The best reads for teens this summer

This summer’s best books for young adults tackle some of life’s big questions, but they also offer a few laughs along the way, writes Clare Fulton

Detail from the cover of Something I Said, by Ben Bailey Smith
Detail from the cover of Something I Said, by Ben Bailey Smith

If you’re looking for a laugh, look no further than Something I Said by Ben Bailey Smith (Bloomsbury, £6.99). Thirteen year-old Carmichael Taylor can’t help but see the funny side of life. Easily amused by the unexpected, by the mundane and by life’s many ironies, he also revels in the richness of the English language. Living with his Mum, Dad and older brother, he dreams of stardom and sees comedy and his skill with words as the tickets to get there.

Also offering a glimpse into the world of celebrity, Becoming Mila by Estelle Maskame (Ink Road, £9.99) finds Mila, the daughter of a famous actor, struggling with life in the spotlight. When she is sent to live with her aunt and grandfather on a remote farm, she is anxious to be accepted for who she as she seeks to build new relationships, encountering a new challenges but also making new friends. Maksame has included her own playlist of artists mentioned in the book and the music which inspired her as she wrote this hugely enjoyable story.

In Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (Faber, £7.99) Felix is black, queer and transgender and struggling to find the thing he craves most – a reciprocal one-to-one love relationship. Felix’s relationships with everyone around him are analysed in his quest to find “The One” and his voyage of discovery takes him through periods of both storm and calm. Written by an author who discovered his trans identity in his mid-twenties, Felix’s story feels authentic and heartfelt and may strike a chord with others who are troubled by the gender assigned to them at birth.

Becoming Mila

Stuart Lawrence is the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993. Having struggled with the grief and anger he felt after losing his brother, Stuart became a teacher and has worked with young people for many years. In Silence Is Not An Option – You Can Impact The World For Change (Scholastic £14.99) he seeks to encourage young people to value their uniqueness, set and work towards their goals, learn to deal with setbacks and play their part in making the world better for all. An inspiring, easy to follow guide for all young people.

In Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration (Walker Books, £15) George Butler presents stunning ink, pen and watercolour illustrations which draw us more deeply into the real stories of people migrating across Europe, Asia and Africa to find work, seek safety, flee from conflict and find a better way to live. When we meet the people George has drawn and read their stories it’s impossible not to feel connected to them through a shared love of home and the desire to protect and provide for our families. A hauntingly beautiful book which will live with you for a long time.

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Written by Ananda Devi and translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman, Eve out of her Ruins (Les Fugitives £7.99) takes us to a part of Mauritius dominated by young people who feel disenfranchised, trapped and filled with a fear which often escalates into violence. This is a story which asks big questions about what happens when young people have no purpose or opportunities in life. Some harsh themes but an excellent read.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Faber £7.99) makes us think critically about our beliefs and the role we all have to play in speaking out about what matters to us. When a young white boy, Quinn, witnesses the brutal attack of a young black boy, Rashad, he initially wants to distance himself from what he has seen. While Rashad is assessing what has happened and physically and emotionally healing from his wounds, Quinn has to decide whether or not he is going to say anything. A timely book and a gripping read.

Felix Ever After

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Silence is Not an Option
Drawn Across Borders
Eve Out of Her Ruins
All American Boys