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Has your 11+ reader has moved on from middle grade chapter books but struggling to find something more challenging? We have a selection of books we think might fit the bill..strong storylines, excitement, social realism and sometimes a bit of danger. Guaranteed to draw even the most reluctant reader in...
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Sami is a very ordinary 13-year-old boy, attending school, playing football, PlayStation and has his own iPad – the only thing different about Sami is that he lives in Damascus. As the war in Syria creeps closer, until a bombing of a local mall affects his family, everything has been good. Now Sami and his family have to leave their home, their friends and their beloved Jadda (grandmother) – not just to move to another town but to start a long and perilous journey to the safety of the other side of the world – to England. The journey, and therefore the story, are not for the fainthearted – Dassau tells the story of the journey, the fear and the privations authentically and we vividly share Sami’s upset, anger and fear throughout every page. The portrait drawn of the family in such a stressed and frightening situation has the reader on the edge of their seat and pulling at our hearts all the way through. Written with a deep understanding and meticulous research into similar journeys this is a book that will not leave you for a very long time. The switches from adversity to hope to despair in Sami keep your heart in your mouth and is so realistic I was raging at the government for its inhuman treatment of desperate refugees. Read this book – it’s needs to be in classrooms and on bookshelves everywhere – it will change you and stay with you.
Following the sudden death of her best friend, Sophie hopes that spending the summer with family on a remote Scottish island will be just what she needs. But the old schoolhouse, with its tragic history, is anything but an escape. History is about to repeat itself. And Sophie is in terrible danger... Keep up to date with the Red Eye news on Twitter @StripesBooks #RedEye
Shortlisted for YA Book Prize 2017 | Winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016 | Crongton Knights is a very funny, very moving story that shows that although life is testing, the lessons learned the hard way are the ones you'll never forget. It is from the acclaimed author of Liccle Bit.
One of our 2018 Books of the Year | Interest Age YA Reading Age 8 | Alex Wheatle serves up an invigorating slice of teen life starring three kids growing up on his fictional Crongton estate. Briggy and Terror have been best friends for years but Terror’s romance with the gorgeous, super-cool Caldonia threatens to push them apart. So when Terror comes up with a ‘cadazy’ plan to rob the Crongton post office, for the sake of their friendship Briggy has no choice but to go along with it. As the boys plan their heist, normal life goes on, with tension at home making Briggy’s get-rich-quick dreams even more powerful. Sharp, funny, moving and written in rat-a-tat sentences that turn teen speak into a kind of poetry. Brilliant.
January 2021 Book of the Month | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 8 What a book! Alex Wheatle’s writing buzzes with energy and captures twelve-and-a-half-year-old Welton’s experience of being in love in all its heart-pounding, stomach-flipping, confusing giddiness alongside a run of seriously bad luck. With Wheatle’s outstanding Jamaica-set historic novel Cane Warriors one of my favourite books of recent years, this confirms the author’s status as a writer of huge talent, with the ability to infuse all genres with a special kind of magic. Things begin to go downhill for Welton the moment he finally plucks up courage to ask out Carmella, “one of the most delicious-looking females in school.” But, somehow, he manages to retain an infectiously upbeat stance throughout, punctuating his problems with Star Wars related exclamations (“Oh, for the life of Yoda!”) as he navigates everything life throws at him - from Hulk-like moustachioed bully Brian and the strife between his divorced parents, to his intense fear of being “lamed and shamed” by Carmella. Welton’s wit and entrepreneurial spirit is especially hilarious and sees him selling damning insults to classmates for 50p a cuss. Fresh, funny and authentic, readers will truly root for Welton - while he’s one of a kind, his voice and experiences will resonant far and wide. What’s more, being published by Barrington Stoke, this zesty page-turner is highly readable and produced with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind, with manageable chapter lengths, a specially selected font and cream paper.
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Sami gets by in Boston on the money his grandfather makes on the street playing his rehab. When the instrument is stolen, Sami needs to find $700 to get it back. All he has is a man United key ring. It’s only going to be possible if Sami is prepared to accept help. This is a great book for readers not quite ready for YA fiction. It is raw, relevant but full of hope.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Cleverly blending an upbeat story of a girl who loves Superman comics and is determined to be a super sleuth in the style of Lois Lane and a contemporary story of a child being trafficked and held in slavery, The Invisible Boy is a fast-paced read with a strong message. When Nadia’s dog is rescued by a boy she has never seen in the neighbourhood before, she immediately labels him ‘The Invisible Boy’ and is determined to find out who he is. Influenced by the comics she reads Nadia is used to making up dramas, often jumping to the wrong conclusions! How Nadia pieces together the real story of her new friend is a well-crafted drama. Nadia’s shock and horror is powerfully conveyed.
