Teen fiction: the best reads for the Easter break

Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson
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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (Walker Books, £7.99) is the eagerly-anticipated second novel by the author of The Hate You Give and it does not disappoint. Sixteen-year-old Bri lives in a hard part of town surrounded by violence, her mum is struggling to make ends meet and the threat of hunger and homelessness hang around her constantly. But Bri has a plan to get out of there, to get her whole family out of there: she’s going to become the greatest rapper of all time, greater even than her dad, a legend in her neighbourhood. As fame beckons and the vultures descend can she keep hold of her sense of self even if it means risking her dream? Thomas’s writing is fresh, bold and she pulls no punches; On the Come Up is gripping, moving and full of heart.

“Be you, be heard, be Proud” is the tagline of the new short story anthology Proud compiled by Juno Dawson (Stripes, £7.99), featuring work from 26 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer+ writers and illustrators. The stories celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ experience, from the hilarious coming out story “Penguins” by Simon James Green, illustrated by Alice Oseman, to the tender and moving story of a girl on the cusp of accepting herself in “Almost Certain” by Tanya Byrne, illustrated by Frank Duffy.

The anthology ends with a powerful poem “How to Come out as Gay” by Dean Atta, illustrated by Leo Greenfield, which leaves the reader with the words: “Remember you have the right to be proud/ Remember you have the right to be you.” This is a must-read collection.

Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books, £10.99) is a beautifully written, heart-rending story of what it’s like to be a young carer and a teenager at the same time. Ro Snow is living with a secret, one which prevents her from having friends and throwing parties and which makes boyfriends a definite no-no. It involves Bonnie, her mum. She’s scared that if she lets anyone into her life her secret will come out and all her carefully constructed lies will come tumbling down. When Tanvi Shah reappears at school, back from the almost dead, determined that Ro will be her new best friend, Ro finds herself teetering on the precipice just waiting to fall.

Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project spends her time travelling around the UK talking to young girls about their experiences of sexist behaviour. The Burning (Simon and Schuster, £7.99), is a fictionalised retelling of some of these experiences and it is all the more powerful and disturbing for being based on real events. Anna has moved to a small Scottish village with her mum. She’s changed her name, ditched her phone and deleted all her online profiles. There’s nothing to link her to the “incident” she’s running away from. Or so she thinks… It doesn’t take long before rumours start to circulate her new school. Anna buries herself in her history project to try and hide from the gossip and in doing so she uncovers the tale of a young woman, Maggie, who was burnt as a witch. As her attackers become more vicious the parallels between Anna and Maggie’s stories become more apparent and the reader is left wondering, have we moved on at all?

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Scholastic, £7.99) is a story about family, love and secrets. Rukhsana is just a normal teenager who loves wearing make-up and going to parties. However, she’s been living a double life, hiding the truth about her girlfriend Ariana from her conservative Bangladeshi family for fear of how they might react; and when she’s caught kissing Ariana, there’s nowhere left to hide. Her parents take her away to Bangladesh where she becomes trapped in a world of tradition and arranged marriages. Ariana suddenly becomes an unreachable dream – will she ever get back to it? Sabina Khan is a master at getting the reader to walk a tightrope with Rukhsana, her desires on one side and her need to please the family she loves on the other. - Beth Goodyear