I Know You Remember

I Know You Remember was written by Jennifer Donaldson and first published in 2019. It is a mystery novel which focuses on a teenage girl’s search for her missing best friend. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Following the death of her mother, Ruthie Hayden is forced to move to Alaska to live with her estranged father and his new family. Although she is not happy about this, the one thing that she is looking forward to is seeing her childhood best friend, Zahra Gaines, again. Although Zahra and Ruthie have grown apart over the years, Ruthie has nothing but fond memories of their childhood and the fantasy stories that they wrote together.

However, Ruthie arrives in Anchorage to learn something terrible. Zahra had a fight with her boyfriend and stormed out of a party three days previously, and no one has seen her since. As Ruthie tries to find out the truth about what happened that night from the people who were there, she starts to learn disquieting things about Zahra. Her friend is no longer the creative artist that she once was, instead having become an athletic, party girl with no interest in books.

Yet Ruthie’s investigation uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friend and it’s not long before she realises that Zahra hides a dark secret. Something has happened to her over the time that Ruthie has been gone, and that thing changed her forever. As Ruthie delves deeply into her best friend’s past, she finds that nothing is quite as it seems and learns that some truths are better left buried…

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All the Bad Apples

All the Bad Apples was written by Moïra Fowley-Doyle and first published in 2019. It is a work of magical realism that follows a teenage girl as she hunts for the truth behind her family’s supposed curse. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Deena Rys knows that her seventeenth birthday is going to go badly when she accidentally comes out to her devout Catholic father. However, she has no idea how bad things are going to get. When she tells her sister, Mandy, about what happened, Mandy panics. She tells Deena that there is a curse that affects all of the bad apples in their family – those that deviate too far from what their father believes to be normal. The following day, Mandy vanishes.

When someone matching Mandy’s description is seen hurling themselves off a cliff, everyone knows that there is no way for her to have survived. However, even as the family lay her to rest, Deena cannot accept this. Strange things have been happening since Mandy’s death, and she is starting to believe that there may be a curse after all. Although her friends and family urge her to move on, Deena realises that she on the right track when she finds the first letter.

Mandy’s letter is the start of a treasure hunt, and Deena knows that she will find her sister alive and well if she follows it to the end. Yet to do so, she must revisit tales of past crimes inflicted on the women in her family. The origins of the curse lie in generations past and those who were silenced by society for being bad apples. If Deena is ever going to find Mandy, she must follow the trail of letters and allow these ghosts to finally be heard…

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A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

A Good Night For Shooting Zombies was written by Jaco Jacobs and published in 2013 under the title Oor ‘n motorfiets, ‘n zombiefliek en lang getalle wat deur elf gedeel kan word. As of October 2018, it has been made available in English for the very first time, been shortlisted for the Found in Translation Award and made into a successful film in Afrikaans. The novel tells the story of two boys who make friends over filming a zombie movie. It is a stand alone novel, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

The last few years have been pretty miserable for Martin. His father was killed in a tragic car accident and his family refuse to talk about it. In his free time, Martin looks after his father’s chickens which has earned him the nickname “Clucky”. That is, until one of his chickens is killed by his neighbour’s dog and his life changes forever.

The dog turns out to belong to a teenage boy named Vusi, who his seriously ill with cancer. Although he is initially furious with Vusi, Martin finds it difficult to stay angry as he starts to bond with the boy over his love of zombie films. Vusi dreams of making a film of his own but worries this will never be a reality. His parents are highly protective of him and reluctant to even let him go outside.

With Martin’s help, Vusi finds away that he can slip away and, with the help of local tomboy Chris, they start to piece together their film in secret. However, when they uncover the hideout for a gang of thieves, they suddenly find themselves in more trouble than they ever could have imagined. Will it be possible to finish the film without attracting the attention of some very dangerous men?

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black was written by Emily Barr and first published in 2017. It is a contemporary thriller that focuses on a teenage girl who discovers that her parents are hiding a dark secret. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Although Ella Black feels smothered by her mother, she knows that she has it good. She lives in a nice area, goes to a posh school and has two wonderful friends – Lily and Jack. Yet she knows, deep down, that there is something wrong with her. Ella has a dark side that she calls “Bella” – a voice in her head that encourages her to do bad things and hurt people – and she is finding it hard to keep control.

