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BfK 10–14 Middle/Secondary continued

Con at seven does seem a little young for the role he plays, but the other children are convincing, particularly James whose divided loyalties are put to the test. The episode where the children’s parents are burnt to death in their castle is a little unreal, one would have thought a bit more emotion would have been shed, but in the main this story rings true, and the excitement of the chase moves the reader swiftly on. The complicated historical background is sketched in as the reader progresses but does not impede the story and there are useful historical notes at the end, and joy of joys there is a map! This shows the children’s journey and also the route taken by Hugh O’Neill himself. So many historical novels involve a journey and a map is essential to the reader’s understanding of the plot.


vivid incidents peppered with witty one-liners. She has a great ear for dialogue, and the teen voices are spot on; the scenes between Rebecca and her big sister Rachel in particular work very well.

Carey has played in bands since she was a teenager herself and Rebecca finds her salvation through music: she too forms a band with her friends – they call themselves Hey Dollface – and beats out her frustration on a drum kit, winning the admiration of Paperboy in the process of course. At no point however does this feel clichéd or predictable, testament to Carey’s talent.

Publisher O’Brien Press has a reputation for discovering talented children’s authors, and this is a very good debut novel: despite the familiar territory it is fresh and original and Carey has a distinctive voice.


The Medusa Project: Hunted


Sophie McKenzie, Simon & Schuster, 272pp, 978 1 84738 528 4, £6.99 pbk

The Real Rebecca HHHH

Anna Carey, O’Brien Press, 256pp, 978 1 84717 132 0, £6.99 pbk

Rebecca Rafferty is 14 and consumed by the kind of problems that make teen chick-lit so much fun: these include an extremely irritating older sister; a geography teacher obsessed with global warming and the devastation it will cause to Rebecca’s neighbourhood in particular; plus a passion for the gorgeous boy who delivers their papers on a Saturday, referred to throughout as Paperboy. All these fade to nothing however when her mother, a successful author, sets out to RUIN REBECCA’S LIFE ( the capitals are completely necessary here) by writing a teen novel she claims is inspired by the ‘antics’ of her daughters.

No matter how much she denies it, all her class and even some of her teachers, are convinced that the central character, depicted on the cover as a ‘pouty girl in Ugg boots’, is based on Rebecca.

The book is written in diary form and Rebecca’s sharp descriptions of her daily humiliations are ver y enter- taining. Anna Carey is a journalist and the plot fairly rattles along, a series of

This is the fourth instalment of The Medusa Project – a sequence following the for tunes of four extraordinary teenagers. It all started with The Set-up, in which readers were introduced to the four, to their abilities – and to the basis for the story through the character of Nico. The next two episodes featured Ed and Ketty. Now it is the turn of Dylan, the glamorous, but least attractive character, of the quartet. She is determined to find out more about her parents and how they died – even if this compromises the team. But now there is the complication of the attractive, Harry.

Those who are already fans of The Medusa Project will not be disappointed. The story moves on at a satisfying pace and we learn more details about the original project; discover more about their opponents – and about our protagonists. Those who are coming to the series for the first time will certainly want to go back to catch up. McKenzie writes in an easy contemporary style that suits the fast- moving nature of her story, where action follows action and chapters end with a punch. While the premise is not par ticularly original, by using the device of four different narrators, McKenzie is able to introduce a much wider range of incident, emotions, relationships and issues. Her characters, while not aspiring to great depth, are convincing as teens, and their struggles to come to terms with their abilities allows developmental growth - in the case of Dylan, unselfishness and a willingness to trust. This is set within the framework of a thriller, a thriller that cleverly combines Dylan’s personal quest as she searches for the truth about her background and the ongoing story of the Medusa gene and its potential for good – or ill, and the villains who want to control it. It is this ongoing plot that allows McKenzie to sustain her series,

28 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011 Treason HHHHH

Berlie Doherty, Andersen, 272pp, 978 1 84939 121 4, £5.99 pbk

In a beautifully paced and measured story Berlie Doherty takes the reader into the world of Henry VIII’s England, a land trying to come to terms with the disestablishment of the Catholic Church and ruled by an irascible man with three wives behind him. Will Montague has enough on his plate really, having he thinks, been responsible for his brother Matthew’s drowning and his father’s subsequent overwhelming sorrow. Will and his sister, Marjorie, live on the family estate, tutored by Brother John, a priest adhering to the old ways of worship in the family chapel. Life changes completely for Will when his father leaves to work for his kinsman at the court, sending for Will, who is put forward as a page to the baby Prince Edward. Will catches the eye of Henry VIII but in so doing makes an enemy of Percy Howard. Will finds he belongs to the King like a slave, unable to leave court and go back to the home and sister he loves so much. On a brief visit home, the family’s way of worship is discovered by Percy Howard and Will’s father is taken to Newgate Gaol, charged with treason. He tells Will to find Lord de Crecy but Will loses his way and is rescued by Nick and his family and nursed back to health. Will’s sister Marjorie in the meantime has been married to Lord Richard of Calais and it is to him in France that Will and Nick turn for help. All ends well, although not for Henry VIII as Anne of Cleves arrives to marry him.

Berlie Doherty manages to involve the reader completely in Will’s world contrasting his loving family home with the febrile life of Henry’s court, with its positioning of favourites amid the intrigue and fear which surround

Neversuch House HHHH

Elliot Skell, Simon & Schuster, 288pp, 978 1 84738 743 1, £6.99 pbk

Neversuch House, with a name evidently based on Henry VIII’s fabled Nonesuch Palace, is a gothic combi- nation of Citizen Kane’s Xanadu and Tom Sharpe’s Por terhouse College. Within this ‘monstrous cluster of buildings and towers’, with a population equivalent to that of a small town, lives the extended Halibut family and a line of hereditary and controlling servants, enveloped by a vast but crumbling wall and secure in the belief that ‘the world outside was hard, dirty, smelly and rough’. Tradition is followed unthinkingly and callously – at a gross funeral feast, children sit high in the trees ‘without any particular rhyme or reason’ and occasionally fall to the ground ‘with obvious consequences’. We first meet Omnia, aged twelve and three quarters, in a tree but, unlike other Halibuts, she demonstrates ‘curiosity, originality, initiative’. And, it appears, someone is trying to kill her – could it be to do with the vast black bird which some think they have seen above a remote tower of the House?

Early in the book, Skell comments that ‘before we go forward, we have to go back’, and we are given the quasi-mythical beginnings of Never- such – the arrival, hundreds of years ago, of the first Captain Halibut and his servant, Digby, and how they built the vast House which dominates the nearby town. But what became of his treasure, rumoured to be hidden beneath one of the towers? This is the secret underlying the story in this novel,

and fans will be keen to follow the next instalment as Dylan and her friends leave for France following yet another cryptic clue.

Exciting, fast moving, accessible, this is a commendable addition to the series that young teen readers will enjoy.


it. The background of deeply held religious belief and the way in which it should be practised is clearly laid out in the prose, but it is Will, desperate to be shown that his father loves him, and finding that family matters more than position, who will stay with the reader long after this book has been read. The cover is very good indeed with the T of Treason being a bejewelled sword in front of the portrait of the young Edward VI.


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