Young adult books round-up – review

One of the standout young adult series of the past 20 years reaches its conclusion in Malorie Blackman’s Endgame (Penguin, £7.99). The series began in 2001 with Noughts & Crosses and, six novels and three novellas later, the repercussions of Sephy and Callum’s forbidden romance are still being felt. Following directly on from the cliffhanger ending of Crossfire, multiple narrators bring things to a bold, heartbreaking but ultimately satisfying finale. The narrative is spliced with news stories that cleverly mirror current events, touching on race, power, corruption and the media to make the series as timely and relevant as ever.

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer
© Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer ‘As timely and relevant as ever’: Malorie Blackman.

Femi Fadugba’s The Upper World (Penguin, £7.99) is a startlingly original thriller, combining the gritty realism of teenage life in Peckham, south London, with an electrifying time-travel twist. Esso is haunted by glimpses of the future and the vision of a bullet fired in an alleyway. A generation later, Rhia is searching for answers about the parents she never got to meet. Their fates, and the key to a future worth fighting for, hang on one desperate moment and an exhilarating race against time itself. One of the most compelling debuts of the year, and soon to be a Netflix film starring Daniel Kaluuya.

Related: Femi Fadugba: ‘There’s no reason why Peckham couldn’t be the theoretical physics capital of the world’

Lauren James’s speculative thrillers have covered topics as diverse as time travel, cloning and space travel. In Green Rising (Walker, £7.99), she turns her attention to the climate emergency. In the near future, on an increasingly uninhabitable Earth, thousands of teenagers around the world suddenly develop “Greenfingers” powers – the ability to grow plants from their own skin. The race is on to use their gifts to save the planet and outsmart the corporations who would exploit them. A smart, brilliantly realised call to arms.

Laura Wood’s A Single Thread of Moonlight (Scholastic, £7.99, October) combines her typically swoony romance, whip-smart heroines and lush historical settings with a Cinderella revenge story and a Bridgerton vibe. After her father’s mysterious death, heiress Iris runs away to London. Years later, she meets the handsome but elusive Nicholas Wynter, and the pair plot the downfall of their enemies. There’s sardonic dialogue, fabulous dresses, balls and society intrigue galore: delicious fun.

© Provided by The Guardian Short and sweet: Candice Carty-Williams. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

Candice Carty-Williams, the award-winning author of Queenie, makes her teenage debut with Empress & Aniya (Knights Of, £7.99, October). When two girls inadvertently cast a body-swap spell on their 16th birthdays, they experience the truths of their very different lives. Infused with warmth and humour, Carty-Williams approaches tricky topics with an enviable light touch in this paean to female friendships. The pocket-sized novella is a tonic for those in search of a quick read or a more accessible format than the 400 pages favoured by many young adult books.

Finally, as Halloween looms, Ginny Myers Sain’s debut, Dark and Shallow Lies (Electric Monkey, £8.99), oozes atmosphere and dread. Grey’s best friend has been missing for months, and in a tiny Louisiana swamp town, dark magic and tangled secrets mean that no one can be trusted. An intense and brooding thriller laced with the supernatural and killer twists.

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