NEW TITLES

There is a strong selection of books for teenagers publishing this month and to follow are some of the highlights our reviewers have enjoyed, covering ages 11 to 15+ with historical fiction, dystopian, detective thriller and adventure stories among them.

Half Bad
Sally Green

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780141350868

Although most humans don't even know of their existence, White Witches and Black Witches are at war with each other within modern society. Nathan is persecuted at school, has his movements restricted and is constantly watched because he is a Half Code; half White and half Black. He is 14 when he is kidnapped from his home and taken from his loving grandmother, brother and White Witch girlfriend and kept at a remote cottage, shackled in a cage. As a Half Code, Nathan is stuck in the centre of the struggle between the Witches; the White Witches want to control him and use him to kill his Black Witch father (who he has never met), and the few Black Witches that have survived slaughter by the White Witch Hunters daren't trust him. On his 17th birthday, Nathan needs to be given three gifts and drink the blood of one of his ancestors before he can fully become a witch and develop his powers. How will he be able to do this while locked up in a cage, and who will perform the ceremony? His grandmother has died, and he has no idea where his father is or how to find him. If he doesn't go through the ritual, he will die. Eventually he manages to escape, and is working against the clock to find the one person who can help him. Nathan's character is very skilfully developed, showing us his internal battle against the dark elements of his nature amidst a constant bombardment of abuse and in a poisonous environment where everyone tells him he is bad. He still has the ability to love and trust people despite his experiences. I will be dealing with many pupils begging me for the sequel - I hope Sally Green writes quickly! 376 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, librarian

Half Bad
SLATED Trilogy: Shattered: Book 3
Teri Terry

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408319505

This is the concluding book inthe Slated trilogy which tells the story of 17-year-old Kyla, whose memory was wiped clean (slated) by the oppressive Lorder government. Shattered starts with Kyla officially dead, killed by a terrorist bomb. With a new appearance and identity she sets off on a journey to the Lake District to meet the woman she believes is her birth mother. We follow Kyla as she searches to find her true identity and helps to try and overthrow the government. She meets and loses new friends, uncovers secrets about herself and those closest to her, witnesses terrible brutality and suffers startling betrayal. The book is set in a Britain of the future which is largely cut off from the rest of the world and governed by a coalition which controls the population using the cruel Lorders and frightening new technology. The setting is familiar and the events which have led to the regime described in the book are plausible. Kyla is a likable and convincing hero and we feel for her as she is betrayed by some of the people she trusts most. The plot is fast-paced and full of unexpected twists and turns. It is easy to become fully engrossed in Kyla's story, though she has so many new names and layers to her identity it is sometimes confusing. Shattered will appeal to 12+ readers who have read the previous two books in the trilogy as it draws together all the strands of the plot and the truth about Kyla's earlier life and family is revealed in a satisfying ending. The complexity of the plot which threatened to overwhelm in Fractured, the second book of the trilogy, would make this hard to enjoy as a stand-alone book, but it is a 'must read' for those who have been following Kyla's story from the beginning. 402 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Karen Poolton, College librarian

SLATED Trilogy: Shattered: Book 3
City of Fate
Nicola Pierce

O'Brien Press Ltd

ISBN 9781847173379

Set in the battle for Stalingrad, the story follows the struggle for survival of Yuri, a young teenage boy, and five-year-old Peter who he found in the rubble of their city. Snipers, Nazi shelling, lack of food and not knowing who to trust are some of the perils they encounter. The narrative switches between their story and that of a group of 16-year-old Russian conscripts who have to defend Stalingrad against the German invasion at all costs. It clearly illustrates the nature of war and questions the concepts of bravery and patriotism, unsentimentally explaining Stalin's 'Not one step back' order and the perils associated with being seen to help soldiers on either side, even under duress. It has a very satisfactory conclusion, though the loss of important characters may upset younger children unless they get to discuss it. The style is simple and direct and the book should appeal to a wide age range from year 7 through to sixth form. City of Fate will be a welcome addition to my library and our history department shelves, especially as the horrendous story of the Russia in the Second World War is not so well known among youngsters as that of Western Europe as there are fewer fictional accounts and films relating to this. 268 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian

