NEW TITLES

Split Second
Sophie McKenzie

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471115974

Sophie McKenzie's new YA thriller, Split Second, explores a society in which impoverishment and uncertainty have driven a resurgence in extremist politics. As such, its echoes of today's economic and political climate provide many starters for discussion. Charlie and Nat, whose lives have been torn apart after a bomb rips through a market place, want to find out who was behind the bombing. They join a powerful but shadowy group that claims to want to put things right: to fight injustice, expose corrupt politicians and bring balance back to society.... but just how far is this elite force willing to go? And what part do the teenagers play in their plans....? The story is slickly plotted and the reader, like Charlie and Nat, navigate many turns before the dawning realisation that all may not be what it seems - although there are plenty of clues along the way for the astute reader. As well as a great story, the novel's realistic portrayal of a society in economic meltdown - including episodes of racism, violence and political cynicism - makes it a great choice for discussion with older reading groups as well as for individual reading. Publisher Simon & Schuster has also produced helpful discussion notes for school and library settings, see Reading Ideas / Discussion & Activities

Split Second
Russian Roulette
Anthony Horowitz

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406310504

International assassin Yassen Gregorovich has just been given his latest orders: Kill Alex Rider. But how did Yassen become the feared killer he is now? Anthony Horowitz tells us, in this month's interview (www.turntopage1.com), that he wanted to write about Yassen because he was 'bad' and he wondered how he had got there - and this is what the novel is about; what drove a decent 14 year-old boy to become an assassin? Through Yassen's account of his life, we learn that he grew up in a tiny Russian village, the son of two scientists, and that his parents were killed when something went wrong at the secretive site where they were working. Their village is destroyed; Yassen escapes, and so begins his fight for survival through begging, theft, abduction, slavery and, eventually, training with the powerful Scorpia group where he meets Alex Rider's father. Rider leads Yassen through a pivotal point where the teenager makes the decision, finally, to become the assassin he has been trained to be. Through Yassen's account, whose timescale covers a number of Alex Rider novels, we learn the answers to a number of questions posed in earlier novels, which will be an added bonus to Alex Rider fans. But the main strength and attraction of the novel is its tight plot and assured delivery; not a word is wasted. Horowitz also manages to keep us 'on side'; Yassen is an assassin in the making, yet we route for him all the way. We learn that it is not hardship or suffering that drove Yassen to become an assassin but something much darker, and it is this that makes it such a powerful novel. In all, Russian Roulette is a must for Alex Rider fans and provides a fitting finale for the Alex Rider series, as well as a rewarding read in its own right. 416 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Russian Roulette
Holly Black

ISBN 9781780621302

International bestseller Holly Black (co-creator of The Spiderwick Chronicles) says that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is 'a love letter to all the vampire books' she obsessed over while growing up. The novel is set in a world not unlike our own except that here, vampires have made a come-back. Having reached an uneasy truce with ordinary humans, vampires now live in 'Coldtowns', parts of cities that are cut off from the areas inhabited by 'normal' people, but every now and again, the system fails.... One such failure leads to the chilling opening scene, in which teenage Tana awakens from a drunken slumber to find that all her friends from the party the night are lying dead around her, slaughtered by vampires. After extricating herself from the house - rescuing along the way an infected ex and an unfathomable vampire called Gavriel - she drives all three of them to the nearest Coldtown, where we get an intriguing glimpse of what life in a Coldtown is all about. Yes, this is a vampire novel, complete with alluring vampire (Gavriel), plenty of gore and the constant, heady danger that being in proximity with vampires seems to bring. However, the novel's well-defined concept, the detail in which Black describes the Coldtown world and the media frenzy it attracts, as well as the childhood tragedy that drives Tana to act as she does, bring a depth to The Coldest Girl in Coldtown that many paranormal tales lack; this is one of those stories that will stay with you long after you've turned that final page. 432 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

