame is a story of conquering fear and creating your own destiny; of morality and understanding. Hafsah Faizal is a debut author who has drawn upon her Arabic and Muslim heritage to craft a rich fantasy world. We Hunt the Flame is a read-alike for books by Tamora Pierce, and perfect for fans of the game Assassin’s Creed.
Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Sandhya Menon balances classic tropes of YA romance (an exclusive boarding school, young royals, and uber-rich “beautiful people”) with a dash of fantasy, and an earnest exploration of the issues of loneliness and parental expectations, to give a fresh take on the Beauty and the Beast story. Indian princesses Jaya Rao and Isha have been shipped off to the exclusive St Rosetta’s academy to ride out a scandal surrounding younger sister Isha. Jaya vows to take revenge on fellow student Grey Emerson, whose family has been feuding with the Raos for generations, and whom Jaya believes caused Isha’s scandal. Both Jaya and Grey grow in self-awareness and independence during their funny and romantic enemies-to-lovers journey.