Friday, 20 June 2014

Titles for Young Teenage Readers

The Drowning
Written by Rachel Ward
Chicken House (eB) £7.99
ISBN: 978-1908435361
Rob is dead, drowned in a lake. His girlfriend, Neisha, and his younger brother, Carl, were rescued from the water. Why did Rob drown? Carl is in mental collapse but tries to piece together the moments of drowning in the lake and the events that led up to it. Episodes of hallucinatory flashback verge on the supernatural. Is he suffering from trauma or is he really hearing his dead brother speaking to him? He becomes more and more convinced that he killed his brother out of jealousy over Neisha. Gradually, it emerges that Rob was a violent boy who terrorised his girlfriend, including on that day at the lake. Was Carl saving her from Rob, and even if he was, would that justify him killing his brother? Carl is tormented by these questions and by the dreadful visions every time he is near water. This is a powerful novel which deals with grief and guilt as well as sibling jealousy and rivalry.
Nigel Hinton


Angel Fever
Written by L. A. Weatherly
Usborne (eB) £7.99
ISBN: 978-1409522393
Angel Fever is the gripping conclusion to the Angel trilogy. As the Angel Killers train new recruits, their enemy, the angel Raziel, seems to be one step ahead of them. Willow will never understand the risk Alex needs to take to save his own kind, and is left betrayed and grieving, thinking that Alex is dead. But if Alex can return to Willow from the Angel’s own world, will she trust him enough to do what she needs to do to defeat the angels? Angel Fever hurtles towards an exciting climax, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. L. A. Weatherly explores the nature of true love, jealousy and revenge, as well as asking whether we can recognise the harm in things that on the surface seem to bring joy, together with the benefits of things that also cause us pain.
Benjamin Scott


Gabriel’s Clock
Written by Hilton Pashley
Andersen (eB) £12.99
ISBN: 978-1849395786
Jonathan is half-angel, half-demon: the only one of his kind in the universe and the demons want to harness his powers for their own purposes. The boy ends up in the gentle village of Hobbes End where the battle for good and evil is played out. The village itself, built by the angel Gabriel, is home to a motley collection of eccentric characters including two rather pompous gargoyles and a talking cat. The plot creaks away as Jonathan lets loose his Hulk-like anger and fights off brass dragons and the hideous arch-demon Belial, in an attempt to save the village and the fate of his friends and parents. There’s plenty of tea-drinking and references to cricket giving a quaint ‘English village’ feel to this unusual and inventive fantasy.
Richard Monte


The Boy on the Porch
Written by Sharon Creech
Andersen (eB) £9.99
ISBN: 978-1849397728
Carnegie Medal Winner Sharon Creech tempts readers in from the very first page with an intriguing set of events. A boy is found on the porch of John and Marta’s farmstead, but they have no idea who he is, or how he came to be there. He is unable to speak, and a note in his pocket says he will be collected “when we can”. For John and Marta, childless themselves, so begins a journey together of love, loss, and rich blessing. Description and dialogue draw the reader deeper into their world, willing the story to end well, discovering plenty of surprises along the way. This is a story to warm the heart, and to encourage the reader to ask challenging moral questions about taking life’s good fortunes as they come. The unfussy, but tender, portrayal of John and Marta’s growing love for the boy, their tussle with moral dilemma and the way they cope with changes will leave readers feeling hopeful, lifted and optimistic.
Lucy Russell


Hidden Among Us
Written by Katy Moran
Walker Books (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406324211
All her life Lissy has been frustrated by a very over-protective mother. But there are secrets within her family, secrets that link back to when they were living in the village of Hopesay Edge, secrets that she knows nothing about but that put her life in danger. Lissy discovers that she is a link between the mortal world and the world of an ancient elven race that lives hidden among us and the battle for Lissy’s life and soul has begun. The plot is complex and the story is narrated through the voices of the five main protagonists. As there is a lot happening in the story, the different chapters for the voices works very well. This is a sophisticated novel which perfectly blends magic and reality and weaves a darkly gothic supernatural thriller with a modern contemporary family story. The writing is excellent with the tension continually tightening, leaving the reader breathless and completely engrossed.
Annie Everall


