How do you remember 2020? You might want to forget it, but Oxygen Mask by Jason Reynolds (Faber & Faber, £9.99) is the diary you never wrote and exactly what you ought to remember. The words alone are evocative and insightful, but combined with artwork by Jason Griffin this graphic novel pulls you right back to the year of lockdown. We observe a family at home, watching them wrestle with the disease that has infected their father and created a new normal. TV brings unsettling news from around the world into their home, and as they try to make sense of the social injustice and racism playing out in front of them, the realisation dawns that what we all need most is the love and comfort of those closest to us. This book is one to keep and revisit, a reminder of what really keeps us feeling alive.
The King is Dead by Benjamin Dean (Simon & Schuster, £8.99) is an exciting page-turner that keeps you guessing. James has been a prince all his life, and since he was born, he's been thrust into the spotlight as the first Black heir to the throne. But when his father dies unexpectedly, James is crowned king at the tender age of 17 and things take a turn for the sinister. First his boyfriend goes missing, and then scandals that only he knows about are leaked to the public. Filled with intrigue, mystery, double-crossing and romance, this is a book to set your heart racing.
Young people have a hard time navigating the transition to adulthood, so it’s inspiring when a book comes along that speaks directly to them without preaching. These Are the Words by Nikita Gill (Macmillan Children’s Books, £7.99) takes us on a journey in verse using the seasons as markers on the way. The poems talk about love, family, protest, pain and friendship, and the words, heartfelt and true, shine light on subjects that are often confusing and difficult to make sense of. This beautifully illustrated book is the ointment to soothe the turmoil of change, the spark to ignite passions and the warm voice of wisdom when you need it.
The endless loop of teenage angst is played out in the thrilling debut novel The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch (Little Island Books, £8.99). Spence finds himself caught in a time glitch that skips him back to the start of the same horrific day again and again. Each time he repeats mistakes and endures the agony of watching his friends get hurt, he learns a little more about the world he occupies, but when will it be enough to unlock the mystery that is holding him in time? This book is a riveting read that you will find hard to put down. It also lays bare the toxic behaviours young people so easily fall into and tolerate. As Spence begins to grasp the reality of the damage caused by “harmless banter” and misogyny, his revelations become the readers’.
As All Hallows’ Eve approaches, a book of myth, legend, witchcraft and magic is the perfect novel to get cosy with. Stone by Finbar Hawkins (Head of Zeus, £14.99) provides all that and more. Sam is grieving for his father when he stumbles upon a magic stone, which sets in motion a series of eerie events that Sam cannot control or fully believe. As Halloween draws near, Sam is desperate to use the magic to bring his dad back so he can see him one more time and repair the damage he feels he caused in their last conversation. Among the grief and loss there is a chance for Sam to find love and happiness, if he can learn to manage his emotions.