NEW TITLES

Other worlds, climate change, romance and friendship are among the subjects explored in this month's selection of books for teenagers.

Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure
Vashti Hardy

Scholastic

ISBN 9781407181707

Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm are twins born into a fantasy skyship. When they are told that their father has died during an expedition to reach South Polaris, they are naturally heartbroken and this makes them orphans. In addition they are told that their father broke the explorers' code by stealing from another explorer, and so he is discredited. As a result they lose all their possessions including the family home, and they themselves are sold and treated as servants in a way not dissimilar to stories of the Victorian age. The children therefore grasp the opportunity to join another expedition to South Polaris with Harriet Culpepper, a young female explorer; they embark on the adventure as Arthur is convinced that their father is alive and is determined to find him. Maud, who has an engineering prowess, whilst keen to continue with the mission from a more technical perspective, sees her primary aim to support her brother both emotionally and physically ( Arthur has only one arm and she has made a prosthetic iron replacement for him); his physical disability is shown not to impact on his ability to be involved . The adventure then takes the format of travelling in a sky ship, with a predominantly female crew, and provides the opportunity for the main characters to show their strengths, vulnerabilities and ability to care for others; this is particularly prevalent in Arthur who develops in self confidence and self esteem, shows a strong understanding of the emotions of others and he develops a form of 'sixth sense' in sensing danger. He also has the ability to communicate with 'thought wolves' which introduces a strong element of sensitivity. The impact of animals throughout the adventure is very interesting and links to human traits can be seen. The adventure includes the traditional villain in Eudora Vane, who will stop at nothing to win the challenge but there is an interesting twist on her underlying motives which again focuses on human relationships. Protecting the environment is an underlying theme; this ranges from Harriet's newly-designed sky ship which runs on water, to the impact of whale hunting and the overall effect of humans on the landscape. This is an exciting adventure story, which focuses on themes of loyalty, friendship and trust and includes elements of humour. Although set in a fantasy world, the language and themes used make it accessible and realistic to children. It could also be used to support aspects of the National Curriculum particularly Science and Geography and prompt some very interesting discussions. 352 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Salliann Coleman, consultant.

Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure
Ghost Boys
Jewell Parker Rhodes

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781510104396

This is an extraordinary, hard hitting story, about a black boy killed by a white policeman in an American city. It is strongly reminiscent of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, in that the narrator is the dead child. But this book is suitable for children in Year 6 and upwards, though it should be treated with caution and possibly tackled as a whole class as the story is incredibly powerful and heart-breaking and my ten-year-old was extremely sobered after reading it. Technically it is an 'easy read' in that readability is not difficult, with short chapters, but this is very far from being easy to read. 12-year-old Jerome is a 'good' boy. He never gets into trouble, he comes from a loving, close family, does his homework and takes care of his little sister. One day he is shot by a white police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome starts to realise he is not alone, that there are many, many ghost boys, all killed for being black. Some of these boys are real children; children in this country might not know their names but there is an afterword that gives a bit more information about them, as well as a list of further resources. This is a story about race, timely in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also looks at the impact on the white officer and his family and it makes it clear that no-one is left untouched by these events. Jerome watches as his family fall apart and he is unable to help them. Their grief is simply written but all the more powerful. 'I watch my family crying, talking in whispers... I can't think of anything worse than watching my family hurt.' This is a must-read book, an opportunity to talk about race, as well as an emotional and involving story. 224 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jennifer Harris, teacher.

Ghost Boys
Renegades
Marissa Meyer

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509876433

Nova and Adrian are teenage prodigies - born with superhuman abilities and trained in combat. The difference is that Nova is an anarchist, raised by the prodigies that are considered evil and dangerous. Adrian is a Renegade, the taskforce made up of superheroes that rule and protect the people. Nova's family were wiped out years before by a gang and the Renegades were too late to save them. Seeking revenge, she joins the Renegades as a spy - will she be able to find the weak link that could destroy them all? This book by Marissa Meyer had me hooked from the start. It is brimming with action and adventure with undercurrents of misplaced trust and secrets waiting to be uncovered. Meyer has successfully introduced multiple characters without the story becoming too confusing or distracting. It becomes apparent early on that the superhero council and their facts may not be all they seem and my only disappointment is that I now have to wait for the final instalment to be released. Students will love this world of superheroes and villains and the book will appeal to all genders as there are many strong characters. Meyer has perhaps introduced the first all male superhero couple which is to be applauded, now if it had been the first all female superhero couple, that would have been something to shout about. Highly recommended! 557 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