Trouble
Written by Non Pratt
Walker (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406347692
This book could be seen as an expos√© of teenage life today with boyfriends, sex, bullying and that ever-shifting combination of friends, allies and enemies. There are two main protagonists in the book: Aaron, new to the school, with some kind of mystery in his background, and Hannah, fourteen years old and pregnant. New boy, Aaron, offers to take responsibility for the child. Why would he do this? Perhaps his reasons are linked to one of the two underlying plotlines within the book. Of these, one concerns the true father of Hannah’s child and the other is the mysterious secret that Aaron is carrying with him: both of which are eventually revealed. The book will probably strike a chord with many teenagers but could make uncomfortable reading for their parents.
Patricia Thompson


Trouble
Written by Bali Rai
Tamarind (R) (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1848531208
Subtitled Two Tales from Devana High, this volume combines two previously published short novels, set in the highly charged atmosphere of a contemporary city high school, which bring the story up-to-date. Both show everyday life and pressures in school as seen by two members of the same friendship group. In the first, Grace is the narrator, and the plot revolves around a scam to avoid late (and spoiled) lunch sittings, and at the same time miss ten minutes of lesson time. In the second, Dean does some entrepreneurial selling in school, gets himself into problems, and has to avoid serious interference from a vindictive school bully. The school and its pupils are as diverse as we would expect from an inner-city school, providing an excellently drawn setting for the stories. Even stronger are the relationships between the group of friends, which emerge from brisk and lively current dialogue and realistically drawn ways of behaving. These are well-crafted stories, about everyday people in everyday settings facing familiar problems and challenges. Younger teenagers from diverse backgrounds will readily identify with the well-drawn characters and the situations in which they find themselves. Thoroughly recommended!
Liz Dubber


Far Far Away
Written by Tom McNeal
Jonathan Cape (eB) £12.99
ISBN: 978-0857551269
In this beautifully crafted, multi-layered story, Jeremy has an invisible, but constant, companion in the form of the ghost of the storyteller, Jacob Grimm, of fairy-tale fame. Trapped in the restless world between death and the hereafter, Jacob knows that his mission is to protect Jeremy from impending danger. But who, what and from where this danger will come is not known to him. It is Jacob’s voice that carries us through the story, with his quaint, old-fashioned take on modern life. The tale becomes very dark in places, full of suspense and terror as children disappear, one by one, from the village and are never seen again. This is no happy-happy land, where you can be sure everything will turn out fine in the end, for this a Grimm world of subversion and unpredictability. Jacob’s watchful presence, as he longs for release from the world that conflicts with his enduring love for the child he protects, stays with you beyond the pages of the book.
Yvonne Coppard


The Seeing
Written by Diana Hendry
Corgi (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-0552565691
This is a disturbing story set in the 1950s, in a small seaside town where Lizzie becomes fascinated by Natalie, a new arrival to her school. Natalie lives in poverty with her mother and her little brother, Philip, whom Natalie claims has second sight. Soon Lizzie is drawn in to Natalie’s campaign to oust ‘Left–Over Nazis’ whom she believes are masquerading as ordinary citizens. The plotline becomes extremely sinister as they hound several elderly people out of their homes, and when Natalie sets fire to the caravan of local beach artist, Hugo, there are ghastly consequences. This is a complex story in which the legacy of the war, together with the fate of the Jews under Hitler, has a strong influence over the characters and their actions. The historic setting is well managed and the characterisation is excellent, with even the minor characters playing their part in the totality of the plot. However, this is an emotionally demanding read, suiting confident readers who can cope with a strong psychological charge as well as a tragic ending.
Liz Dubber


The Messengers
Written by Edward Hogan
Walker Books (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1406337181
As if it wasn’t bad enough being sent to live with her aunt and uncle, away from her mum, her friends and her beloved brother, Frances now realises her blackouts are getting more frequent. She has no explanation for these episodes until she finds herself drawn to Peter, an older man who explains that she, like him, is a messenger, but the messages they convey are not ones that anyone would want to receive. During their blackouts messengers glimpse the moment and circumstances of someone’s death and their task is to convey this image to the poor soul who is about to die. If they fail to do this there are dire consequences for those close to them in their own lives. The interesting question is this: if you can glimpse a moment of the future, can you or should you try to change it? Inevitably a lot of deaths do occur, but Frances’ emotional journey is our prime concern as she tries to accept this grim new aspect of her life and also tries to find out what has happened to her brother. At first, this appears to be a rather complex and unpromising plotline for teenage readers, but the haunting prose and strong characters make this an original and thrilling read.
Jan Lennon


