author: Kate Mallinder
Firefly Press (2 May 2019)
Best friends Hetel, Cam, Sasha and Nell have just finished their exams and have a brilliant summer planned...a summer of no regrets. Inspired by a conversation with Hetels' Gran, they are determined to do whatever they want and step out of their comfort zone. Sasha is the first off; heading to spend the summer in Geneva with her Dad, who she hasn't really seen for years. However, on arrival she's met with her Dads' new girlfriend and a young man in a café. Hetel is painfully shy, but she agrees to head off to Wales for a science camp and discovers a competitive spirit she didn't know she had. Cam is working for her foster-dad in the hardware shop and is bored to tears. But her emboldened by her new pink hair and the stress of a time to come when her foster parents no longer want her around, she goes in search of her birth-father; a man she has never known. And wonderful, brave Nell longs to be treated normally, but since a horrible boat accident left her permanently injured, her Mum is afraid to let her go. So, Nell secretly ventures forward and lands herself a job in a nearby bakery. The choices they make inevitably are rife with challenges; things get difficult and, sometimes even dangerous. They turn to each other to find the strength they need to face the future.
This is a real feel-good story of friendship that is quite an easy read...and impossible to put down. Tackling the drama of growing up and issues of diversity, family pressure, disability and foster care, it does so with a real joie-de-vivre couple with insight. Well written with fantastic dialogue and in alternating voices, the personalities of the girls play off each other well and shine through, both individually and as a collective. It is a joy to read; great escapism that allows the reader to feel they are part of the story. There are a few nail-biting moments with real tension, thought-provoking scenes filled with great sensitivity and the entire text is just plain fun. Highly recommended, this is one to dive into for the summer. It ended far too soon.
THE HAND, THE EYE AND THE HEART
author: Zoé Marriott
Walker Books (4 April 2019)
Hua Zhilan is the oldest child, a daughter is a much honoured family. Despite being adept at casting illusions and havings the clever and quick mind of a warrior, she is destined to live out her life in the womens' quarters, never allowed to use her gifts. But a civil war is brewing across the land; one that will cost many lives; many men. Her father, a brilliant, strategic warrior in his day has been called up to fight on the battle field. But his previous exploits have left him disabled and Zhilan is now determined to save him from what will surely be his death...by taking his place. Disguised as a boy and now called Zhi, the journey to the battlefield is long and arduous; surviving the army training is only the first brutal challenge and hiding their 'true' identity is sometimes overwhelming. Quickly becoming a favourite of the Young General, Wu Jiang is placed in ever more perilous circumstances and it is not only their fathers' life that they are left to protect. The losses are unbearable and the fate of the Empire is at stake. But sometimes, as Zhi learns, the greatest battle of all is to simply be who you really are....
An exquisite tale based on versions of the Chinese fairytale of Mulan, Marriott has created a world ripe with the flavours of ancient China without laying claim to its' actual history. She has done her research well and created something so incredibly imagined, so fluid that it crosses through time and place. The descriptive quality of the writing not only gives a perfect view of the world created, but of the people that inhabit the time and place; their physicality, their thoughts, their culture. And yet, The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is a very timely, very contemporary story. Like all good fairytales, the spell it weaves tells the reader more about their own world; their own sense of being than it ever could about some mythical world of the past. Issues of gender identity, family and social expectations, power and corruption, sexual manipulation are all wrapped in a beautifully executed text that brings to life a very personal, yet universal story. Zhi is a marvelous character; complex and yet well-defined with a voice that rings with truth. There is love, loss, compassion, struggles of both the outer and inner world, adventure, war, murder and ultimately acceptance and hope. Exceptional fantasy, utterly spell-binding.
author: Charlie Pike
O'Brien Press (1 April 2019)
The year is 2203. The earth is a dying planet; scorched by solar flares and ravaged by violent storms with torrential rain that will burn the body of any living thing it touches in a matter of minutes. A series of messages has been sent to earth, promising refuge to any human strong enough to survive. The final message is due imminently. Leon wakes in the early hours for his Rising; the initiation into his warrior culture where he must prove his worth by his ability to kill. An outsider from the clan is provided for the hunt, but his prey is no typical outsider. In the wild forests and fields, Leon's mission quickly goes wrong and he is forced to question everything he was raised to believe. Leon will need all his strength and very quick wits in his final, violent battle for survival.
A unique, incisive voice brings us on a journey filled with tension, drama and thought-provoking action. The descriptive power of the writing gives a clear picture of what the planet has become; the landscape scorched and threatening; the people violent and desperate. The story-telling is gripping, fast-paced and it takes the reader on a journey that they do not want to be on. But it is impossible to turn away from this. The reader is locked in Leons' intense perspective as he tries to cling to his beliefs and teachings, but struggles to marry those with the things happening before his very eyes. This is a coming-of-age dystopia of the highest quality, but is quite violent in places; so may not be one for more sensitive readers. It is the stuff of nightmares made real. 'Prepare To Be Born Anew', indeed. Original, energetic, shocking, consuming...extraordinary in every way.
THE QUIET AT THE END OF THE WORLD
author: Lauren James
Walker Books (7 March 2019)
The year is 2109. Lowrie and Shen are the last two young people left on Earth after a virus many years before has caused human infertility on a global scale.. They live in London, with a population of approximately 300; an aging population that does on them as the only chance of human survival. Spending their days 'mudlarking' the banks of the Thames Lowrie and Shen search for relics from the past, gathering what information they can about the lives and deaths of the people that came before them. The discovering of a wallet belonging to someone named Maya Waverly leads them to research the old online social media platforms and much information about the days just before and after the virus struck and what the human race was doing to survive. Suddenly, the adults in their world; their parents and those they have known as all their lives as friends, protectors succumb to a strange affliction, leaving Lowrie and Shen alone to save them. And looking further into Maya's life leads them to a deeply guarded secret and an impossible choice. What are they willing to sacrifice in order to save the human race?
This stunning sci-fi adventure leaves a disquieting sense in its' wake. As it appears humanity may not end with a bang, but a slow, drawn out whimper, many of our current issues are revealed in a new light. Racism, sexual orientation, environmental concerns, medical and technological research; even evolution and what it means to be human seem re-evaluated in some subtle way. The well-drawn characters, their relationship to one another and their interactions give much to think about while providing a riveting story that captivates the reader from page one. You become invested in the lives of these people; consumed by the prospect of the actual quiet at the end of the world. There is a staggering twist at the end that not only gives a gasp of surprise, but causes you to think...and think deeply. Layered, nuanced, compelling, beautiful and completely believable, this is science fiction as it should be.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
author: Dick Lehr
Walker Books (3 January 2019)
Every Saturday, 14-year-old Trell Taylor makes the bus trip with her mother to visit her father in the state prison. Romero Taylor has been held there for the last 12 years; convicted of killing a young teenage girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.Romero has always claimed his innocence; and Trell KNOWS he didn't do it. Now, she's going to prove it. Trell teams up with a young, fiery lawyer and reporter Clemens Bittner. Lost in grief of his own, Bittner used to be the top crime investigative reporter for the Boston Globe who vowed never to step into his old role again. But Trell is a force of nature; determined, smart and brave. She gets Bittner on board and together, the will stop at nothing to set her father free. Not everyone wants to see justice served and soon, Trell is the target of potentially lethal unwanted attention. That won't stop her, though...she won't stop until she gets nothing but the truth.
Former reporter Dick Lehr was once part of the Boston Globes' Spotlight team, where he was instrumental in cracking the real life case; the accidental shooting of a young girl caught up in a world of drugs-wars and crime bosses; that inspired this novel. The result is an incisive story with a birds-eye-view into the criminal justice system and the fight to uncover the truth. The story is gripping and filled with emotion. The characters are painted with care and understanding. Trell is brilliantly expressed; from a disadvantaged neighbourhood, she shines as intelligent, well-educated, complex and multi-layered. The scenes are set with texture, creating a believable scenario throughout allowing the reader to map out the locations in their own minds. Woven into the heart of this story, the effects of wrongful conviction ripple through an entire community, causing grief and untold damage, mistrust and fear. It demonstrates clearly intricate community connections and why and how a people would keep vital information under wraps. It shows the true cost of fear and mere survival at the hands of those in power. It shows the cost of societal divisions. Courage, love and truth rise to the surface only through great effort and determination, but rise it does in the end. Heartfelt, compelling and mind-opening; this is a book you must not ignore. Read this book.
authors: Lucy Christopher, Kat Ellis and Rhian Ivory
Firefly Press (11 October 2018)
A collection of 3 novellas; dark and tasty; from three of the best stars of YA fiction;
In The Darkness- Lucy Christopher, Kasha answered an ad for 'The Tribe', an immersive psychological programme designed to uncover 'your own personal darkness' on an isolated African island. She now sits writing in a journal, alone in the darkness. She is the only one left...but what became of the others and where have their supervisors gone? Will they be back? The Twins of Blackfin-Kat Ellis; Bo visits the grave of her friend, Sky every night. But on this particular evening, she hears a strange girls' voice. Bo soon discovers this voice leads all the children in Blackfin out of the house in a hypnotic trance while their parents sleep in a near comatose state. Matchgirl - Rhian Ivory: In a contemporary re-telling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, Nia has a plan to follow her dreams of becoming a musician. She runs away and is busking when she is mugged. Left badly injured, on her own and with no one to help, all she has is three matches. As she lights them to snatch some warmth from the freezing tunnel she is lying in, Nia begins to see pictures in the light.
Exceptionally gripping, each of these stories quickly establishes their own unique voices that will haunt the reader for some time to come. The first is unsettling with familiar allusions to an iconic 'reality tv' scenario, but shocking as it reaches its' end, revealing that, in the 'coming-of-age' we all must face, not everything is as it seems. The second is a brilliant, eerie ghost story that sends shivers right to the core. And Matchgirl has to be one of the best fairytale revamps I have read in a very long time, causing a very real fear and chilling conclusion. Each also approaches its' subject with a subtle, well-crafted psychological construct and an insightful view into the culture of young adults. Truly brilliant fare, I would highly recommend Three Strikes.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
author: Miriam Halahmy
Firefly Press (2 July 2018)
Tasha and Josie are neighbours; both 15-years-old, live with single mums and in the same class at school. They aren't what you'd call friends. Josie's mum is a rabid recycler is determined to save the planet by collecting everything, literally. Her passion for recycling has actually turned into a massive hoarding problem and now the house is so full of stuff, it isn't safe for either of them. To top it off, Josie's mum has forgotten to pay the council tax, has spent all the money on her hoarding addiction and is now spending time in prison, leaving Josie to fend for herself. Tasha has all the clothes, all the 'things' any girl could possibly want. But her mother's new boyfriend is giving her a little too much attention. When that attention gets too personal, Tasha leaves, not knowing where to turn. In their times of crisis, Tasha and Josie turn to each other, almost by accident at first.Navigating situations neither should have to endure, they find support, hidden strengths and a kind of friendship that goes above and beyond.
This gripping, exceptional novel opens your eyes to how easy it is for young people today to slip between the cracks. Realistically written, it is compelling. The characters and their lives are laid out on the page with openess; frankness. It is easy to enter their world, understand their point of view and hear their voices which ring with emotion, making it so easy to identify with them.. The plot builds meticulously while maintaining a momentum that urges the reader through. The writing is quite sensitive in the issues it deals with; homelessness, mental illness, grooming and the potential for sexual abuse, and the dangers of an unstable homelife; but it also deals with them with honesty. An incredible read for teens and adults with a quietly triumphant ending. Heart-wrenching, powerful and, ultimately very satisfying.
MY BRIGADISTA YEAR
author: Katherine Paterson
Walker Books (5 April 2018)
Cuba, 1961. Thirteen-year-old Lora is inspired by the posters in her school calling all young people to join Castros' army of volunteer teachers in a bid to achieve 100% literacy throughout the country. Her parents are utterly opposed to her joining, but Lora is determined and finds an ally and encouragement in her grandmother. From a privileged family, Lora has never been outside Havana. She knows the living conditions will be difficult and the mountains filled with danger. Some young literacy teachers have been killed by insurgent forces fighting against the new government. But Lora also knows her own mind, has a passion for books and a desire to be part of this life-changing programme. With raw courage and determination, Lora undertakes an arduous journey into the isolated mountains, learning more about life than she could ever teach.
This amazing work of historical fiction speaks eloquently about a little talked about moment in time. Written in a memoir style, this is also a coming-of-age novel with a difference. Loras' struggles, her battles within herself as well as with the outside world are genuinely expressed and a true sense of character and her growth as a person shines throughout. Much is revealed about the complexities of the Cuban government and the confusion and resistance of the people at the time, without glorifying or sensationalising. But more than this, there is a unique and enthralling story here, brought to light with power and emotion while still maintaining a text that is flowing and easy in its' expression. Compelling, driven and sensitive, My Brigadista Year is a quietly stunning book; and one I'd whole-heartedly recommend. (ages 11+)
BLACK SNOW FALLING
author: L. J. MacWhirter
Scotland Street Press (1 August 2018)
The year is 1592. Ruth is the spirited daughter from a privileged family, determined to live a life of her own choosing; to play by her own rules and not those imposed upon her by her callous, manipulative stepmother. With her father long absent, her only solace is the love she believes she has found with Silas, a young man far beneath her station. Her best friend has been promised in marriage to a man far away from her and a betrothal is being arranged for Ruth herself, to a Lord who will advance her stepmothers desires of advancement in court. And Ruth has secrets; an old book of heresy belonging to her father and a recurring dream that haunts her almost nightly. A dream that brings phantoms into the world that are stealing the dreams of the young around her. As everything she loves slips away from her and Crowbury itself weaves deeper into danger, can Ruth trust a shadowy figure from her dreams, even though he is the only hope she has?
An eerie, atmospheric Elizabethan fantasy, Black Snow Falling is deep, dark and authentic. The plot is woven with care and complexity. With an genuine sense of history, it creates a unique mythology and imaginative world and tightly holds the reader in its' icy grip. The characters are believable, compelling and fit within their context perfectly. While the story touches on very contemporary concerns; forced marriage, sexism, abuse and class issues; it stays firmly within its' time and place. The fantasy elements are filled with texture and nuance; developing a perflectly paced journey that fascinates as it time-flips and calls into question the fabric of history itself. Certainly a perfect winters read. Gorgeous; absolutely gorgeous.
THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS
author: Laura Weymouth
Chicken House (1 November 2018)
It's February 1944 and just as suddenly as all the others, another bombing raid has begun. Evelyn, Jamie and Phillipa Hapwell run to the back garden shelter. In her terror, Ev makes a wish..."Anywhere but here. Anywhere but here." And then, the silence. When the siblings emerge, their eyes take in a strange, magical and beautiful realm called Woodlands. There is strife and war in Woodlands, but it couldn't be more different for them than London. Six years later, they find themselves transported back home again, where no time has passed at all. But they are different people, now. While they all have trouble adjusting, for Ev it is impossible. Ev struggles with every aspect of her life; school, family, friendship. Sleep eludes her and she finds herself wandering the local woods, trying desperately to find a way back. She longs to return to the place where she felt as if she truly belonged. As time goes by, Phillipa wonders if the colliding of the two worlds has actually torn her sister apart.
