ISBN 9780857532404

This intense, truthful and perfectly crafted story from the double Carnegie medal-winning author, like her novel A Devil Walks, examines the issue of nature versus nurture. Both books feature young boys shut away from the world with psychologically disturbed mothers, but whereas one was a wonderful slice of gothic literature, this is a compelling and all too recognisable modern drama. Can a child ever recover from such a dreadful abusive start? Do the petty bureaucracies that afflict social work, the police force and education system ever work in a child’s favour? What is so powerful and moving, however, is just how hard everyone is trying to do the right thing. This author does not allow herself any easy targets or any easy answers precisely because life is not like that and she captures every nuance and shade of meaning in every situation so well. Eddie is a character who will live with you for a long time and you utterly believe in him on every step of his journey, including when it all appears to go permanently downward. The multiple narrators each offer their insights and perspectives and masterfully allow Eddie's own voice the space for expression rather than be hampered by exposition. The subject matter may make people wary of encouraging young people to read this book, but there is nothing here that they do not unfortunately see reflected every day in the media and the message that nothing in life is easy, but that redemption is possible, is both apt and important. Anne Fine writes not only with beautiful economy, but truthfully and with great insight into and respect for young people, who are each trying to make sense of themselves and of the society we live in and that is something we all should value and promote. 304 Pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Joy Court, SLS librarian

Ketchup Clouds
Annabel Pitcher

Orion Children's Books (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )

ISBN 9781780620312

Ketchup Clouds is Annabel Pitcher's second novel and follows her well-received debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. Pitcher more than meets expectations with her latest novel, which is now available in paperback. Ketchup Clouds begins with 15-year-old Zoe confessing to a man on Death Row that she has done something terrible, she is responsible for the death of a boy, and that she can't share this secret with anyone. Gradually, through a series of letters to the Death Row inmate, she describes what happened and how this tragedy unfolded in her life. These letters shed light on the character Zoe as she was a year ago, before the boy died, but we also come to know Zoe in the present and to understand how she is tormented by grief and guilt because of what has happened. Piece by piece, the events of the past unfold and bring us to an understanding of how Zoe has coped and, gradually, how she learns to let go of the past and to move on with her life. On the way comes first love and tragedy, heartbreak and humour, and all the giddiness, selfishness and warmth of being a teenager, something that Pitcher truly understands. 320 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone

Ketchup Clouds
Anne Plichota

ISBN 9781782690009

Oksa Pollock is thirteen years old and has recently moved from France to London with her parents and grandmother. One of the teachers at her new school seems to have taken an intense dislike to her but it is not until a strange mark appears on her body that she begins to get an inkling that her life is not as ordinary as she thought. Soon she discovers she has a whole range of magical powers and her family are Runaways from the land of Edefia . She is, in fact, the 'last hope' of the Runaways in their quest to return home but someone wishes her harm and she and her family are in danger. This is the first in a series of books translated from the French and is perfect for those young teenagers who, ten years ago, would have been enthralled by the Harry Potter books. We meet members of Oksa's family and discover their amazing skills and menagerie of incredible creatures. We also learn about the history of Edefia and the reasons they had to leave. The book moves along at a cracking pace with revelations and adventures coming thick and fast. The conversations between the creatures are hilarious and in Oksa, we have a believable teenage heroine; at times brave and clever, at others impetuous and moody. Her relationships with her family and her friends, and their reactions to her new found powers and status, are central to the story and keep the reader absorbed. Particularly interesting is Oksa's relationship with her childhood friend, Gus, who has no super powers to speak of but still manages to play a crucial role in their adventures. This book has likeable characters, battles between good and evil and witty dialogue. Anyone who reads this will be gripped and eager to read the next book in the series. 512 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian

S. J. Kincaid

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471400421

Tom Raines is in his second year at the Pentagonal Spire and he is faced with a moment that will test his entire future, a moment of make or break. A political game, a power struggle which is more dangerous than any of the action Tom has seen so far, forces Tom to use his super-human intelligence to stay one step ahead of the game and its players, but will it be enough? Tom thinks he is making progress, and he may well be outwitting the enemy but his well-meaning friends have made an error, an error that could cost them all dearly. It was an accident but was it meant to happen? Tom and his friends must use every resource at their disposal to outwit their enemy, a man so nefarious that it all seems completely hopeless. Tom is playing a very dangerous games and stand to loose all that matters to him - will he learn how to deal with the enemy and save himself, or will it all be too much? For fans of science fiction and technology this is the perfect book. Its characters are certainly geniuses and the reader is propelled into their world of high-tech gadgetry and important missions. Fans of Alex Rider and action adventure such as HIVE will also love this story as it follows a group of young teens, the crème de la crème, training and being forced into challenging situations through their elite school status. Thrilling, action-packed and fast paced, this story is at once believable and futuristic, clever and cunning. A great read, if a challenging one at times. 432 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, school librarian


ISBN 9781405267175

The theme of children being 'adopted' by animals and brought up in the wild isn't a new one but in Louis Nowra's Into that Forest (now available in paperback), it is developed into a story that is both startling and powerful and which will linger with you for a long time to come. The story centres on two girls, Hannah and Rebecca, who are adopted by a pair of Tasmanian Tigers after they become lost in the Tasmanian bush. It is narrated by an elderly Hannah who describes, in broken English, their years spent with the tigers and the tragedy that unfolded when they are returned 'home' to their old lives. Despite the hardships they experienced while living in the bush, Hannah remembers their time with the tigers as one of freedom and happiness and her friendship with Rebecca as core to this. The novel is at times shocking but always believable, told without sentiment and always with dignity. The meaning of family and identity, the bonds of friendship, seeking one's place in the world, communication and language are just some of the themes that are explored in this outstanding novel, which would be ideal as a group novel for discussion as well as an individual reader. 240 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone