NEW TITLES

Romance, sci-fi, dystopian and real life; a fantastic range of titles this month that reflects the high quality of publishing now available for children from age 11 to young adult.

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice
Natasha Farrant

ISBN 9781910002971

In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Lydia, the youngest of the Bennett sisters, is considered by her family to be silly, vain and ignorant and her elopement with the duplicitous officer Wickham seems to bear that out. But here author Natasha Farrant gives Lydia her own story to tell and it's a different view of Lydia, one in which a bubbly teenager forges her own path within a society that gives its women little freedom and even less choice. Because Farrant's story is told by Lydia, she avoids any attempt to mimic Austen's voice or style, but there is enough in the story to set it firmly within Austen's landscape; the etiquette, the narrowness of society and its entertainments, the desperation to have one's daughters married and settled. Farrant's Lydia, rather than being foolish though, is a whirlwind of energy, self-reliance and hope. She manages to secure an invitation to Brighton where she determines to find herself a husband and a way out of her dull, narrow life. The seaside town - of which Austen did not approve - allows its visitors greater freedom from the usual social mores but in this there are dangers and, as in Austen's original work, the setting colours the story and helps to drive the events. In Brighton, a new plot line is introduced through the characters the Comte de Fombelle and his sister, who momentarily give the star-struck Lydia a glimpse into a different, less reticent world. Lydia, a gambler by nature, throws her dice and it lands unexpectedly; opening the way to Austen's ending of marriage to Wickham. Lydia and Wickham are gamblers and in the end, they will have to settle for each other. Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice is a beautifully written and crafted novel that works because it doesn't mimic Austen but it is imbued with Austen's landscapes and tone; the same significance of the minutiae, the measured formalities and voices within limited social settings, the dashes of humour, and a warmth for, and understanding of, its characters. Lydia, we are reminded, was just a teenager - and, in her willingness to find her own path in life, she is one the modern reader will want to applaud rather than judge. Nor will readers have to know Pride and Prejudice to enjoy Farrant's work; it stands on its own although it also fills in many gaps for those who have read Austen's novel. 352 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Alison Hall

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice
Black Light Express
Philip Reeve

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192744784

The sequel to Railhead doesn't disappoint. With the same high energy, high speed action, Zen and the android Nova are once again embroiled in the schemes of the Guardians and get caught in the crossfire between two corporate families as the ruthless Kraitt wage war upon the Noons and usurp the Empress Threnody Noon. As the railwar wages, Threnody, Zen and Nova (along with Chandni, a young criminal newly released from freezer prison) flee for safety as their trains rattle across the known and unknown parts of the galaxy. A brand new K-gate opens up a new part of the network but what will happen when the humans realise there are alien species out there? Why have the Guardians been so desperate to keep alien life secret for so long and what makes them willing to destroy each other in their determination to keep this a secret? Our heroes plunge into the Black Light Zone in a desperate bid to return home, not knowing what lies ahead, but certain that destruction is close on their heels. With gun fights, bombs, intrigue, double crossing and plenty of plot twists, Philip Reeve has expanded the world of Railhead with his superb imagination. 311 pages / Ages 11-adult / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian

Black Light Express
Goodbye Stranger
Rebecca Stead

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783443994

Except that she survived a life-threatening accident, you'd never know there was anything 'different' about Bridge. She has happily married parents, an irritating but good-natured older brother and a nice group of friends, with an okay school. And yet when Bridge starts wearing a cat-ears headband every day, it's clear she doesn't feel 'normal'. Is this just because of the accident she wonders? Or does everyone wonder what their purpose is? As Bridge and her friends embark on the precarious journey of growing up, change is inevitable; no area of their lives remain unaffected. Bridge is a lovely character and her childhood friends Emily & Tabitha are brilliantly portrayed; each with their own foibles and personality traits, each with their own set of worries. All the friendships in this story are so real, perfectly describing the fickle nature of some, the fierce loyalty that can exist between others and the importance of forgiveness. The ability to be yourself is essential for friendships to thrive; Sherm and Bridge demonstrate this beautifully. I love Sherm's character, the insight into his family life and the way he and Bridge become ever closer. The awkwardness of recognising whether you're just friends or something more is palpable! The mystery girl is the added 'extra', her story unusually told in the second person, which keeps you guessing right until the end. After committing a terrible deed, she goes into hiding for the day and it seems her fate is linked to that of Bridge and her friends. Add to this various family members, the cafe waitress-come boxer, Adrienne, school teachers, the horrible 'friend' Alex, you have a cast of characters that brilliantly bring together the threads of the narrative, creating a picture of teenage life that will be familiar to many. The best thing about this wonderful story is that nothing is dwelt on too deeply, but just enough to make you think. It is light-hearted, but not without meaning. It is fun, but not without seriousness. And it is real, perfectly reflecting the world in which young people are living today. 286 Pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Victoria Dilly, reading consultant.

