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Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | This pacey page-turner teems with tension, twists and terror from the moment Irish girl Niamh arrives in London for a drama course and finds herself in a storm of vicious attacks on fellow students. Accelerating the fear factor, the victims look like Niamh, and bear marks reminiscent of those made by Spring Heeled Jack, a Victorian folklore figure who was said to slash his victims with metal claws. Amidst this terror, Niamh takes up her placement in a Victorian museum, where she plays the role of a factory owner’s daughter who died a gruesome and untimely death. No wonder, then, that Niamh is glad to befriend Jess, a self-proclaimed “history nerd” who’s thrilled to visit the museum’s parlour that was once used by “the infamous Madame Josephine...Fortune teller, hypnotist, and mistress of the occult.” Then there’s creepy Will who works there, and gorgeous Tommy who sets Niamh’s heart a-pounding. Entertaining and menacing in equal measure, and loaded with cliff-hangers and red herrings, this accomplished debut brings old school Point Horror novels to mind.
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Co-written by YA author Sara Shepard and 16-year-old Instagram celebrity and actress Lilia Buckingham, Influence is at once blisteringly entertaining and grippingly gritty - think guilty pleasure gossip site meets down and dirty exposé of the unfiltered underside of social influencer life. With an ultra-twisty plot that’s sure to keep readers on their toes, the story opens with rising social star Delilah moving to LA. Thanks to the video that propelled her to fame as “Puppy Girl”, she’s set to hit the bigtime, especially when glamourous, super-famous Jasmine befriends her, though both young women want more from life. Delilah aspires to be known for animal activism, diabetes awareness and anti-bullying messages rather than cute canine content, while Jasmine longs to be free from the constraints of her tightly-controlled brand image, not least so she can live out her true sexuality. Then there’s outwardly cheery Fiona, famed for her fashion and beauty YouTube channel, but inwardly weighed down by OCD and The Voice in her head that tells her she’s worthless. At the top of the tree is Kardashian-esque famous Scarlet. She and handsome Jack, a mega YouTube prankster star, are worshipped as “Jacklet”, with countless crazily devoted fans following their every move, as Delilah experiences first-hand when she and Jack strike up a bond, and it’s not long before a tsunami of duplicity and devastation explodes. Through the lives of the four female influencers we see bitchy backstabbing, the pressures of brand ambassadorship, the hollowness of consumer culture and the ruthlessness of fervent fans. Ultimately, though, when this thrilling rollercoaster ride winds up, the book chimes a message of authenticity. In Jasmine’s words, “Embrace who you are, not who the internet wants you to be.”
The girl who... survived The girl who... inspires The girl who... has something to hide People can't bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as 'the girl who... you know...'. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah. Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving. But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge. When Leah's dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn't quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer - and the only one who knows the truth - is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .
Selected for The Book Box by LoveReading4Kids | Co-written by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet (perhaps better known as Cate Tiernan, author of the Wiccan Sweep series), this tenth novel in the Maximum Ride sequence reels with action and plot-driving, straight-talking dialogue. A gripping, in-your-face opening tells seventeen-year-old Hawk’s backstory: “My parents’ muted voices, the fogged-out faces - that was ten years ago. No friend ever came. My parents never came back…What kind of a pathetic idiot waits on the same corner every day from five to five thirty for their whole life? Or at least ten years of it? The biggest idiot in the world. This was the last, very, very last time.” No sooner has Hawk given up on waiting for them to return, it seems that someone is coming for her, but not her parents, and not for amiable reasons… The factions and gangs of The City of the Dead are an ever-present menace, along with an evocative sense of post-apocalyptic decay and disorder. And, as Hawk struggles to survive, the risks and costs couldn’t be higher.
Trust no witch . . . Iraya Adair has spent her life in a cell. Heir of an overthrown and magically-gifted dynasty, she was exiled from her home on the island nation of Aiyca when she was just a child. But every day brings her closer to freedom - and vengeance. Jazmyne Cariot grew up dressed in gold, with stolen magic at her fingertips. Daughter of the self-crowned doyenne, her existence is a threat to her mother's rule. But unlike her sister, Jazmyne has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother's power. Sworn enemies, the two witches enter a deadly alliance to take down the woman who threatens both their worlds. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain - except the lengths Iraya and Jazmyne will go to win this game. Two witches. One motive. And a very untrustworthy alliance.
Evie and Lottie are twin sisters, but they couldn't be more different. Evie's sharp and funny. Lottie's a day-dreamer. Evie's the fighter, Lottie's the peace-maker. What they do have in common is their Jewishness - even though the family isn't religious. When their mother gets a high-profile job and is targeted by antisemitic trolls on social media, the girls brush it off at first - but then the threats start getting uglier. . . What We're Scared Of is a taut thriller, a tale of sibling friendship and rivalry - and a searing look at what happens when you scratch beneath the surface.