The Light Between Worlds tells a sibling love story, the struggles they face to simply be themselves and to find their place in the world. In its' fantasy, it exposes the reality of coming-of-age and the heart-breaking face of severe depression. There is a real ebb and flow as the siblings navigate between worlds, creating an intimate portrait of landscapes both internal and external. The world-building is exquisite; the dialogue heart-felt. There are nods to the Narnia Chronicles and other 'portal' fantasies, of course. But this book stands on its' own ground, with exquisite, echoing prose; expert characterisation and relationships and a gift for bringing that shimmer of light into the darkest of moments. It is haunting, mystical and lyrical.
THE HAZEL WOOD
author: Melissa Albert
Penguin Books (8 February 2018)
Seventeen-year old Alice has spent her entire life on the road with her mother, Ella; always just one step ahead of the bad luck and trouble that seems to follow them wherever they go. Just when she thinks they have finally escaped it, Alice grandmother Althea Prosperine, famous, yet reclusive author of dark, disturbing tales of The Hinterland dies and, reputedly, her estate The Hazel Wood now belongs to them.. Althea had a mysterious past, including a two year disappearance with no clues as to what became of her time away. Ella wants nothing to do with it, and when she is abducted by a sinister character who claims to come from the world of Altheas' creation, Ellas' only message to Alice is "STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD." The bad luck has taken on a whole new dimension. Alice will not simply let her mother disappear. She goes to the Hazel Wood and from there ventures into the world of her grandmothers' writing. To save her mother, and herself, she enters her own story...but can she change the ending and ever come back again?
The idea of fairy tales invading our contemporary world, making us an inextricable part of the story is captivating in and of itself. But this book takes that idea and uses it to play on our fears and fascination. This is a dark story; deep and delicious. It claws its' way into the dreams and nightmares and twists reality. The characters are intricate and obsessive, so well described that they bear a stark resemblance to reality.. The inclusion of a few of the Hinterland stories peeks curiosity. You want the book...to read them all. But they also inspire a chilling, fearful reaction, as though the full collection would give you nightmares for the rest of your life. Compelling and creepy with surprising (sometimes shocking) twists and turns, The Hazel Wood invades your subconscious and leaves you breathless. Stunning novel from a debut author.
ARE WE ALL LEMMINGS AND SNOWFLAKES?
author: Holly Bourne
Usborne Publishing (9 August 2018)
Olive is spiralling down again. She has been having these problems for a while and to say it's made her life difficult is a bit of an understatement. She can't seem to get it together and now, she is camped out under her desk, buffeted by blankets and duvets to keep the light out. After one particularly upsetting incident, she is off to the doctor (again), where she receives an offer of a unique chance.Welcome to Camp Reset; a new facility with a ground-breaking programme that seeks to help young people manage their individual metal health issues. Most of the people there join in whole-heartedly and really make an attempt...anything to help, right? But Olive is quite resistant to much of the camps' programme. She feels she knows better;she's smart. She's special. She should be able to crack this permanently! Working with a maths' genius she meets there, Lewis, Olive begins to work out an algorithm that could be world-changing. And she is NOT wrong...mostly. Kindness. That is the answer. What she doesn't realise is that kindness starts from within. You starts with yourself...that's the only way you can spread it out to the world.
Today is World Mental Health Day (10 October), so it seemed a great time to post this review.
This is a book that reveals, in a cold clear light, the struggles of a number of young people to come to grips with their personal mental health issues; what caused them, how it happened to them and what they can actually do about it. It reveals the differences in how these conditions affect people differently. And it is mind-boggling in its' honesty. Depicted in clear strong voices and an intriguing story, the reader views these disorders in the extreme as very human conditions, but those that affect everyone at some point. But mostly, this book calls on us all to examine our relationship with "kindness"; to tap into our own strengths and do something...anything to be more kind. It posits a theory as what kindness can actually do, whether a small, seemingly insignificant act or a grand gesture. Perhaps it is a lack of kindness and compassion that is creating a world that makes people sick in the first place. Everyone wants to be normal, right? But everyone wants to be special... It is a tough read; you will want to disagree with it. But it is a frank book and very real. Filled with raw, refreshing humour and poignant feeling; moving, thought-provoking and important.
LOVE, HATE AND OTHER FILTERS
author: Samira Ahmed
Hot Key Books (16 January 2018)
Maya Aziz is at a crucial moment in her life. She is on the cusp of stepping out into the world; finishing high school, applying to colleges and pursuing her dream of becoming a film-maker. But her family has other ideas. Of course, she must get her degree...in something practical, like law or medicine. But she must also find the perfect Muslim boy to build her life with ; one that will bring joy and honour to the family. Their plans for Maya do not include film-making; they certainly don't include the lovely, blond football hero she has known all her life. Most of all, they want her to be safe. Family pressure is difficult to navigate and Islamophobia is rife in the social structure. When a suicide bomber strikes in a city hundreds of miles from her home and he happens to have the same last name as Maya, things change rapidly. Tensions rise both in her town and her home and Maya finds herself in the middle of an unfolding drama that has nothing to do with her, but may take control of her life forever.
A very topical novel that gives true insight into what it means to grow up Muslim in the current contemporary western world, this was a powerful, engaging read. The element of a 'star-crossed' love story makes it hugely accessible to any young person about to step into their life, but its' themes of multiculturalism, politics, bullying and diversity give it that little bit more punch. An empathetic, thought-provoking view allows the reader time to absorb and understand how truly multi-layered society and family life can be and how this provokes dilemmas, and in some cases, tragedies that fray at the threads of social structure and political agenda. There is a surprising twist of mistaken identity woven cleverly through the story and its' reveal will make the reader stop cold. The issues it deals with are complex and heavy, but the book is not. A joyous and compassionate story of young love and coming-of-age; it is lovely, well-written with characters of real depth and genuine voice. Uplifting as well as heart-breaking, dynamic and filled with life. (14+)
THE MONSTERS WE DESERVE
author: Marcus Sedgwick
Zephyr (6 September 2018)
High in a remote mountain cabin in the Alps, an author has sequestered himself to ponder alone and write his book under a pressing deadline. The book; an examination?; an exposé?; a reworking? of Mary Shelleys' Frankenstein troubles him deeply. It is a book he claims to despise, but it haunts him. Immersed in this location, quite similar to the location of the original work, he finds that he is not only haunted by the book, but by its' author and its' creation as well. Nocturnal visitations, mysterious rooms and lost, vacant wanderings through a landscape of oncoming winter drive him to strange occurrences and an even deeper submergence into himself. Reality and perception bleed into one and the author begins to wonder if these monsters we create are ever content to stay on the page. Do we get the monsters we deserve?
Marcus Sedwick has given us another genre-defying, intense and thought-provoking tale. It has a quiet, riveting sense about it; like any good horror story will. But there is a deeply psychological aspect at work here, as it opens up a realm of questions, both about the inner workings of perception and the creative process and the intention of Mary Shelleys' original Frankenstein. (This is quite appropriate and interesting in the 200th anniversary year of its' publication.) The description of landscape and time places the reader in the story; you are actually there, bearing witness to all while in a chilling, breath-holding grip. It ends with an open, haunting echo that will stay with you long after. There are no loud, flashy action scenes here; simply a compelling read with an unnerving atmosphere and a deeply troubling sense of unrest that must be experienced. Exceptional!
(please also read: My Swordhand is Singing; Blood Red, Snow White; The Ghost of Heaven)
THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT
author: Leslye Walton
Walker Books (6 September 2018)
Over a century ago, Rona Blackburn arrived on Anathema Island. With her otherworldly and vast healing skills, she might have been a welcome addition to the eight original settlers in this small, unwelcoming wilderness. But guilt and suspicion took over and the settlers rise up against Rona to 'burn the witch out', destroying her home and all her possessions...so they think. Instead, Rona invokes her witchs' power, cursing the settlers for generations to come. Every curse comes with a price. And while the settlers are well and truly punished, Rona and her descendents are irrevocably bound to them for all time.
Now, in the present day, Nor Blackburn wants to live the life of a normal teenage girl; commonplace, unexceptional; escaping the inherited abilities of the Blackburn women. She has reason to believe she may have done just that, until the arrival of a newly published book; The Price Guide to the Occult. Written by Nors' beautiful, ultimately cruel mother, Fern the book promises to cast any spell...for the right price. It isn't long before the entire nation is completely captivated by the authors' magical abilities as she seems to wield a power over all who cross her path. These are abilities far beyond Ferns' reach and they cost a horrific price. And now Fern is coming...she's coming for Nor.
I was immediately pulled into this eerie, spell-binding gem of a book. It's fluid, hypnotic writing and vivid descriptions of time and place create a tactile effect in the reader, filling the senses with sights, scents and sounds. The building of the background story is quick, yet intriguing and places you firmly in the present day, compelling you to be a part of this small island community, however closed it may seem. There are some timely issues built into the story; self-harm, gender issues, family secrets, environmental concerns and political corruption. But this is our present day world, just a version of it where the magic, which has been leaking out quietly for generations now flows with the force of an erupting volcano. The characters are exquisitely painted so that the reader really knows them. A caution here; while the juxtaposition of light and dark moments is well presented, the dark gets really dark. As Ferns' magical madness takes over, there are some horrific and gruesome moments, as in the best of horror films.You feel the tale as much as you read it. All in all, this is a breath-taking, absorbing story; evocative and thought-provoking with a lasting impact.
(Read also; The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.)
DON'T STOP THINKING ABOUT TOMORROW
author: Siobhan Curham
Walker Books (2 August 2018)
Stevie is fourteen years old and lives in Lewes with her Mum...and her mum's depression which is growing worse by the day. When things get too much (which happens all too frequently these days), Stevie escapes into a brilliant vinyl record collection and a book "Stevie's Little Book of Big Song Wisdom", both left to her by her Dad. At school, she doesn't mind being an outsider and plans to not have 'friends'. Fitting in would cost her far too much. But then she meets Hafiz, also 14 and a Syrian refugee with a passion for football. Hafiz has been traveling for 2 years, having left his family behind in Syria to reach safety in the UK. His journey has been tough...really tough. His family paid smugglers all they had to send him on his way and he doesn't know if they will ever see each other again. Support is something he doesn't know if he can count on or give in return. Then Stevie comes into his life.
A sincere and heartfelt book, Don't Stop... deals with the difficult and timely issues of racism, the Syrian refugee crisis and depression. It pulls no punches, handling the issues with great understanding and sensitivity, but also with pinpoint accuracy. Both Stevie and Hafiz are written so well, the reader can easily relate and feel their circumstances. With very realistic touches, it explores the life of young people and the situations they are confronted with in the course of each day. At the core of the story, it is about friendship, empathy and belonging. While in other hands, this could make for a very heavy, depressing read, Curham has injected this story with hope and promise. The inclusion of Stevie's musical recommendations make for a wonderful play list of songs to suit every situation. (I do recommend seeking each song out and playing them; and please add your own.) It is a very emotional book (keep the tissues handy), but it is also thoughtful, expressive and joyful. Things do change; it will get better. The road to happiness is not as far away as you might think. I absolutely loved every page.
THE FOREST QUEEN
Clarion Books (7 August 2018)
Sixteen-year-old Sylvie is Lord Loughsleys' daughter, raised in privilege and power. When her brother, John takes over the running of the estate, his abuse and abject heartlessness toward the local villagers is unbearable, but Sylvie is left powerless to stop him and to put a halt to the ever-increasing tax levies and consequences for non-payment. Johns' cruelty is something Sylvie knows all too well. With her friend, Bird she retreats into the forest in search of a deeper connection with nature and life; in hopes of becoming something more than simply another 'Lady Loughsley'. Before long, they find themselves in the company of other villagers, running for their lives. Together, they form a community; a band determined to build a life of freedom and peace. But life as a forest outlaw has its' own challenges and heartbreaks. And healing past wounds can be a hard-won battle.
A gender-swapped retelling of the old Robin Hood folk tales, this book covers a lot of ground in a very short space. It deals with many issues that hold many parallels to todays world; gender equality, abortion, environmental issues while imparting an ethos of kindness, fairness and economic rights. The characters are ones that are familiar to the reader (if they have knowledge of the Robin Hood story), so there isn't much emphasis on character development. The descriptions of landscape and environment are stunning, with albeit some very specific descriptions of hunting practices.But mostly, it's a cracking adventure read. The writing is fluid and filled with meaning; at times cinematic, with a high-paced rhythm that takes the reader on a brisk ride to a gripping climax.A thoroughly enjoyable read that will leave you wanting more.
author Betsy Cornwell
Clarion Books (13 August 2015)
Nicolette lives with her horrible stepmother and stepsisters. They have nicknamed her 'Mechania' as a cruel, belittling act. But the name is fitting. Her mother was an incredible inventor, teaching Nicolette all she could before succumbed to a strange illness. With both her mother and father now gone, Nicolette is left behind to a life of servitude and drudgery. On her 16th birthday, Nicolette discovers a her mothers' hidden workshop, and befriends a tiny, mechanical horse (Jules) who shows her that she may be able to have a different life for herself; a life as an inventor and creator of her own destiny. With an festival celebrating marvellous inventions and technolicgal advances looming and a royal ball approaching, this may be Nicolettes' chance to write her own 'happily-ever-after.'
Fairytale meets steampunk in this retelling of the familiar Cinderella story that is utterly wondrous. Cornwell takes the old characters we know so well and develops them with a contemporary outlook that breathes new life into the story while keeping the setting of the original. In doing so, she has done what fairytales met the original purpose of fairytales; to grow, change and reveal the layers of an ever-changing society. It is filled with the wonders of magic, and the perils that it holds. Beautifully written, incredibly descriptive, the line between this world and the fairy world is blurred, but tangible. This is a story worth reading over and over and over. Loved it!
(For more of Nicolette's story, read VENTURESS)
ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART
author: Katherine Webber
Walker Books ( 2 August 2018)
Reiko needs to escape the pressures of family, friends and secrets of her own. Driven by hauntings from her sisters' ever present ghost and memories of that terrible day, she flees to the desert at night. There she finds the endless sky, the stars, the silence and sights that only the desert can offer...and Seth, a boy from her school that in daylight hours she couldn't be seen with. Together ,they share a love of the desert and a deep yearning for a different life. Together, they sneak away and explore, discover and fall hopelessly in love. But perhaps it's all just an illusion. As summer draws to a close and they return to school, Reiko and Seth try to fit into each others' worlds. The harsh reality is they each want something the other can't give. They want each other to be someone they really aren't and everything starts to fall apart. Maybe sometimes you have to lose in love to find your freedom.
