Something to be Proud Of

Imogen Quinn is a chaotic bisexual with dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, crushing stereotypes about autistic people. When she decides to put on a pride festival that’s accessible for everyone, she enlists the help of the openly gay captain of the football team, Ollie Armstrong.

Dealing with the fallout from his parents’ divorce, Ollie is initially hesitant. But it doesn’t take long for him to be swept up by Imogen’s passion, and he’s not the only one. Joined by the (infuriatingly perfect) head girl, musicians, an artist and a star baker – a dream team soon assembles to help plan pride and tackle injustices in their school and beyond. You’d better listen out – they’re getting ready to make some noise.

Packed full of fun, forever friendships and fighting back, this YA debut is perfect for fans of I Kissed Shara WheelerGwen and Art are Not in LoveFeel GoodHeartstopper and Not My Problem.

Little Tiger
Cover illustration by Lucía Gomez Alcaide

SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF is Anna Zoe Quirke‘s debut novel and published TODAY! I really loved this book, it ticks most of my boxes: realistic teens, humour, friendship, angst (but not too much), romance (but not too much), positive disability rep, unashamedly LGBTQIA+ characters, present but imperfect families…and, a personal highlight: a non-US based author as I am often annoyed by the number of American titles published and highlighted in the UK when there is so much home-grown (or anywhere-else-on-the-globe-grown) talent we could be supporting. I got the chance to ask a few questions!

The book is own-voices but is it autobiographical at all?

Not really. Imogen is an own-voices character as I’m also a queer autistic person, but I definitely wasn’t brave enough in high school to get up to half the shenanigans that they do! (Although there was a photoshopping incident with my headteacher but that was less an act of protest and more a ‘teenager being a little sh*t’ thing.) 

I’ve always thought that I would have been more like Imogen had I known I was autistic and been able to unmask earlier. There are hints at what Imogen used to be like before they fully came into their own and felt comfortable in their identity and those experiences and feelings were definitely inspired by how I felt when I was younger.

If anything, Ollie’s story is the more autobiographical one for me. Nothing was taken directly from my life because, you know, boundaries, but my parents also got divorced when I was in high school, and I’ve had to navigate tricky dynamics with loved ones like he does. Plus, his journey with figuring out what his gender means to him was really special for me to write, as I’ve had to do a lot of figuring out what I wanted my gender to mean to me too.

Was the dual narrative there from the very first draft?

It was. I’m a very character-focused writer so when I’m coming up with a book idea I always know who the characters are first before I know exactly what the plot will be, and Something to be Proud Of was no exception. Both Imogen and Ollie burst into my head and demanded that I write about them, so yes, it was always going to be a dual narrative story – I always knew they both had really important things to say and I felt like they deserved to say them in their own voice. Plus – in my very unbiased opinion – I feel like it’s really lovely that we get to see what their friendship means to them from both their perspectives as it’s developing.

Which character was your favourite to write?

I loved writing all of the characters, but I think I do have to go with Imogen. Writing Imogen’s character was the most fun I’ve had writing ever. They’re funny, silly, unashamedly passionate and I’ll always have fond memories of sitting at my desk cackling out loud to myself and making my dog think I’d lost my marbles while I was writing certain chapters of Imogen’s. However, that being said, all of my absolute favourite moments to write were the ones that were between Imogen and Ollie. Their friendship was an utter joy to write and I’m so grateful that I had them to keep me company during the COVID lockdowns!

What advice would you give to a teen if you’ve inspired them to get involved in setting up an inclusive Pride event in their area?

I love this question and I really do encourage everyone to try and make all their Pride events as inclusive as they can! Here are some thoughts/questions you might want to consider:

–        Think about the specific community you want to do your event in – do you know of any particular needs there that you can take into consideration?

–        What’s been lacking from other pride events you’ve been to? Were they accessible for wheelchairs/people with other mobility aids? Did they cater to different sensory needs?

–        Don’t be afraid to do some research – no one’s expecting you to know absolutely everything straight away, in fact, it’s really important to recognise that you don’t know things. If you think you know everything then you’re closing off the possibility to continue learning. (Also, just as a reminder, when you’re doing research, reading the thoughts and opinions of the groups of people you’re trying to involve in your event is always best, rather than people without that lived experience.)

–        Imagine an environment where you are entirely comfortable, calm, and feel celebrated for who you are. What does that space look like? How can you take even just small steps towards creating that space?

