Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan
I adore Jenny McLachlan. She's such a consistently good author for me. I just know what I'm getting into with her and she really delivers. Truly Wildly Deeply was such a lovely story. It was so easy to fall in love with both Annie and Fab individually as well as a couple. I fell pretty hard for these two. I loved Annie's determination to be independent and her feminist views of love and romance. And Fab was just so charming and ... passionate. About life and everything in it and about Annie. This whole story was just so sweet. Of course I also loved that the two main characters are a Polish immigrant and a girl who is many things but also has cerebral palsy. This book was just so lovely and empowering and charming.
Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
I truly loved Goodbye, Perfect. It isn't nearly as emotional as I've read by the same author before but I feel like it was a really interesting, topical story and it was important to read. Goodbye, Perfect is a story about friendship, relationships, and about the unrealistic and dangerous expectations we put on young people today to do well academically. Eden's world is turned upside down when her formally dependable and solid best friend runs off before their GCSEs. Even worse is that Bonnie has run off with one of their teachers. Most of the story is about Eden questioning Bonnie and their friendship and also herself. Trying to work out what she should do. Turn in her best friend or keep to the friend code? What I loved about this book in particular is that balancing out Bonnie's strive for perfection and excellence is Eden's more laid-back interest in other (just as important skills) and also her lovely and (most importantly!) healthy relationship with a boyfriend her own age. Eden and Bonnie's stories really highlight the pressures put on teenagers and all the challenges they face.
The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher
I hold my hands up now and admit that The Last Days of Archie Maxwell is the first book I've read by Annabel Pitcher. I know. But, for me, it was a great place to start. I love Barrington Stoke and what they do for dyslexic and struggling readers. They choose some of the best authors around and this book is no exception. I was quite surprised by the amount Annabel Pitcher packed into this book. It's pretty hard-hitting. Touching on bullying, homophobia, suicide, grief. But it all felt as though there was no sugar-coating. Archie is struggling after his dad comes out as gay, it feels like his family is falling apart, he's not in a place to accept or support his father and he's being bullied at school. This all leads Archie to spend time near the train tracks wondering how easy it would be to end all his struggles in an instant.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
I really loved Only Love Can Break Your Heart. I read Katherine Webber's debut book last year and loved that too so she's quickly becoming an author that I look out for.
In this book I really enjoyed the setting (Californian desert) and also the exploration of heartbreak, grief, sisterhood, friendship and relationships. This book is mostly set during the summer as Keiko is dealing with the heartbreak of the death of her sister and also dealing with the added pressure that she feels being the one who is left behind, trying to compensate for the loss of her sister. She feels all kinds of loss until she meets Seth. A boy who is very different to the usual crowd of popular, beautiful people she's surrounded herself with. But they both love the desert and together they go on these night-time adventures and perhaps with each other they can find happiness?
I really enjoyed Keiko's journey of self-discovery in this book. With the guilt she feels, the way she views herself and her place within her family, her friendships and especially in her relationship with Seth. This book was a really beautifully written and there were quite a few moments where tears threatened to spill over.
After the Fire by Will Hill
Why did it take me so long to read this book? I'd heard about After the Fire by Will Hill from so many different people - literally everyone was talking about it. But it wasn't until I heard Will Hill talk briefly about this book at YAShot earlier this year that I finally sat up and took notice. I'm glad I finally did read it. I think part of the problem is that I don't often get along well with books involving cults and I expected After the Fire to follow a linear format. I'm not sure why I just assumed that would be the case. But it isn't. It's also based on real-life events that I had watched on the news growing up which gave it this added layer of emotional connection to Moonbeam's story.
As I've already mentioned the format, I think that was my favourite aspect of this book. This is Moonbeam telling her story to a psychologist after the fire occurs that ends the cult-environment that she's grown up in. You can see how she struggles against the brainwashing she's known all her life and how slowly she learns to see her life with new eyes and a new perspective. Hers is a story of survival and a determined fight for freedom and it was heartbreaking and joyous to read. I was amazed by how Will Hill managed to keep up the pace, the mystery and intrigue with the characters and story-line throughout. You think you know but then you really don't. It's been awhile since I've been so emotionally invested in a character, in a story like I did with Moonbeam in After the Fire. I felt both mentally and physically exhausted when I finished this book as I felt like I was with her every step of the way. What an intense book.
What was the last UKYA book you've read?