Four books I read in June

I’ve read two books where a teenager has to navigate a post-apocalyptic England – and two queer romances. You can miss good books if you scorn teenage protagonists.

We live in a world contemplating disaster. Writing about after allows stories of humans under pressure, and it can ask questions about how we organise ourselves, what we would lose, and perhaps here and there, what we might gain.  They don’t have to be right wing power fantasies. Read more here.

A boy and his dog by C A Fletcher shows the British Isles largely depopulated.  Gris’s family only knows one or two other families, scattered across the whole Western Isles. A stranger steals his dog, among other things, and impetuous Gris sails after him. Step by step Fletcher puts Gris in increasing danger, in a haunting vision of a world largely without humans. The author has a brilliant way of foreshadowing disaster, in a way that makes what actually goes wrong a complete surprise, with at least one unforgivable twist, and he brings it to a staggering ending.

The Book of Koli by M R Carey starts in a post-apocalyptic Yorkshire, where an isolated village is slowly shrinking – births being fewer than deaths. Surrounded by carnivorous trees and other mutants, the community is ruled by those who can make old technology work. Koli challenges this and ends up expelled.  Carey delivers originality and imagination, his humane take on the world is accessible. This is the first of a trilogy, in which Koli must see if humanity is doomed to die out.

Red White and Royal Blue is fun – Alex is the adult son of the female President of the US and dislikes tall handsome Prince Henry of the British Royal Family. (It’s set in a world where Trump lost). Obviously, they’re going to end up in love but it’s good clean entertainment getting there. Spin, the obsessions of the modern media, and the stultifying nature of monarchy add to the mix. Many people firmly believe it is bad to read books that make you happy, and they also believe it must be easy to write them.  I’m not going to read this sort of thing every day but it’s very successful, and even drips in a positive political worldview.  Passionate love scenes are tasteful.

Felix Ever After follows black trans artist Felix at art school in Brooklyn, it is about his struggles with bullying, including aggressive deadnaming, and not knowing what he wants to do with his talent. The title warns you that he gets his stuff together, though it’s sharper and less obvious than Red White and Blue. We need an assertion of the basic humanity of trans people.

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