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Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé's Favourite Reads of 2021

Posted on 10th November 2021 by Anna Orhanen

We are delighted to have Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, the author of the bestselling, unputdownable high school thriller Ace of Spades, sharing her favourite books from 2021 with our readers. In addition to her top five reads, she reveals which book she'd most like to receive this Christmas.

There are so many amazing books published this year that I loved, ranging from memoirs and middle-grade fantasy, to illustrated anthologies! It was very difficult to choose only a handful of the best books, but here are five that I really loved and I think you will all love too (in no particular order).

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi

Dear Senthuran is a memoir told in letters addressed to Akwaeke Emezi’s loved ones, unpacking painful experiences, joy and sadness, all culminating in a powerful, beautifully-written memoir. Akwaeke Emezi has become one of my all-time favourite authors, with their books centring queer Black people and written in such an honest and vulnerable way that makes reading their work feel so personal and empowering. Dear Senthuran offers wisdom on relationships, the publishing industry, friendship, heartbreak, life and death; it is a timeless memoir and I know I will reread it over and over in the years to come.

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In this striking and passionate memoir, the author of The Death of Vivek Oji delivers a powerful meditation on identity, intimacy, imposed expectations and what it means to carve a future for oneself.
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Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is now one of my top YA romcoms ever. The story is set in Ireland and follows Humaira “Hani” Khan and Ishita “Ishu” Dey and their hilarious and heart-warming fake-dating adventures. The story combines my favourite things in a novel: sisterhood and uplifting happy ever afters, and I would recommend this book to anyone in need of warmth and a good laugh.

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Opposites attract in this delightful and touching queer YA novel in which two Bengali girls Hani and Ishu put on a fake relationship only to find out they get on really rather well.
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House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow is a deliciously eerie story about three sisters, Iris, Grey and Vivi. After disappearing one night as children, the sisters return days later completely different from their previous selves – with alterations to their appearances, their personalities and even their memories. But it isn’t only them who have changed; the world and their loved ones react to them differently too. With haunting writing that makes it impossible to not only sleep at night but to also put this book down, Sutherland has written an unforgettable story about sisterhood and the darkness tucked away inside us all.

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Deliciously eerie and unsettling and blessed with a haunting gothic atmosphere, House of Hollow centres on the mysterious disappearance – and even more mysterious reappearance – of three glamorous sisters possessed of a chilling charisma.
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Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night Brothers is a phenomenal new middle-grade fantasy series that follows thirteen-year-old Amari Peters who, after the disappearance of her older brother Quinton, discovers a strange suitcase in his bedroom, and a whole new magical world hidden in plain sight. This story is so imaginative and delightful! Amari is one of my favourite characters ever and I wish I had this book growing up! I see this story becoming an instant classic in the middle-grade fantasy genre and I can’t wait to see what else Amari has in store for us when the second book releases in April 2022.

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A rip-roaring supernatural adventure with a lovable lead character, Alston’s gripping debut features a missing brother, a sinister organisation and a thoroughly evil magician.
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Grown by Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A. Carter

Grown is best described as a book-shaped hug from Black women to Black girls, acting as a support system for those of us who desperately need one. The book details everything from books by Black women to nourish your young mind, to much needed advice on health that often isn’t covered in schools. Melissa and Natalie provide an excellent guide to growing up and this book needs to be in classrooms and libraries all over the world.

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Featuring contributions from Diane Abbot, Candice Carty Williams and many more inspirational Black women, Grown is the ultimate handbook for getting to grips with issues such as identity, prejudice and ambition in a positive and empowering manner.
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And lastly, a book I would absolutely love to receive for Christmas:

Hey You! by Dapo Adeola et al.

Hey You! is a picture book anthology written by Dapo Adeola and illustrated by Dapo himself, alongside eighteen other incredible Black illustrators, including Kingsley Nebechi, who illustrated the UK edition of Ace of Spades! The story is a celebration of growing up Black, from the joy of family and friends and the celebration of the Black imagination, to the recognition of the Black historical figures that made it possible for Black people to be great today. Hey You! is an unforgettable anthology that would make the perfect Christmas gift for children and adults alike from all walks of life looking for a story that is as light-hearted and as magical as Christmas.

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Former recipient of the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year award Dapo Adeola crafts a tender and inspiring picture book about growing up Black, incorporating stunning artwork from eighteen illustrators of colour.
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