Monday 29 February 2016

Coming Soon – BROKEN SKY by L.A. Weatherly and CRUSH by Eve Ainsworth

As usual, my TBR pile is so huge it's on the brink of collapse. I guess I could stop buying books and borrowing them from the library, but where's the fun in that?! Sometimes it's hard to know what to read next, but recently, I was lucky enough to get an early look at not one but two amazing UKYA books coming out this week, so I thought I'd share them with you .

The first is L.A. Weatherly's BROKEN SKY (The BROKEN trilogy #1), published by Usborne. Here's the blurb:

Welcome to a ‘perfect’ world.

Where war is illegal, where harmony rules.

And where your date of birth marks your destiny.

But nothing is perfect.

And in a world this broken, who can Amity trust?

Doesn't it sound great?

This is a hard book to sum up without spoilers, so I won't try, but I'm certain readers are going to love it. Just like L.A. Weatherly's bestselling ANGEL series, there's action, danger, a daring heroine, a wonderfully believable and heart-rending romance, and also aeroplanes and a plot as twisty as they come.

But what makes this book really stand out is its setting – BROKEN SKY's 'world' is an alternative version of the USA, with everything wrapped up in a cool 1940s vibe. It's richly imagined, full of satisfying detail – it's one of the most original and brilliant YA novels I have ever read. I can't wait for the next installment in the trilogy!

Love hurts … but should it hurt this much?

Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of.

He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect.

Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control…

I loved Eve's debut novel, 7 DAYS, and I predict that CRUSH will establish her, quite rightly, as one of the UK's top contemporary YA writers. As with 7 DAYS, which dealt with bullying, CRUSH looks at the novel's central issue (this time, a controlling relationship) from both sides, with huge amounts of empathy and understanding. The story is realistically and sensitively told, helping the reader to understand the reasons for Will's behaviour without condoning it. This book takes a realistic and unflinching look at controlling relationships, yet doesn't glamourise or excuse what Will does to Anna.

It's also highly readable, and Eve keeps up a sense of tension and menace which pulls you through the story at a breathless pace.

This is an important and thought-provoking novel, and I hope it finds the wide readership it deserves.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Why Libraries Matter

Last year, as part of the YA Shot blog tour, I wrote a piece about why libraries matter for the lovely Sofia over at The Reading Fangirl. Today is National Libraries Day, so I thought I would repost it (with some minor edits for clarity) here:

Forget Hogwarts. Never mind Narnia. When I was a kid, there was only one place where magic really happened. In this place, I could go anywhere. I could be anyone. I could fly; I could make myself invisible; I had superpowers.

That place was my local library.

As soon as I stepped inside, I entered another world, intoxicated by the scents of paper and ink. I never knew what I might find – what worlds I’d find between the covers of the books that waited for me there. And even better, I got to take that magic home, and it didn’t cost me a penny. For a child with a reading habit like mine, the library was a lifeline, feeding my book addiction and filling up my brain with stories and experiences and life.

Later, as an adult, I got a job in a library, and now had the chance to see life from ‘the other side of the desk.’ I was also an aspiring author, writing stories of my own. I spent every day surrounded by books, by authors, by words. That familiar magic filled the air; I took it in with every breath. When I was supposed to be shelving books, I’d find a quiet corner in which to read. Between customers, I’d scribble ideas down on old receipts and tickets and request cards. I’d look at the books on the shelves and daydream about seeing my name on a book spine one day.

But there was more to it than that.

The stereotype of the library as an archaic, dusty institution, inhabited by stern, bespectacled librarians saying SHHH! every time you so much as breathe persists to this day. But that’s never been my experience, even as a child. The library I worked in was a cheerful, welcoming place. We had author events, storytimes, readings and more. And best of all was seeing children come in – some already keen readers like I had been, others just starting their first uncertain forays into the world of words.

I’ll never forget the fourteen year old boy who “didn’t read”, only, after we recommended a list of authors to his frustrated mother, he did. Or the kids devouring their favourite series who came running in every week to see if the next book had arrived.

I was able to volunteer to help out at events like the Big Book Bash, an annual celebration of books and authors for young people in care. I was asked to join a team of writers for a website that recommended books to young people. Later on, I was lucky enough to set up two writing groups – one for adults, and one for children (which I still run after we were adopted by Writing East Midlands), passing on my love of words to other people and – I hope – encouraging them to find their own magic in writing. After I got a book deal – much to the surprise of my colleagues, who I’d more or less kept my writing a secret from, never daring to dream I might actually get anywhere with it – I had two book launches at two different libraries on the same day.

But libraries aren't just about books. Mine certainly wasn't. There were the people working their way through their family trees. People who came in to use the computers to do their work, type up CVs, look for jobs or simply keep in touch with far-flung friends. People who needed information, who needed help, and it was us they came to – I hope that most of the time, we were able to give them what they needed.

This is why libraries matter. They are important to me on a personal level, but it goes wider than that, too. I know the difference libraries make to people because I’ve seen it – and I know what a difference they made to me.

We must look after our libraries. They are truly democratic – a space for everyone – and they need to stay that way.