NEW TITLES

This month's selection for teenage and YA readers including outstanding fantasy, stories of adventure and historical fiction, reviewed by teachers and librarians.

Night Walker
Ali Sparkes

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192749970

Night Walker is the third book in the Night Speaker series, featuring children who wake up at the same time, every night, and who can talk with animals. In this adventure, the intrepid Night Speaker trio investigate a spate of mysterious child deaths, all under the care of the same team at the hospital. They uncover an evil abduction plot and a web of intrigue fuelling an interplanetary black market. Thornleigh is in peril once more and this time the children and their animal allies are not only fighting to save the town, but also fighting for their lives. Spin, the nocturnal 'vampire' boy, also comes to the rescue at the eleventh hour, but pays a huge price. This is a brilliant adventure that has plenty to appeal to both boys and girls. I loved the further development of the characters from the previous books. Finding out Liam (the bully) and Spin's back-stories makes them more human and adds another valuable dimension to the book. 272 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian

Night Walker
The Last Zoo
Sam Gayton

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783447701

This story follows Pia, a zoo keeper in the world's last zoo, where the impossible is real. The zoo contains creatures like unicorns, genies, hummingdragons and megabunnies. There are also devils and angels; the latter being the most important, because after wars and destruction, the Earth needs a miracle to survive. All of these creatures were created when scientists detonated a reality bomb. Then one terrible day, Pia wakes to discover the angels are missing and she must follow the clues they left in order to find them and possibly save the world. With her friends and sometime enemies, she embarks on an adventure like no other, where nothing is quite as it seems, and anything could be possible. And what an adventure it is! Travelling with the help of genies and experiencing the many forms of life brought out after the reality bomb, Pia goes on a whirlwind of an adventure, racing at impossible speeds to try and find the angels, before it is too late. I have to confess I nearly stopped reading this book at the beginning; it was so strange and bizarre I did not want to continue. I am so glad I carried on as, whilst it is completely bonkers in places, it comes from an extraordinary imagination and once I got into it I was captivated by the out of this world Earth that had been created. It is full of puns and plays on words as well as amazing creatures, some mythical and others entirely made up by the author. And running all the way through is the thought of what humans are doing to the world and how it is all out of control. A mature reader in Year 6 would enjoy this book as they would chuckle at the jokes and understand the message. I now want to read other books by Sam Gayton as I feel I've made a discovery of an author who writes in a refreshingly different way. 320 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

The Last Zoo
Becoming Jo
Sophie McKenzie

Scholastic

ISBN 9781407188157

Jo March is determined to become an author and spends hours reading and writing. However, living with three sisters, her father being away in Syria working as a humanist minister, and her new found friendship with Lateef who lives on the same street, mean there is not always a quiet place to hide away and create her masterpieces. Will she ever achieve her dream? Becoming Jo is a retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic story, Little Women. Set in modern day England, the March sisters now have mobile phones, electric curling tongs and wear jeans, but Sophie McKenzie has brilliantly captured the original personality of each girl, allowing devotees of the original to recognise each one. She has also cleverly preserved classic scenes from Little Women - Jo still burns Meg's hair, Amy still takes her revenge on Jo in the most disastrous way, Beth still practises the piano at the big house - and yet there are many twists on the original which bring this tale right up to date. Most enjoyable! 336 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Becoming Jo
Treason
Berlie Doherty