May 2014 Debut of the Month | *** This book contains a strong storyline which centres around teen suicide A gripping and thought-provoking story that goes right to the heart of the extremes to which the powerful emotions of adolescence can lead. A teen suicide and the bullying that seems to have gone before it must be explored and explained even if everyone thinks they know how it happened. When Emma hangs herself Sara Wharton is blamed. Not for the action but for being a central cause of it. But was she? Sara her own way of looking at it; she is sure of where blame lies. But, she tells her story, Sara begins to consider the events differently.
Noah loves his new house, he has his own room and he has even made friends at his new school. Noah wants to stay! But that has never happened yet-the supernatural, centuries old curse still follows the Bradley family and every home they have ever lived in is destroyed. He has a duffel bag with his most precious possessions that is never unpacked – just in case. This is an exciting premise that will immediately grip young readers and Noah is a completely believable, modern character with the same issues about fitting in and finding friends, that readers will all recognise and this makes the danger he faces all the more thrilling. When the inevitable disaster strikes, Noah blames himself for ignoring the warning signs and with his father away and his mother in hospital it is up to him to continue his mother’s quest to find the other Bradley’s and the magical objects which together could break the curse. One of the delights of this fast-paced adventure is the characterisation of Noah, his younger brother Billy and of Neena- the neighbour who is a social outcast at school but a brave, resourceful and true friend. Noah’s growing maturity allows him to see her true value as well as recognise his own failings. This highly readable tale really does have the perfect blend of social realism, thrilling adventure and a supernatural mystery to solve.
Niftily navigating the tricky tightrope between exploring big issues (divorce, toxic masculinity, turning to alcohol when the going gets tough) and delivering a humorous, heartfelt story, Andy Robb’s Smashed achieves what YA fiction does best. It’s thought-provoking, informative and never talks down, with a relatable main character readers will root for. After The Night Everything Went Weird (when his dad hit his mum and moved out), fifteen-year-old Jamie discovers that the “Weight of Manhood” is a heavy burden to bear. He does all he can to keep his little sister happy, and gives Mum lots of valuable advice too, even stepping in as a mediator when things turn nasty between her and Dad. But, behind closed doors, Jamie “longs to be alone and far away from everything. Somewhere where I don’t have to make other people happy or solve their problems. Somewhere where I don’t have to pretend to be a father-figure.” Stifled by notions of how “Real Men” are supposed to behave - no tears, no talking about problems, “we’re supposed to be the silent heroes” - Jamie finds a feeling of carefree invincibility through drinking, until he regains a sense of himself and finds the strength to lighten his load. At once bold and tender, tear-jerking and funny, Andy Robb has certainly smashed it with Smashed.
October 2018 Debut of the Month | Awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour commendation from the Carnegie shortlist 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | In a Nutshell: Fighting for Justice | Black Lives Matter | | Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough.
This book is set 17 years before the action in Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give – showing how Star’s father in THUG became the man he is. Maverick is an average teenage boy in the Garden Heights area – selling drugs to help the budget at home as his father is in prison. His Mum works two and sometimes three jobs to try to make ends meet – and Maverick knows he needs to graduate High School to stand any chance of becoming the man he wants to be. That is, until he discovers he is a father, and the baby’s mother can’t cope and hands baby Seven (named after Maverick’s lucky number) to Maverick to care for. The difficulties of being a single parent, and the strong community who try to rally to Maverick’s aid are wonderfully depicted in this powerful exploration of what it is to be a teen parent. But, it is never so simple as the community pulling together, Maverick also has to turn away from his gang life, standalone – but then his cousin Dre, who was more like a brother, is killed in a gangland shooting and dies in Maverick’s arms. This is such a powerful book – totally honest in its appreciation of the difficulties of life, but so filled with humanity you cannot help but root for Maverick, even when you are scared what he might choose to do. This is one of those books that stay with you – that will change people’s thinking, highlighting as it does some of the social injustices of growing up young and black in today’s world. Read it, then read The Hate u Give – if you haven’t already read it!