A stirring, emotive offering,, this is a 'break-up' novel packed with all the promise, hope and curiosity of young summer love that brings the reader back down to earth with a heartbreaking bump. The characters are written with great subtlety and nuance, showing the many layers of the human heart. As their story unfolds, the reader can easilyway that to believe these can be overcome. The book compels you into their lives; allows you to be both witness and participant. Moving and bittersweet, have the tissues ready. This book will break your heart as well, but in the end, you will be so glad it did. From the author of the wonderful Wing Jones.
THE SURVIVAL GAME
author: Nicky Singer
Hodder Children's Books (26 July 2018)
The world has taken a dark and dangerous turn. Severe drought and climate change has turned the planet into a desert wasteland, with very few places left where anyone has a real chance of survival. The political climate is hostile to the millions of global migrants fleeing to these areas. Mhairi Anne Bain is trying to make it home to a remote island in Scotland with only two possessions to her name; her identity papers and a gun with no bullets. She has learned the wisdom of living her own story, of talking to no one. Then, on her journey, she meets a small boy with no voice at all and no one to speak for him. Against her instincts and better judgement, she risks everything to take him
Painting a severe and grim picture of the future, The Survival Game stands apart in the canon of young adult dystopian literature. The story unfolds gradually, each step portrayed with great uncertainty as though peeling off layer after layer of an onion, only to discover it isn't an onion at all. The issues at the heart of the tale, global warming and the refugee crisis are never far from our view these days, but here we see a set of possible consequences of our current actions and our current world-view that expose another layer of consideration. The development of Mhairi's character, the maturity and insight she develops along the way is consuming. Her relationship and sense of responsibilty to her young charge is a heart-felt ode to the strength of human nature. Through Mhairi, we begin to question not just the dynamics of this future fictional world, but the reality of our own. This book is incisive and gripping, filled with suspense and desperation. But it is also thought-provoking and illuminating. A single act of kindness, born of conscience and concern might be the very thing to make a world of difference. Stunning and very, very different.
WHITE RABBIT, RED WOLF
author: Tom Pollock
Walker Books (3 May 2018)
"This story is a lie." Everything about it is a lie; a bad, dark, conspiratorial lie acted out through the life of 17-year-old Peter Blankman.
Peter is a mathematical genius, prone to analysis of everything around him, calculating probabilities and statistics that will lead him down rational by-ways to a safe and satisfying ends. But Peter also suffers from mental illness, severe panic attacks and self-destructive behaviours. He lives with his brilliant scientist mother and his twin sister, Bel who is his protector and his axiom. When his mother is brutally attacked and stabbed at an awards ceremony held in her honour and Bel vanishes, Peter is plunged into a world where violence, espionage and state and family secrets merge into one. Without his sister and only one friend left in the world, Peter finds that his analytical skills and his all-consuming fears are the greatest weapons he has to find the truth.
With magnificent pacing and imagination, this book is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller. As a narrator, Peter gives a consuming voice, as he is caught in the confusion of an unreliable world where events change, develop and change again at a rapid pace. The plot twists lead the reader through a world of dark imagination while still maintaining the feeling of sinister reality. The reader will never know where they are going or what will happen next; it's all too unpredictable. It is positively thrilling, and embedded with a quirky humour that gets the reader through intense action and emotion. Peters' severe anxiety/panic disorder are the compelling drive of the action, while also portrayed with great understanding. The manipulation and control ruling over Peters' entire life (unbeknownst to him) allow empathy (and, at times regret for his actions) towards those caught in this ominous reality and shows great courage on realising the he must turn his greatest deficits into his greatest strengths. With a shocking,turbulent conclusion, this is a "spy novel" with a real difference. Powerful riveting and incredibly gripping.
WORDS IN DEEP BLUE
author: Cath Crowley
Hodder Children's Books (5 April 2018)
Rachel and Henry were the best of friends.She loved his familys' bookshop and the comfortable and easy way Henry had about him. In fact, Rachel had a crush on Henry, something he never seemed to see. The night before she moved away, Rachel left a note for him in his favourite book; on the page of his favourite poem. She waited for Henry...but he never came.And Rachel had to figure out how to move on with her life.
Tragedy struck Rachels' family when her brother, Cal drowns. Deepening the sorrow and pain in her life, Rachel moves back and takes a job working alongside Henry in his parents' bookshop. Henry never mentions the letter, or Rachels' declaration of love. They don't even want to be near each other at first. But with the bookshop failing, Henrys' sister caught in a surprising dilemma of the heart and Henrys' plans to travel the world floundering, Rachel throws herself into the task of cataloging the 'Letter Library' and rebuilding their friendship. With each of them facing the ghosts of their pasts, will they find the way to face the future?
I'm sure I didn't explain the plot of this book very well, so let me just say this. This is an utterly beautiful book...one that you don't so much read as immerse yourself into and feel completely. Set in and around a wonderful bookshop with its' Letter Library holding much of the storys' content, it has a distinctive ebb and flow; a glowing emotional punch. The idea of writing in margins and leaving messages in books is intriguing. You find yourself wanting to dip in and partake; examining the books in local bookshops with careful scrutiny. "Sometimes love is written in the margins."Populated by quirky but realistically drawn characters with unique, flawlessly expressed voices, each is relatable and easily recognisable. We know these people. And it is charming, compelling and filled with the joy and pain of real life. I can't recommend this book highly enough, especially for fans of John Green, David Levithan and Jandy Nelson. You simply must read it!
FLYING TIPS FOR FLIGHTLESS BIRDS
author: Kelly McCaughrain
Walker Books (1March 2018)
Finch and Birdie Franconi come from a long line of circus folk; twins born into a wild and wonderful tradition. The family run a struggling circus school in Little Murragh, a small rural village in Northern Ireland. Birdie starts a blog to encourage more people to come and learn from them, revealing all about life as part of a circus. They attend the local school, and as their outrageous dress sets them apart from the crowd, they are frequently the victims of the school bullies and mean girls. Name-calling and being ostracized are part of their typical day. While Finch doesn't really care, he has never gotten over the day his best-friend, James Keane just dumped him without warning and now joins in on the bullying. But bold and adventurous Birdie always has her brothers back. As long as they are a team, life is good. Then, Birdie has a horrific accident, leaving Finch to cope alone; with standing out from the crowd, with the bullying, with growing up and being 'different' and with the new friend he's made (quite by accident)...a clumsy, awkward lad his age named Hector Hazzard who wants to be part of their world. Coping with the shock of Birdies' accident, her ongoing blog posts, his unusual family and Finchs' investigation into what exactly happened and who is responsible reveal far more about himself than he thought possible.
A gentle, quirky romance/coming-of-age novel lends a fresh and unique eye to the world and culture of young adults. The clever use of circus life allows difference in personalities and viewpoints to be easily woven into what could have been an all to typical tale. Each character is well-drawn and precisely defined without over-burdening description and how they relate to each other, their actions and interactions ring true. While the story builds, there are some pacing issues. But these develop into a nice flow and rhythm that create a story that needs to be read. The closeness of the family, its' position in the community and its' struggles to maintain itself are in the background, but glimmer out through the plot so the reader understands and automatically consumes its' relevance. It blends in themes of diversity, acceptance and inclusiveness with seamless facility. This book stands apart. Witty and intelligent, heartrending and revealing, it is a joy to read. Whole-heartedly recommended. Ages 12+; adults...give this one a good read.
THE WEIGHT OF A THOUSAND FEATHERS
author: Brian Conaghan
Bloomsbury YA (14 June 2018)
Bobby Seed has been watching MS steal his mother from him for a long time; since before her official diagnosis. He has been her main carer from the very beginning. He has kept it all together, his younger brother, school and home life; but the weight of it all is enormous. As the disease slowly grinds her away, Bobby has been doing all he can to keep her with him...for just a little longer. Now, bedridden and with 'good days' turning 'good moments,' his wonderful, funny, lively, yet disintegrating mother asks him the impossible question...the one he should never have to face. She asks Bobby to take all her suffering away; to help her die.
Filled with tension, humanity and a delicate, but insuppressible humour, Conaghan has surpassed himself in giving us an uncomfortable, compelling and true read. A strong, genuine voice chronicles a period of time in the life of a young carer, letting us see the determination, loyalty and love that drives him while the weight and cost of it all wears him down. Bold and beautifully written, this novel brings the reader in such an intimate orbit of this world that we actually feel the circumstances and their effects as if they were our own. Each character does not so much develop, as they do appear fully formed, demanding an empathy, understanding and that they be heard. The story also begs a lot of questions from the reader; questions about trust, obligation, what it takes for us to be human, friendship, loyalty and the pervasiveness of love and loss. But, in spite of its' challenging and heart-rending circumstances, it is not a depressing or difficult read. The flow of the tale carries the reader through with real affection and marvelous vignettes that bring laughter and heart. This book is a master class in observation and emotion. Simply stunning.
(Also by Brian Conaghan: When Mr Dog Bites; The Bombs That Brought Us Together, We Come Apart with Sarah Crossan)
ALL OF THIS IS TRUE
author: Lydia Day Penaflor
Bloomsbury YA (31 May 2018)
Miri Tan fell in love with the book Undertow as if it were a living entity. In truth, Undertow has become a bit of an obsession. When its' author, Fatima Ro holds a book signing, she and her friends go to listen to her with a plan to get close to her. Each
Told in a series of interviews and journal entries, this is a chilling fictitious scandal with all sensationalism of the real thing. As the author moves seamlessly from narrator to narrator, the plot twists and turns, pulling the reader into a psychological examination of the effects of 'fan fever'. Told from three points of view, with excerpts of the 'new novel' as the fictional authors' voice, it compels the reader to consider the fluidity and perspective of 'truth' and how easily this can be manipulated. The characters are tangible and very human...we have all seen people like them, perhaps we are them. With issues of class divide, privilege, trust and betrayal, this book is a surprisingly addictive read, constantly questioning perspective. The emotional impact is shattering. All Of This Is True asks compelling questions about authorial and societal responsibility. A disturbing, edgy, riveting examination of teen culture and obsession, this is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat read.
MORE THAN WE CAN TELL
author: Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury Childrens Books (8 March 2018)
Rev has been struggling to keep the trauma of his life before his adoption at bay. But then, a letter from his father arrives on his eighteenth birthday
Brigid Kemmerer writes with a beautiful and authentic voice, creating recognisable, relatable characters, environments and circumstances. The story is a contemporary, dark and chilling tale that deals with many issues; friendship, family, grief, abuse, online bullying, trust... in a style that is realistic and poignant. It is a love story. It is a book about being fearless. It is a book about secrets and how to release them. Emma and Rev are both haunted; Rev by his past and Emma by the events in her life now. Their characters are exquisitely drawn with details that bring them straight off the page. There are nods to Kemmerers' previous novel Letters To The Lost, with characters Declan and Juliet reappearing as supporting characters who have already been through so much and this gives a nice backdrop to the action of this novel. (Rev himself was a supporting character in Letters To The Lost.But don't think of this as a "sequel"...it isn't at all.) Intense, profound, deeply psychological; yet one of the most beautiful books I've read this year.
THE GOOSE ROAD
author: Rowena House
Walker Books (5 April 2018)
In a small farming village in France, 1916, Angélique LaCroix has just received news that her cruel father has died in the war. With her older brother still fighting, it falls to Angélique to keep the farm going until he comes back. Her whole purpose becomes to keep the farm exactly as it is, like a magic spell. For if the farm never changes, if she can stop time in some way and nothing ever changes, perhaps her brother won't change, either. When a storm ruins the crops, the requisition troops appear, her mother falls ill and they are in danger of losing their home, Angélique sees only
This beautifully expressed historical fiction novel reveals the horror of the First World War, while also realising hope, tenacity and loyalty in a way that is timeless. Angélique is a wonderful character; a girl thrust into the role of being an adult; uncertain and caught up in circumstances of which she has no real knowledge and no viable plan. But she is also making tough decisions and pushing through tragedy with the energy of youth and a determination and self-assurance that is incredible for one her age. Surrounded by nay-sayers and those lurking to around to take advantage at the first possible chance, Angélique powers through. The hardships and misfortune dealt to this young woman (and all around her) are placed upon her primarily by her own people, not the enemy. This points to a circumstance of war generally ignored by many; that pain and suffering is not always caused by the 'enemy', but by those we should be able to rely on who are caught in the same situation as ourselves. Descriptive and poignant, well-paced and wonderfully crafted, The Goose Road also takes us on a journey of belief and compassion. It will bring tears to your eyes, but it will fill you with a sense of wonder and expectation. Things may change drastically....but they have a way of working out if you just stick with it.
ORPHAN MONSTER SPY
author: Matt Killeen
Usborne Publishing (8 March 2018)
Sarah is orphaned when her mother is killed at a checkpoint in the early days of World War II. Talented, sharp-witted and very intelligent, she is flung out onto the streets, fighting for mere survival; a fight that usually holds only one fate for a 15-year old Jewish girl. Sarah meets Captain Floyd, a British agent on a mission with the ultimate purpose of halting the development of a bomb the size of a grapefruit that could wipe out entire populations. And Sarah comes in very handy for his plans. Sarah infiltrates an 'elite' German boarding school to befriend a high-level scientists' daughter in order to obtain an invitation to his compound. However, for Sarah to be accepted by the girl, she must become a monster...just like them.
This is full-on, gut-wrenching stuff and definitely not for the fainthearted. A fast-paced story with many plot twists and exceptional development. Sarah is a brilliant character; gutsy, determined and extremely clever, haunted by a horrendous past that serves to spur her head-long into the fray. Her relationship with Captain Floyd grows into a father-daughter scenario, with the addition of knowledge that, while they will willingly sacrifice themselves for the other, they also realise the dangers they are facing and that, for the sake of the mission, either or both may not survive. The descriptive quality of the writing is visual and visceral; you can easily visualise the time, place and people. And it carries the sense of urgency throughout. The historical accuracy is well-researched, and though of course liberties are taken, the entire story is woven tightly and incredibly believable. The action is wild, uncontrolled and sometimes truly cut-throat, but befitting of the circumstances. Dark, terrifying and compelling, with a definite feminist leaning; Orphan Monster Spy is amazing.
THINGS A BRIGHT GIRL CAN DO
author: Sally Nicholls
Andersen Press (1 February 2018)
Through the voices of three young women who decide to join the fight for womens voting rights, we revisit the time just prior to World War I when womens' rights were first coming to the fore in the midst of a huge variety of other political/social changes. Evelyn is 17 years old; rich, privileged, clever and feisty and very angry that she may never be able to go to University like her brother because she is a girl. When she joins the Suffragettes, she vows she will go to prison, endure a hunger strike and sacrifice her own life for the cause, if needs be. May is 15 and the only child of a pacifist Quaker mother, she is already enlisted in the cause, though as a Suffragist, she refuses to resort to violence. In Nell, a girl who has grown up in poverty in the slums of the East end, May sees a kindred spirit, in fact a soul mate. The paths of these three, both separately and together try them more than they could have believed possible. But war is looming on the horizon and they must decide how high a price they are willing to pay.
