NEW TITLES

Along with adventure and fantasy, there is some powerful historical fiction available to young people in this month's highlights - and a real absence of dystopian fiction as other genres start to move forward again.

ISBN 9781444012750

Lauren St John's breathtaking new novel, The Glory, pits two teenagers against each other in an epic race across the American West. Alex, a troubled teenager from the UK, and Will, desperate to win the prize money to pay for his dad's life-saving surgery, are both determined to win The Glory, a 1,200 mile race from Colorado to Oregon. They face many dangers as they traverse this vast, empty wilderness, not least of all their underhand fellow competitors. The adventures come thick and fast both before and during the race and the vivid descriptions of the landscape and the history of the region makes their journey thoroughly absorbing; it is no surprise to find that the author has travelled in the area herself, and by horseback, and after reading this you may feel you have done so, too. The competitors face many trials and tribulations but ultimately, the book is about triumphing against adversity. It also explores first love as Alex and Will gradually come to accept their feelings for each other. This sweeping story of courage, families and romance is for adventure-seekers and horse lovers alike. Ages 12+ / 320 pages / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Gladiator School 6: Blood Justice
Dan Scott

Scribo

ISBN 9781910184431

Blood Justice is the sixth and final book in the thrilling Gladiator School series by Dan Scott, which takes us back in time to the first century, when Rome was ruled by the emperor Titus and gladiators were the stars of the Colosseum. Scott's series quickly plunges us into the tumult of those times as we follow brothers Lucius and Quintus as they fight to clear their father's name. Alongside their adventures, the books give us a real sense of what it might have been like to have lived as an ordinary citizen of Rome during that period and to have travelled across that empire, including to Roman Britain. In the final story, Blood Justice, Lucius and Quintus are back in Rome and find themselves facing both the best and the worst that the city can throw at them, including some horrendous punishments at the hands of the man they believed killed their father. In their quest for justice, we get a glimpse into the Roman law courts which is just as compelling as the scenes we are presented with at the Colosseum. While some of the happenings are gruesome, we are spared the blood and gore as the author focuses on the characters, and the action - and of that, there is plenty! Recommended for young people who enjoy adventures and history - as well as those who haven't yet tried historical fiction. 304 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Anne Younger

Gladiator School 6: Blood Justice
Jessica's Ghost
Andrew Norriss

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910200339

Jessica's Ghost is a strange little book that surprised me as it is very simply written and yet has a topic that is quite shocking. It follows Francis as he emerges from a life of bullying and isolation into a confident boy helping others along the way. The transformation is brought about by a ghost, Jessica, that only he can see and speak to although, as the story progressess, we find out that a few others may be able to see her as well, the reason for which becomes clear. I loved the simplicity of the writing and Francis as a character. The message behind the book is quite clear by the end and the story flows to its natural conclusion. The cynical part of me wonders if young people would be able to make the change in their lives like Francis and his new friends quite so easily but it would be lovely to believe it to be true. The topic is quite startling once revealed and I am not sure how younger readers would feel. That said, it is a compelling read and one that I would recommend - I couldn't put it down! 254 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell

Jessica's Ghost
Denton Little's Deathdate
Lance Rubin

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471124235

'I don't think this is my bed.' And so begin the frenetic last days of Denton Little's life! ...which might sound like a sad read, right? Wrong! It's funny...we're allowed to laugh at death. It starts with the premise that, thanks to the field of AstroThanatoGenetics, everyone knows the date of their own death, for better or for worse. The story then careers through Denton's final days; peppered with hangovers, love triangles (though due to the hangover he can't be sure), Senior Prom, a mystery man and an even more mysterious rash. There are as you can see plenty of firsts in Denton's final days. It's funny and pacey and ends with a beginning...which is just as well because I have some (actually quite a few) questions that need answers! 352 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian

Denton Little's Deathdate
Black Dove White Raven
Elizabeth Wein

Electric Monkey

ISBN 9781405271363

Teo and Emilia's lives change for ever when Teo's mother dies in a flying accident and they are brought up as siblings by Emilia's mother, who moves the family from the USA to Haile Selassie's Ethiopia (the only country in Africa to have never been colonised). The children's close bond is put to the test on many occasions throughout the book, which highlights the strength of friendship and love under adversity. It's a gripping action adventure book on a grand scale which also shines the spotlight on a lesser known piece of 20th century history. The fierce national pride of the Ethiopians in defending their country against Mussolini's shameless attacks is inspiring particularly as it was such an unequal struggle; the Italian airforce armed with bombs and mustard gas against barefooted soldiers with spears. The novel also tells the story of the birth of the Ethiopian airforce, the abolition of slavery and the deep rooted racism in the southern states of the USA. The breadth of the novel is as broad and stunning as the African skies which the main characters fly in. This novel could be used to great effect to enhance the school curriculum; as an introduction to the Second World War, a springboard for debate on slavery and the nature of prejudice and freedom or simply as a way of helping pupils rethink their view of Ethiopia and its people. 470 pages / age 13+ / Melanie Chadwick, school librarian

