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February 2020 Debut of the Month | Set in a world that’s become “a walking graveyard”, this edge-of-your-seat thriller teems with cinematic chills and the tender love between two teenage boys. Indeed, author Darren Charlton has hit the nail on the head in describing his debut as The Walking Dead meets Brokeback Mountain. “Clock it. Kill it. Rid the world of it” - this is how encounters with the zombie Restless Ones must be handled, a mantra soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old Peter struggles to follow. Too trusting, and infinitely better with a darning needle than an axe or gun, he’s something of a liability to the community, especially as another winter sets in, for “winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than an eagle’s gaze. But because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.” When the community comes under serious threat during their annual First Fall party, Peter winds up as zombie bait with his at-one-with-the-wilds boyfriend Connor responsible for wrangling the Restless Ones like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. On the mainland, the young lovers uncover an earth-shattering secret and it’s not long before Connor’s situation is seriously comprised, leading to Peter stepping-up and standing tall. Gripping and graphically gory, this dynamic debut is dystopian horror with a difference, for it pulsates not only with terror and visceral violence, but also with love, affection and emotional atmosphere.
February 2020 Book of the Month | This gripping must-read for sports fans fizzes with a powerful message about picking yourself up and self-belief, and a poignant portrayal of gang culture coercion. I cannot praise Dan Freeman’s compassion-rich writing enough. Life’s not easy for twin fourteen-year-olds Kaine and Roxy growing up on their London estate. Their dad’s lost his job and mum works all hours. But Roxy and Kaine aren’t your average teenagers. He’s a super-talented footballer with Premier League potential, and she’s an outstanding tennis player, tipped for the top. Oh, and they can’t stand each other. After being close as kids, they’ve grown apart, with Roxy loathing the fact that Kaine’s always in trouble, and Kaine hating the way Roxy gets all the attention and support, overlooked even when a scout for a Premier League club comes to watch him. Both a bundle of frustration, Kaine is tempted into dangerous territory. If only Mamma, their Barbados-born grandmother, was around to keep Kaine on the right track. Mamma’s warm, wise presence is felt throughout the novel. She was the person Kaine turned to in times of need. She’d feed him soul food, remind him that he’s special, urge him to “do the extraordinary.” Sage advice comes from Kaine’s supportive PE teacher too, who counsels “There are paths in life, there are choices. And you are at one of those crossroads now”. When tragedy strikes as Kaine loses his way it takes a whole lot of soul-searching for him to turns things round and become the extraordinary young man he is. And Roxy tackles her profoundly life-changing situation with heartrending courage too. With overriding messages of hope, compassion, doing the right thing and staying true to yourself, this is an absolute galáctico, Grand Slam winner of a novel.
Jess’s mother was the first victim of a serial killer who came to be known as the Magpie Man, and ten years later the case is still unsolved, and the death toll stands at thirteen. A chance to be part of a YouTube reality show for teenagers gives Jess an idea; what if while being filmed, she can goad the Magpie Man into revealing himself? This inevitably raises reader’s questions about the social responsibility of media companies and the way both police and responsible adults allow Jess to take this reckless attitude to her own safety. But in reality, it seems that Jess lost two parents the day her mother was killed, her quest for the killer is also a chance to rescue her father from a deep depression. She luckily has good friends, both old and newly discovered in this process, looking out for her. The plot constantly twists and turns and keeps the reader inexorably gripped throughout. The ultimate reveal of who and why is both satisfactory as well as surprising. Told entirely in the first person the character development of Jess is outstanding and the subtle nuances of grief and the way in which bereavement affects other people and their treatment of you is very well done. A novel that is entirely current and yet with the age-old thrill of a complex mystery.
Shortlist for the UKLA Book Award 2019 | Winner of the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | In a nutshell: tense, super-suspenseful novel based on harrowing real life events | After the Fire was inspired by the Waco siege in Texas 1993 when 82 members of the Branch Davidian sect and four US government agents died in a fire fight after a long siege. It’s not a fictionalised version, but Hill imagines life in the camp and as a survivor. Moonbeam, his central character, is beginning to doubt the teaching of Father John and to comprehend the methods he uses to control his followers. A survivor, she’s being coaxed to tell the story of the events that led up to that deadly confrontation with ‘The Authorities’. The tension rarely abates, and Hill makes readers empathise with Moonbeam’s confusion and fear. He also makes us desperate to discover the secrets she’s keeping, and long for her to achieve the freedom that’s always been denied. One of the most gripping and suspenseful books you’ll read all year.
A clever, stimulating novel painting a picture of first loves and first drafts. Darcy, at eighteen, moves to New York City after her book wins a publishing deal. As her story unfolds, with writers block and deadlines galore, we also read her book, ‘Afterworlds’ in alternating chapters. As Darcy learns about herself and the intricacies of the publishing world, so her book evolves before us. Death haunts Darcy’s book, sometimes in graphic detail, so the light touches of wit that float across the pages are refreshing. Inventive and artful, Westerfeld displays a deft touch, is Darcy writing the book or is the book helping to write Darcy? ~ Liz Robinson
SAS hero Chris Ryan sets a cracking pace for this story of school boy Zak Darke’s recruitment by a government agency. After his parents die from mysterious food poisoning in Nigeria, Zak knows someone is watching him. But who? When the truth is revealed, Zak is dispatched to face danger in Mexico. Working alone, he can trust no one. It’s scary stuff and Zak needs all his courage and cleverness to survive.
