We Were Liars
E. Lockhart

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471403989

This is a beautifully-written book which paints a detailed and intricate picture of family life and relations. It describes the long summers of the Sinclair family spent on their own private island in Massachusetts, USA. The Grandparents have the big house, and their three daughters each have a separate house round the island where they spend each summer with their own families. The Liars of the title are Cady who narrates the story, her two cousins Mirren and Johnny, and Gat who is Johnny's step father's nephew and first comes to the island when they are all eight. For the Liars, they are paradise holidays spent running free, swimming in the sparkling sea, chatting under the stars with their cousins and playing tennis. However a dark thread runs through this idyllic world. The first indication of any tension in the family is the reception of Gat by the grandparents who thinly veil their prejudice at this boy of Indian origins joining their perfect white family. As the children grow up and with Gat's influence, they question their family's privileged position, begin to see the tyrannical side of their grandfather and the hypocritical sides of their mothers. The atmosphere on the island slowly grows more claustrophobic, building up to Cady's swimming accident which leaves her with severe migraines and memory loss. As snapshots of memories return to Cady the plot unravels and her world frays into tatters. At the end we see clearly the tragedy of Cady's secret. The twist ending was as totally surprising and unexpected as it was devastating. This will appeal to teens and adults. 225 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

We Were Liars
Destination Earth
Ali Sparkes

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192733443

Ten years to get here... Ten days to wipe us out... Lucy is woken by Mumgram, to prepare for acclimatization to her destination. After ten solitary years in a spaceship, the sole survivor from a planet ravaged by the Koth which wiped out all mammalian life forms, Lucy is about to land on Earth. Specifically, at the top of the Rowridge transmitter on the Isle of Wight, where the ship will remain tethered and cloaked to act as 14 year old Lucy's home until the time comes when she can buy her own house without causing suspicion. The long journey had provided ample time for her to learn all she can about the place she must now consider home and about how human teenagers look and behave. This knowledge serves her well when she meets local brother and sister, Emma and Jay, though they do find some aspects of her personality a little disconcerting. They are keen find out about their mysterious new friend and rapidly learn more than they could anticipate. Especially when Lucy makes the terrible discovery that one Koth has hitched a lift aboard her ship and it is only a matter of time before it starts on the human race... Think Alien crossed with Star Trek and the beginning of Superman, shot through with the music of Level 42, and you have this thrilling science fiction adventure. A compelling story [which I read at one sitting], full of suspense and enough action to lure anyone away from their games console, Ali Sparkes also deals sensitively with issues of difference and fitting in. Highly recommended for readers of 10+, by one of my favourite writers for this age group. 352 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian

Destination Earth

ISBN 9781447254096

The intriguingly quirky cover opens to reveal one of the most enjoyable debuts of the year and definitely a writer to watch for the future. We have a perfectly pitched naive narrator, who, although we are never told this, is very obviously on the autistic spectrum. Kieran is determined to find out who murdered Colin, the homeless man whose body was found in the river close by. He has a very strong sense of justice, an addiction to CSI videos, and is an accomplished artist who can record all manner of detail in the notebook that is always with him, all of which eventually helps the police pin the crime on the correct villain. But on the way we are enveloped in Kieran's life and we understand much more than he does and are terrified by the implications of what he reports. Domestic abuse and drug dealing are some of the darker issues looming over him along with the mystery of the disappearance of the grandmother, who was his main source of comfort since the death of his father. But Kieran does not see himself as a victim, nor does he blame his mother for not standing up to the awful brute she now lives with. He is resolute and determined and I don't think I have ever cheered on a character more. Kieran will live with you long after the book closes. There are obvious parallels to be drawn with A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night Time, but here there are no f- words to quickly skip over in class! The dark themes and issues and the gritty urban setting will be all too familiar to many young people and they are handled truthfully and with sensitivity. There is also much warmth and enjoyable humour in the relationships and dialogue and one is importantly left with a satisfying conclusion that has not been too easily achieved which makes it perfect class reader material for this age group. Reviewed by Joy Court, librarian

