NEW TITLES

From mysteries and fantasy stories to those dealing with abuse and mental health, this month's selection of reviews highlights some key teenage and YA reads published this summer. The books have been reviewed by teachers and librarians for ReadingZone.

Everything All at Once
Steven Camden

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509880034

The very best things very often do come in small packages and Everything All At Once is the literary proof. Often less, really is more. Although each short poem in the collection captures a fleeting moment, event or emotion together they build to tell the story of a week at any, and every, 'secondary school jungle' for every kind of student. Not for nothing is Steven Camden one of the UK's most acclaimed spoken word artists. Perfectly capturing the teen voice, he speaks directly to his audience - insightful and empathetic, never patronising. Everyone is given a voice in this collection - the year sevens and the school leavers, the cool kids, the sporty kids, the geeky kids and the teachers - making it fast-paced, engaging and all-too-true-to-life. There are first day fears and inevitable fights, post-party rumours, PE lessons, detentions, toilet graffiti, falling in and out of friendship, fitting in and finding your place in the lunch hall, loving lessons and (my favourite!) a teacher quietly inspiring reading. Though each poem varies in voice, form and structure, Camden's love of language shines through each and every poem, making even the most ordinary event seem extraordinary. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, these poems beg to be read aloud and are perfect for performance. Pacy, punchy, perfectly-crafted, this is a book you'll come back to, and dip in and out of, again and again. Pastoral leaders will find much here for assemblies and tutor sessions, English teachers will find inspiration for creative writing and 'getting to know you' lessons with new classes or poetry slam celebrations. Drama teachers will find a wealth of material for lesson starters and soliloquies. School librarians will need several copies to encourage those for whom reading has so far been a chore, to inspire creative writers and to make vulnerable students feel a bit less alone. Students themselves will find something to smile at and identify with and will be left, ultimately, feeling better about themselves and less alone after dipping into this small but perfectly formed, readily accessible collection. I just can't stop reading it - and recommending it! The power of poems and poetry writing also takes centre-stage in YA verse novel, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo as feisty Harlem teen, Xiomara, finds her voice and purpose through a slam poetry club. Younger KS3 students will enjoy Sharon Creech's, Love That Dog, an engaging and unforgettable story about a boy, his dog and his growing passion for poetry. Verse novels are very much in vogue at the moment and students who enjoyed Camden's collection should be pointed in the direction of Sarah Crossan, Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson. Students will also find their own voice in Kate Clanchy's new anthology England: Poems from a School, a vivid portrait of England penned by young migrants making England their home. 128 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

Everything All at Once
Alastair Humphreys' Great Adventurers
Alastair Humphreys

Big Picture Press

ISBN 9781783708413

Now this is a handsome package! The brightly coloured, embossed cover just invites you to turn the pages - it reminded me, with the font, of a retro comic cover, so it will have plenty of appeal to a range of readers. This book includes a range of 'great adventurers', hand picked by a living, modern day adventurer Alastair Humphreys, the author - a National Geographic Adventurer. What I loved about this book is the number of explorers, male and female, whom I had never come across before so this book is a great starting point for children looking to find out about some unusual individuals for their 'Heroes' projects. This is also a very inspiring collection of adventurers - from Ibn Battuta who is an explorer from the 14th century, right up to Sarah Outen - who spent four years travelling around the world - and astronaut Michael Collins from the Apollo Moon mission. Their missions are explored in small bites of text with generous diagrams, illustrations, maps and even some comic sections, so this will be very appealing to many reluctant readers as well as avid adventurers! For each adventurer, we find out why they inspired Kevin Ward, which makes it a personal and distinctive read, with 'lessons' extracted from each adventurers' failures as well as their successes, to hopefully help inspire a new generation of young adventurers! If I have one quibble, it's the absence of dates telling us when these adventurers lived and when their journeys took place - but equally, this might help inspire children to continue their exploration online. This aside, it's a fun, interesting and absorbing book that will attract a range of readers. 96 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Anna McCabe.

