How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

How Not to Disappear- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

‘How Not to Disappear’ tells two stories, the story of Hattie pregnant at seventeen and Gloria an elderly lady struggling with dementia. These two stories intersect in a road trip across England. Like many YA novels this one explores themes of identity. As Gloria begins to feel as if she’s losing herself she tells her stories to Hattie in an effort to not disappear. Hattie in turn needs to decide who she is and what she is capable of. A fairly simple read about the importance of family and friends and the parts of ourselves that are embedded in them.

Age recommendation: 12+

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

There are moments in history when everything we thought we knew seems threatened. One of these moments was when Galilleo discovered that the earth revolved around the sun another was the publication of Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. This is the backdrop for ‘The Lie Tree’, a slightly gothic murder mystery. Faith has always been a dutiful daughter but inside she craves to be a scientist and be recognised for her mind. Out of desperation her father shows her a specimen, the Lie Tree. The next day he is found dead. Faith is determined to find out who killed her father. Hardinge evokes the world beautifully and the novel resonates with complexity. It is a little slow at the beginning but persist because it is well worth it, though I would only recommend it for more competent readers.

Age recommendation: 14+

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River of Ink by Helen Dennis

River of Ink- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

A boy struggles out of the Thames with no memory. After nobody claims him he comes to live with Cassia and Dante. They in turn help him to find out who he is. River of Ink is a thriller in the Ludlum vein. Unfortunately it is the first book of a series and so there are many plot holes and unanswered questions. It may turn out to be the first in a really great series but for now it is just frustrating.

Age recommendation: 12+

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Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Never Evers- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

‘Never Evers’ is a simple fun novel. It tells the story of Mouse and Jack as they meet at a school camp. Mouse is dealing with being kicked out of ballet school and Jack is trying to get the courage to kiss a girl, any girl. ‘Never Evers’ is not going to be studied in schools, but will appeal to younger teen girls.

Age recommendation: 11+

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Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison

Becoming Kirrali Lewis- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’ tells the story of Kirrali, an Aboriginal girl who has grown up with a white family. As Kirrali leaves her rural home to go to university she is confronted both with overt racism and activism. ‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’ details her journey to understanding herself and her culture. Jane Harrison’s book is at times overwritten and a little lagging but the perspective of Kirrali as an outsider who is actually an insider is both compelling and illuminating.

Age recommendation: 14+

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Follow Me Back by Nicci Cloke

Follow Me Back- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

When Lizzie Summersall disappears former friend Aiden decides to find out why. ‘Follow Me Back’ is a YA thriller with just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. Although the plot keeps the pages turning, the underlying discussion about identity and how we present versions of ourselves, both online and in person, is what gives this book its resonance.

Age Recommendation: 12+

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13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 Minutes- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

’13 Minutes’ is ‘Gone Girl’ for YAs. It’s a dark psychological thriller with mean girls and teenagers who don’t know who they are and some who know too clearly who they are. Natasha is pulled from an icy river and revived after having no heartbeat for 13 minutes. She can’t remember how she ended up in the river. 13 minutes is the story of what happened to her and the repercussions of that action. It’s a page turner with one hundred too many pages.

Age recommendation: 14+

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Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Whilst Summer Skin presents itself as a classic romance underneath there runs a very real exploration of sex and sexuality. Through the main character of Jess, Kirsty Eagar lends the story a feminist voice counterpointing the decades of swooning ladies and conquering heroes we have been privy to in other romance novels. Summer Skin is the story of the relationship between Jess and Mitch, uni students, whose relationship evolves slowly as they discover what sex, love and intimacy means to them.

Age recommendation: 15+

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Summer Skin- review from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.