Friday, 24 February 2017

33 Book Recommendations for Librarians in Secondary Schools

When I was at school, I practically lived in the school library (and the drama hall; I was that kid). At some point in the first few weeks of Year 7 when we had our Introduction to Using the Library lesson or whatever it was called, I'm pretty sure I was the only person listening. And then the librarian had a go at me for having a drink, and I was mildly offended because I'm so not the kind of person who would spill water on a book. But whatever. I've put it behind me. Obviously.

From then on, I was in there as often as possible, devouring their one book on the publishing industry and becoming a pro at stealthily eating my lunch without getting caught. A couple of people made fun of me for voluntarily stepping foot in the LIBRARY (horror, gasp, etc) but the joke's on them because while they were throwing chips at boys, I was skipping from one fictional world to another. Good times.

One thing that made me a little bit sad, though, is how old some of the books were. We had some recent titles come in a few times which made me very happy, but a lot of it was simply outdated... so, considering a few school librarians follow me, I've decided to put together a list of recent YA releases that would make excellent additions to your (secondary) school library.

Unboxed by Non Pratt | My review
Dyslexia friendly
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: LGBT, friendship
Publisher: Barrington Stoke

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton | My review
Genre: YA Fantasy/Romance
Themes: Mystical beasts, magic, adventure
Publisher: Faber

The Graces by Laure Eve | My review
Genre: YA Fantasy
Themes: Witchcraft, mystery, obsession, magic
Publisher: Faber

Blue by Lisa Glass | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Professional surfing, love
Publisher: Quercus Books

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Leaving school, independence, vlogging, love
Publisher: Hot Key Books

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: LGBT, mental health, love
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Girls Can Vlog by Emma Moss | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: School, vlogging, friendship
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Books, fandom, conventions, friendship, love
Publisher: Usborne

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Memory loss, disability, independence
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Heart Magazine: A Dream Come True by Cindy Jefferies
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Work experience, journalism, fame
Publisher: Usborne

True Face by Siobhan Curham | My review
Genre: Non-fiction
Themes: Self confidence, peer pressure, social media, sex, bullying, dreaming big
Publisher: Faber

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Music, mental illness, fame, love
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein | My review
Genre: YA Historical
Themes: World War II, mystery, adventure, spies
Publisher: Egmont

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Boy bands, photography, love
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books

The Secret Fire by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld | My review
Genre: YA Fantasy
Themes: Travel, love, history, a deathly curse
Publisher: Atom

Cuckoo by Keren David | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Acting, homelessness, autism
Publisher: Atom

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff | My review
Genre: YA Fantasy
Themes: Feminism, folk tales, survival, magic, friendship
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill | My review
Genre: YA Dystopian
Themes: Feminism, sci-fi
Publisher: Quercus Books

The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan | My review
Genre: YA Fantasy
Themes: Witchcraft, betrayal, lies, mystery, murder
Publisher: Usborne

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Mental illness, self discovery
Publisher: Chicken House

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Teenage parenthood, friendship, independence
Publisher: Chicken House

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Selective mutism, hearing loss, independence, love, friendship
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

One by Sarah Crossan | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Conjoined twins, friendship
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Waiting For Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Acting, friendship, humour, school
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Black Lives Matter, justice
Publisher: Walker Books

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Mental illness, friendship, feminism, love
Publisher: Usborne

Love Song by Sophia Bennett | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Music, travel, love
Publisher: Chicken House

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: LGBT, friendship, first love
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: LGBT, gender
Publisher: Curious Fox

Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb | My review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Fandom, geekhood, humour, family
Publisher: Stripes

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates | My review
Genre: Non-fiction
Themes: Sexism, feminism
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla
Genre: Non-fiction
Themes: Racism, politics, society
Publisher: Unbound

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran
Genre: Non-fiction
Themes: Feminism, humour
Publisher: Ebury Press

I've tried to include a variety of genres and themes, and to provide everything a teenager might need to read about. Not only is it vital that books are diverse, it's also vital that these books are accessible - and for some people a school library might be the only place where books are available. 

