NEW TITLES

Fantasy, real life issues and humour are among the areas covered in this month's selection of titles for readers aged 11+.

Make Me Awesome
Ben Davis

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192747969

In this hilarious send up of self-help guides and larger-than-life celebrity life coaches Ben Davis introduces Freddie, gamer and son of a failed antiques dealer, and Chuck Willard, 'inspirer and giver of dreams'. Things aren't going too well for Freddie Smallhouse. His dad left his successful job to set up his own business which failed and now they're living at Uncle Barry's but he's about to kick them out. Freddie enrols on 'Chuck's Complete Road To Awesomeness' programme and sets about trying to make the family's fortune. One failure after another doesn't perturb our hero, not when he's got Chuck's AWESOME tips and advice to hand. In this laugh-out-loud tall tale Freddie learns about friendship, integrity and true success as he muddles his way through his response to his dad's despondency. Amongst the hilarity (the headteacher is called Mr. B*mfac - pronounced 'Boomfachay'), there's a really touching story of how a not-quite-yet teenager might try crazy things in an attempt to deal with a difficult home situation. Make Me Awesome is an easy read yet the age of the protagonist (he's at secondary school), and a couple of the jokes (reference to the rude channels on TV and perverts, for example), mean that this would be really suitable for reluctant KS3 readers as well as KS2 children. With better, slightly more sophisticated jokes than a David Walliams and more plausibility than a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Make Me Awesome will go down very well with those children looking for a funny, quick read. 272 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Aidan Severs, teacher

Make Me Awesome
Libby in the Middle
Gwyneth Rees

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

ISBN 9781408852774

A brilliant book. It's well-written and totally believable. The author manages to portray teenagers both accurately and sensitively without being disparaging. (Perhaps she has studied child psychology?) I was gripped right from the start, not least because we're kept guessing at the truth behind Libby's family and close friends. Is there more to Aunt Thecla than meets the eye? Was she really in love with Michael who lived next door to Libby's dad when he was a boy? Why was her dad expelled from school? What other family secrets might there be (including ones Libby and her older sister would rather keep to themselves)? A thoroughly enjoyable read which could be used with Year 6 upwards to spark discussion about relationships, honesty and ethics. 272 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jane Rew, school librarian.

Libby in the Middle
The Ice Sea Pirates
Frida Nilsson

Gecko Press

ISBN 9781776572007

Frida Nilsson's dark and twisted tale is a brilliant slice of Nordic adventure. Her clear, readable style belies a frightening tale of terrifying pirates and dangerous icy seas. Siri and her sister Miki live with their elderly father on Little Bluesay, a small island in the vast Ice Sea. They live a harsh life in an unrelenting landscape and eek out an existence foraging food from the surrounding skerries. But their simple existence is shattered when Miki is kidnapped by Captain Whitehead and the dreaded Ice Pirates. The fearsome captain has a brutal reputation for taking children and using them to work in diamond mines and Siri knows fragile Miki is unlikely to survive. With formidable courage Siri sets out on a perilous mission to find and rescue her sister, ridiculed by locals who fear she is no match for the cold-blooded Whitehead. A series of bleak and harrowing episodes follow but when Siri herself is rescued and shown kindness and then is unexpectedly reunited with a friend, she begins to believe that Miki can truly be saved. This book was an unexpected joy. The heroine Siri is brave but vulnerable and the challenges she faces are harsh. The competing beauty and danger of the environment provide a beguiling backdrop and there are some truly heart-wrenching moments. I would thoroughly recommend this captivating book but with a note of caution for younger or more sensitive readers. 359 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Ice Sea Pirates
The Boy With One Name
J. R. Wallis

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471157929

Jones is a 12 year old monster hunter-in-training (badlander) who dreams of being ordinary. Ruby, an ordinary girl who is desperate to be anything but! This is a supernatural tale, in the grand tradition of Harry Potter but oh so different. The story leaps straight into the action with Jones and Maitland (his mentor) tackling an ogre in the grounds of a deserted country cottage where Ruby just happens to be using as an escape from her foster parents. Maitland is killed during the struggle and Jones realises that if he wants to become 'normal', he will need Ruby's help in overcoming larger obstacles than he had ever realised. The story blends magic, supernatural beings and Anglo-Saxon mythology to create a wonderful adventure. I would recommend this to fans of Harry Potter and other fantasy novels and for readers aged 9 - 13. (Top end primary, lower end secondary). 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Kay Hymas, school librarian.

