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One of our Books of the Year 2016 | May 2016 Book of the Month This electrifyingly smart story of a teen girl's struggle with a tormenting voice in her head is a masterwork of contemporary YA. There's a murderer on the loose in Cassie's New Jersey hometown, the so-called Houdini Killer, which sets her quick-to-anger dad even more on edge than usual. A former Navy SEAL with untreated posttraumatic stress syndrome, he now runs the family restaurant, a site of distressing memories for them both. After finding a foot in a sneaker on the beach - one of the Houdini Killer’s victims - Cassie hears a voice telling her that she's disgusting, and it won’t let up. Convinced she's “forever doomed like Cassandra of myth - the girl who leaves a trail of violence in her wake”, the bullying voice makes Cassie promise to obey it. And she does, with near-fatal consequences, when, for example she injects herself with her Epi-Pen, which results in her being hospitalised. In the clinic she meets the irrepressible Paris. A bipolar survivor of abuse, Paris comes to play a huge part in Cassie’s life, as does one of the boys staying in her dad’s apartment for the summer. The only time the voice is really silenced is when Cassie is with him, but the voice has other plans for their burgeoning relationship. Taking the form of the “most screwed-up love letter ever” written from Cassie to the boy she falls for, this gripping, multilayered novel is an insightful exploration of grief, broken families, mental illness and the lies we tell others - and ourselves - out of fear. It’s also about losing yourself, and coming to find your true voice. Lake has a huge talent for tackling classic YA themes, but always forges his own path, cutting through clichés, stripping back the superficial, to reach the heart of his brilliantly complex characters, all delivered through spectacularly plotted storylines. ~ Joanne Owen
Powerfully thought-provoking alternate-history thriller in which an unforgettable heroine seeks revenge on Hitler. It’s 1956, more than ten years since the Nazis won the war, and 17 year-old Yael belongs to a resistance movement. After enduring scientific experimentation as a child in Auschwitz, she possesses the power to change her appearance at will, along with tattoos of wolves on her arm, and a single-minded determination to kill Hitler. To this end, Yael must embark on a road-trip like no other; she must win a motorbike race that sees her traverse the world. Alternating between Yael’s epic journey as a young woman and events from her childhood, this is an extravaganza of a story, a multi-layered tapestry of alternate-history, dystopian thriller and heroine-driven quest. Like Yael, the writing is fearless, smart and energetic, and readers will be left desperate for the sequel. ~ Joanne Owen
Gosh, this is a full on adventurous tale about hope and survival! Then there’s the beautiful friendship between a boy and an otter cub which really gives this story heart and soul. Sam tells his own tale, after the small plane he and his dad were in crashes in an Amazonian jungle river, miles from anywhere. The first sentence seizes your attention, and the book doesn't let it go until the last page. D. J. Brazier has created a jungle that bites, it is scary, and powerful and made me wince and cringe as I read. I felt Sam’s fear and loneliness and admired his grit and determination, I also fell in love with a little otter cub! The story just races along, there are brushes with death, but then there are also moments of quiet, where a beautiful sunrise sears the pages. ‘Alone’ makes you think, makes you feel, and is a thoroughly gripping and enjoyable read. ~ Liz Robinson
In three words: surprises psychic thrills Ali Sparkes’s super-readable Shapeshifter series reaches book six, and a thrilling climax. Sparkes assembles all the characters from the series and its spin off Unleashed for this adventure and fans will appreciate just how the characters have developed over the course of the story. Things are looking bleak for Dax, as Fenton Lodge, home to him and the other COLA (Children of Limitless Ability) has been turned into a virtual prison, surrounded with walls and iron fences. Even a shapeshifter as gifted as Dax is unable to escape. Under constant guard, his only hope is his little sister, but it turns out they have more in common than anyone suspected. Fans will hope that this isn’t the end for the characters, and with an author like Ali Sparkes, nothing should be ruled out. ~ Andrea Reece
April 2016 Book of the Month No-one writes teen horror with anything like the wit, gory panache and comic timing of Derek Landy. His Demon Road stories are definitely not for the faint-hearted: fourteen people have been disembowelled, ripped apart or had their heads staved in by the end of page two of this new book! But they are irresistible reading for anyone looking for thrilling page-turners peopled by a hugely appealing cast of eccentrics and outsiders (not all of them alive). Demon Amber is once again racing down America’s Dark Highway with her bodyguard Miles, racing against time to complete her bargain with the devil, only this time the Hounds of Hell are on her trail. Breathless, blood-stained, far, far more fun than it has any right to be! Other masters of the macabre for teenagers include Charlie Higson (The Enemy series), Darren Shan (Demonata series) and Michael Grant (Gone series). ~ Andrea Reece
April 2016 Debut of the Month Amidst panic on the streets of Dark Manchester and an atmosphere of political and social unrest, Preston is desperate to find his friend Alice. While searching for her, Preston unearths more than he’d bargained for when he discovers a secret scientific institute with a sinister young offenders prison in its cavernous, steam punk-esque depths. Inside, the kids are fighting and fast becoming feral due to lack of food, and one of them, the daughter of a formerly prominent and now deceased politician, needs serious medical attention. Alongside this mounting urgency, Preston and a well-intentioned warden have a chance to expose this horrific government scheme at the New Conservative party conference that’s taking place in Dark Manchester that night. But time is running out… Set in an entirely imaginable future world, this is a tense and tautly written dystopian sci-fi page-turner. The in-the-moment action feels like watching a thriller through the eyes of the hero, and the theme of young people fighting corrupt politicians is explored with style and poise. ~ Joanne Owen
He was supposed to be having fun with his friends, not playing detective and stalking a serial killer. Theodore Boone - teenage lawyer and courtroom hero - is on a class trip seeing the sights of the capital city. But he hadn't counted on seeing the most wanted man in the history of his home town, Strattenberg. Suddenly Theo is caught in the hunt for an accused murderer, alongside the FBI. Theo knows he's getting in deep - and things could become even more dangerous. Because if this case goes back to court, it will be down to him. Will justice finally be done...or will the killer's criminal allies be out for revenge?