Renegades
Shadowblack: Book Two in the page-turning new fantasy series
Sebastien de Castell

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471406690

Love, love, loved it! Shadowblack is the sequel to Spellslinger and was so well worth the wait. We pick up our main characters Kellen, Ferius and Reichis (the squirrel cat, still my favourite character) making their way through the borderlands, avoiding hextrackers who want to take Kellen back to Jan'tep for a reward or to kill him, either way he can't win. The book opens with Kellen getting into trouble with his 'business partner' and him taking all the blame. You do feel sorry for Kellen as he seems to take quite a beating all through the story as he tries to do his best to help others around him and sort things out. They meet with another Argosi who appears to have a blind girl with her (I am not going to say much more as it will spoil the adventure you're about to encounter!) In this second book there is less magic, but it feels much darker than book one as the author has woven so much mystery into this twisting-turning adventure that keeps the reader entertained and eagerly turning the pages to see what happens. Sadly, there is a little animal cruelty, which could be a little upsetting for some readers but you just have to remind yourself that it's all made up and no-one has really suffered. Honestly, it's not all dark and foreboding, there are some fun classic one liners that will make you smile, especially from that squirrel cat! Shadowblack is all about the classic crisis of confidence, not knowing what to do or where you belong, feeling like you're all alone in a big and scary world. Kellen is a hunted, hated exile, and he feels that Ferius is not teaching him what he needs to learn. He's beginning to harbour some resentment, feeling useless and honestly, getting a bit fed up. However, I do feel that as the story develops Kellen is taking in some serious life lessons that will help develop him into a great leader one day. Not sure if this is where the story will eventually go, we will just have to keep reading to find out. This following quote sums up the characters for me... 'the three of us had to be the craziest bunch of lunatics the Seven Sands had ever seen'. This book is pure entertainment aimed at 12+ readers of fantasy, magic and wizardry, or 9+ confident readers. Would also be a great book for group reading with reluctant readers. 368 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Shadowblack: Book Two in the page-turning new fantasy series
The Ghosts & Jamal
Bridget Blankley

HopeRoad

ISBN 9781908446633

Intriguing, engaging and though-provoking from start to finish. This novel grabs you right from the start and pulls you in to the confusing world of Jamal and his ghosts. It's a perfect teenage read. Not only does it deal with so many social and ethnic stereotypes, but it teaches teenagers to value the existence they have. The novel tells the tale of Jamal - a young boy living in an aboriginal-style existence. Jamal is outcast from the village because of his epileptic fits - or demons - visiting him; but it is this that saves him. Jamal wakes up one day to find everyone in his village dead and a strange, choking smoke (terrorist bombs) surrounding the village. Alone in the world, Jamal decides the only thing he can do is to leave the village for the first time ever, and try to discover where these 'ghosts' have come from. On his journey Jamal meets many different people, including soldiers who save his life, an orphan boy who teaches Jamal to survive on the streets and in a dumping ground, and finally finds himself in a strange centre for 'lost boys'. Jamal must grow and learn what these 'ghosts' are whilst also going on a journey of discovery about himself. This is a tale of bravery, prejudice and exploitation as well as friendship and hope. I passed this novel on to a few of my reluctant readers in my class (ages 13+) and, like me; they were hooked with this original story-line. Blankley (the author) has cleverly written a tale that really deals with so many stereotypes through the creation of innocent and naive Jamal who knows nothing about terrorism. The story-line keeps you guessing and educates young people on the lifestyles of less fortunate people in other societies. I strongly believe every young person should read this book. Jamal became a very real young man to me and his existence broke my heart, knowing that so many young people live like him and are discriminated against. A wonderful, heartbreaking tale; you cannot help but fall in love with Jamal. 230 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

