Author Archives: Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

Girls

A determined girl gives up on kissing a frog.
A fearless heroine comes face-to-face with a not-so Big Bad Wolf.
A monstrous princess, held captive on a deserted island, yearns to break free.

Within this book are seven famous fairy tales turned into enchanting, inspiring and sometimes hair-raising stories for today’s world, about girls with their own dreams and desires. These are no damsels in distress, but real young women of flesh and blood – who certainly don’t need rescuing.

Pushkin Press

Annet Schaap writes in Dutch but Laura Watkinson has done a brilliant job of translating her work into English for Pushkin Press: I’ve read and loved both the Carnegie shortlisted LAMPIE in 2020 and this, her self illustrated collection of short retellings of fairy tales. I loved the sketches, they suit the text perfectly and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the [was Kate Greenaway] awards list for illustration next year, so I am pleased to be able to share an extract (click here) and accompanying illustration.

Rumpelstiltskin

The stories are almost instantly recognisable and put a brilliant spin on how the girls could/would/should behave in the various situations. The book was over far too soon!

Annet Schaap

Thank you Pushkin Press for sending me a copy for review, GIRLS is out now.

Black History Month UK 2023

I said on twitter (‘X’) that I wasn’t going to do a thread of favourite books for Black History Month this year because I’m trying to wean myself off it (but also it may well have imploded by the end of October…) but then I felt bad because there have been some real gems this year! So I decided to put a month’s worth in a blog post (each picture should have a link to more details)…

The eagle eyed amongst you might notice that there are only 30 books there and 31 days in the month of October…that’s because my last recommendation is in recognition of this year’s official theme of SALUTING OUR SISTERS…that you simply must read (and push on younger readers) everything by the inimitable Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Nadia Shireen, and Malorie Blackman (even if they are all terrible at updating their websites 😅)!

There are loads of resources on the Black History Month UK website, including a reading list of books for grownups.

While it is still accessible, have a look through my old lists for some more faves!

But also, Matt and I have both moved over to Bluesky for some fresh air, so come find us.

You Could Be So Pretty

BEAUTY COMES AT A PRICE. AND GIRLS MUST PAY.

In Belle and Joni’s world there are two options for girls:

One, follow the rules of the Doctrine like Belle: apply your Mask, work hard to be crowned at the Ceremony, be a Pretty.

Or two, fight the rules like Joni: leave your face bare, work hard to escape to the Education, be an Objectionable.

But maybe there is a third option…
Change the rules. Reclaim your power. If you can…

What would you choose?

Warning – this novel deals with issues that some readers may find upsetting, including references to pornography and sexual assault.

Usborne Books

This book made me angry. Proper, impotent rage at how horrifyingly possible this scenario is. I don’t think words could do it justice, you just need to read it, and then hand it to every teen you know.

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to ask Holly Bourne some questions!

I feel like this is essential reading for teens, if only we could put it in the hands of everyone in a UK secondary school. What would you say to encourage boys to pick it up as well?

I do think this book would help male readers have a sense of enormous empathy for just what girls put themselves through each day in order to look like a girl. I can imagine it’s quite shocking to know the extent of the pressures their female friends are under, and how they probably respond to that pressure invisibly and effortlessly as they create their faces each morning. Beauty standards are a vital part of feminism to understand because they stunt girls’ confidence to fight for a better world, so any boy wanting to be an ally needs to have a grasp on what they are, and how they serve those in power. The book also looks at the more toxic ideas around what masculinity is too, and would hopefully give them food for thought in their own lives too.

Which character came to you most easily? Was it always from the dual POV?

I definitely found Belle easier to write because I was a slave to beauty standards for most of my life, and still struggle to show my ‘raw’ face to the world. Even just a decade ago, I used to spend almost two works just getting ready for work each morning – applying a full face of makeup, GHDing my hair into ringlets, mashing my feet into heels which has caused lasting podiatric damage. Since I found feminism in my late-twenties, I’ve definitely eased up on myself and read so much about the contradictions and confusions of feminism and the concept of ‘beauty’ – but I’m still nowhere as near as brave as Joni. I loved writing Joni’s parts, and feel I’m braver as a result, and go out looking like myself more often.  

Did you know from the beginning that it would have to end as it did (no spoilers)?

I’d say the book has a typically ‘Holly Bourne’ ending – in that it’s not the ending you want, but it’s the ending my readers need. I always knew what the afterword would be and say, though I still sobbed while writing it.

