Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton: February’s Book of the Month in-depth – review and a writing activity adaptable for KS3-5

Age range: YA (12+) Themes: identity, diversity/ethnicity/race, protest & politics Genre: fantasy + western  Narrative style: first-person past tense with plenty of pace and an engaging voice with plenty of ‘sass’ and wit. It’s really easy to root for Amani as she tries desperately to escape her situation by dressing as a boy and entering a shooting […]

Introducing February’s Book of the Month: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (including GCSE Language prep task on inference)

This fantasy YA novel opens a glorious trilogy (the final instalment has just published this week) exploring identity, loyalty and other eternal themes relating to the classic battles between good and evil. As with many other books I’ve recommended, I love and recommend this series for its genuine feminist principles – not just a ‘strong […]

Asking For It: Review and A Level Language NEA Original Writing Practice Task (Book of the Month in depth)

Age range: upper YA (14+) Themes: justice, gender, rape culture, social media Genre: contemporary Narrative style: first-person present tense; structurally separated into ‘last year’ and ‘this year’ (although all is expressed in present tense) This is a punchily-written contemporary novel which explores the lead up to and aftermath of a gang rape of a teen girl at […]

Introducing January’s Book of the Month: Asking For It by Louise O’ Neill (including A Level Lang classroom/homework task)

This contemporary YA novel is a sharply written introduction to the complexity of sexual consent issues, particularly around intoxication. It also explores how victims and culprits are treated in social media and school hallways, often in harrowing detail. (It’s probably worth pointing out here that there are graphic aspects to this novel and it isn’t suitable […]

The Sin Eater’s Daughter Review and GCSE language analysis practice task (Book of the Month in-depth)

Age range: YA (12+) Themes: folklore, justice, truth, fairness Genre: high fantasy/second-world fantasy Narrative style: first-person present tense (with passages in past tense as she provides backstory/history) and often lyrical. This is the first in a trilogy set in a fantasy world with a clearly-defined religion/folklore system which is explored and questioned through the books. […]

Introducing December’s Book of the Month: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (including GCSE English Language practice task)

This YA novel is a fantasy with a large scope set in a beautifully-realised second world. It’s a great choice for contemporary teens, particularly as it’s written with a strong feminist sensibility. This includes some great examples of female community and relationships, as we move through the trilogy. Beautiful writing and themes of duty, sacrifice […]

The State of Grace Review and Lesson Ideas for KS3, GCSE and A Level Lang on Gender representation (Book of the Month in-depth)

Age Range: 12+ (according to publisher’s website; I would happily use this throughout the secondary school – plenty to engage older teens, nothing ‘unsuitable’ for yr7/8, although they will be less interested in the romance aspects) Themes: family, friends, being different, romance Narrative style and genre: Strong first-person narration plants you firmly in Grace’s world […]

Introducing November’s Book of the Month: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas (including GCSE English Lang teaching idea)

This gorgeous YA novel, focusing on Grace’s normal teen issues, handled in her atypical way, is a brilliant #ownvoices look at Asperger’s. Grace’s way of engaging with the world is clearly filtered through the symptoms and differences she experiences and these are rendered crystal-clear for the reader right from the start. The plot deals with […]

The Hate U Give Review and GCSE Resources (Book of the Month In-Depth)

Age range: YA (12+) Themes:  race, equality, justice Narrative style and genre: The novel is contemporary YA, told in first person present tense to maximise immediacy and tension. The blurb tells us that Starr’s unarmed best friend is shot by police, so this comes as no surprise in chapter two, but everything up to this […]

Introducing October’s Book of the Month: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (including A Level Language teaching idea)

This YA novel, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement is a great contemporary pick for Black History Month. It tells the story of Starr, a 16 year-old girl, who is with her friend Khalil when he is shot by a policeman after being pulled over (this is not a spoiler – it happens in […]

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