The Residue Years by Mitchell S Jackson is published in ebook by Dialogue Books, priced £10.99 (hardback available August).

Champ, an ambitious young black man, is coming of age in Portland, Oregon - arguably America's whitest city. It is the 1990s and the crack cocaine epidemic is ripping through the lives of those who already face a multitude of disadvantages. First published in the States in 2013, Mitchell S Jackson's traumatic debut novel is written in a heightened, lyrical prose style inspired by the local vernacular. He brings to his narrative not just first-hand experience, but a profound compassion for the deadbeat dads, neglectful mothers, pimps, whores and dealers whose chaotic, intersecting lives form the basis of the story. It's a world lacking not in love, but in consistency and stability. A world where your best friend can be your nemesis. And if you've ever wondered, with exasperation, why kids raised on the edge can make detrimental life choices, this novel goes a long way to providing some answers.

Review by Liz Ryan

The Switch by Beth O'Leary is published in hardback by Quercus, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.49).

As a self-confessed chick-lit fan, I was surprised to realise I hadn't read Beth O'Leary's debut novel, The Flatshare - and even more so after devouring her second book, The Switch. The story follows grandmother, Eileen Cotton, and granddaughter, Leena, as they swap lives for two months. Leena, who is struggling to deal with her sister's death, has some much-needed rest from her city job, and takes over a small cottage in a quiet Yorkshire village, while newly single Eileen moves to London and discovers casual dating. It makes for a warm, witty, weepy - if a little predictable - read, as both women face challenges, but also learn a lot about themselves along the way. Some could argue the writing is a little too cheesy at times, but when the characters are so likeable, I would argue that doesn't matter. This book is a fun way to while away some hours during lockdown, and left me thinking that, when life returns to 'normal', we should take the chance to make any changes we've been putting off.

Review by Georgia Humphries

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers is published in ebook by Hodder and Stoughton, priced £13.99 (hardback available August).

When everything currently seems to be precursored by the phrase, 'In these unprecedented times...' the world of Carole Stivers' novel, The Mother Code suddenly doesn't quite seem so impossible. In the not too distant future on Earth, the human race is at risk, there is a mysterious illness - presenting with flu-like symptoms. With the aim of wiping out a terrorist cell, and leaving no evidence, the US government funded research into weaponising a virus. After secretly testing a bioweapon named IC-NAN in the desert, it spreads across the country. Flashforward to 2060. Humankind's survival is in the hands of a generation of genetically engineered youngsters born to, and raised by, machines, following the Mother Code. But as the children mature, so do the machines. Has the government made another mistake in trying to safeguard future on Earth? The Mother Code is a dystopian tale for all, which is scarily relevant right now.

Review by Rachel Howdle


The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller is published in hardback by Atria Books, priced £20 (ebook £11.99).

A new genre of self-meets-community-help has formed. Its premise is that our fragmented, polluted or overburdened world reflects our own psychological fragmentation, emotional toxicity or over-commitment to others. We need to heal, cleanse or learn to just say no. And so it is with The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan. There's always a few key ingredients for books like these: the moment of truth (plastic trash on a beach); the humble truth (lessons from a Nepalese village); the tasks (exercising the three Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - and adding a few more, like 'refuse'); the unpacking (the different meanings of 'refuse') and promises of abundance (join a Buy Nothing group; you may meet your future spouse - and have the wedding supplied by neighbours). At times it borders on patronising (such as donating scratched sunglasses to Nepal), and there are tips to avoid - like reusing empty crisp packets as gift bags. Plus, there's the irony of paying for a book about not buying anything. For those looking for it, this book may well offer that elusive Something, but much of it is common sense.

Review by Nicole Whitton


Be Plastic Clever by Amy and Ella Meek is published in paperback by DK, priced £6.99.

Though Amy and Ella Meek are only 16 and 14 years old, they already have years of eco-activism experience as the founders of the Kids Against Plastic campaign. Inspired by the UN's Global Goals For Sustainable Development, what initially started as a home-school project has since turned into an award-winning charity that has reached many, many schools and businesses and resulted in over 60,000 pieces of plastic being collected to date. The sisters' new book is an informative introduction to the issue of plastic pollution and how each of us can do our bit. Along with sections on the history of plastics and the different types, there's loads of practical ideas and advice on how to get involved and start your own projects to help rid the world of single-use plastics. With an introduction by wildlife presenter Steve Backshall, and diary entries relating the sister's own journey into activism, this book is a motivating and inspiring read that will help young people learn about the dangers of plastic pollution and what they can do about it.

(Review by Poppy Brotzel)