The Ghosts & Jamal
Zebra Crossing Soul Song
Sita Brahmachari

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781126967

Original and uplifting, this is a gentle tale about a boy who builds a relationship with the local zebra crossing man. Zebra Crossing Soul Song tells the tale of Lenny, a boy who is angry that the local zebra crossing has been painted over and replaced with a pedestrian crossing. Lenny reminisces about his friend Otis - the zebra crossing man - and remembers all the words of wisdom Otis taught him whilst he would cross the road. Otis and Lenny shared a love of music and much of this story is focused on memory with song. It is a credit to the author (Brahmachari) that much of the music Otis would sing, I could hear in my head. The tale takes a very sad turn towards the end of the novel, where you learn why Otis lost his position as the zebra crossing man, and I was surprised to find myself tearful. Only by examining his memories of his friendship with Otis, can Lenny discover the sad truth. At first I found this story difficult to connect as its writing style is very different from those usually associated with Barrington Stoke due to its use of song lyrics and Caribbean style language throughout, but as the narrative continues, you can't help but find yourself engaged with Otis and Lenny's relationship. I chose to share this book with some of my reluctant boy readers (ages 12+) and many of them found this a great read; although I do think it is a more select readership. Barrington Stoke books are particularly suitable for dyslexic, struggling or reluctant readers as the pages are thicker, sepia coloured and larger font. I would recommend this book to readers of 12+. 80 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Zebra Crossing Soul Song
SLAY
Kim Curran

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474932318

Think Buffy the Vampire slayer meets The Vamps. A fantastic blend of fantasy fiction and contemporary teen. This is light-hearted demon slaying peppered with witty one-liners with a few music references thrown in. The cover is eye catching and I have already had students asking to borrow it having spotted it on my library desk. SLAY certainly has teen appeal. Milly is an intelligent and resourceful heroine who can hold her own with the best of them when she needs to. When she finds her mum possessed by a demon, she takes action and responds to the email from DAD. JD, Tom, Niv, Zek and Connor AKA boyband SLAY swoop in on a mission to kill the demons but come face to face with far more than they had bargained for. Can Milly fit in with the boys on the tour bus and help them save the world? Band member JD is reluctant for her to tag along but even he can see that Milly has her uses. In fact, could JD and Tom have a bit of a crush on her? Some of the band members played a larger role in this book than others. Slay is set for a sequel so I'm looking forward to getting to know some of the other characters better. This book will appeal to teenagers who like music and fantasy fiction. There is even some Aztec history in there with the Toxcatyl Massacre. 304 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

SLAY
The Territory
Sarah Govett

Firefly Press Ltd

ISBN 9781910080184

Winner of several book awards already the first part of this trilogy was published in 2015, the final part of the trilogy having just been published this year. This is a gripping dystopian romance for younger teens where society in Britain in 2059 is divided into Norms, who have to study for the exams - the outcome of which will affect their future lives in drastic, life changing ways - and the robotic Childes or Freakoids, genetically modified privileged teenagers who can download the information or knowledge required via their implanted nodes. The story is told by Noa, a 15-year-old girl who, in the first book, is about to sit the tests which will decide her and her family's future life and whether she is allowed to remain as one of the chosen in The Territory or is banished to The Wetlands on the other side of The Fence (the submerged Eastern side of the country) and near-certain death through malaria. In the second book we find our protagonists surviving in The Wetlands and in the third their mission is to break back into The Territory with the aim of overthrowing the current corrupt regime which has brainwashed and controlled the population. With topical themes of climate change, population control, fake news, corrupt governments, and the seemingly incessant testing and exams in the education system, the books also accurately convey the day-to-day concerns of the average romantically inclined teenager. Noa is a strong female protagonist - clever, brave and believable, torn between her feelings for her close childhood friend Jack and her growing admiration for Raf. These three, along with their friends, become embroiled in challenging the totalitarian system they have grown up within in a series of exciting, action packed page turners. The pace is kept up across all three books and undoubtedly the publication of this finale in the series will prove very popular in secondary school libraries. Readers of the previous two books will not be disappointed. Highly recommended as an excellent addition to this popular genre. 204 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Laura Taylor, school librarian.