–        If you can, try and gather an amazing team around you. Chances are you’re not the only person that cares about making things more inclusive and besides, everything’s easier with a great team around you so that you can support each other, brainstorm ideas, commiserate when things don’t go to plan and celebrate together when they do.

–        A last reminder: the fact that you’re trying is such a wonderful starting place. You have that softness and that ‘I just want everyone to feel safe’ part inside you, and that’s a really beautiful thing. Be gentle with yourself, and if you feel like you didn’t do something right or forgot something you feel like you should have included, then give yourself grace and just make a note to do that next time. There’s so much pressure to be the ‘perfect’ activist and it’s often really counterproductive. If people worry too much about being perfect, then they might become so anxious that they can’t do anything at all. But doing something is always better than nothing.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m currently rereading Jane Austen’s Emma. I’d recommend any of Jane’s work (Persuasion is my favourite!) to pretty much anyone. Jane’s stories are so warm, her characters feel so real, and she writes with such wit – she’s a huge writing inspiration of mine.

And then I’m also rereading the Northern Lights trilogy with the students in the ‘Book to Screen Club’ that I run in my library (alongside watching the BBC adaptation) and we’re having an excellent time with it. If you like magic, adventure and high stakes, whether you’re a teen or adult, I definitely recommend those books.

I’ve also just been sent an ARC of Not for the Faint of Heart by my friend, Lex Croucher, which is a historical queer romance/adventure inspired by the story of Robin Hood. Lex’s books are always super fun, laugh-out-loud reads, so I’m very excited to dig into this one.

Will we see more of Imogen or are you working on something different?

Both Imogen and Ollie will always occupy a big chunk of my brain. I have dozens of little snippets of scenes written in my phone notes because I’m always thinking about them and what might have happened in their lives after we leave them at the end of STBPO. Unfortunately though, sequels are pretty rare, so I doubt I’ll ever fully return to the world of STBPO in that way. 

But, I am currently working on edits for another book that’s coming out in 2025. It’s a queer rom-com this time, with similar found family vibes and hijinks to STBPO but alongside themes of mental health and figuring out (or not) the nuances of your sexuality. I feel like I’ve properly fallen in love with this book during the editing process and I can’t wait for people to read it next year!

Anna Zoe Quirke is a queer and autistic author and librarian from the North of England. She currently lives in Manchester with her partner, Rachael, and their very angry tortoise, Sheldon. They’re at their happiest writing stories about queer and neurodivergent people finding and claiming their place in the world, exploring the literary wonders of the UK, or making a big ol’ mess in the kitchen baking things for their loved ones.

Thrills For The Future!

New home, same attitude – Cadet Dredd is coming to the Judge Dredd Megazine, and he’s bringing his friends!
 
Following the success of 2000 AD’s quarterly all-ages Regened special issues, the best of Rebellion’s all ages revolution will find a home in the Judge Dredd Megazine as they step up into the regular roster in our legendary comic books.
 
As part of Rebellion’s continuing mission to hook a whole new generation on Thrill-power, strips such as Cadet Dredd, Departmetnt K and Pandora Perfect will find a new home in the monthly title.
 
June’s edition of Judge Dredd Megazine is proud to welcome back some more familiar favourites to its monthly roster of Thrills. Get ready for the return of…
 
Pandora Perfect! Lock up your loot, because criminal mastermind and nefarious swindler Pandora and robot companion Gort are back and ready to cause more chaos across the galaxy! Writer Roger Langridge is joined by artist Gary Welsh for a high-octane space adventure with the most notorious robber in the universe!
 
Department K: Interdimensional Investigators! Mega-City One Justice Department’s most chaotic team must once-again battle threats to protect the dimensional safety of the world. Having already travelled a multiverse of monsters and warded off threats from beyond the fabric of reality, join Ned Hartley and Mike Walters as Department K come face-to-face with the craziest creatures in the cosmos!
 
And later this year get ready for the return of Cadet Dredd! Paul Starkey and Nick Brokenshire invite you to join young Joseph Dredd and his clone brother Rico as they attempt to learn the ropes of the Justice System, and earn their badges as Judges!
 
The move follows the successful transition of Alex de Campi and Eduardo Ocaña’s Full Tilt Boogie, as well as Pandora Perfect and Department K, into 2000 AD, paving the way for a richer mix of all ages stories as part of the Megazine’s blend of sci-fi action and adventure!
 
