Books for Christmas: The best YA Fiction

Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies (Penguin, £12.99) is a collection of short stories, poems and memories curated by Scarlett Curtis in partnership with Girl Up - a frank and fascinating insight into what it means to be a woman and a feminist in the modern world. Each piece of writing is unique and special, much like the contributors that brought them to the collection. From Gemma Arterton's scathing rewrite of Quantum of Solace, in which her character maintains a professional distance from Bond, to Amani Al-Khatahtbeh's hilarious '17 Truths about Muslim Women' which teaches us that asking to see 'what's under there' is not a successful Tinder conversation starter. There is a smorgasbord of different voices and experiences in this book, all showing young women (and men) that whoever you are and whatever your point of view you can and should be a feminist.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky, by Patrick Ness
And the Ocean Was Our Sky, by Patrick Ness

Alex Wheatle has joined the hugely talented list of authors writing Super-Readable YA with his latest story, Kerb-Stain Boys (Barrington Stoke, £7.99). Briggy is having a rough time: his Dad has lost his job and his Mum is picking up as many hours as she can to make ends meet. So when his best friend, Terror, hatches a plan that could earn him a few quid and impress his crush, Briggy feels he has no choice but to go along with it, even if it might be slightly illegal.

The writing jumps off the page as Wheatle weaves a vibrant tale of being young, reckless and in love on the fictional estate of Crongton. This is a short, accessible book that is as gripping as it is relatable.

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In 1955, a chance discovery of a salacious book leads Janet down a rabbit hole to a world of strong, rebellious women she didn’t dare dream existed. Meanwhile, in the present day, Abby, just out of a messy break-up, becomes obsessed with the work of a young pulp fiction author using the pen name Marion Love, who wrote just one book at the age of 18, then disappeared. Pulp (HQ Young Adult, £7.99), by Robin Talley is a bold book that gives a human face to the amazing journey gay rights activists have been on from the fifties to the present day. This is a coming of age story that spans the decades and shows us how far we have come, but also how much work still needs to be done.

Written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Rovina Cai, And the Ocean was our Sky (Walker, £12.99) turns the story of Moby Dick on its head, quite literally. Bathsheba roams the upside-down world of the deep ocean, part of a hunting pack of whales led by a formidable captain. Life is simple until they stumble

upon the trail of a legendary whale-killer whose name resonates around the ocean. Bathsheba is led on a relentless hunt to track down this monster and end their war once and for all. With gorgeous, eerie illustrations threaded through the narrative and enhancing the haunting lyricism of the prose, this is a beautiful and deeply strange book that tips your perspective upside-down and pitches you head-first into the cold heights of the ocean.

Rosie Loves Jack (Usborne, £7.99) by Mel Darbon is the heartwarming story of a girl with additional support needs who will stop at nothing to be with the boy she loves. Rosie may not understand everything but if there’s one thing she knows, it’s that Rosie loves Jack and Jack loves Rosie. When Jack is taken away, following a violent episode, Rosie’s parents ban her from seeing him and keep his letters hidden from her. Taking matters into her own hands she decides to set out on a journey to find him. It’s a journey that will take all her courage and strength but, if it means she’ll get to be with Jack again, it will be worth it. Rosie is such an innocent and trusting character, her take on the world so unique, that the reader wants to reach out through the pages an help her. A truly touching story. - Beth Goodyear