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Five teens in detention are hit by a storm when one of them of dies. Outsider Simon, creator of the notorious Bayview High gossip app, wryly remarks that they’re all “walking teen-movie stereotypes” and casts himself as the “omniscient narrator” shortly before collapsing to his death. The question is, why was there allergy-inducing peanut oil in Simon’s water? And why were the EpiPens missing from the nurse’s office? His death seems anything but accidental and, since Simon had dirt on pretty much the entire school population, a whole lot of people might have wanted him dead. But when it emerges that he was about to reveal highly damaging secrets about his four co-detainees (we’re talking the kind of secrets that mess-up lives and destroy futures), they’re first in the frame for his murder. A snappy story of cover-ups, lies and unraveling lives unfolds amidst a hotbed of suspicion and the personal plights of the accused teenagers, including two storylines of a romantic nature that truly tug at the heart. Entertainingly addictive, sharply written, with a genuinely jaw-dropping twist, this first-rate thriller exposes the murky morality of social media salaciousness, and questions what lengths a person might go to in order to protect their darkest secrets.
A story of best friends, bad luck and the consequences of breaking the rules in a town built on secrets and superstitions. Growing up in Ember Grove, Bitsy Clark knows better than to break the rules around the Revelry, the mysterious end-of-year party in the woods. So when her best friend, Amy, persuades her to sneak in, Bitsy is full of misgivings. Misgivings that she should have listened to, because it's after the Revelry that Bitsy's luck turns and her life starts to unravel. For Amy it's the opposite, as if she's been blessed with good fortune. Soon Bitsy is convinced that the Revelry has tied the two friends together in a curse that only she can break...
An explosive new YA thriller, from the author of Last One To Die. The students at Morton Academy are high-achievers, selected based on academic excellence. So when a series of murders target the school's brightest and best, the pressure is on. Someone is determined to stop at nothing to clear their path to the top. But who is it? And can they be stopped? A high-school slasher with a lethal twist Perfect for fans of Karen McManus, Holly Jackson and Gossip Girl. Have you read Cynthia Murphy's thrilling debut Last One to Die?
A spellbinding supernatural teen drama - and sequel to All Our Hidden Gifts. Maeve and her friends have revealed their powers and banded together as a coven: Roe can pick locks, Lily sends sparks flying, Maeve can read minds and Fiona can heal any injury. And even better than their newfound talents? Roe and Maeve are officially an item. But with strange things happening at school, and old enemies appearing in new places, it soon becomes clear their powers are attracting all the wrong attention. It's not long before Maeve's gift start to wane, drained by someone - or something - that's hiding even from her second sight... The brilliant second installment in the Hidden Gifts series, with further titles to come.
'I saw him die right in front of my eyes.' 'That you did,' replies Damien. 'But you underestimated his power. Tanas is back and stronger than ever . . .' When Genna's parents are murdered, the police put the tragedy down to a burglary gone wrong. But Genna knows the truth: the Soul Hunters are back and her nightmare is far from over. With home no longer safe, she flees to America to find Phoenix, the only one who can help her - or so she thinks. While searching for her Soul Protector, Genna meets other First Ascendants like her, and Soul Warriors tasked with protecting the Light. But the Hunters are on her trail and it's only a matter of time before Genna comes face-to-face with their leader once more. For Tanas has miraculously incarnated into a new body, and is hungry for her soul. Genna must look to her past lives to survive. But how can she defeat Tanas when evil never dies?
From the international bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new addictive thriller. Ivy, Mateo and Cal used to be close - best friends back in middle school. Now all they have in common is a bad day. So for old time's sake they skip school together - one last time. But when the trio spot Brian 'Boney' Mahoney ditching class too, they follow him - right into a murder scene. They all have a connection to the victim. And they're ALL hiding something. When their day of freedom turns deadly, it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out . . . It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off with murder, perfect for fans of One Of Us Is Lying and A Good Girl's Guide To Murder. This explosive new thriller is impossible to put down.
The chilling conclusion to the bestselling Magpie Society series. A DEADLY DISAPPEARANCE A RACE AGAINST TIME And, at the eleventh hour . . . A SHOCKING REVELATION... Audrey and Ivy, determined to bring their fellow student Lola Radcliffe's killer to justice, find themselves in the middle of another mystery when a friend disappears in suspicious circumstances. Their only clue is a mysterious card left by the enigmatic Magpie Society. With time running out and the police baffled, Audrey and Ivy must delve deeper than ever into the dark secrets that their school is hiding. But someone is playing a deadly game. And to beat them, Audrey and Ivy have to start rewriting the rules...
