The best books for teens this festive season

Hannah Sycamore selects the best YA fiction and non-fiction for the Christmas break


For many, Christmas is the time to grab a board game that has been lurking in a cupboard for most of the year and get playing. Gamish: A Graphic History of Gaming by Edward Ross (£20.00, Particular Books), is the perfect read to accompany these winter games. It’s a love letter to gaming in all its forms – from board games, to role-play, to virtual reality and video games. Ross explores the key question: why do we play? and takes readers on a journey through gaming history. He explores key questions levelled at video games, from gender to diversity to violence, as well as the development of games over time. For fans of gaming, this is the perfect read. For those new to gaming, it is the perfect introduction.

Another thought-provoking non-fiction read is David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Short, Essential History (Macmillan, £6.99). In this new title, Olusoga has distilled and reframed his bestselling Black and British: A Forgotten History for younger readers. Spanning the period from Roman Britain to the modern day, Olusoga’s expertly crafted narrative makes history engaging for a new audience in clever and accessible ways. Olusoga has by no means “dumbed-down” his research from Black and British: A Forgotten History, and he forces young people to engage directly with Britain’s often-brutal past, discussing overlooked or ignored histories. Black and British: A Short, Essential History clearly demonstrates that Black History is all our history – a vital and important book.

Hide Ad

Set between the Gold Coast of West Africa and Brazil in the late 19th and early 20th century, The Deep Blue Between by Ayesha Harruna Attah (Pushkin Press, £7.99) is a good fiction title to read alongside Black and British: A Short, Essential History. Exploring the aftermath of slavery, it follows the parallel lives of twin sisters Hassana and Husseina after they are separated during a brutal raid on their village. They forge new lives, learn new languages and live on different continents, but remain connected through dreams. Harruna Attah is a master of character and storytelling, taking the reader deep into the emotional complexities of separation and reunion. A touching and compelling story of sisterhood and the bonds that connect us.

Black and British

For a tantalising page-turner, look no further than Daisy on the Outer Line by Ross Sayers (Cranachan, £8.99). Told in Scots, this is a transfixing story of time-travel on the Glasgow subway. After a Christmas night out, Daisy falls asleep on the outer line

and wakes up two weeks earlier. A mysterious stranger has told her she has a life to save. But whose? Sprinkled with Ross Sayers’ usual dose of dark humour, this a coming of age tale like no other. A story of love, loss and self-acceptance, it’s an

ideal read for cold winter nights.

From Sally Nicholls, author of Things A Bright Girl Can Do and winner of the Waterstones Prize, comes the enchanting The Silent Stars Go By (Andersen Press, £12.99). It’s Christmas 1919, and everyone has gathering in Thwaite, Yorkshire, for the first time in years. Margot has not seen her fiancé Harry since he left for the Western Front. Desperate to see him, Margot is also torn; she is hiding a secret that is pushing them apart. Can they reconnect this Christmas? Sally Nicholls brings the experiences and challenges of a past generation into sharp focus for modern readers.

The Deep Blue Between

For readers looking for a collection to dip in and out of over the festive season, A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Winter Stories by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan, £8.99) is the perfect book. This collection of 18 winter tales will transport you from the snowy streets of Russia to sparkling winter lights of Vienna and the bleak moors of Northumberland. The stories will bring a smile, possibly a tear, and can be enjoyed by young and old readers alike.

Hide Ad

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

Daisy on the Outer Line
Hide Ad

To subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app, visit

Joy Yates, Editorial Director

The Silent Stars Go By
A Glove Shop in Vienna