Alastair Humphreys' Great Adventurers
Jinxed
Amy McCulloch

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471169960

What a great start to a new series. Jinxed, has left me wanting more as the story is engrossing, set in the not so distant future, and totally plausible. Lacey has always wanted to be a 'companioneer' for the company Moncha, which is the largest technology firm in North America, they are the creators of the Baku. Baku is an upgrade to mobile phones, they come in four different levels and in all shapes and sizes, from a mouse to an eagle. Bakus not only keep you connected to social media etc, they also become your companion and friends. Amazing ! After yet another unpleasant incident with a boy in her school called Carter, Lacey finds a heap of junk that happens to be an advanced Baku. Through the summer break, she repairs the animal and names him Jinx. This Baku is like no other, he thinks for himself and communicates with Lacey in her head. As Jinx becomes her friend, Lacey has to be careful not to let others know his technology as he feels almost real. 323 pacy, well written pages of a story that contains mystery, humour, friendship, trust and a dash of romance that is totally suitable for 9+ readers or older, less confident readers. Jinx would also be great for book clubs due to all the discussion points about future technology. I adored this story and am excited that this is the start of a series and not just a stand alone, and well, Jinx. Jinx really makes this book. To end with.. if I owned a Baku it would have to be a dog or a hare, sorry I can't decide, perhaps I could have both. Read the book, enjoy and then decide what Baku you would choose! 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Jinxed
The Skylarks' War
Hilary McKay

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509894949

When Clarry is born, her mother dies and her indifferent father leaves her and her brother, Peter to be raised by a series of housekeepers and well-intentioned neighbours. They long for their summer holidays in Cornwall where, largely ignored by their grandparents, they roam free with their cousin, Rupert who they adore. Back home, Peter shares all he learns at school with Clarry who is not considered worth a proper education until boarding school is forced upon him. As war approaches and Rupert leaves for France, their world changes forever. This is an amazing story, destined to be a classic. Following Clarry from her birth to adulthood, the book explores family relationships against the backdrop of the first world war. Each character is beautifully developed, fully engaging the reader emotionally as their lives unfold. Clarry is delightful, remaining positive and caring in the face of neglect and indifference, devoted to her bother and cousin, and determined to succeed in the face of all adversity. Gentle, loyal Simon, Peter's school friend, adds great poignancy to the story, sensitively exploring social attitudes of the time. The Skylarks' War is a touching story, full of vivid description and historical detail. Excellent! 320 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

The Skylarks' War
Poems to Live Your Life By
Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509814374

The arrival of any book from the hand of former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell is a cause for excitement and joy for both myself and my pupils, and this illustrated selection of poetry most certainly did not disappoint. Firstly, it is a thing of beauty to hold in your hands, a sumptuous purple hardback with heavy cream paper that would make a delightful gift; (note to self re Christmas shopping). Secondly, this is no standard anthology. It feels far more personal than that. The poems that are presented are favourites of Chris's which he has gathered together under the headings of Musings, Youth, Family, Love, Imaginings, Nature, War and Endings. There is a sense of progression as we journey through life in this volume, with a wonderful contrast between the poems that deal with the big issues of life like love, death and parenthood and those that carry us away to an altogether more otherworldly plain. This blend of fantasy and reality works tremendously well, I felt. Thirdly, and perhaps most striking of all in this volume, is the fusion of poem and illustration. You scarcely know where the poem ends and the drawing begins as Riddell brings the words to life with his inimitable style of illustration, the images enveloping the text. Often, the poets themselves make an appearance in the drawings too. The poems that Chris has chosen are a beautifully eclectic mix of the traditional (Byron, Yeats, Keats, Tennyson, Dickinson and Shakespeare for example) and modern (Jackie Kay, Kate Tempest and Carol Ann Duffy), with some delightful surprises thrown in. I was not expecting to find song lyrics by Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave or Phoebe Bridgers but this collection is all the richer for this sense of diversity and modernity. Poems To Live Your Life By is a real delight and, unlike other heftier collections that one might dip into, it is one to cosy up with and enjoy from cover to cover. Riddell fans, you are in for a real treat! 198 pages / Recommended for ages 10+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Poems to Live Your Life By
The Secret Deep
Lindsay Galvin

