Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

Marina – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Posted in Historical Fiction, YA Fiction on October 8th, 2013 by admin – 3 Comments

Marina

Published
26/09/2013

Publisher
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Source
Publisher

My Rating
5 stars

Written between 1996 and 1997, Marina is the last of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s series of four YA novels.  Each novel has a gothic feel with supernatural overtones and Marina is particularly engaging with its otherwordly, ethereal atmosphere.

Narrated by 30 year old Oscar Drai, the story is set in 1980s Barcelona when Oscar mysteriously disappears from his boarding school.  During his “lost” week, Oscar and his new friend, Marina, experience the hidden, darker side of old Barcelona – a world far removed from modern life, a world peopled with sinister characters with shady background stories.
Whilst some might find Zafon’s style a bit OTT and flowery, I simply relish the escapism offered by his stories.  There is something irresistible about his storytelling, the Hammer House of Horror settings, the feeling of malevolence which permeates the story keeping you hanging  until the final page.   For teen readers, the growing attraction between Marina and Oscar is appealing but, of course, adversity constantly puts obstacles in their path.

Not for the faint-hearted, this spooky tale oozes gothic intensity – a really entertaining tale for teens and beyond.

 

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The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Posted in American Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Proofs, YA Fiction on June 1st, 2012 by admin – 3 Comments

The Age of Miracles

Published
21/06/2012

Publisher
Simon & Schuster Ltd

My Rating – 3 Stars

With apologies to TS Eliot, is this how the world ends then, not with a bang but a whimper, with the slowing of the earth’s rotation?  Karen Thompson Walker’s novel certainly stands out from the glut of post-apocalyptic novels currently crowding bookshop shelves with its quiet, reflective style and gentle tone but does this debut have enough oomph to grab the reader and keep him transfixed until the bitter end?

I don’t require a lot of action in my reading, sometimes the quiet ones are the ones which draw me in the most.  I also don’t need everything tied up neatly at the end but for several reasons this novel didn’t quite work for me and left me feeling rather unsatisfied.  Firstly, I am not sure what type of story it’s trying  to be – Young Adult or perhaps crossover, coming of age tale, stark dystopian drama? 

Told from the perspective of 11 year old,  Julia, we hear a lot about her trials and tribulations as a young adolescent – falling out with friends, exploring first romantic feelings, lack of communication with parents BUT considering the earth has shifted on its axis and days are sometimes 48 hours long we have little in-depth analysis of a global catastrophe.  Divisions are caused when the “Real-Timers” go against government advice and decide to live their lives according  to whatever naturally occurs, sleeping during the dark time and remaining awake during daylight hours – I couldn’t quite fathom how they could do this during “48 hour” days!  Everyone else goes by the clock even if  it means trying to sleep in broad daylight and going to and from school in the dark. 

All in all, this is a promising debut but the intriguing premise was let down by a rather pedestrian story – one of those kitchen-sink books where everything gets thrown in but somehow it doesn’t quite blend to form a palatable whole.   Some beautiful writing but just not in this format…perhaps it would have worked better with an older narrator?

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The Killables – Gemma Malley

Posted in Children's Books, Dystopian Fiction, YA Fiction on April 2nd, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

The Killables (The Killables, #1)

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language English
  • My Rating – 4 stars

    One could be forgiven for thinking that a dystopian setting is compulsory for all YA novels being published at the moment and with the huge success of The Hunger Games both in print and on screen, this is one trend which is staying put.  Gemma Malley has already proven her worth in this genre with her excellent Declaration trilogy and she continues to demonstrate her impressive storytelling skills in this, the first of a new trilogy.

    I must admit that I was quite worried that this new series would seem too samey and fail to stand out amongst the plethora of other dystopian reads on the market but what makes it shine is its quiet, understated nature – thank goodness there are writers who realise it doesn’t have to be all singing, all dancing, all flailing limbs to attract the reader’s attention, sometimes less is more.

