NEW TITLES

Mysteries, adventure and horror are all represented in this month's selection of books for 11+ readers, as well as plenty to inspire young people to change their worlds through courage and in seeing new ways of being.

The Boy Who Flew
Fleur Hitchcock

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9781788004381

Athan works for the enigmatic Mr Chen, a man determined to unravel the mystery of flight. But when his mentor is brutally murdered, it falls on Athan to rescue the flying machine they have been secretly working on. Little does he realise, but his actions are putting his whole family in danger. Fleur Hitchcock is best known for her excellent children's thrillers, such as Murder In Midwinter. As such, I was eager to read her latest offering - a blur of science and history, set among the rooftops of Victorian England. The Boy Who Flew is promoted as being perfect for fans of Peter Bunzl (Cogheart trilogy) and Phillip Reeve (Mortal Engines), which only added to my excitement. However, the book didn't instantly live up to my expectations. For some reason, I wasn't grabbed from the outset. In fact, the opening chapter - beautifully written as it is - seemed a little convoluted. This is a sentiment that was echoed by a few young readers who I shared the chapter with. Still I persevered and thank goodness I did. After about 10 chapters, the pace picked up rapidly transforming the book into an out and out thriller. By now, Hitchcock was on home territory, layering chapter upon chapter of excitement, mystery and danger. It turns into a real page turner, with seemingly every chapter ending on a cliffhanger. And then there's the glorious characters. Hitchcock has almost perfectly replicated the cast from a Dickensian novel. There's our hero, Athan, and his struggling family, the invalid sibling and the mischievous best friend. Then, of course, there's the sinister villain Colonel Blade. What a character he is! There is so much going for this book. Please persevere with those opening chapters while the scene is set. Then strap yourself in for the flight of your life! 256 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Matt Davies, teacher.

The Boy Who Flew
Against All Gods
Maz Evans

Chicken House Ltd

ISBN 9781911077008

To be honest, when this landed in the post, I still hadn't quite forgiven Maz for the tears and torment caused by book 3, the brilliant Beyond The Odyssey. So, I did the only thing I could. I locked myself in my bedroom with a loo roll to hand (I'd run out of tissues), tried to banish the title inducing Phil Collins ear worm that told me the loo roll would come in handy, and prayed my favourite characters would make it to the end. Elliot is still reeling from losing everything he has ever known, and feels betrayed by his Dad and the Gods. We find him with Thanatos, preparing to retrieve the final Earth Stone in a bid to get his Mum back. The Zodiac Council, along with Virgo, are locked up, and the Gods are back in Olympus desperately trying to come up with a plan to save mankind from the gathering daemon hordes. Can our mortal hero make peace with the Gods in time to save everyone, not just those he holds dear? What a rollercoaster of a story! I laughed and cried my way to the end of Elliot's adventure. Against All Gods is super optimal and totes emosh to boot. I loved the blend of real-life, tear-inducing trauma with mythological mirth and mayhem. The characterisation of Ancient Greek reinforcements had me howling. There is so much love and friendship throughout, and the power of forgiveness shines. Elliot, Virgo and friends have secured their place on the bookshelf in my heart, and I will spend an eternity putting this series into the hands of readers of all ages. There's a very good reason Who Let The Gods Out? Won the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2018, and every book in the series is just as deserving of the accolade. I love that every character's story has a satisfying conclusion. I hate that it's over. Maz, you are epic! Thank you for destroying me, again, with your hilarious, heartfelt writing. I can't wait to see what comes next. 320 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Nicki Cleveland, school librarian.

Against All Gods
The Figure in the Shadows - The House With a Clock in Its Walls 2
John Bellairs