ISBN 9781407130033

Pants are Everything, the follow-up to Socks Are Not Enough, which was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, is every bit as funny to its predecessor and the gags flow freely and unexpectedly off the page as the protagonist Michael dissects the disaster that is his life. 14-year-old Michael has difficulty fitting in with the world around him and has problems both at home and at school. Following a disastrous attempt to overcome his fears of donkeys and nudity at the end of book one (he is caught swimming naked in the sea and accused of kidnapping a donkey), this episode sees him ordered to spend two weeks working alongside his counsellor, Chas, to prove can be a 'decent human being'. This is not, however, an 'issues' book, and as we track Michael's attempts to complete his work experience, his yearning for Lucy (who is not and probably never will be his girlfriend) and Lucy's yearning for Michael's older brother, Ste, Lowery masterfully turns the most embarrassing moments of a young teen's life into pure comedy. Michael's diary entries, his asides given as footnotes and his perceptions of the world around him, are drawn with a sure touch. While the author is on the record as saying there are only so many jokes you can make out of nudity, we hope that there is more to come about Michael and his life. 320 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The Dead Men Stood Together
Chris Priestley

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408841730

Readers familiar with Chris Priestly will know that he is a master of the Gothic and horror in particular, so it is perhaps no surprise to see that he has turned his pen and imagination to a retelling of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Rime began life as a poem and Priestly has intelligently woven it into a captivating, chilling story. The story opens with an old man, who we are told shuffles and shakes, looking as though he is at the end of his days but at the same time having looked like this for a long, long time. Nothing unusual here until we read that the old man and the narrator have both suffered long and hard and that the narrator feels 'his death would free us both', however he is spitefully hanging on. With these words and the story unfolding on the page with a mystery from the outset we, the readers, are drawn into a gripping story with elements of magic, demons and death, the classic elements of a great gothic horror. As the story unfolds we learn that a young boy, listening to his uncle's tales of the sea and lands far away, decides that he too wants to sail and have his own adventures. But is there any truth in the rumour that the uncle is in fact the devil and that the horrors they all face on the journey upon which they have embarked are all due to him? Priestly is skilled at writing horror without the gore, his writing plays on the imagination of the reader, ideas and images form in your mind as you read, the jet black text adds to the feeling and the overall sense of the story is one of mysterious tension. As the horror mounts, suspicions deepen and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the narrators' story. Be transported to a frozen land aboard a claustrophobic ship in the company of a young boy and his sinister uncle. 224 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, librarian.

The Dead Men Stood Together
Haunted
William Hussey

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192732507

With a title like Haunted I was expecting traditional ghosts and spectres but this chiller is much more subtle and multi layered while still ramping up the tension and spookiness. The book is set in the quiet town of Milton Lake which has a deserted funfair (echoes of Scooby Doo?) and the prologue ends with Henry terrified out of his wits after stumbling into something sinister in the ghost train. The story then moves to his cousin Emma, who is grieving after the death of her little brother six months earlier. I found her character very well drawn as she struggles to cope with the effect of this, the subsequent breakdown of her parents' marriage and her mother's disappearance from their lives. Emma has withdrawn from her father, friends and boyfriend and blames herself for her brother's death. A mysterious young man then moves into the eerie empty house on her street that played a central part in the death of her brother and Emma is drawn back when she hears her brother's voice summoning her. The mystery of the funfair deepens as events take a chilling turn; someone in town is using a ghost machine to call spirits of the dead back to this world. First of all the spirits arrive singly, seeking a living person to inhabit. Emma and the mysterious boy have to prevent this gateway opening up completely. They don't know who to trust as a circle of the townspeople could be responsible for using the ghost machine. The story balances adventure with believable, empathetic central characters and the ending had a good twist whilst leaving room for further adventure with this likeable duo. Some of the peripheral characters are a little two dimensional but it was an engrossing read and would be enjoyed by both girls and boys. 352 pages / Age 13-16 / Reviewed by Jo Huett, school librarian

