genre young adult

The Happy City

“‘I feel terrible. Although he doesn't say it, I know he had been hoping the whole time that I would explain it all somehow; but I can't explain it, because I don't understand anything.’ These disturbing words, almost a distillation of the entire text, close the novel The Happy City by Elvira Navarro, who featured in Granta’s The Best of Young Spanish-language Novelists issue in 2010.

The stories of Chi-Huei—a Chinese boy whose family has come to Spain in search of a better life—and his friend Sara—a girl strangely fascinated by a homeless man—comprise two separate yet complementary sections, presenting the reader with a detailed account of their life circumstances and the nuances of their perspectives: the genuine, as-yet untamed voices through which the book’s pre-adolescent protagonists negotiate the world around them, their initial astonishment finally turning to frustration as they gaze upon their dehumanized society.

A pre-teen’s first faltering steps towards sexuality, social pressures, the way polarized outlooks on life coexist at the core of the same family, those first experiences of disillusionment as we awaken into the adult world: these are some of the themes that Navarro lays out for her readers in order to reveal, with razor-sharp control, the constant duality that exists between the outward appearance of things and their inner reality.”

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Good Morning Comrades

This slim novel was written by “one of the most important writers in the history of African literature” who has received numerous awards including the José Saramago Prize, & Grinzane Prize in addition to his inclusion as one of only 39 African writers in Africa39 as well as a the Guardian’s “Top Five African Writers”.

"Good Morning Comrades is a charming novel, subtle in its examination of the political difficulties of a small, poorly known African nation. Well recommended." -Damian Kelleher

“Luanda, Angola, 1990. Ndalu is a normal twelve-year old boy in an extraordinary time and place. Like his friends, he enjoys laughing at his teachers, avoiding homework and telling tall tales. But Ndalu's teachers are Cuban, his homework assignments include writing essays on the role of the workers and peasants, and the tall tales he and his friends tell are about a criminal gang called Empty Crate which specializes in attacking schools. Ndalu is mystified by the family servant, Comrade Antonio, who thinks that Angola worked better when it was a colony of Portugal, and by his Aunt Dada, who lives in Portugal and doesn't know what a ration card is. In a charming voice that is completely original, Good Morning Comrades tells the story of a group of friends who create a perfect childhood in a revolutionary socialist country fighting a bitter war. But the world is changing around these children, and like all childhood's Ndalu's cannot last. An internationally acclaimed novel, already published in half a dozen countries, Good Morning Comrades is an unforgettable work of fiction.”

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Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret

Shortlisted for the São Paulo Prize for Literature - Best Book of the Year & longlisted for the Best Translated Book Awards

Written by “one of the most important writers in the history of African literature” who has received numerous awards including the José Saramago Prize, & Grinzane Prize in addition to his inclusion as one of only 39 African writers in Africa39 as well as a the Guardian’s “Top Five African Writers” list.

“Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret is one of those rare charming novels full of spirit, humor and the craziness of politics, and power’s effect on its victims. It’s not often that a gem like this can be delivered through the voice of a young boy in such a whimsical way.” - Best Translated Book Awards

”By the beaches of Luanda, the Soviets are building a grand mausoleum in honour of the Comrade President. Granmas are whispering: houses, they say, will be dexploded, and everyone will have to leave. With the help of his friends Charlita and Pi (whom everyone calls 3.14), and with assistance from Dr. Rafael KnockKnock, the Comrade Gas Jockey, the amorous Gudafterov, crazy Sea Foam, and a ghost, our young hero must decide exactly how much trouble he’s willing to face to keep his Granma safe in Bishop’s Beach.

Energetic and colourful, impish and playful, Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret is a charming coming-of-age story from the next rising star in African literature.”

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The Dragon Seller

“Dystopian science fiction meets the most beloved fantasy creatures! In a future where dragons are real and live in our homes as pets, a young dragon breeder finds the egg of a unique species and tries to raise it.

As the drought of the century hits the United States, legendary creatures appear on Earth: Dragons. Like one of the famous tv commercials says: ‘Thanks to advancements in genetic engineering, Dragons are finally out of myth, and in your local pet stores!’

From playful Outbacks to unpredictable Jade Tangs, these little dragons usually don't burn much, they love fruit and don't molest young virgins. But they are still monsters, and Jack Ports knows this very well. He sells all kinds of varieties in his Flight Garden including the most dangerous of all: the American Mustang, a species of battle dragon created by a failed experiment of the U.S. Navy.