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911490029

Aster and her younger sister Poppy are orphans who have travelled around the world to live with a relative they barely know, their aunt Iona. After a chance meeting with a local boy, Sam, on the plane, they are taken to a remote, secret ecovillage where their suspicions are soon aroused. Drugged on a boat trip Aster wakes on an island, groggy and disorientated. Where is Poppy and her aunt, more importantly why have they been brought here and what are the shadows in the water? This book turned out to be totally different than I expected and the author has taken a brave leap, mixing modern day sci-if with myth, legends, mystery and adventure. Throw in a sensitive handling of grief and anxiety, along with a touch of modern day displacement and poverty issues, and you have an adrenaline packed story that will have you hooked with its likeable characters and villians. I usually see the plot from a long way off but this book kept me guessing and not normally a fan of series, I was disappointed when the book ended with a natural conclusion. There is a chink of hope for a sequel and I for one would be lining up to read it first. I think fans of The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, The Fifth Wave etc would like this as well as younger readers ready for something a bit different. Recommended. 270 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

The Secret Deep
Splash
Charli Howard

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788001700

This story is about Molly, a year 6 girl, who dreams of becoming a professional swimmer. Molly has a chance to compete in a regional swimming competition but her confidence is rocked after her 'best friend' Chloe says unkind things to her about her body shape. Alongside this, Molly also has to deal with the unexpected return of her estranged mother, who had left when she was small, but is she the mother that Molly yearns for? The story explores themes of friendship, family, bullying, body image insecurity and the journey to build your own self esteem and confidence. The author has tuned in perfectly to what it is to be an 11 year old girl. Reading the book took me back to similar feelings, situations and relationships with friends which I had experienced at the same age. For me, the book is also reminiscent of what I was reading at age 11. I feel there are similarities with Judy Blume, in terms of the book having a similar style, believable, relatable characters and the first person voice of the main character becoming more in touch and gaining a better understanding of her feelings and emotions. Splash would be perfect for children aged 11+. I have a particular group of year 6 girls in my school who I know would love this book. I wish I had discovered it prior to our school curriculum week on 'Celebrating Difference', as it would have contributed to great book and PSHE discussions. I really enjoyed this book and will be recommending it in our school library. 224 pages / Ages 10/11+ / Reviewed by Leia Sands, teacher.

Splash
Mud
Emily Thomas

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783446896

Mud tells the story, in diary form, of Lydia over almost two years of her life. It begins in June 1979 when Lydia and her siblings learn that her widowed father is having severe financial issues and so is selling the house and moving them all to a Thames barge named Lady Beatrice. To add insult to injury, her father then swiftly marries his girlfriend Kate which means that she and her three children also have to fit onto the barge. The novel then follows Lydia's life over the next two years as she changes school, has to make new friends, and falls in love for the first time. She also has to deal with the lack of money, clean dry clothes and the increasingly volatile family relationships. Her diary is her refuge. Lydia's father does not deal well with his new circumstances and becomes increasingly reliant on alcohol, losing his job on the way. This strand of the book, where Lydia is left to look after herself, is very poignant. There is no doubt that her father still loves her but is no longer able to care for himself never mind his children. There is also a lot of humour in the novel, for example, when her hair dying goes wrong, her awkwardness with boys, the cats Bob and Eugene, and just in the way Lydia recounts her life in her diary. Although the book is set almost 40 years ago, the themes of love, grief, embarrassment and sibling rivalry are as relevant today as they were then. I would recommend this book for pupils in year 7 upwards due to some of the more challenging themes. 403 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Heather Bignold, school librarian.