Have you thought about what Belle and Joni do next? Would you write a sequel?

I’m very excited for what they’d do next and feel the world of The Doctrine certainly needs to watch out. However, their adventures are likely to remain off page for now. I’m currently writing a new YA, away from the world of The Doctrine, and don’t think I’ll return for a while. I always welcome fan-fic though!

All of your books are fiercely feminist and pretty rage-inducing. I imagine that while you’re writing it could be quite emotionally overwhelming, how do you enable yourself to switch off and calm down?

Weirdly, I calm down by consuming ridiculously trashy and problematic media that goes against all the messages of my books. For some reason, I’m able to hold my feminist ideals and bring myself to the brink of sanity writing about the wrongs of this world and how rage-inducing they are…and then I’m quite happy to curl up on the sofa and watch some horrendous reality TV show. 

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

I’m just finishing I’m A Fan by Sheena Patel and I’m absolutely loving it – although I’m not sure that’s the right word for that book. It’s a very claustrophobic funny, dark, and lyrical exploration of parasocial relationships and I’m wincing with each page. The narrator is deranged but I kind of love her. Her takes on social media and inauthenticity and race and abusive power dynamics are just gaspingly insightful. 

Overemotional by David Fenne

Steven is one unlucky closeted sixth former. Whenever he has a strong emotion, be that happiness or sadness, weird things happen. Like, potentially dangerous things. Recently, he kissed another boy for the first time and . . . the boy’s head literally exploded. Steven flees to the miserable town of Grunsby-on-Sea, determined not to hurt anyone else with his “Emomancy”.

With a best friend as determined as Freya, it is impossible to stay hidden for long though, especially when she realises Steven might be in danger after a mysterious organisation called DEMA start asking questions about him. Where Freya goes, her boyfriend Marcus and American friend Troy soon follow. Together, they are determined to find out more about this organisation and what “neutralising” someone like Steven might mean.

By chance, Steven meets a handsome stranger who claims to share his powers and who offers to teach Steven how to control them. But who is he in relation to DEMA? What on earth happened to make Grunsby-on-Sea so lethargic a town? And can you really trust a charismatic stranger you meet in a café bathroom?

Ink Road
Overemotional cover artwork by Jacqueline Li

I’ve been neglecting the blog over the last few months, but what better to come back to it with than a Q&A with a brilliant debut author, David Fenne. Overemotional, a UKYA queer fantasy set in the most boring town in England, is great fun.

What aspect of Overemotional came to you first?

The concept of the powers came first. I had been rolling the idea around in my head based on conversations I’d had with my husband about how his anxiety manifests. I thought emotion-based powers were an interesting concept to explore, but they would just result in someone just trying to be happy. So I thought, “What if it were reversed?” What would the pursuit of misery do to a person? Almost immediately, Steven’s voice began to form in my head.

How soon in the process of creating the story did you decide to start with a head exploding?

Actually, VERY early on. I wanted something to kick off the plot in an explosive manner … literally! It’s such an extreme scenario, especially after what was a formative first queer experience, that sets up his character arc for the rest of the book. The initial concept was slightly different to how it plays out in the finished book, but I think this way is great at catapulting Steven back in the closet and rasing his walls at the start of the book.

Who was your favourite character to write as?

I find Steven’s voice the easiest because he’s the most similar to me, but I love Troy. He’s so earnest, polite, and optimistic in everything he does, and his fish-out-of-water point of view (being an American in the UK) is a great comedic vein to mine. He’s such a golden retriever that you can’t help but love him.

Writing comedy is notoriously difficult, but the voices were full of humour, was it difficult to balance jokes with tension?

Sometimes. My background is in comedy, being an improv comedian, so humour comes quite naturally during the writing process. I never wanted the humour to eclipse sincerity, though. There are times when it can break the tension or subvert an expectation or trope, but I think people are a little exhausted with “Marvel-quips” that don’t allow moments of genuine sincerity to land. The book gets quite tense at points, so I made sure jokes or funny situations (like throwing breast pumps at a monster) don’t entirely diminish from the tension built up.

Have you thought about what Steven & his friends do next? Or have you finished with their story and moved on to something else?