Then comes the day that her mother suddenly pulls her out of school. Her parents explain that they have to go to Brazil for a while, but will not tell her why. They take her phone and politely encourage her not to contact her friends. Although Ella has always wanted to visit Rio, she can’t help but worry. She wonders if her parents have done some terrible, and her fear makes Bella even harder to control.

When Ella finally learns the secret that they are hiding, she is horrified. Her parents have been lying to her for her entire life, hiding the truth of who she is. And then Bella makes her do something unforgivable. Certain that her parents and the police are in pursuit, Ella runs away. Yet, unable to speak the language and with little money to her name, how can she hope to survive on the streets of Rio?

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My Best Everything

My Best Everything was first published in 2015 and is Sarah Tomp’s debut novel. It is a contemporary romance that focuses on a teenage girl who will do anything it takes to escape from her small home town. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other books to fully appreciate it.

Luisa “Lulu” Mendez can’t wait to leave Dale. All her life, her father has told her that she needs to get out of the small Virginian town, and now she can finally do that. She just has to last one more summer before she can head off to college in San Diego and finally kiss her part-time job at the local junkyard good-bye. Unfortunately, it is not long before everything goes wrong.

When one of her father’s business deals goes south, Lulu’s family suddenly finds itself short of money. This means that her dream is cruelly snatched from her as her family can no longer afford her tuition fees. Lulu is devastated but raising the money in such a short time seems impossible. That is, until someone dumps an old moonshine still at the junkyard. Although Lulu knows that distilling alcohol is illegal without a permit, she also knows just how much money a shiner can make. With the help of her friends, Rona and Bucky, Lulu steals the still and hides it in the woods.

Yet making moonshine is dangerous and she does not know where to begin. This is why Lulu knows that she needs the help of Mason – a local boy with a troubled past. The fact that Mason’s family are shiners is a poorly kept secret and, with his help, she knows that she can succeed. However, Lulu does not realise just how dangerous making moonshine can be. As she draws closer to Mason and puts her plan in action, she soon realises that she is playing with fire. She can only hope that she makes the money that she needs before she gets burned…

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A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls was written by Patrick Ness and first published in 2011. It is a dark fantasy story that tells the tale of a young teenager who is forced to come to terms with his mother’s terminal illness. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Connor O’Malley is not having the best time of things. His mother has been sick for a long time and her treatments do not seem to be making her better as quickly as he hoped. This causes a lot of tension for him at school. The other kids mostly seem to ignore him, as though they’re scared about how fragile he is. Teachers aren’t much better as they seem to think that he needs babying. No matter what he does, he does not seem to get in trouble. The only person who does see him is the school bully – Harry – who now finds him to be an easy target.

Things are worse still for Connor at home. Although he thinks he does a good job of caring for his mother, no one else seems to agree. His grandmother is quick to move in to take charge, bossing Connor around and treating him like a little kid. His father, on the other hand, is barely there. He has a new life in America now and does nothing but pay fleeting visits in which he tells Connor to be brave.

It is 12:07 at night when the monster first comes to Connor. The creature forms itself out of an old yew tree and seems surprised that Connor is not more afraid of him, yet it is not the scariest monster that he has ever seen. Yet this monster has come with a purpose. It will return to visit him and tell three stories from previous times it has walked the earth. When all of these stories are told, it expects Connor to tell him one thing in return – his truth. And that is the most frightening thing of all.

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The Chaos of Now

The Chaos of Now was written by Erin Lange and is due for release in October 2018. It is a work of contemporary fiction that focuses on a group of hackers who are out for revenge against the bullies in their school. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

The life of Eli Bennett and every other teenager changed on the day that Jordan Bishop set himself on fire. Although no one was ever blamed for his death, it quickly became common knowledge that he was bullied online. New legislations were passed to allow schools to become cyber snoops and strict punishments were levelled against any student who rebelled against these oppressive laws.

As a young hacker, Eli has more reason to hate the laws the most. He feels that the laws restrict his fundamental freedoms and its not long before he finds some like-minded allies in his school. His friendship with Seth and Mouse starts out as a project – an attempt to enter a nationwide programming contest – but, through this, the Friends of Bishop are born.

The Friends of Bishop gives voice to students, providing a place online where they can anonymously upload videos that shame bullies. It seems like harmless fun at first – the only way that most students will ever get a chance to have revenge against their tormentors – but its not long before things get out of hand. Eli is desperate to pull the plug before things get worse but he quickly realises that his friends have other plans. How far will Seth and Mouse go to have their revenge against the people who drove Jordan to suicide?

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Leah on the Offbeat

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Leah on the Offbeat was written by Becky Albertalli and first published in 2018. It is a work of contemporary fiction that focuses on a bisexual girl developing a crush on one of her friends. The story is part of the Creekwood series and takes place a year after Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), however it does largely stand alone and could probably be fully enjoyed even if you haven’t read this book.

Leah Burke has known that she was bisexual for years but has never told any of her friends. Even though they were all supportive when they learned that Simon was gay, she’s always been paranoid that they would act differently to her. It’s never seemed very important anyway. She’s never had a relationship with anyone as she’s just not that kind of person. She’s more interested in her fandoms and drawing than being all lovey-dovey like her friends Nick and Abby.

However, the end of high school is drawing closer and now all that anyone can think about is the Prom. The need to find dates and plan their final blow-out is putting tension on everyone and cracks are starting to form in their friendship group. Leah breaks off a friendship with one friend after she makes a racist comment, Nick and Abby’s relationship starts to fall apart, and Garret actually asks Leah to the Prom. While Leah accepts his promposal, she immediately starts to regret her decision. She doesn’t really like Garret in that way and he seems to be getting really into it.

But more complicated still is her friendship with Abby. While Leah and Abby used to be good friends, they haven’t been close in over a year. Now, both of them have discovered that they’re going to be at the same university and Abby is keen for them to take a road trip together to check it out. Leah’s life seems to be spiralling out of control and she’s not sure what to do to keep things together. How can she cope with the fact that the end of the year is looming and nothing will ever be the same again?

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Nina is Not OK

Nina is Not OK was written by Shappi Khorsandi and first published in 2016. It is a work of contemporary fiction that focuses on a teenager as she comes to accept the fact that she has a drinking problem. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Nina likes to have a drink but then, isn’t that true of all teens? A night out for Nina isn’t fun unless she gets absolutely plastered and her friends are always more than happy to fill her in on the things that she can’t remember. That is, until one night when everything goes wrong and Nina comes around in a taxi with her knickers in her hand. She can’t remember if she slept with the man who she met at the club and is filled with shame whenever she thinks about it.

From there, things start to go from bad to worse. Nina is not having a great time of things at home. Her boyfriend has recently left her, her mother is preoccupied with her new husband and young daughter, and her friends think that Nina’s drinking is a bit of a laugh. As Nina drinks more and more, she begins to do things that she never would sober but still keeps justifying it as all being normal fun.

That is until something terrible happens. A former friend posts a photo of Nina on Facebook, showing her doing something that she can’t even remember. Suddenly, everyone has an opinion about Nina’s behaviour and are more than happy to share it with her. How will Nina ever get her life back on track and does she have the strength to pursue the man who committed an unforgivable crime against her?

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Love Song

Love Song was written by Sophia Bennett and first published in 2016. It’s a contemporary romance that focuses on a teenage girl who finds love while travelling with a boy band. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Everyone knows who The Point are. Jamie, Angus, Connor and George are the biggest boy band to ever roam the earth and almost every teenage girl would give her right arm for a chance to meet them. Unfortunately, Nina is not one of these girls. She only attends a meet and greet with the band to chaperone her sister but while she is there something happens that changes her life.

When a freak accident almost injures Sigrid Santorini – reality TV star and fiancé of the beautiful Jamie – Nina is lucky enough to come to her rescue. A few days later, Nina is contacted by the band’s manager and offered a place on tour. Sigrid’s personal assistant has resigned and she wants to hire Nina to take her place. Although Nina is reluctant, the tour does offer a unique opportunity to see the world and so she accepts.

However, things soon prove to be a lot more difficult that she was expecting. Sigrid is rude and demanding and Nina soon starts to see that her continued presence is starting to put a strain on relationships between the band members. Slowly, Nina begins to help the boys overcome their problems and realises that they’re all quite different to how they appear on TV. However, in befriending the band she gradually starts to make an enemy of the jealous Sigrid…

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