After the Fire

After the Fire was written by Will Hill and first published in 2017. It is a psychological thriller which focuses on a teenager coming to terms with the horrors that she experienced while growing up in the isolated compound of a fanatically religious sect. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Moonbeam was seventeen years old on the day of the fire. She lived to witness the compound being overrun by the Governments and saw her brothers and sisters gunned down before her eyes. It was just like Father John had always taught them. The world outside the fence was filled with the Servants of the Serpent and the Governments existed to wipe out anyone who held the true faith.

Stripped from everything that she has ever known, Moonbeam is taken with the rest of the survivors to a psychiatric hospital and put under the care of Doctor Hernandez. Moonbeam knows that she is not to talk to anyone outside the commune in case their sins infect her but gradually finds herself opening up to the doctor. The truth is, her faith has been shaken ever since the Purge separated her from her mother and, for the first time ever, someone seems to be taking her side.

However, Moonbeam is not sure how much she can divulge. When an FBI agent also begins to attend her sessions, she realises that she needs to be careful. It’s clear that the Governments are trying to piece together exactly what happened on the day of the fire and, if they do, Moonbeam knows that they will uncover the depth of her sins. What will they do to her if they find out that she is responsible for every single death?

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The Children of Castle Rock

The Children of Castle Rock was written by Natasha Farrant and first published in 2018. It is an adventure story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on a young girl’s adventures at boarding school. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Alice has become increasingly withdrawn since the tragic death of her mother. While she was once adventurous, now she just sits in her room and spends all of her time writing stories. When her family is forced to move from their beautiful home, Alice is devastated and her father and aunt worry about her isolating herself further. In an attempt to help her to find herself, they enrol her at Stormy Loch, a remote Scottish boarding school that is known for taking in wayward souls.

Although Alice feels abandoned, she quickly finds that Stormy Loch is not what she expected. Teachers encourage children to discover their talents and regular “Challenges” are a way of life. The school also doesn’t believe in punishments, though sometimes the consequences for failing the Challenges aren’t much better than these. It’s not long before Alice starts to enjoy herself and gradually starts to make friends with Fergus, a genius with a habit of getting into trouble.

When the school holds an open day, Alice is eager to show her father how great Stormy Loch is. However, he she is disappointed when he does not turn up. Later that day, Alice receives a strange parcel and a note telling her to deliver it to her father on an uninhabited Scottish island. Alice and Fergus soon hatch a plan to enable her to get there in time. However, carrying it out will require the map reading skills of their classmate, Jesse. And there is no way that Jesse will break the school rules knowingly…

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Ruby in the Rough

Ruby in the Rough was written by Steven Ruby and first published in 2013. It is a work of contemporary fiction presented as a collection of short stories that illustrate key moments in the protagonist’s life as he grew up in rural America. The novel is a stand-alone story that does not form part of any series.

Steven Ruby has not had the best start in life. His father passed away from a sudden heart attack and his mother works very hard to provide for him and his sister, Katie. However, Steven is not one to complain. He is a bright and adventurous boy, and likes nothing more than exploring his neighbourhood and tinkering with anything that he can get his hands on – often with disastrous results.

Throughout the school year, Steven does his best to avoid falling foul of the local bully and ensure that his experiments do not land him in hospital. However, it is the holidays that he really lives for. It is during the holidays that he is allowed to stay with his Uncle George and help out on the ranch. Although life on the farm is tough, Steven admires his uncle more than anything and sometimes dreams of becoming a farmer just like him.

However, as Steven grows up, it starts to become clear that not all of his childhood dreams will follow him to adulthood. Steven must discover that life sometimes has other things in store for people, as he witnesses sudden changes in the circumstances of the people he is is close to and how they cope with them. The novel focuses on Steven from the age of eight through to young adulthood as he learns important life lessons and discovers the kind of man that he wants to be.

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Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was written by Becky Albertalli and first published in 2015. It is a work of contemporary fiction that focuses on a gay teenager as he comes out to his friends and family. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it. A film adaptation of the story titled Love, Simon is due to be released next month.