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848127920

This delightful little book is the sequel to The House with a Clock in its Walls. Although it has its creepy, supernatural moments, it's not as sinister or dark, making it a wonderful thriller for younger readers. Lewis once again gets himself dragged into the world of black magic when he chants a spell over a coin that belonged to Grandpa Barnavelt; the coin his grandpa believed to be a lucky three cent coin from 1859. However, the magic that Lewis awakens is not lucky at all! At first it gives him the power to stand up to the bully Woody Mingo, but it all goes downhill from there. Lewis has a wonderful sidekick in this sequel in Rose Rita, who we briefly meet at the end of book one. Rose Rita is a strong minded young lady, quite the opposite of Lewis, who has weight issues and can be cowardly at times. However, he still is a very likeable character that some readers may identify with. As I previously stated this book is not as sinister as book one, the author seems to have toned it down a little as there is less magic, less of Lewis's wonderful guardian Johnathan and Mrs Zimmerman, and he no longer writes about the wonderful enchanted house that the characters live in. ( I personally would have liked Lewis to explore and uncover more of the wonders of the house). This book deals more with real life situations of school bullies, friendships, trust etc. The figure in the Shadows has 152 pages with 13 manageable chapters that are suitable for confident 9+ readers and older reluctant readers. I believe it would also be great for reading groups or for reading out aloud during tutor periods, keeping younger readers engaged and eager for more. Overall, it's enjoyable, it's good eerie fun. 160 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

The Figure in the Shadows - The House With a Clock in Its Walls 2
The Darkdeep
Brendan Reichs

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781529003949

Shunned by the local community because of his father and tormented by school bully, Logan, Nico Holland relies on the support of his best friends Emma and Tyler. When Logan comes across them testing Nico's new drone and sends it careering over the cliff, a reckless and angry Nico is determined to retrieve it. Even if this means descending into the swirling mists and darkened waters of Still Cove, a place that local folklore (and common sense) tells him to avoid at all costs. When Nico falls into the hostile waters below, Emma, Tyler and enigmatic outsider, Opal, throw caution to the wind and start a desperate search for him. But the Cove is not empty, and when they find an uninhabited island, an abandoned houseboat and a mysterious pool of glistening black water, they realise that they have stumbled upon an unnerving, ancient magic. This is an eerie and absorbing mystery that brilliantly twists and turns what starts as an unusual but fun scenario into a deepening nightmare. Playing on the children's worst fears, The Darkdeep makes them face their demons and trust in some fragile, new friendships. The characters of Opal and Nico are well-developed and Tyler, Emma and Logan form a strong supporting cast. The book is also fairly short and full of action so it rattles along at a very good pace. The high-stakes and strange happenings make this an ideal choice for fans of mystery, action and adventure. A really compelling and decidedly creepy read! 261 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

The Darkdeep
AWOL 3: Last Boy Standing
Andrew Lane

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848126671

This is book 3 of the AWOL series, and Kieron and Sam's accidental involvement with an offshoot of MI6 should be coming to an end. Bradley is now recovered from the injuries he sustained in the first book, and Bex is intent on moving the team away to allow Kieron and Sam to go back to their 'normal' lives - a prospect that Kieron, especially, finds massively unappealing. However, when it becomes clear that someone has set out to kill Bex and Bradley, an abrupt change of plans and a trip to Venice become necessary. This book is a development of the overall story arc around the traitor discovered but not identified in book 1 rather than a new mission, but continues with the same pacy style and overall feel as the first two books. At the same time, we learn more about Kieron and Sam's relationships, both with each other and with their families, and Bex's continuing ambivalence about involving the boys in the work she and Bradley do whilst recognising that she has come to rely on them at the same time. The descriptions of Venice are both factual and lyrical, explaining the layout and history concisely for those who may be unfamiliar with the city, but also evoking a sense of the place and atmosphere too. As I've come to expect, there are no 'filler' moments, and the choice of villains is again unusual and well thought out. I really liked the addition of the YouTuber who had the world at his feet yet saw next to none of it, and as in the previous books the tech is cutting-edge but never unbelievable. I'm very much looking forward to the June release of the next book in the series, not least because I have a strong feeling that this is going to be one of those series where I'm repeatedly asked for 'the next one' by the students! 272 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Karen King, school librarian.

AWOL 3: Last Boy Standing
The Haven: Book 1
Simon Lelic

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444947601

The Haven is perfect for fans of Alex Rider or The Cherub series. Ollie is snatched from his bed on the very first page so you are thrust into the action right away! He manages to escape and his rescue is ably assisted by Dodge. Dodge leads Ollie through the underground tunnels of London to The Haven. The Haven is an alternative to the other gangs in London where homeless and abandoned kids are actually cared for and educated. It is a secret organisation that is run by the children themselves. However, unrest is brewing as various prominent gang members or their relatives have gone missing and rival gangs are pinning the blame on each other. Can Ollie ease the tensions and prevent gang warfare by finding these missing teenagers? Will Ollie and his friends survive the evil Maddy Sikes and her guards? This is an exciting read and is set to be the first book of a series. It can be seen as a modernised take on Oliver Twist - although to be honest, other than the character names, this wasn't obvious as I was reading it. It will appeal to readers who enjoy spy/action/thriller/survival & adventure stories. 304 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian.