    Our “new world” is The City whose citizens are graded from A to D and (shock, horror!) sometimes K depending on their good citizenship and obedience of the rules established by the System.  The head honcho is the omniscient, omnipresent Brother who seems to have your best interests at heart – you really don’t want to end up outside the City gates at the mercy of the Evils, an allegedly subhuman species.

    There is an intriguing love triangle involving our three main protagonists, Evie, Raffy and his “much” older brother, Lucas.  I liked the fact that none of these characters are particularly likeable and you feel like shaking some sense into them most of the time – it’s a trilogy after all, they have time to evolve and change, hopefully for the better!  I also loved the semi-scientific slant on the new Society where all the good citizens have had their amygdala, the ”evil” part of their brain, removed – all done to deliver themselves from evil of course.

    Like all first books in a series, a large portion of the novel has to be devoted to world-building but the author has succeeded in also building characters and a plot which engage the reader and will make you want to read on.  If you’re aged over 13 and you like your dystopian fiction restrained, intelligent and thought-provoking then this is your next stop.

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    Mice – Gordon Reece

    Posted in YA Fiction on March 20th, 2012 by admin – 1 Comment

    Mice

    Published
    03/02/2012

    Publisher
    Macmillan Children’s Books

    My Rating - 4  stars

    Sixteen year old Shelley and her mum have been born with the victim gene – Shelley has been on the receiving end of an intensive, malevolent bullying campaign by former girlfriends and her mum has been through a difficult divorce with Shelley’s dad finding a younger, fresher partner.  They are quite simply “mice”, meek little creatures scuttling around not making much impression on the outside world so they retreat to the safe tranquillity of Honeysuckle Cottage, far from the madding crowd.   In their secluded bolt-hole, they should be safe and sound, Shelley preparing for her exams and her mum trying to keep their heads above water in a low paid job well below her abilities and qualifications.  However, change comes knocking at the door  or rather, sneaking in a window, when an unwanted visitor shows up disturbing the nest – will the mice show their teeth when faced with adversity or will they squeak and beat a hasty retreat?

    I found this a gripping, unputdownable read, one which I devoured in one sitting as I just had  to find out what fate had in store for Shelley and her mother.  The first part of the novel is quite slow paced but nonetheless riveting, as we see the build up of the bullying campaign against Shelley – you really feel for her as she is turned upon by her once close friends.  There is a brief period of calm with the removal to Honeysuckle Cottage but you just know that something is lurking, something which will break the short-lived spell of serenity and the tension is palpable.  What ensues might be disturbing for sensitive readers so I would recommend this for the older, more mature end of the YA market.  Some of the events might seem a bit far-fetched but this is a piece of entertaining, fast paced fiction and not a treatise on How To Be Good.

    An exciting, thought provoking  read – it will raise lots of interesting questions about how far we would go to survive and to what extent the end justifies the means – food for thought indeed.

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    A Waste of Good Paper – Sean Taylor

    Posted in Contemporary Fiction, YA Fiction on January 17th, 2012 by admin – 1 Comment

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (3 May 2012)
  •  

    I was initially attracted to this YA novel as I used to teach French to a wide variety of pupils from top stream to those who faced severe behavioural and emotional challenges on a daily basis. I was keen to see how an author would recreate the voice of a youth who struggles to fit into “mainstream” education and I think he’s got it spot on.

    The novel takes the form of a journal/diary written by young Jason who has the opportunity to move onto a mainstream school if he’s on his best behaviour but as we gradually discover, it’s rather hard not to LOSE IT when his mum looks like she might go back on drugs, when he is continually riled by his classmates, when he has to listen to the platitudes of the teachers. At first he treats the diary project as some sort of joke, a way of fooling his teacher, Pete, into thinking he’s actually doing some work but gradually he puts down in words the truth about his home situation…but the diary is confidential so how can anyone else help?

    As well as gaining insight into Jason’s home life we also see life in school, warts and all with the tiniest slight sending some pupils over the edge. One scene reminded me of the time a chair was thrown in my direction…but I had the good sense to duck! I have so much admiration for teachers who can draw on infinite amounts of patience and creativity to help disadvantaged and disaffected children and are happy to see progress on a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute scale rather than throwing in the towel. I think the author does an excellent job of representing the work done by such professionals.