Plus, as they replace the classic reprints which have been published in Judge Dredd Megazine each month, it means readers get to enjoy more all-new Thrills each and every issue for the same galaxy-busting price.
 
With these awesome new Thrills coming soon to Judge Dredd Megazine, it’s never been a better time for Earthlets of all ages to try out The Galaxy’s Greatest and explore new universes through the wonderful world of comics!

So you want to attend/organize a protest?

Here are some things that you ought to read before participating:

How to Protest Safely: What to Bring, What to Do, and What to Avoid (Wired)

ACLU:

Rights of Protesters

Know Your Rights

Students’ rights: Speech, Walkouts and Other Protests

Know Your Rights: Demonstrations and Protests

ACLU Cut & Fold: Know your Rights

American Friends Service Committee:

Protest Resources

Constitutional Protest Guide (Georgetown Law):

Protests & Public Safety: A Guide for Cities & Citizens

Right to Protest:

Protect your Protest

Human Rights Campaign:

Tips for Protesting Peacefully & Safely

Homebody

‘An uplifting, hopeful, empowering memoir that celebrates self-discovery and self-love’ – Alice Oseman, author of the bestselling Heartstopper series

An unmissable graphic novel perfect for fans of the global hit Heartstopper and Juno Dawson’s What’s the T?

Hello! I’m Theo. I like cats, Dungeons & Dragons . . . and I’m trans and non-binary.

Ever since I was young, I’ve been on a journey to explore who I am. To discover the things that make me . . . me.

Sometimes it can feel like the world is trying to fit you into a box, to label you one way or another, but there is nothing more wonderful than finding your true authentic self, whoever you are. Whether you are transgender or cisgender, we are all searching for ways to make our houses feel like homes . . .

In Homebody, Theo tells the heartwarming story of discovering how to live life on their own terms through beautiful illustrations and lyrical text.

Macmillan

The way Theo looks back on their life so far is so honest and eloquent, figuring out how they feel about themselves as well as how to present themselves to the world on their own terms, and could really help teens and adults not only empathise but reflect on their own path and the journey they’re still on. I absolutely *adored* this book and wish everyone that has “concerns” about trans youth would read it to really think about what it means to be comfortable in yourself, something that many people take for granted especially as they get further away from the growing pains of their teen years. Some people will know themselves and hardly change, others will go through lots of different outward expressions before they feel that the world’s view of them matches their own, some are scared to express themselves honestly, while others still will think that they know themselves until they come across something new to them that opens their eyes to an aspect of themselves they’d neglected.

So much of it resonated with me: When I was a teenager I was frequently mistaken for a boy because of my short hair and baggy clothes and I had conversations with family and friends (not all, but enough) about how no one would ever love me if I didn’t change the way I looked…all the thoughts about what girls and boys should like and not fitting in and knowing that it *shouldn’t* matter what your hobbies are or what you wear wear or how you style your hair but that society will tell you that you’re getting it wrong because for some reason it *does* matter. I keep going back to the book because there are so many beautiful, insightful pages. Anyway, a boy did (does) love me, short hair and all, so listen to Theo’s advice below.

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to share some pages from the book, and also ask Theo a few questions:

Tell us about your new graphic novel 

Homebody is an uplifting and affirming graphic memoir about life outside of the gender binary. An honest and heartwarming look at the joy and beauty of finding yourself and the positive impact of living as your authentic self. Homebody speaks to a universal experience of exploring what makes us who we are, how we express that to the world and of the relationship we all have between our minds and bodies. Whether you are transgender, cisgender or still figuring it out, we are all searching for ways to make our houses feel like homes, and to come to a place of ease within ourselves.

Which advice would you pass on to your younger self?

Find the people who love and accept you for who you are, exactly as you are, you don’t have to change anything about yourself to be liked. Instead of trying to figure out what other people want or expect you to be, focus on being the person that you want to be and the rest will fall into place.

Homebody is such a unique book, but do you have any titles you could recommend for teens that devour your story?

I have a long list of graphic novels I love! But my top picks for teens who enjoyed Homebody would be: ‘The Girl From the Sea’ by Molly Knox Ostertag- a sweet coming of age sapphic romance with a sprinkle of fantasy.
‘Deadendia’ by Hamish Steele – a funny and imaginative series set in a theme park that’s connected to demonic realms, with a trans protagonist and great LGBTQ+ and neurodivergent representation.
‘Welcome to St Hell’ – a hilarious, honest and relatable autobiography from trans creator Lewis Hancox about his time at high school and figuring out his trans identity. 