The Haven: Book 1
The Valentines: Happy Girl Lucky
Holly Smale

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008254148

You might be forgiven for thinking that Hope Valentine is a girl who has it all. She and her three siblings are the latest generation in the Valentine dynasty of Hollywood A-listers who live a privileged life in their palatial home, and when the Valentine sisters squabble over clothes, it is usually Gucci, Chanel or Stella McCartney! Yet for some time now Hope's mother has been in rehab and her father is busy directing a film across the pond in Hollywood. The intense press interest into the Valentine clan has led to the siblings being educated at home and so the only friends Hope has for company are those she conjures up with her own imagination. The cover of my proof copy bears the slogan 'Fall in love with the Valentines' and I have to say that it is hard not to fall under the spell of the irrepressibly optimistic, absurdly romantic (and aptly named) Hope. She is so steeped in the conventions of the romantic comedies in which her parents starred that she views every potential romantic encounter as a movie scene to be honed and perfected. At these moments her thoughts are presented to the reader in screenplay dialogue, which I loved. In her attempts to forge a new relationship and with her family crumbling around her, poor Hope clings ever more tightly to her desire for a happy ending, taking her far from home on a romantic mission to set everything right. As fans of the wonderful Geek Girl series would expect, there are laughs aplenty. (Look out for the episode when Hope takes a Hollywood celebrity bus tour. This had me hooting with laughter on a packed commuter train!) What might at first glance seem a slightly frothy (yet utterly enjoyable) story evolves significantly as the plot develops and there are messages of empowerment, acceptance, courage, honesty and sibling love in addition to romance within these pages. I can't wait to recommend this to my readers and I just know that this brightly-coloured package of sheer joy (a little like Hope herself) will be flying off the shelves. Highly recommended! 471 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

The Valentines: Happy Girl Lucky
How to Rob a Bank
Tom Mitchell

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008276508

15 year old Dylan Thomas (who is utterly sick of everyone asking 'Have you written any poetry yet?') wants to impress Beth by getting her just the right birthday present. He decides on a scented Nepalese candle. He gives it to her, she lights it, it stinks. They blow it out and throw it in the bin. Next thing they know, her house has burnt down - and it turns out the family had no insurance. Beth's family have lost everything, and can't afford to pay the deposit on the tiny flat they've had to move in to. Convinced it is all his fault, Dylan decides to take action, to make a big gesture and to help out in the only way he can think of: he plans to rob a bank, armed with only a USB stick and a Saturday job. He just needs to finish his history homework first... How To Rob A Bank is a fun teen crime caper, with a likeable, if slightly misguided, main character. There were some genuinely funny moments in the book (most notably involving a cat and a satellite dish), but there were a couple of things that didn't quite win me over. There is an air of unbelievability to the story: the bank manager is a bit of a pantomime villain, and the romance element felt a bit forced. Is bank robbing technology that readily available, and is it really that easy for a 15 year old to get hold of? However, these were largely minor quibbles - what's a novel without a bit of suspension of disbelief? This book would appeal to students looking for a fun read - maybe someone who feels they have outgrown the David Walliams books. While the main character is 15, there is nothing in the book that is inappropriate or off putting middle grade readers. 288 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

