NEW TITLES

There is some strong fantasy in this month's reviews by teachers and librarians, but there's also room for some gritty stories about real life, summer romances and historical fiction that we're sure will keep readers gripped this summer.

Chase
Linwood Barclay

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781510102194

In a top-secret laboratory, a dog is about to be put to sleep. He has failed in his training and will be of no use for the plans the scientists have for him. But Chipper is no ordinary dog, rather a canine spying machine due to the many experiments and implants he has been subject to. And he knows that Simmons has come to kill him, so he makes his escape, despite all the measures in place to prevent him gaining the outside world and freedom. With an implacable agent on his tail, determined to capture him at all costs, Chipper must find a safe hiding place. Returning to the area where he was born, Chipper crosses paths with 12-year-old orphan, Jeff. Desperately missing his parents, his old life and the dog he had to leave behind, Jeff is living with his aunt and working all hours at her lakeside cabin business. Together they face the dangers of trying to outwit the Institute, in an adventure full of secrets, suspense and thrills. Linwood Barclay is the author of a number of acclaimed crime thrillers for adults and this is his first novel for children. Chase will certainly keep readers of 10+ on the edge of their seats! 256 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian.

Chase
The Diamond of Drury Lane
Julia Golding

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405285308

This is the first in a series of books about Cat Royal, an orphan girl in late 18th century Georgian London - recently relaunched by publisher Egmont. Adopted by Mr Sheridan, owner of the Drury Lane theatre, Cat is a force of nature; forever getting herself into scrapes with her gift for storytelling and her sense of adventure. Naturally inquisitive, she overhears a conversation about a mysterious diamond and is given the task of protecting it from those who seek to steal it. She is joined in her adventures by Pedro, a former slave who joins the theatre as a musician. They mix with street gangs and the aristocracy on their adventures: getting mixed up in an illegal boxing match; forbidden romance; and the hunt for an political cartoonist wanted by the king. As an outsider, she is able to see the injustice in the world around her: the slave trade, and racism shown to Pedro; and the inequalities between lives and opportunities of the rich and poor. Historical fiction can often seem stuffy, but by speaking directly to the reader Cat draws you in to her world and makes the people and her surroundings come to life. Lists of characters, maps, and a glossary all add to the reader's experience. The theatrical setting of the story is also reflected in the way the novel is presented, for instead of chapters the book is divided into Acts and scenes. It is refreshing to find a central female character who can take care of herself and that friendship, not romance, is central to her relationships with male characters. I think it would be perfect for girls and boys aged 8+ who love historical adventures with lots of action and a large dash of humour. 336 pages / Ages 8-12 years / Reviewed by Alison Ustun, school librarian.

The Diamond of Drury Lane
Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett

ISBN 9781471161537

When she moves across the States to live with her dad, Bailey has a plan - to seek out the boy she's been chatting with, and falling a bit in love with, online. The only problem? She doesn't know his real name, nor what he looks like. While she finds her feet and gets to grips with her summer job, Bailey's search for Alex begins, but then she meets Porter and her plans for the summer begin to go awry... Why does she feel so attracted to someone so infuriating...? This is a perfect summer read, it breathes sunsets on the beach and oozes small town charm. The author has said it was inspired by the film precursor of You've Got Mail, about twisted identities. As the reader, you soon put two and two together and this is part of the fun of reading Alex, Approximately - knowing what the characters don't, yet. What really drives the story, though - apart from wanting to know at what point the penny will drop for them both - is the zinging dialogue between Bailey and Porter, which is clever and great fun and helps develop each of the characters. The teenagers have had troubled backgrounds and as their pasts are gradually revealed, we're reminded - like the characters - to never judge by appearances. If you're concerned at all about the story's message of meeting up with online pals whose real identity you don't know, this is carefully handled by the author and the safety message is strong. I should also mention the film recommendations that come fast and furious throughout the book - this is a great story for those who love film, or who might be inspired to go and watch some of the classic movies the characters recommend. A wonderfully enjoyable read. 400 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Alice Short.