A STUDENT FOUND DEAD ON THE BEACH. A WEB OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS. SOMEONE POISED TO STRIKE AGAIN. Illumen Hall is a boarding school of tradition and achievement. But tragedy strikes when the body of a student is discovered on the beach - and on her back is an elaborate tattoo of a magpie. For new student Audrey, it is just another strange and unsettling thing about her new surroundings, along with the secrets the school seems to hide and its weird obsession with magpies. For her roommate Ivy, the death of her friend Lola is just one thing she desperately wants to get past - and having a new student asking questions and cluttering up her personal space is not helping a bit. But the two girls are forced into an unlikely alliance when a mysterious podcast airs, with one sinister headline: I KNOW WHO KILLED LOLA. AND ONE OF YOU IS NEXT. Told from two alternating view-points, this is the first book in a modern gothic thriller series that will have you gripped like no other book this year. Welcome to the Magpie Society, your new YA obsession . . .
November 2020 Debut of the Month | Nimbly navigating a fine thread between real-world tragedy and elemental inner demons, Richard Lambert’s The Wolf Road is a stunning coming-of-age thriller about a boy’s battle with bereavement, and the wolf that holds the key to his healing. It’s un-put-down-able and emotionally haunting in perfectly balanced measures. Fifteen-year-old Lucas’s life unravels when he discovers his parents were killed in a car crash caused by a dog. In an instant “the world didn’t make sense”, and now he must live with his nan, an “odd woman in purple DMs” (and socially-conscious solicitor) he’s only met twice in his life. Despite his angry protests, Lucas has no choice but to move to Nan’s cottage in the Lake District, certain the offending dog was, in fact, a wolf. It’s not long before wolves infiltrate all aspects of his life - at school he reads The Call of the Wild (a book “about a dog that really wants to be a wolf”). Local TV news reports on a local farmer who believes his livestock is being killed by a wild wolf. And then lupine menace encroaches on Lucas’s reality when he hears and glimpses what must be the wolf. As he wonders whether it’s coming for him, to “finish off the family after Mum and Dad,” he confronts his wildest pains in the wilds of the mountains. While the theme of loss - and Lambert’s inventive handling of it - will chime with readers who loved Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, this also has great appeal for fans of emotion-driven adventures, such as Piers Torday’s nature-rich novels. Other plot strands skilfully untangle the complex relationship between Lucas and his Nan. The faltering understandings reached between grandmother and grandson are a joy to witness, as is the bond Lucas forms with Debs, a Sylvia Plath-reading goth-punk.
“How can a dog and a girl who can’t see solve a crime?” visually-impaired Libby asks herself partway through this pacey novel by the award-winning author of I Have No Secrets. But that’s exactly what Libby sets out to do. Fearing her missing classmate Charlie is in danger, Libby and Kyle make it their mission to find him. As the perilous mystery unfolds, Libby’s story gives valuable insights into living with visual impairment, including the tactless comments and “help” from strangers that hinder her day-to-day life. Her determination is nothing short of inspirational. The author’s unfussy style makes this novel particularly suitable for reluctant readers - the story is driven by snappy dialogue. The plot moves at pace. Timely insights into county line grooming are delivered in an impactful, easy-to-digest way. To add to the tension, the drama plays out against Libby’s complex family dynamics – an insensitive gran, an over-protective dad, and a high-achieving mum who wants her to be more independent. All in all, this is a strong springboard for discussing pertinent issues, and a gripping, romance-tinged thriller to boot.
Kesia Lupo's We Are Bound By Stars is a fine follow-up to We Are Blood and Thunder, a richly-realised fantasy epic in which intrigue, trickery and powerful gifts from the gods throng through a cast of colourfully compelling characters. If you’re a fan of female-fronted fantasy, of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas, this series is sure to be your chalice of char. Beatrice is one of three female mask-makers in the kingdom of the Wishes, a cluster of volcanic islands ruled by a Contessa. As a result of a secret pact the Contessa made with Mythris, patron god of the Wishes, the chosen triplet mask-makers are taught to create masks with powers that aid “the Contessa in discovering and destroying her enemies”, as long as the chain of inheritance remains intact. As a middle sister, Beatrice makes Grotesques, masks that “draw power from expression”, creations with the power to manipulate emotions, but she’s desperate to flee this life of bondage. Then there’s Livio, born into a powerful family, destined to be the first male leader in aeons, but his magic is overwhelmingly wild. When his path collides with Beatrice’s, it falls to them to prevent devastating insurgency, as menacing masked assassins close in on their heels. Can they cut the strings of a controlling puppet master? Can they change the course of destiny? As their tales twist along a troubled path, the sense of time running out, of high-stakes decisions, of human emotions are grippingly evoked within a tangled web of magical trickery.
