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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S.T.A.G.S

S.T.A.G.S was written by M.A. Bennett and first published in 2017. It is a thriller novel with horror elements, focusing on a group of teenagers on a weekend hunting trip. The story does end on a note that implies that this could be the start of a series. However, at the time of writing, no future instalments have been announced.

Greer MacDonald is lucky to have been accepted into the prestigious St Aidan the Great boarding school (known to students as S.T.A.G.S) on a scholarship, however she is painfully aware that she does not fit in. Her roommate barely speaks to her and she is often singled out by the Medievals – the school’s unofficial prefects – who make mean jokes about her northern accent and lack of class.

Greer is more surprised than anyone when she receives an invitation to spend half-term weekend on the sprawling Longcross Estate as a guest of Henry de Warlencourt – leader of the Medievals. Along with the rest of the Medievals and her fellow outcasts, Nel and Shafeer, she has been invited for a weekend of blood sports. On three consecutive afternoons, the group will be hunting, shooting and fishing. Although Greer isn’t certain that she’ll be able to stomach this, she is so flattered by the invitation that she immediately accepts.

However, it’s not long before she starts to notice that something is wrong. The Medievals are all acting strangely, friendly one minute and cruel the next. It’s not long before odd accidents begin to occur and it becomes clear that someone could get seriously hurt. Greer gradually begins to suspect that the rich kids are not only planning to hunt game that weekend. However, how can she hope to prove it when the whole village seem to be in on their plan?

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13 Minutes

13 Minutes was written by Sarah Pinborough and first published in 2016. It is a mystery novel that focuses on two teenagers investigating the events that lead up to a tragic accident. The novel is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Natasha was dead for thirteen minutes when a passing dogwalker pulled her out of the river. Although she was quickly revived, her memories of the previous day were muddled and she could not recall why she had left her home and wandered into the woods at night. The only clue was a text message telling her to meet someone, yet Tasha has no idea who sent this message or where they expected her to meet them.

Becca was once Tasha’s best friend but over the last few years, the two of them grew apart. While Tasha was the most popular girl in school, Becca had embraced her individuality and moved away from the spotlight. However, as Tasha notices that her closest friends are acting strangely, she rekindles her old friendship to be able to talk to someone that she trusts.

The two girls slowly begin to grow suspicious that Tasha’s inner circle had something to do with her accident. As they investigate, it becomes clear that all of the girls have secrets that they do not want to come to light – ones that they may take extreme measures to protect. However, as Becca starts to put the pieces together, she soon comes to discover that the truth of what happened on that night is more disturbing than she could ever have imagined…

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Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis

Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis was written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and first published in Japanese in 1991 as Pāfekuto Burū: Kanzen Hentai. It is a horror story that focuses on a young pop idol being stalked by a psychotic fan. The book was finally translated into English in 2018 and served as the inspiration for Satoshi Kon’s classic animated movie, Perfect Blue. The novel is followed by a spin-off anthology titled Perfect Blue: Awaken from a Dream which is due to be released in English later this year.

Mima Kirigoe has never been the most popular of pop idols in Japan, but she has still gained a small following of loyal fans. While she has never had much trouble with these, one has recently been causing her distress. Though largely harmless, he has been repeatedly calling her home and promising to “protect” her, and has recently been seen trying to gain access to her studio.

His persistence worries Mima a little, but she has bigger problems. Eri Ochiai – a new pop idol with a risqué image – has decided that Mima is her rival and has dedicated her life to ruining Mima’s career. Mima’s manager has decided that it’s time that she had a change of image to combat this and has suggested that she produce a photo book that presents her as being older and sexier. Mima really isn’t sure about this as she has built her career as being a traditional teen idol, yet as Eri ups her game she sees no choice but to take part.

However, this new sexy image for Mima drives her stalker over the edge. In a bid to save Mima by preserving her innocence, he sets out on a mission to kidnap his beloved idol. Is there any way that Mima can hope to survive when she does not even know what her stalker looks like?

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The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl was written by Eileen Cook and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel which follows a teenage girl who becomes entangled in the disappearance of one of her schoolmates. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Skye Thorn is in trouble. Her friend Drew has been busy planning a future which involves the two girls moving to New York to study together. Skye knows that she could never hope to afford the rent, but has been too embarrassed to bring this to Drew’s attention. Trouble is, now graduation day is looming closer and Skye knows that she has left it far too long to tell the truth.

Her desperation pushes her to take drastic measures to raise the money. Skye has always had a talent for reading people, playing this to great advantage while doing tarot readings for her schoolmates. However, she takes this a step further when she becomes involved in shady Pluto and his kidnapping scheme. The plan is simple. Pluto kidnaps Skye’s classmate, Paige, and sends the ransom demand to her wealthy father. Skye uses her insider information to fake psychic visions that lead the police to where Paige is being kept. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong.

Skye’s mother is quick to cash in on the tragedy, claiming that she has also had psychic visions that cause the police to start to doubt the validity Skye’s. As Skye struggles to retain control of the situation, things take a sudden dark turn and she realises that all of the blame for the kidnapping could be easily pinned on her. Skye needs to gain the upper hand and quickly. The true perpetrators are dangerous, and Skye must use all of her cunning if she is to keep her neck out of the noose…

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Contagion

Contagion was written by Teri Terry and first published in 2017. It is a science fiction thriller that focuses on two teenagers as they investigate a deadly disease that is sweeping across the United Kingdom. The book forms the first part of the Dark Matter series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Callie barely remembers anything about her life before she was taken to the laboratory. She doesn’t remember her parents or where she lived. The pain that the mysterious Dr 1 inflicted on her has erased everything but her name. They told her that she was sick and they were trying to help her, yet their “cure” proved to be fatal.