Well, funny you should ask! I’ve just handed in book 2 in the OVEREMOTIONAL Trilogy! The gang will be heading off to London for university, but not everything is as it seems . . .[CFi ed: I didn’t notice that it was first in a trilogy and I’m so pleased that we’ll meet them again a little older, with the new challenges of uni!]

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

I’m currently reading Murder on A School Night by Kate Weston and I am LOVING IT! It’s a laugh-out-loud funny murder mystery featuring death by period products. It’s so refreshing to have such an overtly feminist, period-positive voice in the YA scene. Did I mention it was funny? It’s VERY funny. Highly recommend to any fans of YA murder mysteries like Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder or just anyone who fancies a good giggle.

A Calamity of Mannerings

‘It is a curse to be born a girl…’

Take a peek into the diary of Panth (never enquire as to her given name), a young woman knocking on the gilded door of adult life and high society. But kicking up one’s heels at the Cafe de Paris does not come easily to a girl navigating:

1. Poverty (even the genteel kind), thanks to her papa’s sad demise

2. A lack of any experience whatsoever with the opposite sex, of course not counting Freddy Spencer (and he wasn’t that sort of experience, anyhow) 3. Multiple sisters with ideas, a grandmother with opinions and one recalcitrant sheep

Panth knows there is more for her out in the world – it’s 1924, for goodness’ sake – and that could include swoonsome American with excellent teeth, Buck Buchanan. The question is – how in the name of Tatler is she to claim it?

A hilarious coming-of-age story for fans of I Capture the Castle and Bridgerton.

Published by UCLan

Cover illustration by Emma Block.

Joanna Nadin has such range, writing for the breadth of ages and tastes, always with humour, and hitting the spot every time. A CALAMITY OF MANNERINGS is her newest offering for teens/YA. I have to admit to having only dipped into it so far with other things having overtaken life lately, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a piece from her for the blog having loved everything of hers so far…

My 10 favourite coming-of-age YA novels

by Joanna Nadin

Inevitably, because of the age of the protagonists, so much of YA reads like a coming-of-age tale. Here, though, I’ve had to be pretty strict in order to get the number down to ten, with huge apologies for the myriad brilliant books I couldn’t fit in. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This is a book I come back to time and time again when I’m teaching dialogue and the importance of final lines in chapters, but more than that: when I want to feel joyful. It’s a celebration of friendship and love between two Mexican-American boys, which blossoms in a summer of utter boredom. 

The Outsiders by SE Hinton

The original YA novel – written for, about and, incredibly, by a teenager. I cry at this tale of class conflict in 1960s America every time. Stay gold, Ponyboy. 

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 

The book before the hugely successful film Dear Simon, which charts sixteen-year-old Simon’s crush on Blue, what happens when one of his emails gets into the wrong hands, and asks the excellent question ‘shouldn’t straight people have to come out too?’

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 

I could have picked any book by either author, but you get double bubble with this one, as well as the glorious Tiny Cooper, who is ‘very gay, and very proud’. The story of two boys with the same name whose lives are turned upside down when their paths cross. 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman 

An opposites-attract love story with a difference, this is the brilliant graphic novel behind the brilliant TV series. A book that bursts with kindness and charm as overthinker and openly gay Charlie falls for apparently straight rugby player Nick.  

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Rightly a cult novel now, this is the eye-opening story of orphan Cameron, who is sent to a gay conversion centre when her strict aunt finds out she’s in a relationship with her best friend. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

You’ve watched the TV series (and if not, why not?); now read the novel. Awkward fifteen-year-old Isabel spends every summer with brothers Conrad and Jeremiah, who have never shown her any interest other than friendship. But this year, something flips.  

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Unfolding in a series of letters to an unnamed ‘friend’, this 1990s-set book follows Charlie as he navigates high school, falls for one of his best friends, and struggles to come to terms with the death of his aunt. Hard-hitting and poignant, this deals with suicide and sexual abuse, but manages to be celebratory as well. And extra kudos for getting Rocky Horror into a novel.

 Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann

One of only two books on this list that hasn’t yet made it onto the screen, but I have high hopes it will. I had the privilege of seeing this brilliant and hilarious novel at its conception, and have watched its protagonist – the bitter but witty Phoebe, who would rather marry herself than any of the boys at school – and its writer, Wibke, become incredible women. A queer love story that will have you howling with laughter as well as set your heart pinging. 

