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Shortlisted for the Excelsior Award Black 16+ KS5 | One part thriller, one part meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything award-winning Brubaker & Phillips have ever done before. This celebration of pulp fiction set in a world on the brink is another must-have hardcover from one of comics' most acclaimed teams.
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.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Co-written by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet (perhaps better known as Cate Tiernan, author of the Wiccan Sweep series), this tenth novel in the Maximum Ride sequence reels with action and plot-driving, straight-talking dialogue. A gripping, in-your-face opening tells seventeen-year-old Hawk’s backstory: “My parents’ muted voices, the fogged-out faces - that was ten years ago. No friend ever came. My parents never came back…What kind of a pathetic idiot waits on the same corner every day from five to five thirty for their whole life? Or at least ten years of it? The biggest idiot in the world. This was the last, very, very last time.” No sooner has Hawk given up on waiting for them to return, it seems that someone is coming for her, but not her parents, and not for amiable reasons… The factions and gangs of The City of the Dead are an ever-present menace, along with an evocative sense of post-apocalyptic decay and disorder. And, as Hawk struggles to survive, the risks and costs couldn’t be higher.
February 2021 Debut of the Month | Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Fuelled by feminism, this formidable speculative thriller tackles traditional gender roles and the dynamics of power head on. In fact, it flips the status quo on its head to create an absolute page-turner that’s both gripping and inventive, with shades of an alternate The Handmaid’s Tale running through its pounding heart. Jude Grant lives in a post-war matriarchal society in which women hold all the power as a result of men messing-up the world (“Your lot – you men – you destroyed it all”). As a boy, he was born into a life of servitude, raised in the company of Nurse Fathers in the Surrogacy. Now nearing his seventeenth birthday, this is the final year he’s eligible to be presented at the Auction. His final chance to become the Ward of a wealthy Tower-residing woman, and the sense of time running out is potently palpable. In Jude’s world, gender roles are the reverse of those in ours. Here at the Auction, boys must smile nicely for the assembled all-powerful women who will determine their fates. Boys who have never seen a woman unmasked because “men can’t control themselves, we’re told; to look at a woman is to lose our innocence.” In Jude’s world, it’s boys who are subjected to objectification, sexual assault and abuses of power: “A grab here. A grope there. Small belittling moments we’re meant to endure, because it’s girls being girls. Shouldn’t we be grateful? Flattered? And when they don’t even know they did anything wrong, what? We’re meant to apologise?” If Jude’s not selected, he’ll be sent to the mines where most boys don’t survive a year. Waiting anxiously, he worries that he’s too old, too short, too fat. Sound familiar? This is powerful stuff, both in the context of Jude’s experiences, and its resonance with the treatment of girls and women in our world. But in Jude’s case there’s even more at stake, more reason to be picked to be the Chancellor’s Ward, for she killed his best friend Vik, and he’s set on revenge. What an impactful, provocative, pacey feat this is, from the author’s dexterous unveiling of the brutal world Jude and Vik were born into, to her accomplished translation of a powerful high concept into an edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Co-written by YA author Sara Shepard and 16-year-old Instagram celebrity and actress Lilia Buckingham, Influence is at once blisteringly entertaining and grippingly gritty - think guilty pleasure gossip site meets down and dirty exposé of the unfiltered underside of social influencer life. With an ultra-twisty plot that’s sure to keep readers on their toes, the story opens with rising social star Delilah moving to LA. Thanks to the video that propelled her to fame as “Puppy Girl”, she’s set to hit the bigtime, especially when glamourous, super-famous Jasmine befriends her, though both young women want more from life. Delilah aspires to be known for animal activism, diabetes awareness and anti-bullying messages rather than cute canine content, while Jasmine longs to be free from the constraints of her tightly-controlled brand image, not least so she can live out her true sexuality. Then there’s outwardly cheery Fiona, famed for her fashion and beauty YouTube channel, but inwardly weighed down by OCD and The Voice in her head that tells her she’s worthless. At the top of the tree is Kardashian-esque famous Scarlet. She and handsome Jack, a mega YouTube prankster star, are worshipped as “Jacklet”, with countless crazily devoted fans following their every move, as Delilah experiences first-hand when she and Jack strike up a bond, and it’s not long before a tsunami of duplicity and devastation explodes. Through the lives of the four female influencers we see bitchy backstabbing, the pressures of brand ambassadorship, the hollowness of consumer culture and the ruthlessness of fervent fans. Ultimately, though, when this thrilling rollercoaster ride winds up, the book chimes a message of authenticity. In Jasmine’s words, “Embrace who you are, not who the internet wants you to be.”
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Nimbly navigating a fine thread between real-world tragedy and elemental inner demons, Richard Lambert’s The Wolf Road is a stunning coming-of-age thriller about a boy’s battle with bereavement, and the wolf that holds the key to his healing. It’s un-put-down-able and emotionally haunting in perfectly balanced measures. Fifteen-year-old Lucas’s life unravels when he discovers his parents were killed in a car crash caused by a dog. In an instant “the world didn’t make sense”, and now he must live with his nan, an “odd woman in purple DMs” (and socially-conscious solicitor) he’s only met twice in his life. Despite his angry protests, Lucas has no choice but to move to Nan’s cottage in the Lake District, certain the offending dog was, in fact, a wolf. It’s not long before wolves infiltrate all aspects of his life - at school he reads The Call of the Wild (a book “about a dog that really wants to be a wolf”). Local TV news reports on a local farmer who believes his livestock is being killed by a wild wolf. And then lupine menace encroaches on Lucas’s reality when he hears and glimpses what must be the wolf. As he wonders whether it’s coming for him, to “finish off the family after Mum and Dad,” he confronts his wildest pains in the wilds of the mountains. While the theme of loss - and Lambert’s inventive handling of it - will chime with readers who loved Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, this also has great appeal for fans of emotion-driven adventures, such as Piers Torday’s nature-rich novels. Other plot strands skilfully untangle the complex relationship between Lucas and his Nan. The faltering understandings reached between grandmother and grandson are a joy to witness, as is the bond Lucas forms with Debs, a Sylvia Plath-reading goth-punk.