The Territory
Ventura Saga: The Truth of Different Skies
Kate Ling

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN 9781510200203

I love, love, loved this book! It was devoured in one sitting. The Truth of Different Skies is a prequel to The Loneliness of Distant Beings and The Glow of Fallen Stars and somehow I had missed out on reading these books when they were released. I am longing to read the rest of the series now. However, this book can be read as a standalone novel without previous series knowledge. The Truth of Different Skies is largely a romantic novel in which Beacon and Jam set out on a journey to apply for a coveted place on a space mission. They soon discover that there are 35,000 people with the same goal and only 300 places. Will they even pass the various tests and be selected? If they are successful it means that they can never return. Since Bea feels trapped in her hum drum life with a crush on a boy that can never be hers, she feels that she doesn't have a lot to lose. What she didn't count on was falling head over heels in love before she was due to go! This book had great characterisation and a plot that wasn't predictable. It kept me guessing right up until the end. Could someone really leave everything behind and say goodbye to everyone they have ever loved? Would the journey across Spain be enough of an adventure or would Bea still yearn for more than that? The Truth of Different Skies will appeal to so many people. It is dystopian, romantic fiction with a touch of sci-fi. A perfect choice for fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games. A truly moving read full of teenage angst. There is sexual content but it is not detailed, making it suitable for readers aged 14+. 372 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

Ventura Saga: The Truth of Different Skies
We Are Young
Cat Clarke

Quercus Children's Books

ISBN 9781786540058

We are Young is page-turning contemporary fiction that has strong teen appeal. Evan's new stepbrother Lewis is the only survivor of a horrific crash in which three other teenagers die. The ensuing media storm is pointing at Lewis to take the blame. They are labelling him as a stoner and insinuating that the cause of the crash was drugs related. Evan is sure that all is not as it seems. For a start, Lewis was in a car with people that he wasn't even friends with. It just doesn't add up. Evan is determined to delve deeper and get to the truth. I thought that Evan was a likeable and resilient main character. She has a good relationship with her mother and younger brother, Billy. Her father is a journalist and a reformed alcoholic. He has clearly let the family down in the past and is keen to rebuild bridges. He also happens to be a journalist so they are able to work together to try to solve the mystery of what happened on that night. Evan's new step father, however, is another story... This book covers so many issues that are relevant to teenagers today. Evan is bi-sexual and I love the fact that this is simply accepted and does not become the main focus of the story. She has unprotected sex and regrets this. There are no explicit details and the novel focuses more on the potential consequences of her one night stand. Drug and alcohol use is mentioned but mental health, emotional abuse, depression and suicide are the main focus of the book. This is a thought-provoking read with a help and advice page to turn to in the back pages. This was a great read. There are lots of light-hearted moments and it is a book that is full of hope. I would categorise this book as young adult fiction, suitable for ages 14+, and recommended to fans of John Green and Eve Ainsworth. 384 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

We Are Young
Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Barnard

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509852864

Wow! Powerful, engaging and a hard-hitting. Sara Barnard (author) once again has created an incredible tale that feels so real, I thought I was reading the real account. Goodbye, Perfect tells the tale of Eden and her best friend Bonnie. Eden (narrator) has her life completely shattered when she realises that her her best friend has run away with her teacher. This tale is of the journey Eden must make - physically, emotionally and mentally - to uncover the truth behind Bonnie running away. Not only has Bonnie been groomed by her teacher, but she believes she is in love with him. It is up to Eden to find her and change her mind, before it is all too late. I couldn't put this story down. Barnard has very cleverly structured this story to focus on the people left behind - best friend, family, friends, teachers. Quite often when these true life tales hit the papers, we don't hear anything about those close to the victim, but through Eden we build a picture of how one person's actions can destroy the lives of people around them. One thing I particularly liked was the range of writing style - the newspapers and text messages. This made the narrative quite refreshing and gave a different perspective from just Eden's view point. I also really enjoyed the relationship that Eden had with her boyfriend, no drama or sexually explicit, just a nice teenage romance. This is a perfect 'summer by the pool' type of read as it will keep you engaged with some quirky plot twists in between. Aimed at older readers due to its content, it is an interesting take on a hard-hitting and relevant issue. 320 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Goodbye, Perfect
My Box-Shaped Heart
Rachael Lucas

