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From an author acclaimed for her ability to tackle important global issues in the personal context of well realised and nuanced characters, we have a story set after a world-wide antibiotics crisis. Children must be protected until their immune systems have fully developed because a simple infection could kill. All schooling is on-line until the age of 14 and digital technology is central to all aspects of life. This theme is brilliantly worked through and will really resonate with readers who have experienced lockdowns, increased online shopping, online learning and of course not being able to meet their friends. They will understand the nuances of facing live interactions for the first time as these children join their designated boarding schools. How does live socialising work? What are the cues that help you understand behaviour? This would not be an Ele Fountain novel without also a cracking mystery to solve and wider political implications to consider, such as the risks to autonomy created by algorithms and realising just how easy it is to lose a digital identity. We learn that we need to watch very carefully how far big tech and big pharma can control our lives. This is a really rewarding read for children who are old enough to make the connections with the experiences they have lived through and who will be entirely gripped by the dilemmas, both ethical and physical which confront the main characters, as this gripping adventure plays out. Highly recommended
An intriguing, thoughtful and poignant exploration of what makes us ‘us’ that explores grief with a deft and gentle touch. A coming-of-age story with an incidental LGBTQ relationship and a technological twist. Exploring social media, memory and identity, there are lots of discussion points for readers. Perfect for fans of Show Us Who You Are, A Pocketful of Stars and Troofriend.
A cracking quest with writing that crackles, fizzes and dances off the page, Jasmine Richards’ The Unmorrow Curse presents a world that’s rich in Norse myth and magic, with a cast of larger-than-life characters whose sparkling dialogue adds to the pace and suspense. The day Buzz meets new girl Mari in the school canteen turns out to be monumental. A “tall Black girl with hundreds of long thin braids twisted up in a bun”, a girl who “dressed like no one he’d ever seen”, Mari reveals that her mum went missing on the last Friday 13th. Shortly after, the duo discover a weather woman tied to a tree in the woods. In amusing, matter-of-fact fashion, the woman reveals that she is, in fact, the Norse Goddess of the Sun and shares responsibility for maintaining the order of time. As for her current predicament, she explains that “the trickster god has escaped his prison and is searching for the Runes of Valhalla right now. If Loki manages to activate them and absorb their power, we are all lost.” With the order of things well and truly upset, and humanity subject to the Unmorrow Curse that means the same Saturday must be relived over and over, Buzz and Mari embark on a quest to claim the Runes. Riveting stuff for fans of myth-driven fantasy, with whip-smart dialogue to boot.
May 2022 YA Book of the Month | Taking in the trauma of enslavement and apartheid, Mary Watson’s Blood to Poison is a uniquely bold and gripping Cape Town-set thriller that melds contemporary life and history with a parallel magical city — a world of furious witches and practitioners of magic who hide in plain sight. A world in which a 17-year-old young woman harnesses her rage to transcend a family curse. Savannah’s curse has been passed through her family’s female bloodline for generations, originating with Hella, “who had been enslaved, forced to work for a cruel family. Her anger grew until one day, it exploded out of her”. Hella cursed the family to “die before you have fully lived.” And now one woman in every generation of Savannah’s family is destined to die young, with anger exploding from them in the months before they’re due to die. Some of Savannah’s aunts have noticed the rage rising in her, the tell-tale marks on her skin. And then she encounters the witches from the curse story that lives in her bones… Savannah’s furious fight to transcend the curse is visceral and ablaze with elemental power, and Blood to Poison strikes a perfect balance between showing rage as a form of resistance and telling a gripping story of self-discovery.
Set in Britain in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis this makes for an edgy thriller as everyone wonders if they will survive the week, never mind solve the mystery of the girl found in the coal shed! Stevie and her best friend Ray, the former British, the latter American, realise they are living through uncertain times with their parents on edge in case there is to be a nuclear war – but Stevie and Ray have their own problems to solve. Stevie has discovered a mysterious girl – Anna – in her coal shed. She agrees to help shelter Anna from the people who are threatening Anna’s future – Anna says people are trying to poison her. There are family secrets unearthed, families stressed, and a thriller unfolding over a period of seven days. What a masterpiece of thrilling historical writing. Carroll has taken family themes, mixed in with the politics of the day and woven them into a compelling thriller based on strong historical research. The characters are endearing as they struggle to piece together many complex issues in an accessible way and make a hopeful story emerge from what could have been a very dark period in history. Another triumph, highly recommended.
Set in 2052, Anne Cassidy’s dystopian eco-thriller The Drowning Day packs tremendous of-the-moment-punch. The writing is lucid, pacey and richly-evocative, making it ideal for reluctant and avid readers alike. Alongside being a gripping story of courage and survival, it’s sure to spark much thought around climate change, attitudes towards “outsiders”, and the exploitation of girls and young women. Jade lives with her beloved dying granddaddy in the Wetlands, a place that’s doomed to destruction. Granddaddy can remember the past-world before the floods came, a time when people had cars and were free to travel. Though life has changed for everyone in this era of extreme flooding, some still have more than others, and this divided society is brilliantly evoked, with a sharp distinction drawn between the have-lots of High-Town and the have-nots of everywhere else. On his deathbed, Granddaddy gives Jade a key and instructs her to find a man named Charlie Diamond to exchange it for a means to get into High-Town, where her sister Mona now lives. “It’s a bad place, Jade. If I don’t make it, you have to get her out”, he warns. When feared “ferals” steal the key, Jade’s friend Bates admits he knows one of its members, Samson. While the ferals are forbidden to live on land and it’s against the law to talk to them, Jade and Bates enlist Samson’s help as sirens warn of another imminent deluge. With the importance of family, friendship and community shining through a thrilling, thought-provoking race against time to save loved ones, The Drowning Day is a dazzler of dystopian fiction.