The Boy With One Name
Below Zero
Dan Smith

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781910655924

12 year old Zak Reeves has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain tumour. His overprotective parents try to take him and his sister May on one last holiday before Zak's operation. However, a work emergency calls the Drs Reeves away from their sunny beach holiday to the Antarctic, where they head with Zak and May in tow. Their destination is Outpost Zero - a remote and isolated training ground for future Mars colonists. However, when their plane crash-lands in the middle of a months-long Antarctic winter night, they find all the power out and all the residents vanished - nothing feels right. What is the ancient force beneath the ice that has been awoken by the secretive BioMesa expedition? Why is Zak the only one who can feel it coming? And what is the powerful, dangerous man known as The Broker willing to do to get his hands on it? Below Zero is a page-turning horror mystery sci-fi thriller action adventure story where - as often happens in kids' books - the adults are varying degrees of useless, and the kids run around saving the day. Sofia - a highly competent 14 year-old Australian adventure junkie - is the story's catalyst and could have done with more page time. I found myself looking forward to her chapters more than I did to Zak's, especially at the start of the book. Zak is a passive presence early on, but grows in confidence and personality as the book progresses. I wasn't wholly convinced by the story's denouement (the explanation for the 'monsters' and their motivation didn't quite ring true) and the writing occasionally slipped towards the hackneyed (what does someone with 'no trace of an accent' sound like?!). But on the whole Below Zero is an enjoyable, moreish, tense thriller that oozes claustrophobic atmosphere and memorable monsters. 304 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Dan Katz, school librarian.

Below Zero
The Ice Garden
Guy Jones

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490043

Jess is allergic to the sun. Blessed with a 'maddening, frustrating, wonderful mother' and vivid imagination, she lives life mainly behind closed doors, writing stories in 'The Big Book of Tales'. When venturing outside, she has to cover up completely, wearing the 'Full Hat' to protect her from the rays that burn her skin. On one of her many visits to the hospital, she finds Davey, a young boy in a coma, who she shares her stories with. One night, Jess ventures outside to enjoy a world which doesn't harm her. Whilst exploring the empty playground, she discovers a whole new world - a magical garden of ice. But she is not alone in this strange and beautiful world... A very 'normal' 12-year-old with an unusual allergy, Jess is fed up with the endless hospital appointments and having to be constantly vigilant. Watching other children through the windows, she longs for friendship and not to be the cause of anxiety for her mother. A very engaging character, she gains the reader's sympathy for her plight, whilst asking for none. The book is beautifully written, full of carefully observed little details and vivid descriptions. Mingling real life and fantasy, the story explores loyalty, friendship and growing up, offering hope and an unexpected, but very satisfying ending. 224 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

The Ice Garden
The Unpredictability of Being Human
Linni Ingemundsen

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474940634

The Unpredictability of Being Human showcases the genuine, innocent and literal voice of Malin as she navigates through her 14th year. We're first introduced to Malin as she ponders an assignment she's been set, 'What would you do if you got to be God for one day?'...Malin would microwave a bag of popcorn to perfection. She failed her assignment. Her teacher didn't think she'd taken the task seriously. But she had. She had considered ending world hunger, like everyone else, and creating world peace, but had come to the logical and rational conclusion that if it were that easy, God would have taken care of it all a long time ago. No, best to stick to the simpler things, like popcorn! Genius! Malin is a little at sea at school; she struggles to understand social nuances and has difficulty in reading social situations. All of which leads to a run in with the popular (mean) girl who finds it easy to manipulate Malin. The Unpredictability of Being Human has a lovely lilting style and pace which skips alongside Malin and her dysfunctional family as their lives are unpicked through loss and pain. 288 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

