Young adult books round-up – reviews | Teen books

Dean Atta’s Only on the Weekends is ‘full of tender truths’

Readers facing a long wait for their next fix of Heartstopper: look out for two new teenage romances that channel some of that warmth and feelgood energy, framed by diverse casts of characters. Only on the Weekends (Hodder, £8.99) is Dean Atta’s second young adult verse novel, following the Stonewall book award winner The Black Flamingo. Hopeless romantic Mack longs for love, certain it’s the real deal when Karim becomes his boyfriend. A family move to Scotland presents fresh challenges, not least Mack’s instant attraction to new friend Finlay. It’s full of tender truths on the joy and agony of first love, amplified by the confessional tone of the verse format.

In I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (Macmillan, £14.99), Chloe has endured the puritanical Willowgrove Christian academy only through her steely resolve to become valedictorian. A month before graduation her main rival, the perfect Shara, unexpectedly kisses her and then vanishes, leaving an unruly breadcrumb trail of cryptic notes for Chloe and two unlikely accomplices. Sharp, funny and deliciously entertaining, it reads like a 21st-century take on a John Hughes classic teen movie; a Netflix adaptation can only be a matter of time.

Dean Atta’s Only on the Weekends is ‘full of tender truths’
Dean Atta’s Only on the Weekends is ‘full of tender truths’. Photograph: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

From first love to magical awakenings. Melissa Albert, queen of witchy YA and beguiling prose, returns with Our Crooked Hearts (Penguin, £7.99), a potent fusion of fairytale magic and modern teenage life. When uncanny disturbances and fragmented childhood memories plague Ivy’s summer, she begins to uncover strange truths about her mother, Dana. Alternating between Dana and Ivy’s stories, Albert conjures an addictive thriller of mothers and daughters, family secrets and dark sorcery.

There’s more powerful fantasy in Melinda Salisbury’s Her Dark Wings (David Fickling, £7.99) set in a world where Greek gods are still worshipped. After the death of her best friend, Corey pursues her to the underworld, where she discovers the realm of an arrogant, cold god, the passionate Furies and a place where her own powers can take seed. Mythical reimaginings remain a big trend, but this one is special. Inspired by the Persephone myth, it’s an intoxicating look at friendship, love and the intensity of teenage emotions.

Rising star Benjamin Dean, acclaimed for his joyful LGBT-centred stories for younger children, makes his young adult debut in The King Is Dead (Simon & Schuster, £8.99). Seventeen-year-old James is the first black heir to the British throne, mourning the death of his father and, when gossip and secrets are leaked to the press, shocked to realise that his inner circle can’t be trusted. A moreish mashup of scandalous thriller and royal intrigue combines with smart observations on race and power, underpinned with real heart.

Finally, two perfectly escapist summer reads. Twin Crowns (Electric Monkey, £8.99) by Katherine Webber and Catherine Doyle follows twin princesses separated at birth – Rose, raised to be a royal heir, and Wren, trained to usurp her – in a gloriously giddy romp through fantasy tropes, swoony romance and sweeping adventure. And in Family of Liars (Hot Key, £12.99), the prequel to BookTok sensation We Were Liars, E Lockhart returns to the ultra-privileged Sinclair family on their private Massachusetts island for a second slice of irresistible intrigue and rich people behaving terribly.

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