December 2021 YA Debut of the Month | Set in a super-elite high school, How We Fall Apart, Katie Zhao's super-suspenseful YA debut, serves insights into race, class and the pressure to perform in gripping style. Shimmering with secrets, love, toxic peer pressure, parental pressure and tested loyalties, the novel delves deep into the world of academic competitiveness to create an edgy fast-paced thriller. Voiced by scholarship student Nancy Luo, “the daughter of two immigrants who’d fought tooth and nail to make it to the States, only to spend years struggling to make ends meet”, the story begins with the disappearance of one of Sinclair Prep’s most tipped-for-the-top pupils, Jamie Ruan. One-time best friend of Nancy, Jamie is the kind of girl who “could get away with anything, do away with anyone”, until someone does away with her. It’s not long before Nancy and her three friends seem to be the prime suspects in her murder, with an anonymous poster on the school’s gossip app incriminating them and threatening to reveal their darkest secrets. Tingling with suspense, and an undercurrent of class division, fans of edgy YA thrillers will be turning the pages at breakneck speed as the mystery twists and turns in unexpected directions.
Best-selling father and son have turned their attention to the dangers of prescription drug misuse, but as one might expect from the master of dystopian fiction, this comes with a twist. Imagine drugs personified as Greek Gods looking down from Olympus tasked with bringing people to The Party (addiction) and all the way to the ‘end of the line’- the VIP lounge (overdose and death). We know the stakes are high- the book opens with the painful and shocking description of the death of I. Ramey, but when we meet siblings Ivy and Isaac we do not know which of them it will be and their tragic and all too believable journeys keep you completely gripped. But first, we meet the alluring Roxy (Roxicodone) and the pompous over-achiever Addi (Adderall) and learn about their place in the drug hierarchy. They know they are gateway drugs and in various interludes they talk about their genuine lifesaving moments, but they also know that they can get their ‘plus-ones’ to the VIP lounge alone and so their deadly wager begins. Ivy is the eldest sibling, already running with a bad crowd and overindulging in recreational drugs but wants to turn over a new leaf and reluctantly agrees to treatment for her ADD. Isaac is hardworking and a sports star with a scholarship chance for college until an injury threatens that. Well-meaning help from his grandmother’s pain killer prescription launches him down the slippery slope. The multiple narrative strands weave together effortlessly. From Roxy’s and Addi’s first-person perspectives to Isaac’s and Ivy’s third-person limited viewpoints and combined with interludes, in which other drugs tell their stories, and words emboldened in the poetic chapter headings hinting at themes or plot points, this is masterful storytelling. A challenging read that pulls no punches nor offers much help to the reader who may need to look up street names for drugs to identify all the ‘gods’, this is a book with a powerful message that needs to be read and discussed.
November 2021 Debut of the Month | A raw and lyrical power surges through Lisa Fuller’s Ghost Bird debut as it tells the gripping story of a First Nations teenager who’s gone missing from her rural Queensland town. This is YA fiction at its most thrilling and enthralling. Stacey and Laney might be mirror twins, but they have vastly different personalities. While Stacey is keen to get her head down at school, Laney skips lessons and sneaks out to see her boyfriend, until the night she doesn’t come home. While the white townsfolk and white authorities assume this is just another of her rebellions (as Stacey remarks, “all the positions of power are held by property owners, all white, and all with memories of when they ‘owned’ us”), Stacey knows different. She can see and feel this is different too, through the vivid dreams that haunt her. If only her Nan were still alive. She’d know what to do, she could guide Stacey to harness her dreams: “I’d spent the most time with her listening to the old stories, learning the things that Nan always said would keep me safe. There were things she’d promised to tell me when I was older that I’d never get to hear now.” The sense of kinship, community, spirituality and ancestral bonds is tremendously powerful, and the writing uniquely beautiful. “I’ve always seen the golden core of her”, Stacey says of her twin. “The soft melting heart that the hard shell protects.” Driven by desperate love for Laney, and by the terrifying urgency of her dreams, Stacey seeks advice from “Mad May Miller”, the elder of a family her own family has long feuded with, but a woman who can help Stacey use her dreams to find her sister. At once brutal and rivetingly lyrical, this is a multi-layered contemporary YA masterwork.