This is more than a Suffragette story.By use of the three separate voices; all very distinct and genuine but all very different, a picture is painted of a time in history of great change. But also, the reader has a view of the characters growth in the development of social and world events, of how these things affect each one and what they believe and how they become the women they are destined to be and how they will live their lives. As we weave between their stories, Evelyn, May and Nell come alive and there is an ever-growing feeling that we really know these girls; we understand them, like them and are sometimes frustrated by them. It is interesting that Evelyns' story seems to stand apart from the other two and although their paths do cross, she is a bit more removed from the tale than the others. Perhaps this is an observation on class distinction, as well as a comment on how, in a consolidated group fighting for the same thing, many different people who would not ever meet come together to achieve the same goal; something we should not lose sight of. Compelling, pacey, intelligent and thought-provoking, Nicholls have offered us much in this book. And it does not disappoint. A very important voice to hear in this year of honouring womens suffrage.
THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF BEING HUMAN
author: Linni Ingemundsen
Usborne Books (January 2018)
It isn't easy being Malin. She likes things to make sense, be logical; she likes things to fit. When considering the big things in life, Malin knows she can't fix them, so she watches as life rolls on around her and considers her place. In the meantime, her father yells all the time, her mother goes away suddenly on a 'business trip' for months, her brother lies about everything and at school, well, Malin doesn't fit in at all. The only consistent thing she has in her life is her cousin, Magnus.Then she makes a friend...a friend who helps her figure things out; kissing, what to wear to prom, what to do when you stand apart from the crowd. What to do when everyone around you hides the truth and won't explain things to you because they believe you won't understand.
This is a beautiful book; a poignant view into a specific time in Malins' life when life comes crashing into her world. A coming-of-age vignette, there is no real plot, so to speak. But that actually enhances the feel of the story. Malin is a brilliant character, clever, bold and quite naive. She also clearly has Autism Spectrum Disorder, undiagnosed and not discussed at all in the book. But that's not a problem. When you read the book, you get that immediately. It is Malins' perception of everything going on around her that tells the story and creates a fascinating view into human nature; the things we protect, the things we hide, what we can and cannot deal with as human beings, our hopes, our fears and our frustrations. There are many issues dealt with in the book, such as teenage pregnancy, addiction and mental health. All of these are handled with great sensitivity on the part of the author, making it an insightful and emotional read. There are also moments of light and humour. In the end, it works as a 'feel good' type of read with an understanding that, in spite of everything, it's all going to be okay. Wonderful!
HOW TO HANG A WITCH
author: Adriana Mather
Walker Books (4 January 2018)
Sams' father is in hospital in a very serious condition and she and her step-mother have had to move to Salem from New York. Now living in her grandmothers' old house, just starting high school, Sam is finding the adjustment very difficult. Particularly so, as Sam is related to the famous Cotton Mather who drove the Salem Witch Trials centuries before. It seems old injuries die hard in a place like Salem. Sam, with her old family ties and rumours about her family, feels unwelcome and unnerved by her neighbours and school mates to say the least. She is held in high suspicion. To complicate matters further, there is the angry, yet attractive ghost of Elijah haunting her house and Jaxon, the boy next door. As an old curse resurfaces, Sam finds herself standing alone in the centre and attempting to right an ancient wrong before history comes alive with dire consequences.
This novel is filled with a real sense of foreboding all the way through. Mystery and history combine effortlessly and give the reader some strong comparisons between the past and the present, making us think about how we actually view others and why. And the reach into history is well-researched and thought out. The reader will have a strong sense of Salem during the time of the trials, even through the brief view given in the text. Sams' character is brilliant; strong, clever, brave and thoughtful of others while still trying to work out her place in all the action around her. Many of the supporting characters do generate into the 'typical', but this does nothing to harm the overall tale. In fact, I wold say it enhances it. The reader gets the full-body of teenage issues; isolation, difference, bullying and of course, relationships. The plot is incredibly intriguing, with great pacing that gives the reader a story that cannot be put down. Witches, villains, family drama, a bit of crime and a love story (or two)...what's not to love?
THE ANGELICA TOUCH
author: LJ Sedgwick
Janey Mac Books (2018)
Angelica Moone has a unique gift for matchmaking. It has been with her since she was a small child and this gift is the thing that has lost her hotel manager Mum quite a number of jobs. Until she found the perfect job at the Drisogue Arms in Donegal on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean. They have been happy here for 7 years, though business could be better; in fact, the entire town could be doing better. Now, age 14, Angelica decides to use her gift to find the perfect match for her mother. But she'll have to be sneaky about it. What better way than to set up a dating website! Designed with her mum in mind and questions concocted
Another gift of joy from Sedgwick, the Angelica Touch is filled with heart and warmth. With a setting and characters that fire the imagination, the reader gets sucked in to Angelica's world immediately and pulled along on an incredible ride of the emotions. While Angelica is trying to grow into her own true self (and doing a marvelous job),the give and take in the relationship with her mother is at once unique and typical, deeply touching and completely grates. Both are guilty of getting it utterly wrong and completely right. This hits at the soul of what it means to be a teenage daughter. Each and every character is a real gem; quirky, well described and fully realised. Their own stories of past and present weave many coloured threads throughout and make the core story all the richer. Pitch perfect and with a great pace, just when you think this story can only end one way, a surprise twist brings an even more satisfying conclusion. This is a wonderful, imaginative tale that will leave you smiling. (13+)
THE TASTE OF BLUE LIGHT
author: Lydia Ruffles
Hodder Childrens Books (7 September 2017)
Lux is encased in the prestigious pseudo-intellectual arts school, Richdene; clearly a school for troubled, expressive young adults that the world cannot deal with, and, perhaps, those who can't deal with the world. She is a gifted artist; sensitive and brilliant who sees things in light and colour. She is fortunate, given opportunities, given love. And she is broken; hidden from something that happened after last summers' party
This is an exceptional debut novel, hugely psychological in its' examination of trauma and how it reverberates through life, not just the sufferers', but those lives around them. It is dream-like, eerie, artistic and as confusing as the path in Luxs' mind. As a character, Lux is extraordinary. Bold, visceral, vulnerable and brave, possessed of a dark, dark sense of humour, she navigates what she knows and what she doesn't. Lux tries to reach inside her memory, while at the same time trying to forget and get on with things. The writing is poetic and determined. In all honesty, it is terribly hard to describe this book, but it is one the should be read. Once the reader embarks on this journey, it opens up a new view, new insight and will remain with you forever. Comparison are made with Sylvia Plaths' writing and I think they are fair comparisons. (I actually think more Anne Sexton for its' vibrant, gentle stripping bare of the content.) An incredible journey through love, life, obsession, The Taste of Blue Light will completely mesmerise and consume. Definitely for the more mature young adult, this is not a book for everyone...but please, please read it.
author : Sarah Crossan
Bloomsbury Childrens (7 September 2017)
Joe hasn't seen his brother for 10 years. Ed...his brother, his hero, his protector, the one who helped Joe make sense of his world...gone. And for the worst conceivable reason. Ed left in his aunt's car, promising to come back for 7 year-old Joe and now, he's sitting on death row. The date for Ed's execution has come and Joe will not let him wait alone. He is going to be there for his brother, regardless of what anyone thinks. Joe travels to Texas to spend those last few precious weeks with his brother...and, just maybe, get some answers.
This exquisitely lyrical verse novel offering from Crossan is beautiful...filled with genuine emotion and empathy and unanswered questions. The reader feels the impact of the story from the very first page. The story rolls between memories from the familys' difficult past and the harsh reality of the present. Embedded throughout its' telling are the typical concerns that anyone just leaving school, while trying to deal with a situation that finds Joe completely out of his depth. Trying to find joy in a grim situation, Joe attempts to support himself in a place that he doesn't know anything about and cope with an onslaught of media, the rumour mill of society and a complex mine-field of the criminal justice system. And yet, I doubt that any other author could write a story such as this with the grace, gentleness and finesse that Crossan shows. Moonrise is powerful. Just read it. (14+)
TELL IT TO THE MOON (Moonlight Dreamers 2)
author: Siobhan Curham
Walker Books ( 3 August 2017)
The Moonlight Dreamers are a group of four unlikely friends with one thing in common...they will not lead their lives according to everyone else's rules! A few months after the events of Moonlight Dreamers, it's Christmas Eve and a lot has been happening. Amber is struggling with knowing who she is and where she comes from; Rose returns from New York with some very big, nail-biting news to tell everyone; Sky is having grave doubts about her school situation and Maali's family is having a crisis that tests her faith.Together, they support each other's dreams and resolutions, but it may be more difficult than they were expecting...
This is an emotional, yet gentle journey through the problems and issues faced by four friends who seek their own voice, their own individuality in a world that demands sameness; fitting in. Told in the alternating voices of each girl, it runs seamlessly through the story and gives a very insightful view of their inner thoughts, outer crises and the effect life has on each. As they navigate life's traumas with strong characterisation and witty dialogue, it is a joy to read. The book advocates friendship, support, personal growth and acceptance, without allowing the issues to take over the story. Quietly compelling, Tell It To The Moon encourages pursuit of your dreams, no matter how difficult or unlikely they may seem. While you can read it on it's own, if you read Moonlight Dreamers first, you will have a stronger understanding of each character; who they are and why they are together. It is somewhat rare to find a book like this, one without action-packed, fiery scenes or fantastical creatures and happenings; but one that speaks with honesty and compassion quietly and still demands the reader read on. This book simply shimmers! Wonderful. (12+)
AFTER THE FIRE
author: Will Hill
Usborne (1 June 2017)
Moonbeam has spent all but her earliest years inside the Base, in the compound of the Holy Church of the Lord's Legion. She belongs to them. And she has been promised to become one of Father John's wives. But all that was Before. After a fierce battle with the Government; After the fire, Moonbeam's entire world has been shattered. She is now injured, but alive and severely damaged and disillusioned. Closely monitored and in intensive therapy, Moonbeam tells her story and the story of her Family. She painstakingly reveals all that happened on the Base, the events that led up to the battle and what happened during the fire.
After the Fire grabs hold of the reader from the very first page and never lets up. A riveting, at times painful read, this is an inquiry into faith, corruption, society, humanity and, mostly survival. The vast number of themes running through the text and how they play on each other give a view of the complexity of the human being and the world.Moonbeam is an extremely rounded and sympathetic character. Her flaws and strengths are slowly, purposefully brought to light with much understanding and insight. There is real texture and nuance as she explores her own story, her belief, the ever present voice in her head that was part of a life-long indoctrination, her healing and her feelings. The examination of those surrounding her is intricate, with an almost forensic accuracy. But the pace of this novel is phenomenal. Page after page offers new revelations and the reader is gripped and pulled through the book as if we, ourselves are involved in an investigation. The action is explosive. Very sophisticated and incredibly tense, this book is simply extraordinary. Read it!
DAD'S RED DRESS
author: L.J. Sedgwick
Janey Mac Books (February 2017)
Jessie Keane just wants her family to be normal… utterly, completely normal. Having moved from L.A. back to Ireland, normality would offer a chance to avoid the ‘looks’, the rumours and the bullying that she has dealt with in the past. But ‘normal’ is hardly possible. Not with a little sister who claims to have been abducted by the Virgin Mary (twice), a wildly contemporary artist stepmother anda creative architect father with a penchant for cross-dressing. As she tries to balance this eccentric, yet loving family, and what she hopes will be an ordinary school life, Jessie is put to the test when a new development shakes the façade
When I picked up Dad’s Red Dress, I expected a book that was quirky, entertaining and funny. What I did not expect was a novel that spoke to the heart of what it means to grow up. Filled with vivid, genuine characters and complex, conflicting family drama, it is joyous, loving and truly unique among the vast canon of coming-of-age stories. Each character is intricately drawn. Difficult subject matter is handled with great sensitivity. The dialogue is realistic and relatable for any young person. And while the situation may be unusual, the emotional impact is not. It gives the reader much to consider about life, friendship, who we really are and what makes a family. Dad’s Red Dress is indeed humourous; a delight to read. Simply wonderful.
(Review published :Childrens Books Ireland Inis Magazine http://childrensbooksireland.ie/review/dads-red-dress/ )
author: Sheena Wilkinson
Ink Road (20 April 2017)
After winning a TV talent competition and becoming pop sensation RyLee, Ryans' life has taken a downward turn. The following spell of addiction and media scrutiny, his career hit rock-bottom and Ryan landed in rehab to emerge under virtual house arrest by his controlling manager/stepfather. After a near tragic incident at home, Ryan runs from this old life and emerges in Belfast. Singing on the streets, he reinvents himself as 'Cal', joining with an amazingly talented young band and finally playing the music he wants to play. Just when he is happy; just when he is living life on his terms; his past begins to catch up with Ryan and he discovers that you can't run forever.
Written with passion and insight, Street Song is everything YA fiction needs to be. The story is gritty, realistic and so well-written as it takes you, not only on the physical journey the tale recounts, but on a journey inside the lead characters heart and mind, bringing the reader to a place where they feel the story as much as read it. The characters are superbly developed throughout; each one on their own path, each one coming to terms with the reality of their own life. The settings are described so well that it is not only easy to visualise, but the reader will believe they can go to those places and recognise them immediately. The world Wilkinson has created is expert and breath-taking in its' depth and accuracy. While the situation our young protagonist finds himself in is very specific, the struggle, the confusion, the decision-making processes, the friendship and family issues allow his story to stand as metaphor for every young person. Street Song could easily be described as a 'coming-of-age' novel, but it is so very much more. On top of this, its' a real page-turner. Honestly, just read it. (And then read everything else she has written....)
THE PEARL THIEF
author: Elizabeth Wein
Bloomsbury Childrens' (4 May 2017)
Following her grandfathers' death, 15-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart returns to her ancestral home for one last summer. But it is not the idyllic return to childhood that she had hoped for. The family lands have been sold off and this is now a summer of goodbyes; to the land of her youth, to the beautiful, ancient
An eloquent coming-of-age novel, combined with the mystery styling of Agatha Christie, The Pearl Thief is simply glorious. Set in the year prior to World War II, and the events of Code Name Verity, the steady pacing creates a classic, compelling feel. The exquisite writing paints the moors of Scotland in vivid colour and the reader can see the landscape, the ruins and even the river pearls through language alone. The mystery aspect has complex layering, plot twists and threads, without becoming tedious and the reader is lead through the story with intricate care. The characters are beautifully developed and the rhythm with which their relationships are depicted is carefully, rhythmically developed, echoing the land itself. Far from being 'old-fashioned', the story deals with many contemporary concerns (prejudice, sexism, homophobia, etc.) without them feeling forced into another time and place, proving that these aspects of life and human nature are always with us, must always be dealt with. But these are small facts in the story. Julie emerges in this book, as from a cocoon to become the person we will meet later, in Code Name Verity. (Which, by the way, you will want to re-read after finishing.) We see her as a whole, her confusion, her determination, her fears and her strengths, and in particular, her growth into herself. The Pearl Thief is precise, deliberate and one to be savoured, not rushed through. Unforgettable, textural and thoroughly wonderful, this book may take time, but it is time you will always remember.
author: Patrick Ness
Walker Books (4 May 2017)
It's Saturday. It's the height of summer. And today, everything changes...absolutely everything. Outside a small town in the Pacific northwest, a ghost has risen and is acting out an eerie, confused mythology while the towns' residents go about their normal lives. Adam Thorne, son of the local, highly respected minister, is planning to attend a summer party at the lake, while preparing to go to work, making plans with his best friend, his concealed boyfriend... just another normal Saturday. But what Adam doesn't know is today is the day when his life is going to fall apart completely. But perhaps, when it does, Adam will find freedom hidden within its' release.