Goodbye Stranger
The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour
Amy Alward

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471143588

This is the second book in The Potion Diaries series which follow the misadventures of Sam Kemi, an apprentice alchemist in a world where there are magic haves - the Talenteds - and magic have nots - the Ordinaries. Sam is now best friends with Princess Evelyn, who she saved in the first book, and is about to embark on a tour of neighbouring kingdoms with Evelyn in the hope she'll find a suitable husband: as only through marriage will Evelyn's growing magical powers be safely contained. Sam has no such romance worries as she's going out with hunky Zain - heir to the ZoroAster Corp synthetic potion empire. Will Sam ever be able to work things out between Zain and her grandfather, who blames Zain's family for destroying his mother's potion making talents? Events take a dark turn when Evelyn's evil aunt Emilia escapes and attacks Sam's uncle, robbing him of his most important memories. Could she be on the hunt for the lost potion book of Sam's grandmother, who was rumoured to have discovered the most powerful potion ever? The race is on, with Sam and friends desperately trying to find the diary before Emilia. There are makeovers, glamorous balls, kidnappings, high speed chases and more in this romp. Although it's been labelled Young Adult, it is too light and frothy for most older teenagers. I think it would appeal more to younger readers 9-13, especially fans of Zoella, who has praised the series and featured The Potion Diaries in her first WHSmith Zoella Book Club selection. 366 pages / Ages 9-13 / Reviewed by Alison Ustun, school librarian.

The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour
The Book of Pearl
Timothee De Fombelle

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406364620

This is a story of stories and you need your wits about you as each strand is introduced, coming together masterfully at the end. Stories of Ilian, Olia, Joshua Pearl and the narrator (who, now I come to think of it, doesn't have a name I can recall) entwined throughout the book to what we have to hope is a 'happily ever after'. On the subject of the narrator, I have to admit to a teeth-grinding frustration. Near the conclusion of the story, Olia sighs at him, 'you're no use to me at all' - beautifully summing up my increasing exasperation at the boy-turned-man standing before her who had singularly failed to grasp his part in the story; his self centred obsession to vindicate his memories and not the lives of the main players. But the fact that these words on a page can invoke such reaction in me is surely testament to the excellent prose! The fabric of this story is woven from the threads of Kingdoms; Kingdoms whose stories have been told, Kingdoms where ogres wear seven-league boots, and fairy godmothers could make carriages spring from pumpkins. Kingdoms so very different to ours, a world without magic - the one world where they don't believe in fairies or tales - to which Ilian is banished. But this is not a story about fairies, it's about devotion and love, love that defines a lifetime, about grief, obsession, belief and bravery. Sarah Ardizzone (translator of the splendid 'April the Red Goldfish') and Sam Gordon have done a fabulous job in the translation of Timothee De Fombelle's novel. It retains an elegant, sophisticated simplicity which I enjoyed reading. As you are led through the Kingdoms, through pre- and post-war France, expect a fairytale, expect love, expect a tyrannical sibling. Expect to finish the book and lend it to a friend because you need someone with whom you can discuss the ending! 384 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

The Book of Pearl
Cell 7: The reality TV show to die for. Literally
Kerry Drewery

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471405594

Martha's life is now lived as the star of the most extreme reality TV show you could ever imagine. She's on your screens for one week only - working her way along the cells on death row, from cell 1 to cell 7 which contains the electric chair. So tune in, you can watch her 24 hours a day. She freely admits to the murder of the nation's favourite celebrity, and was caught with the body, holding the smoking gun. It'll be easy for you to make your decision, so get voting - DIE or LIVE. Day 7 the votes are counted and justice is served; the electricity flies and Martha fries. Welcome to modern justice - sleek, swift, cheap and democratic. No need for expensive courts, lawyers and complicated evidence when we just let the people decide. And it also makes great TV. As Martha's inevitable execution draws closer, the facts behind her incarceration are slowly revealed to the reader. We learn of her background in the poor district of town, and how she managed alone after her mother was killed in a hit and run accident, and how she becomes increasingly frustrated with the corruption and inequality of the system and her powerlessness to change it. This will have great appeal to anyone who loves Suzanne Collins, Teri Terry or Veronica Roth. It makes you think about the nature of social media and the power it gives its users over other people's lives. 384pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Cell 7: The reality TV show to die for. Literally
Blame
Simon Mayo

