NEW TITLES

From detective stories to historical fiction and gritty contemporary dramas, this month's selection of book reviews covers some great fiction for older readers aged 12+, reviewed by teachers and librarians.

Mind the Gap
Phil Earle

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781125892

'Mikey's mum wore a frown like most women on the estate wore make-up. It was smeared over every inch of her face.' And that, my friend, is what we've come to expect from the superstar that is Phil Earle. I've just finished Mind The Gap. It didn't take long, just the one sitting. But for every one of those 94 pages I was immersed and invested in the central characters - Mikey's best friend and Mikey. With cover artwork by David Wardle and the characteristic heavy cream paper of Barrington Stoke, this is a book you'd pick out in a line up; better still it has a reading age of 8 and an interest age of 12+ making it super readable (just like its sticker says!) and accessible. It's a gem. An honest, authentic gem. Mikey's dad is dead. He died a couple of months ago and Mikey is struggling to process it. Numb with grief, he is picking fights in order to feel physical pain, reasoning that that is better than the state of nothing he exists in. Opening up briefly Mikey says the worst of it is that he can't even remember his dad's voice any more. His best friend desperately wants to help and will go to any lengths to get his friend back. Inspired by an article in the Evening Standard, Phil Earle has taken the emotion from a tremendously moving true story and invested it in Mikey and his best friend. With grief and friendship at the beating heart of this story you really can't afford not to read it. 96 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

Mind the Gap
The Painted Dragon: The Sinclair's Mysteries
Katherine Woodfine

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405282895

A crime detective thriller set in Edwardian London featuring Sophie who works at the prestigious department store Sinclair's and Lil an aspiring young actress. This is their third case in the brilliant series. It's October 1909 and the story opens with a female being followed through the dark, wet streets of the West End towards the underground station where she is pushed onto the tracks, but it's not until 130 pages later that we find out who she is and what events led to this attempt on her life. Instead, the story switches to the privileged but restrained and unhappy Leonora Fitzgerald, a skilled artist desperate to make more of her life than a providential marriage and children. It's now September and Leo, her preferred name, is starting at the acclaimed Spencer Institute of Fine Art. Here she meets unconventional young people and makes friends with Connie, Smitty and importantly, Jack, Lil's brother. Readers will need to keep alert at the beginning as the story moves between the lives of the artists and those who work at Sinclair's department store. Lil is the link and soon all are working together to discover who stole the priceless painting from the Spencer exhibition held at Sinclair's. Like any good detective writer, Katherine Woodfine drops clues and hints but in my mind there really was only one suspect for the theft and murderous attempt. However, alongside this mystery is the deeper and continuing query over the notorious criminal The Baron and his involvement in Sophie's life. I suspect that he is going to be a thread through the series; learning more within each individual adventure. A great read, attractively presented and a winning series. 333 pages / Ages 9-13 / Reviewed by Sue Gilham, librarian.

The Painted Dragon: The Sinclair's Mysteries
Mark of the Plague (A Blackthorn Key adventure)
Kevin Sands

Puffin

ISBN 9780141360669

I had no idea the world of apothecaries was so exciting; ciphers, plague cures, dangerous recipes, exotic ingredients all make for a fast paced, action-packed adventure! It was fascinating to read about how the plague affected the city of London through the eyes of Christopher, an apprentice apothecary. Christopher, with his friends Tom and Sally, is trying to make ends meet in London but their money is running out fast. A message from his deceased master gives him hope but will he be able to crack his master's code? London is full of 'quacks' and travelling apothecaries who claim to have plague cures. But is there something different about Galen, who claims to have a real cure. He is incredibly secretive of his recipe - does he really possess a way to stop the sickness? Alarmingly, a prophet called Melchior predicts where the sickness will strike next; he claims to be able to communicate with the angel of death. Melchior has developed a strong following and has even taken over a church to preach from. Christopher is suspicious of Melchior's abilities but ends up caught up in this world when Melchior makes a chilling prediction about someone Christopher loves. As more and more people are struck down with the sickness, Christopher and his friends don't know who to trust. Can Christopher prevent Melchior's prophecy from coming true? This is the second book in The Blackthorn Key Adventure series and I have just ordered the first one so I can catch up! This would make a very interesting guided reading text for Year 6 children. Children could be set independent research of their own to learn more about the plague epidemic. 5 stars - perfect for children age 10/11 years old looking for something different. 448 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Elizabeth Harris, teacher.