An incredibly personal, tender look at the uncertainties of coming-of-age, Release is beautifully and brutally honest, heartfelt and simply stunning. It examines family life and the constructs of social structure with an exacting, sometimes shocking eye while never once dipping into the realm of sensationalism. His use of the supernatural/mythological serves to provide backdrop of explanation as to why these things are and to demonstrate the iconography that exists in human life. It says the things we feel, but cannot prove. And all the while, Release gives us a story; true, emotional and all too familiar. The wonderful and the earth-shattering, the weird and completely ordinary all collide to form one day that alters, not just Adams' life, but that of the reader. And the journey through that day is breath-taking. Any review simply cannot do it justice.
A DANGEROUS CROSSING
author: Jane Mitchell
Little Island (23 February 2017)
Ghalib doesn't want to leave his hometown of Kobani; he doesn't want to leave Syria. But the war...the constant random bombings, the skeletal ruins of burnt out buildings, the soldiers and snipers everywhere...have made it a far too dangerous place. His family begins a long, arduous journey on foot that takes them across Syria, through Aleppo to the border in hopes of crossing into Turkey. Life in a refugee camp is hopeless and equally dangerous. In spite of the efforts of aid workers, it offers little respite. Again they leave, paying all they have to make the equally perilous crossing across the sea to Greece, and hopefully, to mainland Europe. But their journey is far from over, and security is more elusive than ever.
Based on true events, this is an incredible, dramatic story of one boys' search for refuge. The circumstances are truly harrowing; the tale told, compelling, shattering and still filled with courage and the strength of the human spirit. It is a necessary story and one that gives great understanding of the plight of thousands upon thousands of children who are, in fact, making that crossing everyday, against all odds. The characters are painted with genuine, realistic impact, as their lives are laid bare. (Their names are taken from the names of actual Syrian children who have died as a direct consequence of the war in Syria.) Friendship, trust and hope are fleeting things, as Ghalib desperately tries to hold on to his family. Each page is filled with tension and upon finishing, the reader will be left to wonder how anyone can survive...if they could survive. Yet it is also filled with little miracles that interject hope of something better. The story ends abruptly, on a cliff-hanger that will give the reader pause for thought. We do not get to see the end of Ghalibs' story; we can only cross our fingers and pray for the best...whatever that is. Powerful, moving, courageous and intimately insightful, A Dangerous Crossing will leave you, not only with a different view of the war in Syria and elsewhere, but questioning our own humanity. Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is a must read for our times.
(Also read: Chalkline by Jane Mitchell)
author: Alice Broadway
Scholastic (2 February 2017)
In Saintstone, each resident has their entire life tattooed on their body...every act, every deed, every significant moment; always on view for all to see. When they die, their skin is removed and compiled into a book of their life. It is then reviewed and it is decided if the book will stand as testament to a good life for which they will be remembered, or destroyed and forgotten forever. The biggest threat to society is the Blanks; those without tattoos whose lives cannot be read and are considered dangerous and subversive.
Leoras' father has just died. As the family wait for the verdict on his Skin Book, Leora discovers that his book has been 'edited' and his life story is incomplete. A dark secret has been withheld from her all of her life and now, her whole world is under threat.Everything she thought she knew, everything she believed is called into question. But her father was a good man. He deserves to be remembered; doesn't he? As Leora enters a life as an Inker, her friendships expand and, like her, many now call the regulations and laws that have kept them secure. Leoras' once certain future, as well as her memories of life, become very uncertain indeed.
The first of a trilogy, Ink is fresh, original, thought-provoking and enthralling. A picture is painted within the pages that is so clear and vivid, it allows the reader to enter the world and become part of it with a fully suspended disbelief...you are there. That world is real.The characters are alive with depth and nuance. Their friendships and relationships are fully realised with layer upon layer of emotion and complexity. Many parallels can be drawn between the social/political society of Saintstone and its' surrounding environs and our own world; and this leads to much pondering of our present state of affairs. But this does not overwhelm a story that is filled with texture and life. Definitely YA territory, I have not read a book like this in a very long time. It stands out, head and shoulders among the numbers of fantasy/dystopian novels for young adults. Highly recommended!
MAFIOSA (Blood For Blood)
author: Catherine Doyle
Chicken House (5 January 2017)
As a blood war rages on the streets of Chicago, Sophie has now allied herself with those who should be her sworn enemies. Now protected by the infamous Falcones, she is now the prime target of her own family. Still, she must prove herself to her new 'family' while she personally seeks revenge for her mothers' murder. She must keep up the pretense of a normal, schoolgirl life, while becoming ever more entrenched in a deadly game. And her heart belongs to a murderer. The feud between the warring families escalates, the demands on Sophies' loyalty grow stronger and her double life unravels with lethal consequences. By the end, there will be blood on everyones' hands.
Doyle has created a world that is textural, engaging and heart-stopping. This series has everything that teen readers want in a story and this final chapter takes a dark turn that will keep the reader glued to the book until the bitter end. The depiction of Sophies' turmoil; her rage and heartbreak; her longing and her love, all paint a portrait that is real to the reader. All relationships are handled with incredible sophistication and complexity. The book is just as dynamic as its' predecessors, if not more so. Just when you are certain what the next scene will hold, you turn the page to another unexpected twist. It is bold, stormy, turbulent with an incredible, unexpected finale. But at the very end, there is that brief moment that tells you, perhaps,it's not over for our hero. Powerful and compelling! Well done, Catherine Doyle!
author: Laura Ruby
Faber & Faber (29 December 2016)
Bone Gap has many gaps; gaps a person could easily slip through and disappear forever. When young, beautiful immigrant Roza disappears, as quickly and easily as she appeared in fact, it is no surprise to anyone. It’s not the first time someone has vanished from the lives of Finn and Sean O’Sullivan. After all, their mother left years ago, leaving them on their own to fend for themselves.
But Finn knows that isn't what happened this time. Roza didn't just disappear. She was snatched from the cornfields by a man whose face he cannot remember. She was taken somewhere remote and strange. And he must find her. But no one will believe him; no one will help him. The beekeepers daughter, Petey suspects that Finn has a real story worth uncovering.
Completely extraordinary book that isn’t easy to define. In a truly expert handling of magical realism, Bone Gap has a lyrical plot that is complex, but easy to maneuver that leads the reader through the lives of this quiet, strange little town and it’s nuances and peculiarities. The characters and their lives seem at once recognisable and alien. As revelation after revelation is gently unpeeled, the reader is both relieved and shaken. A coming-of-age novel that is haunting, intriguing and so much more. with a satisfying end that leaves the reader quite stunned. Loved it! 14+
A DARKNESS AT THE END: the shadows know your name
author: Ruth Frances Long
O'Brien Books (September 2016)
With Holly, the fae matriarch seeking the ultimate power for herself and angels, demons, fae and humans being pulled into a deadly conflict, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Ancient compacts are completely destroyed and the sidhe are at war, with angels and demons drawing down sides, each daring the other to start a battle that could end everything. Izzy has lost her memory and it seems Jinx is dead...or not. With the Sidheways in tatters, it is torment to travel among and between the worlds. And those who could be counted on to have the answer, to stop the insanity are missing...or dead...or irrevocably changed. As the gauntlet is thrown down, it seems that Jinx and even Izzy have changed, become something they never knew they had to be. Hostility and bloodshed are rife. This war is the final one.
Wow! Just wow! First of all, let me say that Longs' ability at world building is handled with such amazing dexterity and nuance that you cannot believe it is fantasy
THE BONE SPARROW: a refugee story
author: Zana Fraillon
Orion Childrens (July 2016)
Subhi was born in a refugee camp. It is all he has ever known. He was told stories of his 'home' and his father, who will someday come for his Maá and sister Queeny and who sends him hope and presents when the Night Sea comes. But his reality is quite different; fences surround his world, food and clothes are both scarce, the Jackets that guard the camp are harsh and the nice ones
While being harsh and realistic, The Bone Sparrow is also hopeful, allowing the reader to examine both injustice and redemption; freedom and survival. Fraillon uses incredible storytelling skill to weave tale that it difficult to read, but impossible to put down. The economy of description leads the reader to an understanding of the sparseness of Subhi life, but also the texture, richness and marvellous adventure he manages to tease out of it. The juxtaposition of Jimmie and Subhi as characters, and their incredible lives give an intimate picture of difference and sameness, of what lies in the human heart and of what can be made out of great loss and struggle. The voices in the book are strong and true. The emotions are vibrant. And while there is much hardship, there are also wonderful moments of great humour and goodwill. A moving
THE MOONLIGHT DREAMERS
author: Siobhan Curham
Walker Books (July 2016)
Amber just doesn't fit in. She's bullied at school because she has two dads and no mum. She loves all things vintage and takes inspiration for her life from Oscar Wilde. She is a dreamer, longing for adventure and true excitement. Tired of trying to fit in with people who just don't understand her, Amber knows there are friends just waiting for her out there in the big wide world. Chance meetings with shy Maali, artistic Sky and tough-as-nails Rose, three girls who are just as different as she is, Amber enlists in them in her newly formed Moonlight Dreamers; a club for misfits, stand-outs, who want to start living their own lives and dreaming their own dreams. The four girls couldn't be more different from each other, but together, they become friends, face challenges and take on whatever life throws at them while finding the courage to simply be themselves.
A wonderful book of friendship and imagination, Moonlight Dreamers is a joy to read. The characters are true-to-life, facing realistic situations that go against the grain of convention. Each of the girls has a very different nature. Perhaps the strongest point that comes across in this book is how difference and acceptance make for stronger bonds and allows for greater strength...and more support and fun. The events that mark the girls lives are powerful, filled with texture and truth and bring the reader to a place of understanding. As they struggle with going against the norm, they also struggle with their own preconceived notions and, with humour and joy, they win! While I hesitate to use the word (as it is used too often) it is empowering in the truest sense. You may even find yourself starting your own Moonlight Dreamers club, something we could all use. Clever, funny, articulate and full of drama and dreams, I can't recommend this book highly enough. (For girls aged 12 and up)
THE BOOK OF PEARL
author: Timothée de Fombelle
Walker Books (June 2016)
Joshua Pearl is from a world not so very far from our own, but a world we no longer believe existshim to remember. With his passion for photography, Joshua documents everything he sees, capturing moments in time that elude the commonplace and everyday. In particular, he is haunted by the first image he has taken; that of a beautiful girl in a boat. He is taken in by an old man when injured and, after time, is compelled to plot his escape, but not until he unearths the mystery of the old mans' life, held in objects hidden in an array of suitcases lining the walls of his shack. Haunted and saddened, confused by what he finds there, Joshua is told by the old man to leave. So Joshua continues on his journey, spurred on to recover his fragmented memory and the girl, for only then will he make sense of what he sees.
In this book, an especially poignant fairytale for teen and adult fantasy readers, de Fombelle reveals the incredible story teller he is through brilliant world-building and piecing together a tale that insists the reader read on. Intricate and enduring, the story ebbs and flows with exquisite writing, unveiling the truth of longing, first love and self-discovery. It transcends its' fantasy genre, being equally appealing to readers David Levithan, John Green, Elizabeth Wein and Patrick Ness. (I'm thinking of Ness' beautiful novel The Crane Wife, in particular.) Exceptional characters, beautiful landscaping and filled with the elements of classic writing, The Book of Pearl is a quiet and tender novel; totally unique and impossible to put down.
author: Simon Mayo
Corgi Childrens (July 2016)
In the not too distant future, the world has crumbled under the weight of economic crisis and crime. Many of the true perpetrators have escaped justice...but their families haven't. In this world, a new type of criminal justice has evolved, along with a new type of prison. Just because you are a child, doesn't mean you can't be punished when society is looking for someone to blame. Ant and her younger brother, Mattie find themselves banged up in a family prison, held for the crimes of their parents, along with their foster parents and many others suffering the same fate....punished for 'heritage crimes.' But unrest and tensions are brewing away inside the prison network and Antis right at the heart of it all. When things finally blow, Ant and Mattie have one chance to escape; one chance to prove to the world that they, like all the others are not to blame.
Fast-paced, engaging and completely absorbing, Blame is not only a brilliant dystopian thriller, but is filled with enough detail and texture to place the reader within the story and make it all seem incredibly plausible. The harsh world of the prison system, the desperation of life on the run, the social implications of having a system
author: Gabrielle Zevin
Bloomsbury Childrens (14 July 2016)
After meeting her end in a hit and run accident, 15-year-old Liz finds herself aboard the SS Nile, on her way to Elsewhere. Coming to terms with her death difficult enough, and it takes her many months to realise that she IS actually dead. Liz spends time watching her family and friends while on the other side before finally settling into her new friendships; most notably with Curtis, an aging rock star who died of a drug overdose, Thandi, a young black girl killed in a drive-by shooting and her grandmother, a woman she never met in life, but now lives with in the Afterlife. But 'life' in Elsewhere offers Liz the possibility to do all the things she didn't get to do previously, and some things she'd never be able to do. Here she can learn to drive a car, fall in love, hold down a job, speak Canine. In Elsewhere, things carry on almost as normal, with the distinct difference that the residents age backwards from the time they died. As new relationships are formed and old wounds are healed, they are also strained and tested as reverse aging carries back to the moment they are released to travel across the sea and be reborn...
First published in 2005, this is a celebratory re-publishing of one of the most joyous, touching, unique books imaginable. Filled with marvelous detail and imaginative, touching relationships, Zevin spins an incredible tale of possibility, restitution, redemption and re-birth. It is poignant, honest, at times heart-breaking and utterly brilliant. I recommend it to absolutely everyone. Completely memorable, you will what to revisit Elsewhere again and again.
NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD
author: Claire Hennessy
Hot Key Books (June 2016)
Annabel worked hard all her young life to be "lighter than air" but she could never seem to get thin enough. No one ever understood; no one could ever help and now, as a result of her quest for her view of perfection, she finds herself, having died as a result, as a "spirit helper" of sorts. Her first assignment is Julia. Julias' problem seems fairly obvious to Annabel. Julia is fat and that is why she's so unhappy. As Annabel spends time getting to know Julia, she becomes a voice in her head..guiding her to exercise, limit her food intake...pushing her all the while to lose that weight. But along the line, Annabel starts to think about other aspects of her own life; family, friends...and maybe, that happiness comes more than being thin. And what really happens when you listen to the voices in your head.