A November 2021 Star Book! | Reeling with high-stakes adventure, Shadow Town smoulders with big themes delivered in engaging style. There’s something Neil Gaiman-esque about the tone and matter of fact delivery, with emotional forces simmering, barely contained, beneath the surface. This masterful sparseness creates tremendous tension throughout Shadow Town’s classic quest to return home, with Toto here taking the form of Alfred the cat, and Dorothy manifested as Toby, a lonely, unhappy boy from suburban London who finds himself pulled into an alternate world during the upheaval of his parent’s impending divorce. Toby’s dad is an unkind grump, embittered by his lot in the world, and consumed by the fantasy novel he’s been writing since before Toby was born. Toby’s mum is a climate activist. Neither parent really pays him any attention, and his sole friends are their lodger and her cat, Alfred. Toby’s miserable lot is shaken up when a shadow appears in his garden and his dreams, and he finds himself transported to a strange land, where elemental forces (blazing fires, floods and earthquakes) are at play in a kingdom ruled by a tyrant. A realm in which Dreamers can envision things into existence. Here Toby meets otherworldly, ethereal Tamurlaine. As he helps recover her memory (cue a succession of unexpected, shocking revelations), and helps others along the way too, Toby shows his true self through taking responsibility and looking out for those who are weaker than him, and through fixing things rather than settling for the status quo. Alongside exploring themes of self-determination and forging your own path, rather than treading the one that’s expected of you, Shadow Town’s fantasy world is an allegory of Toby’s life in the real world, and also a kind of political allegory - “The Dreamers dream what the government tells them to. What the government wants. And the Regent is head of the government. The Regent has made dreaming like a machine - he churns out dreams. He gives the people what they want.” Above all, though, Shadow Town is a smart, punch-packing page-turner, with engrossing atmosphere.
This page-turning story of two teenage boys living either side of the Berlin Wall in the 1960s evokes a period that’s yet to be widely explored in UK children’s literature. As such, it offers welcome (and outlandish) coverage of a key time in modern history, while also delivering a thriller that reels with tension and personal conflict. Harry is a comic-obsessed US citizen who’s recently moved from Washington to West Berlin - his dad has a high-powered job with the US government. In the opening pages, he witnesses the brutal, traumatic sight of a boy being shot while trying to flee the East for the West. As this haunts Harry, his parents become increasingly fraught by the strains of his father’s job, and he sends a message over the wall. It’s found by Jakob, a boy living in the East. Jakob has been adopted by a prominent Stasi officer and his wife, who hope to mould him into a model citizen of the GDR while he clings onto hope that his mother and sister might still be alive. The boys strike up a friendship through exchanging letters over the wall, using secret codes to communicate what they really think, what’s really happening in their lives. While an atmosphere of suspicion and fear radiates from the paranoid political context, their bond is based on trust and they share dangerous secrets, including an audacious plan - Jakob and his musician friends are working to escape to the West via a tunnel. The escalating urgency is palpable as the escape draws closer and Harry discovers shocking revelations. No one is who they seem; the danger is very real and powerfully evoked. One for fans of thrilling action adventures with real-life “imagine being there” intrigue.
November 2021 Star Book | At once steeped in richly-conjured West African myths and landscapes, and a page-turning thriller with real-life resonance (courtesy of its unforgettable protagonist), Yaba Badoe’s Lionheart Girl is a wonder of YA fiction. This is magic realism at its most powerful, exploring as it does universal themes of family bonds, fleeing and finding your way, through language that’s brilliantly enmeshed with its setting and subjects: “my heart, big as a lake in the wet season, shrivels to a slick of water in the dry.” Sheba was born into a family of witches, to a line of powerful women who can shapeshift, whose touch can uncover people’s deepest desires and fears. The story begins with Sheba fleeing her village to find her father, spurred by “the fizz in my fingers whenever I touched Ma’s hair”. In time, Sheba’s overbearing mother reveals, “We royal women are special. Our blood is enriched by generations of ritual and magic. Magic flows through us”. And so Sheba unknots her own powers, and secrets of her past, in a tale that rails against convention while feeling utterly timeless.
December 2021 Book of the Month | Tom is an orphan and as the celebrations for the end of term finish it seems he’ll be spending the summer alone at his boarding school. No wonder he accepts an invitation to visit the uncle he’s never met – indeed, never heard of – despite the strangeness of the message and its delivery. Arriving at Mundham Farm, things get stranger yet, the boundaries between this world and that of the mysterious Folk, or Samdhya, seeming to shift in the summer heat, along with our understanding of time itself. His uncle’s home is a worse and more oppressive prison than school; can Tom find a way to escape and to free the other prisoners from his uncle’s control? It’s a wonderfully heady and atmospheric adventure, exploring ideas of family, trust, power and freedom. Womack is a fine writer and this is one to recommend to fans of Frances Hardinge or Philip Reeve.
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