How to Rob a Bank
The Disconnect
Keren David

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128558

Thought provoking and powerful. An influential writer who makes a strong comment on the youth in modern society. This is an important fictional tale for all young people to read in today's society. Not only does it reflect the over reliance and usage of our social media accounts, it shows the addiction and dangers of being constantly connected. As an adult, this tale has really made me consider my own usage of my mobile phone and I hope it will influence young people into reconsidering; do you really need to be connected all the time? The Disconnect tells the tale of Esther, a young woman completely addicted to her mobile phone. Esther relies on her mobile phone for everything from approval from her friends on her outfit choice, keeping up to date on all the gossip, but most of all reassurance that is she isn't missing out on anything. However, Ester's Dad, sister and baby nephew live in America and so she also relies on her phone for keeping in constant contact with her family. But, when a speaker arrives in her school and states she will pay the students one thousand pounds if they can stay off their phones for six whole weeks, Esther attempts to become 'disconnected'. Challenges and trials are aplenty for Esther, but along the way she finds new 'real' friends and finds out a lot about herself. Perhaps become 'disconnected' isn't such a bad thing after all? A moving tale of friendship, growing up and finding yourself embodied through the connected youth of today. As an adult reading this, it becomes all too familiar - that sinking feeling that young people are become too reliant on their mobile phones. The story reflects a social experiment that I strongly feel should be conducted in every school across the UK. Barrington Stoke publish their short stories on thick, sepia paper with larger font in order to make their books accessible for all readers. Choosing a variety of strong authors, their publications are always interesting and enjoyable to read for both adults and young people. 224 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

The Disconnect
One Shot
Tanya Landman

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128510

If you have a student who struggles to find books they enjoy, but are fond of history, then this is a great choice. One Shot tells the tale of Maggie, a beautiful country girl who is the apple of her father's eye. Maggie and her father enjoy going into the woods and shooting and hunting for game to provide for the family and for this unladylike behaviour, her mother despises her. One day, Maggie's father dies and Maggie desperately tries to keep her family afloat by taking her father's gun and shooting, but instead she is cast out of the family into a care home for destitute children. Maggie's story continues as she is 'rescued' by a seemingly kind family who offer to educate her if she will work as a maid for them. But all is not what is appears to be and soon Maggie is forced to make a desperate escape from them. Whilst in town, Maggie enters a shooting competition. When she wins, she wins more than she bargained for and her life finally begins. This tale is loosely based on the younger years of the infamous Annie Oakley, America's first celebrity show woman to shoot a gun, before she became famous. The story of Annie Oakley is a fascinating one and this tale really encapsulated what it might have been like to be a poor, young woman during the 19th Century. This is a real page turner that had me engaged right from the start. It's the sort of story all young girls should read; it teaches that anyone can do anything they set their mind to, irrespective of gender. I can already see this being popular with my students. Barrington Stoke publishes their stories on thick, sepia paper with large font which makes all their books accessible for any ability. With engaging narratives, their short novels are always a huge hit with my students. 120 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

One Shot
The Button War: A Tale of the Great War
Avi

Walker Books Ltd

ISBN 9781406380835

As a teacher, I am always on the lookout for gripping books to make my students think so when this book landed on my desk - based on the power struggle between the Russian and German armies during 1914 - I knew I had to make it a priority to read. Having never read any books by Avi before, I only had the promise of being an award-winning author to go on; however, the slow beginning and the introduction of a gang of boys to try and remember began to test my focus. Now, I'll admit, I can't remember the exact point in which I became so absorbed that I forgot about the outside world, but I can remember the feeling, of turning the last page knowing I had just read a book that was unbelievably real. Without spoilers, it is a tale of a group of ordinary Polish village boys who live their lives with Russian soldiers forever in their village. It is how they have always remembered it to be yet, one day a bomb drops and their whole world explodes with it. Soon, the German army arrive and to help escape the war, which is now firmly on their doorsteps, they dare each other to get the best button they can from a uniformed solider; the winner receives king status. Their adventure begins to rapidly spin out of control and soon it isn't just their reputations that are at stake. They quickly realise, their lives are now on the line as well. The Button War would be a brilliant book to coincide with any War related topic (both studied or as a class read) which explores how war and the politics of war can affect everyone, regardless of age. A tale of understanding how innocence can be lost even when war has 'nothing to do with you'. Year 6 children would be able to tackle it but Years 7+ would get the most from it. 240 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Leanne Woolcock, teacher

