We have a flourishing teen and young adult book scene in Ireland—Courtney Fitzmaurice chooses both recent and older titles, a great list for Christmas or for any time of year!
Vendetta by Catherine Doyle, Chicken House, €9.99
When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion next door, Sophie’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nic, she finds herself falling into an underworld governed by powerful families. When her own family skeletons come to life, she must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. The first in the terrific yet underrated Blood for Blood trilogy, you’ll fly through it. It’s got action, drama, a well-executed love triangle (woo!) and a gorgeous friendship.
Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth, Andersen Press, €10.15
When Aideen agrees to help class swot Maebh Kowalska deal with her crazy workload, she doesn’t expect to end up reluctantly pushing Maebh down the stairs. With this, Aideen becomes the school ‘fixer’: any problem a student has, Aideen will sort it out, from stealing confiscated mobiles to breaking into parties. All she asks for is a favour in return. But Aideen’s own life is a mess – her mam’s drinking again, her BFF Holly is avoiding her and she’s skipping school. Spending more time with the uptight (but annoyingly cute) Maebh and chatterbox Kavi, Aideen starts to wonder: can every problem be solved?
Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Karen Vaughan, €12.50
One of the best Irish YA books ever, this feminist retelling of The Children of Lir is an incredible reading experience you won’t forget. Aífe marries Lir, a king with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aífe turns them into swans for 900 years. Retold through the voice of Aífe, Savage Her Reply is unsettling and dark, feminist and fierce, yet nuanced in its exploration of the guilt of a complex character. Sullivan is known for her stunning, lyrical prose, and there’s a few sentences here that will make it into the diary. As well, the physical book itself is beautifully put together – do the teen in your life a favour and leave this under the Christmas tree.
Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran, O’Brien Press, €12.99
Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster. Lia’s sworn to be a better ruler than her uncle, so she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania’s been determined to uncover her father’s murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner’s axe. It’s an easy decision. When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. It’s rare for Irish authors and publishers to do fantasy, and this is a true gem by Corcoran. It has court politics, betrayal, romance, action – everything you’d want. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin, Titan Books, €10.85
The house at the end of the lane burned down, and Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. The townspeople never learned what happened. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth; they spent two summers with Rita and Bevan, two of the strangest summers of their lives. Because nothing in that house was as it seemed: a cat who was more than a cat, and a dark power called Sweet James that lurked behind the wallpaper, enthralling Bevan with whispers of neon magic and escape. And in the summer heat, Mae became equally as enthralled with Bevan. Desperately in the grips of first love, she’d give the other girl anything. A dangerous offer when all that Sweet James desired was a taste of new flesh. Griffin is such a gorgeous writer – there’s so many beautiful sentences here. Spare and Found Parts is another great one from her.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar, Hachette, €7.99
This one gives us all the feels! When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants – as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, which only gets harder once Flavia walks into her life. Beautiful and charismatic, Flavia takes Nishat’s breath away. When a rivalry develops due to a class business competition, what does that mean for Nishat’s crush? Can Nishat find a way to be true to herself… and find love too? It’s wonderful to see a Bengali-Irish perspective in a YA novel
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan, Bloomsbury, €10.80
Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row. But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think. From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye? Written in verse, this is a story that’ll stay with you for a long time. This is Crossan at her best.
What Love Looks Like by Jarlath Gregory, O’Brien Press, €9.99
Ben Brennan, is 17, gay, and happy most of the time. He’s finished school and is on track to a great career – all that’s missing is falling in love. Romantic but a little naïve, Ben meets Peter online. But the guy of his dreams is still in the closet, his pal Soda is suddenly more interested in nights in than nights out, and his old school bully seems determined to ruin his life. Then, on top of everything else, his best friend, Chelsea, goes AWOL – just when he needs her most. Everything is changing and Ben’s not sure what to do. But change brings all kinds of possibilities. You just have to be ready to see them. Can Ben navigate the pitfalls of modern gay dating, with all its highly sexualised expectations, and be true to himself?
The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill, Scholastic, €10
Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for her to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens by the supremely talented O’Neill, known best for Asking For It and After the Silence.
The Making of Mollie by Anna Carey, O’Brien Press, €8.99
It’s spring 1912, and 14-year-old Mollie Carberry is convinced her life is boring – until she discovers her sister Phyllis is a secret suffragette. After attending a suffrage meeting, Mollie wants to get involved and convinces her friend Nora to join in too. Only, not everyone is on board. Their timid friend Stella worries they’ll get into trouble, while nosy Grace disapproves anybody who steps out of line. Mollie and Nora must face the question of how far a girl should go for her beliefs. Historical fiction is the perfect genre for the winter months and this one is a real treat, looking at a fascinating aspect of Irish history.