Have you any other projects on the go that are developing into full books? After such a personal debut, what would you most like to write about?

I am currently working on my second graphic novel, which is going to be another fairly personal book actually! It’s based on my experiences of moving through the world as neurodivergent but not realising that until much later in life. Beyond that I would love to write fantasy as it’s one of my favourite genres to read.

Homebody is published today by Macmillan, aimed at age 14+

Solidarity to Student Protesters!

As long-time teen services library person as well as being someone who has participated in a number social movements protesting injustice over the years, I am in awe of the students on college grounds across the US standing up to protest the cruelty being meted out against a captive population of predominantly women and children in Gaza.

Armored police officers being unleashed on students that are participating in their constitutionally protected right to protest is bringing up memories of the actions of the police set loose on protesting students by the apartheid government in my home country of South Africa.

The “youth of today” get a lot of grief from people my age and older about how they have no oomph or are unwilling to stand up for anything or get involved in making the world a better place. Well after this current time of protest is over then I think anyone who says shit like that should shut up!

I have worked as a youth services and teen librarian for over 20 years now and the level of engagement and involvement young adults have shown in standing up for what they believe in over the years has always inspired me! The student newspapers are covering the protests on their campuses better than many of their national press colleagues – have a read below.

Links to US Student run College Newspaper articles about the Protests:

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2024/4/23/harvard-mit-palestine-march

https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2024/04/24/policy-and-planning-committee-of-the-faculty-of-arts-and-sciences-condemns-outside-media-coverage-of-campus-protests

https://www.tuftsdaily.com/article/2024/04/editorial-moving-forward-from-tupd-misconduct

NYU Student Protest

Emerson College Student Encampment

https://www.dailycal.org/news/campus/uc-berkeley-students-establish-free-palestine-encampment-outside-sproul-hall/article_d3868ea8-00f5-11ef-82c7-0f1ae80fd478.html

Minnesota Faculty, students protests occur on Northrop Mall, at Coffman Union

https://www.dailylobo.com/multimedia/7a130f75-020a-49b0-b5a5-214bf5e2c163

https://www.studlife.com/news/2024/04/24/police-disband-pro-palestine-protest-and-encampment-during-alumni-weekend

https://dbknews.com/2024/04/24/umd-ceasefire-sit-in/

https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2024/04/princeton-news-adpol-gaza-solidarity-encampment-leaked-documents-national-review

https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2024/04/princeton-opinion-opguest-faculty-staff-solidarity-palestine-protestors-columbia-barnard-encampment

https://www.theeagleonline.com/article/2024/04/guest-column-do-not-silence-our-students-peaceful-assembly-is-their-right

https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2024/04/paxson-reaffirms-appropriate-codes-of-conduct-as-browns-response-to-encampment

https://dailynorthwestern.com/2024/04/15/campus/activist-groups-seek-to-show-admitted-students-real-nu-with-protests-across-campus-for-divestment-support-for-palestinians/

https://www.dailylobo.com/multimedia/7a130f75-020a-49b0-b5a5-214bf5e2c163

https://www.campustimes.org/2024/04/24/%f0%9f%94%b4-gaza-solidarity-encampment-live-updates/

https://berkeleybeacon.com/developing-story-the-latest-on-2-boylston-place-popular-university-encampment/

https://dailybruin.com/2024/04/23/panel-discusses-solidarity-activism-at-palestinian-film-screening

https://www.psucollegian.com/news/campus/do-not-turn-away-from-palestine-popular-university-for-gaza-event-held-on-campus/article_d4d88f9c-03f0-11ef-83e5-3f6725e4e8cc.html

https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2024/04/live-updates-students-hold-encampment-for-divestment-on-main-green

https://www.kansan.com/news/pro-palestinian-protesters-gather-at-fraser-hall/article_a7f03418-07c8-11ef-ba0d-f32537b77dec.html

https://www.browndailyherald.com/article/2024/04/live-updates-students-hold-encampment-for-divestment-on-main-green

https://www.thedp.com/article/2024/05/penn-larry-krasner-jamie-gauthier-visit-encampment

https://udreview.com/palestine-solidarity-walk-out-die-in-attracts-hundreds-of-protesters

Student Radio

https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/story/wkcr-news-coverage-cuad-students-occupying-columbia#

Lowborn High

For as long as anyone can remember, Wychdusk Manor has been the school to which all the top magical novices are sent, where they are trained to become the world’s greatest wizards. Androgeus Frost, part of one of the wizarding worlds’ most esteemed families, always thought it was a sure thing he’d get in, but somehow finds himself dumped at Lowborn High.