Simon Spier has known that he was gay for some time and is okay with that. Although he’s not sure how to tell the people around him, he has managed to find support from Blue. Simon first met Blue on the school tumblr page and the two have grown close through their email correspondence. Simon knows that Blue goes to his school and is the same age as him but, other than that, has no idea who he is.

Yet their growing relationship may be in danger. When Simon forgets to log out of his email account on a library computer, someone else learns his secret. Martin is considered to be a bit of joke around the school but does have a crush on Simon’s friend, Abby. All Martin wants is for Simon to set the two of them up. While Simon wants to brush him off, he is backed into a corner when Martin hints that he has taken a screenshot of the emails. Simon knows that Blue is very private about his sexuality. If Martin was to tell anyone, it could ruin their friendship forever.

Simon enters the most difficult few months of his life. Everything feels complicated and he doesn’t know what he will do if his secret gets out. He is changing fast and he’s not sure how he feels about the person he is becoming. The only thing he is certain about is his feelings for Blue. If only he could find out who his mysterious messenger really is…

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Footprints in the Snow

Footprints in the Snow was written by Maggie Holman and first published in 2017. It is a festive work of contemporary fiction with light fantasy elements, focusing on a young boy’s trip to see his Grandfather at Christmas. The novella stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Christmas is only days away and Jamie has been sent to stay with his Grandfather in the Forest of Dean. It is the first time he’s been to stay there without his mother and so he’s understandably quite worried about being so far away from home, however his anxieties soon begin to lift as he settles in and helps his Grandfather to decorate the house.

It’s not long before Jamie starts to get to know the people who live nearby. He becomes particularly friendly with Caro, Finn and Molly – part of a family of Travellers – and learns about their way of life and deep respect for the wildlife of the forest. This lesson is particularly important as there have been sightings of a panther stalking the woods, and Jamie is worried about what will happen if he comes to face to face with the creature.

This becomes increasingly likely when he decides to take a walk in the forest by himself. Although Jamie is confident that he can find his way to the Travellers’ camp, it’s not long before he takes a wrong turn and finds himself lost in the woods. With the temperature dropping and the panther on the prowl, will Jamie manage to find his way home or will he become lunch for the creature?

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Shadow Girl

Shadow Girl was written by Liana Liu and first published in 2017. It is a work of contemporary fiction which focuses on a teenage girl’s experiences while tutoring the eight-year-old daughter of a wealthy businessman. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mei has always striven to be a good girl. Since her father walked out on them and her brother turned to drink and petty theft, she has taken it upon herself to do everything that she can to make her mother’s life easier. Since she has always had a way with children, Mei spends her free time tutoring youths to help pay the bills.

When Vanessa Morison, wealthy wife of a famous business man, hires her to be the summer tutor for her daughter, Mei is initially reluctant. The job will mean leaving home for two months to live with the Morisons on their vast island estate. However, Vanessa is offering to pay her a fortune and Mei really can’t pass up the opportunity to earn so much money.

However, Mei might have bitten off more than she can chew. The Morisons are not the easiest people to live with – especially Vanessa’s stepson, Henry. Eight-year-old Ella is also not what Mei was expecting. The girl is shy and withdrawn, and it’s not long before Mei learns why. Ella is visited every night by the disturbed ghost of Eleanor Arrow – a previous inhabitant of the mansion. It’s not long before Mei also begins to see the spirit. Could it be that Eleanor is real, or is she just a symptom of a bigger problem on the island…

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Spontaneous

Spontaneous was written by Aaron Starmer and first published in 2016. It is a book aimed at older teens that focuses on love, friendship, being a teenager and spontaneous human combustion. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mara Carlyse’s life is pretty normal. She goes to school, experiments with alcohol and likes hanging out with her best friend Tess. She knows that life as the daughter of a deli owner is far from eventful. That is, of course, until Katelyn Ogden explodes in her calculus class. While people initially suspect that it’s some kind of bizarre terrorist attack, they soon realise that the truth is far stranger. Katelyn has just randomly popped like a balloon.

Although people try to chalk this up to a freak occurrence, things grow more insane when another student explodes during a group therapy session. As more and more teenagers randomly blow up, it begins to attract world attention. It’s clear that something is wrong in Katelyn’s school but no one can quite figure out what. People blame race, sexuality and drug use yet patterns grow blurred as more and more students are effected.