Yet Callie didn’t die. At least, not entirely. Freed from her physical form, she drifts around the complex. She witnesses the first outbreak of the disease and sees it spread amongst the scientists and nurses, rapidly causing organ failure and death. Yet she can’t seem to find Dr 1 anywhere and so she sets out on a mission to locate him and learn the truth of who she once was.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a teenage girl called Shay meets with Callie’s older brother, Kai. Shay is pretty sure that she witnessed the disappearance of Callie the previous summer, remembering seeing the little girl being taken away by two men in a black car. She offers to help Kai investigate her disappearance, but they have made little headway before the disease begins to spread. Soon, Scottish cities begin to go into lock-down and the death count steadily rises. Yet Shay and Kai are still determined to discover what happened. However, to do so they will now have to cross quarantine zones and even risk becoming infected themselves…

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Wanted

Wanted was first published in 2016 and is screenwriter Jo Ho’s first novel for younger readers. It’s a science fiction thriller, focusing on a teenage girl and a dog on the run from a sinister organisation. The book forms the first part of the Chase Ryder series and its sequel – Haunted – is due for release later this year.

Life on the streets is hard for fifteen-year-old Chase Ryder. She came to Greenwich hoping for a better life, yet has found only hunger and loneliness. Yet everything changes when she comes across a starving dog. Chase quickly realises that there is something odd about the creature. He’s smarter than he should be, more than able to understand everything that she says. It’s not long before the two of them become firm friends and Chase gives him a name – Bandit.

Things are starting to look up for Chase until Bandit is hurt. Badly. This brings her to the doorstep of local vet, Jake Sullivan. Sully is passionate about animals yet lives a half-life, unable to get over the tragic death of his wife. As he examines Bandit, he discovers a medical tattoo in the dog’s ear and calls the lost pet hotline to report that he has been found. This turns out to be a huge mistake.

Suddenly, the clinic is surrounded by armed thugs and Chase, Sully and Bandit are forced to flee into the night. It’s clear that Bandit has a sinister history and someone is desperate to get him back. The trio flee across America, desperately trying to learn more about Bandit’s origins. Yet doing so will not be easy. How can they keep ahead of someone with endless resources at their disposal?

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Born Scared

born-scared

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?

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Bone Gap

bone-gap

Bone Gap was written by Laura Ruby and is due for release in the UK later this month. It’s a modern faerie tale, set in a town where everything is not quite as it first appears. The novel won the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award and is a stand-alone story. I’d like to thank Faber & Faber for providing me with an advance copy for review.

There is something strange about Bone Gap. The small farming town has always been full of gaps, as though the bones of the world a just a little looser there. Some of those gaps are so big that a person can fall into them and disappear. Perhaps that’s why no one takes Finn seriously when he claims that Roza has been kidnapped. The fact that Finn O’Sullivan can’t even describe the man who supposedly took her doesn’t help matters. Roza was young and beautiful. No one really expected her to stay on the farm with Finn and his older brother Sean for long.

Besides, everyone knows that Finn isn’t normal. People call him Moonface or Sidetrack due to the trouble he has concentrating. It seems typical that he’d make up the kidnapping. After all, his mother also just slipped away and abandoned him. Only Petey, the beekeeper’s daughter, takes him seriously. Yet Petey has troubles of her own. She knows that she’s ugly and is concerned that Finn only likes her because she seems easy to get.

Roza, on the other hand, faces discrimination of another kind. She finds herself in a strange world, guarded by a savage hound and kept prisoner by a man who cares only for her beauty – one who patiently waits for the day that Roza loves him back. Escape seems impossible, but she knows that she must find a way. Roza dreams of returning to her native Poland and can’t allow a manipulative stranger to keep that from her…

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Point Blanc

Point Blanc

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Stormbreaker. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Point Blanc was written by Anthony Horowitz and first published in 2001. It’s the second book in the massively popular Alex Rider series, preceded by Stormbreaker (2000) and followed by Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013). The series follows Alex Rider, a fourteen year old boy who is recruited by the MI6 to undertake missions that would be impossible for adult operatives.

Following the defeat of Herod Sayle, Alex wanted nothing more than to return to his normal life. However, Blunt has other ideas. Two billionaires have died in mysterious accidents and the only link between them is that their children attended the same school. Point Blanc is an elite academy hidden deep in the French Alps that claims to be able to reform even the most troubled of teenager. The MI6 fear that this might be the front for something more sinister.

Alex assumes the identity of Alex Friend – the delinquent son of a wealthy supermarket tycoon – and enrols at the academy. Once there, he’s surprised to find just how strange the school is. It’s run by two mysterious people – the creepy Professor Grief and his weightlifting assistant Mrs Stellenbosch – and all the boys exhibit the same weird body language. Only one boy – James Sprintz – seems to have the same concerns as Alex and is determined to escape but this seems impossible – Point Blanc is at the top of a dangerous mountain and Professor Grief has confiscated every set of skis.

As James starts to behave more like the other boys, Alex realises that the MI6 were right to suspect that something is wrong. He’s tempted to abort the mission and get himself to safety but he knows that he can’t abandon the other boys. He needs to find evidence of what Grief is up to before it’s too late and he becomes like all the rest…

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