The Best Teen Fiction for Christmas

Haunted houses, mysterious snipers and social media over-exposure are just a few of the challenges faced by the heroes of this winter’s best books for teens, writes Liam McCallum

The Other Ones, by Fran Hart
The Other Ones, by Fran Hart

Halloween might be long over, but there are still plenty of chills in The Other Ones by Fran Hart (Chicken House, £8.99). Sal lives in a haunted house – or at least that’s what everyone thinks. Still grieving the death of his father, all he wants is to be left alone, but when he finds friendship in Pax, a new boy in town, they begin to explore the secrets of the house, as well as secrets even closer to home. Despite all its mystery and ghostly undertones, at its heart The Other Ones is a sweet queer romance story, addressing themes of family, loss and how to navigate friendships.

From chills to thrills, Five Survive by Holly Jackson (Electric Monkey, £14.99) is the story of a nightmarish road trip. On their way to spend Spring Break on the California coast, six friends become the target of an unseen sniper. Pinned down in their RV, Red and her friends must unravel the mystery while trying to stay alive, but the odds are stacked against them. Told over an eight-hour period in nail-biting “real time”, Holly Jackson has created an incredibly taught and nerve jangling story of survival, trust and endurance. Full of twisty turns, Five Survive will keep you guessing until the end.

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Activist by Louisa Reid (Guppy Books, £7.99) is a hard-hitting exploration of activism and what is really means to fight for what you believe in. Told entirely in verse, this raw and unflinching story follows Cassie and her experiences at a prestigious private school. The former boys-only school has opened its doors to girls, but Cassie and her friends are routinely subjected to abuse and misogynistic taunts, not only by students, but by teachers too. Cassie begins to fight back, discovering what it takes to stand up to injustice and adversity and also the dangers that can come with speaking out. This is a powerful and, at times, upsetting story, but there’s a deftness and sensitivity in its writing that allows the more difficult subject matter to be presented in an accessible way, with a message of hope and courage.

Five Survive, by Holly Jackson

In a world dominated by the need for social media exposure, Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution by Kacen Callender (Faber, £8.99) follows the titular protagonists as they negotiate relationships and societal expectations. Lark has ambitions to become a writer, but when Kasim accidently posts a thread on Lark’s Twitter about their secret crush, they don’t just have to contend with their own feelings, but also those of thousands of followers. Lark and Kasim soon find out just how messy emotions can be, and that being in love really isn’t as easy as some social media posts would suggest. With wonderful representation of LGBTQ+ romance and identity, this heart-warming tale is unafraid and utterly compelling, with two of the best central characters you will meet for a long time.

Set during the festive season, All The Jingle Ladies by Beth Garrod (Scholastic, £8.99) is a delightfully goofy teen romantic comedy. Molly hates Christmas, but she has a legitimate reason: her musical family is responsible for releasing a cheesy festive single that has haunted her since childhood. Adding insult to injury, the single has appeared in this year’s hottest Christmas movie, but a chance encounter with the movie’s lead actor and Molly’s conscious efforts to conceal her humbug attitude for the sake of her best friend results in a hilariously awkward holiday caper. A wonderful slice of wholesome nostalgia.

Activist, by Louisa Reid