Top Ten Tuesday – Top Twenty Releases in Second Half of 2016

By Jim Dean, June 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

For today, I didn’t even TRY to keep it down to 10, because there are so many! Instead, I’ve gone for 20 (8 that I’ve already read, and 12 that I’m especially looking forward to.)

Best That I’ve Already Read

What’s a Girl to Do? by Holly Bourne (Usborne) – The third in the Spinster Club series (but thankfully not the last, as we have novella And A Happy New Year…? to look forward to!) keeps up the incredibly high standard Holly Bourne has set for herself. Following Lottie as she spends a month calling out EVERY instance of sexism she sees – only to attract condemnation from her peers, a lack of support from teachers and family, and online trolling – this is massively hard-hitting without feeling preachy. Funny despite the topic, feminist and justifiably FURIOUS, this feels not just great but eye-openingly important.

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl (Usborne) – Fans of Abi Elphinstone’s brilliant The Dreamsnatcher and Dave Rudden’s outstanding Knights of the Borrowed Dark will find lots to love in this excellent steampunk MG novel. Debut author Peter Bunzl gives us a great heroine in Lily, fantastic supporting characters – including the delightful Malkin, a mechanical fox – and a storyline packed full of action! This isn’t out until September and I’m already desperately awaiting the follow-up.

The Graces by Laure Eve (Faber Children’s Books) – Appropriately for a book about a family said to be witches, The Graces is absolutely spellbinding! This is an outstanding story about a strange and compelling family and the girl who becomes an unlikely part of their social circle. Central character River is a really exceptional lead and the ending made my jaw drop.

Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan (David Fickling Books) – This was seriously hyped before I read it by several of my friends, to the point I was half-convinced it couldn’t possibly be as good as they were claiming. I was wrong! A really outstanding debut, this thriller about a girl trying to find her missing best friend by retracing the events of the summer that’s just passed is an incredibly exciting read with a brilliant lead character. Bonus marks for the fabulous setting in the West Yorkshire countryside.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (Chicken House) – This novel about a girl dealing with crippling anxiety issues is a painful read because it hit home really, really hard with me. However it’s a brilliantly-written book and is one of the best portrayals of mental health issues I’ve seen recently. Telling a moving story about an agoraphobic girl who falls for the boy next door, I liked the relationship here and found Norah a really relatable lead character.

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell (Hodder Children’s Books) – In a year packed full of great books about music (check out the #boybandlit hashtag on Twitter for more recommendations) guitarist Chris Russell’s debut is possibly the best of all of the ones I’ve read. A brilliant story of a girl who takes photographs of an up and coming band, it follows the relationship that develops between central character Charlie, gorgeous and intense frontman Gabriel, and super-cute bandmate Olly – while in the background the band’s lyrics hint at a massive secret. I actually guessed what was coming at one point but changed my mind several times here!

The Yellow Room by Jess Vallance (Hot Key Books) – I got this a few weeks ago and despite being in the middle of three books, with four other highly-anticipated ones ready to read, dropped them ALL for it. It was a great decision! Just as brilliantly-written as Vallance’s breathtaking debut Birdy, this is a compelling story with fascinating central characters in Anna and Edie. Edie writes to Anna to break the news to her that Edie’s boyfriend, Anna’s long-lost father, has just passed away. The two meet up and quickly form a cross-generational friendship, despite the disapproval of Anna’s friends. But it’s a Jess Vallance novel, so clearly it’s not going to be QUITE that simple…

And I Darken by Kiersten White (Corgi) – This novel about Vlad Dracul’s daughter – scarier and more forceful than her father – has perhaps my favourite lead of the year so far. Lada is an utterly compelling anti-heroine and this complex story set at the heart of the Ottoman Empire is an incredible read.

Others That I’m Especially Looking Forward To

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Orion) – If you haven’t read last year’s Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – set in the same world as her Grisha trilogy, but a perfect entry point for those new to her books – I’d urge you to drop everything and go pick it up now ready for this sequel! Best described as the BBC’s Hustle set in a Game of Thrones world, Bardugo gives us a fabulous sextet of characters, a dazzling plot full of twists and turns, and an absolutely breathtaking ending. I NEED to know what happens next!!

And A Happy New Year…? by Holly Bourne (Usborne) – I don’t want to say ANYTHING much about this because my thoughts are closely tied into What’s A Girl Got To Do? (see below), but I love novellas and I love beautiful hardbacks – particularly ones released close to Christmas. This will be a perfect stocking filler, I’m sure, and I am incredibly excited for it!

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (Electric Monkey) – I deliberately haven’t bothered seeking out any information about this other than the title because a) I want to go into it without preconceptions and b) DASH AND LILY OH WOW OH WOW OH WOW! Original book Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is one of the most completely charming YA novels I’ve ever read, hooking me within a few pages. I’m really excited to see these favourite characters of mine again.

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham (Walker) – I’m a big fan of Siobhan’s books and it was fascinating hearing her talking about this one a few weeks ago at a brilliant Walker blogger brunch. A story of a bullied girl who recruits three others to form the Moonlight Dreamers, supporting each other in pursuing their dreams, it sounds completely gorgeous and really uplifting.

Cuckoo by Keren David (Atom) – With the fabulous When I Was Joe trilogy establishing her as a huge talent and her more recent stand-alones being consistently great reads, Keren David is up there with my favourite YA authors. This is about a teen soap actor facing an uncertain future and trying to deal with his dad’s anger issues and his younger brother’s severe autism – it sounds fantastic!

The Secrets of Billie Bright by Susie Day (Red Fox) – My love for Susie Day’s Pea’s Book quartet is well-known, and spin-off The Secrets of Sam And Sam was another excellent read aimed at the younger end of the MG audience. A book about a girl trying to write her Hero Project, about her mum who passed away when she was little, only to receive little support from the rest of her family, sounds intriguing. (Also with the lack of BAME characters on covers of books, it’s wonderful to see such a fantastic cover from the amazing Lisa Horton!)

Lydia by Natasha Farrant (Chicken House) – So I’ve maybe never read Pride & Prejudice – I know!! However I’ve seen enough screen adaptations to have a rough idea of what’s going on, and Lydia is one of my favourite characters. This Brighton-set story which follows her when she’s swept off her feet by the dashing Wickham sounds like a real joy of a book. (Natasha ALSO has Time For Jas, latest in her excellent Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series, coming from Faber & Faber!)

Super Awkward by Beth Garrod (Scholastic) – This sounds like the perfect book for fans of Candy Harper’s Faith series (who, you may have noticed, include me) and those who love Marianne Levy’s hilarious Accidental Superstar. Central character Bella is a 15-year-old girl who logs onto a secret-sharing app and starts spilling her friends’ secrets as she attempts to track down the gorgeous boy she kissed. Things spin out of control, which is generally bad for the central character in this kind of book but brilliant for the reader!

The Last Beginning by Lauren James (Walker) – I completely adored last year’s The Next Together, a stunning debut by the incredibly talented Lauren James, and was thrilled to revisit her characters recently with the Bletchley Park-set short story Another Together. The Last Beginning – the story of Clove Sutcliffe trying to find her long lost relatives Katherine and Matthew, who we saw four versions of in the first book – sounds absolutely amazing. And there’s apparently a gorgeous love story between two girls in the mix as well, which just makes me even more eager to read.

Blade and Bone by Catherine Johnson (Walker) – This follow-up to Catherine’s highly-acclaimed 2013 novel Sawbones, which sees Ezra McAdam caught up in the French Revolution, sounds like a fascinating read – and Catherine’s last book, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, was a favourite of mine from last year!

Unboxed by Non Pratt (Barrington Stoke) – I’m a huge fan of Barrington Stoke’s short, punchy reads which are billed as ‘particularly suited by struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers’ but can definitely be enjoyed by everyone! Non’s initial two books, Trouble and Remix, are two of the best contemporaries I’ve read in years. Next year’s Truth or Dare is one I can’t wait to read, but I wasn’t expecting anything new from her until that – so the fabulous announcement of this book was a massive bonus. It’s about four friends meeting to open a memory box containing letters which they, and a friend who has since died, wrote three years ago. It’s described in The Bookseller as ‘Deeply poignant, packing real emotional punch’ and I’m sure that, like everything else Non writes, it will be BRILLIANT.

Girl Heart Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe (Scholastic) – There seems to be more and more brilliant non-fiction being publicised heavily recently, which is great to see – Juno Dawson’s Mind Your Head and Rosalind Jana’s Notes on Being Teenage are fantastic. This memoir by YouTube star Lucy Sutcliffe about realising she was gay at the age of 14, coming out three years later, and her online friendship turned long distance relationship with Kaelyn sounds completely lovely.

Have you read any of these? What are your most-anticipated books of the second half of the year? Leave us a comment telling us!

What do you think?