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Not strictly YA (it was written for an adult audience), but it’s in my top five books ever, so I’m shoehorning it in. Also, it provided inspiration for A Calamity of Mannerings, with its historical setting and naïve but loveable narrator, Cassandra Mortmain, whose eccentric almost-aristocratic family have fallen on terribly hard times. 

Thank you Jo! And thank you Antonia for organising the piece for TeenLibrarian and a review copy for me.

A CALAMITY OF MANNERINGS is published this week!

The Yoto Carnegies 2023 Shortlist

The Yoto Carnegies celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are unique in being judged by children’s and youth librarians, with the respective Shadowers’ Choice Medals voted for by children and young people.

Matt and I have both been judges for the awards, many moons ago, and it is and extraordinarily rigorous process involving reading and re-reading dozens of books and forming proper arguments as to why things should be shortlisted (or not…in fact sometimes I was very passionate about *not* letting something get further…), judges can’t just say “this is my favourite because it is cute”. So we love seeing the longlist and then shortlist announcement and imagining the conversations that went on for them to be the chosen few! I definitely have favourites in this year’s lists:

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing longlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

·        The Light in Everything by Katya Balen (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Natalie Sirett (Little Tiger)

·        Medusa by Jessie Burton, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch (Little Island)

·        Needle by Patrice Lawrence (Barrington Stoke)

·        I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (Hodder Children’s Books)

·        The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (Firefly Press) 

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration longlist is (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

·        Rescuing Titanic illustrated and written by Flora Delargy (Wide Eyed Editions)

·        Alte Zachen: Old Things illustrated by Benjamin Phillips, written by Ziggy Hanaor (Cirada Books)

·        The Worlds We Leave Behind illustrated by Levi Pinfold, written by A. F. Harrold (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        The Visible Sounds illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Yin Jianling (UCLan Publishing)

·        The Comet illustrated and written by Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye Books)

·        Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear illustrated by Jeet Zdung, written by Trang Nguyen (Kingfisher)

Click here to read more about the fantastic books that have been chosen.

You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud

People like me are devils before we are angels.
Hanan has always been good and quiet. She accepts her role as her school’s perfect Muslim poster girl. She ignores the racist bullies.
A closed mouth is gold – it helps you get home in one piece.
Then her friend is murdered and every Muslim is to blame.
The world is angry at us again.
How can she stay silent while her family is ripped apart? It’s time for Hanan to stop being the quiet, good girl. It’s time for her to stand up and shout.

Usborne

YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME is one of those books that will have you raging at the sheer awfulness of people, but also smiling at the warmth of relationships. The characters are so well imagined and real, and although it is an “issues” book: taking head on Islamaphobia, bullying (including “by-standers” and the harm they cause), and racism; the insight into Somali culture and Hanan’s reflections on religion are also wonderfully written. I asked debut author Ayaan Mohamud a few questions:

The core friendship group in YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME is great, the relationships felt real, were any of the characters inspired by real people?

I loved writing about Hanan’s friendship group in the book. Each of her four friends – Andrea, Nasra, Lily and Isha – come from very different walks of life but I loved showing that friendship isn’t always about similarities and some relationships just work!

The essence of their friendship was definitely inspired by the close friends I had (and still have) in school. The kind of banter the girls share, the growth they experience individually and together, and the way they come together during more serious moments – these were all aspects of their friendship that felt very easy to write because of my own experiences.

I imagine it wasn’t an easy book to write. What did you do, when not writing, to keep you grounded and not constantly enraged about the very real issues?

What has always kept me grounded is family. I am so lucky to share an amazing connection with my parents and sisters. When the writing got tough, they were only ever a room away and I would often float across to them to give myself a breather if I felt I needed it. That meant I never overwhelmed myself and, honestly, my writing was a lot better for it as I was writing from a clearer mind and perspective.

It is a book that needs to be talked about, it is brilliant that it is a World Book Night title to get it into lots of hands, what is your one sentence pitch to get a reluctant reader to give it a go?

You Think You Know Me: you won’t know anything about this story until you read it!*

*Disclaimer: I am terrible at writing pitches.

Publishers one sentence pitch:

A stunning debut about finding the strength to speak up against hate and fear, for fans of The Hate U Give.

What kind of events would you like to do with the book?

With the kind of themes, the book explores, I would say school events. I love engaging with teenagers and discussing stories (mostly because I still feel like one myself!), but also because I believe it’s so important to encourage them in thinking critically about real life social issues. School events offer the best opportunity for that.

