Saturday 30 December 2017

YA to watch for in 2018

Young adult fiction shows no sign of slowing down, but how to navigate the masses of books out there? Well, here are seven YA novels coming out in the first half of 2017 which should be on your reading list.

The Fandom by Anna Day
Chicken House, January 4
Violet is a member of the fandom for The Gallows Dance - her favourite YA story and film, set in a post-apocalyptic London. On a trip to Comic Con she and her friends are catapulted by a freak accident into the world of The Gallows Dance, where they must put the plot back on track and get out before disaster strikes. This is a treat for anyone who's part of a fandom, or who is a fan of fandoms.

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Hot Key Books, January 18
Maya lives in Batavia, Illinois, and is in her final year of high school. She wants to go to New York and become a filmmaker, her parents want her to study law in Chicago, and that's not the only thing they disagree on - Maya's mum wants her to marry an Indian boy (ideally the handsome and successful Kareem), while Maya is too busy crushing on her classmate Phil. When a terrorist attacks, Maya and her parents must both face hatred, and decide how they want to fight back.

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
Macmillan Children's Books, January 25
Muzna Saleem, aged 15, is expected to get educated, become a doctor, and then get married to someone from Pakistan. But she loves writing and dreams of becoming novelist instead, and when high-school hottie Arif Malik takes an interest in her, it seems like things are going well for her. But Arif and his brother are angry at the West for demonising Islam, and risk pulling Muzna into their world. How will she choose between betraying her heart and betraying her beliefs?

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Gollancz, February 8
In OrlĂ©ans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever. (You can read the first two chapters of The Belles here.)

Unveiling Venus by Sophia Bennett
Stripes, February 8
This is the sequel to Bennett's Finding Ophelia, in which Mary Adams set out to become a Pre-Raphelite muse, and reinvented herself as Persephone Lavelle. In Unveiling Venus, Mary's secret identity is exposed, so she flees the scandal by escaping to Venice. Lost among the twisting alleyways and shadowy canals she encounters a mysterious, masked young man. He offers her the world, but at what price?

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Macmillan Children's Books, March 8
This is one for fantasy geeks everywhere. Zelie lives in a world where magic has been outlawed, and now she has the chance to bring it back. With the help of a rogue princess, Zelie must outwit and outrun the crown prince of Orisha, who is determined to eradicate magic for good. Zelie must learn to control her own powers, as well as deal with outside forces, and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Clean by Juno Dawson
Quercus Children's Books, April 5
After almost overdosing, socialite Lexi Volkov is forced into an exclusive rehab facility. From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all. Clean is described as "Gossip Girl meets Girl, Interrupted, with a side of Orange is the New Black". Who can resist that pitch?

Saturday 18 November 2017

Books of 2017

As the year starts to draw to its end, it's time to reflect on all the books I've read this year, and to pick my favourites.

If you're looking for a book to curl up with when everything gets a bit much over Christmas, then hopefully among the following 10 books - all released for the first time in the UK in 2017 - you'll find something to your tastes.

American War by Omar El Akkad (Picador)
This is the story of Sarat, who is a young girl when the second American Civil War breaks out. She is forced to move into a refugee camp, which sets her on a path to becoming a weapon of mass destruction. Utterly compelling, I had a huge book hangover after I finished this.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (Hodder & Stoughton)
This YA novel brought me such joy - it's the tale of a young Indian girl pursuing her love for technology and falling in love along the way. When Dimple Met Rishi is fun, funny, and shows that love stories don't always have to centre white people.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury)
This book really lives up to the hype. The form takes a short while to get to grips with, but persevere, this is an engaging story, full of great characters and emotional highs and lows. It just happens to be extremely cleverly structured.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Little, Brown)
This is Ng's second novel, and I absolutely adored it. Little Fires Everywhere is a look at a privileged society, a family drama, and a mystery. And Ng's observations about family and race are really, really smart.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Viking)
The only thing I don't like about Gyasi's Homegoing is that it didn't get enough recognition on awards' shortlists. Homegoing follows the descendants of two half-sisters - one a slave, one married to a slave owner. Effecting and absorbing, Homegoing is a stunning read.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (HarperCollins)
Psychological thrillers are 10-a-penny, but Pinborough really takes the genre to another level with this unsettling novel, following a woman who gets drawn into a friendship with the wife of her boss, who also happens to be someone she's sleeping with. But there's something not quite right...

Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor (Picador)
This short story collection is beautiful and charming - the story behind the title of the collection is heartbreaking and poetic. More fables than short stories, Swimmer Among the Stars gives you lots to think about.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)
Taking inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas weaves the compelling tale of a teenager who witnesses police shooting dead a black teenager, and the way the waves of that ripple through the communities she is part of.

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Bloomsbury)
Required reading for anyone interested in race in Britain, and especially those who think Britain is post-racist. Eddo-Lodge writes clearly and succinctly about how people of colour are systematically discriminated against, and why a solution can't be sought until white people learn to engage.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell (Tinder Press)
On the surface this is a book about death, as O'Farrell recounts 17 brushes with death. But this breathtaking read is really about living and it's completely life-affirming.

What were your favourite 2017 books? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Book review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

If you're white, you've probably seen yourself in books your whole life. But as a British Pakistani Muslim, it's rare for me to truly find a character I can point at and say: "That person, I share their experiences."

No more, because Sandhya Menon has written When Dimple Met Rishi, a - if we're searching for a quick pitch - YA arranged marriage rom com.

And reading When Dimple Met Rishi was one of the best, most joyful reading experiences of my life. It starts with the cover (and I know you shouldn't judge), which depicts a brown girl, smiling widely, wearing henna and a kurta, and sipping an iced coffee. It's joyful.

Here's a book about a brown girl, and she's not oppressed, and it's not about terrorism or struggles with religion or culture. Instead, it's a book about a brown girl with slightly overprotective parents, who get on her nerves sometimes. It's a book about a brown girl with big dreams doing everything she can to make them come true. It's a book about a brown girl navigating friendships. And it's a book about a brown girl falling in love with a guy she never expected to like.

Monday 26 December 2016

Best books of 2016

I thought 2016 had a bit of a slow start when it came to books, but some of the books I've read this year are among the best I've ever read, and I'll be talking about my 10 favourite for years to come.

I made a conscious effort to try and read more books by writers of colour this year, something which bears out in my best of 2016 list (even though I still read more books by white writers, could the fact that the majority of my list is books by non-white people possibly show the really high quality of writing by writers of colour who do get published? Discuss).

There were some notable gaps in my reading this year - I failed to get round to Sarah Perry's much-lauded The Essex Serpent, which I'm now saving for a time when I can savour it, and I skipped most of the Man Booker Prize shortlist because it just didn't capture me this year, plus I've not read as much YA as I did in previous years.

Now, without further ado, here are my 10 favourite books of 2016...

Sunday 27 November 2016

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life review - a trash fire with few redeeming qualities

The Gilmore Girls revival - we've all been waiting for it, wanting to revisit Stars Hollow, hang out with our favourite characters (Emily and Paris, for what it's worth), see who Rory ends up (#TeamJess).

Well, I'm here to tell you the wait was not worth it. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life - made up of four episodes by the show's creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino - is a trash fire with few redeeming qualities. It's horrible and awful, and it features terrible characters who act in terrible ways. In short, it's ruined the original Gilmore Girls forever.

Warning, there are spoilers ahead for all four episodes...

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Book review: The Good Immigrant ed. by Nikesh Shukla

Sometimes a book hits at the right time. The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla and crowdfunded on the publishing platform Unbound, is one of those books.

I'm heartbroken over the result of the EU referendum, saddened and angered by the surge in openly racist attacks, and all round worried about the future of the UK. And even before the referendum, who can have missed the discourse around immigrants in recent months, even years? From Prime Minister David Cameron calling refugees seeking shelter from war a "swarm" to Donald Trump's plans to build a wall between Mexico and America and ban all Muslims from entering the US, it can seem like an awful time to not be white.

So The Good Immigrant is both a soothing balm and a fiery call to action against the ugliness of the world today. As the daughter of immigrants, I have a particular interest in this book, but this collection of essays is essential reading for all human beings. It's not a book of essays where non-white people moan about how they're treated unfairly - it's a collection of nuanced pieces looking at the immigrant experience, providing a state of the nation and serving as an eye-opening agent for change. During my reading I laughed, I fought back tears, I nodded in understanding, I got angry, and I also felt inspired.


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