Mud
Firebird
Elizabeth Wein

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128312

More and more frequently I am being asked by my students for different styles of fiction that engages and holds the attention. Firebird does exactly that! If you have a young person interested in History, then this tale is perfect. Unique and historical, it is refreshing to read and a real page turner. Based on historical facts from the Russian Revolution and set in the time of World War II, this story is a beautifully crafted adventure tale. Featuring a female protagonist - Nastia - the reader follows the powerful female pilots who fought to defend the Motherland. Nastia is young, naive but brave and when the call for War is announced, she immediately makes herself available to fight. However, she must face many trials, battles in the skies and will quickly learn what it means to truly be the daughter of revolutionaries. I particularly enjoyed the historical accuracy and details of this novel; Elizabeth Wein (author) has clearly spent much time researching her topic and her passion for telling the tale of these incredible female combat pilots shines throughout the narrative. Powerful with strong messages of the impact women had during World War II. At only 131 pages long, written in larger font with 'easy read' styles, Barrington Stoke have successfully designed a novel suitable for a range of abilities and reading style. Firebird is another huge hit for Elizabeth Wein. 131 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Firebird
The Boneless Mercies
April Tucholke

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471170003

The Bonesless Mercies: young girls brought together by circumstance and kept together by solidarity and purpose. Their job? To help those who no longer wish to live, or are dying, by aiding their departure into the next world. Exhausted by their grim existence and without a home ever to call their own, the Mercies decide to travel to Blue Vee to seek out and kill the monster terrorising the land, and claim their glory. From the beginning, The Boneless Mercies is an unusual tale with sisterhood and women at its core, something unusual and most welcome for the modern day. It took me a while to warm to the main characters and their trade but I couldn't help but be mesmerised by the closeness, selflessness and fierce loyalty that the group shares. Throughout the book and at almost every encounter, it is women and girls who are the key, strong, characters. The book truly embraces role reversal but without being overt. Males are few and are either pretty additions, overcome or led by women - something that has been happening in reverse in books and films for years! Interestingly though, from all the groups in the book, it was the 'Quicks' that sounded the most enticing. With the dangers and harsh life elsewhere, who wouldn't want to run free, living off the land with a merry band of archers, in the Endless Forests? Unfortunately for the Mercies, the Quicks are almost all male and rarely take in women or girls who may be susceptible to love and children. Perhaps the author felt this addition was needed to balance the story but my feeling is they could have been women as well! Thick with fantasy, the author manages to immerse the reader in the warm treetops of the Sea Witches, the damp, dark, sinister and hypnotising atmosphere of the marsh Cut-Queen and the mists of the Blue Vee where the Beast and Jarl Roth await. Filled with issues such as displacement, war, grief, depression and genocide, this book takes the reader through many emotions and creates empathy even for the most gigantic and ruthless of beasts. There is certainly enough gruesome detail for boys but I wonder how they would feel about the almost totally female cast? It would be an interesting experiment to have this on a mixed schools reading group list; I'm sure it would encourage much discussion. Fantasy readers will love this and it is left open for a sequel but nicely finishes this story first. Recommended. 352 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian.

The Boneless Mercies
The Cradle of All Worlds: The Jane Doe Chronicles
Jeremy Lachlan

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405291330

On the night Jane and her father arrive on the steps of the Manor in Bluehaven, the earthquakes began. Seen by the town as the cause of their misfortunes, they have lived as outcasts ever since. Preoccupied with caring for her silent, disturbed father, Jane does the best she can to look after them both. When a massive earthquake hits the town, Jane's father disappears through a door in the Manor which is the gateway to many other worlds. Threatened by the townspeople, Jane is aided by Winifred Robin, curator of the Museum of Otherworldly Antiquities, and enters the labyrinth of the Manor to save her father - and all worlds - from the evil within. Full of action and adventure, The Cradle of All Worlds moves at a cracking pace. In spite of Jane's often desperate circumstances, there is much humour in the story, lightening the mood. Far from the stereotypical heroine of such an adventure story, Jane is a 'normal' girl in difficult circumstances. Brave and loyal, her distinctive voice narrates the action as she rises to the challenges thrown at her. However, it is the characters of Violet and Hickory who (for me) really bring the story to life. Violet is resourceful and energetic, taking decisive action, and Hickory is fascinating. The Manor itself is an amazing backdrop to the action, full of booby traps and danger. The Cradle of All Worlds offers an exciting fantasy read, full of twists and turns. Can't wait for the next one! 368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher.