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

I’m just about to finish Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn. I love engrossing fantasy and her stories really are fantasy at its best. She writes beautifully and alongside the supernatural and fantastical, I really appreciate the sobering exploration of generational trauma. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some magical escapism.

Will we see more YA from you?

Yes! I have recently finished my second YA contemporary novel. This one is all about complex and messy family dynamics, with fabulous female friendships and a little sprinkle of awkward, young love. I can’t wait for it to be out.

YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME is out now from Usborne.

Thanks to Fritha and Usborne for organising a review copy and Q&A opportunity.

Glow Up Lara Bloom

MY NAME IS LARA BLOOM AND THIS IS MY LIFE . . . Meet Lara Bloom – the best friend you never knew you needed. This is her diary . . . When Lara meets super-cute new boy Caiden, she begins to think that the way to his heart is to give herself a glow up. But her friends are not impressed. You should never glow up for a boy, only for yourself! As Lara and her friends embark on their project of empowerment and self-love, Lara shares her innermost thoughts with her online journal. How can she keep her hair under control when she’s playing football? Why is she so fast on the pitch yet so uncoordinated off it? And how will she ever convince Caiden to take an interest in her? With her worries safely locked in her top-secret journal, Lara is on track to unlock the glow-up of her dreams. Surely nothing could possibly go wrong . . .?! A heart-warming story of friendship, crushes and learning to love yourself. Perfect for fans of GEEK GIRL, Louise Rennison and Alesha Dixon.

Published by Hot Key Books Teens
Cover art by Amanda

Glow Up Lara Bloom is a great teen novel from debut author Dee Benson, publishing this week by Hot Key Books. It is lots of fun but also contains some strong messages for teen girls about self worth and friendship. I asked Dee a few questions:

Were you a big journaller at school?

I wasn’t. I only journaled occasionally, even though I wanted to journal more, because I was terrified that someone might read what I’d written. I’m really into journaling now, though. And I do it all on my laptop for security 😊

The conversations about body positivity and natural hair are great, it could easily have become preachy, did it take a lot of redrafts to sound natural?

I don’t think any redrafts were done on those particular aspects of the book apart from adding more positivity around natural hair. I was actually a bit too subtle about it in my first draft and had to emphasize it further.

I think I managed to avoid preachiness because Lara, the main character, is an ‘everygirl’ who is just like you and me and has insecurities. We see her learning about body positivity and starting to embrace her natural hair, and it’s usually easier to identify with a learner than a master, so to speak. There are a few characters in the book with strong opinions that could have felt preachy, but their views are always contrasted with Lara’s uncertainty so I think that helps to balance things out.

What kind of events would you like to do for the book (dream event and realistic, if they differ)?

Ooh, I love this question. My dream event would involve Oprah and an audience filled with schoolgirls, and they’d all get a free copy of the book along with a glow-up kit packed with beauty products 😁

My realistic event would be speaking at a school either about body-positivity and self-esteem or going after your dreams.

Have you had much feedback from young readers?

Not yet—except for my two daughters who are 12 and 9. I read them the first three chapters and they loved it. My 9 year old has even started writing her own teen diary novel as a result!

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

I’m currently reading Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book in that series (Legendborn) and anyone who likes YA Fantasy. I’m still at the beginning, but it’s already so epic.

Will we hear more from Lara or do you have anything else planned?

Yes, definitely. There’ll be a second Lara Bloom book coming out in 2024.

Dee Benson
https://twitter.com/HotKeyBooksTeen/status/1579865978434830337

The Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze

Summer was supposed to be Ginika’s time for fun, friends and fairs. But instead she’s been sent to live at the dead-end seaside boarding house her grandparents run. Even though her parents say it’s just for a little while, she can’t help feeling abandoned and heartbroken to be missing out on everything she loves back home.

And then she meets Peri. He leaps and dives through the water like a dolphin and he talks like a burst of bubbles. He’s not exactly a mermaid, but he’s definitely something Ginika’s never seen before.

His family is far away too, but unlike Ginika, he loves his independence. As Ginika shows Peri her world, she starts to feel free as well. They don’t need anyone else when they’ve got each other. But then the lights and noise of the human world start to change Peri. And when things spin out of control, Ginika must be the bravest she’s ever been to face her fears and make the hardest decision of her life.