Haunted
Winter Damage
Natasha Carthew

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408835838

In a contemporary Cornwall ravaged by the twin spectres of economic meltdown and unrelenting snow, Ennor Carne's family is in a daily struggle for survival. Her father is bed-ridden with cancer, her mother has abandoned them and her autistic younger brother is little use in keeping the pathetic remnant of the family farm going. In a desperate bid to stop the social services splitting up her family Ennor goes in search of her mother, but she is unprepared for the challenges posed by the bone chilling cold and the world around her which is teetering on the brink of anarchy. A chance encounter with Sonny, a gypsy girl, provides her with an invaluable ally but nevertheless Ennor's journey has heartbreaking consequences for herself and those she loves. This story might be a little short on incident and excitement but it makes up for it with some exceptional description of the Cornish moors in winter, an area which the author is obviously intimately familiar with. Ennor also has to adapt considerably during her journey, even if those around her do not enjoy comparable character arcs. The character of Sonny will also help to address the negative impressions of gypsies and travellers held by many and the ending is surprising in more ways than one. 320 pages / Ages 11-14 / Reviewed by Alex McGowan, librarian.

Winter Damage
Soulmates
Holly Bourne

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409557500

Holly Bourne's Soulmates will make you think about whether you believe in soulmates? Do you think that there is someone out there somewhere who is destined to be with you and who you are destined to be with? It is known to happen, that we meet another half and the magical spark is so strong that we know we are meant to be together; for Poppy and Noah the perfect match is about to happen. Poppy and Noah are Soulmates, they are two people born at the same time, a perfect match and a pair who are destined to meet. The odds of this actually happening are incredibly rare so that when it does it is inevitable that a powerful force will be unleashed. However, as always, there are problems to overcome first before working out how to deal with the fallout of being a Soulmate! Poppy, for example, is a complete cynic whilst Noah is a heart-throb to so many girls. Their romance takes them both by surprise and in their small town it is unsettling, particularly when an international agency comes onto the scene determined to separate them. Schoolwork will suffer but so will the world around them; an impossible choice will have to be faced.... Part typical teenage love story but bigger part an intelligent tale with an unusual twist this is a compelling book, a thick book, and one that will enthrall cynics and lovers alike! 544 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, librarian.

Soulmates
This Northern Sky
Julia Green

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408820698

Kate's been all but dragged by her parents on a month long holiday to a remote island in the Hebrides. With her elder sisters having flown the nest and her parents' marriage showing signs of crumbling any second, being trapped on the isolated island with them and no phone signal is not a prospect to relish. Factor in the aftermath of a recent car crash, a consequential court case and the break up from her first boyfriend and the Kate we meet is not a happy girl. However, time on the island, the development of friendships with locals, an honest confrontation with her parents and plenty of opportunity to think gives Kate the strength and desire to look forward and begin to deal with the obstacles she faces. This Northern Sky is a beautifully written novel, which perfectly captures the beauty, isolation and warmth of the small island. Alongside the story of Kate accepting and dealing with the changes in her life, Green skilfully raises the subject of environmental progress and development. The island is under threat of a wind farm being built off the coast; whilst some islanders welcome the development others strongly oppose it. As a new-comer to the island, Kate (and the reader alongside her) considers both the for and against arguments, drawing her own opinion on the controversial development. This subplot makes the book very relevant to KS3 studies on alternative energy supplies and environmental ethics. This Northern Sky will undoubtedly appeal more to girls than boys, but Green takes it beyond the realms of 'girly fluff'. Rather than develop Kate's relationship with Finn into a youthful holiday romance we see the start of a strong, sustainable friendship, thus providing a much more satisfying reading experience. I would suggest this book to girls aged 12-16, who enjoy well-written, evocative and sensitive books. 230 pages / Ages 12-16 / Reviewed by Amy McKay, librarian

This Northern Sky