The covers of Noughts and Crosses, Rani and Sukh and The Sun is Also a Star overlaid on a purple background
The covers of Noughts and Crosses, Rani and Sukh and The Sun is Also a Star overlaid on a purple background

Rani and Sukh by Bali Rai

Set between modern-day Britain and Punjab in the 1950s and 1960s, Rai’s novel is about tragedy and conflict, and love.

In 1950s Punjab, a secret affair goes wrong, and the bride dies by suicide after her lover is attacked by her family. The two families involved are separated by the violence forever.

In 2004 in Leicester, Rani and Sukh fall in love, completely unaware of the conflict between their families, and the tragic past that still affects their lives. Rani and Sukh must try and avert tragedy and escape the cycle of violence that threatens their future.

Rai’s debut novel (Un)arranged Marriage was critically acclaimed, and was shortlisted for the Branford Boase award.

Topics/themes: Death, grief, family

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

First published in 2001, the inspiration for Blackman’s now legendary YA novel was the brutal murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, and the institutional racism exposed at the Metropolitan Police by the investigation into the crime.

Blackman’s book presents a world split into two: Black people are known as Crosses, and are the majority and the elite, holding all positions of power and the greatest wealth, while the white noughts are second-class citizens. Through a friendship, and a budding relationship, between Cross Sephy and nought Callum, Blackman explores racism, prejudice and more.

Noughts & Crosses is the first in a series; Blackman has since written four more books in the series (Knife Edge, Checkmate, Double Cross, and Crossfire) with a fifth and final, Endgame, due out in summer 2021.

Topics/themes: Race, racism, politics, love

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Yoon’s second novel is told from the perspectives of two characters. On one side is the practical Natasha, who doesn’t have a moment to waste: she and her family are being deported back to Jamaica at 10pm. Meanwhile, dreamer Daniel is on his way to a life-changing interview, having become the focus for his Korean parents since his older brother dropped out of Harvard.

When Natasha and Daniel’s lives collide, it results in love, tragedy and hope for both of them.

Yoon’s book goes back and forth between the two characters, and the majority takes place during the course of one day.

The Sun is Also a Star was a National Book Award Finalist, a 2017 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a New York Times Notable Book of 2016.

Topics/themes: Love, immigration

Becoming: Adapted for Younger Readers by Michelle Obama

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Becoming is a powerful and inspiring memoir. The book takes readers on a journey through Obama’s childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing motherhood and work, and her time in the White House. Becoming is deeply personal, and also inspired a documentary of the same name.

Obama has also published a special edition of Becoming, which has been adapted for younger readers and has a new introduction.

Topics/themes: American politics, civil rights, family

The Boy with the Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera

Journalist Sanghera’s first book is about trying to reconcile the past he remembers from growing up in Wolverhampton with a discovery that his family has been keeping a huge secret. When he was 24, Sanghera found out his father and sister were both suffering from a severe mental illness he didn't know about.

The revelation prompted Sanghera to embark on a journey into the past to try and find out more about how the secret came to be. The Boy with the Topknot is a portrait of a family dealing with mental ill health, and is filled with love and humour.

Sanghera’s memoir was adapted for a BBC series in 2017, starring Sacha Dhawan in the lead role.

Topics/themes: Family, mental health, love

Books by other publishers

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Publisher: Andersen Press

Alexander’s Crossover series takes place in the world of sport, with different characters introduced in each book The Crossover is about twins Josh and Jordan, who are star players on their school’s basketball team. Their father was a champion player, and all they want is to follow in his footsteps, but on and off the court there’s conflict and hardship that will test Josh’s bond with his brother.

Booked follows Nick, a football fan who hates books. Nick has to figure out how to navigate his parents’ break-up, stand up to bullies, and impress the girl of his dreams. Succeeding will change not just his life, but that of his best friend too.

In Rebound, Charlie is mourning his father and trying to work out how he feels about his best friend. When he gets into trouble one too many times, he’s sent to stay with his grandparents for the summer. There, his cousin introduces him to basketball, and Charlie is enamoured with the court. But he has to learn to resist when trouble comes knocking once again. 

Alexander won the Newbery Medal for The Crossover.

Topics/themes: Sport, bullying, death, grief

Cover of Becoming Muhammad Ali

Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Published by Jacaranda

This biographical novel of cultural icon Muhammad Ali is written by prize-winning writers Alexander and Patterson. The pair have told the story of the boxer, who was born Cassius Clay, up to the age of 17 in a mix of poetry and prose. Readers will learn about his family and struggles at school, and how, after a thief stole his bike Cassius began training as an amateur boxer aged 12.

Becoming Muhammad Ali is authorised by and written in cooperation with the later sportsman’s estate.

Kirkus Reviews said of the book: “A stellar collaboration that introduces an important and intriguing individual to today's readers."

Topics/themes: Coming-of-age

Cover of Rose, Interrupted

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Rose, Interrupted is Lawrence’s third novel, and follows a family who has escaped from a strict religious sect.

In their new life, 13-year-old Rudder is embracing everything from Harry Potter to Simon and Garfunkel, while Rose has swapped her ankle skirts and uncut hair for Japanese-cute fairy dresses and her new boyfriend Kye.

But Rose and Rudder aren’t equipped to handle everything this strange world is throwing at them, and when Rudder accidentally sets a devastating chain of events into action, Rose must decide whether to sacrifice everything and go back to the life she hates, in order to save the people she loves.

Topics/themes: Revenge porn, identity, family

Cover of The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Published by Allen & Unwin

Anna Chiu spends her days looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, while her mum stays in bed. So her dad’s new delivery boy Rory is a welcome distraction, making her feel like a “normal” teenager even when she knows things aren't right at home.

When Anna’s mum finally gets out of bed, her condition worsens, leaving Anna and her family questioning everything they know about each other.

Topics/themes: Mental health, family, romance

Cover of A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe and Leo Nickolls

Published by Zephyr

Badoe’s novel is about the horrors of people-trafficking, told via a story that is steeped with African folklore.

The book is about Sante, who was washed ashore as a baby in a chest laden with treasure, the sole survivor of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Now 14, she is a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus, but from their watery graves, the unquiet are calling for Sante to avenge them.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award and nominated for the Carnegie Medal, both in 2018.

Topics/themes: Adoption, family, grief, death

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