The Cradle of All Worlds: The Jane Doe Chronicles
Thunderhead
Neal Shusterman

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406379532

Wow, book two in the Arc of Scythe series is intense. The author has got the pitch,pace and tone perfect. A definite read for fantasy fans of Hungergames, Maze runner etc.. Thunderhead picks up a year later from the end of Scythe. Rowan has become a legend, dressed in black, he goes across the city at night and gleans Scythes that are corrupt (a batman character!). Citra is now known as Scythe Anastasia and she is now causing disturbances amongst the scythe community for the way that she gleans. However, with the help and support of Scythe Curie, she is making her way in the scythe world. In the background as you read you feel an unrest, something is about to change, oh boy, what a change it's going to be. Thunderhead is the 'big brother' of this future world that follows every individual, except for Scythes. He watches their every move and conversation and makes the necessary decisions that make the world run smoothly. We get to understand more about Thunderhead throughout the book as each chapter ends with a thought from him, which is not just informative but kind of creepy as well. We have lots of returning characters, some very unexpected, and we are also introduced to a new character, Grayson Tolliver, who grows and develops throughout the story and becomes a very important part of the plot. I definitely enjoyed reading how the world of the Scythedom expanded after the conclusion of Scythe. Conflicts deepen, the Scythe divides even further, and there are even more questions introduced on how the Scythedom should be conducted. The ending is amazing, I just wished I could have got a copy of book three in my hands, right away, as I wanted to continue reading; alas I/we have to wait until next year before it hits our shelves. Thunderhead is suitable for 12+ fantasy readers. Confident and non confident readers will enjoy it as the pace, pitch etc is so well done. The books would also be suitable for classroom reads/ book clubs as there are so many discussions/teaching points that could be expanded. There is a reading book guide available on the publisher page, if you are interested. If you haven't already come across Scythe series - get it, read it and enjoy! 528 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

Thunderhead
Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?
Holly Bourne

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474933612

Any new novel by Holly Bourne is a cause for celebration and a stampede to the bookshop. Time and again, Holly has proved herself to be the queen of teen/YA books and has consistently delivered novels that allow readers of all ages to connect with and see themselves reflected in. Are we all Lemmings and Snowflakes is no different! Olive is on the edge - the edge of GCSE results, life, love and friendship. We meet our protagonist as she emerges from her duvet den under a desk, in which she has taken refuge since she suffered a depressive relapse. Concerned for her mental and physical wellbeing, her doctor offers her the opportunity of a life time - a residential clinic named Camp Reset, where for a month she will have the chance to learn how to manage her (as yet undiagnosed) condition whilst living with other teenagers with similar troubles. Olive sets off with a heart full of optimism and a determined attitude - she will become 'normal'! We join her and the various residents of the camp (who become biblio-friends to us very quickly) as they slowly start to learn more about themselves, and each other and that actually, we all just need a bit more kindness in our lives. This is a wonderful book and I knew before I opened it that I would love it - I mean it is a Holly Bourne book...but this is something special. Her writing is clear and engaging and the pace matched Olives' mental state perfectly. When Olive was going through a manic period, I genuinely could feel that mania through the speed of the words - so very clever. There is no one character that I did not love and recognise either in myself or in someone I know. This is sure to be a well-deserved hit! 400 pages / Ages 14/15+ (Sexual content, themes that some may find hard to read - abuse, harm etc) / Reviewed by Jodie Brooks, school librarian.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?
The Lost Witch
Melvin Burgess

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783446902

In an interview for the Northern YA literary festival Melvin Burgess was asked to describe his new novel in five words. He decided upon 'adventures in the spirit world' but The Lost Witch has fathomless depths. Burgess is an extraordinarily sensory writer. Reading this book is like a mindfulness walk where your inner noise is switched off and replaced with in depth perception. As adolescent protagonist Bea slowly awakens to her latent magical powers, which will place her in mortal danger, the text radiates with beauty as she observes every single detail of the life shimmering around her. 'Above her head, a billion tiny drops of water hung on the edges of the leaves, on twigs, and buds, seeds and fruit. The drop quivered, and all around it the water fractured the light; rays of it bouncing about inside, outside, everywhere. She looked closer and saw that the droplet was full of life - tiny creatures living their whole lives out in that tiny bauble of water.' The dreamlike prose is just part of this remarkable book which can be compared to immersing yourself in one of Burgess's magical raindrops. The membrane captures the appearance of 'the Second World' to the naive 13-year-old Bea, who is both attracted and repelled by what she discovers. She fears she is losing her sanity. In an attempt to block out a bombardment of strange happenings she concentrates on the release skateboarding gives her. This brings her into contact with the charismatic and magnetic Lars and she longs to be part of his dazzling orbit. Competing for her attention is the persistent Silvis, a mysterious 10 year old who will not stop badgering her about what she has seen. She is determined to arrange a meeting between Bea, her all seeing grandfather Odi and the Salem Row Witches. Inside the droplet Burgess adds the intertextuality of shape-shifting Norse mythology and dark fairy tales as Bea grows increasingly bewildered, bothered and frightened by her supernatural abilities. The evil Hunt want to drain her essence [intimations of The Dark Crystal] and she doesn't know whom to trust. Can she make the right choice? Themes of friendship and loyalty, bonds of magic and fellowship,family secrets and the power of memories form the jewel like centre where the spirit dwells while the force which breaks it apart is reserved for a universal theme - an abusive and manipulative relationship. This is exacerbated by the damage caused by battle fatigue, drug induced hallucination, isolation and the blurring of moral boundaries. The Lost Witch is a strong novel with vivid characterisation, red flags about the dangers of grooming for teens and a slow burning fuse which fizzles away with pincer like moments of tension and fear leading up to an explosive finale. It is aimed at the YA market but ultimately it is a satisfying book for readers who enjoy witchcraft narratives and fantastical myths with a dark underbelly of social realism and a piercing insight into the harsh realities of war. 336 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Tanja Jennings, school librarian.

The Lost Witch
Floored
Sara Barnard

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509862306

Billed as The Breakfast Club meets One Day and penned by seven of the leading female writers of the UKYA scene, all at the top of their game, expectations of this unique, long-awaited, much-talked about collaborative novel, were always going to be sky high. The plot is a very simple one - six strangers get into the tiny lift together one morning at a TV studio: "the swot, the fraud, the dutiful daughter, the child star, the fangirl and the asshole...assembled in an awkward circle, trying not to stand too close to each other and failing". The tragedy which happens next brings them together and leads to a reunion on the same each day each year. The focus is on the development of the unique and impressively diverse cast of characters, each penned by a different author, who take their turn to narrate. In a stroke of PR genius, the publisher has managed to keep which author has written each character a secret, despite the best guesses of social media, and, while they all blend together seamlessly, the voices are very distinct. The clever use of social media in the story to keep the characters connected between reunions gives the story added credibility. Nor should this be dismissed as an easy summer read. The first half demands some serious reading stamina as we get to know the characters, with their individual significant circumstances and quirks. Their issues influence the storyline but never overpower it: sexuality, manipulative relationships, abuse and love, grief, education, privilege and social class as well as the inevitable shift from adolescence to adulthood. The emphasis is very much on the power of friendship to pull you through the difficult times but also the need to leave friendships you have outgrown behind. As we get to know the characters and their circumstances, our sympathies as a reader shift and, just like in life, we find ourselves empathising with the very characters we loathed! This is a hugely ambitious undertaking which largely succeeds and is immediately relatable for a full range of readers. The stellar line-up of authors will ensure readership and their closely-guarded anonymity will guarantee endless hours of book club discussion.* Spin-off stories centring on each individual character are very much in order now and will definitely find their audience! Another extraordinary collaborative novel of accidental meetings and changing relationships, this time written in verse, is We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan. Note: The identity of the authors and their characters was cleverly revealed on social media several weeks after publication, which will no doubt generate further animated discussion amongst fans of each contributing author! 320 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