The Button War: A Tale of the Great War
Lark
Anthony McGowan

Barrington Stoke Ltd

ISBN 9781781128435

From the award winning and Carnegie nominated Anthony McGowan, this is already set to be another best seller. A real page turner which had me gripped to the end. Lark continues the story of Nicky and Kenny, brothers who have not had the best start in life. But in this tale, things have finally started to go right and the boys set out to have an adventure in the Countryside. Taking their rescue dog Tina with them, Nicky plans to distract Kenny from the up and coming visit from their estranged mother through a little adventure on the moors. But things go from bad to worse as the weather turns and Nicky becomes injured. The boys are ill-prepared and struggle to survive. Have tissues at the ready, the ending will really make you sob. Personally I loved Brock, Pike and Rook - the earlier books in the series - so it was with great excitement that I sat to read the final instalment of this collection. I love the very real characters, how their lives aren't perfect and they have a sometimes challenging home life. I love that Kenny has SEND and the way Nicky looks out for him. I love that this tale had me in floods of tears in the concluding chapter. Aimed at young adults, McGowan has perfectly encapsulated the struggles of growing up, of friendships, of home life. I often see a copy of one of these books in the hands on my students (particularly boys!) and it is not hard to see why they enjoy them so. McGowan's books are the type of stories that stay with you, that you return to and enjoy sharing with others. But nothing prepared me for that ending! Barrington Stoke design their books with thick, sepia paper with larger font for young people to easily access the text. Beautifully published, the books are accessible for young people of all abilities. Congratulations Anthony McGowan on another fabulous, yet utter heartbreaking, tale. 120 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Joanna Hewish, teacher.

Lark
Watch Us Rise
Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781526600868

Jasmine and Chelsea, along with their wider circle of friends, are students at a seemingly progressive New York high school. In common with all other students, they each attend an extra-curricular social justice club and equality is held up to be a guiding principle of the school. Yet despite these lofty aims, Jasmine and Chelsea become all too aware that racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination are very much alive and well in their school community. In response, they decide to set up their own women's rights group and blog and they harness their own creative talents and interests to spread their message of activism and equality throughout the school community and beyond, with phenomenal (and sometimes unforseen) results. The voices of the two narrators reach out from the pages of the book and draw the reader into this search for empowerment, personal growth and social change. You cannot fail to be swept along by the passion and commitment of these young women as well as by the power of their creativity, in particular Chelsea's poems which are scattered throughout the story, adding a beautiful and reflective change of pace each time. This is an inspiring story that tackles some very big issues, but these are consistently set against the backdrop of everyday teenage life, to which a young reader will be able to relate. Highly recommended for the teenage reader! 349 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian

Watch Us Rise
The Truth About Keeping Secrets
Savannah Brown

Penguin Books Ltd

ISBN 9780241346303

Even though this is a powerful, thought provoking work of fiction TTAKS deals with some very real issues that young adults have to face today. It has been so very well written, that you will not want to put it down, believe me it's possible to read this in one sitting. It's a page turner, full of twists and turns as it reveals and deals with the issues that are raised between its pages. When I first received this book I thought it was going to be another YA American set thriller, which are popular among YA readers at present. I wasn't wrong, but this book delivers so much more... Sydney is a 17 year old teenager who is sadly dealing with the recent traumatic death of her dad. She is not coping at all. She becomes obsessed with a internet website called Time of Death where she watches people die, she knows it's unhealthy but she cannot stop herself from doing it. This obviously increases her depression and makes her paranoid, so she is unable to talk positively with her mom and friend Olivia. Sydney begins an unlikely friendship with an older student, who she has admired but never spoken to before, June Copeland. She attended her dad's funeral, but couldn't understand why. Is this an innocent friendship or does June have ulterior motives? Not long after this friendship starts, Sydney begins to receive inappropriate, disturbing texts regarding her dad and her sexuality. No one wants to take this seriously and they try to convince her to ignore them, but she doesn't let go. Who is trying to scare her? Was her dad's death an accident? With the help of another friend from her counselling group Leo, she is determined to find out! I read a proof copy of this book, so I cannot put any quotes in my review for you, which is a shame as I can think of a few that tie this book up perfectly in order to convince you to read it. TTAKS does, however, come with a reader warning, so please consider this before you delve into its pages. The plot contains detailed descriptions about grief, dying, and death, specifically parental death and references to self harm. There are also references to emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and verbal abuse regarding sexual orientation, and thoughts of suicide. TTAKS has 314 pages that are suitable for 14+ readers only due to the above content and the regular use of offensive language. It would, however, be suitable for book clubs or for classroom discussion (PSHE lessons) due to the many discussion options. Taking everything into consideration, The Truth About Keeping Secrets is a beautifully plotted novel that contains elements of mystery but mostly focuses on a portrayal of grief - one young girl and her journey through the loss of her Dad - making it an emotive, compelling story that will have you hooked. 336 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.

