NEW TITLES

ISBN 9781408837450

William Sutcliffe's first YA novel - which is also being published in an adult version - can be read at many different levels. The story follows 13-year old Joshua who lives in a town, Amarias, which is divided by a Wall but when he discovers a tunnel that takes him to the other side of the Wall, Joshua's world changes as he begins to question everything he has ever believed. While Israel and Palestine are never named, 'The Wall' is an obvious reference to the Wall dividing the two nations and there are many factual references to the conflict in the region - although the novel could also refer to many other societies divided by the 'haves' and 'have nots'. The story is told through Joshua's perceptions and as such, it is a powerful coming-of-age novel in which you truly engage with the main character. Through Joshua's experiences, we explore the facts of the divide 'on the ground' - as new to us as to him - as well as themes of hope, identity, truth and morality. Ages 12+ / 304 pages / Reviewed by ReadingZone

After Tomorrow
Gillian Cross

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192756268

We have all seen refugee camps on our television screens. They are large areas covered with tents and cold, hungry, dispirited souls wondering if their lives will ever return to normal. It is easy to imagine that such places can only exist in faraway places like Africa or the Middle East, but in this excellent and exciting new book from Gillian Cross, we can see that it certainly could happen much closer to home. As the story starts Matt and his family are living in England, where, following a collapse in the banking system, money is worthless, food is scarce and armed robbers are likely to break into your home looking for food. After one particularly vicious attack the family secretly arranges to escape through the Channel Tunnel, but many other people have the same idea and thus the 'Lemon Dough' (Les Mondeaux) camp is established in northern France to accommodate the English refugees. It's a wretched place. The facilities are primitive and food is still scarce. Matt and his brother Taco miss their mother, who had to remain in England with their elderly grandmother, but there is no going back and the only thing they can do is try to survive. This is a brilliantly constructed and hard-hitting story about the breakdown of our society and it's all horribly plausible. Matt tells the story in the first person and so through his eyes we can glimpse what is like to be vulnerable and homeless in a foreign country, where the local population is unhelpful, or even hostile, and where you cannot even trust your fellow countrymen in the camp. It appears not all the rats have four legs. Gillian Cross has written many, many books for children and teenagers and this definitely one of her best. Ages 12+ / 304 pages / Reviewed by Jan Lennon, School Librarian

After Tomorrow
The Hit
Melvin Burgess

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781908435330

There is a story behind The Hit, Melvin Burgess's new novel. It started with a couple of A-level Philosophy tutors, their students and an idea they came up with, which involved a recreational drug which killed you within a week. It ended with Melvin taking all the many jigsaw pieces they had come up with and setting about creating a complete and satisfying picture, which he has done. 'Take it. Live it. Do it' instructs the tagline on the cover, which features an embossed Death pill, complete with skull logo. You know, from the moment you see this book, what you're in for: a slice of contemporary fiction that won't pull any punches and delivers on what it promises - or, to use the popular ad-phrase, do what it says on the tin. We are a few steps into the future in The Hit, still in a recognisable world, but one where circumstances are more desperate, where there is less hope and where taking a drug that will give you one awesome week before hitting the 'Off' switch looks like a viable choice to make. Everything kicks off at a rock concert in Manchester where the star, as promised, dies on stage; from that moment Adam's life veers off the tarmacadam and into the wild. This is a rocky ride, and Melvin keeps his foot on the floor as he takes Adam on what could well be a one-way trip into the dark side of life. The plotting is strong, as is the language, and the subject matter is challenging and thought-provoking. To paraphrase the cover line: Choose it. Read it. Think about it. Ages 15+ / 320 pages / Reviewed by Graham Marks.

The Hit

ISBN 9781407135342

Sally Nicholls' All Fall Down, a story set in a Yorkshire village in 1349 as the Black Death skitters inexorably northwards, is now available in paperback. The author tells her story with an almost forensic eye for detail; we see this world, so different in so many ways from our own, through the life, times and point of view of 14-year old Isabel. She tells us how it is for her and her family as everything changes, and through her we can see that what never changes is what it means to be human. Like a medieval wall tapestry, this novel abounds with background stitching, which in a less sure hand might get in the way of telling the story. And Sally walks a tight line between total historical accuracy and knowing how she must tell this old, old story for an audience today. She salts her tale with plenty of period words and phrases, which if the context doesn't quite explain (it rarely doesn't) the glossary will. All Fall Down's subtitle is 'A Story of Survival', and we do know, right from the beginning, that Isabel is going to be one of the little more than 50% of the English population, rich and poor alike, who were not killed by the Black Death - a disease, we also find out, that is actually a cocktail of three different forms of plague. What may sound odd is that, in the end, this a book about hope. Unlike so many of the present run of dystopian novels, it is not about an entirely imagined world being destroyed, these events really happened and out of the ashes rose a new and in many ways better society. Ages 13+ / 304 Pages / Reviewed by Graham Marks