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781849391214

Will Montague is brought up in an old manor house by the coast. A series of events sees him end up in London as page to the baby Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII. These are perilous times; the King is prone to rages that can see a person thrown in jail and even executed. Will has to navigate the Court, seething with intrigue and plots. Disastrously, Will's father, is accused of treason and Will is forced to flee into a Tudor London full of dangers he knows nothing about. There he meets a poor boy called Nick who, with his family, help Will to try and rescue his family. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and this does not disappoint. Whilst it is based upon real events and some real people, like King Henry himself, the fact and fiction are woven together so skilfully the period is brought vividly to life. The author, Berlie Doherty, undertook huge amounts of research in order to write the book and she was particularly concerned to bring the difference between rich and poor into stark contrast. The whole era is so detailed in the story, you can even smell the not so pleasant odours of Tudor London. As well as being a history lesson, it is also an exciting adventure which does not shy away from the darker side of life at the time, the deaths and fear that crossing the will of the king could bring. Whilst I do know about the period the story still kept me guessing as to what might happen next and how the characters would fare. There was an overwhelming sense that many of them were simply caught up in events and were completely powerless, regardless of rank or wealth. If you are studying the Tudors, then this is an excellent text to use as it brings the Court to life and recreates King Henry in all his aging moods. Even if you are not studying the Tudors, this is a great book to recommend to young readers as it is a masterclass in historical fiction for children. 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

Treason
The Golden Butterfly
Sharon Gosling

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781788950329

It's 1897 and Luciana is mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather. Returning from his funeral, Luciana and her grandmother are confronted by Thursby and his mob who ransack the house in search of - what? Luciana realises that her magician grandfather, the late, great 'Magnificent Marko' was the keeper of a much sought-after secret and she is determined to discover what it is. The Magnificent Marko was a magician unlike any other until he stopped performing with no explanation. He was also the father figure in Luciana's life, having lost both parents when she was only two. It is Marko who taught Luciana to perform mind-boggling card tricks - a skill considered to be most unladylike in an era where it was thought that women were unable to perform magic and therefore not permitted to. This injustice is a central theme to the book and Luciana is determined to prove that she is not to be held back because she is a girl. With help from her friend Charley, the son of a housekeeper, Luciana sets out on a quest to discover the mysteries that surround her. What is it that Thursby is looking for? Why did the Magnificent Marko cease to perform so abruptly and what is the secret of 'The Golden Butterfly'? Her adventures take her to grand houses, theatres and inns. She meets many people along the way, some whom she can trust, some who set out to deceive and some who are not quite as they would seem. Luciana is a girl who refuses to give up. She will not let anyone scare her off and she will not be defeated by the puzzles that her grandfather has set in order to secure his secret. It is a race against time and a battle of good over evil as others strive to claim 'The Golden Butterfly' before Luciana can truly understand it and all of its importance. This is a story with many themes. We see how Luciana has fears but learns to understand and overcome them. She lives in a society full of prejudice; she is dissuaded from being friends with Charley as it is perceived that he is beneath her, but Luciana loves him like a brother and will not let society's rules dictate her friendships. It is a story of love and loss and the power of grit and determination. It is also a story that chooses to dispel the myth that girls 'can't' just because they are girls. This is an exciting read with strong characters and a plot that twists, turns and slides into place just like one of the Magnificent Marko's puzzle boxes. It is a page turner which will appeal to readers who like adventure, mystery and intrigue. The Magnificent Marko would be proud - it's simply magical. 256 pages / Ages 9-12 years / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, teacher

The Golden Butterfly
Extraordinary Birds
Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Bloomsbury Childrens Books

ISBN 9781526603159

December is fascinated by birds and is waiting for the day when her wings break through the scar on her back. Then she can fly away. In the meantime, she has become an expert at surviving the many foster homes she has been placed in. When she is placed with Eleanor, December is offered a different life - one with someone who rescues wounded animals and shows her respect and understanding. At school, she meets Cheryllynn, ostracised and bullied by her former best friend, who is constantly supportive and kind. Although wary and defensive initially, December gradually comes to terms with her past story. Beautifully written, Extraordinary Birds is a powerful novel about hurt and healing. The scar on December's back was the result of an injury inflicted by her mother before she abandoned her. In the story of her life, 'Bird Girl' - one of two books she carries everywhere with her - she finds all the guidance she needs to fulfil her destiny and fly away. The constant use of bird facts and imagery is powerful and compelling and December's story tugs at your heart as you discover how she has learned to survive. With Eleanor, the healing process can gradually begin, starting with their common interest in birds. The character of Cheryllynn is a wonderful addition to the story. In her case, it is a strong bond with a loving mother which enables her to cope with the bullying she is subjected to. The ignorance and prejudice of the other parents and the impact this has on their children is also explored. A story to inspire empathy, understanding and to offer hope. 224 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Extraordinary Birds
The Boy Who Steals Houses
C.G. Drews