ISBN 9781444921182

Serafina is the mermaid princess of the realm of Miromara. It has always been ruled by strong women and she worries that she will not be strong or wise enough to live up to her legacy when the time comes. The palace is attacked by assassins, her mother is badly injured and her father killed along with many of her people. Serafina and her best friend Neela manage to escape the mayhem and are called via dreams by the Iele (river witches) to save the seas from the monster Abbadon who has been awakened from years of slumber. Their evil enemies intend to break Abbadon out of his prison under the ice of the Southern Ocean where he has been held since ancient times. To unlock the prison, all six of the talismans of the Six Who Ruled need to be found and brought together. Serafina and Neela are guided to the Iele and meet four other mermaids who were also called. They have a quest; to find the talismans before their enemies can and so save the underwater kingdoms from destruction. There is plenty here to appeal to teenage readers, especially girls - magic, mermaids, the struggle of good against evil, drawing strength from your friends, belief in yourself, finding your path in life, lots of action and plot twists and of course the quest itself which will be covered in the coming volumes of the saga. There was a lot of mermaid vocabulary which some might find hard going, although the book does have a very useful and comprehensive glossary at the back. The watery background illustration for the chapter headings and the blue text give it a lovely feel. 336 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick

Take Back the Skies
Lucy Saxon

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408847657

The storms will set her free. Freedom will set her world on fire... War has ravaged the kingdom of Anglya for nine long years. Families are ripped apart by the Collections, when children who have reached the age of 13 are taken away to fight. But the children of Government officials are exempt, allowed to continue their lives of privilege. Catherine Hunter is one such child, but she is different. She longs to escape from her claustrophobic existence, before her powerful father can marry her off to a rich government brat and imprison her forever. So Catherine becomes Cat, changes her appearance and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. Once discovered, the crew makes her welcome though suspicions are aroused when her true identity is revealed. However, Cat is determined to leave her old life behind forever and joins them in their smuggling activities. When they land in the country of Siberene, Cat learns that all she has assumed to be true about life on Anglya is a lie perpetuated by the Government. Her knowledge of its inner workings is extremely useful in the planned rebellion, but the time will come when she has to choose.... This is the first in a planned series set on the world of Tellus by 18-year-old writer Lucy Saxon, and any reader immersed in this fantasy adventure will eagerly look forward to the rest. Combining elements of dystopia, steampunk and romance, she has woven a thrilling, fast paced tale that will appeal to readers of 12+. Reviewed by Jayne Gould, librarian

Take Back the Skies
Alex As Well
Alyssa Brugman

Curious Fox

ISBN 9781782020899

This is a great young adult novel which will definitely be keeping people talking for a long time. Alex has a very rare condition which means she was born intersex and her parents bring her up as a boy. The story is narrated by the girl Alex with the other Alex, her boy side, also adding comments. Alex leaves his boys' school after a horrendous bullying incident, and enrolls in a new school as a girl without telling her parents. At first things go well, she makes friends and feels like she fits in for the first time in her life. She lives under the threat of being found out though because the school office keeps asking her for her birth certificate (which states she's male) to complete her paperwork. Meanwhile tension at home is building to breaking point, her dad walks out and her mum turns to an internet forum to seek advice and support. These posts give us an idea of the strains and problems experienced by her parents, so we see the situation from another perspective and also highlight the total lack of true communication in the family. I loved Alex's drive and positivity and her determination. It ends with lots of unresolved issues especially in her relationship with her mother, but with hope too. It's a brave, valuable book which deals with an important topic not seen elsewhere in fiction. It will be loved by teens who will identify with Alex's struggle to determine her own identity and her fight against conforming to social expectations. Guaranteed to make you think and keep thinking. As Alex says, "Why does is matter if I'm a boy or a girl?" 210 pages/ Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, librarian

Alex As Well
Cuckoo Song
Frances Hardinge

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9780330519731

Triss wakes up after an accident and can't remember anything about what has happened. One thing she does know is that something is terribly wrong with her. She has patchy memories of her life before the accident, an insatiable hunger, a sister who is terrified of her and parents who whisper about her behind closed doors. In this dark and twisted fairy tale we gradually discover that Triss is not the girl she once was. As she tries to piece her former life and memories together Triss discovers she is not the only one with a terrifying secret. Her parents, consumed by grief, have done a deal with the 'Architect' which has affected everyone in their family. This is a creepy story that moves along at great pace, building up the terror and surprises. It is as much about family relationships as anything and how people respond to all consuming grief. 416 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Dorne Fraser

Cuckoo Song