What I’ve Read / Wonder, The Bookshop Girl & The Girl of Ink and Stars

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder has been popular since it was published in 2012. I started to feel like the only one in the world who hadn’t read it it… so I finally picked it up. Wonder, as I’m sure you know, is about 10-year-old August. Auggie just wants to be normal, but his facial abnormality means that starting middle school is more difficult for him than it is for other children.

As well as Auggie, we get to hear his story from several people in his life: Olivia (Auggie’s sister), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s friends), Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Olivia’s friend). Wonder is difficult and painful to read at times – we all know how cruel schoolchildren can be, and I marvelled in August’s courage to face them. Wonder is an uplifting story about overcoming those bullies. At times, it read to me like a novel written for adults, such as Emma Donoghue’s Room, although I know that children all over the world have loved Auggie’s story.

If there’s one thing I took away from Wonder it’s that we should all be a little kinder than is necessary. I’ll be heading to the cinema to watch the adaptation this winter!

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

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The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl is a bonkers story. Property Jones is so-called because she was discovered as a five-year-old in the lost property section of a bookshop and adopted by the bookish Jones family. Property loves books. She really does. But she’s hiding a secret: she cannot read.

One day, the Jones family win a prize draw to run the famous Montgomery Book Emporium. With the help of an extremely grumpy and oddball cat, the Jones family must solve a dastardly mystery or lose everything – books an’ all.

I adore stories that feature books, bookshops and booksellers… and The Bookshop Girl has them all. I loved the quirky Montgomery Book Emporium: the world’s first mechanical bookshop. It’s a magical place, containing hordes of rooms filled with books. To browse the bookshop, just press the levers and rooms loop round like a Ferris wheel, with each one decorated appropriately. The Room of Space Adventures, for example, is ‘painted all over in deep indigo, speckled with twinkling lights’. Delightful.

It’s also apparent that I am Property Jones, since I accidentally dress like her…

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The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I picked up The Girl of Ink and Stars after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I don’t normally read middle grade fantasy, but The Girl of Ink and Stars is an enchanting, magical adventure and is stunningly written (plus the book itself is pretty, too!).

The Girl of Ink & Stars follows Isabelle Riosse – a cartographer’s daughter – as she goes on a treacherous journey to rescue her best friend, Lupe. Lupe has disappeared into the island’s Forgotten Territories and because of her father’s teachings, Isabelle is well-versed in reading the stars and maps, and so is Lupe’s best chance of being found.

Adventure. Friendship. To me, that’s what sums up the sparkly The Girl of Ink and Stars. I adored the realistic and intense friendship between Isabella and Lupe, but I struggled occasionally with all the magic and mystic because it’s quite outside my usual genre. Even so, Kiran’s beautiful writing kept me going – I needed to know whether Lupe would be found!

“Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”

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What I’ve Read / Everything Leads to You, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe & Editing Emma

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You was the last of my summer reads and I chose it over We Are Okay, a story that sounds a lot sadder and darker – I’ll save it for autumn!

I finished Everything Leads to You a couple of weeks ago and I still remember how film aspect of the storyline made me feel. I adored it. I love the idea of being a set designer like Emi, our talented protagonist, and Nina LaCour tackles every little detail. She enables the reader to really understand and picture the work that goes into set design, why it’s such an important part of making a film, and how fun it can be. Emi is incredibly passionate about her future career, but Nina doesn’t just show us the glamorous side. We also see the boring, frustrating side of the industry, from being a lowly intern and not feeling good enough to browsing hundreds of sofas to find the one.

Emi and her best friend Charlotte come across a mysterious letter penned by a movie legend after browsing his estate sale, which leads them eventually to a girl called Ava, and a summer to remember. Everything Leads to You is one of the few novels I’ve read that features LGBT+ characters but isn’t about being LGBT. It’s an important part of the storyline, of course – and there’s a super sweet romance – but it’s not the main part of the story. It’s all about Emi and Charlotte’s determination to uncover the story of the letter and a girl who discovers her past.

Everything Leads to You is one of my favourite novels of the year so far – beautiful, cinematic and a joy to read. It lives up to its stunning cover, that’s for sure. 🎥

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Even though The Loneliest Girl in the Universe isn’t out until September, I had to pick it up because people wouldn’t stop talking about it. I’m rubbish at resisting hype and I just had to see what magic Lauren James created this time.

I love a good space story and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe made me realise how much more YA sci-fi I need to discover. I obviously do not read/watch enough because I had to engage Lauren in a lengthy conversation about how time works. *facepalm* (Thank you so much, Lauren!). Romy Silvers is left as the young Commander of her ship after her entire crew perishes. But she’s also a normal teenage girl. She bakes, she writes fan fiction and she’s really good at maths. Romy has an essential job ahead of her: travel to another planet and create a new home for the human race. She’s all alone in space – and so literally is the loneliest girl in the universe – until she receives an email from a new ship that has just launched from Earth. It’s a boy called J, and he’s coming to meet her.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe throws up a lot of surprises. Romy’s journey on the ship is at times both exhilarating and fascinating, and terrifying and isolated. But it’s all Romy knows. It’s best you go into the story without knowing much at all… go on, it’s a long journey! 💫

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Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person by Chloe Seager

Editing Emma features the word ‘masturbation’ more than any other book I’ve read. It’s crazy, if you think about it, because most of what I read is contemporary YA. The genre is supposed to be realistic. It’s supposed to tell stories of what it’s like to be a teenager: school, friends, heartbreak, family and everything in between, so you think there’d be more talk of sex. Go you, Chloe.

When 16-year-old Emma is ‘ghosted’ by the boy she is ‘dating’ (they were dating, right?! She didn’t just imagine it?!), she creates a private blog to write about the life and thoughts of this new heartbroken-but-refuses-t0-be-defeated Emma. It’s the perfect way to document the positive changes she’s making in her life, from finding a boyfriend who will treat her right to stalking Leo’s social media profiles. Wait, no, she’s definitely meant to be stopping that.

Editing Emma is a super fun and hilarious quick read, perfect for the social media generation. As much as I adore the interwebz – and it’s a huge part of my life – it was also brilliant and refreshing to see Emma rediscover her passion for fashion design after she’s grounded and left with no access to the internet. (Chloe actually wrote an excellent post for me on social media and anxiety). We could all do with taking a break from our screens once in a while, and Emma Nash shows us it can be done.

Editing Emma has been recommended to friends who have been ghosted by complete dicks, friends who have a love/hate relationship with social media, and friends who appreciate such frank discussions of sex. Which is most of us, to be fair. 👩‍💻

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What I’ve Read / The Girl’s Guide to Summer, Sunkissed & Piglettes

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The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

Yesssss. I am loving all the summery travel stories that 2017 has thrown at us. I went from accepting that I’ll never get to go on holiday to constantly thinking about my next trip, even taking my first solo holiday this year. In The Girl’s Guide to Summer (titled I See London, I See France in the US), 19-year-old best friends Sydney and Leela are off on a once-in-a-lifetime European adventure, visiting England, France, Italy, Switzerland, just to name a few.

I live in Europe, but I’ve never been on an interrailing adventure. I’ve never even considered it. In The Girl’s Guide... the two friends have it all planned out… until spontaneity takes hold and the girls jump from train to train, heading to another country when the moment takes them. (Come to think of it, it seems like the perfect road trip for someone who gets car sick…). I particularly loved experiencing London through Sydney and Leela’s eyes (and may have shouted at them a few times when they forgot to get travel money and didn’t check when they could check into a hostel. *headdesk*). I also enjoyed reading about the places I’ve never been to.

With such freedom – and only a few weeks – comes exhaustion and drama. I constantly feared for Leena and Sydney’s friendship! Ex-boyfriends, new boyfriends, tense friendships… The Girl’s Guide to Summer has it all.

The Girl’s Guide to Summer is a super fun contemporary read for travellers and wannabe travellers!

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Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan

In May, I took the plunge and flew off on my first solo trip to Stockholm, Sweden. I adored this beautiful, watery country so much that I couldn’t wait to pick up Jenny McLachlan’s summery read, set on the fictional island of Stråla in Sweden’s archipelago. It is simultaneously Kat’s worst nightmare and my absolute dream. Best. Punishment. Ever. But I admit that no hot showers, no wifi, and no friends would be a shock to the system – and it certainly is for Kat!

And then Kat meets Leo. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “girl meets boy and everything is right in the world” kind of story – Kat’s just happy to meet someone her own age. She’s stranded on the most boring island ever for the entire summer, missing her friends back home and her creature comforts. She’s little superficial, immature and petulant… but I couldn’t help but fall in love with her in Sunkissed. Kat meets a whole host of quirky characters so different to everyone back home, from her carefree aunt Frida to a confident young girl called Nanna. Leo also plays his part in showing Kat that she can do more – and enjoy more – than she thought she could…

Jenny McLachlan’s novels are so breezy and fun – I’ll be picking up Love Bomb and Stargazing for Beginners as soon as I can.

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Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais

Aaaand the last of my summer road trip reads is Piglettes. I loved the Sesame Seade series, a hilarious and smart middle grade mystery trilogy from Clémentine Beauvais. Piglettes shows us (as if we didn’t already know) that Clém has a unique voice in fiction. This is her first YA novel, translated into English (by herself, I might add) from her 2015 French novel, Les Petites Reines.

Piglettes takes us on an unlikely adventure with three witty, quirky and smart protagonists, like the ones featured in her younger fiction. But now Clém’s used her writing powers to create a YA read that you won’t feel like you’ve read before.