Kesia Lupo's We Are Bound By Stars is a fine follow-up to We Are Blood and Thunder, a richly-realised fantasy epic in which intrigue, trickery and powerful gifts from the gods throng through a cast of colourfully compelling characters. If you’re a fan of female-fronted fantasy, of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas, this series is sure to be your chalice of char. Beatrice is one of three female mask-makers in the kingdom of the Wishes, a cluster of volcanic islands ruled by a Contessa. As a result of a secret pact the Contessa made with Mythris, patron god of the Wishes, the chosen triplet mask-makers are taught to create masks with powers that aid “the Contessa in discovering and destroying her enemies”, as long as the chain of inheritance remains intact. As a middle sister, Beatrice makes Grotesques, masks that “draw power from expression”, creations with the power to manipulate emotions, but she’s desperate to flee this life of bondage. Then there’s Livio, born into a powerful family, destined to be the first male leader in aeons, but his magic is overwhelmingly wild. When his path collides with Beatrice’s, it falls to them to prevent devastating insurgency, as menacing masked assassins close in on their heels. Can they cut the strings of a controlling puppet master? Can they change the course of destiny? As their tales twist along a troubled path, the sense of time running out, of high-stakes decisions, of human emotions are grippingly evoked within a tangled web of magical trickery.
Exploring the all-consuming throes of love, malicious secondary school social politics, sexual abuse, and how difficult coming out can be, William Hussey’s Hideous Beauty is a top-notch YA thriller with hard-hitting emotional resonance. Forced by social media exposure to come out earlier than planned, Dylan and his gregarious boyfriend Ellis reveal their relationship to the world in spectacular style at a school dance: “Okay, Dylan, this is it. No going back. The closet door is firmly barred behind you, chained and bolted. No re-entry, no refunds. It’s gay all the way from here on out.” Riding high after an unexpectedly jubilant response to their revelation, tragedy strikes when they leave the party - Ellis becomes angry and their car plunges into a lake. While Dylan is rescued, Ellis drowns, leaving Dylan wracked with grief and guilt: “I deserve the pain. I deserve the crazy. I deserve a messed-up hand. No one’s taking these things away from me.” Set on trying to “find out who pulled me out of that car and why they left Ellis to drown”, it’s not long before Dylan stomps into a viper’s nest, uncovering jaw-dropping truths that set him - and readers – reeling. With his family less than supportive, at least best friend Mike remains at Dylan’s side, even though he’s undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia. Gripping, moving and unflinchingly honest, this is a fiercely affecting novel, told through the cleverly interwoven collision of two timelines.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | June 2020 Book of the Month | Teeming with drama and compelling code-cracking action, this WWII thriller is driven by the lives of three young people determined to make their mark on the war effort, and by the life-affirming relationship between fifteen-year-old Louisa and the elderly woman she’s employed to look after. Aspiring pilot Louisa is alone in the world. Her white English mother was killed in a London bomb blast, and her black Jamaican dad died on a ship that was torpedoed only three days after her mother died. Through her grief brave Louisa “burns to fight back” and takes a job looking after Jane, an elderly German woman who’s been imprisoned in an alien detainment camp. While travelling to stay with Jane’s niece in her Scottish pub, they form a beautiful bond, finding common ground in their love of music and the fact that they’re both outsiders in Britain - Jane because she’s German, and Louisa because she’s mixed race and subjected to racism. In Scotland they meet fellow outsider, Ellen, a driver for the local RAF airfield who tries to hide her traveller heritage. Ellen’s active role makes Louisa more determined to do something herself, so she takes her chance when a German defector lands at the airfield and leaves a codebreaking Enigma machine. It’s not long before Louisa, Ellen and young flight lieutenant Jamie step-up their war efforts, as their story builds to an impeccably conducted, pulse-quickening crescendo. Alongside being a gripping thriller, this is a truly moving, inspirational novel. Louisa’s passion for music and learning, her wit and ambition, are exhilaratingly infectious. I’d love to know what she does next.
The highly-anticipated and brilliantly crafted crime-thriller sequel to the no.1 debut of 2019, A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore. With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won't do anything about it. And if they won't look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town's dark secrets along the way... and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it's too late? Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying, Eva Dolan, C L Taylor, We Were Liars and Riverdale
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | On the run with her little brother, Aidan, sixteen-year-old Emily stows away on a plane in this fast-paced thriller. When their plane crashes into the side of a snowy mountain, it’s up to Emily to ensure Aidan and their pilot, Bob, make it off the mountain alive. Lost in the Alaskan wilderness and pursued by mysterious government forces who want to capture them, the unlikely team of three trek across the freezing landscape, learning more about each other, and about life, than they ever thought possible.