The genius behind the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, has turned his hand to writing a teen novel. Trollhunters (Hot Key Books, £9.99), co-written with Daniel Kraus and illustrated by Sean Murray, is set in California, and children are going missing. Again. The last “Milk Carton Epidemic” happened over 30 years ago when 13 year-old Jack Sturges, Jim’s older brother, was one of the missing. All these years later Jim still swears a huge monster took Jack, but nobody believed him then, and even his 15 year-old son Jim Jr refuses to believe him now. Until, that is, Blinky (think tentacles and lots of eyes), ARGHH!!! (think fur and horns), and Jack (not a day older then when he was taken) crawl out of the troll world into Jim’s bedroom telling him they need his help. It’s a highly visual read (as you’d expect from someone who has a day job as a Hollywood director - particularly one with del Toro’s fantastical imagination.) It’s also extremely funny, but that’s not going to stop you checking under your bed for monsters.
There are more monster-fighting teens in Andy Mulligan’s Liquidator (David Fickling Books, £12.99), although this “monster” is a global corporation. Liquidator is an energy drink set to make millions but something went wrong in the testing phase and now a ten year-old Kenyan boy called Jamie is fighting for his life. Obviously the company is keen to bury the story, but Vicky and her friends refuse to let this happen – or let Jamie die.
As in Mulligan’s award-winning Trash, set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Liquidator highlights big issues and injustice in a thought-provoking yet accessible way. This novel will entertain and enrage you in equal measure.
Multi-award-winning Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here (Walker, £12.99) turns the trope of the Chosen One on it’s head. Mikey is a relatively normal teenager whose family is pretty messed up. His mum is running for senate again and his anorexic sister is trying her best to be normal. Mikey is definitely not a Chosen One, tasked with saving humanity from zombies and soul-eating ghosts. He is, however, working up the courage to ask Henna out for prom. The beauty of this fast-paced, funny and light-hearted novel is that in slightly shifting the spotlight away from the Chosen Ones, the expected heroes, the obvious saviours, Ness makes a critical comment on our anxiety of being forgotten and our desire for life to have meaning. It’s an anxiety and desire we all feel from time to time, but something that will resonate especially strongly with teen readers.
William Sutcliffe’s Concentr8 (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is set in London after the infamous 2011 riots. Budget cuts have resulted in the withdrawal of the Ritalin-like Concentr8, a drug used to keep unruly teens in line. Blaze’s gang go well beyond looting when they kidnap a worker from the mayor’s office. The book shifts its point of view from the kidnappers and their hostage, to the journalist investigating the crime and even the mayor himself, giving readers varying sides of the darkly compelling story.
Sutcliffe’s own negative views on using drugs to control behaviour are represented in excerpts from non-fiction books that begin each chapter but this often comical, yet ultimately sad, novel allows readers to make up their own minds about how young people should be treated by society.
Jandy Nelson’s second novel I’ll Give You The Sun (Walker, £7.99) is an intense story of love in many forms. Love between parents and siblings; physical and cerebral; expected and unexpected. Twins Jude and Noah are incredibly close until their mother’s death tears them apart. As the years pass they drift further and further apart until Jude meets the sculptor Guillermo Garcia at her art school. Who is he and how come he knows so much about her and her family? Will he turn out to be an angel or a demon for her and Noah?
In the same vein as Nelson’s first novel, The Sky is Everywhere, this is an achingly beautiful story for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Gayle Foreman. Make sure you keep some tissues close by.