Orchard Books

ISBN 9781408349922

Sammy Lou is homeless and broken, worn down by years of neglect, abuse and worrying about his older autistic brother Avery. In a cycle of 'borrowing' empty houses to sleep, Sammy Lou wakes up one day to a returning family and he suddenly allows himself to dream of a home. The past, his anger and his brother's new criminal 'friends', however, threaten to spoil everything. From the beginning this book grabs you, shakes you and spits you out. Full of adrenaline, action, heartache and family camaraderie, it is an excellent read. I couldn't help worrying how the story would unfold and felt there could be no happy ending for Sammy. The love and responsibility between the brothers is captured perfectly along with the chaos and grief of the De Laineys. I think anyone reading this would love to be adopted by them and be part of the banter of the siblings. Rarely does a book portray such a close family with little input from parents and I think the author delivered enough of Mr De Lainey to imply security without it being overpowering. My heart screeched throughout for someone to just listen and really see Sammy Lou, which I'm sure is the author's intention. A great read and I'd love to see a sequel, something that doesn't often appeal. 368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian

The Boy Who Steals Houses
The Gifted, the Talented and Me
William Sutcliffe

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408890219

15 year old Sam is happy with his average, ordinary life at an average, ordinary school with his average ordinary friends in the average, ordinary town of Stevenage. So when Dad strikes it rich and Mum decides to move the family to Hampstead and send the kids to the North London School for the Gifted and Talented, Sam is less than impressed. He struggles to fit in with all the pretentious actors, musicians, artists and dancers and finds the school's creative freedom stifling (especially when he realises that this freedom does not extend to football - his one true passion - which is banned). Worse, his older brother and younger sister love their new lives and are thriving. Can Sam find a way to fit in while remaining true to himself, and will it involve putting on a mangy fur onesie dotted with weeping boils? The Gifted, The Talented and Me is a funny, engaging coming-of-age story full of laughter, romance, drama, luvvies and embarrassing parents. I must admit that it took me a while to warm up to Sam. He was a bit of a Standard Mopey Teen at the start of the book, but he was well written and (mostly) likeable, with a personality that developed satisfyingly and believably over the course of the novel - his humour and the way he matured over the book had definitley won me over by the end. My teenage self would definitely have related to Sam's relationship angsts - I'm sure my internal monologue when I was 15 sounded a lot like his. I can see this book appealing to a broad readership, especially KS4, or more mature KS3, readers who are after a fun and good-hearted story that feels real. 323 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Dan Katz, school librarian

The Gifted, the Talented and Me
We Are Blood And Thunder
Kesia Lupo

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408898055

Not so long ago YA fantasies were all the rage, it seemed that a new novel was released in to the world every day and soon it became too much - a saturated market and interest seemed to dip. So it was with trepidation that I started to read We Are Blood and Thunder, expecting cliches and an all too predictable ending, how wrong I was! A foggy and misty cloud has descended upon Duke's Forest and with it pestilence, hunger and death. People are suspicious of the cause and magic is soon blamed; with echoes of real historical witch trails, a council is formed to find and eradicate those deemed to have supernatural powers. This leads us to our first character, Lena who is quite literally on the run for her life, trying to escape the only home she has ever known. She flees to a new realm which welcomes and celebrates those who have magic running in their veins, but the path to acceptance does not run smoothly. Another strong character is soon introduced in the shape of a powerful sorceress, Constance, who is returning to Duke's Forest to tackle the cloud which has ruined her former home. We follow both Lena and Constance through trials and tribulations before we reach a gripping and thrilling climax. This was a wonderful book and I devoured it greedily in one evening - I.could.not.put.it.down. I felt fully initiated in to the world of Constance and Lena and I especially enjoyed the maps at the start of the novel and the descriptions of the Nine Gods of the Holy Council. Read it! 448 pages / Ages 13+ / Reviewed by Jodie Brooks, school librarian

