An aspiring rapper’s struggle and a tale of witchcraft and misogyny are among this month’s YA standouts
The Hate U Give made a YA superstar of Angie Thomas, but just how do you follow a bestselling debut that has already been made into a movie? In On the Come Up (Walker) 16-year-old Brianna longs to become a famous rapper but finds herself stymied by poverty, a troubled reputation at school and, after her song goes viral, media prejudice about who she really is. There is no second-book syndrome here. Unflinching, honest and brimming with humanity, Thomas writes with confidence and conviction about kids seldom seen in literature. In a book that is all about finding your voice and the power of words, Bri’s frustrated, angry lyrics are pure magic.
Another author following a feted debut is Muhammad Khan, whose excellent I Am Thunder introduced him as an exhilarating new talent. Kick the Moon (Macmillan) sees Ilyas Mian navigate the pressures of contemporary teenage life, from family and religion to toxic masculinity, racism and revenge p**n. Gritty stuff, certainly, thick with moral dilemmas, but Khan’s empathy and wry humour, accentuated by a deft use of slang, make this authentic and relatable.