THERE’S a great selection of both sweet treats and darker confections for teen readers this Easter.
For my tastes Teresa Totem’s The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Walker, £6.99) is already up there with the best books so far this year. Adam is fast approaching his 15th birthday when he meets “the love of his life”, Robyn, in the unusual setting of an OCD support group for teenagers. He is desperate to be her superhero, which is a tough proposition for anyone, but seemingly impossible when every day is full of tics and rituals that have to be followed before you can even step out through the front door. If life wasn’t complicated enough, Adam’s mum has her own issues, which only make his journey through that front door even more difficult. It’s all almost too much for any superhero to bear and as things escalate life-changing decisions have to be made. It’s a warm, funny novel that moves the reader at the same time as giving a thoughtful insight into the world of an OCD teenager. Adam is one of those unforgettable characters who it’s extremely difficult to leave behind.
Allan Stratton’s The Dogs (Andersen Press, £7.99) is the story of Cameron and his mum who are once more on the run from his violent father. They hide out at a farm, a rental home in the middle of nowhere, hoping this time is the last time. Cameron has to attempt yet another fresh start, but again comes up against local bullies. There are deeper, darker concerns at the farm itself, however, when the ghost of a boy seems to speak to Cameron. Jacky lived in the farmhouse some 50 years earlier and Cameron feels compelled to investigate, becoming more and more entangled in the past. How did Jacky die? Is there any truth to the horrific local legends? Is the nighttime sound of a pack of dogs real or imagined? This is a darkly suspenseful thriller blurring the lines between reality and imagination, keeping you guessing and keeping you awake long into the night listening out for the sound of barking.
Don’t fancy something moody and violent? Try something comical and crazy instead. Saci Lloyd’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (Hodder, £6.99) is a madcap adventure for fans of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Mikey Malone has finally managed to get “hottest girl on the block” Caitlin up to his bedroom. Hooray! So how did he end up on a parallel Earth, running for his life from a megalomaniac Lolcat? At least he’s in the company of renegade girl Kix and her old-tech robot BitZer. A rollercoaster novel in the best sense, Lloyd throws in more weird ideas, weird creatures and weird spellings than many sane readers could deal with. But everyone loves a little bit of crazy every now and again. Just hold on for the ride, and enjoy what you see – wherever you’ll end up.
Donald Hounam’s Gifted (Corgi, £7.99) is for readers who need a new magical fantasy fix. Is it the new Harry Potter? Of course not. But it’s still fun and entertaining and brilliantly imagined. Fifteen-year-old Frank Sampson is the forensic sorcerer in Doughnut City, where teenagers are at the height of their powers and adults eventually loose their ability to even see. He’s on duty when the Bishop of Oxford is found dead and decapitated. As Frank and Detective Constable Marvell, a 17-year-old girl, investigate, they are chased by demons, hindered by illegal witchcraft and abused by people who are fearing the sorcerers that serve them. This fastpaced murder mystery is set in a dark world where magic equals blood and sacrifice. Frank may be difficult to empathise with in the beginning, but Hounam creates a well-rounded character in a fully realized world which draws the reader inexorably deeper.
Congratulations to Cathy MacPhail who won Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2015 in the Older Readers category. Mosi’s War (Bloomsbury, £6.99) opens with the disturbing yet gripping scene of Patrick witnessing a man fall from a neighbouring tower block. He initially loves the attention he gets for being a witness, but what was it he actually saw? What happened that night on the roof? As Patrick and his new friend, an asylum seeker called Mosi, investigate, they get drawn into a hunt for a legendary Glasgow vampire and the real-life discovery of the war criminal Papa Blood, from whom Mosi is desperate to escape. This exciting yet poignant novel proves that real-life action can be so much more horrific than myths and legends.
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