Teen fiction round-up

Steve Cole PIC: Paul Wilkinson Photography
Steve Cole PIC: Paul Wilkinson Photography
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Lightning Strike (Red Fox, £6.99) is Steve Cole’s third Young Bond novel, but it’s the eighth book in the series, the first five having been penned by ever-popular Charlie Higson. In this latest instalment, James is settling into Edinburgh’s Fettes College after having been expelled from Eton. But there are strange experiments going on at the school and after James gets the blame for his new friend Marcus’s death, he begins investigating. He uncovers the development of a new, secret weapon, the Steel Shadow, and follows its creators as it’s shipped across Europe, apparently to aid the Nazis.

Fearless, confident and curious, this young James Bond shows how the grown-up legend came to be. A twisty novel full of surprises, Lighting Strike is a top-class action-packed adventure that’s impossible to read slowly.

Scottish Children’s Book Award winner Danny Weston’s new novel The Haunting of Jessop Rise (Andersen Press, £7.99) is an atmospheric and creepy Hallowe’en read. Set in Wales in the 1850s, orphaned William becomes an unpaid servant in his mean but mysterious Uncle Seth’s remote mansion, Jessop Rise. Spooked by local legends of the terrifying Gwrach, a witch who appears omen-like before someone’s death, William gradually unravels the murderous family secret kept by Seth. But is William next in line to die?

It’s a classic haunted house story with few surprises, but the engaging, warm writing draws you in and the fast-paced story races you to a satisfying conclusion.

Debut Scottish author Martin Stewart’s Riverkeep (Penguin, £7.99) was snapped up by the publisher on the strength of a 2,000-word short story, which Stewart transformed into this outstanding novel. It tells the tale of Wulliam, whose family has tended the dark River Danék for centuries. He will be the new Riverkeep on his 16th birthday, in just five days’ time. But when his father falls into the water only to re-emerge supernaturally changed, he has to leave the parts of the river he knows so well to explore its winding, treacherous length in the company of creatures touched by magic, madness and alchemy in the hope of finding a way to save his father.

Wulliam’s world is richly furnished with lush language and wonderful words, despite him being a man of so few. And when his journey is coming to an end, you wouldn’t mind staying with him a little while longer.

Beck (Walker, £12.99) is Carnegie-winning author Mal Peet’s final novel. It was left incomplete because of his untimely death but has been brought to completion by his close friend, and another Carnegie-winning author, the fabulous Meg Rosoff.

It is 1922 and 15-year-old orphan Beck is shipped from Liverpool to Canada and into the hands of the Christian Brotherhood. They mentally and physically abuse their charges, before selling them in the New World. As a black boy Beck is horribly mistreated by his farmer-owner and half-starved he runs away, travelling alone across Canada’s wide open landscapes. So when he meets Grace, a mixed white and Blackfoot Indian woman and begins to fall in love, how can Beck, beaten and battered, learn how to trust?

Engrossing, overwhelming and at times shocking, Beck is an epic novel in just over 250 pages. It’s impossible to tell where Peet’s work ended and Rosoff’s began. It’s a remarkable swansong for Peet and an outstanding piece of storytelling from Rosoff.

Scottish Carnegie-winning author Theresa Breslin’s new novel Caged (Corgi, £7.99) is set in modern-day London during a single week. It’s the story of homeless Kai and a motley crew of misfit youngsters led by enigmatic ex-army soldier Spartacus. Their quest is to highlight the plight of other homeless teens through a pay-per-view cage fighting contest.

When Kai’s world collides with Bird Girl’s, he offers to help her find her sister. However, as the cage fighting contest is coming to its dramatic conclusion, tempers flare and the secret headquarters in disused underground tube tunnels suddenly become a death trap.

It’s a grim, pacy, emotionally-charged novel that’s closer in tone to Breslin’s Divided City than her historical explorations and one that’s bound to engage a wide, often difficult to reach readership.