Alex, Approximately
Ruth Eastham

ISBN 9781911342380

The Fracking is starting in Aidan's village. The villagers are all out protesting against the pollution and damage that it will bring, but they are not the only ones who have something to lose if it goes ahead. Aidan is desperate not to lose his home and the horses, which will go once the fracking starts. The Celtic spirits of Boudicca's daughters are also worried about losing their peace in their final resting place alongside their mother Boudicca. The powerful fracking company and the local landowners are determined that nothing will get in the way of the huge profits they will make from the shale oil. Both sides of the fight clash, pitting teenagers against big corporations and past against present with lethal results. Following in the tradition of an Enid Blyton mystery, the children are the only ones who can save the day, save their friend from an unexpected foe and unearth both Boudicca's secret and the buried treasure. I felt that the book raised the question about the safety of fracking, but didn't really explore the issues, and I found I wanted to hear more about Boudicca's story. It was also hard to categorise its possible readership, but it could appeal to readers of pony books or Enid Blyton's older adventure stories. 203 pages / Ages 9-12 / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick.

Out of Heart
Irfan Master

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471405075

This is a moving story about a boy and his family; each alone in their own world. Adam is a gifted artist who finds it hard to express his feelings and talk to others at school, so he keeps a diary full of sketches and poems and sprays graffiti under the protection of the local gang. Following a fall, his sister is unable to speak and uses sign language and notebooks to communicate, we later learn that Adam blames himself for what happened to her. Their mother is trying hard to make ends meet after leaving her abusive husband. The children need her love, but she's tired and finds it hard to show affection to Adam - who looks so much like his father. They are all grieving for Adam's grandfather who shocked everyone in their close knit British Asian community by donating his heart on his death. The recipient of his heart, William, turns up unannounced one day and is reluctantly welcomed in to their home. He sits in grandfather's old chair as if he belongs there and he soon becomes part of their family. William has led a lonely life, but here with the Shah's he finds the family he needed and in turn he helps them to heal and connect once more. The author's use of art work and poetry, interspersed with facts about the heart, draws us into Adam's world. It's wonderful to read a book about connectedness and what links us together. I did feel that some of the characters were underdeveloped and I was left wanting more. It would be a great book for class study, exploring as it does so many issues: grief, guilt, community/family expectations, domestic abuse, gangs, loneliness and communication to name but a few. The short chapters would also make it ideal for reluctant readers. 263 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Alison Ustun, school librarian.

Out of Heart
The Diabolic
S. J. Kincaid

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471147142

The Diabolic - now available in paperback - is set sometime in the future when the ruling Elite live on large spaceships, their power and money fuelled by the Excess, the poorer classes toiling on the planets. No one is allowed to pursue scientific education and the spaceships are ageing, causing problems in the solar systems. Servitors and Diabolics are genetically engineered human creatures devoid of emotion or thought apart from pain and the ability to follow instructions. Nemesis is a Diabolic, who are made stronger, larger and faster than the Servitors, purely to act as a deadly protector for their owner. Raised and trained like an animal, she is bought by the Impyrean senator to love and protect one person, his daughter Sidonia. After a thwarted attempt by the Senator to force the Emperors hand in the matter of scientific learning, Sidonia is summoned to the Chrysanthemum, the Emperor's court, and Nemesis is altered and sent in her place. Thrown into the court and surrounded by the Elite classes will she be able to protect her owner from afar whilst she unravels the complexity of human nature? This is an imaginative concept and the author has really captured Nemesis's stuggles to adapt whilst pretending to be human. She gradually learns to love and care for others, something that a Diabolic should not be able to achieve. Full of twists and turns, the book stays true throughout and has a suitable satisfactory ending that is not rushed in any way. It is, however, left in such a way that sequels would be possible and I can see how this would make an amazing film. I think it would have been aided by a glossary and possibly a star system chart as at the beginning. As it is not completely clear in terms of the setting and different factions, a few of my students found this confusing. Otherwise a great read and although aimed at fans of science fiction I think it would appeal to many readers as there is action, romance, mystery and danger. Recommended for slightly older readers due to the torture and content. 403 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

