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Children’s books round-up: fantasy epics to the fore

A map of the fantastical land of Orïsha (detail), from Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone
A map of the fantastical land of Orïsha (detail), from Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. Photograph: Keith Thompson

Film adaptations, of everything from The Hunger Games to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, have boosted young adult fiction sales for the past decade. Tomi Adeyemi’s debut, Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan £7.99), is the latest to attract Hollywood’s attention. In the fantastical land of Orïsha, a 16-year-old girl is her people’s only hope to restore magic and overthrow the oppressive ruling classes. Infused with the rich mythology of west Africa, Adeyemi’s lush world-building and consummate plotting breathes new life into the YA fantasy epic. Themes of oppression and racism resonate all too strongly in today’s political climate. The cliffhanger ending may leave some readers reeling but, rest assured, this is first in a trilogy.

Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood (Puffin £7.99) is another debut due for movie adaptation, a bewitching, elegant blend of contemporary thriller and dark fantasy. Alice’s reclusive grandmother is the author of a cult book of fairytales. When her mother is kidnapped, the extraordinary truth about the book leads Alice into the supernatural hinterland of her grandmother’s stories. Deliciously dark stuff, Albert revels in the blackest corners of fairytales and Tales from the Hinterland, a book within the book, deserves a spin-off of its very own.

Melissa Albert: ‘revels in the blackest corners of fairytales’
Melissa Albert: ‘revels in the blackest corners of fairytales’. Photograph: Laura Etheredge

Another murderous fairytale in Peadar O’Guilin’s The Invasion (David Fickling £10.99), the sequel to The Call. In a dystopian Ireland, every teenager is in training to survive a brutal three minutes in the desolate Grey Land, at the mercy of vengeful faeries known as the Sidhe. As war looms, high drama beckons in this compelling and sinister take on Irish mythology.

In contemporary fiction, Jenny McLachlan is a consistently wise, warm voice and Truly, Wildly, Deeply (Bloomsbury £7.99) is no exception. Annie, a girl with cerebral palsy, is navigating life at sixth-form college when she meets Polish boy Fab. Torn between her newfound independence and her genuine connection with Fab, this feelgood romance explores identity, freedom and first love. McLachlan, with her enviable comic timing, reminds me of the wonderful Louise Rennison.

When her sensible, “perfect” best friend runs away with a secret boyfriend just days before their GCSEs, Eden’s life is thrown into turmoil, even more so when the boyfriend is revealed to be their teacher. Creating authentic teenage voices is no easy thing but in Goodbye, Perfect (Macmillan £7.99), Sara Barnard captures the complex dynamics of teenage friendships and identity, shining an astute light on adolescent pressures. Student-teacher relationships can be controversial in fiction, but themes of coercion and grooming are sensitively handled here.

In Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay (Electric Monkey £7.99), Izzy becomes the centre of a national scandal when intimate pictures emerge of her one-night stand with a Republican senator’s son. The subsequent fallout and trial by social media expose the double standards inflicted on male and female sexuality. Timely and unflinching, the sardonic feminist tone will hit the spot for fans of Holly Bourne and Louise O’Neill.

• To order any of these books for a special price click on the titles, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

This article titled "Children’s books round-up: fantasy epics to the fore" was written by Fiona Noble, for The Observer on Monday 12 February 2018 08.00am

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