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509839575

My Box Shaped Heart is a short but heart-warming story which focuses on the consequences for teenagers on the subjects of domestic abuse and depression. Holly's mom hoards almost anything, her home is packed full of boxes of items that her mom will not let go. As a result of this, Holly keeps herself to herself at school as she doesn't want anyone to find out about her mom. Then there is Ed, who has just moved into town. We find out as the story progresses that previous to this he came from a wealthy home where he had everything, but his mom is a victim of domestic abuse and they have been placed in a safe house. Ed avoids making friends as he scared his dad will find them. These two mixed-up teenagers meet at the local swimming pool where Holly works, which helps her escape her mom's depression and Ed goes to swim which helps him escape the trauma of an abusive parent. The romance that develops between them is slow and gentle with some of the awkwardness of a first time romance. On top of all of this, one of Holly's friends has gained the confidence to admit that she is gay. The storyline doesn't go into great depth about these issues, the reader gets just enough information to be able to empathise or perhaps for some readers to relate to the main characters. Cressida I found to be another important character as she represents stability for Holly. She also helps Holly's mom clear out the rubbish. Along with her help and with each bag that leaves the house, it seems that Holly's mum gets brighter and finally decides that it's time to seek medical help for her condition. At the back of the book there is a detailed section providing information on Mind and women's refuge etc, which I think is a thoughtful touch in a book that tackles issues like this. As always Rachel Lucas writes in a style that is easy to read and engages the reader. Making it suitable for 14+ confident and less confident readers. The book has 255 well written pages that contains lovely characters and has an intriguing storyline. Well worth a read. 255 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

My Box-Shaped Heart
Ash Princess
Laura Sebastian

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509855209

This great debut novel is a Game of Thrones for YA readers ( sorry no dragons!). As an older reader, I have come across this theme many times before but Ash Princess really stands out and is well worth a read. Theo, who is a very strong female lead character, watched her mother, The Queen, being murdered at the tender age of six. For the past 10 years the Kaiser has kept her alive but has subjected her to relentless abuse and humiliation which she has had to learn to survive. When she is then forced to kill her last hope of rescue, Theo vows to take revenge on her captures. This first book in the series follows Theo as she executes her plan - with the help of some of her loyal subjects - to destroy the Kaiser and take back her rightful position as Queen of Astrea. Let me warn you, this is not a light-hearted story, and as you turn the pages you will come across the following themes; racism, abuse, graphic beatings, torture, murder and death. These are not written in great depth but are present and well crafted, so making a story that is engrossing and pacy. There is also a romance twisted into the plot, a love triangle; Theo is struggling with her feelings for a childhood friend, Blaise, but also the son of the Kaiser, Soren. I personally hope she chooses Soren, you will understand why when you read the book! Okay, the book isn't groundbreaking but its 448 pages are really well written and crafted. The characters, the plot and its twists make it a compelling read that I would happily recommend to any 14+ readers of fantasy fiction. I wish we didn't have to wait until next year for Book 2, Lady Smoke. 448 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Ash Princess
She, Myself and I
Emma Young

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847159427

Rosa, an 18 year old from London, is quadriplegic. A pioneering Doctor from America offers her risky surgery (brain transplant) and Rosa, alongwith her family, move to Boston, USA, in the hope of a miracle. This is the start of an emotional journey for Rosa. She survives the surgery and falls in love with her new body which leads to her yearning to find out more about Sylvia - her 'donor'. Essentially this is a novel about identity and what is it that makes 'us', us. Is Rosa still herself in Sylvia's body? The author handles these important questions skilfully and Rosa is a flawed, believable narrator. (Sarcastic, vulnerable with a lot of guts). I would recommend this book to readers aged 14+, It deals with some serious issues which younger readers may not appreciate. 370 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Kay Hymas, school librarian.

She, Myself and I