The Best Teen Fiction for Christmas

Caighlan Smith
Caighlan Smith
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I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Stripes, £7.99) is the quintessential festive short-story collection. It features funny, moving and thought-provoking stories by 14 of today’s best writers for teenagers, including Juno Dawson, Marcus Sedgwick, Non Pratt and Kevin Brooks. All of the stories are connected by the theme of “home”, from surviving Christmas with your step-parent’s family to highlighting teen homelessness; from seeing life through the eyes of a refugee boy crossing the sea in a dingy, to coming out to your mum and all its consequences. One pound from each copy sold goes to Crisis, the national charity for the homeless.

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Electric Monkey, £7.99) is the much-anticipated sequel to their first adventure. Dash and Lily have been dating for a year now, but Lily’s had a hard time recently with her grandad being ill, and is feeling particularly low. Dash is trying to get her to enjoy the run up to Christmas, normally her favourite time of year, by rallying all her friends and family to rekindle her seasonal spirit. Will he succeed in time?

This is a sweet, feel-good romance set in New York City, featuring two characters who readers know and love. Cohn and Levithan have got the clean-teen market down to a tee, there is nothing naughty enough to upset even Grandma in those pages – it’s all very nice!

Holly Bourne’s …And A Happy New Year (Usborne, £9.99) is a stand-alone companion novella to her Spinster Club series which began with award-winning Am I Normal Yet? Best friends Amber, Lottie and Evie have had a lot on their plates in the last few months. They drifted apart dealing with boyfriends, uni and generally growing up, but they are all coming together for a New Years’ Eve party. Now Amber has to tell her two best friends she is leaving to study in the US, and Lottie has to admit how lonely she’s been in London. And how can Evie tell her best friends about her agoraphobic boyfriend Ollie’s relapse? It’s going to be a party to remember. This could be either a perfect introduction to Bourne’s trademark feminist writing style, or a great addition to any Spinster Club fan’s collection. It rings true, is suitable for mature readers and full of strong female characters.

Canadian author Susin Nielsen’s Word Nerd (Andersen Press, £7.99) is a wonderfully cynical “Ba Humbug” Christmas read. Ambrose lives unhappily with his over-protective widowed mother in a rented basement flat. After three bullies try to kill him with a peanut, knowing he’s allergic, his mum decides to educate him at home. His only relief from her constant attention is Cosmo, the 25-year-old ex-con, ex-addict son of the family upstairs. They begin a friendship based on a secret weekly trip to a Scrabble club. Here, Ambrose finally finds the friendships he’s never had before. Unfortunately, Cosmo’s criminal past is catching up with him, but with Ambrose’s help they fight to have a shot at a future. A funny, tender and quirky story with lots of heart, Ambrose and Cosmo make an unlikely but very likable pair and the reader can’t help but root for their friendship and the happy endings they both deserve.

Children of Icarus (Curious Fox, £6.99) by Newfoundland-born, Glasgow-based Caighlan Smith is a mythical survival story for anybody who has had enough of tinsel and twinkling lights by 25 December. The unnamed first-person narrator is chosen to be sent out into the labyrinth which surrounds Daedelum, the city she grew up in, together with a small group of other 12 to 16-year-old chosen ones – Icarii. They are promised angels to guide them out to freedom, but instead encounter monsters trying to kill them. A lucky few are picked up by previous survivors who made their home in the labyrinth and our narrator finds an uneasy place in the new community. However, when they realise she’s not who she pretends to be and her real name is uncovered, she is cast out into the deadly labyrinth. Will she survive by herself? From its bloody beginning to its heart-wrenching conclusion, this proves Smith is a writer to watch out for in the future.