Teen fiction: this autumn’s best reads

Hannah Sycamore rounds up the best autumnal reading for teenagers

Friday, 9th October 2020, 8:28 pm
Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

A perfect autumnal read, The Unwinding by Jackie Morris (Unbound, £14.99) is a lyrical and enchanting collection. Filled with short stories and poetic verse inspired by traditional fairy tales, the author refers to the collection as a “pillow book”– a book perfect for curling up with, filled with fragments of stories and dreams. It is the perfect antidote to busy, hectic lives, a book to pause, breathe and dream with.

For fans of Studio Ghibli films, the recent translation of Eiko Kadono’s Kiki’s Delivery Service by Emily Balistrieri, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton (Puffin, £10.99), is the ideal read. Kiki is a trainee witch and must leave home on her 13th birthday to find her own town and hone her skills as witch. Kiki is excellent at flying, but is unsure if this will be enough. This is a touching coming of age story, full of heart and warmth. It is also a story about dealing with change at a young age, and the emotional challenges that presents.

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When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed is an equally gripping story of young people struggling to make their way in the world. This poignant and heart-wrenching memoir draws upon Omar Mohamed’s experience of growing up parentless in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Beautifully illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, it is an honest and intimate story of life in the camp in all its complexity. Omar is torn between his desire for education and caring for his younger brother, and equally torn between hoping for a new future abroad and dreaming of returning home to Somalia to be reunited with their missing mother. The authors also manage to remind the reader that Omar is still just a teenage boy with the usual aspirations and struggles, making this story both unique and relatable. A book that will stick with you long after you finish reading.

Also written in collaboration, Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins Childrens, £7.99) is a powerful and captivating story of a young man wrongfully incarcerated. After one fateful night, Amal finds himself on trial and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Throughout it all, Amal clings to his creativity – his art and his poetry. His voice. His truth. Told in verse, this is a nuanced, complex and thought-provoking read about the experience of a black teenage boy in America. Punching the Air is perfect for fans of Angie Thomas and Elizabeth Acevedo.

For fans of narrative verse and gripping quick reads, Wrecked by Louisa Reid (Guppy Books, £7.99) is a must. Like Amal in Punching the Air, Joe finds himself in a courtroom at a young age, struggling for the truth to be told. After a tragic accident, he reflects on the events that led to his trial and begins to unpick his troubled relationship with Imogen. The novel explores emotional abuse in relationships, but where the young man is the victim – a story rarely told. This is a tense and pacey read, and like Joe, the reader is swept along in the speed of the story and struggles to fully compute the magnitude of Joe’s experience.

For an enjoyable and uplifting read, turn to How it all Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi (Hot Key Books, £7.99). After being blackmailed and unable to talk to his Iranian family about his identity, Amir finds himself running away from home and on a whim ends up in Rome for one exciting summer. In Italy, Amir finally feels he can be himself. Will Rome help him find the courage to come out to his parents and tell them how he really feels?

Set in an interrogation room after the family return to the US, the multiple narratives reveal a deeply loving family, but one in which different generations are grappling to understand each other. This is a story about self-acceptance, but also the importance of communication.

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