Once again librarians from our Reading and Learning Teams have been busy promoting Cover Story our annual pick of the most exciting teen fiction reads published throughout the last year.

Our librarians have also been visiting Year 7 classes in secondary schools across the borough to promote the book review competition. Our ten favourite recommendations will each win a £20 High Street Gift Voucher and be invited to a special event attended by Tom Easton, author of the side-splitting Girls Can’t Hit.

The competition is also an opportunity for us to discover what books our teenage borrowers are enjoying. Our issue figures tell us what people are borrowing, Cover Story tells us what they’re enjoying. Last year we received over 500 reviews so it’s a significant task to read them all and select the winners.

Old favourites

The reviews and recommendations submitted range from old favourites to the latest hot-off-the-shelf new teen series. Looking through the reviews received from young people over the last few years, there are a number of literary classics which pop up again and again. Titles like The Hobbit, Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down and The Diary of Anne Frank remain ever popular.

We always receive several reviews of Roald Dahl’s books too, though the specific titles differ from year to year. Even after decades of reading Dahl’s books myself, and more recently sifting through countless reviews as part of the Cover Story promotion, I still haven’t been able to decide on a personal favourite. As a child it was always The Twits (it was the worms/spaghetti trick that did it for me), so perhaps I should just stick with that.

Classic detective stories seem to have made a bit of a surprise comeback this year, with several recommendations coming in for Agatha Christie’s 1959 Poirot story, Cat Among the Pigeons, as well as for a variety of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes escapades. It’s the little grey cells, you see.

Modern classics

There are lots of contemporary authors, many of whom have written modern classics of their own, that get recommended every year too. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (who killed Wellington?!) is still hugely popular. So is Louis Sachar’s Holes, thought-provoking and terrifically good fun, and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a heart breaking novel about the Holocaust written by Irish author John Boyne.


New kids on the block

Holly Smale’s Geek Girl remains in-demand at the moment, as are the books of Phil Earle and Sophie McKenzie and Neil Gaiman’s creepy Coraline (shudder). One writer whose books are the subject of lots of reviews this year is the comedian and actor David Walliams. He first appeared on the children’s fiction scene in 2008 with The Boy in the Dress. Now he has eleven novels to his name! This year alone we’ve received reviews for Walliams’s Awful Auntie (don’t worry, it’s not my aunty Fidelma’s log-threatened autobiography), Bad Dad, Gangsta Granny, The Midnight Gang and Grandpa’s Great Escape.  I wonder what David’s real-life family are like?

Our favourite series

Both teenagers and book publishers love a good series and that’s always apparent when reading the reviews submitted each year. From the entries received I can see that Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, a paranormal urban fantasy seems to be the most popular so far. Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson and the Olympians follow closely behind. It goes without saying that the Harry Potter series is still popular too. I’ve noticed a drop in reviews for some of the older dystopian series like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.

Escape and explore

So what can we learn from all this? That we’re buying the right titles for our teen and young adult readers. Ensuring that we meet the demand for their current tastes and helping to extend their reading into new, uncharted and rewarding directions. Mostly though it tells us that young people in the borough love books and reading! Which reminds me, I never did get round to reading Agatha’s Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons

Visit the Cover Story webpage and see which books we’ve chosen.

Read more about Cover Story

[Colm O’Reilly, Librarian]