Mark of the Plague (A Blackthorn Key adventure)
The Liar's Handbook
Keren David

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781126806

I wholeheartedly agree with the little sticker on my copy of The Liar's Handbook that quite simply read 'this book is also super readable'; it is, it really is. With a reading age of 8 and an interest age of 12+ this is a fantastic tool in navigating your way through the teens who profess they don't read/can't read/won't read. In true Barrington Stokes style, The Liar's Handbook is an inviting, accessible read, it's beautifully packaged with a cover that nods at a passport, hinting at identity; it's undaunting in its length and appealing in the font and thick, cream paper. In short, there's nothing to put you off, and that's even without reading a line. But once you do read, you'll find yourself listening to the credible voice of River. River is not so much a liar as a creative thinker; prone to 'flights of fancy' his mother would say! In response to a query as to the whereabouts of his science homework River answered, 'I'd had a doctor's appointment, but as my doctor is a specialist based off-shore I had to go by helicopter. And the helicopter pilot had a Doberman puppy and my mum trod on its tail and it nipped her ankle and I used my homework to staunch the flow of blood. Creative thinking you see! As River would say, 'My stories don't hurt anyone. But then, while trying to expose the lies of his mum's new boyfriend, River unearths a different kind of lie, a total deception with unimaginable consequences. Inspired by real-life cases of women deceived into relationships with undercover policemen, Keren David has delivered an excellent story with identity, truth and family at its heart. 88 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

The Liar's Handbook
The Witch's Kiss (The Witch's Kiss, Book 1)
Katharine Corr

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008182984

Superb interweaving of 21st century teen problems with Anglo-Saxon power struggles, spiced up with witchery both ancient and modern. A classic fairy tale style story retold in a unique way. Merry comes from a long line of witches. One of her ancestors fails in her struggle to defeat a powerful, evil wizard bent on revenge. However, she is able to delay the inevitable bloodbath by using a powerful sleeping potion on the wizard. She also casts a spell that commits all her female descendants to defeating the wizard when the time comes that he awakens. Unfortunately for Merry, that time is now and the burden of battling against the evil sleeping under the lake falls to her. Fortunately, she has her gran and her excellent, brave, non-magical brother as her back-up team. She is also helped by three magical artefacts left by her ancestor. Of course things are complicated further by Merry falling for the wizard's lovely henchman, Jack, who is dammed to do evil against his wishes. Saving the world is also delayed by Merry's mother who, like all teenager's mothers, doesn't let her wade into peril without a fight. I loved the way the modern witch's coven operated; very amusing to suddenly find out the woman from the corner shop is part of a whole sisterhood going back to ancient times, working together to keep the quiet town safe. I also loved the way the responsibility that comes with such power was explored by different characters. I really enjoyed the book, which has a very satisfactory ending and works perfectly well as a stand-alone story, though I'm already started on the sequel. 429 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

The Witch's Kiss (The Witch's Kiss, Book 1)
The Witch's Tears (The Witch's Kiss Trilogy, Book 2)
Katharine Corr

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008182991

Sequel to the Witch's Kiss. Merry and her brother Leo are both struggling to come to terms with all they went through to defeat the evil under the lake. Merry is trying to train with the coven and stick to all their rules, but is still finding it difficult to be accepted. Leo is grieving over his friend and finds solace with the traveller wizard Ronan, who saved him from a savage homophobic attack. Merry is lonely and is missing Jack and now finds she can't even speak to her brother without it ending in an argument. She makes a new friend in Finn, also a wizard. Trouble is brewing, witches are being killed and Gran has disappeared. The coven is doing all they can to find her, but Merry takes things into her own hands and starts to use dangerous blood magic. It is hard to know who to trust until it is too late and Leo's life is in peril. 416 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

The Witch's Tears (The Witch's Kiss Trilogy, Book 2)
A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Sara Barnard

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509810987

Sixteen-year-old Steffi has suffered from selective mutism for most of her life, only able to talk to close family and her best friend, as well as developing paralysing anxiety over recent years. In an attempt to prove to her parents that she would be capable of surviving at university, she starts taking medication and promises herself the first year of Sixth Form will be different. On the very first day, however, struggling without her best friend to support her, Steffi is introduced to Rhys, a new deaf student. Communicating through faltering sign language, Steffi and Rhys become friends and Steffi starts to find her voice. I really liked this book. Sara Barnard captures the often somewhat awkward nature of navigating life and relationships as a young adult. Although Steffi has diagnosable selective mutism and anxiety, we can all identify with the feeling of not being able to get our thoughts across to others. Steffi and Rhys's blossoming relationship never feels forced, and I loved their jokey conversations as well as the more serious ones. Communication is the key theme of this novel, with different methods portrayed through the use of distinct typefaces. These all work together to show Steffi's inner and outer frustrations, as well as her growing confidence as the story progresses. Her thought processes reflect her spiralling anxiety in way that feels genuine. Although I cannot say I speak from personal experience, I felt that deafness and mental health - and by extension disability in general - in this novel was treated respectfully and sensitively. It tackles the pre- and misconceptions that hearing impaired people face on a daily basis, and the frustration this causes. It also highlights the lack of understanding society has towards people with different needs, especially during the scene in the hospital. I would recommend this book to fans of contemporary YA fiction and those who enjoy a bit of romance. 320 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Ruth Wyss, school librarian.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder
One Of Us Is Lying
Karen McManus