Corgi Childrens

ISBN 9780552569071

Ant and her brother Mattie are in prison for crimes their parents committed. They are 'heritage criminals', guilty of heritage crime: a previously undetected crime committed by your parents or grandparents for which you are held responsible. Sounds a little harsh, doesn't it? Children atoning for the sins of their parents, punishment metered out to next of kin in the absence of the real perpetrator. But if those children have profited from the crimes of their parents isn't it right and just that they should ultimately repay society? Isn't it? It's unnerving, but follows a disturbingly rational thought process that placates the simmering masses baying for justice in uncertain economic times. Someone must pay. Simon Mayo gives us Ant. An angry, feisty, rebellious, non-compliant teen. Unable to be silent, unable to accept the injustice of the system that has incarcerated her and her brother. Ant is not your standard heroine. She knows she is not to blame. But what can she do against a whole prison and justice system? An entire society? Furthermore, is she playing into the hands of a more sinister foe? The cruel and unreadable Assessor Grey. Gritty, unglamorous, raw. A fast paced and tense glimpse of a dystopian future; beautifully rendered by Simon's words, we can feel the rebellion and tension. 480 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, librarian.

Blame
Born Scared
Kevin Brooks

Electric Monkey

ISBN 9781405276191

Not my favourite by Kevin Brooks, but still pretty good. It is far less grim than Bunker Diary, and is tense and gripping. Elliot, who tells the story, has a severe anxiety disorder, hardly ever leaving the house. When his mother doesn't return on Christmas Eve, from going to collect his essential medication, Elliot is forced to go out in the snow to look for her. A subplot of two criminals in the village gradually converges with Elliot's story. He is forced to face his worst fears, and displays amazing courage. The novel is well plotted, with the storylines coming together, and several twists add to the tension. The reader feels drawn in to Elliot's world, and Brooks skilfully portrays his character's state of mind. The two criminals have several chapters of their own, which help to flesh them out a little, as characters who may be evil and unpleasant, but perhaps have things in their past that made them what they are. No excuses, but some sort of explanation. The way that Elliot's medication helps him cope, and the way he starts to feel as it wears off, is particularly well written. Short sentences and spiky words give a feeling of fear and a mind disintegrating, but eventually Elliot finds something else within him, as if his stronger self has been dulled by the pills. I'd be happy recommending this to school pupils at a younger age than I would some other titles by this author. 256 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Carol Williams, school librarian.

Born Scared
Our Chemical Hearts
Krystal Sutherland

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471405839

Henry Page is a good, but not brilliant, student in his last year at school. He's well-mannered, has buttered up the right teachers and aims to get into a good college. He lives with his cool parents who are laid-back, funny and totally in love with each other. He has two fantastic friends Murray and Lola; the trio always have each other's backs and are incredibly supportive. Into this mix then steps the new girl, Grace Town. She's odd. She wears baggy boy's clothes, walks with a limp and a cane, often has unwashed hair and spends her afternoons in the cemetery. Henry and the mysterious Grace are selected as joint editors of the school newspaper and so end up spending lots of time together (though not much newspaper work gets done). Henry slowly falls in love with this girl who he doesn't really know anything about. She has a car and lets him drive home from school each day, but then leaves her car at his house and walks off in the wrong direction. He is never asked into her house. They have some good times together, but whenever he starts to mention his feelings, or get close to her, she withdraws. As he slowly learns more about her tragic past and heartbreak, he comes closer to becoming heartbroken too. It's a bittersweet love story which explores the nature of bereavement and grief, as well as the consuming obsession of teenage first love. Destined to be a hit with all young romantics, it will soon be joining John Green, Jennifer Niven, Rainbow Rowell and Jandy Nelson on the shelves of many young adults. 313 pages / Ages 13+/ Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Our Chemical Hearts
The Beginning Woods
Malcolm McNeill

