I am very pleased to welcome Susie Day to Library Mice today to celebrate the release of her latest teen book, The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones.
On her thirteenth birthday, Blue makes a desperate wish. To be transformed into a cool, confident teenager. Enter Red, appearing from nowhere like a wacky fairy godmother. She’s only visible to Blue – in fact, she IS Blue, but a year older. With Red by her side to guide her, Blue can avoid all the gruesome embarrassments! But her future self causes a heap of crazy trouble – and there are dark secrets she’s not telling…
EVERYDAY STORIES WITH A TWIST
But I adorecontemporary YA that takes one little sidestep into the impossible. Books that add one ingredient of magic to the real-life recipe can sometimes show reality even more acutely. It’s a commonplace in film: think Freaky Friday, where a warring mum and daughter swap bodies, or 13 Going on 30, where a teen girl gets her dream adult life. I call it ‘Sidestep Contemporary’. The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones – in which 13-year-old Bluebell gets an unexpected invisible friend for the summer: herself aged 14, full of advice about what not to do – definitely falls into that category.
Here are some of my favourites.
Luisa Plaja is the absolute queen of Sidestep Contemporary: high-concept, clever, funny stories filled with real recognisable teens. I could’ve picked all her books (I love the parallel lives of Josie/Jo in Split by a Kiss), but KISS DATE LOVE HATE might be my favourite. Best mates Lex and George test a new Sims-style computer game, and discover they can control their friends’ real lives – and their own – by changing the settings. In amongst the touching romance and wit is a sharp-eyed take on how we choose to present ourselves to others, and a perfectly-gauged character twist.
This book is for younger readers, age 9+, but it shares a few elements with Bluebell Jones – so if you know a pre-teen who you think might not be ready for Blue’s story (which is aimed at teens, not really for readers under 11), send them Liz’s way! Jenni sees her sparky, dynamic friend Autumn every year at the same holiday complex – but suddenly Jenni is transported one year into the future, and a family tragedy has changed everything. There are so many smart touches here that capture the uncertainty of adolescence: Jenni’s discomfort at her body changing as she skips forward in time; her total lack of control over huge life events around her.