A brilliantly brain-warping thriller and a love story that leaps back and forth in time - All Our Yesterdays is an amazing first novel, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games. A small number of our readers were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Here's a taster....'This is amazing and I would definitely recommend it to people who like thrilling books full of excitement. I think this is one of the best books I have ever read!' - Rose Derbyshire Scroll down to read more reviews...
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 a world where a load of teenagers have been banged up in a remote prison but don't know why, this edge of your seat, white knuckle ride stuff is the sequel to debut novel Nowhere. Now a few of them have escaped using a talent they have but now they're being hunted. Brilliant characterisation and welll drawn time and place means you almost feel you're there with escapees. Once finished it is certain to leave you clamouring for the next instalment. A small number of teenagers were lucky enough to be invited to review the first in this series - Nowhere. Here's a taster....'Nowhere is a brilliant, un-put-downable book...Thrilling and fast-paced, readers will be hooked from the first page and will not want to stop reading this action-packed, emotive book.' Scroll down to read further reader reviews.
Award-winning Bernard Beckett opens this dazzling philosophical novel with a near fatal car crash. Trapped in a wrecked car, Tristan and Grace, almost strangers who have been thrown together by fate, tell each other their stories. Brought up under the rule of St Augustine, Tristan’s training has revolved around the meaning of free will; Grace has only known a life of hardship and little hope with no room in it for ideas and theories. When their paths first cross both question the strict rules of the society they live in and find a new meaning and world outlook through their love for each other. A thoughtful novel which probes readers’ understanding of why individuals behave as they do. From the author of Genesis.
Shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Prize 2009. It seems like just another day at school, then Mia's world turns upside down.School is being evacuated. Rumour has it there's a gunman in the building. And Mia has a horrible feeling she knows who it is... Her brother has been acting strangely. He's been threatening to do something drastic, something frightening, and something that cannot be ignored... but just how far will he go? Mia is determined to find out, but playing cat and mouse with a potential killer is a very dangerous game...
Ally Kennen's observations of teenage life, along with the themes of dysfunctional families and the people who fall between the gaps in society, are what define her as one of the best authors writing for young people. In Bedlam Ally Kennen has once again been supremely clever in delivering a plot that will make your blood run cold whilst at the same time delivering dead pan humour. It's absolutely gripping but not everyone will be brave enough to read it. This is the third chilling teen title from Ally Kennen. Berserk and Beast are the 2nd and 1st respectively.
Emma Haughton’s debut won her comparisons with Sophie McKenzie – high praise indeed. Her new book, Better Left Buried, confirms her reputation for taut, well-plotted psychological thrillers. Sarah’s brother has died, which is terrible enough, but then Sarah realises she is being followed – could her brother have got his family involved in some very nasty business? Working out what has happened will take Sarah to Sweden, and into very real danger. The tension mounts chapter by chapter, and leads to a nail-biting climax. Sarah is a sympathetic central character, which makes the menacing atmosphere around her all the more scary. A book to send shivers down the spine. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Sarah Stewart, Usborne Publishing Despite this being only her second novel, to me, Emma Haughton is a master thriller writer. The tension in this book builds almost unbearably, layer upon layer, to an explosive action-packed climax, and the writing is exquisite – certain passages still give me shivers no matter how many times I read them! Culminating in an incredible atmospheric road-trip to Sweden, it echoes the best Scandi crime novels. But best of all, it has the ultimate bad-boy character in Jack. Whose side is he on? Will we ever know for sure? I couldn’t help falling for him either way!
May 2017 Book of the Month | In a Nutshell: Devastating deceits and sanity-shattering set-ups | Tense, twisty thriller in which a girl’s disappearance spirals into a snare of manipulation and lies.. Fourteen-year-old Jude has gone missing from Port Glasgow. No one has heard from her until she texts Abbie, the novel’s narrator: “I want to come home,” it reads. Abbie says she has no idea why this was sent to her. They weren’t close. In fact, Abbie isn't close to anyone. She’s an observer who likes “watching things from a distance”, until she finds herself the focus of frenzied media coverage. But the nightmare really begins when Abbie suggests holding a candlelit vigil for Jude. It’s then that the story explodes into a terrifying tale of entrapment and harassment. The twists are truly unforeseeable, the mounting sense of paranoia is brilliantly evoked, and this authentically told tale will surely create a whole new generation of McPhail-ites. ~ Joanne Owen
Sabine has secret - every night she switches between her two lives. At midnight she slips between her two homes, her two families and her two personalities. In one she is a bright A grade student living in a classy neighbourhood and attending a good school. In the other she lives in a run down house with a loving family who disapprove of her streetwise friends and ebullient social life. Which is the real Sabine? And which would she rather live in? Contrasting the two life styles gives a lot of scope for exploring teenage choices and the reasons for them.