The Unpredictability of Being Human
Everless: Book 1
Sara Holland

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408353394

What a wonderful debut novel, I really enjoyed it as it has mystery, intrigue and sorcery. Jules, our main character, lives in a world where time is drawn from blood and forged into the currency of blood-iron coins, which the wealthy drink to live longer. The richest people, of course, end up with the most time, while people like Jules and her papa must literally bleed themselves dry to buy food and pay rent etc. This whole concept is fully explored and so deeply ingrained in every part of the story that it becomes so real and fascinating. This is thanks to how well written this novel is. There is just enough information and world building given to the reader without being dull, it actually encourages you to keep turning the pages to see what Jules discovers about herself. In order to survive this cruel world Jules must go to Everless to find work, she does this in secret as her papa forbids her to leave their little village. I will not say much more as I fear I will give too much of the story away and spoil it for you. I agree with a quote from the front of the book... 'An Intoxicating New Series for January 2018' - this is so true and sums up this story for me. 362 well written pages that are suitable for confident 12+ fantasy readers and older reluctant readers. This a story that keeps giving. The premise has so many things that can be explored. Luckily for us, Holland tries to do just that. I can imagine the next book going even further. Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention; the mythology and the twists! They're glorious. 368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Everless: Book 1
The Empress
S. J. Kincaid

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471169144

The Empress is a cracking sequel to The Diabolic, which reimagined the deadly politics and brutal excesses of the Roman Empire in a galactic setting for a YA audience. Inspired by 'I, Claudius', it featured an uncompromising heroine. Its gripping narrative and evocative imagery generated nail bitingly tense situations. Meticulous world building, deft characterisation and shocking plot twists delivered something fresh for the dystopian market - an exhilarating sci fi thriller with Shakespearean undertones. Kincaid's follow-up dispenses an intoxicating blend of political intrigue, pulse pounding action and destructive passion. Nemesis, a cruel, callous and superhumanly strong character with a lack of empathy, continues to evolve. Her relationship with the Emperor's son Tyrus goes into turbulent overdrive. Betrayals mount as the stakes get higher in a galaxy where power is given to the few who have control over machines and the majority of humans have been relegated to the role of 'excess' slaves. The divide of love vs the fear to trust plays out as the hedonistic grandiloquy battle to hold on to their privileged lifestyle aboard the Chrysanthemum, a dazzling arrangement of interconnected spaceships. Nemesis fights for acceptance throughout, having been decried as an aberration by the Helionics. Can an odyssey to the Sacred City change things? The dictum that 'power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely' holds true as fresh horrors are unleashed including bio weaponry, Black Holes, time slips, malignant space and explosive decompression. On the surface, Kincaid's novel is an entertaining sci fi fantasy with a dark underbelly modelled on the decadence and depravity of ancient Rome but it explores the need for empathy, the danger of becoming desensitised to violence, the harm caused by zealous religious beliefs, the evils of drug addiction and blood sports whilst also debating the ethics of genetic engineering. Her work encompasses politics, history, religion and science and would engender interesting classroom discussions. 378 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Tanja Jennings, school librarian