Claire Hennessys' marvelous new book stands apart in the sea of newly published YA fiction. It tackles the very prevalent issues surrounding eating disorders and body image with a great deal of compassion and clear perception, not to mention some extraordinarily fine writing. The reader is taken on a journey of discovery through both central characters; you get into their heads and feel them, understand them...gradually unraveling what is going on in there. Annabels' resistance to her task and responsibilities, as well as (more importantly) her development of a full view of what happened to her is frustrating, but moving at the same time. It is a powerful indictment to see how easily Annabels' voice gets inside Julia and begins to manipulate her behaviour; a poignant reminder of the force of social pressure and how easily you can lose yourself; how difficult it is to get back to your own voice. With carefully crafted plot and character development, the story is woven, frayed and re-woven frayed, coming to a resolution that, though not cut and dried, is filled with potential. A truly exceptional vision; unique and riveting. Read it!
author: E.R. Murray
Alma Books Ltd. (May 2016)
Liv Bloom has a complicated life....too complicated for a 14-year-old. Her father left the family when she was very young, her mother is in a recovery centre trying to deal (or not) with her alcoholism, and her older sister, Hatty, has taken a break from Uni to take care of Liv while her mother can't. Liv and Hatty are really struggling. The only one Liv seems to be able to turn to is her best friend, Sarah. But Liv has discovered a recipe book written in her mothers' handwriting...her mother before her father left, before the drinking, before her world fell apart....and embarks on a journey of discovery. Through trying to replicate her mothers' recipes, Liv discovers something she is really good at, something that takes her out of her misery and gives her a new focus. But things are never that straight forward and a a possible new love, threats and an attack by a school bully that used to be a close friend and a reconciliation with the past bring more chaos into Livs' life. Some hard lessons are still there for the learning.
This is a heart-felt novel about just how difficult growing up can be and the real value of friendship, family and understanding. While Caramel Hearts is a beautiful read, it is not an easy one. The realism with which it deals with the subjects of alcoholism, bullying, and family dysfunction is gritty and, at times, disturbing. But it is written with finesse and compassion.The mother-daughter relationship is explored deeply, with great insight even for those not coping with alcoholism or difficult issues. It is truly revealing. The intricacies of the relationship between the two sisters is handled beautifully, the love, the anger, the struggle. And Livs' character sings with the energy and confusion of a teenage girl trying to deal with things she shouldn't have to deal with. Structured around the recipes, this is a YA novel that is warm and revealing. I highly recommend it to all, as there is something here for everyone. A marvellous and important read.
author: Jerry Spinelli
Orchard Books (April 2016)
When Stargirl first arrives at Leo’s school, no one knows what to make of her. She dresses oddly, wears no make-up, plays the ukulele, and sings “Happy Birthday” to complete strangers. She drops her change because “people love to find money.” Stargirl is mysterious, quirky and stands out from the crowd… and she likes it that way. The boys are mesmerised by her and the girls are jealous of her. Slowly, everyone begins to accept her; even like her. But a combination of fear and excitement draws Leo Borlock to Stargirl and he finds himself unexpectedly in love with this weird, wonderful, different girl. Her individuality allows Stargirl to shine her light on even the school basketball team, cheering them on to the championships. Then, something unfathomable happens, Stargirl routes for the other team. Oh, she has her reasons, odd though they may be. The school doesn’t see that way, however. Soon she is shunned and ridiculed; standing out from the crowd is no longer admired. Her new acceptable status is gone. Leo finds himself having to choose between his love for Stargirl and the friendship of the entire school. He may not be brave enough to make the right decision.
It was with an immense joy that I discovered that Stargirl was being re-released after 10 years. A wondrous YA classic that celebrates non-conformity, first love and the difficulty we all have when trying to follow our hearts. And I have to add, this is not a 'girls' book'; it is for everybody. Narrated in Leo's voice, which is strong and genuine, it leads to any understanding of social pressure and conflict in those fragile teen years and if more people read it, it would cause a quiet revolution in thought and deed. Gentle and yet, demanding at the same time, the story-telling is perfectStargirl is one that you will want to read over and over. If you love John Green or Sarah Crossan, this is a must read!
Fall in love with Stargirl.
author: Deirdre Sullivan
Little Island (25 February 2016)
Ces longs to be a tattoo artist; to make things beautiful by embroidering the skin with radiant images, not to cover up the ugly or commonplace, but to allow beauty to grow, to bloom from the tawdry or the ordinary. A stronger, braver sort of beauty that doesn't exist in her life which is filled by a self-imposed facade of normality, at least as much normality as she can conjure. Her drawings are strange, reflective and sumptuous. For now, she lives from day to day, the echoes of her trauma haunting her and urging her to find the courage to step forward and confront. For now, she just wants to reach adulthood and autonomy without falling apart.
Needlework is intricately woven with the rhythm and delicacy of a fine tapestry. It is a book that is both difficult to take and impossible to put down. Sullivan is dealing with an extremely sensitive topic here, and she does so with great subtlety and nuance. The writing is exquisite and poetic, the story, a compelling one that ebbs and flows as you follow. It handles its' subject matter without succumbing to sensationalism and without pushing the reader; a task that is very difficult to achieve. The voice and perception is eloquent, powerful and starkly genuine. The result is a story that needs to be told, needs to be read and considered and felt deeply. I think Tara Flynns' comment sums Needlework up to perfection; "A brutally beautiful book." Needlework is a rare work among the numbers of young adult fiction titles; honest, forthright, delicate and sincere.
INFERNO (BLOOD FOR BLOOD:BOOK 2)
author: Catherine Doyle
Chicken House (January 2016)
Sophie Gracewell's world has been shattered, but she is determined to set everything right and get back to her old life...her old self, again. But Nic, the Falcone brother she was so attracted to and now represents everything she desperately needs to steer clear of, won't give up on their love. Then why is it brother Luca's knife that she clutches tightly for comfort? Despite hiding out in her own home, despite avoiding the Falcones at all costs and despite every effort to control of her life, it isn't long before another Mafia clan is rattling the fragile cage of peace and Sophie is facing more turmoil. Does she follow her heart, or stay with her blood? Sophie wanted out...now she's in deeper than ever. With a river of blood and deception stretching both behind and ahead of her, Sophie must make a choice.
This IS young adult fiction at its' finest. Romantic and daring, Inferno holds nothing back. It is gutsy, realistic and pacey. Within the story lie many twists that do not allow the reader to let go...nor do they allow the reader to know which direction it will go next. But there is more to this than a 'Romeo and Juliet meet the Godfather' story. It displays, raw and with great power, inner turmoils that we all face. Questions of love and loyalty, right and wrong, trust and betrayal and, ultimately the question 'who do you want to be', run throughout the tale, touching the reader and causing you to question your own heart and mind. Inferno, like its' predecessor Vendetta, is a powerhouse of a book. Thoughtful, incisive and eloquent... and extremely addictive.
A HOLLOW IN THE HILLS...try to outrun the fear
author: Ruth Frances Long
O'Brien Press (September 2015)
(Sequel to A Crack In Everything) While still trying to come to terms with her new-found powers, Izzy is confronted with a new mission. An ancient, forbidden and ultimate evil is awakening in the surrounding hills and is threatening to wreak war and destruction on Dublin, as well as it's neighbouring fae realm, Dubh Linn. An angel of death is waiting; his powers churning and demanding to be paid his due. But the price is too high. When Izzy refuses to sacrifice Jinx, fae warrior and her beloved (estranged though they may be), she unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that sees the hunted across the city, through the realms and into the hills, where her destiny lies in wait with fullest force.
Once again, Long uses Irish mythology and legend to create a tense and dramatic fantasy that drives the reader to the depths of nightmare. Lyrical and imaginative writing, she has created a world that is tangible and tactile,sitting easily alongside the mundane world we live in. It is filled with inventive characters that will occupy you even as you walk down the streets. The way Long plays with the fantasy/reality dichotomy is compelling. Ultimately, this story is romantic, moving and fascinating. This is fantasy writing at its' very best....fast-paced, compelling, unnerving.
HOUSE OF WINDOWS
author: Alexia Casale
Faber&Faber (August 2015)
Nick is a 15 year old boy starting his first year of university at Cambridge. He is sarcastic, witty and the first one to correct you if you call him a genius. According to Nick, he just works hard. His hard work is all about getting attention from his workaholic father who is seldom present. But his academic gifts hide Nick's feeling of isolation and limited ability to form friendships or family ties. At Cambridge, he is given a mentor, Professor Gosswin, with whom he forms a tentative-looking albeit deep bond...the only real connection he has. The work becomes more difficult, and the socialising even harder. But when Nick starts to cox for the Cambridge rowing crew, he is pushed to his limits as it all hits the fan.
Completely absorbing and heart-felt, House of Windows is an intricate portrait of a young man, coming of age as he struggles with his past, his talents and the deep emotional trauma he has suffered. Sensitively drawn, Nick's background is slowly revealed to deepen the impact. The trauma is only shown through its' consequences; no sensationalism is needed to tell Nicks' story. As Nick's character grows and pulls away from the pain of his past, the reader learns much about his personality, about why he acts the way he does, but about the effect the past has on all of the characters in the novel.Expertly written with a lot of finesse and grace, while it took a bit of time to get into the story, once there, I couldn't put it down. Brilliant, beautiful and utterly compelling. I highly, highly recommend this exceptional young adult read from an incredible writer.
THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE
author: Patrick Ness
Walker Books (27 August 2015)
Mikey, Mel, Henna and Jared are just ordinary, normal kids (well...mostly). Their concerns are normal concerns; love, stomachs, making it through to graduation and going to the prom before someone blows up the school....again. Their lives are played out against a backdrop extraordinary, weird events like fighting off zombies or vampires or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and explosions and death. Mikey doesn't want to be a hero. He doesn't want to save the world from its' latest imminent destruction. Because some things are bigger than the end of the world.
Patrick Ness always offers the best and the most incisive reading and this book is no exception. The Rest of Us Just Live Here champions the ordinary and finding the genuinely remarkable in the most commonplace; something that everyone needs. Ness writes with keen insight into the emotional world, not just of young adults about to enter the world, but of all of these around them. The huge, big, world events that threaten day to day life takes a back seat to just trying to make it through. Yet, the kids who are just trying to make it through exist in a state of collateral damage to these events. The adults in this book are both misunderstanding and misunderstood. In one particular scene, the mother remarks, almost casually, certainly wistfully, that weird things were happening when she was young as well, which fires off an understanding of her childrens' lives that is not quite reached... because we don't really want to go back there, do we? In the meantime, the 'indie kids' are fighting off the latest demons for the greater good.
Written with enormous compassion, quirky and pinpoint sense of humour and while telling a great story, this book speaks for the everyday. The characters are just like us... it's heroes are not the 'special' ones. The Rest of Us also riffs on every single dystopian, fantasy genre and every fab seen so far in YA literature, while giving the reader a sense of a certain stable instability. These things are always happening....you will make it through....you don't have to be any more, anything greater than what you are. That is enough. Brilliantly written, entirely remarkable and utterly readable. It is both worldly and intimate. This is pure genius.
author: Sarah Crossan
Bloomsbury Childrens (27 August 2015)
Grace and Tippi are cojoined twins; literally joined at the hip. They have lived
This exquisitely written verse novel is poignant, realistic and utterly unforgettable. Told in Graces' voice, the story moves eloquently, without being disingenuous or pretentious. The fact that Tippi and Grace are alive at all, and their adaptability are portrayal very matter-of-fact, as we might imagine would be the case in this circumstance. The points where their personalities collide and divide are simply expressed. This novel also echoes the multi-faceted side of individual personalities and the conflicts involved in being a young adult; in reaching the point of individuation. Questions of love, responsibility, friendship, trust and identity are handled with deftness. This poetic novel rings true on every page. It will bring both laughter and tears. A moving, sensitive and fascinating portrait of sisterhood and redemption, One must be read.
FIRE COLOUR ONE
author: Jenny Valentine
HarperCollinsChildrensBooks (2 July 2015)
As her father, Ernest nears the end of his life,Iris returns to the home she never knew she had after years on the run with her manipulative mother, Hannah and step-father, Lowell. Her best friend, Thurston, is the only one who ever listened; ever understood and fully appreciated the person Iris is truly. He is now somewhere on the other side of the world and she can't reach him at the one time she needs him the most. A silent war is declared to gain control of Ernest's wealth and live a life of luxury, with Iris as a pawn. All Iris has to do is play along, exacting critical information from Ernest about his priceless art collection and gain his love and trust....and not burn anything. But there are things Ernest wants Iris to know before he dies. As hard as Hannah works to keep the story from coming out, the truth will always find a way of revealing itself. Everything Iris thought she knew goes up in flames.
A bold and brilliant novel about love, lies and redemption, from award-winning author, Jenny Valentine – one of the greatest YA voices of her generation. Her voice and rhythm creates a story that is gripping and moving. The characters and their relationships bleed with unquestionable reality. The texture and nuance of the story is at once subtle and power-packed. Jenny Valentine is incredible; an absolute favourite of mine; and this one, long-awaited, is pure gold-dust. A novel about deception, family, loss and recovery…and taking control of your own life. Warning: contains acts of arson. I loved it just as much as I loved all her others. (Finding Violet Park, The Ant Colony, Broken Soup, The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight.) A superb and genuine novel!
WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES
author: Susin Nielsen
Andersen Press (30 April 2015)
Stewart is 13; he's geeky, gifted and has always wanted a sister. Stewart sees things a bit differently from most people. He's also grieving the loss of his mother. As time moves on, his father starts a relationship with his beautiful co-worker, Caroline. Stewart and his Dad move into her house, where Stewart finds the sister he's always wanted. Ashley is 15; she's spoilt, beautiful and popular...and the last thing she wants in her life is a geeky younger brother. Ashley is having enough trouble maintaining her status among her friends. Her parents split up because her Dad came out and now lives in their renovated coach house. While Stewart is 89.9% happy about his new situation, Ashley is 110% mortified and is having more than a little trouble adjusting. Things get a lot more awkward when both Stewart and Ashley come to the attention of the gorgeous school hunk, Jared...for very different reasons.
Nielsen has a strong sense of character and place in this novel. Her heartfelt rendering of contemporary teenage life and its' up and downs make this a riveting and thoroughly enjoyableWe Are All Made of Molecules is wonderful book that seeks to navigate and celebrate differences among people and the complexities of 'blended families...and does so with aplomb! Highly recommended.