Pushkin Children's Books

ISBN 9781782690900

This is a sophisticated and well-crafted novel that will suit the dedicated reader. It begins with 'the Vanishings', cases where people have simply vanished for no obvious reason and, as the vanishings persist, the the greatest scientists' minds are put to solve the mystery. They attempt to do so by banning books and the imagination. But could Max, an unusual child who first appeared as a baby on a bookshelf, somehow be the cause of the vanishings? When Max's own adoptive parents disappear, he is ready to go and seek the answer he needs; to find out where he came from. To do so, he must head into the Beginning Woods, an untamed land of imagination, creativity, dark and light. This is a many-layered and lengthy novel that deserves careful reading. It sweeps up questions of imagination, identity, creativity, and ultimately, being responsible for our own journey in life. Max is a daydreamer who withdraws from the world around him; until he fully engages in his past, he has no future. While Max's questions slow the pace in the first part of the novel, the action picks up during Max's quest in the Beginning Woods where he discovers some wonderful - and some terrifying - characters; the Witch and her twin helpers; the ghostly girl Martha who wants her parents to remember her; the Wilderness, filled with strange and terrifying creatures; and the dragons, which help sweep it towards its dramatic conclusion. It is an accomplished, thoughtful read and I look forward to Malcolm McNeill's next YA novel. 448 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Ellie Shepherd.

The Beginning Woods
Notes on Being Teenage
Jana Rosalind

Wayland (Publishers) Ltd

ISBN 9780750287326

Model / blogger / instagrammer / feminist / writer Rosalind Jana explains her thinking on various subjects that are hot topics with teens, including fashion choices, use of the internet, friendships, sex, using the internet and social media etc. It is not a traditional handbook, but more of a dialogue where the author explains her own views and opinions on these matters and how her life experiences have shaped her thinking. She also includes quotes from teenagers with a range of opinions which make the book less preachy as she shows she values other arguments. The passages are not only broken up with quotes, but also with lists. Some of the lists work like a handy summary, some offer steps to work through to help you work through an issue and others include helpful websites for further help, information or inspiration. The author also includes short interviews with inspirational women who have achieved something such as a vlogger, musician, campaigner, entrepreneur and various writers. It also has a good index which will be useful for dipping in and out. The book deals with a lot of negative things that teenagers will come across and have to deal with, but the book is empowering and positive as it offers ways of navigating through the negative things to emerge stronger and more confident. 261pages / Girls aged 13+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Notes on Being Teenage
Remade
Alex Scarrow

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509811205

An apocalyptic survival story with a very unexpected ending. Anyone who enjoyed Michael Grant's Gone series or Virginia Bergin's Rain series should love this. Leon is a worrier, which is why he notices the small reports on the news of an unknown disease which breaking out in Africa. Days later and the far away news story becomes a domestic emergency as the ebola-like disease breaks out in the UK and all over the globe; killing its victims and spreading far quicker than anything seem before. Leon is determined to keep his sister alive and flees London with his mother to try and wait it out in the country. Things go from bad to desperately bad very quickly. The book vividly describes the gruesome effects the virus has liquefying the victims, and the level of gore only increases as the 'disease' changes into a new and more sinister menace. Tracking the survival of Leon and his sister and their finding other survivors, the book then builds up to its conclusion, which makes this definitely a survival story with a difference. 371pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Remade
Mother Tongue
Julie Mayhew

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471405945

Mother Tongue is set in Russia, wonderfully depicted as a vibrant country full of great food and many traditions throughout the narrative. The story starts with the first day of school celebrations, the Day of Knowledge. Darya and Nika are both excited - Nika for her first day of school, Darya for finally being free, having been a mother to her little sister since her birth. But then the worst happens, armed gunmen take over the school and life as Darya knew it explodes right in front of her. Darya fights to recover from the shock, fixing her eyes on escaping to Moscow as the solution to her problem. With two brothers turned ineffective vigilantes, a father who disappears most nights and a mother, who now awake from her years of depression is too absorbed in blame and her own grief, Darya is alone. The appearance of charity workers and a handsome American reporter seem like her ticket out of the nightmare but she soon discovers it is not that simple. Darya cannot escape her grief that easily and has to find herself, so she can find her way back home. Based on the true story of the massacre at Beslan, Russia in 2004, Mother Tongue is ultimately about grief, hope and love. It's about how on earth you survive when the worst happens, about how you can possibly find hope when humanity has displayed its most evil and terrible nature. It's about not being defined by the awful things that can happen, and about finding yourself amidst the debris of life. And it's a story that stays with you long after you finish reading. 304 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Victoria Dilly, The Book Activist

Mother Tongue
Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Louise Gornall