Lowborn High is one of the best stories to come out of 2000AD Regened – special issues with stories suitable for all ages that are published a handful of times a year.

If you are not an aficionado of The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic and would like a frame of reference think crumbling, inner city Hogwarts.

Writer David Barnett has taken a handful of well-worn magical world and high school tropes, mixed them together and buffed them up considerably to craft a story that is engaging, entertaining and worth several rereads! An over-subscribed, struggling school school with a motley collection of students who are often at odds with the staff, throw in mysterious back stories and machinations from the hidden world of magic mixed in with a fish out of water experience and the healing power of friendship and you have only barely begun to scratch the surface. Anna Morzova and Mike Walters are the artists who bring David’s words to life. Their art styles complement each other and are perfect for this brand of storytelling.

If you have been searching for an ongoing story of magic, mystery and friendship with a diverse cast of characters and a more believable location that a hidden castle in the Highlands, with a lot less real world creator controversy then Lowborn High may be just the graphic novel for you! Plus once you have read it you can discover all the amazing work that has come out of 2000AD over the years!

I have read Lowborn High several times now – in the original progs and have read my review copy three times since receiving it. I have also put a request in for my library to purchase copies so that I can recommend it to some of my favourite patrons who may otherwise never know of its existence! Seriously library folk, this is a graphic novel that will do well in your collections! Trust me – I am a Librarian!

Find out more about the creators and their other works here:

David Barnett

Anna Morzova

Mike Walters

Lowborn High, by David Barnett, Anna Morzova & Mike Walters is aimed squarely at teen readers but is suitable for most ages. It is published by 2000AD and is available now! More details on where to find it can be found here.

Girl Scout’s Anti-censorship Commendation Censored by Board of Supervisors

Inspired by the Hanover County School Board’s decision to ban 19 books from the libraries in the schools they oversee; on June 2023 Kate Lindley started Free to Read, her project for the Girl Scout Gold Award.

She created a Free to Read app with information on each book, including why it was banned and how to access copies of the books. After the board banned a further 75 books in November of 2023 Kate went a step further and set up book nooks in two local businesses.

Screenshots of the Free to Read app

I think that everyone who has observed the national mania for book-banning that has been emerging over the past few years agrees that it is positively Orwellian; but this is where things start taking a turn for the Kafkaesque. On April 10, the Hanover County supervisors met to approve language honoring the Girl Scouts that had completed their Gold Award projects. During the meeting the supervisor for the Cold Harbor District Michael Herzberg pulled Lindley’s proclamation and submitted a motion for amending it, removing language that identified locations where the books were available as well as any mentions of censorship or banned books.

The Board of Supervisors has bestowed upon me the greatest honor anyone fighting censorship and banning could receive by censoring me and my project ~ Kate Lindley

When the young adults of our society act with more maturity and decorum than the actual adults that are running things, I get a hankering for generational change in leadership. Then I feel guilty for wanting to dump the problems created by my generation and the ones that have come before us onto the next generation that are still growing and learning.

We need to address these issues and let our kids be kids. Looking at them, and the work they are already shouldering to make the world they are on the cusp of inheriting a better place I know that they are going to be alright!

Links for more information

Hanover girl scout creates ‘banned book nook’ after new policy takes 19 books off school shelves: https://www.wric.com/news/local-news/hanover-county/hanover-girl-scout-creates-banned-book-nook-after-new-policy/

Hanover Girl Scout fights censorship with ‘Banned Book Nooks’ https://www.wvtf.org/news/2023-10-12/hanover-girl-scout-fights-censorship-with-banned-book-nooks  

Hanover County students fight the book ban https://www.vpm.org/2024-02-22/hanover-county-students-fight-the-book-ban

Hanover County supervisors censor commendation for Girl Scout who fought censorship https://www.wvtf.org/news/2024-04-11/hanover-county-supervisors-censor-commendation-for-girl-scout-who-fought-censorship

Free to Read app: https://studio.code.org/projects/applab/GTpC1hoILFC2YN0ej-pIhcq3vV-8WlJ8hef1d1sRV-o

Free to Read Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/free_to_read/

Original draft of the proclamation celebrating Kate Lindley: https://hanovercova.portal.civicclerk.com/event/1134/files/attachment/4131

Amended proclamation: https://hanovercova.portal.civicclerk.com/event/1130/files/attachment/4310

Girl Scouts of the USA Gold Award: https://www.girlscouts.org/en/members/for-girl-scouts/badges-journeys-awards/highest-awards/gold-award.html

Free to Read Amazon wish list: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/N2DGIA2OFUGH?ref_=wl_share

Wednesday

Wednesday is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Wednesday’s attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the supernatural mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago — all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships at Nevermore.

