20 Feb 2017
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames A-H, Thriller, Title A-H
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Born Scared, Contemporary Fiction, Kevin Brooks, Review, Thriller, Thriller Novel, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
Born Scared was written by Kevin Brooks and first published in 2016. It’s a thriller that focuses on a teenage boy who is afraid of everything. As it’s a stand-alone story, you don’t have to have read any of Brooks’s other novels to fully appreciate it. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy for me to review.
From the moment that he was born, Elliot has known nothing but terror. Although experts have been unable to put a name to his condition, his whole life is governed by acute fear. Every sight and sound, from sheep to the colour red, cause his mind to spiral into uncontrollable panic and so he rarely leaves the safety of his “fear-proofed” bedroom.
The one thing that takes the edge off his panic are the little yellow pills that his doctor prescribes. However, due to mix up at the pharmacy, it’s Christmas Eve and he’s running out. His mother leaves in a blizzard to get more. The trip should only take half an hour but as the minutes tick by and she doesn’t return, Elliot realises that something must have gone horribly wrong.
With his last pill beginning to wear off, Elliot is forced to do something terrifying – to head out into the snow to find her. His journey should take him less than a mile away from his home, but the outdoors are unpredictable and his fear is rapidly returning. Will he be able to conqueror it for long enough to find her?
03 Jan 2017
in Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Surnames A-H, Title A-H
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Chloe Daykin, Contemporary Fiction, fantasy, fantasy novel, Fish Boy, Review, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
Happy New Year! For my first review of 2017, I’m going to be looking at Fish Boy, Chloe Daykin’s debut novel, which is due for release at the end of February. It’s a stand-alone story with fantastical elements, which focuses on a young boy trying to make sense of his life. Many thanks to Faber & Faber for providing me with an advance copy for this review.
Billy Shiel is twelve years old. He likes David Attenborough documentaries and swimming in the sea before school. He’s also incredibly lonely. His mother’s mystery illness has sucked a lot of fun out of his life – forcing his father to work extra hours to support the family and meaning that he spends a lot of time alone. He’s recently also become a target for the school bully, Jamie, who steals his stuff and calls him Fish Boy.
Things start to change when magic obsessed Patrick Green joins his class and befriends Billy, finally breaking him from his isolation. Yet its also around that time that a mackerel swims into his face and declares “Kezdodik”. The fact that the fish have begun to speak to Billy is confusing to say the least, but he wishes he could understand what they are saying.
When he finally shares this secret with Patrick, his new friend is surprisingly understanding. Patrick’s love of all things magic cause him to instantly believe in the fish and he pushes Billy to keep going back to find out what it wants. Yet as Billy spends more time in the sea, what he discovers changes his life forever…
23 Oct 2016
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames A-H, Title A-H
Tags: A Flash of Blue, Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Maria Farrer, Review, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
As YA Shot took place yesterday, I thought I’d look at a novel by a UKYA author to celebrate. A Flash of Blue was written by Maria Farrer and first published in 2015. It’s a stand-alone contemporary fiction story, focusing on a teenage girl who’s struggling to come to terms with her brother’s death.
Amber Neville made a huge mistake. Angry at her older brother, Liam, she stole his lucky stone. She kept it safe, planning on returning it to him later, but never got the chance. Unbeknown to anyone, Liam suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition and suffered a fatal heart attack later that day. Amber was left shattered by this. She’s certain that if only her brother had left the house with his charm, he would have survived. His death is entirely her fault.
Over the year that followed, Amber’s family completely broke down. Her mother turned to drink and her father began to have a very unsubtle affair, spending more and more time away from the house. Amber is left feeling as though she can do nothing right. She is nowhere near as smart or athletic as Liam and everything she does seems to cause her family embarrassment. On the anniversary of Liam’s death, her grandmother convinces her to go out and enjoy herself at a friend’s party. It’s here that she meets Tyler.
Tyler used to be Liam’s best friend, and misses him as much as she does. The two bond over their shared memories of him and Amber starts to see more and more of Tyler. Yet her father warns her that Tyler is a bad person and Amber soon starts to see the truth in this. When she starts to hang out with Tyler’s friends, she realises that they are all particularly rough. Soon, she finds herself in big trouble, but how can she put her life back on track when everything around her is starting to come falling down?
21 Jun 2016
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames I-Q, Title I-Q
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Eric Lindstrom, Not If I See You First, Review, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
It’s been a while since I last took a look at any contemporary fiction so it’s probably about time to return to the real world for a while. Not If I See You First was written by Eric Lindstrom and first published in 2016. It’s a slice of life story told from the perspective of a blind teenage girl. Please note that this review is based on an advance copy that I received from Netgalley and so may not completely reflect the published work.
