NEW TITLES

The Weight of Water
Sarah Crossan

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408830239

What a special book this debut novel is! A beautifully produced (even the text is a swimming pool blue) little hardback, which will slip into your pocket and with characters who will slip into your heart just as easily. The fact that it is written in plain verse just makes it more accessible in my opinion. There are not many words to put off the reluctant reader and yet every one counts. The fractured layout of the text even seems to mirror how we imagine Polish immigrant Kasienka probably speaks and she has a painful and powerful story to tell us. Of being taken by her mother to England, to Coventry, to find the missing husband and father. Of life as an immigrant, being different, trying to understand a new culture and fending off the school bullies. Of falling in love and finding friends. Coming to terms with finding out that her father has a whole new family and helping her mother find a new life for herself, but most of all finding the strength to be herself and to pursue her swimming ambitions. Beautifully written and intense this book allows us to see ourselves from the outside and while it is not always comfortable, it is an incredibly worthwhile experience for our young teenagers. 256 Pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, School Library Services

The Weight of Water

ISBN 9781780620305

Ketchup Clouds begins with 15-year-old 'Zoe' (she tells us it's not her real name) confessing that she has done something terrible that no one else knows about. Her story is told through a series of letters she writes to Stuart Barnes, a man on death row, in which she describes the tragedy that has unfolded in her life and the reasons for her grief and her guilt. The letters add to the confessional tone of the novel and capture the voice and character of Zoe, who we come to feel we know. At the start of the novel, we are told that Zoe has killed someone, a man, and that she has "got away with it" but the intense feelings of guilt she feels are overwhelming for her. Through her letters, we come to understand how the tragedy came about within the day-to-day lives of a small group of teenagers, at the start of their journey into adulthood. This book tackles many themes of relevance to today's teenagers, from the dangers of social networking and casual sex to family secrets and relationships, but its power is in the poignancy of what might have been in these teenage lives, the unfulfilled potential of lives and loves cut short, and the eventual realisation by these characters that, despite their tragedies, life, still, continues. Annabel Pitcher's debut novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, won the Branford Boase award that recognizes debut writers. Ketchup Clouds is a very accomplished second novel. 256 Pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Into That Forest
Louis Nowra

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405266437

The theme of children being 'adopted' by animals and brought up in the wild as one of their own isn't a new one but in Louis Nowra's Into that Forest, it is developed into a story that is both startling and powerful with as much appeal to adults as to younger readers (11+). The story centres on two girls, Hannah and Rebecca, who are adopted by a pair of Tasmanian Tigers after the girls become lost in the Tasmanian bush. We learn what happened to the girls through the reminiscence of an elderly Hannah who, in her broken English, still eloquently describes their years spent with the tigers. We learn how the girls acclimatise to their new lives in the forest with the tigers - who they come to see as surrogate parents - gradually developing their senses, growing into a 'pack' and living a life that is focused on the hunt and survival. Despite their hardships, for Hannah looking back it is a time of freedom and a time when she felt most at home, until the girls are 'rescued' by Rebecca's father and returned to civilisation. As they attempt to piece their lives back together, tragedy strikes. Nowra is a playwright as well as a novelist and the power of the text in this story reflects his interest in language, his deftness with dialogue and his ability to use the sparest of text to build this other world. The novel is at times shocking but always believable, told without sentiment and always with dignity. The meaning of family and identity, finding our place in the world, communication and language are just some of the themes that are explored in this novel. 232 Pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Into That Forest
Anthem for Jackson Dawes
Celia Bryce

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408827116

This is almost unbearably touching and a frank and gritty portrayal of two very distinctive young people going through the toughest time of their lives. Megan and Jackson meet on the children’s cancer ward. He is an old hand and for her it is all frighteningly new and strange. At first he totally antagonises her, but gradually she comes not just to rely on him for truth and positive support, but falls tentatively in love for the first time. The book’s strength is that it really captures so well the sense of dislocation from the outside world, showing that their world had shrunk to the confines of the cancer ward, and that they could not have any real communication with anyone other than a fellow cancer sufferer. The writing is beautiful and all the characterisation is superb. It felt like you were going through a very real experience with them and all without one shred of sentimentality or "pilfered tears". There has been some recent criticism in the press of 'sick-lit' for children but for teenage readers, inhabiting these particular lives can be nothing but educative and positively thought provoking. Emotional literacy is as important to the development of rounded individuals as any other sort of literacy and this astonishing and accomplished debut will certainly stretch those empathy muscles! 240 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, School Library Services

Anthem for Jackson Dawes

ISBN 9780192728395

Sea of Whispers is set on a remote island called Mora. The people that live there are suspicious of the outside world and shun anyone they consider an 'outsider'. Hetty can see and hear things that the other Islanders cannot and this leads to her becoming isolated and disregarded. When a huge storm hits the Island, a stranger is washed up, this leads to a vast mixture of reactions from the residents of Mora; which in turn leads to a series of consequences that could not have been predicted. There is an ethereal and menacing tone to the book. It is almost dreamlike in its depiction of the sea and there is a sense of isolation for both Hetty and the people who have lost their lives at sea. Only Hetty and the stranger can hear the whispering voices, but to whom do these voices belong? Do they want to hurt or help Hetty? The story deals with loss and grief, as well as superstition and generational differences. It also describes sailing in detail. It would appeal to both boys and girls, as Hetty is a strong female character and it is exciting, yet mysterious. This is for the more confident reader as there are many hidden themes and dreamlike descriptions. Other similar titles are: Sonya Hartnett's The Midnight Zoo and The Silver Donkey; Garth Nix's Sabriel and John Flanagan's The Outcasts. 214 Pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Sophie Castle, Librarian

Freaks Like Us
Susan Vaught

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408836163

A coming-of-age story unlike any other, told from the point of view of a teenager with schizophrenia. Jason, Derrick and Sunshine (a.k.a. Freak, Drip and…Sunshine) are 'alphabets', young people who are sadly defined by their conditions and thrown into the SED (Severely Emotionally Disturbed) class. Jason is schizophrenic, Drip has ADHD and Sunshine is selectively mute. At least they have each other as friends who can see past each other's issues. Out of the blue Sunshine goes missing. The voices in Jason's head cloud his thoughts and make it impossible for him to remember what Sunshine told him before she disappeared, though he knows it's important. Some people think Jason may have hurt Sunshine but he knows differently. He also knows that the first 24 hours after a person goes missing are the most important so he has to fight his condition, stay focused and break a few rules to do his own investigation into her disappearance. This is a really important and honest book that forces us to question what we thought we knew about schizophrenia (and ADHD) and its double edged sword of symptoms and the side effects of medication. Add to that the fact that no one believes Jason and Drip because they're 'alphabets' and you've got a very challenging book. Besides that the storyline is so fraught with suspense that we're desperate to know what happens next. Along the way Jason finds some surprising allies and some people who let him down. A wonderful book for anyone who likes a good mystery story and/or is interested in mental health. Ages 12+ / 240 pages / Reviewed by Kristy Rabbitt, school librarian

Freaks Like Us