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780141375632

This mystery is one where the reader can play an active role in trying to figure out who committed the crime. Five students report for detention, but by the end of it one of them is dead. Who committed the murder, and how?? A working knowledge of American schools and some culture would be useful, and doesn't detract from the story, but it may make it tricky for readers with less awareness. The story is a quadruple narrative - told from the perspectives of the four main suspects, and as the narrative unravels the reader finds out clues at the same time as the character they are following, and sometimes before other characters. The characters are likeable, and the split narrative adds to the pace of the novel, meaning it is hard to put down. I had to flick back to the beginning of the chapter a few times to check which character the story was following, but by and large they are well defined and developed as the book progresses. The narrative is believable, and you root for the characters - having four leads means you may connect with some more than others, which is part of what I enjoyed about the book. A rip-rolling mystery that had me gripped from the very beginning. 368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Alison Tarrant, school librarian. NB This is an early review for One of Us is Lying, which publishes in June 2017

One Of Us Is Lying
Traitor to the Throne
Alwyn Hamilton

Faber & Faber

ISBN 9780571325412

This thrilling action-packed sequel to Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands certainly doesn't disappoint. Clad in borrowed clothes and caked in blood and dust, gun-slinging Demdji Amani is once again at the heart of the action as the rebellion gathers pace and the Rebel Prince seeks to overturn his dictatorial Sultan father. After rescuing imprisoned rebels in Saramotai and briefly being reunited with the enigmatic Jin, Amani is betrayed by her Aunt, kidnapped and taken to the Sultan's palace. When the Sultan places iron under her skin, negating her magic powers, and bronze to bind her to his orders, Amani realises she is trapped in the harem with no way to communicate with her friends and no chance of escape. Ignoring all her reckless instincts, Amani turns spy and quietly sets about gathering all the information she can about the workings of the palace, all the time seeking an ally within the suffocating confines of palace walls. Encountering two familiar faces from her hometown of Dustwalk, she realises that former best friend Tamid will never forgive her for leaving him behind and instead has to rely on old adversary Shira, who is forced to help her when Amani threatens her lofty position as Sultima. Finally with an outlet to the outside world through Shira's messenger Sam, Amani begins to pass on information to the rebels and plot a course for her rescue. As with the first book in the series, there is an enticing mix of adventure, myth, magic and romance. There are plenty of twists and turns and some heart-breaking moments. This is a much longer book and many of the characters we met in the first book are given more substance and new characters like Sam add well to the mix. Although there is a character list and some helpful recapping I would advise reading the Rebel of the Sands first as there are a lot of characters and some complex issues. All in all though another pulsating YA read with the story now perfectly poised for an explosive ending! 570 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Traitor to the Throne

ISBN 9781471133220

Right then. So here's the thing; how do I review this thriller without giving the game away? ...carefully? Sophie McKenzie is an author frequently borrowed from the library. Currently there is a well read Year 6 who is mid way through The Medusa Project series while Girl, Missing and Split Second maintain interest higher up the school. This latest book, The Black Sheep, is definitely for the older readers, the YA/adult readers. It's a fast moving thriller centring on Francesca. Widowed a year ago, she is still coming to terms with the death of her husband when a stranger informs her that members of her family may know more about his death than they say. Who can help her and who can she trust? Trust is the key here; by the half way point I had suspected everyone, literally everyone, only Ruby, Francesca's 9 year old daughter, escaped my accusations! There were more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. I've wavered between 4 stars and 5 because while I enjoyed the cleverness of the plot, the build up, the finale and the reveal, there are a couple of things, minor details really, which leave me questioning a character, I really need someone else to read The Black Sheep so I can ask them, 'why? why would they do that?' . But in the end I've settled for 5 stars because if I feel the need to talk it through with someone then surely it's under my skin..and that is worthy of 5 stars! 512 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

Darkness Follows
L. A. Weatherly

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781409572039

This book is the sequel to 'Broken Sky' which introduced us to the world of Harmony and the corruption that threatened the World for Peace organisation. We re-join Amity, a peace fighter accused of 'throwing' fights, at her corrupt trial under John Gunnison's regime. Found 'Discordant', she is transported to the brutal Harmony 5 camp where, after helping a fellow inmate, she quickly realises that to survive she will have to think only of herself. Horribly betrayed by her only love, Collie, and losing her grip on survival, she is shocked one day to see a fellow peace fighter, Ingo, and events soon change, but will they be better or worse? Having really enjoyed the first book I couldn't wait to read the sequel and was not disappointed. This book again reads from more than one persons perspective and at times flicks between past and present but is a compelling and engaging story from start to finish. The regime at Harmony 5 can only be likened to the concentration camps of the past and throughout is harrowing and brutal. It could seem like a completely different story occasionally as I got so swept up in Amity's survival struggle but, taken in context with the parallel lives and storyline, it works well. There are many surprises and twists in this book and the reader is left wondering what else will happen to Amity and her friends in the final part. I can't wait to read it! Recommended for older readers due to some language and the harrowing content. 496 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

Darkness Follows
Passenger: Wayfarer
Alexandra Bracken

Quercus Children's Books

ISBN 9781786540027

The quest for the astrolabe continues with all the excitement, suspense, plot twisting, action, double-dealing and intrigue of Passenger. It's a very complicated plot, so you'd need to read the first book, Passenger, to enjoy Wayfarer. In this sequel, Etta and Nicholas are separated in time and are unable to reach each other however desperate they are to see each other again. They each determine to do all they can to end the evil and corruption of the travelling families that over time has hung on the power bestowed by time travel. The only way to do this is to find the last remaining astrolabe that has the power to open time tunnels. The families are also hunting for it, and employing ruthless methods. Then there are the mysterious and deadly shadows of legend; swift slaughterers from the dark who are working for the Ancient One who is equally determined to possess the prize. It is a race to the finish with each party having their own reasons for wanting to take control of the astrolabe. Nicholas teams up with the inimitable Sophy Ironwood, even though he does not trust her. Having made a bad mistake, Nicholas ends up with a creeping poison slowly killing him, which will result in his own death unless he kills Cyrus Ironwood first. Etta falls in with the ineffectual Julian and finds out more about her father and family along the way. Each of our principals has to grapple with their own problems in morality, love and loyalty to negotiate their own paths. This is a great story, equally good for boys and girls who like a good yarn and who can keep track of a twisting plot. It is a love story as well as an action adventure, spanning centuries and covering the whole globe. This is a breath-taking conclusion to the brilliant Passenger. 532 pages / Ages 14+ - Adult / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Passenger: Wayfarer
Every Hidden Thing
Kenneth Oppel

David Fickling Books

ISBN 9781910989579

Samuel Bolt has spent his whole life surrounded by bones. His father is a paleontologist, but lacks the respect of those backed by the establishment - like Professor Cartland. Cartland's daughter, Rachel, is also part of this world, yet society frowns on her inclusion and ambitions to go to university. Their worlds collide as their fathers chase the same specimin - the owner of a huge tooth. With such high stakes and intense rivalry, their developing friendship looks unlikely to succeed. 'Romeo and Juliet' in the Wild West with dinosaurs! Every Hidden Thing certainly ranks amongst the most original books that I have ever read. The 'wild west' setting is obviously well researched and convincingly portrayed. 'The dusty throughfare was treeless. The town looked lie it was making things up as it went along. Buildings of wood, buildings of canvas, empty lots marked out with stakes. Horse manure mingled with the sweet scent of fresh-milled wood...' The work of early paleontologists is celebrated and details of the digs are incorporated seemlessly into the story. Tension between the different factions helps develop the sense of adventure and the urgency of the rivals to uncover the 'rex' first. Told in the alternating voices of Samuel and Rachel, the story is also built around their relationship and place in the social order of the time. They are very different characters - he impulsive and naive, she reserved and calculating - both rebelling against the social expectations of the time. The physical side of their relationship is dealt with in some detail which makes this a read for an older audience. Perfectly named as the reader discovers many 'hidden things' along the way, this is an original, enjoyable adventure story. 368 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

Every Hidden Thing
History Is All You Left Me: A Zoella Book Club 2017 novel
Adam Silvera

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471146183

Seventeen-year-old Griff is struggling to accept the tragic death of Theo - his best friend/ex-boyfriend, and the boy he thought would be his ultimate lifelong partner - as well as dealing with his own issues of OCD and mental illness. The story alternates between the history of Griff and Theo's relationship, and the present day in which Griff still talks to Theo. An honest, realistic narrative of grief, loss, guilt, jealousy, and relationships with some special moments, but I found it a little too bleak and it took a long time for me to become involved with the characters. Would appeal to older teens facing similar concerns and problems. 292 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Sam Pett, school librarian.

History Is All You Left Me: A Zoella Book Club 2017 novel