Parker Grant lost both her mother and vision in a terrible car accident when she was just seven years old. Since then, she’s had a lot of time to get used to her disability with the support of a close-knit group of friends and her loving father. However, when her Dad suddenly passes away, her life is thrown into disarray. Her Aunt, Uncle and cousins all move in with her and, while well meaning, they just don’t respect the Rules.
The Rules are the guidelines that Parker lives by and she expects others to follow them too. Most of them are common sense – not taking advantage of her blindness, always letting her know you’re there before touching her – but to break them is to evoke Rule Infinity which means losing Parker’s trust forever. That’s what happened to Scott Kilpatrick, her first boyfriend. In the two years that followed, Parker has struggled to get over him. However, things become complicated when Scott starts going to her high school.
Avoiding Scott quickly becomes impossible and Parker is forced to remember the unforgivable thing that he did to her. However, as Parker learns more about the event in question, she starts to see that things aren’t always what they seem. She soon starts to question the way that she treats her friends and family and discovers that her blindness may not be limited to her vision…
12 Apr 2016
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames R-Z, Title R-Z
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Jeff Zentner, Review, The Serpent King, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
The Serpent King was first published in 2016 and is Jeff Zentner’s debut novel. It is a contemporary story set in America’s deep-south, following three teenagers with very different backgrounds as they go through their senior year of high school. Please note that this novel stands alone and so does not form part of a series.
Growing up in a small town is never easy if you stand out. This is something that Dill, Lydia and Travis know all too well. While the three of them take solace in each other’s company, they have always been a favourite target of bullies. Now that they’re entering their final year of high school, the three of them must prepare for a time when their lives will change drastically.
For Lydia, finishing high school is the first step towards freedom. She looks forward to leaving her rural home town to study journalism in New York City. She longs for her two friends to also branch out and find their independence but doesn’t quite understand that their situations are very different from her own. Travis is content enough. Although he suffers horrendous abuse at the hands of his father, he has no desire to abandon his mother. Instead, he takes solace in fantasy worlds and the support of an online community of like-minded individuals.
However, Dill’s situation is different. His father was once a Pentacostal snake handler who is now in prison following a very public fall from grace. Dill suffers daily for his father’s crimes, discriminated against by the townsfolk and bullied by his mother who blames him for everything. With Lydia’s departure imminent, Dill begins to slip into despair as he realises he could soon lose the person he cares about the most. It’s up to him to find a light in the darkness before his depression consumes him.
06 Mar 2016
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames R-Z, Title R-Z
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Doug Solter, Fiction, Review, Skid, Sport Fiction, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
Skid was first published in 2012 and was written by Doug Solter. It is a contemporary novel about a teenage girl following her dream to become a Formula One racer. The story is the first part of a series and is followed by Rivals (2014) and Legends (2015).
Samantha has always been a fan of fast cars. It’s only on the racetrack that she feels fully alive. After she survives the horror crash that kills her father, she decides that she wants to pursue a career in racing. Although she struggles with haunting memories of that terrible night, she is determined to overcome them. Racing was her father’s dream and she wants to honour his memory.
When she learns that the Wolert Porsche Formula One team is recruiting young talent, Samantha knows that she has a chance. Bluffing her way into the test session, she dazzles the owner by beating the lap times of every other driver and wins a place on the team. However, racing is a man’s game and she soon finds herself at a disadvantage. Even her own team are reluctant to let her behind the wheel, purely because she’s a girl.
Worse still is the legendary Ferrari driver, Emilio Ronaldo. He is certain that he’ll win out as he’s certain that girls are too emotional and compassionate to be any sort of competition on the track. Yet as Samantha’s confidence grows as she starts creep up the leaderboards and suddenly it looks as though she’ll have a shot at stealing Emilio’s crown. Will she be able to pull ahead and prove that women have a place in racing, or will her nerves get the better of her?
31 Jan 2016
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames R-Z, Title A-H
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Empress of the World, Fiction, Review, romance novel, Sara Ryan, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
Empress of the World was written by Sara Ryan and first published in 2001. It is a contemporary romance, focusing on a teenager discovering her sexuality when she finds herself drawn to another girl at her summer school. The novel is the first part of the Battle Hall Davies series and is followed by The Rules for Hearts (2007). It also won 2002 Oregon Book Award for Young Readers Literature.
Nicola Lancaster only really has one thing in mind when she enrolls in the Siegel Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth – to study hard and decide if she really wants to make a career for herself in archaeology. She’s never really been one for making friends. Sure, she has theatre friends and orchestra friends but never just…friends.
Yet it’s not long before she finds herself surrounded with an eclectic selection of people. There’s Katrina – excitable and obsessed with computers – and Isaac who seems pleasant enough but has serious family troubles. And then there’s Battle. Beautiful, elegant Battle with her flowing blonde hair and trouble expressing herself in words.