Floored
Grace and Fury
Tracy Banghart

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444941951

I absolutely loved this book and now want to read everything this author has written! This is teenage fantasy fiction at its best. The book is set in a world that treats women as second class citizens. Women simply do not have the same rights and freedom as the men do. They are not given a full education, can only work in certain jobs and must be subservient. There are two strong female characters, Serina and Nomi Tessaro. I enjoyed the chapters flitting between the two. Serina had trained her whole life to be a Grace so that she could spend her life in luxury with her sister Nomi by her side as her handmaiden. This would also improve her family's position; giving them a better future. Serina and Nomi attend a selection ceremony where three graces will be chosen by the Heir. In a twist of fate, Nomi is the one that gets selected even though this isn't her wish and she would be wholly unsuited to the position. Determined to make the best of it Nomi and Serina try to mould themselves into their new roles. Until Serina gets caught holding a book that Nomi had stolen. Rather than turn in her sister, she accepts her fate and finds herself transported to Mount Ruin Island - a prison like no other. Given the nickname 'Dead girl', can she prove them wrong and survive in a place where inmates are selected to fight to the death? Is Nomi able to use her position to come to her sister's aid? How did both sisters end up in prisons with no bars living lives that were not of their choosing? If The Hunger Games were to blend with The Handmaids Tale, this book would emerge. It is brilliantly written and keeps you guessing to the end. Packed full of traitors, twists and turns. I can't wait for the sequel. 320 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

Grace and Fury
The Weight of a Thousand Feathers
Brian Conaghan

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408871539

17 year old Bobby is a character you won't forget in a hurry. His mother has MS and is fast-deteriorating, his little brother, Danny, acts four years younger because of his learning difficulties. With no dad on the scene, Bobby cares for both. His best girl friend (not girlfriend), Bel, helps him out as best she can to take her mind of her own problems and the support group for young carers provides him with a lifeline - not to mention an introduction to the supercool, vintage Vespa-riding, drug-supplying American, Lou - who, in turn, provides the biggest plotshock ever seen in YA. In lesser writing hands, this plot line could quickly descend into the self-pitying and maudlin. Not so with Conaghan. The humour here is not just dark but jet black, the bad taste jokes cracked by Danny's straight-talking mum providing laughter amid the (many) tears. As her condition worsens she asks the ultimate question of Bobby on her birthday, it's a huge ask - how far would you go for the one you love? There are no easy answers or happy endings here, just realistic ones. The very best books are the hardest to review, and this is no exception. Conaghan has a proven track record in creating the kind of smart, funny, real and vulnerable male characters we need more of in YA, and Bobby is, without question, his best, most unforgettable yet. Emotionally punchy and deeply moving, this is immediate, believable, brave writing which makes for at times uncomfortable, but always worthwhile, reading. Conaghan has squeezed so much into this book: assisted dying and drug use, learning needs, gay awakening, young carers, first love, friendship and family ties, not to mention poetry and brilliant music references. The result is exceptional. I cried (a lot), I laughed through the tears, I gasped, I put the book down often to mentally regroup, I re-read entire chapters, I raved about it to anyone who would listen, I kept wondering and worrying about the characters for weeks after reading, I LOVED it. This is my book of the year - even though it is only May. It really is that good. Tender by Eve Ainsworth is another authentic novel which centres on family, friendship and the pressures felt by teenage carers. This Raging Light by Estelle Laure sees the main character caring for her little sister when first dad then mum abandons them. For MG readers, The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson is a poignant mystery story which centres on Nate's efforts to support his mum through mental illness.& The Weight of a Thousand Feathers is an outstanding resource for encouraging empathy with young carers who are an often hidden group in school. For this same reason, teachers and librarians need to be mindful of its readers and mediate where necessary. The Teacher Pack from Bloomsbury, ideal for PHSE and Citizenship, focuses on the role of the carer and provides reading group discussion questions, drama starters, character role play and research into MS: https://media.bloomsbury.com/rep/files/TWOATF_teacherpack_v2.pdf 368 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers