I’m obsessed with contemporary YA. I often feel I should branch out and read more adult fiction or science fiction or non-fiction, but I just can’t tear myself away from first loves, boarding schools and road trips – so I haven’t, yet. Here is what I thought of three rather excellent books I’ve read this year!
History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
History is All You Left Me is so sad – intensely, honestly, fiercely sad. And I really, really love sad books.
Griffin and Theo are best friends > boyfriends > ex-boyfriends > best friends. And then Theo dies. I cannot know what it’s like to lose a life partner at seventeen, but Griffin does. I often pick up a book without reading the description, or I’ll have read it months before and so won’t remember what the book is about, just that I want to read it. I did that with History is All You Left Me. I couldn’t recall how Theo died and I wasn’t sure what was to come. I was always feeling everything for the first time, waiting for the next emotional hit.
Even though it’s a heartbreaking story, The History is All You Left Me is a wonderful exploration of relationships. I adored the chapter that takes Theo and Griffin to a pub quiz, complete with Harry Potter and Star Wars questions. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. History is All You Left Me is a dazzling story about heart-wrenching love, close friendship and devastating grief. It’s about discovering who you are, now that the one person you were relying on has gone, and about learning more about the people you already thought you knew. You’ll really want to get to know our four boys: Griffin, Theo, Wade and Jackson.
All About Mia by Lisa Williamson
I’m an only child. I’ll never know what it’s like to have someone who ‘gets’ your family the same way you do. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with someone always by your side. I had close friends, of course, but sibling relationships always felt otherworldly to me; something I’ll never get to experience. And so I was eager to pick up Lisa Williamson’s All About Mia, just about that very thing.
Mia is the middle child. She has a younger sister, Audrey, who’s a champion swimmer, and an older sister, Grace, who’s perfect in every way. What’s Mia got? She’s great at styling hair and has a feisty attitude… who cares about that? But when Grace comes home with some shocking news, Mia thinks it’s time for her to shine. She’s a fascinating, refreshing character in YA. Mia’s unlikeable, really, but that makes you want to get to know her more. Slowly, slowly I began to see her point of view – when Mia began spiralling out of control, I desperately wanted to make sure she was okay. I adored the Campbell-Richardson family, both loving them and hating them (that’s Mia’s influence rubbing off on me) at the same time. All About Mia picks out everything complicated there is about family and gives us a joyous, funny UKYA read.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
I had been told to read Radio Silence so often over the past year that I decided March was Time. And gosh, do I wish I had picked it up earlier. It really shouldn’t be surprising because she is one, but Alice gets teenagers. She gets, in particular, what it’s like to be a teenager (or a millennial, let’s say) on the interwebz. She understands how social media communities work and how they can go from making you feel comforted and part of something to overwhelmed and suffocated. It’s always incredible to read something and feel like the author gets you.
Frances has only one goal in life: to get into Cambridge University, and then she meets Aled, the creator of her favourite sci-fi podcast, Radio Silence. She has been a fan since the first episode, so much so that she posts incredible fanart on Tumblr. She cannot believe her luck that the Creator was living across the road from her all this time. But Frances is also the only one who knows why Cerys, Aled’s twin sister, ran away all those months ago… and as they become closer and closer, it becomes more difficult for her to keep the secret.
I loved the close friendship between Frances and Aled. It’s an incredible friendship and one that feels so real. It grows through their mutual love of Radio Silence – and Aled loves Frances’ geeky clothes while Frances loves Aled’s bright Vans – and then it becomes so much more. But it’s always just friendship and that’s so, so lovely to read. I adored their hilarious and realistic Facebook messages – they reminded me of the joy those late night conversations with your best friends can bring. I kind of just want to start re-reading Radio Silence right now.
P.S. Radio Silence is also worth reading purely for Frances’ mum. Promise.