Exploring the all-consuming throes of love, malicious secondary school social politics, sexual abuse, and how difficult coming out can be, William Hussey’s Hideous Beauty is a top-notch YA thriller with hard-hitting emotional resonance. Forced by social media exposure to come out earlier than planned, Dylan and his gregarious boyfriend Ellis reveal their relationship to the world in spectacular style at a school dance: “Okay, Dylan, this is it. No going back. The closet door is firmly barred behind you, chained and bolted. No re-entry, no refunds. It’s gay all the way from here on out.” Riding high after an unexpectedly jubilant response to their revelation, tragedy strikes when they leave the party - Ellis becomes angry and their car plunges into a lake. While Dylan is rescued, Ellis drowns, leaving Dylan wracked with grief and guilt: “I deserve the pain. I deserve the crazy. I deserve a messed-up hand. No one’s taking these things away from me.” Set on trying to “find out who pulled me out of that car and why they left Ellis to drown”, it’s not long before Dylan stomps into a viper’s nest, uncovering jaw-dropping truths that set him - and readers – reeling. With his family less than supportive, at least best friend Mike remains at Dylan’s side, even though he’s undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia. Gripping, moving and unflinchingly honest, this is a fiercely affecting novel, told through the cleverly interwoven collision of two timelines.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | June 2020 Book of the Month | Teeming with drama and compelling code-cracking action, this WWII thriller is driven by the lives of three young people determined to make their mark on the war effort, and by the life-affirming relationship between fifteen-year-old Louisa and the elderly woman she’s employed to look after. Aspiring pilot Louisa is alone in the world. Her white English mother was killed in a London bomb blast, and her black Jamaican dad died on a ship that was torpedoed only three days after her mother died. Through her grief brave Louisa “burns to fight back” and takes a job looking after Jane, an elderly German woman who’s been imprisoned in an alien detainment camp. While travelling to stay with Jane’s niece in her Scottish pub, they form a beautiful bond, finding common ground in their love of music and the fact that they’re both outsiders in Britain - Jane because she’s German, and Louisa because she’s mixed race and subjected to racism. In Scotland they meet fellow outsider, Ellen, a driver for the local RAF airfield who tries to hide her traveller heritage. Ellen’s active role makes Louisa more determined to do something herself, so she takes her chance when a German defector lands at the airfield and leaves a codebreaking Enigma machine. It’s not long before Louisa, Ellen and young flight lieutenant Jamie step-up their war efforts, as their story builds to an impeccably conducted, pulse-quickening crescendo. Alongside being a gripping thriller, this is a truly moving, inspirational novel. Louisa’s passion for music and learning, her wit and ambition, are exhilaratingly infectious. I’d love to know what she does next.
The highly-anticipated and brilliantly crafted crime-thriller sequel to the no.1 debut of 2019, A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore. With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won't do anything about it. And if they won't look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town's dark secrets along the way... and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it's too late? Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying, Eva Dolan, C L Taylor, We Were Liars and Riverdale
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | On the run with her little brother, Aidan, sixteen-year-old Emily stows away on a plane in this fast-paced thriller. When their plane crashes into the side of a snowy mountain, it’s up to Emily to ensure Aidan and their pilot, Bob, make it off the mountain alive. Lost in the Alaskan wilderness and pursued by mysterious government forces who want to capture them, the unlikely team of three trek across the freezing landscape, learning more about each other, and about life, than they ever thought possible.
A Jack Courtney Adventure : with Chris Wakling | Young readers who want to be gripped, challenged, informed and entertained – this exciting new adventure series is just what you’ve been waiting for. Fourteen-year-old Jack is on a safari holiday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his parents, the wealthy founders of a conservation charity. His friends Amelia and Xander are on the trip too – so far, so idyllic (though he could do without his arrogant cousin Caleb), but then his parents are kidnapped by mercenaries. Jack has already experienced one family tragedy, he’s determined he’ll prevent another. This is a taut, tightly plotted thriller which puts young people firmly in the driving seat, but there’s lots about family and relationships too. Moreover, the authors will inspire a fascination about the wildlife of the region in readers, and alert them to the threats facing it. Fast-moving adventure with heart and a message. Jack is as appealing a hero as Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, but the books will also appeal to fans of Gill Lewis’ animal adventures, Gorilla Dawn and The Scarlet Ibis. ****Read a Q&A with Wilbur Smith on his inspiration behind Cloudburst and the different challenges of writing fiction for children.
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