We Are Blood And Thunder
Toffee
Sarah Crossan

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408868126

I am not who I say I am, and Marla isn't who she thinks she is, I am a girl trying to forget. She is a woman trying to remember. Allison has run away from home and with nowhere to live, finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn't empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there - and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee. Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be, but as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself - where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really? I set aside a morning to read this and stipulated absolutely NO interruptions as for me a new novel by Sarah Crossan is something to savour. I can honestly say that there is no one comparable in the YA genre and Toffee is absolutely no exception. Beautiful. Powerful. Heartwrenching. Uplifting. This novel has stayed with me since I read it. I feel like I know the characters and find myself wondering what they are doing now. I can't put into words how exceptional this novel is. Everyone should read this, 'grown ups' as well as young adults. Homelessness and mental health are dealt with sensitively and in such a gentle and understanding away I defy anyone to not be affected by this book. Stunning. 416 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Lucy Georgeson, school librarian.

Toffee
All the Invisible Things
Orlagh Collins

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408888339

For the four years since her mum died, Vetty and her family have been living with family, but now it is time for them to return to their home in London. For those four years Vetty has been keeping her heart hidden, is it now time to expose it? She has never told anyone she is attracted to girls but she hopes that going back to her best friend Pez will help her have the courage to do so. Reunions, though, often do not go as planned and this is the case for Vetty and Pez as Vetty soon realises that the way you treat people during a separation often has a bearing on the reconnection. Pez is different from the carefree, fearless boy she left. He is more guarded, interested in girls and seems to be keeping a big secret himself. Alongside this he is struggling with the breakdown of his parents' relationship, whilst Vetty is surrounded by memories of her mum and the loss she still feels after her death. This is a superbly written coming-of-age story with major issues covered within it. Vetty attempts to come out to her aunt who misinterprets her and assumes she is a lesbian rather than bisexual. The use of online pornography and the impact this has on the entire group of friends is carefully portrayed. I enjoyed the story, finding it a warm and engaging portrayal of late teenage dilemmas and first love. The characters are fully rounded, Vetty,s little sister Arial is the epitome of the annoying younger sister at times but evokes true empathy at others. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books by authors such as Lisa Williamson and Juno Dawson. 356 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Sharon Bolton, school librarian

All the Invisible Things
All We Could Have Been
T. E. Carter

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471179990

Every year, Lexi begins afresh at a new school. It is never long before people discover her secret and she feels that she has to begin again somewhere fresh where no one knows about her brother. She finds security in the routine of wearing a set colour on a set day. At least some things you can rely on remaining the same. Lexi is currently living with her aunt and has found her place within a drama group. She is making friends and might even be falling in love. But none of is it real; they don't know who she really is or what her secrets are. When they find out who she really is, will she lose everything or will her friends stick by her? This was a thought-provoking read. I loved that the author made it clear that you can be judged by others but that you do not have to accept that judgement. Characters are complex and their thoughts and feelings are dealt with very openly. Lexi, the main protagonist, is very engaging. She struggles with her mental health but is resilient and finds a way of dealing with the drama that unfolds. All We Could Have Been is a page turner. Lexi's past is slowly revealed and although she is constantly judged harshly by her peers for somebody else's actions, she never loses hope. I was intrigued by the visit to see her brother and would have liked to have learned more about why he did what he did but this wasn't his story; it was Lexi's. I would recommend this book to fans of Eve Ainsworth and Cat Clarke. A great read for those who are interested in psychology and mental health. Suited to older Teenagers / Contemporary YA fiction Note: topics include self-harm, PTSD, murder, asexuality, and there are sex and drug references. 304 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian

All We Could Have Been
Beauty Sleep
Kathryn Evans

Usborne Publishing Ltd

ISBN 9781474954877

Teenager Laura Henley and her five year-old brother Alfie are both terminally ill with cancer. It's 1986, and there is no cure for their illness, so they are cryogenically frozen and will only be woken at a time when medicine has advanced enough for them to be saved. Forty years later, Laura is revived. She hasn't aged, but the world has moved on. She wakes to find herself a patient in the Blackhurst Clinic, run by the enigmatic Miss Lilly. It's 2028, and the world is full of driverless cars and holograms. Laura also finds herself alone - her parents have died in a road accident, and Alfie has apparently been killed during an attack on the clinic by protesters, one of whom was Laura's best friend from school, Stacey. Laura is now totally dependent upon Miss Lilly and her medical staff. Known by the media as Sleeping Beauty, Laura has to begin to rebuild her life again. But when she is contacted by Stacey, she begins to question what really happened to her and her family, and uncovers the terrible secrets Miss Lilly and the Blackhurst Clinic are hiding behind their perfect facade. This is an intriguing, thought-provoking and disturbing novel. Told in dual narrative, the story is shared by Laura herself and a boy called Shem, who is being pursued by mysterious men. The contrast between the characters is marked - Laura is living in the luxurious clinic and wants for nothing while Shem is living rough, scavenging for food for himself and his dog, Scrag. The book begins as a sort of fairy tale with Laura being treated almost like a princess by Miss Lilly. However, as the truth about the clinic unfolds, it becomes the stuff of nightmares. Far from being a clinic offering beauty therapies, Blackhurst is the site of Miss Lilly's horrific experiments involving stolen children. I found myself reading faster and faster as the story raced towards its conclusion! It is a fascinating idea - a girl from the eighties waking up in futuristic world way beyond anything she could ever have imagined. I loved the descriptions of Laura's first trip in a driverless car, and of her trying to cope with mobile phones and becoming a star on social media! The author builds up the tension brilliantly and keeps the readers interest the whole way through the book. I really cared about Laura and Shem (and Scrag!) and totally believed in everything that was happening to them. I have read and enjoyed Kathryn Evans' first novel More of Me, and Beauty Sleep is, if anything, even better. This is definitely an author to watch - I can wholeheartedly recommend this book and I look forward to seeing what she writes in the future. 336 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian

Beauty Sleep
Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee
Jeff Zentner

Andersen Press Ltd

ISBN 9781783447992

Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee is a coming-of-age book about two best friends, Josie and Delia, reaching the end of high school. They need to decide whether to pursue their individual college ambitions or continue on with their low budget, late night TV show about horror movies. This book is packed full of daft humour and in-jokes between the two. They perform crazy skits on show involving skeleton raves and dog weddings. It will definitely appeal to teenagers that like a fun read. Personally, I really enjoyed reading the more serious side of this story when the characters were on their own and dealing with their dilemmas away from the banter that exists between them. Delia is living with her mum who suffers with mental health issues. The author deals with this in a positive light and helps to remove any stigma that there might be around seeking help. Delia's Dad has abandoned them. She hasn't heard from him since he left home but may now have managed to track him down. Should Delia risk stirring things up with her mum at home by contacting him? Josie might be falling in love with Lawson, who was a guest on their show. However, she has made a promise with her parents that if their road trip to Shivercon, a convention for horror filmmakers, doesn't open up the right opportunities for them, then she will consider getting real experience at a real channel. This would mean starting at the bottom and working up. It would also mean leaving her best friend and new boyfriend behind. This book gives a positive message for those with mental health issues or those who have suffered from bullying. I think Lawson was my favourite character. He was so resilient; who wouldn't fall in love with Lawson? Their road trip was very eventful and I think the highlight of the book. This is great contemporary fiction for older teens. 400 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Clair Bossons, school librarian

Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee