Hello May Hitlist

An oldie, but a goodie. My So-Called Life is on the hitlist (in a good way) for May.

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Home alone

Joe All Alone coverWhat if your mum went on holiday with her boyfriend for a week and left you home alone? What if it meant you got to play Xbox for hours on end and eat Mars bars for breakfast and jump on the furniture with our anyone throwing insults or punches? What if it meant you got to make friends with the girl across the hall and set out across Peckham like you’re Tom Sawyer and Huck on an adventure?

But what if the school hard case is after you for money? And what if the estate hard cases are after your mum’s boyfriend? And what if your mum doesn’t come back?

This is what happens to 13-year-old Joe. And here is how it begins…

Friday 24th May

I should know something’s up right from the off, because when I get in Dean isn’t on the sofa playing X-Box there’s just that big dip there instead and a stain from where he spilt Cherry 20/20 that time. And Mum has this smile on her like she’s on a TV game show, all stretched so wide you think her face is going to crack. And then she gives me a Mars bar and we haven’t had them in yonks. But my head’s too busy being happy that it’s the last day of school which means no Perry Fletcher for a whole week, and that I get a chocolate bar instead of a biscuit or bread and marg, and that I can play X-Box without getting kicked off or kicked. So it’s not until Dean comes back four hours later with his breath all sour and two plane tickets in his hand that I know any better.

            “Think of it like a holiday,” Mum says.

            And I try, but I can’t. Because there are too many other thoughts all saying stuff like, Who goes on holiday to Peckham? To their own flat? Not anyone I know, that’s for sure. Stacey Hale went to Disneyland last Christmas. And Kyle Hoskins went to Malaga yesterday with his mum and stepdad, even though Mr Pruitt sent a letter home saying it was breaking school rules when they did it in the summer.

            “Why can’t I come with you?” I ask.

            She looks down, starts scratching at a patch of dried-out tinned spaghetti. “We can’t afford it, love,” she says. Then she looks up again. “And Dean’s got a little job while we’re out there. You don’t want to be hanging around while he’s working, do you.”

            I shrug and wonder what she’ll be doing when Dean’s working, and what the little job actually is. If it’s carrying bricks like he does sometimes for Chinese Tony, or something else.  

            Then I remember something Bradley said, about when his mum and dad went to see his Aunty Reenie in Cyprus that time. “Nan could come,” I say. “She could stay here and look after me.”

            “Don’t be daft.” Mum tries to laugh, but it comes out all mangled, like a choking noise.

            “I’m not. I just don’t get––” But I don’t finish the sentence because Dean has got something to say. Dean’s always got something to say.

“––You don’t need your nan. You don’t need anyone. It’s only a week and you’re thirteen not flaming three.” He’s back in the hollow on the sofa with his Bensons and his beer and the joystick in his hands. He shoots at something and ash falls from a cigarette onto his crotch. “Christ, when I was your age I was living in the caravan, working down the pier and smoking twenty a day.”

            Mum swears at him when he says that but Dean just laughs. “Welcome to the real world, son.”

            I’m not your son, I think. And it’s not up to you, it’s up to Mum.

But that’s not true and we all know it.

“Dean’s right, love. You’ll be okay, won’t you?”

She’s up in my face now, so close I can see those pores like little pinholes in her nose where I used to think the rain would get in. And I can smell that her breath is sour too and see her smile is thinner. And I know she needs more than anything for me to say yes so I say it.


            “Good boy.”

            And when she says that I feel a rush of warmth in my stomach like syrup on Ready Brek and I know I’ve done the right thing.

 And the more I think about it now the more I reckon it’s like being in a book or a film or something. Like I’m Tom Sawyer. Or Huckleberry Finn even, all on my own, lighting out for the territory. Mum read me that book three times even though it’s three hundred and sixty-eight pages long. She wasn’t keen because it took three months to do them all but I begged and begged and in the end she gave in. Only the book got taken to the charity shop with my old clothes when we moved here because Dean said if I’d already heard it all what was the point of keeping it. Mum hasn’t read me anything since but Dean says that’s because I’m not a little kid.

And Dean’s right: I’m not a little kid, I’m not three, I’m thirteen, just like Huck was, so I don’t need a babysitter. And everyone at school says this kid Dane Fenwick was on his own in Chelsea House for two days when his Mum had Letisha and that was when we were only eleven. Plus it’s just for a week. That’s only five days more than Dane. And they’ll back in the blink of an eye, Mum said. Back before I know it.

            It’ll be like an adventure, she said.

            A holiday and an adventure.

Only without the Mississippi or a boat or Tom Sawyer at my side.

Joe All Alone is published by Little,  Brown on Thursday 4th May, and you can order the paperback, or download the eBook via Hive

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Countdown to 7 May

Joe All Alone coverIn less than two weeks, on the 7th May, the most important day for the last and next five years will be on us. Yes, it’s the release of a whole host of YA and MG novels, including my very own Joe All Alone. Left home alone when his mum and her skeezy boyfriend fly off to Spain, Joe is at first delighted with his freedom, and makes friends with Asha across the hall in his block, who’s hiding out at her Grandfather’s flat. Together they explore Peckham and their own relationship. But then the money runs out and the net closes in – thrown by school bullies, and Dean’s dodgy mates – and Joe has to make the biggest decision of his life.

