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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The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks was written by Emily Barr and first published in 2017. It is a contemporary novel which focuses on a girl with amnesia on a quest to find her lost love. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

When Flora was ten years old, an operation to remove a brain tumour left her without the ability to make memories. She remembers everything up to this but anything that she has learned since leaves her mind within a few hours. Despite now being seventeen, she will never lead an ordinary live. It’s not even safe for her to leave her home town. That is, until she kisses a boy on the beach.

Flora wakes up the next morning and is shocked to find that she remembers this vividly. She quickly convinces herself that the boy – Drake – has some sort of special ability that will restore her memory. Trouble is, Drake is leaving to study at the North Pole and so she has no chance of ever seeing him again.

However, that’s before her parents are forced to rush to the bedside of her sick brother, leaving her in the care of her friend Paige. This is Flora’s chance. With her parents far away, no one will stop her from just getting on a plane and going after Drake. However, nothing is quite what it seems. Flora will need all of her bravery if she’s ever to discover who she truly is, and survive her adventure to the Land of the Midnight Sun…

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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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Fish Boy

fish-boy

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…

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A Flash of Blue

a-flash-of-blue

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?

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Not If I See You First

Not If I See You First

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…

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The Serpent King

The Serpent King

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.

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Skid

Skid

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?

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