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…


I love contemporary YA. Real stories, set right now, about teenagers doing everyday things like falling in love for the first time, or figuring out who they are; all those things that aren’t remotely everyday when they happen to you.

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.

Kiss Date Love Hate
Luisa Plaja

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.

Fly on the Wall
E Lockhart

Geeky arty Gretchen Yee is intrigued by the boys at school: what do theytalk about when the girls aren’t around? The backstory here is wonderful – Gretchen’s middle-class Chinese-American parents are divorcing, and she’s torn between supporting them and fighting for her own needs – but once she’s transformed into a literal fly on the wall of the boys’ locker room, the book really begins to nudge at her (and the reader’s) assumptions. It’s chockfull of honesty about bodies, difference, the kind of stuff that teenagers need to know that it’s ok to wonder about – and there’s a fabulous feminist cap to the story too.

My So-Called Afterlife
Tamsyn Murray

“I knew it was time to move on when a tramp peed on my Uggs.” You can’t top an opening line like that. Lucy is your average teen girl – except she’s dead. Lucy is a ghost, and she’s got to work out whether romancing ghostly boys or taking revenge on her murderer is her top priority. I’m a massive fan of the TV show Being Human, but I always felt they wasted Annie as a character. Lucy Shaw fills that gap up for me perfectly.

A Year Without Autumn
 Liz Kessler

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.

Are you a fan of Sidestep Contemporary? Tell me what I’m missing from the list!