The Empress
They Both Die at the End
Adam Silvera

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471166204

Mateo Torrez is a quiet, scared and lonely 18-year-old whose mother is dead and father is in a coma. Rufus Emeterio is a recently orphaned, angry but big-hearted 17-year-old in trouble with the police. Shortly after midnight on 5th September 2017, Mateo and Rufus receive a call from Death-Cast - a mysterious organisation that not only knows when people will die, it calls them on the morning of their death day to tell them. Now Mateo and Rufus have one last chance to do some living. For their own reasons, they choose to connect with someone new on their last day, and they find each other through the -Last Friend- app. Death-Cast has been around for 7 years, and it is never wrong. We are left to make up our own minds as to whether having this knowledge is a good thing or not. It was interesting to see how Silvera imagined what effect this would have on human psyches, interactions and societies. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters (with the occasional side step to peripheral characters), so you see Matteo and Rufus developing as people from their own and each other's perspective. The book does well on the diversity front, too - Mateo is Puerto Rican-American, Rufus is Cuban-American and openly bisexual. This was not an easy book to read - a constant reminder of my own mortality - but it was powerful and affecting. What would I do if I found out that today was to be my last day? Who would I see? Would I tell them? Where would I go? What would I do? Would I cope? This book has the potential to have a huge impact on teen readers - on how they see the world, their friends and family, and themselves. It is profound, sad and moving but also funny, joyous and life affirming. Oh, and spoiler alert, they both die at the end. 368 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

They Both Die at the End
Things a Bright Girl Can Do
Sally Nicholls

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783446735

Some novels are written to be read and not reviewed and Sally Nichols's Things a Bright Girl Can Do - soon available in paperback - is most definitely one of them! Essentially a book about suffragettes aimed at young adults, it is so very much more than charting as it follows the stories of three very different girls from very different backgrounds, all dissatisfied with their lot in life and united in their determination to challenge and change the status quo. Evelyn is privileged and intelligent but unable to take up a University place like her brother, expected instead to conform; choosing marriage to a suitable husband over education. Joining the suffragette movement as a means to self-fulfilment, she finds herself imprisoned and on a hunger strike which threatens her life. May is a Quaker and a pacifist, already committed to the cause through her activist mother. At a violent rally May falls (literally!) for Nell, brought up in hardship and poverty, but outspoken and committed to doing whatever it takes to escape the unfairness around her. As the girls unite in their determination to fight for the right to vote for what they believe in, the outbreak of the First World War changes everything and forces each to think again about the sacrifices they must make and contemplate compromising their firmly held principles. Epic in scale and scope, Sally Nicholls expertly catapults the reader through polite society drawing rooms where women are seen and not heard, to the towers of Oxford, from the factory floor to prison cells, from marches and military hospital wards to London slums. While the great figures of the past Like Pankhurst and Davidson feature, the spotlight is firmly on 'everyone - the folk like us' who actually make history and make a difference. It makes for a refreshingly different read. This is a book packed so full of themes and issues as relevant then as now that it cannot fail to make the reader think; sacrifice, social class and sexual identity; freedom, first love and coming of age. The ending is realistic, if not the one the reader is rooting for, and cleverly challenges the reader too to reflect on what the equality movement has achieved and how much further there might be to go. Short chapters and frequent shifts in perspective make this a completely compelling rather than confusing story while Nicholls's meticulous research, vivid descriptions, pitch perfect language and sympathetic characters combine to make this one of the best historical novels you will ever read; a vital addition to every school library and LGBTQ collection, a book which will repay repeated re-reading for upper KS3 and beyond. It is a gift for Humanities teachers looking to use fiction as a means of bringing history to life in the classroom rather than just rote learning the facts. As a discussion-starter with young adults just beginning to develop their own views on equality, it will spark much heated, much needed debate in a reading group. An empowering novel too, Nicholls is careful to highlight the importance of people power and the ability of young people to make a difference. They will enjoy sharing their views in Andersen's cleverly-conceived promotional 'What's your protest slogan?' campaign #thingsabrightgirlcando An excellent and detailed discussion guide is available for download from the World Book Day website posing excellent make-you-stop-and-think questions on all the major themes of the novel and relating them to contemporary life. http://www.worldbookday.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Things-a-Bright-Girl-Can-Do-discussion-guide.pdf 432 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do