If I am completely honest Christina Ricci was always “my” Wednesday Addams. The Addams Family & Addams Family Values were my introduction to Charles Addams’ mysterious and spooky family and the movies still stand up, Anjelica Huston was a perfect Morticia and Raúl Julia was born to play Gomez.

But I digress! this is a review of Wednesday, Jenna Ortega brings a smoldering intensity to the role and exudes danger and vulnerability going from being a piranha in a tank of goldfish to being a monster in a pool of other monsters. This show was and is a delight to watch and rewatch! I cannot wait until my daughter is old enough to watch it with me, she is a self-described spooky kid but knows when to say no to scary things she is not quite ready for.

Wednesday is a wonderful monster, murder mystery that will keep the viewer guessing throughout. It is also a coming of age story as well as a celebration of friendship and surviving high school. The supporting cast is also marvelous, from Luis Guzmán and Catherine Zeta Jones playing Gomez and Morticia respectively to wannabe best friend Enid Sinclair played by Emma Myers to potential love interests Tyler Gilpin and Percy Hynes White. Christina Ricci also makes an appearance as a normal, but mysterious human teacher at Nevermore Academy.

Tim Burton directed the first four episodes of Wednesday and served as executive producer for the series which bears his trademark gothic touches throughout. It seems bizarre that this is his first tangle with the Addams Family, but I can honestly say that it was worth the wait!

Wednesday was released on Bluray and DVD on March 26th by and is available from wherever fantastic film and television can be found.

It should also be available from your local library, but if it is not you are always able to ask that it be purchased!

Mina and the Cult

Mina’s having a hell of a family reunion. After the death and chaos of Halloween, Mina and the gang are looking forward to their road trip to Roswell, New Mexico, where they are hoping to be thrilled by the alien stories and have some R & R with Mina’s parents. However, their trip ends abruptly and before they know it, they are back in New Orleans. Instead of enjoying the fall celebrations and renovating the mansion, they find themselves investigating a serial killer who claims to be a real vampire in disturbing letters to the press.
As the city is gripped by fear, a group of believers is planning to disrupt the fragile balance between the humans and the supernatural creatures hiding in the shadows. This threatens the peace that Mina and her friends have been working so hard at maintaining.
Caught between investigating the killer and trying to stop the group’s destructive plans, Mina’s third mystery might be her last…

UCLan Publishing

I horrified Antonia, the publicist that organised this guest post for us by telling her that, in a school library, a book set in the 90s is a historical novel 😁 The Mina series are <historical> horror mystery for teens and YA and should be in all your libraries! The author, Amy McCaw, wrote a piece for us about how she establised the setting.

Why the fascination with 90s nostalgia?

Books, music, fashion and movies from the 90s seem to be more popular than ever. I’m still as obsessed with my 90s favourites as I ever was, and I have a few theories about why the fascination with the 90s persists.


When I started writing Mina and the Undead, I wasn’t sure what year I would set it in. During the very early stages of writing, I realised that the Interview with the Vampire movie came out in 1994, and 1995 was also the deadliest year in New Orleans history, with over 400 people being murdered that year alone. Those two things came together in my imagination to produce a murder mystery where vampires might be responsible for the high crime rates.


Once I’d settled on the 90s, I realised how fun it would be to lean into 90s pop culture in the plot, music, movie references and clothing. The book ended up having the feel of things I loved in the 90s, including Scream, Buffy and Charmed. I was a teenager later in the 90s, and I think enjoying those things so much in my formative years left a lasting impression on me. When I watch my 90s favourites, they’re still great on their own merits, but they also take me right back to that time.


There are a lot of reasons why the 90s might have continued to have such a lasting impact. The music has a distinctive feel, with that grunge and indie sound never really being replicated since. Slashers and paranormal books and TV shows had a real moment, and horror series like Point Horror and Fear Street were at the peak of their popularity. Like me, some people circle back to their old interests, but this can’t be true of younger readers who weren’t born in the 90s. In my experience, teenagers enjoy dipping their toes into a time period that feels relatively recent and yet so different from current pop culture, with an instantly recognisable flavour.