The Truth About Keeping Secrets
The Burning
Laura Bates

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471170201

Every so often a book comes along which you just know is going to be a huge hit. The Burning is one such. Contemporary social commentary, sophisticated foiled cover, powerful feminist fiction - and witches. Oh, and it's written by the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, Laura Bates. How can it possibly fail??? The Burning is billed as a 'fictionalisation' of the testimonies collected from UK teenagers who have experienced sexist behaviour, which it makes it feel all the more real and creates characters we really care about. It tells the story of 15 year old Anna, uprooted from Birmingham to start a new life in a small Scottish village with her mum, determined to cut all ties to the past and to 'the incident'. But there's no escape from social media and Anna's past quickly comes back to haunt her, the cruel bullying beginning again. A school history project provides a welcome distraction, as Anna befriends an elderly neighbour to discover the true and previously untold story of Maggie, accused of witchcraft way back in medieval times. Bates subtly draws parallels between the witch hunts of days gone by with the unjust slut shaming of young girls today - 'the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn' - lending a new dimension to the feminist fiction currently blazing a trail through YA. Both Anna and Maggie are helpless victims, each blamed for the actions of another, and their stories weave together seamlessly. A myriad of issues underpin, but never overshadow, the story - rape culture, rumour and revenge porn, gender roles and equality, and the damaging and destructive effects of cyberbullying and social media. Bates doesn't shy away from reality. The cruelty inflicted by fellow students is horrific, its impact devastating, making this a must read for anyone who works with teenagers today to make them understand exactly the pressures faced by teenagers forced to live out their lives on social media. She highlights too how much schools can be part of the problem - and the power they have to condemn double standards and bring about change. Parents too will find it both a shocking and an enlightening read. The Burning is a book to make you understand, a book to make you think and a battle cry for change. Sexism is, as Laura herself explains, 'not a problem that came with the internet. It's about the way we've always treated women and girls and the way we continue to treat them today'. Changes in technology do not of themselves change deep-seated attitudes. This is an exceptionally important and intelligently argued book that will leave you angry, inspired and determined to make a difference, it is a book which teen girls AND boys need to read. Schools need to make this book, and others like it, available to their students to increase awareness. It's such a cliche to say I just couldn't put this book down - but I really couldn't. Older readers keen to find out more will enjoy Laura's non-fiction writing, Everyday Sexism and the game-changing, Girl Up as well as Caitlin Moran's very funny, How to be a Woman. Sixth form feminists will appreciate Amy Reed's The Nowhere Girls. Similar themes are tackled by Holly Bourne in What's A Girl Gotta Do. Sexism, victim-shaming and trial by social media all form the basis of other highly recommended YA novels such as Asking For It by Louise O'Neill, The Exact Opposite of Okay/A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven, The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu and We Are Not Okay by Natalia Gomes. Other contemporary novels with strong themes of activism and feminism include Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu and Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan. Sally Nicholls looks at equality from a historical perspective in Things A Bright Girl Can Do. Younger campaigners will enjoy Vote for Effie by Laura Wood. 352 pages / Ages 15+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

