I accidentally read three YA contemporary novels all about siblings!
One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a love of travelling. I’m happy to report that YA has, too. This year’s summer reads have involved adventures and road trips, and One Italian Summer sounded like the perfect holiday read. I’ve visited Rome and One Italian Summer brought back vivid memories of visiting gelato shops every day, doing the long (and very hot) walk up to the Colosseum, and relaxing around the Trevi fountain with a can of expensive Coke.
Milly, Elyse and Leonie travelled to Rome with their parents every summer. It has been a year since their dad passed away and a year since their last trip. This one won’t be the same, but they’re determined to let the tradition carry on.
One Italian Summer isn’t all gelato and sunny weather. Milly, Elyse and Leonie are dealing with a terrible tragedy that they’ll never fully recover from, and it affects each sister differently. I loved Keris’ way of writing this close sibling relationship. Siblings are completely alien to me and yet these sisters are essentially best friends so I could relate. (I think it must be amazing to have ready-made best friends, although I know it isn’t like this for everyone!). It was great to see such open, supportive conversations about grief, family, sex and sexuality. And hot on the agenda is Milly’s sort-of-relationship with gorgeous boy Luke.
One Italian Summer has everything essential for a splendid summer story: family, friends, boys and a stunning location.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
The Upside of Unrequited is all about its incredible characters: twins! Molly and Cassie are adopted twins but, more than that, they’re best friends. So what happens when their lives start diverging?
Molly fears she’s losing Cassie – her partner in crime and the one person that gets her – and has no idea how to get her back. Molly has a crush on flirty Will, but her sister’s a lovesick mess and unavailable emotionally to deal with Molly’s new dilemma, probably because she’s too obsessed with Will’s stunning Korean-American pansexual friend, Mina. But Molly needs help! She’s sick of having so many crushes (26 to be exact) and no boyfriend. When Molly is confronted with co-worker Reid, she doesn’t have Carrie to help her make sense of it. Is she more than friends with Reid? But she’s in love with perfect Will, right? As a fellow introvert who has periods of anxiety, I completely got Molly’s frustration with being single and feeling powerless to do anything about it. Sometimes ranting about it to other people is all you can do, but what’s Molly to do when that’s taken away from her?
In The Upside of Unrequited, all of the characters shine, but I particularly loved Molly and Cassie’s mums – they’ve got the parenting/friendship balance just right. And then there’s their cute little brother Xavier! I enjoyed Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda too, so I’ll be eagerly reading her next book, Leah on the Offbeat, next year.
Truth or Dare by Non Pratt
Truth or Dare is one story told by two teenagers. Claire Casey volunteers to help Sef Malik create a YouTube channel in order to raise money for his older brother. Kam suffered a severe brain injury after falling into a river and the cost to provide support is astronomical. Sef feels emotionally powerless and fundraising is the only way he can manage the tragedy right now. Meanwhile, Claire’s dealing with her own drama after a nip-slip video goes viral. Hanging out with Sef provides distraction – and so Truth Girl and Dare Boy are born!
Truth and Dare features a whole host of diverse and wonderful characters. I adored Claire’s compassion for Kam, who she’s dedicated to reading to whilst he’s in care, and her willingness to help Sef even though he’s difficult to figure out. I also appreciated the sub plot featuring Claire’s BFFs Seren and Rich. I was super angry at the boys who caused Claire a lot of anxiety after she’s bullied and dubbed ‘Milk Tits’. As she’s a strong, funny, interesting and selfless character, her point of view was my favourite. Although I adored Claire, I probably wouldn’t be Sef’s best friend. I struggled to understand the relationship between him and his siblings, and he’s a not entirely likeable character… but I’ll leave you to read his POV!
Truth or Dare shows us there are always two sides to every story, and it’s not often that we take the time to discover both. It’s another realistic contemporary novel from Non Pratt, tackling bullying, disability, social media, and asexuality.