It’s not long until the town goes into lock-down to prevent the students from potentially infecting others. Yet Mara and her classmates slowly start to realise that the American government doesn’t really care about them at all. Their lives are rocked by the combustions and basic rights, such as graduation and even the ability to attend a prom, are stripped from them. Mara knows that they need to take some kind of stand. She just needs to figure out what she can do to convince the others…

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Tree Magic

Tree Magic was first published in 2017 and is Harriet Springbett’s debut novel. It’s a fantasy coming of age story about a young teen who learns that she has the power to control trees. It’s a stand-alone story, and seems unlikely to form part of any future series.

Rainbow Linnet does not have a particularly great or interesting home life. Her father died when she was little and now her Mum lives with Bob. Well, if you can really call it living. Bob shares her Mum’s love of music but doesn’t have anything good to say about her spiritualism. Most of the time they just argue and Rainbow does her best to stay out of the way.

It’s while she’s hiding out in her tree house that she first discovers her power – a deep connection with trees and the ability to control and shape them to her will. Sharing this discovery only with Michael – an adult who she trusts – she begins to explore her gift and becomes an expert on the different temperaments of trees. That is, until the incident.

All at once, Rainbow realises that her power can be abused. It’s not something that she can necessarily control and it can hurt people. When she reveals her ability to her mother and Bob, things get even worse. Bob is reluctant to believe what he sees and her mother embraces it, determined to find her a guru who can explain her place in the world. Soon, things start to become too much for Rainbow and her future grows increasingly unclear. Is she better off embracing her potentially destructive power, or denying it and leading a normal life?

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One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying was written by Karen M McManus and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel set in an American high school, where four students find themselves suspected of murdering one of their classmates. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of McManus’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Bronwyn is a diligent student with high hopes of getting into Yale. Cooper is a brilliant pitcher who is already been scouted for several baseball scholarships. Addison is the beautiful homecoming queen with a perfect boyfriend. Nate is a known drug dealer, one slip-up away from being sent to juvie. Simon is the notorious editor of the school’s gossip app.

All five students find themselves in detention when banned mobile phones are planted in their bags before a spot check. While the students believe themselves to be victims of a practical joke, things take a sinister turn as Simon suddenly goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the room. While it looks to be a tragic accident, it turns out that Simon’s water had been spiked with peanut oil – something that he was deathly allergic to.

As no one else could have entered the room, it seems clear that one of the four others must have poisoned him. Suspicion grows as it is discovered that Simon had dirt on each of them and was planning on making it public. As Simon is renowned for always being right, it’s clear that none of the suspects are as clean as they first seemed. Every one of them hides a secret, yet would any of them be prepared to kill to protect it?

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Revolution

Revolution was written by Jennifer Donnelly and first published in 2010. It is a very ambitious novel that blends elements of contemporary, historical and science fiction, presenting the dual stories of an American teenager suffering from the death of her brother, and a French teenager trying to survive the Great Terror. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of Donnelly’s other books to fully appreciate it.

Andi Alpers is falling apart. Her little brother – Truman – has been dead for two years, her mother is lost in grief and her father has left them to start a family with a younger woman. Andi knows that she is entirely to blame for all of this and is growing increasingly numb to everything. She is flunking school but doesn’t care. She knows that everyone would be happier if she just wasn’t around.

However, her father’s sudden return derails her morbid plans. To Andi’s horror, he immediately has her mother sent away to a psychiatric institution and insists that Andi accompanies him to Paris over the school break. He hopes that the change will do her good and give her ample time to work on her thesis – a complex work linking an 19th Century French musician to present day acts. Over this time, they will be staying with an eccentric family friend – a Historian known as G who is desperate to prove that a mummified heart belongs to the last Prince of France.

Although Andi is desperate to finish her research and return to her mother, she grows increasingly distracted as she discovers a lost diary belonging to a servant working in the Court of King Louis XVI. The girl – Alex – initially agreed to be a companion for the young prince to move up in society, but gradually grew to view him as a younger brother. Andi keeps reading these increasingly grim accounts of the French Revolution, hoping for the best. However, as G’s research continues, she becomes increasingly fearful as to what Alex’s fate will be…

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