Christmas Gift Guide: 2 of 4

By Jim Dean, December 2, 2015

We continue our Christmas gift guide with 6 more recommendations here! Remember, check out our previous post for more suggestions.

 

For teens with big groups of friends

Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – While it’s a spin-off from her wonderful Grisha trilogy, set in the same world, Bardugo’s fantasy heist novel can be enjoyed without having read any of those three books. Featuring six great main characters, lots of brilliant combinations of friends – and possible romantic interests – and a plot with so many twists and turns I was left dizzy after reading it, it was my favourite YA fantasy in a year full of many gems in the genre. The mixture of the main storyline and some background revealed via flashbacks is expertly handled, and with a sequel coming in 2016, you’ll have next year’s Christmas present sorted out early! (For more on this one, don’t miss our Ten Reasons To Read feature!)

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford – Lisa Drakeford’s debut, about a girl who gives birth at a party when she didn’t realise she was even pregnant, is an intruiging contemporary told in a style which makes it stand out. Split into five sections, it follows the young mother, her best friend, her best friend’s younger sister, and two boys they know, with each section focusing on one of the five. Drakeford does a great job of giving us five very distinctive main characters here, while she also tackles some tough topics – including violence in relationships, not something that’s seen all that often in YA. Perhaps best for older teens due to that subject (which is very well-handled, by the way), this is another which has a sequel coming next year.

 

For teens wanting to learn about mental health

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness –  The story of a possible apocalypse, which a group of powerful teens are fighting against, this breaks with convention by focusing not on the end of the world but on the non-powered teens trying to get on with their lives. The opening paragraph of each chapter, following the progress of the saviour ‘indie kids’, is a deliciously tongue-in-cheek homage to great heroic stories like Buffy, but the main parts shift attention onto main character Mikey. Mikey’s struggle with OCD and anxiety is heartbreaking to read about, but seeing him cope with the help of good friends, medication and – something seen all too rarely in YA – a useful therapist – is an ultimately massively uplifting experience. I adored this due to the incredibly strong voice and excellent characters, but it’s the serious way in which Ness looks at mental health that make me want to push it towards every teen, their families. and everyone who works with them.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne – You wait ages for a positive portrayal of therapy in YA fiction, then two come along within a few months of each other. Holly Bourne’s third novel, about Evie, who has OCD and tries to hide this from the friends she makes at her new college, is a wonderful first book in The Spinster Club trilogy. Another best-suited for older teens, it’s a difficult read at times because the lead character’s struggles can be painful to read about, but it’s overall an uplifting story, it’s a massively feminist book, and the way Bourne tackles Evie’s OCD and anxiety makes it another hugely important read. The central friendship between Evie, Lottie and Amber is outstanding, and I can’t wait to read the other two books in the series, each focusing on one of the three girls.

 

For children who love stunning illustrations

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated Edition by JK Rowling and Jim Kay – You may have heard of this one, I suppose! Did we really need another edition of one of the best-loved, and most-read, children’s series of the last few decades? The jury was out when this was announced, but a quick flick-through will convince anyone who adores gorgeous pictures that the answer is a resounding yes. Rowling’s wonderful debut is a glorious read in its own right, of course, but Jim Kay’s breathtaking illustrations add a lot to the novel and make it a perfect excuse (as if anyone needed one!) to reread, while anyone coming to the book for the first time will be drawn in even more than usual by Kay’s brilliant full-cololur portrayal of the story. Beautifully packaged, this is one book we’d love to find in our stocking.

The Imaginary by AF Harrold and Emily Gravett – Emily has a perfectly happy life, living with Rudger, her best friend. Rudger doesn’t ACTUALLY exist – but nobody’s perfect. Then the sinister Mr Bunting, who hunts imaginaries, sniffs him out. With the pair of them separated, Rudger is on the run for his life. Can an imaginary exist without a friend to dream them up? Seriously unsettling at places, the very lower end of the 8 – 12 age range may find this a little scary – Mr Bunting is one of the nastiest villains for ages – but it’s a completely wonderful read. Amanda and Rudger’s friendship is fabulous while Emily Gravett’s illustrations – mainly in black and white with some flashes of colour as a contrast – are stunning. There’s also a lot of humour in the book, while the ending is hugely moving. Originally released in 2014 in hardback, this has been a favourite of ours for over a year; the recently released paperback is just as gorgeous.

What do you think?