City of Fate
MetaWars: The Freedom Frontier: Book 4
Jeff Norton

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408314623

This is the fourth and final part of the Metawars series. The books are set in a world which is polluted, crowded and violent. Most people make life bearable by escaping to the Metasphere, a virtual space which allows people to adopt an avatar and live a fantasy life. The Metawars are being fought over the future of the Metasphere, between the Guardians, a secret society dedicated to keeping the Metasphere open and free and the Millenials, the organisation run by Matthew Granger, founder of the Metasphere, who want to continue to control the virtual world. There are four server farms in different parts of the world controlling the Metasphere and the book starts as the Guardians, having taken control of three of them, are about to start the battle for the fourth. Jonah Delacroix has been instrumental in the Guardians' success but he is disillusioned by the loss of life on both sides and is determined to end the cycle of violence. Matthew Granger also says he is looking for peace and when it becomes clear that a third and sinister force, intent on wiping out most of humanity, has infiltrated and all but destroyed the Guardians and Millenials, Jonah, his friend Sam and Matthew join forces in order to save the real world and millions trapped in the virtual world. This is an action-packed thriller with the trio fighting evil and making all sorts of unlikely escapes from captivity, bombs and fire with a strong emphasis on technology. The action is constant and fast-paced, much like a computer game, with most chapters ending on a cliff-hanger. Issues about the environment and the attractions and dangers of the virtual world are raised and there is also some love interest between Jonah and Sam. It is perfectly possible to enjoy the book without having read the previous books in the series and it should appeal to 11+ readers who are used to the excitement of science-fiction action movies (there are definite echoes of 'The Matrix') and computer games. 346 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Karen Poolton, College librarian

MetaWars: The Freedom Frontier: Book 4
The Everest Files
Matt Dickinson

Vertebrate Publishing

ISBN 9781906148928

Ryan, a gap year student, is delivering medical supplies to a remote village in the Himalayas when he stumbles upon a mystery. He meets Shreeya, a young Sherpa girlwhose boyfriend Kami was employed on an Everest expedition but who never returned; all she has is reports that he is neither alive nor dead. Ryan sensing adventure agrees to investigate. Kami's story unfolds throughout the book. His desperate determination to get out of a childhood marriage so that he can marry Shreeya leads him up the deadly slopes of Everest. Brennan, the leader of the expedition, is a popular politician in the presidential race hoping that standing on the top of the world will give him the edge in the elections. As the group climbs higher they suffer a series of setbacks, near misses and tragedies. The stresses and tensions increasewith the altitude and Brennan becomes increasingly paranoid to an extent that threatens the group. I found myself willing the expedition to succeed and return safely. Matt Dickinson describes the landscape and its gruelling challenges with a conviction that only someone who has climbed Everest could achieve; he includes small details such as the effect of altitude sickness on clear decision making which made me completely believe in the story.Recommended for anyone with a thirst for adventure and to those who like to explore other cultures. 308 pages / age 12+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian

The Everest Files
Rock War
Robert Muchamore

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444914535

Robert Muchamore, author of the bestselling CHERUB series, has turned to music for his next series. In Rock War, the first in the series, we meet Jay, Summer and Dylan who live for music and their bands and are about to find themselves in the biggest battle of their lives: Rock War is searching for the 12 best young bands in Britain - and each of them is determined to win. Muchamore gives us a range of characters - both likeable and less so - who come from a variety of backgrounds including some very deprived and difficult family lives as well as some very privileged worlds. They are very believable and you'll find yourself wanting each of them to do well. Of course, only one can win and who that is will be uncovered in the next book. Muchamore has said he chose the music theme of the series on the back of readers' comments on his website and given the fascination with fame and performance, is likely to have an instant attraction to young readers aged 12+. Hopefully, like Muchamore's CHERUB series, as many reluctant as enthusiastic readers will enjoy reading it. 384 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.