THE DOOR THAT LED TO WHERE
author: Sally Gardner
Hot Key Books (January 2015)
AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSE exams, and the future is not looking very promising for him. When he is offered a junior position at a prestigious London law firm, what choice does he have but to accept? AJ has no idea how much his life is about to change. Tidying up at the office one day, AJ finds an old key engraved with his name and date of birth. Uncovering the door that fits the key, AJ also uncovers a family secret, a door to the past, and the possibility of a new beginning for AJ and his closest friends. Solving a crime with its roots embedded in the 1830s
VENDETTA: BLOOD FOR BLOOD
Chicken House (January 2015)
Since her father was jailed for murder, Sophie Gracewell has done everything she can to keep a low profile. But when the five Falcone brothers move into the abandoned mansion on her street, things change quickly. Her Uncle Jack warns Sophie to stay away from them. Sophie finds herself irresistibly drawn to Nic. His golden-speckled strike her as familiar, but she can’t remember from where. Nics’ charming and elusive manner pull Sophie ever closer. As their attraction intensifies, and the couple are told they must not be together, Sophie begins to untangle a twisted web of criminal activity that leads to dangerous truths. Sophie finds herself in the middle of two underworld dynasties at war and must choose.
Enthralling and fast-paced, Vendetta is a powerful debut novel. This is Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather….for young adults. The characters are finely drawn, with exceptional development throughout. Sophie is no simpering little Juliet, and Nic is definitely not Romeo; and the tension between love and family loyalty are stretched to its’ outer-most limits. Drawn into their world, the reader will be fascinated, terrified and compelled to read on. Just when the outcome becomes obvious, the plot twists and turns, pulling the reader into an unexpected direction. The line between right and wrong, good guys and bad guys, is blurred, leaving the unanswered questions to be decided by the rapid spiraling of chaotic action. Dangerous, captivating, feverish and poignant; Vendetta promises much, and delivers.
(Definitely for 14+)
THE WITCH OF SALT AND STORM
author: Kendall Kulper
Orchard Books (4 Sep 2014)
Averys' mother was the first Roe woman in history to turn her back on their legacy; to become the witch of Prince Island. All Avery wants is to set this right and be the one to make the charms and read the dreams that keep the islanders safe and prosperous on the sea. Before she can learn how to control her power, her mother returns and snatches Avery from her grandmother. Held captive in her mothers' fine home, Avery plots her escape. She must return to her grandmother lest the old woman dies and she cannot learn her craft. A dream has foretold her fate if she does not....a vicious murder and an island lost to misfortune forever. Tane, a tattooed harpoon boy vows he can help Avery; but will he be too late?
An atmospheric and eerie read, The Witch of Salt and Storm casts an engaging spell on the reader. Filled with mystery, the descriptive quality of this narrative places the reader firmly within the tale. Averys' character is strong, rebellious and feisty, but shows her fears, doubts and vulnerability. The back-story of the Roe witches is as compelling as Averys' own, and the dynamic between the generations of women is dramatic. Beautifully written, this is a book to be savoured. Captivating and heartbreaking, thoroughly memorable, this book combines a passionate love story with a magical work of historical fiction. Recommended for young women ages 15 +
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN
author: Jandy Nelson
Dial Books (Penguin) (2014) ISBN 9780803734968
Jude and Noah are incredible close, nearly inseparable twins. At 13, reclusive Noah draws constantly; painting and drawing in his head when no paper is to hand, and feeling everything. Jude is the dare-devil; boisterous, cliff-diving and talking for the both of them. But at 16, a tragedy has driven them apart....now they barely speak to each other; avoiding each other at all costs. And they hold blame anger towards each other, and towards those around them. The earlier years are told in Noah's voice; the later in Jude's; as they come to the realisation that each one has only half of the story.
What an incredible power-house of a story! Eloquent and emotional, Nelson gives voice to, not only the story that unfolds, but the confusion; the noise that takes place in each twins head as they try to make sense of what has happened, how they became who they are, and how they will resolve and grow. Nelson is expert at this, as was evident in her earlier book, The Sky is Everywhere. The twins' stories, both individually and collectively, tumble across the pages in the way that all our stories move in the years in question. A 'coming-of-age' story, yes; but with more. This book gives an important glimpse into how people and families; and entire communities; create and live their own mythologies....and how they recreate when the myths don't hold up. Intricately woven, passionate and quiet at once, profoundly moving; I'll Give You the Sun pulls you through the pages and leaves you breathless, with some very compelling insights. Wow!
WE WERE LIARS
author: E. Lockhart
Hot Key Books (2014) ISBN: 9781471403989
"Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
No one is a criminal.
No one is an addict.
No one is a failure......"
And into this family is born Cadence Sinclair Eastman. Nearly 18, educated, bright, promising. Her fondest moments are spent on the Sinclairs' own private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her grandparents, her mother, aunts and the wonderful Sinclair cousins and Gat. Gat came to spend the summers with them when Cadence was eight and became as much a parent of the family as the rest. Each sub-family has their own house....and their own petty jealousies and issues. Two years ago, Cadence suffered an accident on the island. Now, nothing is the same. Everything is broken...and all the privilege and beauty in the world won't bring back the life she knew.
This book chronicles the event and lives of the entire Sinclair family through Cadence's eyes. All the time spent that seems to tragically lead to the accident. Her perceptions are, of course skewed; her understanding clouded and confused. Through the telling of this tale of love, family, romance and tragedy, the reader gets a story of childhood adventures and growing up in a refined, wealthy and privileged life. A mystery is created that very few will figured out along the way. It has realistic, genuine characters and an endingadventures and growing up in a refined, wealthy and privileged life. A mystery is created that very few will figured out along the way. It has realistic, genuine characters and an ending you will not see coming. An eloquent and moving book about love, guilt, grief and perception; We Were Liars is a subtle, quiet, profound triumph.
A CRACK IN EVERYTHING : Welcome to the other side
author: Ruth Frances Long
O'Brien Press (1 September 2014)
Izzy Gregory appears to be a typical teenager; albeit with a minor problem with electronics. Just like her Dad, when she gets near an appliance, sparks seem to randomly fly. While out in Dublin one fine day, she takes a sideways step in an alley and encounters an angel, a fae creature and another Dublin (Dubh Linn) that exists in shadows and the echoes alongside the city she knows so well. Izzy discovers a magical, dangerous place, with inhabitants that are not quite what the old stories relate. In fact, nothing is what it's supposed to be...nothing at all. And, for reasons she does not understand, they are after her. As a desperate journey unfolds, Izzy finds herself in the centre of a violent conflict between etheric forces, trying to master powers she had no idea she possessed and struggling to save her life, her father's life and the existence of nearly all of those dear to her on both sides. Izzy is the key player; she is something that should not exist; she is a crack in everything.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant fantasy!!! Long has created a world lying next to our own with such depth, it will cause the reader to view everything around them differently. It is fast-paced, compelling and related with so much skill and texture that you become part of that story. It is not so much read as it is felt, intuited, breathed.... A Crack In Everything uses the basis of ancient Irish lore pulled into the present with characters that are at once familiar and fresh, new contemporary; even though they are hundreds of years old. It also plays on the 'oddities' of the Dublin landscape, offering this sideways step into the other side as a plausible explanation for it's unusual character. You'll never look at Dublin the same again. Exceptional story-telling, memorable characters and alive, for fantasy-fans, this is the best read in years!
APPLE AND RAIN
author: Sarah Crossan
Bloomsbury Childrens (14 August 2014)
Apple has grown up in her grandmothers' house with one clear memory...the Christmas Eve night that her mother walked out, leaving her behind. She feels lost, and broken. Now, with her mothers' return, the question that has haunted her for eleven years (why did you go?) can be answered. Apple will have someone who knows what it's like to be a teenager. She can be whole again. As she leaves to start her new life with her mother, Apple begins to wonder exactly who is looking after who. And then...she finds someone in her mothers' life who is more lost then she is. Reality suddenly starts to sink in.
Written with great beauty and compassion, Apple and Rain is an utterly consuming study of family relationships, growing up and the redeeming power of love. Each character is written with great insight, that gives the reader a view into the complexities of their nature, without reading as overly complex. There is also a very important aspect to this book that comes through with great subtlety...the rewriting of memory. You actually feel this book more than understand it. As with her first book, The Weight of Water, Crossan packs a lot of information and quite a number of issues into the text without it being burdened. Clear, moving,lyrically written. riveting and simple wondrous, it made me cry and gave me hope at the same time. Highly recommended.
author: Frances Hardinge
Macmillan Childrens Books (8 May 2014)
Triss wakes up following an accident with the sure and certain knowledge that something is horribly wrong. She has a hunger that can't be satisfied, her parents are constantly whispering behind closed doors and her little sister is both angry and terrified. And the dolls' eyes....they were the first thing that shifted, watching Triss mockingly as she moved around the room. Triss only has vague memories of her life before and as she goes through her diary to reconstruct her life, pages are missing... torn out. As the truth slowly reveals itself, Triss discovers that what has happened to her is more dark and bizarre than she could have imagined. Triss is quite literally not herself. She travels to the Underbelly of the city, where she must find the Architect, a twisted soul who has hideous plans for her family.
Cuckoo Song takes what the reader 'knows' about fairytales and turns it inside out. A carefully constructed story, the world created here is so very like reality that the lapse into that Other Realm is tangible, and can even seem likely. The pace is perfect, the drama compelling and the characters are so remarkably genuine in their behaviour and reasoning as to give shivers. As with all of Hardinges' books, I absolutely loved Cuckoo Song. The use of language and description is magnificent, but it never becomes over-burdened with itself in either that language or the plot. It is such a chilling, creepy read, but is filled with all the emotional content of the human spirit. A wondrous, breathtaking and simply fantastic read!
POPULAR: a memoir (Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek)
author: Maya van Wagenen
Penguin (15 April 2014)
Maya van Wagenen had never been a popular girl. In fact, she rated herself as a social outcast (-1 on her school popularity scale.) But like every other teenage girl, she was dying to fit in. She simply had no idea how to accomplish this goal. One day, she came across a 1950s Teenage Popularity Guide by Betty Cornell
Everyone can relate to Maya's predicament; and everybody wants to fit in somewhere. In this memoir, the reader tags along with Maya as she transforms herself from social pariah to the girl everyone in school knows. The advice Maya follows covers absolutely everything; personal hygiene, posture, clothes, how to strike up a conversation, dating...you name it. The book is lively, interesting and just plain fun! It's not just for teens...it makes a great cross-over book. Quite frankly, I just loved it. (And this isn't the type of book I'd normally love.)
I should also point out the Betty Cornells' Teenage Popularity Guide has also been republished....in case you want to try it out yourself.
THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER
author: Leslye Walton
Walker Books (27 March 2014) ISBN:9781406354454
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows... takes the reader on a journey through three generations of the Roux and Lavender families; two families with extremely unique characteristics and a passion for foolish love that proves, each time, to be both their salvation and their downfall. When 16-year-old Ava, born with wings, develops a burning desire to understand her difference and join the company of her peers, she is ill-prepared for the harshness and cynicism of a world that can't decide if she is a girl or an angel. Like the rest of the women in her family preceding her, she alone must decide to either embrace or retreat from her fate. Then, one glorious and horrendous night, the skies open, with rain and feathers and Ava's revelation.
This utterly remarkable, sumptuous and compelling novel is difficult to describe. It is stunning in it's writing, character development; it's ebb and flow....everything about it sings with perfect timing. making it impossible to put down. Each character fascinates; each circumstance resonates with confusion and clarity. Each description places the reader firmly in the scene without ever becoming burdensome. As the story progresses, the bizarre and the commonplace shift position back and forth in a manner that, initially disorients, but utlimately makes perfect sense. A family saga spun in magical realism; this book is filled with the texture of what it means to be different.... really different in a world that demands the usual and shuns the extraordinary. Waltons' voice and world view are startling and accurate. It is difficult to believe this is a debut novel, and not a veteran storyteller at work.As for the presentation of the book itself; it speaks eloquently of the surprises unveiled within. Simply beautiful, I strongly recommendThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. You will never forget this book.
author:Sally Gardner illustrator: David Roberts
Indigo (7 November 2013) ISBN: 9781780621494
Otto Hundebiss is tired of war; tired of destruction and killing and fear. But when he defies Death and runs away, he finds himself on a dangerous and confusing path. Given some dice and shoes by a strange half-man/half-beast, he wanders alone deeper and deeper through a dark, cold forest, surrounded by magic and mystery. Here he meets the beautiful Safire, pure of heart and spirit; but loses her just as quickly and strangely as they met. His journey takes him through many dangers, as he learns the power of the tinderbox and becomes master of the wolves which haunt his every step. Otto survives many impossible feats; he gains much power and many riches. But the question remains, will power and wealth gain him what he truly desires.
Sally Gardner is, by far, one of the most important and stunning writers we have today. She is fearless in her writing, as well as a fantastic storyteller.Tinder is an exceptional addition to her already lengthy list of brilliant books for children and young people of all ages. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Tinderbox, Gardner leads us deep into the magic and mystery while giving us something timeless and powerful; and I would say, just as timeless and powerful as Andersen's story. The book is heavily illustrated throughout by David Roberts, and these illustration perfectly accentuate the writing, the atmosphere and the tone of the story. (I also need to say a big 'HOORAH!' for an illustrated story for teens! I really wish more books for older readers and adults for that matter, were illustrated... it simply adds so much more to the novel.) An evocative and strong tale of love and loss, Tinder is on my list of 'must-reads'. A magnificent book all around.
author: Susan Cooper
Bodley Head 9781782300007
In the winter of his 11th year, Little Hawk is taken to an isolated location deep in the forest for the 3 month endurance time that will have him return to his tribe a man. His struggle to survive is long and hard, and upon his return he finds his village devastated by a plague; a new illness brought to his land by the white settlers. Outside, the world is changing rapidly and the tension between the settlers and the native tribes are rising. One fateful day, while trying to help a man trapped under a tree, Little Hawk is killed. Tied to his land as a spirit, he is also tied to the life of John, a young English boy who has witnessed Hawk's murder and can do nothing about it. Will John now have to live his life as a witness to the bloodshed of an entire nation?
From the author of The Dark is Rising comes this new and surprising work of historical fiction which eloquently portrays the clash of religious and social ideology in the late 1600's/early 1700's. Her view of both sides in this conflict is realistic and sharp. Cooper has finely
MORE THAN THIS
author: Patrick Ness
Walker Books, 5 September 2013
“Here is the boy, drowning.”
And Seth does drown. He is alone; taken by the sea, dashed against the rocks while the icy water constricts his muscles and breath. Seth is consciously aware of his final moments. His death consumes him with a heavy, confusing blur until….he awakens and finds himself in a desolate, shattered world; naked, alone, starving and alive. This place looks familiar. It looks exactly like the English village where he spent his early childhood before his brother’s accident and his family’s move to America, but it is now overgrown and devoid of human life. It is as if the whole place was simply abandoned one day. How did Seth come to be in this place? Is he dead or is he alive? What has happened here? As Seth sifts through the dust and debris surrounding him, he begins slowly to uncover a new, shocking reality far beyond what he could have imagined and a danger he cannot even begin to understand. Seth begins a painful search for answers hoping that he may not be alone after all; that there just might be more than this….
