There’s a lot of tweets out there today celebrating ‘World Book Day’, but it’s actually World Book Night, a celebration of books run by charity The Reading Agency, aimed at getting free books given to people who might not usually read, either through personal, one-to-one donations, or through donations to institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons. I love the initiative being put forward by The Reading Agency, as I think it’s really important to get people reading, and it’s a privilege many of us take for granted. In the spirit of World Book Night, I’m going to post a few short reviews of a few of my favourite books, both old and new, to try to cover a range of target audiences, so hopefully there will be something for everyone!
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
My first recommendation is for younger readers, and I will admit that it is a very popular series, so it’s unlikely to be the first time you’ve heard of this book, or the series it’s from, however, I loved the Percy Jackson books when I was younger. They’re fast paced, adventurous, and taught me a lot about the Greek gods (and the Roman gods, if you keep reading the books by Rick Riordan set in the same universe). Myth is incorporated very cleverly into the story, with a few modern twists placed on the classical tales. The books are funny, and develop likeable and believable characters, and then make some of them very unlikeable. Older readers may see the plot twists coming (I did not), but regardless, they’re gripping and really get you into the story, rooting for the main characters.
All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
All the Bright Places is aimed at a slightly older audience than Percy Jackson, as it deals with themes of sex, sexuality, mental health, suicide and death, though it takes these very heavy topics and addresses them respectfully, and keeps the primary message of the book positive. One of the protagonists has recently lost her older sister in a car crash, and the other is struggling with his mental health. Together, they embark upon a group project, and change each other’s lives in a variety of ways. This will make you laugh, and it will also make you cry, but it is worth it. I thought the idea they incorporate into their group project (trying not to include any spoilers…) was beautiful.
All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
More of an adult novel than the previous two mentioned, All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of a blind French girl living in Paris during the mid-20th Century. Disabled people are rarely represented in literature, which is partly why I was so interested to read this book. Marie-Laure’s story is touching, and the novel is a haunting picture of France during the Nazi invasion. The other protagonist in the novel, Werner, provides a perspective from the German side of the war, and his narrative adds tension to the story as his work becomes more and more dangerous, and brings him closer to Marie-Laure. While the novel is aimed at an adult audience, it would also be suitable for older teens.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
A darker read, The Secret History follows a group of classics students who’s lives are revealed to be much more sinister than you would realise upon first glance. Their lives become tangled up in a web of lies, their dark secrets constantly threatening to come to light, and they are forced to take drastic steps to prevent anything from coming to the surface that they would much rather keep hidden. As the protagonist gets more and more involved with the group, he becomes privy to more and more of their secrets, and begins to realise how troubled the group is. With themes of murder, sex, drugs and abuse, this is definitely the most adult book on the list, and shouldn’t be read by younger people.