If you’re a fan of 90s pop culture, I highly recommend visiting the original influences I’ve already mentioned. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still my all-time favourite form of any pop culture, and Scream reinvented the slasher genre, making it self-referential and delighting in outlandish, gory kills.


There are also plenty of YA books set in the 90s or that have that 90s feel that I always crave. Reading anything by Kathryn Foxfield, Cynthia Murphy or Kat Ellis will fill that Point-Horror shaped gap in your life. I also recommend Kendare Blake’s Buffyverse books if you’re looking for something that reads exactly like the Buffy TV show. I recently read The Babysitter’s Coven by Kate Williams, and that’s packed with 90s references and has a feel somewhere between Buffy, Charmed and The Babysitters Club.


I love delving into different time periods in my reading and writing, and I’m delighted that readers seem to agree with me.

Amy McCaw is a YA author and YouTuber. She’s the author of the Mina and the Undead series, YA murder mysteries set in 1995 New Orleans. She also co-curated the A Taste of Darkness horror anthology with Maria Kuzniar. Her main interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her novels have elements of all of these. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.


If you want to talk with Amy about books or 90s movies, you can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube.

Mina and the Cult, the last in the trilogy, is published in the UK by UCLan Publishing on 4th April 2024

Yoto Carnegies Shortlist Announced

16 books have been shortlisted in total, with eight in each category for the Carnegie Medal for Writing and Carnegie Medal for Illustration; whittled down from the 36 longlisted titles by the expert judging panel which includes 12 librarians from CILIP: the library and information association’s Youth Libraries Group. Click here to read more about the fantastic books that have been chosen.

 

  • Picture books prevail on the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration shortlist, which includes previous winner Catherine Rayner and three-time shortlisted illustrator Poonam Mistry.
  • Poetry dominates the shortlist for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing with three novels written in verse – two by former shortlistees, Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, and New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander, and one debut, Tia Fisher – alongside a poetry collection by prolific children’s writer Nicola Davies.
  • The shortlists include a further two debuts; Nathanael Lessore for the Medal for Writing, and Chloe Savage for the Medal for Illustration.
  • Independent Welsh publisher and British Book Award Small Press of the Year finalist Graffeg have a shortlisted title in each category.
  • Journeys, literal and metaphorical, are a common theme across both lists, with books encouraging empathy and hope and promoting an understanding of historical and contemporary global issues, including the environment. 

 

The 2024 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing shortlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

 

  • The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander (Andersen Press)
  • The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell (Usborne)
  • Away with Words by Sophie Cameron (Little Tiger)
  • The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner
    (Otter-Barry Books)
  • Choose Love by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček (Graffeg)
  • Crossing the Line by Tia Fisher (Bonnier Books UK)
  • Safiyyah’s War by Hiba Noor Khan (Andersen Press)
  • Steady for This by Nathanael Lessore (Bonnier Books UK)

 

The 2024 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration shortlist is (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

 

  • The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker (Walker Books)
  • April’s Garden by Catalina Echeverri, written by Isla McGuckin (Graffeg)
  • Lost by Mariajo Ilustrajo (Quarto)
  • The Wilderness by Steve McCarthy (Walker Books)
  • To the Other Side by Erika Meza (Hachette Children’s Group)
  • The Midnight Panther by Poonam Mistry (Bonnier Books UK)
  • The Bowerbird by Catherine Rayner, written by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfishby Chloe Savage (Walker Books)

 

Maura Farrelly, Chair of Judges for The Yoto Carnegies 2024, said:

“The judges have worked incredibly hard to select 16 outstanding books; books that celebrate the very best of writing and illustration for children and young people. These are books to empower young readers, and for some will provide validation and refuge; stories of courage, of characters striving to find themselves and their place in the world, often in difficult or dangerous situations. The books shortlisted for the writing medal exemplify immersive and compelling writing with the power to inspire and move readers across a range of forms. The illustration shortlist is entirely comprised of picture books, with a strong theme of the environment, underlining the way picture books can speak to all ages, and showing how nature and illustrated books can heal and empower. We are excited to share these lists with shadowing groups and young readers, and very much look forward to reading their reviews and discovering their winners, alongside our own, at the announcement in June.”