    This is a very honest portrayal of one boy’s life, with a fair injection of humour too – well worth reading and recommended for both young teens and adults in need of a hefty dose of empathy.

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    A Waste of Good Paper – Sean Taylor

    Posted in Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, YA Fiction on January 5th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

    A Waste of Good Paper

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (3 May 2012)  I was initially attracted to this YA novel as I used to teach French to a wide variety of pupils from top stream to those who faced severe behavioural and emotional challenges on a daily basis. I was keen to see how an author would recreate the voice of a youth who struggles to fit into “mainstream” education and I think he’s got it spot on.

    The novel takes the form of a journal/diary written by young Jason who has the opportunity to move onto a mainstream school if he’s on his best behaviour but as we gradually discover, it’s rather hard not to LOSE IT when his mum looks like she might go back on drugs, when he is continually riled by his classmates, when he has to listen to the platitudes of the teachers. At first he treats the diary project as some sort of joke, a way of fooling his teacher, Pete, into thinking he’s actually doing some work but gradually he puts down in words the truth about his home situation…but the diary is confidential so how can anyone else help?

    As well as gaining insight into Jason’s home life we also see life in school, warts and all with the tiniest slight sending some pupils over the edge. One scene reminded me of the time a chair was thrown in my direction…but I had the good sense to duck! I have so much admiration for teachers who can draw on infinite amounts of patience and creativity to help disadvantaged and disaffected children and are happy to see progress on a day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute scale rather than throwing in the towel. I think the author does an excellent job of representing the work done by such professionals.

    This is a very honest portrayal of one boy’s life, with a fair injection of humour too – well worth reading and recommended for both young teens and adults in need of a hefty dose of empathy.

  • A FOUR STAR READ FOR ME.

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    The Double Shadow – Sally Gardner

    Posted in Proofs, YA Fiction on August 31st, 2011 by admin – 3 Comments

    The Double Shadow is Sally Gardner’s latest novel, targeted at older teens and one of the first releases from Orion’s new young adult imprint, Indigo.  I’ve read and loved most of Sally’s previous books including the excellent I, Coriander and The Silver Blade as well as her wonderful books for younger children which are reread frequently in our household.   This new novel is a new venture for Sally as it is aimed at an older age group and is, in the author’s own words, ” a family sci-fi saga”.

    Our story begins in 1937 with Amaryllis Ruben, an impetuous, spoilt, almost 17 yr old, being expelled from yet another school.  Her father, widowed millionaire Arnold Ruben, hopes to atone for past errors and neglect by bestowing on his only child the “memory machine” which should erase all painful memories and preserve himself and Amaryllis in an alternate world safe from the impending war.  However this gift ends up  being more of a poisoned chalice and there are nefarious plots afoot to use the device for evil ends.

    Sally Gardner has a wondrous almost wizardly way with words, using simple prose infused with touch of magic.  Her characters are so vividly present, you can appreciate her talent as an illustrator complementing her skills as a storyteller.  The result is a very special novel which sounds like it’s very much set in the 1930s yet remains accessible to modern readers.  It’s a story about relationships, between father and daughter, mother and son, man and wife.  It’s about love in all its shapes and forms.  It’s also about memories and how they can both comfort and haunt us, having a life of their own as a double shadow of our own reality.

    If you want a novel which eschews current trends in YA literature, no zombies, nor vampires nor post-apocalyptic plains, then you will relish The Double Shadow, a compelling read which will hook you from the opening pages.  If you haven’t already read any of Sally’s other books, I would highly recommend I, Coriander The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade  .

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    Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys

    Posted in YA Fiction on August 20th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    In recent times I have read quite a few books set during WWII and some have had a more profound effect than others.  Between Shades of Gray is one  of the stayers, one of those books which will stand the test of time and endure and survive.