Deadlands
Written by Lily Herne
Much-in-Little (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978–1472100900
The first in a trilogy, this novel is set in a post apocalyptic South Africa. The suburbs of Cape Town have become zombie infested Deadlands, and the human survivors are protected by The Guardians, sinister shrouded figures. In return for this protection five teenagers are selected and then handed over to them and no-one knows what happens to the teenagers afterwards. When people die, their bodies are dumped in the Deadlands as food for the zombies. When Lele is chosen to be handed over to the Guardians she decides to be mistress of her own fate and to take her chances in the Deadlands. Alone and unable to return home she meets up with the Mall Rats, a group of teenage rebels. Together they uncover the truth about the Guardians and learn how to destroy the zombies. Fast paced, a cleverly constructed plot which twists and turns, with well-drawn and likeable characters, this is a cut above the average zombiefest. It is cleverly done, offering a fresh approach on this theme, full of horror, humour and a touch of romance, but with an interesting perspective on anti-capitalism and current political situations.
Annie Everall


The Keeper
Written by Darragh Martin
Little Island £9.99
ISBN: 978-1908195845
Oisin lives an ordinary sort of life, feuding with his older brother and holidaying with his Gran. But, when he comes across an intriguing little book that seems to exert a strange power, Oisin finds himself suddenly drawn into a mysterious and frightening supernatural world where he is known as The Keeper of the Book of Magic. His little sister is kidnapped, and Oisin and his brother must somehow overcome their differences and work together to free her, but in a world where they have no idea which of the people who step forward to help them can be trusted. There’s a good strong plot, with nods to various traditions: the evil queen, the noble quest, the ordinary child with extraordinary gifts, the mighty battle and above all, a ripping good yarn. The glossary of Irish words and guide to the pronunciation of the characters’ names at the back will, I think, be helpful. This is a great first children’s book from an author to watch out for.
Yvonne Coppard


Shadowlark
Written by Meagan Spooner
Corgi (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-0552565578
Shadowlark, second in the Skylark trilogy, is even more powerful than the first. Lark escapes from the flesh-eating ‘Empty Ones of the Iron Wood’ only to be captured and imprisoned in a claustrophobic underground city. Powerful magic protects it, for which its inhabitants pay a terrible price. Lark may use her own strange powers to protect and defend, but only by leaching others’ magic and risking their lives. She has useful friends in Tansy, who helps her escape, Nix, the flying robot and Oren, half ‘Empty One’ himself, who loves her and needs her magic to keep him human. Lark gathers resistance around her, but in the end must face the rulers at the heart of the city alone to reveal its secrets and prevent further deaths. Lark must learn who to trust, how to judge herself and others, how to exercise power and responsibility and how to cope with the burden of others’ expectations. A surprisingly reflective, powerful book: complex, fast moving, thoughtful!
Tina Massey


The Prey
Written by Andrew Fukuda
Simon & Schuster (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-0857075451
This is the second book in The Hunt trilogy. Not having read the first in the series, I was, nonetheless, quickly caught up by this intense and violent saga in which a few remaining humans (hepers) are the prey of the marauding flesh-eaters (duskers), who have taken over the world. The young hero, Gene, and a small band of other hepers are pursued across land and water. They are in search of The Scientist, Gene’s father, who may hold the secret to survival. They come across the Mission; a community which they gradually find out is not as friendly or safe as they hoped. The story doesn’t flag for one second and the reader is whirled along through scene after scene of unremitting threat as the hepers just, but only just, manage to stay ahead of an appalling death at the hands and fangs of the duskers. Lovers of stories with a high quotient of gruesome horror and relentless tension will be waiting impatiently for the third and final instalment.
Nigel Hinton