Patrick Ness has done it again. What begins with a truly tragic, yet magnificent description of a young man’s dying moments develops into an incredible journey through thoughts, emotions and concepts of reality with enough action to satisfy any reader. It is never, never dull. The author sets a sense of time, place and character that is stunning and enveloping to the reader. We move through the story as if we are the central character, not merely just with him. We understand Seth intimately. Here is a character we know, to whom we relate, because we have all been there at some point, and on some level, we all still are there. Just when we understand what is happening with the plot; just when we understand the ‘rules’ of this novel, some significant piece of information is added, or more likely, removed and we find ourselves back in dilemma….just like Seth. Add to this the unexpected introduction of a dystopian nightmare, and what Ness has given us is overwhelming, important and true. The atmosphere cast is tactile and evocative. The action builds with a precise timing. We don’t so much read this book as we feel it. And it feels real.
More Than This is at once powerful and sensitive; complex and clear. It is a portrait of, not just that sense of teenage longing, but the longing we carry deep within us throughout our lives, no matter how we try to deny it. This is something Ness understands with alarming accuracy. It speaks of yearning, loss and discovery. It is also a poignant testament to the function of memory... what memory really does for us, how it works. More Than This speaks to the heart, takes you on a sublime journey and leaves you changed.
IF YOU FIND ME
author: Emily Murdoch
Indigo (2 May 2013)
Since she was a young child, Carey has lived in the woods in a battered old camper van with her drug-addicted mother who disappears for weeks at a time. Now there with her 6-year-old sister Jenessa, strangers arrive... strangers who have been searching for them everywhere... and everything
If You Find Me takes a tense and moving journey through the lives of two young girls and speaks eloquently of survival, loss and hope. Utterly gripping, it explores who we are as human beings and what to lengths we will go to protect ourselves and those we love. It questions the senses of belonging and security and quietly triumphs in the face of certain failure.With a strong and consistent story line, this novel leaves in it's wake a haunting, subtle memory that is both eerie and hopeful. Also beautifully presented, this is absolutely one not to let slip past.
THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND
author: Margo Lanagan
David Fickling Books; 3 April 2013
Rollrock is an isolated, eerie island of fisherman and their families, who strangle an existence out of a mysterious sea. It is also a place of unforgiving magic that taps into the darkest desires of the men living there... and those of a vengeful, outcast witch. Miskaella, down on the beach with the seals, conjures the most beautiful, enchanting girls for the Rollrock men to take as brides, making Rollrock both the envy and the despair of all who fall under the spell of it's beautiful women. But magic has a price that demands to be met. The brides of Rollrock do not belong there... and one day, the sea will claim them.
The myth of the SelkieThe Brides of Rollrock Island steps out of our deepest folklore and troubling dreams. It will stay with you for a very, very long time. If you love myth and magic... and don't mind a little of the truly creepy in your life, this novel can't miss.
author: Alison Croggon
Walker Books; 3 January 2013
This exquisite rewrite of Brontes' Wuthering Heights takes its' original Gothic, brooding romance and sets it in a cold, cruel Northern environment where wizards are the ultimate rule ad the people live by the vengeance code of Vendetta. Lina is the spoilt, self-centred daughter of of the village lord. Born a witch, she is only tolerated and allowed to live due to her royal connection. Damek is taken on as a foster brother to Lina. When the lord dies as a result of Vendetta, Lina is forced to live as a servant and Damek vows revenge. Like Heathcliff in the famous novel, he spends a lifetime honing it, and his ultimate return to the village destroys Linas' life as well as those he promised to save her from. Brilliantly crafted, this novel stays true to its' inspiration while turning it into an amazing, atmospheric and palpable fantasy tale. From the author of the Books of Pellinor, Black Spring is simply incredible.
A BRIGHTER FEAR
Author: Kerry Drewery
Lina is a 17 year-old girl, much like any other. She dreams of the future and makes big plans; she wants to go to university and study architecture, she wants to fall in love and be happy. Lina wants what we all want. But Lina lives in Iraq, and her world is torn apart by war. The over-hanging face of Saddam is everywhere, as are the Americans and their bombs. While longing for freedom and safety, Lina must question everyday what that means. Lina is a strong character to which we all can relate. She is filled with hopes and just as filled with doubts. And the story itself is a familiar, while the circumstances may not be. It is a story of love for another person, love for a country and a people and love and longing for a life of one’s own. It is about shattered hopes and dreams, and the courage it takes to put them back together again, even though, in the end, they may not quite resemble what they once were. This is not a story for the faint-hearted. It will break your heart, again and again…. and mend it again. And it is refreshing, honest and absolutely beautiful.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Having been diagnosed at age 12 with stage 4 thyroid cancer, Hazel was prepared to die. Then at age 14,a miracle treatment shrunk the tumours in her lungs...for the time being. Hazel could live for years, or she could die at any time, but her days are spent tethered to an oxygen tank and under constant surveillance and treatment to keep the cancer at bay. Hazel is now 16. With her life in a constant holding pattern, Hazel meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. Augustus is gorgeous, sharp-witted, in remission and completely attracted to Hazel. As their relationship blossoms and grows, Hazel finds she has to re-examine her attitude about life and death, illness and wellness and love. Their brief journey together leaves a lasting legacy behind that changes everything.
John Green is a magnificent writer. His ability to capture atmosphere, time and place and true voices for all his characters is unparallelled. In this book, we see young people fighting cancer, not as paragons or noble sufferers, but as simply people playing out the hand they have been dealt. There
author: Kathryn Erskine
Caitland is a young living with Asperger's Syndrome. As the story opens, her older brother Devon, who has always helped Caitland make sense of the world around her, has been killed in a tragic school shooting. As the community struggles to deal with the shock of this event, and her father lives with his own grief, Caitland, who cannot make emotions make any sense to her, struggles to cope with her day to day life, which has become totally unknown territory. Learning to empathise, making friends and understanding the extent to which she will have to handle her own life becomes overwhelming. As Caitland makes friends with young Michael, whose mother was also killed in the shooting, she explores the concept of closure and how to get there. This is a truly touching, remarkable and poignant novel that explores two diverse issues.. that of social violence and of the difficulties of living with Asperger's Syndrome. Erskine adeptly gives us insightful views into the affects of both and expands the readers' point of view to give greater understanding of tragedy, loss and recovery. Caitlands' character is expressively written with a rare compassion and poignancy. A very memorable and compelling read.
THE DOUBLE SHADOW
author: Sally Gardner
Amaryllis is the spoilt, impetuous daughter of the wealthy and elusive entrepreneur Arnold Ruben. In order to atone for his past neglect and to protect his beloved daughter, Ruben has created a 'picture house'
'The Double Shadow' is a gripping, compelling read which is best described as historical fiction meets sci-fi family drama. Gardner gives us a perfectly crafted portrait of this complex world that is never laboured or burdensome. Her characters give the full spectrum. Neither good guy nor bad guy, it is easy to relate and understand them, and in reading this, you find yourself in the midst of all the action reeling as if you, yourself are in the midst of the picture house living the nightmare entrapment. A thoroughly stunning read for ages 14+.
author: Carach O'Brien
In the future, the earth has become a dry, baked place overheated by a harsh sun. Those who are fortunate enough to live in the Enclave, have the lion's share of food, facilities and priveleges. And those who live outside, like 16 year-old Gaia Stone, struggle to keep going. Gaia is following in her mother's footsteps as a midwife, delivering babies on the outside and handing over a monthly quota of newborns to be 'advanced' to the privileged world of the Enclave. It is her duty. But one night, she returns home to discover that her mother and father have been arrested by the Guard of the Protectorate. They are searching for 'information' left on a coded ribbon. Gaia's life becomes a roller-coaster ride of trauma, as she attempts desparatel to gain entry to the Enclave, find her parents and solve the careful coding of the ribbon. But when all the truths come to light, Gaia discovers much more than she bargained for, and all her loyalties and duties are called into question.
Birthmarked is a truly unique dystopian novel within the fast-growing genre. Complex and yet fast-paced, you feel the quickly shifting changes in Gaia's consciousness as she does. Empathic and very plausible, this is a story that will stay with you, and give you pause for thought.
RECKLESS : a story found and told by Cornelia Funke and Lionel Wigram
written and illustrated by: Cornelia Funke
Through the mirror lies a dark and dangerous world. It is a world Jacob Reckless has been prowling in secret for many years - since his father disappeared; throughout his mother's crippling grief and her untimely death - his own magical world of fear and challenge. One night, his younger brother Will follows him and Jacob's world changes forever. The dark magic found on the other side side of the mirror threatens to turn gentle, patient Will to a Beast, breaking the heart of the girl who loves him and bringing chaos and destruction crashing all around. Unless Jacob can find a way to save them.....
"The night breathed through the apartment like a dark animal.".....
Thus begins 'Reckless', the first book in a new series by Cornelia Funke. And like a dark animal, this story moves through the reader with stealth and ease. Written around Funke's own knowledge and memories of the fairy tales of the Brother's Grimm, which haunt every chapter, 'Reckless' is simply amazing. The fairy-tale world behind the mirror is palpable. Colours, scents and sounds are all vibrant throuth the use of language and plot construction. The central characters, Jacob and Will Reckless (themselves direct references to the famous story-collecting brothers) and their relationships with each other and the other characters populating the mirror realm are carefully crafted and complex. Every element of the plotline has been clearly considered and developed to it's fullest potential, yet breathes easily on the page. There are moments throughout where there is need for more information, more clarity and the story leaves the reader questioning. But at these times, it also becomes clear that patience is required for the story to unfold and evolve, as in original fairytales. All will be revealed, if not in this book, then in the next. Funke's skill as a storyteller and knowledge of the function of this tradition truly shines through here. Each character is familiar, yet wearing new clothes that allows for a contemporary understanding of it's old fairytale counterpart. These are landscapes we know all too well from our stories and from our dreams; and then we meet them again with new eyes. It is so obviously fantasy, yet seems so real. 'Reckless' is a triumph. And one you will want to return to again and again.
The Healing Wars (1): The Pain Merchants author: Janice Hardy
Nya is a Taker, someone who can extract pain, injury and illness from others. But unlike the other normal Takers, unlike her sister Tali and those who have become apprentices to the highly esteemed Healer's League, Nya cannot seem to deposit the extracted pain into the enchanted metal, pynvium. In fact, Nya has a deadly secret that she must keep from the Healer's League... and the pain merchants. Nya can extract pain and injury from one person, and deposit it into another. When her secret is revealed, and a tragic ferry accident floods the city with the injured, and Takers, including her sister begin to disappear from the Healer's League, Nya's ability is suddenly in high demand. As this incident evolves into a full-blown war, Nya is thrown intp direct conflict with her principles and her own endurance, as her deadly powers may be the only thing that will save her sister's life. How far will she go... and at what cost?
This is an excellent dystopian fantasy that plays on a fascination with the darker side of healing. The characters are not simply black-and-white. They are full, well-rounded in their personalities and relationships, and the reader's ability to develop a relationship is easy. You feel for these people and are pulled into their world. Both heroes and villains alike have very believable personalities and motivations. The first of a trilogy, 'The Pain Merchants' reads like a complete story in and of itself, while leaving enough (but not too many) open threads for the sequels to come. I can't wait!
Delirium author: Lauren Oliver
What if love were a disease? In a future time, not too distant, this is exactly what love is... amor deliria nervosa... a horrific disease that can take your sanity and your life from you. Fortunately, the scientists have discovered a cure. Lena Haloway is just months away from her eighteenth birthday, the age at which the government has decreed that all citizens will receive the cure in order to eradicate love from the population. And Lena has been looking forward to this day for a very long time. It's the day that she becomes free and safe from the disease that took her mother from her and will give her a happy, peaceful, successful life. But just a few short months before her procedure, she becomes 'infected'.... and the reality of all the laws and regulations, of everything she has learned and held dear, begins to unravel rapidly. Lena
'Delirium' is well-written and founded on a very intriguing concept of a fundamentalism gone horrifically rampant. With genuine voices and perfect characterisations, Oliver creates a unique dystopian world that conjures a very real sense of the bewilderment and fear that we all feel when approaching our own moments of serious adulthood and responsibility. The texture of the world and the situations within it are palpable. A compulsive, exciting read that will stay with you long after you put the book down.
The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight author: Jenny Valentine
When a young runaway boy finds himself in custody in a juvenile detention centre, he is mistaken for another missing boy. This is totally understandable, as the missing boy looks exactly like him. So he assumes a new identity and becomes Cassiel Roadnight. His 'older sister' collects him and takes him home, to a new family who don't seem to notice that anything is amiss. As he takes on his new role, 'Cassiel' unearths a series of earth-shattering family secrets and, in the end, discovers the truth, not only about Cassiel Roadnight, but about who he really is as well. This is typical, brilliant Jenny Valentine. Since her first novel, 'Finding Violet Park' was first published in 2007, Valentine has delivered stunning fiction for young adults, dealing with timely and evocative life issues and telling, quite frankly, astounding, gripping stories. '....Cassiel Roadnight' is no exception to this told in an extremely readable and relatable voice, this one is another must read.
Revolution author: Jennifer Donnelly
This book begins with the story of Andi; a very typical theme in contemporary teen fiction. Andi lives in New York, trying to cope with the innumerable and drastic changes in her young life following the accidental death of her younger brother. Her father has remarried, her mother is barely coping and Andi finds herself in real trouble. When her father takes her to Paris in an attempt to keep her under control and help her get aholdcaptivaed by Alex's story and the similarities she feels between herself and Alex, her brother Truman and the Lost Dauphin Louis-Charles. What follows is a brilliant 'dialogue' of the two stories, expressing so much about the nature of grief and love, coming of age and taking responsibilty and coming to terms with life itself. What seems like a slow-starter turns into a compelling, captivating read in and of itself, with excellent characterisation and magnificent nuances and layers. A story that will remain with you for a long time. (Much like Donnelly's earlier work 'A Gathering Light'.... also highly recommended.)
Two Good Thieves author: Daniel Finn
Demi is the best, the fastest, the luckiest child thief in an unnamed South American city. Baz has his back; she's always on the alert, watching, waiting, running. They both know how to keep their mouths shut. But when Baz and Demi steal something very valuable from the police chief's wife and give it to their boss and mother figure, Fay, for safe keeping, they need all the luck they can get. Baz and Demi discover that they have no one they can trust; that keeping Fay 'safe' no longer guarantees anything. Dramatically, their life in the Barrio rapidly unravels and Baz decides to get them up-country, to a place where they can disappear into freedom, even if it means leaving the only life they've ever known.
This novel is no light, easy read, but rather a piercing portrait of young lives trapped in the balance. Finn gives us a work of relentless, unpredictable action. The narrative of 'Two Good Thieves' is largely written in dialect form, which causes some difficulty, but is necessary to establish the atmosphere. While avoiding the use of gratuitous violence and seediness, he developes a sense of place where life is cheap, people are expendable, and good and bad have no meaning. A contemporary 'Oliver Twist', 'Two Good Thieves' is a strong and worthy read that endure long after the book is finished.