    Based on  first-hand accounts from those who experienced the harsh rule of Stalin, this novel is a fictional account of the experiences of a middle class Lithuanian family who are ripped from their comfortable home one night in 1941 and forced to commence an agonising journey to the desolate wastes of Siberia.  Our narrator, fifteen year old Lina, vows to document their experiences through the medium of her drawings and writing, also hoping that she can communicate with her father who is in another prison camp.  What follows is a hard-hitting narrative, all the more powerful thanks to the simplicity of the prose and the viewpoint of a young teenager who is bewildered by the inhumanity of the Russian secret police, the NKVD.   Lina’s mother Elena is a very strong character, doing everything she can to keep her family together whilst still considering the needs of other prisoners. 

    Ruta Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and her proximity to the real life experiences of those persecuted by Stalin is evident in her detailed descriptions of the horrors faced by the deportees – bitter cold, starvation, disease.  This is an unflinching account of man’s inhumanity to man but it somehow clings to hope for the future as Ruta states in her Author’s Note at the conclusion of the novel -

    Some wars are about bombing.  For the people of the Baltics, this war was about believing.  In 1991, after fifty years of brutal occupation, the three Baltic countries regained their independence, peacefully and with dignity.  They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light.

    Between Shades of Gray will make you appreciate your freedom, something which we take for granted.  It will also make you realise the power of  the human spirit to endure, to survive and to aspire to a better future.   A Young Adult novel which will engage all ages and hopefully become a modern classic.

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    Fifty Fifty by S L Powell

    Posted in Children's Books, YA Fiction on June 29th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    Fifty Fifty is S L Powell’s first novel and a very impressive debut it is – it’s a thriller, probably targeted at age 12-16 but it is an equally engaging read for those of a “slightly” older age range including my own good self!

    Told in the third-person, our story opens with thirteen year old Gil embarking on a typically teenage row with his parents involving the usual triggers – “your room is a tip”, “I want a mobile phone”, “I’m old enough to look after myself” etc etc…  Gil has had enough, he’s out-grown his once good friend Ben , his Mum seems to be in a dream world and his Dad is the scientist/drill master with no room for flexibility so it’s hardly surprising that Gil gets side-tracked.  Jude, the dynamic, magnetic animal-rights activist, the complete anthesis of Gil’s Dad, is a Messiah-like figure who lifts Gil out of the doldrums and provides the excitement and spark which this bored teen craves.

    What follows is an action-packed adventure during which Gil is tested to the limit.  Bit by bit, the secret history of his family is revealed and he is forced to make extremely difficult decisions and obliged to grow up very quickly.   The reader feels his anguish as he is faced with one moral dilemma after another – this really is edge of your seat writing as you just can’t second-guess Gil’s next move.

    As well as a gripping personal read, Fifty Fifty would be an excellent group read or school text as it raises so many intriguing questions about the genetic research versus animal rights debate and it presents both sides of the argument in a very balanced way.  However, don’t expect a dull, patronising read as it works equally well as a fast paced,compelling  thriller.  Highly recommended for any young adult with an enquiring mind and perhaps also for we “oldies” who become so engrossed in our own little bubbles that we forget to ask the big questions.

    PS – not a zombie/vampire in sight (not even a genetically modified one, hurrah!)

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    The Truth about Celia Frost – Paula Rawsthorne

    Posted in Children's Books, YA Fiction on June 10th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    Celia Frost lives her life in constant fear of bleeding to death.  Born with a rare blood disorder, the slightest scratch could have fatal consequences and Celia leads a hermit-like existence, her only company being her over-protective mother, Janice.  They have led a nomadic life but, following a knife attack on Celia, they suddenly flee to Bluebell Estate (not quite the rural idyll the name implies) and Celia embarks on a quest for the truth about her condition, with devastating consequences.

    This debut novel is sure to engage young teens with its gripping storyline and feisty heroine.  It’s refreshing to read a gritty, realistic story for Young Adults with not a vampire or dystopian landscape within spitting distance.  The many twists and turns in the plot will keep readers captivated until the very last page – highly recommended for young fans of  fast-paced, realistic narratives.

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