March 2016 Book of the Month Buckle up, because you are in for a hell of a ride! Amber’s parents strike readers – and her – as eccentric, but nothing prepares her for the awful truth, revealed on her sixteenth birthday: they are demons, and so is she. Not that that will stop them from killing and eating her. Fleeing her parents, Amber embarks on a road-trip like no other. In the company of inscrutable bodyguard Miles and Glen, a gormless Irish hitchhiker with supernatural issues of his own, she speeds down America’s Dark Highway, careering from one terrifying encounter with something nasty and dead to another, racing to complete a deal with the boss demon to save her life. An exhilarating mix of comedy and thrills, Demon Road had me laughing out loud one minute, jumping out of my seat the next: hard to believe that something this gory should be so much fun! Unmissable! ~ Andrea Reece
Michael's parents buy a yacht, and take him off to sail round the world. Washed overboard in a fierce storm, Michael finds himself on the shore of a remote island - and soon discovers he's not alone. Kensuke, a former Japanese soldier, survived the war and the bombing of Hiroshima, but his family perished. As an extraordinary bond forms between the two, Kensuke faces a heart-breaking choice: can he give up the secluded life he's built for himself to help reunite Michael with his parents? Knowing the pain of losing his own family, Kensuke knows which way he has to decide... Reading this book will take you through every emotion you can think of, from great joy and laughter to utter sadness and loss. At its heart is a story of friendship that will live long in your mind long after and whilst reading it you will be utterly captivated.
“I've built myself too many identities and now they're imploding,” remarks the main character of this gripping novel, encapsulating the main motif that runs through its veins. Aiden Kendrick is promising football prospect who trains with the Norwich youth team and lives with his mum and wealthy entrepreneur stepdad in an affluent area.He finds out that a girl he “used to be close to” has gone missing when the police turn up to question him. Both the police and Lizzie’s friends, including Aiden and his best mate, Scobes, dig into Lizzie’s online life and it emerges that she’s been chatting to a bloke called ‘Hal Peterson’. Then, as Hal’s identity begins to look increasingly suspect, the truth behind Aiden and Lizzie’s falling-out also comes to light, and a succession of increasingly shocking twists take the tale to a jaw-dropping finale. This riveting thriller explores many manifestations of deception, from digital duplicity and the forced fakery of the “Spoilt in the Suburbs" reality TV show that’s being filmed in town, to Lizzie’s love of drama, and secrets between friends. It will make you think twice about who you’re really befriending online, and what you think you know about real-life loved ones. ~ Joanne Owen
What if a teenage boy washed up on the banks of the River Thames, soaked to the skin and unable to explain who he is? What if the only clue to the boy's identity is a sketch he made of a strange symbol? Who would help him? Who would hunt him? Who is River Boy? Unable to communicate, the River Boy is given paper and a pencil and begins to scribble. Soon a symbol emerges, but the boy has no idea why he has drawn it even thought it's the only clue to the mystery of his identity... As the boy begins to build a new life under a new name, the hunt for his real identity begins. A hunt which will lead him on a dangerous QUEST that he has only one year to complete ...
Brilliantly visualised, these graphic novel versions of the best-selling stories of boy spy Alex Rider add a fantastic new dimension to the original and terrific for getting even the most reluctant of readers to enjoy the experience of reading. Following the death of his guardian, Alex is forcibly recruited into MI6 and so finds himself off on some seriously hair raising missions in which he faces terrible danger and the real risk of death. In Stormbreaker, the first in the series, he pits his wits against a sinister organisation run by arch crook Darrius Sayle. Alex Rider is a perfect hero. To view other graphic novels click here.
A bold and stylish reissue of the groundbreaking and hugely popular graphic adaptation of Alex Rider's very first mission. Brilliantly visualised, these graphic novel versions of the best-selling stories of boy spy Alex Rider add a fantastic new dimension to the original and terrific for getting even the most reluctant of readers to enjoy the experience of reading. Following the death of his guardian, Alex is forcibly recruited into MI6 and so finds himself off on some seriously hair raising missions in which he faces terrible danger and the real risk of death. In Stormbreaker, the first in the series, he pits his wits against a sinister organisation run by arch crook Darrius Sayle. Alex Rider is a perfect hero. ~ Julia Eccleshare