Hi friends- long time, no talk. I feel like I am preaching to the choir when I say that this pandemic has wrought havoc on both my ability to read and my ability to write, so sadly my blog has been rather barren.
But pals, I’m hoping that slump has ended and that I’ll be able to post more regularly here! I love making book lists, so I thought I’d shake off the writing cobwebs with one!
If you’ve followed me on any social media platform, you’ll know I love the show Derry Girls. It’s become my comfort self-soother of a watch, and yes…I’m anxiously awaiting a (hopeful) new season. So while you (and I) wait for that, here are some books you might like if you too love this Irish gem!
If you want some more of that sweet 90’s nostalgia, try…
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
It’s 1993, and Generation X pulses to the beat of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. Sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch is uprooted from big-city Chicago to a windswept town on the Irish Sea. Surviving on care packages of Spin magazine and Twizzlers from her rocker uncle Kevin, she wonders if she’ll ever find her place in this new world.
When first love and sudden death simultaneously strike, a naive but determined Maggie embarks on a forbidden pilgrimage that will take her to a seedy part of Dublin and on to a life- altering night in Rome to fulfill a dying wish. Through it all, Maggie discovers an untapped inner strength to do the most difficult but rewarding thing of all, live.
Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan
When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.
Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.
Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen, and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.
Looking for a girl gang to support? Try…
My Riot by Rick Spears & Emmett Helen
Set in the early ’90s, My Riot is about a trio of teen girls team up to form a rock band and shake off society’s expectations of what it means to be a young woman coming of age in the modern world.
1991—Val, a teenager from a conservative family, has grown up dreaming of becoming a ballerina, but recently something has changed. She’s begun feeling pressure to conform to a specific idea of beauty, body type, and a personality that just doesn’t fit.
Val meets Kat, a smart, witty girl that doesn’t take any crap off anyone. Kat introduces Val to punk rock. Along with Rudie, another new friend, the three form an all-girl punk band they ironically name The Proper Ladies.
Soon Val and her friends find themselves caught up in a movement with other girls also starting bands—also finding their voice. Collectively, these “riot grrrls” discover that their songs ring out loud and powerful, and for Val, there’s no going back.
Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin & Nina Vakueva
When Chris joins the staff at her local record store, she’s surprised to find out that her co-workers share a secret: they’re all members of a secret fight club that take on the patriarchy and fight crime!
Starry-eyed Chris has just started the dream job every outcast kid in town wants: working at Vinyl Mayhem. It’s as rad as she imagined; her boss is BOSS, her co-workers spend their time arguing over music, pushing against the patriarchy, and endlessly trying to form a band. When Rosie Riot, the staff’s favorite singer, mysteriously vanishes the night before her band’s show, Chris discovers her co-workers are doing more than just sorting vinyl . . . Her local indie record store is also a front for a teen girl vigilante fight club!
Want to read about more British and Irish teens? Try…
My Mad Fat Diary by Rae Earl
It’s 1989 and Rae Earl is a fat, boy-mad 17-year-old girl, living in Stamford, Lincolnshire with her mum and their deaf white cat in a council house with a mint green bathroom and a refrigerator Rae can’t keep away from. She’s also just been released from a psychiatric ward. My Mad Fat Diary is the hilarious, harrowing and touching real-life diary Rae kept during that fateful year and the basis of the hit British television series of the same name.
Surrounded by people like her constantly dieting mum, her beautiful frenemy Bethany, her mates from the private school up the road (called “Haddock”, “Battered Sausage” and “Fig”) and the handsome, unattainable boys Rae pines after (who sometimes end up with Bethany…), My Mad Fat Diary is the story of an overweight young woman just hoping to be loved at a time when slim pop singers ruled the charts. Rae’s chronicle of her world will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever been a confused, lonely teenager clashing with her parents, sometimes overeating, hating her body, always taking herself VERY seriously, never knowing how positively brilliant she is and keeping a diary to record it all. My Mad Fat Diary – 365 days with one of the wisest and funniest girls in England.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Angus: My mixed-breed cat, half domestic tabby, half Scottish wildcat. The size of a small Labrador, only mad. Likes to stalk Mr. and Mrs. Next Door’s poodle. I used to drag him around on a lead, but, as I explained to Mrs. Next Door, he ate it.
Thongs: Stupid underwear worn by old Swotty Knickers, Lindsay. What’s the point of them, anyway? They just go up your bum, as far as I can tell.
Full-Frontal Snogging: Kissing with the trimmings, lip to lip, open mouth, tongues…everything (apart from dribble, which is never acceptable). As taught to me by a professional snogger.
In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst if being a teenager. In the spirit of “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s “fabbity fab fab!”
If you’d like to learn more about The Troubles and their impact on Northern Ireland, try…
Milkman by Anna Burns
In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.
Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.
Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen
Majella is happiest out of the spotlight, away from her neighbors’ stares and the gossips of the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up just after the Troubles. She lives a quiet life caring for her alcoholic mother, working in the local chip shop, watching the regular customers come and go. She wears the same clothes each day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, microwaved at home after her shift ends), and binge-watches old DVDs of the same show (Dallas, best show on TV) from the comfort of her bed.
But underneath Majella’s seemingly ordinary life are the facts that she doesn’t know where her father is and that every person in her town has been changed by the lingering divide between Protestants and Catholics. When Majella’s predictable existence is upended by the death of her granny, she comes to realize there may be more to life than the gossips of Aghybogey, the pub, and the chip shop. In fact, there just may be a whole big world outside her small town.
Say Nothing: a True Story of Murder & Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.
If you want to rock a rainbow pin with the Derry Girls, try…
When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon
The year is 1990, and in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, Neil Byrne plays rugby, keeps up with the in-crowd at his school, and is just a regular guy. A guy who’s gay. It’s a secret he keeps from the wider world as he explores the city at night and struggles to figure out how to reveal his real self―and to whom.
First published in Ireland in 1993 and compared to The Catcher in the Rye by critics, Tom Lennon’s When Love Comes to Town is told with honesty, humor and originality.
And finally, if you want an *official* spinoff, try Erin’s Diary: An Official Derry Girls Book by Lisa McGee!
Set in Derry, Northern Ireland in the 1990s, Derry Girls is a candid, one-of-a-kind comedy about what it’s like to be a teenage girl living amongst conflict.
Armed police in armored Land Rovers, British Army check points and ‘peace’ walls are all an everyday reality for Erin. But, despite all that, she has plenty of other things to worry about, like the fact that the boy she’s in love with (actually in LOVE with) doesn’t know she exists. Or that her Ma and Aunt Sarah make her include her weirdo cousin Orla in EVERYTHING she does. Or that head teacher Sister Michael refuses to acknowledge Erin as a literary genius. Not to mention the fact that her second best friend has ALMOST had sex, whereas Erin’s never even kissed anyone yet. Like all teenage girls, Erin has her own Troubles.
In the manner of the very best TV comedy books, Erin’s Diary is a hilarious ‘in world’ publication that extends the laugh-out-loud humor of Derry Girls onto the page. With Erin’s inner take on everything that has happened so far, this book will both dive deeper into the events we have seen unfold on the screen and unveil brand new stories and never-before-revealed details about characters. Complete with newspaper clippings, doodles, poetry, school reports, handwritten notes from her friends, and much much more, Erin’s Diary is as warm, funny and brilliantly observed as the TV show.
Are you a Derry Girls fanatic too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, especially if you like the suggestions!
Until next time…