Nic is immediately drawn to Battle and their friendship quickly becomes something more. Nic has never been attracted to girls before but quickly grows obsessed with Battle, wanting to understand everything about her. Yet Battle doesn’t like to be analysed and it’s not long before friction begins to grow between them…
06 Oct 2015
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames I-Q, Title I-Q
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Emily Murdoch, Fiction, If You Find Me, Review, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
If You Find Me was first published in 2013 and is Emily Murdoch’s debut novel. It is a stand-alone contemporary novel that centres on a teenage girl who has been reunited with her father after ten years. Since its release, the book has been nominated for numerous literary awards and was included on the infamous Blue Hen Summer Reading List alongside the likes of The Miseducation of Cameron Post and The Fault in Our Stars.
Most fourteen year old girls worry about boys and school but Casey’s first priority has always been survival. She lives in a caravan in the woods with her drug-addled Mama and seven year old sister, Jenessa. They have no electricity, heat or running water and her Mama’s only command is that they stay hidden and tell no one that they’re there. This is not easy on Casey as Mama frequently disappears for weeks at a time, leaving it up to her to ensure that Jenessa is cared for.
When two strangers appear at the camp, Casey doesn’t know whether to fight or flee. The woman is from the social services and claims that they received a letter from Mama, telling them that she could no longer look after the girls. The man is her father – the abusive man that Mama once fled from – and Casey is horrified to discover that they’re going to be left to his care.
Yet not all things are what they seem and it quickly becomes apparent that her father is one of them. As he welcomes the girls into his life, Casey begins to learn that perhaps the world isn’t as dark and cruel as Mama led her to believe. But ten years in the wilderness has hardened her and she struggles to adapt. Part of her still longs for the forest and the terrible secret that she has left there…
29 Aug 2015
in Contemporary Fiction, Surnames A-H, Title A-H
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Bernardine Evaristo, Book Blog, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Hello Mum, Review, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
Hello Mum was written by Bernardine Evaristo and first published in 2010. It is young adult contemporary novella which focuses on the life of a teenage boy living on a London council estate. The story was published as part of Penguin’s Quick Reads series and is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to read any of Evaristo’s earlier works to fully appreciate it.
Fourteen year old Jerome (JJ) has not had an easy life. He lives in a tiny flat and has a really strained relationship with his mother. JJ knows that it’s not her fault but she just doesn’t understand what life on the streets is like. A teen like him as no future prospects. He isn’t going to do well in school or get a top job. His only chance to survive in a world where kids are beaten up for living in the wrong street is to join a gang.
In his area code that gang is the Kamikaze Kru, arch rivals of the notorious B-Block Boys. JJ is proud to have caught the attention of the Kamikaze Kru’s leader, Delmar – one of the few guys in his school who are genuinely respected – and hopes to one day become like him. However, it’s not long before JJ learns that being part of a gang is not as glamorous as he thought.
Hello Mum is a letter from JJ to his Mum, apologising for what has come to pass and explaining the events that led up to his ultimate fate.
22 Aug 2015
in Contemporary Fiction, Science Fiction, Surnames R-Z, Title A-H
Tags: Arkham Reviews, Book Blog, Book Review, Concentr8, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Review, science fiction, science fiction novel, William Sutcliffe, Young Adult, Young Adult Reviews
This month seems to be a little fantasy-heavy and so today I’m going to be looking at something entirely different. Concentr8 is young adult contemporary novel containing some light science fiction elements. It was written by Carnegie Medal nominee William Sutcliffe and is due for release later this month. As I’m reading from an advanced copy that I got from Netgalley, please note that it may contain some differences from the published work.
In the not too distant future, 10% of all school children have been placed on Concentr8 – a drug which reportedly treats ADHD faster and more effectively than Ritalin. For a number of years, the rate of youth crime seems to decrease. However, when the government decide to withdraw supplies of the drug, riots suddenly break out all over London. Free of the effects of Concentr8, everyone seems to go wild and set out on an uncontrollable spree of theft and destruction.
In the midst of the rioting, Blaze has a plan. Enlisting the help of his small gang – Troy, Karen, Lee and Femi – he treks to City Hall and takes the first employee that leaves the building hostage. He leads the middle aged man to a warehouse at knife-point and chains him to the radiator before setting down to wait. It is not long before they are surround by police and hostage negotiators, desperate to know what his demands are.
The strange thing is that Blaze doesn’t seem to have any. As the days tick by, his gang starts to grow increasingly nervous as they have no idea what their leader is planning. However, over the course of five long days, we see how the riot affects not only them but a journalist, the hostage negotiator and the Mayor of London and slowly we begin to understand exactly what has driven Blaze to this act…