Dumped by his fiancée before the wedding and short on cash, Jack just wants to put his life back together, but after a colleague mysteriously disappears, he finds himself with a dragon egg of unknown origins. Set on raising it, Jack discovers that the egg contains a Primus, the first dragon of a new species, whose genes hide a secret that many men are looking for. And some are willing to kill to have it."

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The Neverending Story

If you’ve only seen the movies, you’ll be astonished by how exponentially better the story actually is & how easily you’ll be swept away. It’s breathtaking originality has ensured that the novel continued to top a huge variety of bestseller lists for many years & consistently won awards.

"Every once in a blue moon, a book captures the imagination, providing a portal into magical places unknown. So it is with The Neverending Story.

Unicorns, dragons, sprites, will-o’-the-wisps: the inhabitants of an enchanted world. And into this world – through the pages of an old book – ventures a lonely boy named Bastian. But this land is slowly decaying, its Childlike Empress dying. Only a real human can set things right. Bastian takes up the challenge, and finds himself crossing the Swamps of Sadness and the Silver Mountains, meeting sorcerers and giants, bats and night-hobs, gnomes and racing snails. As he journeys bravely toward the Ivory Tower, Bastian’s quest is filled with all the wonders of myth and fairy tale. It is a fantasy adventure that will capture your heart – and recapture the magical dreams of childhood.”

"An instantaneous leap into the magical . . . Energetic, innovative, and perceptive."
The Washington Post

"A trumpet blast for the imagination." — Sunday Times

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HWJN (aka Hawjan)

HWJN or Hawjan as it's sometimes known was the #1 selling Saudi novel in until it was banned for blasphemy. 

The Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue & Prevention of Vice raided bookshops pulling the book from the shelves because it treats jinn as beings that co-exist with humanity, & tells of a romance between a human & a jinn. (In Arabian mythology, a jinn is an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels, able to appear in human & animal forms & to possess humans.) Translated into other languages, the book has become a favorite around the world & is now again available for purchase in Saudi Arabia.

"People often listen to the legends of spirits and genies (jinn) with awe and horror, but this story is different and redefines our understanding of the jinn world. Hawjan is a young jinni is in his early nineties who lives in a world which exists parallel to ours. As human populations expand, Hawjan and his family find their village invaded by the parallel human dimension forcing them to live in a villa now haunted by humans. Hawjan’s efforts to avoid the human family fail and he finds himself madly in love with Sawsan, a medical student who is gentle and brilliant...but also barely a quarter of his age and human. 

Living in a different dimension, Hawjan is unable to let Sawsan know about his feelings until he learns how to communicate with her through the Ouija board. He then discovers she has brain cancer. As Sawsan's health deteriorates, her father becomes easy prey for a sorcerer who tricks him into believing that Sawsan’s illness is the result of the "devils" who haunt their villa. A deadly battle ensues. Eyad, a colleague of Sawsan agrees to allow Hawjan to posses him in order to help save Sawsan & her family. But who will win?"

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The Head of the Saint

"A 2017 LA Times Book Prize Finalist

A quirky story of love, mischief, and forgiveness from Brazil’s foremost award-winning author for young readers, in her U.S. debut. 
 
Fourteen-year-old Samuel is newly orphaned and homeless in a small town in Brazil. He lives in a giant, hollow, concrete head of St. Anthony, the lingering evidence of the village’s inept and failed attempt to build a monolith over a decade ago. He didn’t know what it was when he crawled into it, seeking shelter during a storm, but since coming there, he hears beautiful singing, echoing like magic in the head twice a day. So he stays.

Miraculously, he can also hear the private prayers and longings of the villagers. Feeling mischievous, Samuel begins to help answer these prayers, hoping that if he does, their noise will quiet down and he can listen to the beautiful singing in peace. Ironically, his miracles gain him so many fans that he starts to worry he will never fulfill his own true longing and find the source of the singing. 
 
Filled with beautiful turns of phrase and wonderfully quirky characters, The Head of the Saint is a riotous story of faith and magic that won’t soon leave your thoughts."

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Ruby Red

Translated by Anthea Bell, the foremost translator of German literature in the world. And she thinks Ruby Red is just "charming!"

"'This book was so much fun! Magic, romance, and time travel. A great start to a series that will appeal to the awkward adventurer in all of us.' -Diana DeVault

'Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth who, in the middle of class, takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.'"

(I usually don't like YA, but this trilogy was a great set of light, fun reads. The narration is also good if you get it in audiobook form.)

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