Join Ginika and Peri as they dive beneath the waves and walk the lands that will take them into each other’s worlds on an adventure they will never forget and a life-changing friendship.

Clare Weze

Clare Weze’s first middle grade novel, The Lightning Catcher, was absolutely brilliant. I asked her a few questions about her debut at the time, so when I was sent a copy of her second with the option of sharing something on the blog I thought it would be great to have an extract of chapter 1 for you all:

Hopefully that gave you an inkling of how beautifully written and intriguing the book is. I love how Clare takes a completely impossible idea – people living in the sea – and uses real science to make it seem a possibility. In this respect it is similar to her first book, The Lightning Catcher, but beyond that it couldn’t be more different. Ginika’s is a great main character: worried about her parents and knowing that they’re keeping a secret but distracted by a new worry: her new friend Peri and his needs. Other characters coming into the story and the resolution all flowed really well, a real page turner with a satisfying ending.

The Storm Swimmer is published on 19th January by Bloomsbury Books

This Book Kills

There’s a murderer on the loose in an elite boarding school… But who is going to be next? This Book Kills is the YA thriller of 2023, perfect for fans of Holly Jackson and Karen McManus.

“I’ll make it clear from the start: I did not kill Hugh Henry Van Boren.
I didn’t even help. Well, not intentionally.”

When Hugh Henry Van Boren, one of the most popular and richest kids in Jess Choudhary’s school, is found dead, the student body is left reeling and wondering who the murderer could be… Jess, a student under strict instructions to keep her record clean or risk losing her scholarship, finds herself at the centre of the investigation when it’s revealed that Hugh died in the exact same way as a character in a short story she wrote.

And then Jess receives an anonymous text thanking her for the inspiration.

With time running out, Jess knows if she doesn’t solve this mystery she’ll finally have something in common with Hugh Henry.

She’ll be dead too.

Usborne

This Book Kills is a debut UKYA and bound to be one of the most gripping crime thrillers of 2023. I had the opportunity to ask the author, Ravena Guron, a few questions!

When you thought of a story inspiring a murder, did the murder come to you first or the school setting?

The school setting came first – I wanted to write a book set in a confined space, and the boarding school surroundings were perfect for that. The boarding school also fit in well with the themes of privilege and confidence that I wanted to explore in the book. The set-up for the murder, with the main character, Jess, writing a short story that is brought to life by the killer, came quite quickly after that. Inspiration was sparked by the school setting, because I started thinking about the classes Jess might be having, and how it would be quite easy for her to be assigned a short story to write… And what might happen if that piece of homework took a deadlier turn…

Were you a big writer at school?

I was! I was a massive bookworm, and that translated into wanting to write my own stories. I was very lucky to be taught by some really encouraging English teachers, who told me about short story competitions I could enter. As well as that, I also took part in First Story, which is a charity initiative that brings published authors into schools to work with teenagers from underrepresented communities. It was an incredible opportunity that I’m really grateful for and sparked lots of creativity in me.

Did you do any research into real boarding schools?

Yes! I wanted Heybuckle, the boarding school in This Book Kills, to feel really authentic. Luckily, I had a few friends who had gone to boarding school, or worked in a boarding school, and were willing to let me pick their brains. There were some elements where I knew I would need to use some creative license in order to make the story work, but I wanted things like the timetable to feel realistic, or what the students might be served for dinner… Just day-to-day aspects to make it feel like an actual school.

What kind of events would you like to do for the book (dream event and realistic, if they differ)?

I’d love to go to book festivals – like Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Hay Festival – they always look so incredible! And I went to YALC last year for the first time and had the most amazing day meeting other YA authors and readers – it would be an absolute dream to do a panel. I’d also love to do events at bookshops and libraries all around the country – explore different areas and meet readers all over. I’d love to do all the events!

Have you had much feedback from young readers?

Not yet, but now that I’m published I’m so incredibly excited for This Book Kills to find its way to teenagers!

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

I’ve just finished reading Daughter of Darkness by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr, which is a YA fantasy – it’s inspired by Greek mythology, and it’s super original. I’d recommend it to readers looking for a fast-paced and twisty read.

Can we expect more murders from you?

Yes you can! I’m currently working on my second book – I can’t say too much about it, but there’s murder galore and I’ve had so much fun writing in all the twists…

This Book Kills is out now in the UK from Usborne Books