My first intermediate suggestion is Matt Whyman’s Boy Kills Man – a book I’ve been shouting about since it was first published. It’s longer than the first two, but very easy to read and utterly brilliant. Shorty and Alberto are young teenagers who live in Colombia, in extreme poverty. They are blood brothers and would do anything for each other. But life is hard, and when Alberto goes to work for a gang, Shorty is left alone in a world of drugs, guns and gang violence. As Life goes from bad to worse, Shorty has to face up to his future, even if it’s one he doesn’t want. This is one of my favourite young adult books, ever. Although longer, it’s also a fast read and leaves you feeling stunned and saddened. Don’t be fooled by the age of the characters either – this is a shocking, in-your-face read that pulls no punches. It’s been around for a while but is well worth searching out.
My second intermediate choice is another classic British teen novel from Melvyn Burgess. It’s called Junk (Smack in later versions) and has been around since 1997. Melvyn is another fantastic writer, and Junk is simply brilliant. Tar and Gemma are in love with each other, and soon they fall in love with heroin too. As they grow more addicted, their world begins to fall apart. Finding any excuse not to kick their habit, they fall further and further, until a shocking end. But they are not stereotypes and the book doesn’t preach to anyone. Tar and Gemma, and their friends are real – they speak, act and think like genuine, regular people, and their problems are presented honestly. It is probably the most important teenage book of the past twenty-five years. A book that changed the way people in the UK thought about fiction for teenagers and young adults. But, despite being all of that, it is easy to read and follow, and brutally direct. It’s a book that everyone should read, and it will leave you wanting more. I wish I had written it!
5 January 2016