When lies are everywhere, how far will you go for the truth? A tense eco-drama with an explosive twist from the million-copy selling author of Girl, Missing. Fourteen-year-old Maya cannot believe she has to spend the summer with her grandmother, helping out at the family cosmetics firm. But things get much more exciting when she meets a community of activists who are campaigning against the dumping of chemical waste. Getting closer to one boy in particular, Bear, Maya is dared into joining one of their protest missions, but doesn't know that her grandmother's business is the target. Someone has been lying about their environmentally-friendly products, and as danger threatens, Maya must uncover the truth or betray her family forever. In this edge-of-your-seat drama exploring the line between truth and lies, join millions of readers in discovering bestselling teen thrillers from Sophie McKenzie.
April 2022 Book of the Month | Four young people, who know but don’t like one another; a Saturday detention in their creepy old school; and the sudden, terrifying disappearance of their teacher… The stage is set for a fabulously scary horror story in which Jennifer Killick gleefully plays the genre for everything it’s got: shocks, surprises, black humour, and a growing understanding between our bunch of unlikely heroes that if they’re going to get out alive, they’ll need to work together. Killick knows just the right amount of gory detail to include and has a great line in teenage banter too. Readers, especially those new to this kind of story are in for a treat!
April 2022 Book of the Month | Third high-octane instalment in the bestselling author's compelling Jack Courtney Adventures, following Cloudburst and Thunderbolt. On the pretext of making a film for his mother's environmental protection work, Jack wangles an expedition to the Arctic with his friends Amelia and Xander and cousin Caleb. But Xander's investigations into the mysterious backers funding their adventure raises Jack's suspicions. Is the renewable energy investment company really as environmentally responsible as it claims to be? While sledding with dogs, ice fishing, driving snowmobiles and sleeping in a self-made igloo, accidents beset them. Then disaster strikes when Caleb takes on a pack of wolves. Can Jack really trust his mother's friend Jonny Armfield to come to their help, or is he part of the problem?
Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | A true storyteller who writes across multiples genres for multiple ages, Marcus Sedgwick has done it again with Wrath – a thrilling, thought-provoking, timely novella about our connections to Earth, and each other. Set against the backdrop of a lockdown “that seemed to go on for ever…when it seemed the whole world was holding its breath”, Cassie is having a tough time of it. Her wealthy parents run the Green Scotland charity, but don’t have much time for her, and she has a reputation for being “a bit different”. Cassie plays in a band with Fitz, the novel’s narrator, and confides in him that she can hear Earth breathing, making a “slow and deep” humming sound she believes is the Earth’s way of communicating distress. The relationship between Cassie and Fitz is evoked with much warmth and honesty — she feels he’s betrayed her, he’s anxious to put it right. Then, when Cassie vanishes, exactly as she said she would, it’s Fitz she asks to find her, and it’s Fitz who strives to figure out where she might be. Significantly, at a pivotal point in the story, we learn that the word “wrath” comes from the Old Norse “hvarf”, which means “turning point” — exactly where we are with the future of our planet. Infused with mystery and the hum of otherworldly music, and insightful on the effects of lockdown (how “we have lost the urge to go outside”), Wrath presents a poignantly original way of thinking about climate change, and how we relate to each other.
Powerfully applying the horror genre to explore racism and homophobia in a high school setting, Ryan Douglass’ The Taking of Jake Livingston is an un-put-down-able, chilling tale for our times. Sixteen-year-old Jake isn’t exactly your average teenager. He’s a medium, he can see the dead. Ghouls and zombie-like beings appear to him, ectomist seeps into his vision, “snakelike and sinister”. Jake is also one of the few black students at his private high school: “I hate it here. Every time we run warm-ups it’s like there’s a BLACK KID sign blinking above my head like a firetruck light”. As a result, the arrival of a gorgeous new black student is especially welcome, and brings the promise of romance. But Jake’s visions are worsening, to say the least. While most of the ghouls he sees are harmless, Sawyer Doon’s spirit is vengeful. After killing six students in a high school shoot-out, Sawyer killed himself, and is now set on using Jake to exact revenge. As an intense and chilling story of survival unfolds at breakneck speed, The Taking of Jake Livingston balances edge-of-your-seat scares and action with emotionally engaging themes.
If you like your action non-stop, gadget-packed, full of car-chases, fighting and cyber chicanery, then this is the book for you! Caleb Quinn’s mum is a CIA agent and when she is kidnapped by some shady characters he’s recruited by top secret Möbius Programme on a rescue mission. His best friend Zenobia, an absolute whizz at robotics and quite a lot else besides, is signed up as well and the two are assigned codenames Swift and Hawk. The baddies have no idea what they’re up against! From sewage tunnels under the British Museum to Amsterdam and beyond, the action never lets up and nearly every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. Logan Macx – actually authors Edward Docx and Matthew Plampin – handles plot, tension and character as skilfully as Zen does a circuit board and this is unputdownable reading. One to recommend to fans of Alex Rider.