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910655863

An honest book telling the tale of Norah, a beautiful, intelligent, funny girl who suffers from agoraphobia. Told in the first person by Norah, it is an eye-opener into the world of mental illness as she describes how her fear takes over her reason, how she battles with it and how it affects all those around her. She has a great relationship with her mother, but has no friends since she has been confined to the house. She is being helped by Doctor Reeves, and we get glimpses of her therapy sessions and some of the techniques that she is encouraged to use. The main story, though, is a love story between Norah and her new neighbour, Luke. The lovely Luke is boy-band gorgeous and comes over to introduce himself. The couple go through many awkward and tense meetings where Nora is on the edge of panic while they get to know each other. Him stepping into her life introduces many possibilities to the safe cocoon she has made for herself with her OCD behaviours and agoraphobia. The climax comes when Norah is forced into being immensely brave and doing the one thing that makes her feel vulnerable and unsafe; she goes over to Luke's house. It has a very satisfying, hopeful, positive and uplifting ending without being trite or unrealistically happy ever after. Norah's fears and behaviours will resonate with many teens and adults alike. A very important addition to the YA bookshelf, it will spark many useful conversations about mental illness and help bring the invisible illnesses out into the open. All teenagers should read this. 271 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies
Unboxed
Non Pratt

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781125854

Four friends meet to open a time capsule they have left at their school five years ago, to be opened when they are all 18. Only the fifth, Millie, won't be there, as she has died of cancer, and the four haven't met for a long time, so wonder what they still have in common. Narrated in the present tense by Alix, which gives the story immediacy, the book has pace and excitement as well as an emotional punch. Each character is explored, and the items and letters they have put into the box, as well as their reactions on opening it, reveal their personalities in some depth. They realise that they do still share friendship, and each discover things about themselves and the others. The emotion is never allowed to become sentimental. In a short book, Non Pratt has achieved a depth of character and excitement in the story which make this book a fantastic read for young (and not so young!) adults. The design of the book is worth a mention too, with a cover that is glittery without being 'girly' and wrap around covers that make the paperback look pretty sophisticated. There is some 'language' ( F words) which I consider fine in the context, but that is obviously something to consider when recommending the book or selecting for a school library. 88 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Carol Williams, librarian.

Unboxed
Orangeboy: Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize for Older Children, winner of the YA Book Prize
Patrice Lawrence

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444927207

Marlon is sixteen; he's a conscientious student who is keen to please his Mum and not get drawn in the bad crowd that sucked his brother in and led to tragedy. Marlon is sixteen; his hormones are ranging and he's flattered by the attention of the coolest girl in the school It's on their first date that everything changes and Marlon's life begins to fall apart. Sonya dies, very suddenly but not before she has asked him to look after the drugs she was carrying - and which they had both taken. Marlon is torn between 'doing the right thing' and trying to sort the mess out for himself. This is a book about choices and consequences. It challenges the concepts of right and wrong. It's an urban thriller and I was gripped from the first page. I have suggested that this is a book suitable for young adults aged 14+ but it will also be enjoyed by some mature and confident younger readers. 448 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Jane Welby.

Orangeboy: Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize for Older Children, winner of the YA Book Prize
Thicker Than Water
Anne Cassidy

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781125113

Lennie is a great big blundering boy in the body of a 22 year old man, his mental health issues causing him to behave without thought for the consequences of his actions. It his loyal and faithful cousin, George, acting on a promise to his dying father, who picks up the pieces and cleans up the mess. But how far will he go to do this? The author captures perfectly the relationship between George and Lennie. George would do anything to keep Lennie from harm, but his increasing frustration and desperation become more difficult to hide. And Lennie won't let anyone hurt George, but doesn't understand that his actions hurt others. After yet another 'incident', they have to move towns again and end up working in a pub. The shady characters for whom they work and Dolly, the pretty young wife of the landlord's vicious son, Boxer, add to the cast and you know something awful is going to happen. A whisper of hope arrives in the shape of Danny, the bar manager who seems to want to help. But this is short lived and soon George is driven to 'protecting' Lennie before anyone else can. If you've read 'Of Mice and Men', you're fairly sure of the ending of Thicker than Water which is based on the classic novella by John Steinbeck. This does not detract from the story which reads like a short, sharp shock. The threat builds slowly but convincingly from page one and doesn't let up until the final page. With a well-written narrative, I felt huge sadness for both characters, as well as great empathy for their situation - no proper help and living in permanent fear for the future. In the same way Steinbeck's classic did, this book will prompt much discussion about right and wrong, and how clear the lines between the two are in this situation. Published by Barrington Stoke, this book is an accessible read which will cause young people to reflect on issues surrounding mental health and employment problems. Thicker Than Water is a timely recreation of a story that shows what happens when people who desperately need help don't get it. 88 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Victoria Dilly, reading consultant.

Thicker Than Water