The Diabolic
Once and for All
Sarah Dessen

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780141386690

Once and Fall All covers a few genres - romance, friendship, loyalty and family. It tells the story of Louna who, in her spare time, works for her mom who is a very successful wedding planner. During one of these weddings Louna encounters her reluctant romantic interest (on her part), Ambrose. I'm not sure about this boy, as he has the kind of character you cannot help but like so I'm not sure why as he does quite a lot of annoying things, nor how he even ends up with a job helping out with the weddings. The book is split up with alternating chapters about Louna's past and present. This is where we learn why she is so cynical about 'happy ever after'; the poor girl has had some tragedy in her life, which for me would have been more believable if her relationship with Ethan had been more than just one romantic night. I did like the development of the other main characters, Jilly - Louna's mom, and William. They added warmth and humour to the story. The relationship between Louna and Ambrose was a slow process, which I think made it realistic as our main character is a level headed young girl. Overall, not a bad book with 357 pages in paperback. Suitable for mature YA readers who want a romantic, quick summer read that perhaps mom would enjoy as well. 357 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Once and for All
Close Your Eyes
Nicci Cloke

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406218

This book is a must read but not for entertainment value as it deals with the real life issues of bullying, friendship, suspicion and tragedy. The fictional story is set around a group of six friends who have known each other for years. However, things start to change in year 11 when they make friends with the new boy Elijah. Year 11 is proving a difficult year for the group with pressure from exams etc and the friends begin to change, they become suspicious of each other and they start to fall apart. The worst happens when one of the group turns up to school one Tuesday morning with a gun. This story is told in a unique way, it will attract the YA audience with the variety of transcripts of text messages, blogs and media reports, very different and cleverly written, it kept enough information away from the reader that left me flipping through the pages to find out the full story. It was successful because it did not focus on the shock or 'thrill' factor of a school shooting but, instead, took a character-driven direction. It carefully laid out a story that explored perspective, ultimately breaking down the bonds of teen relationships and the way in which our actions can influence the people closest to us. It was thrilling and engaging but it did so in a way that never turned the school shooting factor into a plot device. Instead, it pulled the reader into the lives of its characters and made the mystery of their friendships' break down the key issue. The reader will make up their own mind as to who or what was to blame for the event. It makes you question yourself as an adult, regarding the comments and actions you make and I believe will be even more so with a YA reader. A very emotional and thought provoking read. I would recommend it for 14+ readers due to the language content. (294 pages, paperback) Who was responsible? You will have to make up your own mind. 294 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Close Your Eyes
Caraval

ISBN 9781473629141

Wow, what a debut novel. This book is a rollercoaster of a story. It had me gripped right from the start. The story tells of a young girl called Scarlett who dreams of witnessing a week-long magical performance called Caraval. However, Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda where she suffers abuse by her father alongside her younger sister Tella. For her, Caraval not only means magic, mystery and adventure, it also represents freedom from her father's monstrous grip. The day finally arrives when the invitations for this performance arrive, but Caraval does not turn out to be as she expected! This book is mesmerising and had me totally gripped. The author spins a wonderful web of a story that keeps you guessing until the very end. I think that there may be a follow up book to this and if there is, I will be eager to read it. One of my favorite things about this book was the budding romance between Julian and Scarlett, which isn't gross and cheesy; the tension between them continually grows throughout the book. The romance is tastefully done and, while refraining from being cheap and raunchy, sucked the reader in as the relationship grew. Suitable for 14+ avid readers of fantasy novels with 402 fantastically written pages (hardback) and when you have read this awesome book you can look forward to the upcoming film. 402 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Caraval