Young adult books roundup – reviews | Young adult

The year kicks off with a clutch of excellent debuts for young adult readers. In Ravena Guron’s This Book Kills (Usborne), British-Indian scholarship student Jess Choudary finds herself under suspicion of murder at her elite boarding school. Wealthy classmate Hugh Henry Van Boren is found dead in the woods, the crime scene looks like a scene from one of her short stories. Jess’s hunt for the real killer reveals the dark side of privilege, pairing boarding school drama with a deliciously plotted Agatha Christie-style mystery. This one will be catnip for fans of Holly Jackson and Karen M McManus.

There’s more high school murder in Promise Boys (Macmillan, February), from American writer Nick Brooks. Urban Promise Prep is a very different kind of school, claiming to transform “roughneck” boys into upstanding young men to avoid the outcomes typical of their Washington DC neighborhood. When the authoritarian principal is violently killed on the school site, three boys become the prime suspects. Told from numerous perspectives, this smart, tense thriller takes a sharp look at how American society treats boys of color.

The perils of social media come under the spotlight Influential by Amara Sage (Faber). An influencer from birth thanks to her internet-famous mother, 17-year-old Almond has millions of followers and a heavily filtered existence that bears little resemblance to her real life. When the internet turns on her, life online and offline begins to crumble. Sage has a keen eye for the realities of contemporary teenage life; Almond’s voice is fresh and believable, making the impact of internet culture all the more horrific.

In time for Valentine’s Day comes Anika Hussain’s debut, This Is How You Fall In Love (Hot Key Books, February). Zara is a superfan of all things love, from 90s romcom movies to sweeping romance novels, and dreams of her own big love story. Could her moment have arrived when she and her best friend, Adnan, agree to pretend to be a couple? The fake dating scenario may be familiar but this delightful romantic comedy takes a thoughtful look at romance tropes and expectations, full of heart and candour.

Amara Sage: ‘a keen eye for the realities of contemporary teenage life’.

Matching swoony romance with 19th-century upper-class intrigue is The Agency for Scandal (Scholastic) by Laura Wood. Isobel’s family fortune is lost and she’s in love with a duke, who is unaware of her existence. But she’s also a member of the Aviary, a secret, all-female detective agency intent on digging up scandals on powerful men and righting wrongs for women. Utterly charming, rich in wry one-liners and formidable young women.

Adiba Jaigirdar won the YA book prize for her contemporary romance, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. Now she turns to historical fiction A Million to One (Hodder), which sees a diverse quartet of girls stage an audacious heist to steal a jewel-embedded book – aboard the Titanic. The vibe is Enola Holmes meets Ocean’s 8full of exhilarating action sequences and a sapphic romance twist, shadowed by the reader’s knowledge of where that ship is heading.

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