Has this been helpful? Which books would you recommend to school libraries?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Waiting For Callback: Take Two by Perdita and Honor Cargill

Title: Waiting For Callback: Take Two
Author: Perdita and Honor Cargill
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 26th January 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Elektra has finally landed a part in a film. It's the dream. Well... until she works out that Straker is a movie so dystopian that within weeks most of the cast and all of the crew wish that the world had actually ended (preferably in scene one). And while it's obviously great news that she's moved from the friend-zone with Archie to become his almost-girlfriend, it would be better if he hadn't immediately relocated to Transylvania to play a vampire hunter surrounded by 'maidens of peerless beauty'.

Waiting For Callback: Take Two is the second book in this drama-filled trilogy (so it's a clever title, right?) and I could not be more excited. It continues to follow fifteen-year-old Elektra on her journey to stardom and is - in a world now in constant turmoil - a welcome relief. Introducing: joy in book form.

If you're not familiar with the books, Elektra is obsessed with drama and, after getting an agent, is trying to make it her career. After a few false-starts, including securing the role of a squirrel in a TV advert, Elektra finally lands a leading role in a major film. Perfectly paced and full of hilarious dialogue, witty comebacks, and embarrassing moments, I don't think a page went by where I didn't smile. Due to Elektra's film role, Waiting For Callback: Take Two is packed with film sets, call times, and mirrors edged with snazzy bulbs. And dogs. And lots of biscuits (for human consumption, mainly, though Digby - Elektra's dog - manages to snaffle a few.)

Waiting For Callback: Take Two is a truly gorgeous and feel-good journey, which vividly captures the teenage voice and gives you the perfect story to lose yourself in. I can't wait to see what Elektra gets up to next! (Also, I recommend following Perdita and Honor on social media. They're great.)
Watch my video with Perdita and Honor below!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

WONDER WOMEN: the i paper's Katie Grant on Emetophobia, Feminism, and Getting Started as a Journalist

Wonder Women is a new series in which I interview the women who inspire me the most. These women are making waves in their careers and changing the world one step at a time - but most importantly, they're doing it for themselves.

Last week I talked to Lisa Cimorelli of the band Cimorelli about change and living fearlessly. Today, I'm talking to i paper journalist Katie Grant. We've kept in touch since her brave piece on anxiety and emetophobia, and she helped to get the #HelpAmber campaign off the ground in 2015. Read on to discover her thoughts on mental health, feminism, and whether or not university is necessary for carving out a career in journalism...

What is your role at the i paper? Can you take us through a normal day?

I'm a reporter. My main areas of interest are social affairs and gender issues - from the gender pay gap to access to abortion to sex education, it encompasses many areas including business, politics, health, education. I am especially interested in mental health; there is a huge overlap with other areas in ways that many other health-related topics aren't - employment, housing, human rights, benefits, discrimination.

I am fascinated by most stories related to health but many (though definitely not all) people with mental illnesses are vulnerable and isolated. I want to keep shining a spotlight on issues that affect them and their loved ones.

How did you get to where you are now?

I loved English at school and was quite good at it - I often really enjoyed my English homework. I studied English and Philosophy at university in Ireland. Again, I loved the texts and everything I learnt. I didn't contribute to the university papers - I didn't have a clue how to get involved and felt like I wouldn't belong there. My advice to anyone interested in getting into journalism is to do the exact opposite of what I did! Go write for the student papers, build up your portfolio, get an idea of what areas you're interested in.

I wrote one story for a magazine at uni when I met a man on the street who it turned out had been cycling around the world for about 50 years. Just stopping and chatting to people you think look interesting or unusual can get you a good story. As soon as I got talking to him I thought this would make a great feature. It never occurred to me to pitch anything else to editors at the paper, I didn't have a clue how. I had very little self belief and just thought I'd better keep my head down and let the more bolshy students get on with that.

"I didn't have a clue how to get involved and felt like I wouldn't belong there."

When I left university I did various jobs, some of which I enjoyed, such as working as a teaching assistant, others less so. I started writing a blog and invited all my friends who I knew were interested in writing too to submit posts - they varied from funny relationship stuff to book reviews and it was a modest success. I loved it because I realised I could write and we built up a pretty good audience.

One day I read a travel piece about a brilliant trip to Transylvania by train, which followed the route across Europe taken by the characters in Dracula. I wanted to go so badly but could never have afforded it - it was 10 days long and cost a few grand. I was working at a housing charity at the time and decided on the spot to give journalism a go - at the very least I might be able to get a trip out of it. I hounded every national newspaper and magazine that I knew of to commission me and eventually a couple relented. I got to go on the trip and after that I continued getting commissions from different magazines. I wrote quite a bit for TNT magazine and also a cycling magazine. I wrote about cycling quite a lot, in fact, which was weird because I couldn't actually ride a bike.

I got work experience at Decanter magazine at IPC Media which publishes a lot of magazines - including the now-defunct Nuts. While I was in the building I distributed my CV to virtually every magazine there begging them to let me do a week or so of work experience with them.

"I feel sad at the way lads mags objectified women and girls and advocated what I think is quite a damaging idea of masculinity."

Nuts was the first to say yes. Now I'm a little older I feel sad at the way lads mags objectified women and girls and advocated what I think is quite a damaging idea of masculinity. At the time though I was very excited and I was thrilled that they let me pick the 'boobs of the week' from the amateur shots sent in by members of the public. They trained me in InDesign software which was incredibly useful.

From there I did work experience at InStyle (also an IPC title), first on features and then on the subs desk. (Subeditors edit copy to fit, write headlines and captions and spot and amend any errors that could lead to a lawsuit or some kind of public embarrassment.) Pretty soon I was being brought in to do freelance shifts (i.e. getting paid).

My chief sub knew the production editor at the Independent on Sunday and I started doing work experience there. I did the classic thing of arranging to come in for a week and then never leaving. I'm still in the building over four years later. The work experience quickly led to paid shifts on the subbing desk and then paid reporting shifts when they were short staffed.

Finally a junior writing job came up on i and I got it. I was so happy. For the past three years I have slogged my guts out for a paper I love. I have gradually managed to work my way up, first dispensing with the 'assistant' title, then being given my own column. Today, while I am far nearer the start of my career than the hacks who've got 20 or 30 years on me I've managed to carve out a niche and am bringing in exclusives.

Is university necessary for someone wanting to pursue a career in mainstream media?

Others will disagree but I say no. I enjoyed my degree but it affected my career path minimally. If you are tenacious enough you do not need a degree to get a job in journalism. I did not do a post-grad in journalism which virtually all of my contemporaries did. City in London is one of the best possible places to go. If you can afford it, then definitely do one. I could not afford it.

"If you are tenacious enough you do not need a degree to get a job in journalism."

I feel a bit insecure sometimes that I'm lacking something everyone else seems to have but while it is useful, it is not essential. It will act as a springboard but will not guarantee success. In fact, it might make you an entitled little shit. I have seen a few people come in on work experience who act as though any small or mundane task is beneath them. I do not like to generalise but it has always been men who do this. It does not endear anyone to them.

The fact is you are more likely to get a job and even work experience if you have done a post-grad. This sucks balls because the only people who can afford to do a post-grad tend to be middle class, privately educated and usually white. There is a surplus of middle class, privately educated white journalists. There is nothing wrong with being this person - I am this person! - but the workforce at a lot of papers and magazines does not reflect society and a lot of stories will be missed or snubbed if nobody knows where to look for them and why they are valuable. So, to sum up - if you afford uni and a masters, do it. If not, it might well be harder but certainly not impossible and if you lack tenacity you're in the wrong profession anyway.

What is the best part of your job?

I love most things about it - I am never, ever bored; I have never once clock-watched, I really, really love my colleagues, I am stimulated and feel really engaged and also that my opinion and ideas matter. Above all, I love connecting with people, especially people whose voices might not ordinarily get heard. I'm quite introverted and can get shy at social events but when I've got my journalist's hat on I revel in it. I am endlessly amazed at how you can ask perfect strangers the most personal questions - 'How much do you earn?'; 'What impact does your impotency have on your relationships?'; 'Do you have a favourite child?' - and they will answer, and at length.

"I'm quite introverted and can get shy at social events but when I've got my journalist's hat on I revel in it."

I'm honoured when people choose to open up to me. I don't feel nervous talking to or listening to them; I feel really pleased that they feel comfortable.

One woman I interviewed spoke to me about being raped. She was nervous but wanted to talk and I wanted to listen. I bumped into her recently and she told me that she has never forgotten our conversation and she feels more able to talk to other people as a result which is something I would not have expected but is a comment I will treasure.

I’ve seen lots of journalists discouraging young people from pursuing journalism as a career due to so many papers and magazines going out of print. What is your view on this? Do you think it's possible for journalism to remain a career option, or is it a dying trade?

I would never discourage someone from entering any profession they were interested in for fear of the future. There always has and always will be an appetite for news. Many people still enjoy the physicality of paper between their fingers - I definitely do. But equally I can't imagine not going online for my news.

It's not a dying trade but things are undoubtedly transforming and the industry is in a weird state of limbo at the moment. People are getting laid off all the time: hundreds of talented people at the Indy lost their jobs last year. It was very upsetting and quite scary to see my mentors treated in this way. From what I gather things are tough at the Telegraph, the Guardian and Vice at the moment to name a few.

There definitely are jobs out there, mostly online. There is absolutely nothing 'inferior' about working for a website and people should not be sniffy about it - look at BuzzFeed News. They get terrific scoops and have a fantastic investigations team.

Print, in general is on the decline, though I feel very, very lucky because i sales are continuing to rise. Nothing is ever certain though. I hope very much to still be enjoying my career as a reporter for a print and online publication in five years time but I don't have a clue what will happen in future. For me, it's enough to know I'm doing it now and if circumstances change, that's life -  I will find something else I love. I hope others thinking of entering the profession will adopt a similar attitude and give it a go.

Out of everything you've written, which piece are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of a feature on emetophobia (a phobia of vomiting) and anxiety I wrote for The Independent a couple of years ago.

I wrote about experiencing a breakdown, developing an OCD, starving myself and having an anxiety disorder. I'm not sure why I did it, I just really wanted to say something about it after hiding and pretending about things for so long. It felt right but I was really scared - I was pretty sure I'd never get a boyfriend again, it might harm my job prospects and people would think I was really un-fun. But I also thought, oh well, never mind! What is the point of having a platform if you don't use it to say anything important? To me this was important.

"It felt like a huge weight off my shoulders."

I never realised anyone had gone through what I had until I read a piece about emetophobia and started following people on Twitter with anxiety/depression. It feels great to know so many other people are equally miserable! I felt so much less alone and it gave me hope I might be able to live a fulfilling life. So I thought, who cares if no one hires me and no guy wants to date me and people think I'm a downer. I just realised it didn't matter.

It felt like a huge weight off my shoulders to write and publish it. I sent it to my closest friends and family because I had never really been able to speak to them about it before. It was very emotional for me to receive messages and emails and letters from other people who had had similar experiences.

Somebody even painted an incredible portrait of me which was pretty much the most flattering thing that anyone has ever done for me. I felt really humbled. Now I feel a little disappointed when I write a story and no one sends me an oil painting of myself.

Who inspires you?

My mum inspires me. She is so kind and really open minded and just a free spirit. When I told her I was going to quit my job and try to become a journalist I thought she'd be furious but she was thrilled and really encouraged me. She reads all my stories and emails me links to other stuff she thinks I might want to write about.

Also a former journalist called Pavan Amara - she brought in great stories, often stories which affected women of colour, another hugely overlooked area. Women are not just a homogeneous lump.

Then she decided to become a nurse. She worked her arse off and now dedicates herself to helping survivors of sexual violence. She is so modest and humble. I admire her a great deal. She has had quite a lot of media coverage for her work but she is not fame hungry and doesn't seek publicity. She just does what she is passionate about and doesn't need anyone else's approval.

Click here to follow Katie on Twitter.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

9 Things I've Overheard Whilst Working in a Bookshop

When I was tiny, my little town had a secondhand bookshop. I have vague, shimmering memories of stacks of books haphazardly balanced on any available surface, and a well-loved copy of a book about Wicken Fen which I bought there and still own today. Unfortunately, something happened - I don't know what - and the shop disappeared.

For the next fifteen years or so, the nearest bookshop was half an hour away by car, and a few impossible hours by foot...

...until a day last summer, when I woke up and scrolled through my Facebook feed like I always do, treating it like a morning paper. A post popped up, and it brought the news that a charity bookshop would be opening and that it was looking for volunteers! I messaged them without a second thought, and that was that.

Four months later, and I've learned that not only do you meet some great people in bookshops but you also overhear some funny things. Here's a few titbits for your enjoyment.

1. Do you have that little green book, the one with a stamp on it?

'What kind of stamp?' I ask.

'A South African postage stamp...' the customer says. 'I saw it on Thursday but didn't have time to look. I spoke to a lady in a suit.'

What do South African stamps even look like? I don't know. Who was here on Thursday? I don't work on Thursdays. Who is the lady in the suit? None of us wear suits. ...Do we?? I was innocently polishing a shelf. Please let me go back to polishing my shelf.

2. It's not for me...

...the man said, as he placed Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman in front of me on the counter. I didn't think it was, dude, but even if it was for you, there's no shame in it. Caitlin Moran is a legit hero.

3. These are awfully written. I don't know why I'm buying them.

This is an elderly woman who came in to buy our entire Mills and Boon stock. I try not to think about it. She has yet to buy Fifty Shades but I'll keep you updated.

4. Do you have anything on murder?


5. Ooh, here's another 20p, will that help? You bought something for £10 and you've given me a ten-pound note. Why do I need a random 20p? Why are you making the maths more complicated? WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF ME AND MY D IN GCSE MATHS THE CHILDREN.

6. Do you have anything on Etymology?

Hmmyyyeeeahnnnnomaybe? *frantically Googles definition for Etymology*

7. Mummy! Books about penguins!

'No, darling, they're not about penguins,' the mother laughs. 'Penguin is the name of the company that makes the books.'


A little boy (who proudly told me he was 4) shouted this as he was dragged out of the shop by his grandparents, arms full of freshly purchased picture books. He's my favourite tiny customer but I haven't seen him since then. Le cri.

9. These 'vloggers' have no talent. Anyone who puts themselves in front of a camera and thinks they are important enough to do so is stupid, if you ask me. I'm telling you, Susan, normal documentaries are so much more worthwhile.

Name changed because I'm a good person. Anyway... *screams inside, has identity crisis, hides behind counter, worships David Attenborough, writes down quote for future blog post, deletes YouTube channel, deletes entire online footprint, deletes existence*

I also asked booksellers on Twitter for their weirdest bookshop experiences. Here's a few:

Tell us about your weirdest or most memorable bookshop experience!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

I've Been Keeping a Secret...

I'M PREGNANT! ...with a word baby. Sorry. Lolz.

You all know The Good Immigrant, right? The incredible anthology of essays released last year? The one that was edited by Nikesh Shukla and later received praise from J.K. Rowling? Here, this one (though it really shouldn't have escaped your notice, as it's been everywhere...)

There's going to be another one... but this time, its purpose is to highlight the state of the world from the perspective of young people. And, somehow, I was asked to be in it. Overjoyed is an understatement. As soon as the news went public this morning, I pre-ordered a signed copy... which means I basically paid for my own signature. But I do not care. Because I GET TO SIGN A BOOK. IN FACT, SEVERAL. I'd try to be cool but that's not really my style... I'm more about kickass political essays. *cough*

The country is messed up and our future is looking gloomy. We, Britain's young people, have to live with the repercussions of what the oldies have done - we didn't vote for Brexit, we didn't vote in Theresa May, and you know what? We're sick of being talked about instead of talked to. So here's our book. Written for you by us. You're welcome. If you think that's all a bit in your face, you should know that it's never been harder to be young, so it's no wonder we're angry. One in four people under 25 will be affected by mental illness. 52% of all people under 25 have looked for advice on homelessness. As university fees rise, job opportunities dry up and houses get more expensive, we are facing an ever-expanding chasm of doubt, instability and, basically, buckling down for a really, really rough time for the rest of our lives.

The voice of this generation is noticeably absent from mainstream media, online comment pieces and from news reports. Oi, editors! What are you so scared of? Why aren't you commissioning us?

As usual, it looks like it's up to us to commission ourselves.

I cannot wait for you to read my essay, and hopefully I do you proud. I'm really looking forward to reading everyone else's essays, too - if I wasn't in it, I'd still be purchasing a copy because there's nothing I like more than seeing people my age doing good and saving the world one written word at a time. You can see a full list of contributors by following the link below.

Thank you so much for your support ❤

Friday, 3 February 2017

A Very Quick Visit to the British Library

I don't know if you've noticed, but 99% of the time my posts are scheduled to automatically publish at 1:30am (if you're wondering why I picked that time, I discuss it here.) I never actually write the posts at 1:30am... except today. Good morning!

A few hours ago, I got back from a quick-ish trip to London in which I went to the YouTube Space and ate far too much pizza. It was awesome, and I got to take my best friend who doesn't blog or have much in the way of social media, but she's obsessed with YouTube, so it was nice to be able to take her with me. Before YouTube, though, we killed some time at the British Library... and wowwww, what a place it is.

I immediately fell in love with the place, and found myself completely in awe. How had I never been?