It’s not an easy read – it’s bleak and brutal in parts. But, as the writer Rhian Ivory points out in her review, it does offer some big, fat HOPE, which we can all use some of. Also biscuits, parakeets and a kiss. And, frankly, I am a huge fan of all of those.

If you want to know more about me, and the story behind Joe, the lovely Sophie Waters has blogged over at So Little Time For Books.

And then I urge you to vote – with your book-buying or -borrowing power. You know it’s the right thing to do…

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Reading is where the wild things are

me readingI’ve been asked to say something inspirational to children at a friend’s primary school who may be aspiring writers. And so I thought about all the tips I would have given myself at that age. Only at that age I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to work at all. I was too busy reading. I wanted to be IN a book, not make one. I wasn’t lazy, I was just otherwise occupied.

Only the thing is, it paid off. I’m not a writer because I had a burning ambition aged 6 to be Joan Aiken. I wanted to be Arabel, or, better, Mortimer the raven. Or Heidi. Or George in the Famous Five. And so I managed to come up with some words that said this. And more. These are the words:

“I never tried hard to be a writer when I was young. I was too busy being a reader. And that’s my advice: eat, breathe and sleep books. Drink those stories in until you are full, and then the next day, start again. That way, you will know how a good story works, and that is what makes a writer. Not spelling, not punctuation, not knowing when to use a CAPITAL letter. Stories are where the world starts and ends. Stories are life. Stories are where the WILD things are. So go hunt some down.”

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The forerunner to Eden, previously published as Paradise, this is being rereleased today in paperback and ebook.

Joanna Nadin

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 13.18.06Undertow began on a blistering August day on the cliffs above Loe Bar in Cornwall, notorious for its riptides and dangerous currents. But as summer turned to bleak midwinter, and I watched a friend dragged down by the weight of depression, the book took a darker turn too. It was published a few years ago as Paradise, but it’s being rereleased today with its original title, and a new cover.

“We all have secrets… Monstrous things: skeletons locked in cupboards… Waiting to be found. Or to find us.”

Billie is desperate to find the father she’s never met. But moving back to her mother’s childhood home after Billie’s grandfather dies dredges up secrets – and Billie soon discovers that people may die, but the past lives forever. And some secrets are best left alone.


We all have secrets.

Like not liking your best friend that much. But you…

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Blowing my own trumpet

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 13.12.37No one likes to blow their own trumpet. Bar Katie Hopkins and Ornette Coleman maybe. But sometimes, a whole raft of people say a whole raft of nice things and you want to shout out to the world “See, I’m not the weird maths geek in the jumbo cord dungarees corner. I do words!” Okay so “not just the weird maths geek…” would be more accurate. But that aside, here are all the lovely things people have said about Eden. Because, well, now it’s not just me telling you to read it, is it…


‘It’s the combination of skilful writing, acute intelligence and empathy for the agonies and issues of being an adolescent that makes Nadin’s books so popular with teenage girls.’
(Daily Mail)

The emotional intensity of teenage love, desire and insecurity is brilliantly portrayed and Nadin’s control of the unfolding, tense mystery is flawless.’
(Daily Mail)

‘Eden has undertones of Rebecca… grief, guilt and gorgeous narrative voice make this a memorable psychological suspense novel’
(New Statesman)

‘Breathtaking – one of the finest pieces of young adult writing I’ve ever come across.’
(Anthony McGowan)

‘Lyrical, evocative, tense and utterly un-putdownable, Eden is a modern day Rebecca. One of the best books I have read in years.’
(Catherine Bruton)

‘I devoured Eden in hungry gulps, unable to put it down, just the way I read as a teenager. It’s thrilling, compulsive, beautifully written and powerful in its evocation of a person, and a place… A gripping story that will haunt the reader for a long time after the last page is turned.’
(Julia Green)

‘Heart-stopping, unsettling and utterly beautiful.’
(Liz Bankes)

“Amazing. Unexpected, powerful… just wow.”
(Cathy Cassidy)

Which, like, I KNOW!

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Joanna Nadin

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 13.12.37Mostly I write funny. It comes easy to me – making people laugh has always seemed to make up for any lack of appropriate clothing, political knowledge, or ability on the hockey field. But I don’t always read funny or think funny. And every so often the darker, stranger, and more dangerous thoughts push up like butterflies from inside, and take the form of a book. This time it’s in the shape of Eden, which is a love letter to Cornwall, to 1988, to the Smiths, to New Cross and Manchester back streets, to Daphne du Maurier, and to turning 18 that long, hot summer. It’s published in July by Walker, but they’ve released the cover and an extract (and new covers for Wonderland and Paradise, which I’ll post over the next few days). So here they are. I hope you like them, as these, of all the things I’ve…

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