The Best Books for Teens this Christmas

In search of life lessons? There’s plenty of wisdom out there if you know where to look, writes Clare Fulton

Grown
Grown

The Song That Sings Us (Firefly, £14.99) is a magnificent adventure story by Nicola Davies, full of wonderful animal characters and with evocative illustrations by Jackie Morris. The story focuses on a family who are completely attuned to the natural world but are hunted down by those with no respect for the environment or living creatures. Their only hope is to join with the Green Thorn rebel movement in a desperate attempt to stop the Automators. Readers should brace themselves for an ending which is as poignant as it is beautiful.

The Truths We Hold – An American Journey, Young Reader’s Edition by US Vice President Kamala Harris (Vintage, £7.99) takes us back to Harris’s childhood role models and guides – the people who have shaped her personal values. She shows how people can be leaders in both work and home settings, and she is also excellent at explaining the human suffering caused by the mortgage foreclosure scandal which caused countless families to lose their homes. A fascinating insight into a remarkable career.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (One World Publications, £14.99) has a stunningly powerful front cover which perfectly represents the young, determined Zetian, a girl whose life has been mapped out from birth to promise a future of compliance, obedience and subservience to men. Zetian has other ideas however and, determined to avenge her sister’s death, puts aside her own fears and feelings to challenge the status quo. Many themes flavour this story, including gender inequality, disability, addiction, power and media manipulation, but it’s the characters that will win your heart, while the plot will keep you hooked throughout.

The Song That Sings Us

When Shadows Fall (Little Tiger, £12.99) by Sita Brahmachari tells the heartbreaking story of Kai. Following him from childhood through his teenage years, we see someone who is loved by family, friends and wild ravens, yet is unable to respond to offers of help as he plummets into a severe and lasting depression. Kai’s voice and the voices of his friends are all represented in the story, which is all the more powerful for showing his struggle from different perspectives. With verse and prose and powerful illustrations from Natalie Sirett, this is a completely absorbing book.

Grown – The Black Girls’ Guide To Glowing Up (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, £12.99) by Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A Carter has been written to support Black girls in the transition years between girlhood and womanhood. It features contributions from many inspiring Black women and encourages Black girls to recognise their individual worth and to see themselves as being able to live life to the full, free from the expectations or restrictions others might try to impose. The book offers practical advice on a wide range of topics such as managing finances, skill building, religion, body awareness, skin and hair care, friendships, sex and relationships. The illustrations by Dorcas Magbadelo perfectly complement the straight-talking tone of this practical, useful and helpful guide.

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Lionheart Girl (Zephyr, £12.99) by Yaba Badoe is an extraordinary tale which stays with you long after it has ended. Desperately afraid of her powerful, magic-weaving mother, Sheba has built a support network to sustain her and give her courage to stand up to her powerful parent. Badoe makes much of Sheba’s skill in dressing the hair of friends and family, and when she discovers her own magic power, she realises she has the ability to share and experience some of the personal memories of those whose hair she is touching.

Honour’s Rest (Crowvus, £8.99) by Judith Crow is set in the north of Scotland and introduces us to Pendragon Devon, a boy disturbed and frightened by his inability to explain how he managed to push a fellow pupil into a pond while seated in the school library. This mysterious and out of character act begins to make sense, however, when he goes to live with his Uncle Napier, who makes him aware of a special power he holds as a thaumaturge who has “The Rite”. A riveting story of friendship and magic.

The Truths We Hold

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Iron Widow
When Shadows Fall