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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...
Department 19 is utterly addictive. Packed with great characters and brilliantly plotted, the series sets a new benchmark for YA thrillers. This is book four in the explosive series from bestselling author, Will Hill. if you're looking for a fast-paced white knuckle ride that's utterly gripping as zero hour approaches then this is the series for you.
From the author of Black Heart Blue and Gloves Off - both LoveReading favourites - Wrecked is a breathtakingly affecting novel-in-verse that sees teenager Joe stand trial for causing a fatal car crash. Exploring thought-provoking themes around toxic relationships, self-preservation, truth and betrayal in an ultra-accessible, engagingly authentic style, this comes highly recommended for reluctant readers. Framed within the context of Joe’s excruciatingly tense trial at which he pleads not guilty to a charge of causing death by reckless driving, his narrative slips back and forth through key moments in his life, most crucially how he got together with Imogen, his girlfriend of many years, who was with him when the crash happened. When the police arrived at the scene, Joe was said to be the driver. “The truth is in hiding, it’s scared, it’s weak/ You see, I’ve been waiting so long for my chance to speak” - so goes Joe’s internal monologue before we hear evidence that tears his character apart. But someone is lying and, little by little, we learn more about Imogen, how she “lifted my shell and prodded deep underneath at flesh unprotected, she bit with sharp teeth - she stole chunks of my certainty.” Alongside the unfolding of past events and the present-day trial, additional devastation is unravelling in Joe’s family. Wrecked is an exceptional addition to the canon of contemporary novels-in-verse for young adult readers (see also Punching the Air, The Poet X, Clap When You Land, Rebound, Black Flamingo, Gut Feelings and the work of Sarah Crossan), and mention must be made of the book’s layout too – words and letters stutter, tumble, slip and fall across and along the pages, stirringly reverberating Joe’s state of mind. We explore the powerful themes in Wrecked with Louisa Reid in a Q&A.
November 2018 Book of the Month | Wonder was a sensation when it was first published in 2012, and the story of Auggie and his fight to be accepted as a normal boy has now hit the big screen in a movie starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs, and Mandy Patinkin. This is a special film tie-in edition. Frank, powerful, warm and often heart-breaking, Wonder is a book you'll read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. This is a wonderful debut from a storyteller with a great future if this book is anything to go by and her characters are intensely likeable.
January 2019 Debut of the Month | A group of Bristolian sixth-formers experience a whole lot more than the thrills and chills of the ski-slopes they’re expecting when one of their party discovers a trail of blood in their lodge. For outcast Charlie this trip was supposed to be a break from his troubled homelife, but he and his peers are now up to their necks in a gruesome, gory nightmare. Matters take a monstrous, mythical turn after ski instructor Hanna tells the students a tale “about things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night”… The action is jumpy, the writing sparse and direct, with plenty of unexpected twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats alongside the characters’ varied backstories. An accomplished debut for fans of atmospheric horror.
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | This explosively unique page-turner sees a seventeen-year-old maths genius with anxiety disorder become embroiled in a treacherous world of espionage following an assassination attempt on his scientist mum. Maths prodigy Pete is afraid of pretty much everything. He suffers from severe panic attacks and, along with the support of his older (by eight minutes) twin sister Bel and fellow maths fanatic friend Ingrid, he uses logic to try to keep himself harnessed. In Pete’s words, “maths governs everything in the world.... I lost myself in the numbers trying to find the mathematics of me”. Pete’s world whirls off in unimaginably unexpected directions when his mum is stabbed at an awards ceremony and a hitherto hidden world unfolds. As Pete and Ingrid deploy what they’re best at to figure out what the hell is going on, the author throws out fresh revelations - just when you think you’ve worked out part of the puzzle, another twist lurches you off-course. Who to trust? What to believe? This incredibly smart thriller defies comparison.
Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | Shortlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | One of our Books of the Year 2017 | In the summer of 1727 a group of men and boys, there to harvest birds and eggs, were stranded on Warrior Stac, a pinnacle of rock that pitches out of the Atlantic, ‘as black and fearful as one horn of the Devil himself’. It was nine months before anyone came to collect them. Geraldine McCaughrean has taken these bare facts and imagined the story of those terrible months and the characters of those who endured them. Yes, it’s a mesmerising story of survival, but McCaughrean takes it in different and surprising ways too and, both terrifying and full of dark comedy, it becomes an elemental story of love and faith; of myth and imagination. Indeed, in the hands of one of our very finest writers this bleak, isolated rock becomes a microcosm for the whole world and all its stories. Unmissable. Readers should also seek out Geraldine McCaughrean’s novels The White Darkness and The Stones are Hatching and will also enjoy David Almond’s A Song for Ella Grey.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Published just before Holocaust Memorial Day this book could not be more important or timely. Author Keren David has talked about her own challenges bringing up Jewish children and about Jewishness only being reflected in Holocaust literature. She wanted to write a story in which young Jewish people could see themselves as well as hopefully giving all young people something to think about. She has done a remarkable job with this immensely readable and authentic story. The short, dark and curvy extrovert, Evie, could not be more different from the tall,blonde ,willowy, anxious Lottie. They go to different schools and have very different interests. Their Jewish mother has never discussed their heritage or family history and they follow no religious or cultural customs. But Lottie makes friends with Hannah and not only has her eyes opened to the casual bitchy racism of her classmates but relishes and enjoys the Jewish life Hannah shows her. Of course, the reader is learning alongside Lottie and Hannah is so refreshingly modern, for example challenging gender roles in her faith, that this is a vibrant and positive view of the community. Meanwhile the twin’s mother meets an old friend and her son Noah who have fled racist attacks in Paris. In her new role on radio she decides to announce her Jewish status and denounce racism. The ensuing Twitter storm of abuse and trolling opens Evie’s eyes too, as does Noah’s contacts with young Jews trying to take action to confront racists. Both girls are faced with very real danger and in the aftermath, they attend a talk by Mala Tribich- a very real Holocaust survivor. David very cleverly uses her actual testimony to ensure that readers can distinguish that this is the actual truth and not fictionalised. Mala’s inspiration is just what they need to renew their enthusiasm – for Evie in activism and for Lottie in religion and for their family to finally feel a real part of their heritage and history. While dealing with some intense modern issues, this is a real page- turner populated by some very convincing and engaging young characters that will have absolutely no difficulty in finding enthusiastic readers. Highly recommended.
Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award 7-11 | This is an excellent book for young people who want to know what is happening in Syria and why – serious, thoughtful, sympathetic to the ordinary people caught up in the war; in a highly readable story it gives a real insight into their lives, and how quickly they have changed from something very similar to our own, to something incomprehensible. Readers meet Laird’s fictional Syrian family at the beginning of the civil war when life is good, particularly for her central character Omar, a young boy already dreaming of running his own business. But as protests against the government spiral into war, the family are forced from their house, then their country. Omar stays upbeat, even in their refugee camp where hope is in very short supply, a lively, reassuring narrator. Unlike his older brother, he’s not interested in the protests, just wants things to be back the way they were; though the book ends with Omar, his mother and sisters escaping the refugee camp, we know that their lives have changed forever.
Boy lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer. But dark forces are circling - like the dangerous man in the Range Rover, who is looking for his stolen money. And then there are the ancient forces that have lain asleep in the woods for an age...
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Set in a frightening future version of London in which the lives of two teenage boys cruelly collide in a divided city, this gripping page-turner has pertinent contemporary resonance, and packs powerful moral and emotional punches. Read it to be thrilled, chilled, and to have your eyes well and truly opened. Teenagers Alan and Lex are on either side of a war policed by drones. Lex lives on The Strip, a bombed-out territory in which the poverty-stricken inhabitants are under constant drone surveillance. “In this city, death seems to perpetually hover nearby, like a needy bully”, Lex remarks, while his dad is part of The Corps resistance movement that’s fighting the bullies, rendering him a top target for the military. On the other side of the divide, fatherless Alan was written off at a young age – “Nobody ever thought I'd amount to anything" - but his talent for gaming has secured him his perfect job as a drone pilot, a role in which he has “absolute power without a single boot on the ground”. But, while he’s proud to protect his country from “terrorists who want to destroy us”, Alan is forced to confront a magnitude of moral dilemmas when he’s tasked with killing a high profile target, who turns out to be Lex’s dad… The dual-narrative device works to great effect as we see both boys wrestling with issues of ethics, family conflict and, in Lex’s case, the overwhelming experience of first love. Ambitious and assured, this keenly plotted thriller also probes deep into the human heart, and comes recommended for fans of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman.
Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award | January 2018 Book of the Month | Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan are two of our most garlanded YA authors: she won the 2016 Carnegie Medal, the UK’s top children’s book award; he has just been awarded the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. In this fine and extremely moving novel, they share the writing honours. The narrative is split between two young protagonists, English Jess, whose lines are written by Crossan, and Nicu, newly arrived from Romania, voiced by Conaghan. The two meet on a programme for young offenders and secretly, necessarily without the knowledge of friends and family, become close. We suspect it’s unlikely things will end well for these star-cross’d lovers but the authors keep us hoping for the happy ending we want for them and to the very last page. Nicu’s narrative in particular lightens the tone, sharp and often funny, his interior monologues disarmingly honest. The authors have chosen to write in blank verse, and it strips setting and emotions to the absolute essence, succinctly creating the dull North London streets, and distilling the characters’ experiences and emotions into spare, shining lines. Highly recommended.
February 2020 Book of the Month | This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.