Young Knights 1: Young Knights of the Round Table
Julia Golding

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192732224

Julia Golding has turned to knights, swords and Arthurian legends in her new trilogy, which begins with Young Knights of the Round Table. In the first book, A trio of 'changelings' are sent back to our 'real' world to find out who is disturbing the energetic balance between our world and Avalon, that of the Fey. Strong on discipline but short on facts about modern life, the changelings struggle to blend in and this is where much of the strength of the first novel lies - the humour as the changeling's perceptions of the real world (dictated by very poor research on the part of Avalon) are changed and their dawning realisation that, maybe, humans aren't as bad as they were led to believe.... The plot itself is pleasingly paced and brings in concepts of time, space and dimensions that are loosely based on today's science. Golding also ensures that one of her main characters, although confined to a wheelchair, has just as much of an adventure as the others - this is not a 'issues' story. A thoroughly engaging and well-crafted novel - we're looking forward to the next in the series. Ages 10+ / 368 pages / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Young Knights 1: Young Knights of the Round Table
Monument 14
Emmy Laybourne

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444914702

Monument 14 is a thriller you can place front and centre of the current genre which seems to have jockeyed itself into pole position: dystopian novels. Emmy Laybourne writes in a fast-paced, cinematic style which keeps the pages turning and the story - of what happens to fourteen kids, trapped inside their local Greenway suburban superstore as the world goes to Hell in a hand basket - unfolding like a nasty pass-the-parcel. There are echoes here of Lord of the Flies but, given the central plot, it would be hard for there not to be, and they take nothing away from the edge this novel has. Set in America in the near future, where connectivity and 'cloud' computing are even more pervasive than today, the disparate cast of characters find themselves, in a very real way, marooned after a series of major disasters, followed by a killer man-made one. Thrown together by force of circumstance, but with plenty of supplies to keep them going for some while, it's more the creation of a practical way of living that causes problems. That and keeping what's happening outside from getting inside the Greenway store. The action is related by 15-year-old Dean Grieder, an observer type who is thrown into the middle of an end-of-times scenario and finds he must do a lot more than simply watch. This is Book One, with the follow-up, Sky On Fire, flagged up as 'coming soon' and, as Monument 14 ends with doozy of a cliff-hanger, I'm sure there will be plenty of readers waiting to find out what happens next. Ages 12+ / 342 pages / Reviewed by Graham Marks.

Monument 14
The Reluctant Assassin (WARP Book 1)
Eoin Colfer

Puffin

ISBN 9780141341750

This latest novel from best-selling author Eoin Colfer delivers a blend of humour, fantasy and science fiction. The action moves between the London of today and that of one hundred years ago. The FBI are using a time machine to hide important witnesses anonymously in the past. When trainee assassin Riley is accidentally catapulted from Victorian London to the twenty-first century, his master, former magician turned contract killer Albert Garrick, follows in hot pursuit - although not before he has murdered an entire FBI squad. Garrick sees the potential of transferring modern technology back to the past and the limitless power that this could confer on him. He is also out to revenge himself on his former apprentice and the teenage FBI agent, Chevie Savano, who is helping him. Add to this the fact that Garrick has mutated on his journey from the past, morphing with FBI agent Felix Smart, and he has become a terrifying, almost unstoppable supervillain. The story takes you on a breathtaking ride from the present day to the slums and underclass of Victorian London where life was brutal and short. The action is non-stop, with moments of extreme violence, but the darkness contrasts very well with moments of humour which relieve the tension. Be warned, there are some very bloodthirsty moments in this novel which may not be to everyone's taste. The figure of Garrick is at the heart of the story. Utterly cold-hearted and ruthless, he deals death to anyone foolish enough to cross him - including, we are told early on, Jack the Ripper himself. Chevie Savano also stands out, as a likeable heroine - more than capable of taking care of herself but with character flaws that allow us to engage with her. This book is recommended for confident readers of KS3 upwards, who enjoy stories with a strong element of gore. Ages 12+ / 315 Pages / Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts

The Reluctant Assassin (WARP Book 1)
The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2)
Maureen Johnson

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780007432271

This is the second book in the Shades of London series, following on from The Name of the Star. It follows Rory Devereaux as she recovers from the ghostly attack which nearly killed her at the end of Book 1. Trying to come to terms with the things that have happened to her, she struggles to maintain relationships with her family, friends and new boyfriend Jerome. After all, if she explained how she really got her scar – who would believe her? On top of this, her new-found ability to act as a terminus (one who can destroy ghosts), makes her potentially valuable to the ghost-fighting squad, but Rory is unsure she really wants to act in this role. Is there anyone she can trust to understand what she is going through? By the end of the novel, Rory comes to learn that the madness underneath isn’t confined to the Bedlam of the past, but still exists in a very real form in our present day. Much of the novel is taken up with Rory’s attempts to make sense of what has happened to her, and to lead some kind of normal life. Because of this, the sub-plots involving dealing with ghosts take second place at times to her own internal struggle, and we are also less engaged with some of the secondary characters. However, there is much to enjoy in this novel. Rory is an engaging, quirky heroine who is determined to take control of her own destiny. The clash between the supernatural and ‘normal’ worlds she inhabits is well-written and pacy. and her background in Louisiana is amusingly described. The novel ends with a devastating twist which will see Rory racing in Book 3 to save some of those closest to her – both alive and dead. A page-turning read recommended for older teenagers. Ages 14+ / 290 pages / Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts, school librarian.

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, Book 2)