Mireille, Astrid and Hakima have been voted the three ugliest girls in their school. Awful, right? If it were me, I’d hide under my duvet forever, but these new friends band together and take matters into their own hands. From bullies and bicycles to periods and politicians, you never know what to expect next in Piglettes. The girls set off (slowly) on their bikes to Paris with a plan to crash a garden party at the Elysee Palace on 14th July. This bonkers adventure attracts interest from the French press and a wave of support on social media, leaving you cheering for the Piglettes.

Piglettes is a light-hearted, funny romp through France with a serious edge: girls, you should do what you think is right, even if everyone is telling you that you can’t. I couldn’t get enough of the below line, which I read over and over…

“I don’t understand why you insist on calling yourselves Three Little Piglettes,” Mum groans. “It’s a horrible name.”

“We’ll make it beautiful, you’ll see. Or better, we’ll make it powerful.”

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What I’ve Read / Freshers, Love & Gelato, & And Then We Ran

Freshers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison are two of my favourite YA authors and are among the funniest, loveliest people in UKYA. With Freshers, Lucy and Tom show that you can write YA about 18-year-olds and you can set in university, and it is not this mythical New Adult category. University stories are rare in UKYA – and I’d love to see more!

Freshers, narrated by Luke and Phoebe, captures the first year of university excellently. Both Luke and Phoebe’s experiences as first years are quite different to mine – let’s just say that university wasn’t exactly the best three years of my life – but it was great to read about (particularly the Quidditch society!), and I know it’ll be similar to lots of teenagers’ experiences. I loved the friendship dynamics and wish I’d made those sorts of intense, close friendships during my first few months away from home. I was a little sceptical about Luke (as I told Tom at one of his events), but grew to love him – and Phoebe was just brilliant. They’re two of the most realistic teenage characters I’ve come across (as we’ve all come to expect from Lucy and Tom!).

Freshers was as hilarious as you might expect from our duo, yet it covers serious topics that are vital to talk about at university, from sexual harassment on campus and one-night stands to ‘laddish’ behaviour and homesickness. I wish I had Freshers to read at university. It’s one of my favourite books of the year so far!

“He’s tall and fit and he knows about grammar and Quidditch and murder. He’s literally the perfect man.”

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I love reading YA novels set in Italy (one of the countries I must go back to soon). I recently read One Italian Summer and it was so fun picking up another one, this time set in beautiful Florence.

Lina is suffering from terrible grief, forced to move from America to Italy because her mother passed away. She’s off to live with a father she’s never met in a country she’s never been to. Once she gets there, Lina’s not convinced she can stay in Florence (as pretty as it is). Her best friend is at home, she barely knows her father, and what even is prosciutto, gelato and a Margherita pizza (Americans, really?!). Once she starts to explore, she meets Italian-American Ren and is introduced to a whole host of Italian friends who love her straight away, and maybe, just maybe, she can start to call this place home.

Love & Gelato is Lina’s story, but it’s also her mother’s. I really enjoyed reading her mother’s diary, from when she was studying in Florence in her 20s, until she left after becoming pregnant with Lina. I did guess the plot twist quite early on, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying each characters’ journey, from the sweet romance between Lina and Ren – although I mostly loved how they became best friends – to Lina’s father, Howard, who is also super lovely. Howard made Lina feel welcome, from thoughtfully redecorating her bedroom to taking her out to his favourite pizza place.

A sweet story about love, family and secrets, Love & Gelato has made me want to jump on a plane to Tuscany…

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And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon

And Then We Ran wasn’t quite the summer road trip story I expected. It’s set in rainy, wintry Pembrokeshire, in the south west of Wales.

Megan and Elliot feel suffocated by their small beach town. Megan’s sister died not so long ago and Elliot’s given up on his future. Together, they embark on an adventure to take control of their lives – a road trip to Scotland’s Gretna Green to get married (of course), with plans to move to London and follow their dreams.

Megan and Elliot are flawed and flaky teenagers, and that made them fun to read about. Megan wasn’t exactly prepared for her big adventure – she’s spontaneous and decides to move to the capital to be a photographer, even though she doesn’t know what a career in photography involves. Meanwhile, Elliot is too busy being a Bad Boyfriend to work out exactly what he wants to do. But who, as a teenager, knew exactly what they’d be doing in their 20s?

I can understand how frustrating Megan’s parents were for her – constantly pressuring her to go to university, refusing to accept that their daughter might be happier taking another path. I’m lucky – my family never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to do, but Megan has to constantly push back. Even so, I know what it’s like to feel compelled to run away and start a new life – I nearly did a gap year in Australia for this reason! – and so, then, And Then We Ran starts to make sense.

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What I’ve Read / One Italian Summer, The Upside of Unrequited & Truth or Dare


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.