Recommended YA books, news & resources for April
This month we have oodles of exciting new Australian YA fiction and a unique Shakespearean read from a well-known British poet.
Find our April picks for kids books here.
FIVE YA BOOKS TO READ THIS MONTH
Deep Water by Sarah Epstein
Three months ago, 13-year-old Henry disappeared from The Shallows, a small rural Australian town, during a violent storm, leaving behind his muddy bike at the train station. Chloe Baxter thinks there is more to the story and resolves to uncover the truth, even if that means questioning everyone in town, her friends included. This is the tantalising and atmospheric second thriller from Small Spaces author Epstein. Our reviewer Claire gave this mystery a glowing review, saying: ‘It keeps you on the edge of your seat, it’s insightful and engaging.’
You can read Claire’s full review here.
For ages 13 and up.
Taking Down Evelyn Tait by Poppy Nwosu
Lottie’s best friend Grace has dropped an unlikely bombshell: she’s dating Lottie’s mortal enemy and stepsister, good-girl Evelyn Tait. Jude, the boy next door, provides self-confessed rebel Lottie with the perfect plan: beat Evelyn at her own game and unveil Miss Perfect’s sinister side in the process. Poppy Nwosu’s follow-up to her charming debut Making Friends With Alice Dyson is a highly entertaining and witty story about family, friends and embracing who you are. Our reviewer Angela described it as an ‘utterly delightful read that you will devour like a cheeky bar of chocolate.’
You can read Angela’s full review here.
For ages 12 and up.
How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry Jones
Stella may only be seventeen, but having read every self-help book she can find means she knows a thing or two about helping people. She sure wasn’t expecting to be the one in need of help, though. Thanks to her father’s gambling addiction, Stella and her family have to live at Fairyland Caravan Park. And hiding this truth from her friends is hard enough without dealing with another secret. Stella’s birth mother has sent her a letter. P is For Pearl author Jones once more tackles emotionally complex territory with depth and empathy. Our reviewer Natalie highly rated this ‘sensitive story about the things that break people and the strength and resources they draw upon to start over.’
You can read Natalie’s full review here.
For ages 13 and up.
The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting
Chance is a Year Seven student who thinks she has it all – a loving mother, Tiges the dog, a best friend and an almost-sister next door. She also draws a hard line between true and false, and values honesty over everything else. But when a reality TV team makes over her house, she discovers newspaper cuttings from the past that cause her to question the world as she knows it and everyone in it. At the same time, Chance’s class is at the centre of a social media bungle that helps her see there is a difference between what is true and what has been manufactured. Our reviewer Kealy recommends this gripping mystery with a twist, describing it as a book with ‘a big heart and an even bigger twist.’
You can read Kealy’s full review here.
For ages 11 and up.
The Dark Lady by Akala
15-year-old Henry is an orphan who lives in the notorious London slum, Devil’s Gap. He’s a master pickpocket, ambitious, smart, and possessed of a secret power. When Henry is caught stealing, he’s forced to work for an influential duke and his secret society of intellectuals. Working hard to fulfil the duke’s demands, Henry finds a friend in his idol, the young playwright, William Shakespeare. But it’s his mother, the Dark Lady, that Henry longs for most. This is a unique and visceral adventure that brings Elizabethan London vividly to life, and touches on race, family and identity. It’s written by award-winning rapper, poet and writer Akala, founder of the renowned Hip-hop Shakespeare Company, so it’s no wonder that the novel joyously explores the vernacular of the time.
For ages 14 and up.
NEWS, RESOURCES & RECOMMENDATIONS
We know there’s a lot going on right now. Here are some of the bits and pieces from the young adult world that have excited and entertained us recently.
A big congratulations to all the authors and illustrators on the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards shortlists! A special nod to the Older Readers shortlist; chock-full of varied and interesting Australian YA.
Our Teen Advisory Board might be on hiatus, but they still found time to rave about Astrid Scholte’s The Vanishing Deep.
In our last in-person podcast episode for a while, Readings Kids shop manager Angela and I chatted about books that could help us all stay home and feel calm. Most of our picks, including a decent chunk of YA, can be found in this collection.
Australian author Anna Whately (whose debut novel Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal is out next month) has a wonderful YouTube channel where she chats to lots of Australian YA authors. I highly recommend checking it out.
A team of excellent people within the Australian YA community have banded together to build the Oz Authors Online platform, a place to participate in virtual book launches and other bookish events. Keep an eye on them in the coming weeks and months for book celebrations.
The YA Room are finding great ways to keep YA readers connected, with Zoom meetups and Netflix parties. Follow their Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for the most up-to-date details of what’s coming up.