The Burning
The Twisted Tree
Rachel Burge

Hot Key Books

ISBN 9781471407765

After a terrible accident, Martha has developed a kind of second-sight and can sense secret stories and emotions by touching the clothes of other people. When she arrives at her grandmother Mormor's house deep in the Nordic woods, she discovers a mysterious visitor, Stig, has been sleeping rough there after the death of Mormor. Soon, the old spinning wheel begins to turn of its own accord while outside, eerie noises begin to be heard. And then there is 'the twisted tree' itself, stinking of rot and a terrifying presence in itself... Good horror is hard to come by: sometimes its seems that it was easier for an author to go for quick scares or gory detail at the expense of a more involved storyline. But here, in The Twisted Tree, we have a well-developed plot involving Martha, her grandmother Mormor and the women of her family, plus an evocative and doom-laden atmosphere laced with mysterious Nordic woods, the portents of cawing ravens, and some pretty nasty 'things' too! There are some genuinely creepy passages, evoking the lonely, isolated world of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black and Michelle Paver's Thin Air, which build up a formidable sense of dread. But Burge appropriately holds back the real scares for particular, well-placed climaxes, which are more explicitly horrific: definitely this is a book for the more courageous reader and - at a few points - one with a strong stomach! However, the mystery of Martha's family is the real story here and gradually the truth of Martha's strange abilities is revealed as she learns the real meaning of responsibility and the terrible consequences of shirking one's duty. The Twisted Tree is a coming-of-age story, wrapped up in a horror theme, with a bit of teen romance and some Norse mythology thrown in too. At times, I felt that the book strained to keep all the ingredients in check, so rich was the mixture of themes, but the climax was suitably satisfying and provided an exciting culmination to the eerie build-up of tension. Well written, The Twisted Tree will engage the YA reader who enjoys a good tale of terror. 256 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Benjamin Harris, teacher.

The Twisted Tree
A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Brigid Kemmerer

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408884614

Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, is cursed. Forced to repeat the autumn of his 18th year over and over, he can only be freed by love. But at the end of each autumn he is transformed into a beast hell-bent on destruction, and after so many failed attempts, his kingdom and its people are barely holding on. Harper's life has never been easy, but she's learned to be tough enough to survive. She won't let anything hold her back, not her cerebral palsy or her mother's deteriorating health. But when she is sucked into Rhen's world, nothing is as it seems. Powerful forces are standing against Emberfalll ... and it will take more than a broken curse to save it from utter ruin. A modern spellbinding retelling of Beauty and the Beast - ok, you got me! Absolutely hooked from start to finish in a genre that I wouldn't ordinarily choose. Harper is a fantastic, feisty, opinionated and believable heroine - she's not going to pull the 'damsel in distress' card and sit around waiting to be rescued! She's resourceful, quick thinking and brave. Her cerebral palsy affects her only with regards to her movement and it certainly doesn't define her in any way. Rhen is a tortured hero with a heart and a secret. He has to deal with the knowledge that he has killed his family and that he is a danger to his people. That the only way to break the curse is for a woman to fall in love with him. He has tried to break it by bringing about his own death multiple times, but he just wakes up again on the day of his 18th birthday each new season. Rhen is fiercely guarded by Grey. Grey is loyal, kind and understanding - another wonderful character. And the ending? Oh my goodness! Twists, turns - what a nail-biter! I really didn't want to leave Emberfall - roll on the sequel! A Heart So Fierce and Broken is due in January 2020. 496 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lucy Georgeson, school librarian.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

ISBN 9781473629202

Legendary is Book 2 in the Caraval series and it picks up straight after the end of book 1. With another invitation to a Caraval competition. However, this time the stakes are higher. After Tella saved her sister in book 1, both the sisters should now be happy and celebrating, but this is not meant to be. The arrangement that Tella made with the mysterious 'friend' is not over and he is asking for more before he will set her free from their agreement. Tella is the reveal the name of Legend at the end of the competition, if she doesn't she will lose everything, including her life. Legendary is written from Tella's POV, which I thought was really well done. The reader gets to find out more about her and learns with her as she at times makes disastrous choices as she gets deeper into the game. Tella is a great character, one that the reader can relate too. She is much more complex and brave than she lets on. This is a girl you can root for. You get to learn so much about her past that you don't get from Scarlett's POV in Caraval. The author has included lots of returning characters, which makes the story familiar and flow much easier and even though we're in Tella's POV, even Scarlett's story continues. Yes, the loving couple, Scarlett and Julian are still around as you would expect however, we didn't get much of them, Scarlett especially was surrounded by mystery, which thankfully did come together towards the end of the book. We are also introduced to new characters that help make this story magical and mysterious. Legendary is an entirely new world, one that is even more magical than the last. New settings and new myths come to life. 416 well written pages that are suitable for 14+ confident readers due to all the twists and turns of the story. The plot however, is broken up into reasonable sized chapters, some of which contain wonderful scripted letters that add to the mystery, especially the last letter at the end of the story, which happily (hopefully) makes the reader want to continue the story in book 3, FINALE. Before you take this story on you need to read book 1. Both of which I would happily recommend. 432 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Linda Brown, school librarian.