Review: I’ll Be Home For Christmas UKYA Anthology!

31114205I’ll Be Home For Christmas, an anthology by UKYA authors
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Pages: 384
Format: e-book
Rating: Each story rated individually!
Note: We received this book in exchange for on honest review. 

After reading  Stephanie Perkins’ Winter and Summer anthologies, it’s about time to have one full of wonderful UKYA authors! There are a few here, like Katy Cannon and Holly Bourne that we were really looking out for, but anthologies are always an exciting opportunity to discover new authors too.

Continue reading “Review: I’ll Be Home For Christmas UKYA Anthology!”

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Trials, Tribulations & Triumphs with Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan

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We were lucky enough to win two tickets to the Birmingham Literature Festival’s Teen Takeover event with Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan! It was the only event that we really wanted to go to, because *dramatic pause* duh, it’s Juno Dawson(!) but we couldn’t afford the tickets so Maddie entered a giveaway (without my knowledge) and we won! (Thank you so much to Michelle Toy for hosting the giveaway!) I couldn’t believe that we’d get to see this amazing talk, and oh my goodness it was incredible.

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Juno reading from Mind Your Head

Both authors stressed the importance of talking about mental health issues and thinking about how they affect teenagers. Juno explained how the first experience of panic or stress is turned into a catastrophe because the sufferer can’t recognise what they’re experiencing. This is why she is so passionate about PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education) being taught in schools, because if you can teach young people about the effects of mental health issues then they will be better prepared to deal with them, or, at least, be able to recognise the symptoms.

Later in the talk, Juno read from her most recent non-fiction release Mind Your Head, which is aimed at a slightly younger audience, but appeals to everyone. 1 in 10 teens have diagnosable mental illnesses. But Juno stresses: what about about the other 9? Mind Your Head is aimed at more than just the 1 person who was brave enough to seek help and be officially ‘diagnosed’. It’s aimed at the 1, plus the 9 who are probably being told to ‘just get on with it.’

The authors talked about limiting yourself by using labels. Once you’ve been professionally diagnosed or you diagnose yourself with a mental illness it’s important to remember that you are more than your mental illness. Nicola and Juno agreed that when a mental health issue becomes a part of your identity, it becomes destructive.

When asked about whether they made an active decision to include mental health in their books, Juno responded ‘it never occurred to me not to put them in, [because they affect so many young people.]’ Nicola talked about wanting to write about OCD because her niece suffers greatly from it, but because the mental issue came first in her planning the rest of the story hasn’t come together. To write something convincing, and not preachy or laboured, the characters and the plot have to come FIRST. Juno gave a perfect example of this: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, which we have both read and really loved how although Evie’s OCD is prevalent and really affects her life, it’s mostly about female friendship and understanding feminism.

Juno also talked a little about her new book Margot & Me which is set in the 90s, and follows a girl called Fliss, who goes to live with her grandmother in south Wales and discovers her gran’s war-time diary in the attic, and it unleashes some family secrets that have the power to destroy. It sounds ridiculously exciting, and once again, different to everything she’s written so far, and is expected to be released in late January 2017. Nicola also talked a bit about her upcoming releases – she’s mostly been focussing on non-fiction, but would like to eventually return to fiction – which is a mental health book aimed for schools!

We are mostly there to hear from Juno Dawson, and we learned some pretty Fun Facts:

  1. Juno agreed to write This Book Is Gay because she came up with the really cool title.
  2. After writing This Book Is Gay, Juno needed to take a break, (even though she was contracted for more non-fiction), so wrote Under My Skin and All of the Above, which proved to her that mental health as still at the forefront of her mind, hence Mind Your Head!
  3. Juno credits Youtube books for making teen non-fiction ‘a thing’. Well, their existence means there needs to be a new category in bookshops…
  4. Hollow Pike, Juno’s first novel, was set to be a four book series, but the book’s initial sales meant the publishers cancelled the other three books – even though Juno had written Hollow Pike 2!
  5. This turned out to be a really GOOD thing, because it meant that she wasn’t stuck to a ‘brand’, which is why all of Juno’s books are different, because genre can’t define her writing!
  6. Juno considers All of the Above a sort of re-telling of Hollow Pike without the human sacrifice.
  7. Hollow Pike had more explicit references to self-harm, but the publishers asked for them to be toned down. Juno joked ‘Can’t it just be a nice book about human sacrifice?!’
  8. Under My Skin was about possession first and then became about dealing with internal struggles/anxiety/Feminism.
  9. Juno’s written a book about Grindr called Strings but after the release of Spot The Difference for World Book Day, where the audience was 10+, the publishers decided to delay its release.

If you want to find out more about these authors…

Nicola Morgan: Twitter | Website
Juno Dawson: Twitter | Website


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Reviews: World Book Day Books for Older Readers

Both of these stories were available for £1 on World Book Day, March 3rd, and are still available as e-editions. 

26365537Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Romance
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 63
Rating: ★★★

This was a classic Rainbow Rowell story in that the romance was adorable, and follows the same kind of fangirl culture, similar to Fangirl itself. Elena, our protagonist, decides to camp out in front of the movie theatre a few days before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She’s already bought a ticket online, but it’s the ritual of devotion to the franchise, no matter how unnecessary. Gabe and Troy are the only other people in the line.  Not only is this a romance story, but a story about being a fan of something, and how we need to show the world we like something, especially online. Gabe even has this little speech about nerd/geek culture and how it’s cool to be part of a fandom nowadays. We could both talk for a long time about fandom culture, so we won’t, but just know it sparks some interesting thought.

The scenario was really unique and the characters were witty. It was something you could enjoy for an hour, and be sucked in by.

The one thing that niggled at us both was the convenience of the relationship between Elena and Gabe. It turned out that they both knew of each other before the line, as if that would make up for the shortness of the story. It just felt a bit incomplete.

9781471405679Spot The Difference by Juno Dawson
Genre: Contemporary
Published by: Hot Key Books
Pages: 84
Rating: ★★★★

This book was really refreshing because the main character, Avery, had acne. I’ve never seen that dealt with as a serious topic in a book before, which seems ridiculous because a lot of teenagers suffer from it, and if not from full blown acne, then definitely from the odd pimple or two. The plot revolves around Avery getting some treatment for her spots and becoming beautiful as they disappear. Because of this, she is accepted by the most popular crowd (which really brings to light how superficial popularity is in high school.) While this is happening, there’s an election for head boy and head girl, and Avery is persuaded to go for it.

There were some really lovely messages in this book, about loving the skin you’re in, and being true to yourself, and having loyalty to the people who have been with you through thick and thin. Although the story line could be predictable (because the adoption to the popular crowd is a trope) the characters and their actions were believable, so we didn’t mind.

This story could be read by every person in secondary school, because the characters feel a little ageless. They could be in Year Seven or Year Eleven, and the same dynamic would apply.

Overall, Spot the Difference worked excellently in a small number of pages. It could have been a much longer book, but it was just really concise and wonderful. We loved the humour and the positivity about being yourself, so this was definitely a favourite of the WBD books we’ve read.