Rock War

ISBN 9781405273411

Andrew Smith has made a name for himself in charting what it is to be a teenager and Grasshopper Jungle, a story of a boy's journey into adulthood, does this in spades - along with an apocalyptic plot, a heard of hungry giant praying mantises and an essay on human history. It is a breathtaking story about the end of the world told through the eyes of 15-year-old Austin who is in love (or lust) with his girlfriend, Shann, while also being confused about his feelings for his best mate, Robby, who is gay. Alongside Austin's diary-style entries is a more detached account of his family's history and how he came to be which also poses a number of questions about how we humans view our past and why we have never managed to learn from it? These two strands gradually pull together and we discover how the end of the world came about, starting in a small town in Iowa and with a collision of small, connected accidents and thoughtless experiments that result in the creation of a vast army of 'unstoppables', the rampaging praying mantises that devour whatever is in their path. Austin is a shrewd and perceptive observer as well as being a boy who is trying to discover his identity in a highly conformist, small-town community in Iowa. This is quite likely to become a cult read thanks to its dark humour, its perceptive and unflinching view of humanity and for the honesty of Austin's account into adulthood. Its sexual content means it is suitable for mature readers aged 14 years plus; once they find it, expect it to be devoured! 400 Pages / Ages 15+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

The Wall
William Sutcliffe

Bloomsbury Childrens

ISBN 9781408838433

William Sutcliffe's first YA novel (now available in paperback) 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. Unlike his comfortable home town, those living on the other side of the Wall experience deprivation, hunger and constant hostility. When Joshua finds himself trapped on the 'wrong' side of the Wall, with his life in peril, he is helped by those who have the most to lose. When he returns to help the family who saved him, there are unforeseen and tragic consequences. 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

The Wall
Valentine Joe
Rebecca Stevens

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781909489608

John McCrae's famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' written in Essex Farm in 1915 prefaces this story of a real boy soldier, Valentine Joe Strudwick, killed on 14th January 1916. Rebecca Stevens has taken her own family connection with the Great War and woven it into Valentine Joe's story. In this story, Rose goes to Ypres with her grandfather who wants to find the grave of his father's brother, Uncle George, who did not return from the trenches. Rose has recently lost her father and trying to comes to term with her bereavement. She does this by sending her father text messages to try and keep him alive. At the station in Ypres they encounter a small dog who follows them to the hotel and, while finding Uncle George's grave, they find the grave of Valentine Joe Strudwick who was only 15 when he died. On a walk after supper Rose finds herself back in an Ypres very different from the pretty town she had seen only a few hours before and this is the first of a time-slip, back to Valentine Joe's days in the trenches. Oddly only he can see her so she is able to follow him along with the dog they call Tommy. Rose sees Joe after he has been gassed and seen his friends killed, and is on his way back to UK. Rose hopes she can prevent him returning to be killed but that is not possible. However, in following him, she finds that the past cannot be changed but that it is possible to live with it. This is a deceptively slight book and could have been a much longer and deeper story. Rebecca Stevens has chosen to make it perhaps more accessible to younger readers, say 11 up, and although there is death, of course and the sights and sounds of war, there is also warmth and love and hope. Rose and her grandfather, linked by her father and their relationship to him, are real and credible characters and the people of Ypres with their Last Post played every night at the Menem Gate are some of the heroes of this book. 154 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, librarian consultant

Valentine Joe
Running Girl
Simon Mason

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9780857560582

When Chloe Dow is found murdered wearing mismatched running gear, amateur detective Garvie Smith is intrigued. Super intellect Garvie, likes maths - he likes problems and solving them, and he can always find something much more important to do with his time than go to school. His analytical talent makes him really good at solving crimes and his natural curiosity (nosiness) and bravado makes him an excellent private investigator. In true PI style, Garvie proves to be an irritating, but essential, ally to the investigating officer, Chief Inspector Singh. What was the significance of the black porsche? And why did Chloe visit the Imperium Casino? This is as good a detective novel as you'll find anywhere with great characterisation and descriptive writing. Garvie Smith is a name to look out for in the future (along with Simon Mason, of course). The book does deal with complex 'adult' issues - violence, rape and drugs, and whilst these issues are seen regularly on TV and movies, school librarians need to be aware that this is a teen crossover title. 448 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Brenda Hooper, librarian.

Running Girl