Black Dove White Raven
I'll Give You the Sun
Jandy Nelson

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406326499

This is the story of a tragic period in the lives of teenage, American twins, Jude and Noah. It is about art, first love, jealousy, family and maybe, above all, about the relationship between the twins. The story is told alternately by Noah and Jude. Noah is an introverted 13 year old, his mother's favourite, who is frightened of the surfing Jude and their father enjoy so much. A talented artist, determined to win a place at a prestigious art school. his world changes when he falls in love with Brian, the boy next door. Though also an artist, risk-taking Jude is popular and starting to discover boys. They are very close. Jude's narrative starts when she is 16. She has drastically changed and the twins' relationship seems to have completely broken down. She is a student at the school which Noah seemed destined to attend, studying under the tutorship of a famous sculptor. She talks to her dead Grandmother and is obviously guilt ridden by what has happened in the intervening years. Noah is now popular, party going and, most importantly of all, no longer engaged with art. As the narrative alternates, the reader is able to "fill the gaps" and learn the cause of this massive change. This could be confusing but it is also intriguing - readers will have to persist to enjoy and understand, but it is very much worth the effort. The language is, at times, overly extravagant and there is some occasional bad language. The ending is perhaps too 'fairy-tale' and not all the characters are believable. Overall though, this is a compelling read which should appeal to 13+ readers, particularly fans of John Green and similar. 412 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Karen Poolton, college librarian

I'll Give You the Sun
The Dolls
Kiki Sullivan

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409584001

When Eveny Cheval moves back to Carrefour with her Aunt after 14 years away the last thing she expects is to discover a dark and magical past her family have struggled to forget! Eveny is no stranger to loss, having been abandoned by her father and losing her mother as a child so the question is how much more will she lose? A queen of Zandara magic, a power she has never known about before, Eveny is introduced to a world of wealth and influence she never dreamed she would experience; as well as danger no 17 year old should ever face. Will she and her fellow Queens survive? Who can she trust? Most importantly, what really happened to her Mother? From the second you open this book you are drawn into the mysterious world of Carrefour, which is so well described you can almost feel the humidity of the Louisiana Bayou seeping through the pages. The descriptions of the Deep South are engaging and absorbing, the characters are colourful and well written and the story itself is mysterious and exciting, keeping you guessing until the very last page. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys magic and thrillers and personally I cannot wait for the rest of the books in the series! 432 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Caroline Mitchell, school librarian

The Dolls
The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles, Book 1)
Ian Johnstone

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780007491216

This is the first in what promises to be an interesting series,The Mirror Chronicle. Sylas lives in our present day world, although his lonely orphaned existence has rather a Dickensian feel about it. After being given a mysterious book, Sylas is drawn by the tolling of a huge bell into an alternative world, the Other, which he discovers to be in some way a mirror image of his own. He starts on a quest, gradually learning about the magical world he finds himself in, and helped by a variety of characters becomes involved in an ongoing struggle between good and evil, in which you don't always know for sure who is on which side. Sylas starts to uncover mysteries about himself and his mother, whom he had thought was dead, and discovers he has magical powers over nature. This leads to an exciting climax, which leaves us ready for the next installment. The book is fast paced and exciting, although quite a challenging read, and the world of the Other, with all its magic, characters and strange scenery, is well imagined. The way in which this fantasy world is similar to, yet quite different from, our own is cleverly developed, but does not slow down the action. The quality of the writing is good, and the characters are mostly believable and well rounded. For lovers of fantasy, with good reading stamina, this is a good choice. 512 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Carol Williams, school librarian

The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles, Book 1)
The Alex Crow
Andrew Smith

Electric Monkey

ISBN 9781405273428

By the author of the acclaimed Grasshopper Jungle, this novel is a taut and powerful story of war, American culture, friendship, and the ethical limitations of science. This is quite a confusing and challenging book, one that definitely requires concentration, not least because of its four interweaving sections. Ariel's life as a refugee in a war-torn Middle Eastern country; his new life with his adopted American brother in a summer camp for technology-obsessed teenage boys; diary entries from a treacherous 19th century expedition; and bewildering unsettling segments by a psychopathic, schizophrenic victim of the scientific experiments which run throughout the book, all collide to an intriguing (but for me quite disappointing) conclusion. To be honest it felt like the author had run out of steam and there are many unanswered questions. However, despite this I found Ariel to be a captivating character and the stark, uncompromising description of the brutality Ariel experiences in his native land compared to the sarcastic humour he uses to describe the summer camp make it well worth sticking with the book. Despite the violence being more bluntly stated than bloodthirstily described, (which in some ways makes it more shocking), I think this book is more aimed towards older teens only as there are also scenes of male rape and many references to masturbation. It is not a relaxing, quick, and easy read but there is a wealth of talking points to be had, in fact, it is one of those books that creeps under your skin and I am intrigued about what others will make of it. As such, I feel that any problems I have encountered are ultimately outweighed by the strength of the characters and story making this a bemusing, sometimes infuriating, and surprisingly enjoyable read. 272 pages / Ages 15+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer, librarian

The Alex Crow