Rebecca Rocks
Written by Anna Carey
O’Brien Press (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1847175649
This is the third story about Rebecca Rafferty and her band, Hey Dollface, but you don’t need to have read the earlier books to enjoy this one. The summer holidays are fast approaching and the girls plan to advance their rock star ambitions by going to a summer camp for would-be performers of all kinds. Rebecca uses her diary to record the exciting events of that summer as the band is introduced to new techniques in music-making. They enter a competition with other bands from the area and begin new friendships and relationships, as well as making a lot of fudge! From time to time Rebecca worries about her boyfriend-less status, but she is genuinely delighted for her friend, Cass, to begin a close relationship with another girl. There are some very funny moments especially when Rebecca tries to improve her song-writing abilities with the aid of a rhyming dictionary. The girls have great fun even though some rather unpleasant boys, in another band, begin bullying them about their relationships, and threaten to spoil everything.
Jan Lennon


Weirdos vs. Quimboids
Written by Natasha Desborough
Catnip £6.99
ISBN: 978-1846471711
Teenage angst is ever the stuff of books for young adults. It’s all rather different from Little Women or Anne of Green Gables nowadays, though with frankness replacing discretion in both the style and content. There is a useful debate to be had about whether writers are appealing to the lowest common denominator or whether they are, at long last, being allowed to write fearlessly about how teenagers really behave and talk. Centred round the perennial fears and hopes of how to fit in and how to be liked and loved, this is a comedy of embarrassment. Blossom Uxley-Michaels, aka Bumface, and her best friend, known as Poohead, suffer all kinds of humiliating disasters along the way including regular bursts of acne, and things like wayward flying sanitary towels. Bumface and Poohead have a band called Camel Toe. Through their musical success with the band and as school DJs, and the intervention of some professional musicians, they finally achieve the social acceptance they have craved. I laughed a lot!
Nigel Hinton


Shadows
Written by Paula Weston
Indigo (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1780621586
Every night Gaby Winters has the same nightmare; she is killing demons alongside a strange, but very attractive, young man. She thinks that the dreams result from her twin brother being killed in the same car crash that left her critically injured. However, when Gaby meets the man from her dreams, and he claims to be her brother’s best friend, she finds herself caught up in a supernatural battle. Despite the fantasy elements, the core of the story is Gaby’s immense sadness following the death of her twin. Sensitive and moving passages describe Gaby trying to come to terms with her loss. It is heartening to see that the female characters in Shadows are confident and able, rather than cowering victims. The frequent use of the ‘F word’ would suggest that it is aimed at older teens.
Jane Hall


Close Your Pretty Eyes
Written by Sally Nicholls
Scholastic (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1407124322
This gripping, but sometimes harrowing, story begins as Olivia arrives at her sixteenth home. Our strong-willed, eleven-year-old narrator has been in care since she was five years old, and family after family has rejected her. She is angry, violent and destructive. Although she makes it very hard for anyone to get close to her, she really hopes the Ivey family, in their lovely old farmhouse, will give her the love and stability she craves. Unfortunately, Olivia’s already troubled life encounters yet another problem. A former resident of this old house, Amelia Dyer, a Victorian baby farmer, may well have been hanged for mass murder in 1896, but her spirit lives on in her old home and is intent on driving Olivia away. As she narrates the story of her life and her previous homes and we start to understand her pain and anger, Olivia tries to convince us that her appalling behaviour is totally justified; however, this is definitely a case of love the child, but not her actions. The novel is well-researched and shows a deep understanding of the lives of fostered children and foster carers.
Jan Lennon


Hold Your Breath
Written by Caroline Green
Piccadilly (eB) £6.99
ISBN: 978-1848121706
This book has everything – it is a thriller with many twists and turns, contains romance and has a little of the supernatural. Tara has the unusual psychic gift of being able to find ‘missing’ objects and people. In the past this has got her into trouble with the result of her family having to move house and change schools. Now a classmate, albeit not a very nice one, has gone missing and Tara fights hard against her psychic ability. She knows something is wrong, has disturbing visions of her whereabouts, but desperately tries to ignore it and just be normal. This leads to more trouble for Tara with a thrilling and tense result. The writing is very descriptive, the characters are realistic and the pace is fast and furious. The tension and the excitement make the novel unputdownable!
Ingrid Fox

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