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BfK Rising Talent 2011

humour permeate the narrative. Young readers who have experienced bereavement will find this novel touches them on many levels while for others, it may help them reflect on a subject many find it hard to think about, let alone discuss, and feel less afraid. Artichoke Hearts was inspired by the author’s ‘beautiful and bohemian’ mother-in-law, whose long battle with cancer was heartbreaking for her family. Brahmachari started writing the book as a way of dealing with her grief yet her multi-layered narrative with its sensitive portrait of a young teenager reveals a writing talent that will certainly find other compelling sources of inspiration.

Teenage readers Anna Perera

Shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Prize and the Branford Boase Award, Anna Perera’s debut novel Guanta- namo Boy was inspired by real events – the abduction and abuse of children held without charge in the name of justice in Guantanamo Bay. A keen supporter of Rochdale, his local

soccer team, teenager Khalid Ahmed’s life is transformed when, on a family visit to Pakistan, he is imprisoned without explanation, first in Karachi, then Kandahar, and finally cast into a wire kennel in Guantanamo, ‘holed up in someone else’s nightmare’. Perera’s focus is unrelentingly on Khalid’s day-to-day experience as prisoner and suspected terrorist. We live through Khalid’s sufferings and his thoughts, and it is here where the power of the story resides. Narrated in the present tense, this novel is terrifyingly immediate. Despite the focus on Guantanamo, one of its achievements is the representation of ordinary Muslim lives, still so rarely written about in children’s fiction. Perera’s latest novel, The Glass Collector is similarly challenging and thought provoking. It focuses on the terrible drudgery and poverty experienced by the Cairo slum dwellers (Zabbaleen) who sort garbage for recycling. After collecting the rubbish, 15-year-old Aaron (the glass collector of the title) must sort it in readiness for the crooked dealers to buy – but Aaron loves glass and some pieces are hard to part with. As in Guantanamo Boy, the humanity of The Glass Collector is inspiring.

By working on this broad, social, contemporary canvas, Anna Perera takes forward with boldness and flair the radical tradition of writing about injustices established by such writers such as James Watson, Beverley Naidoo and Liz Laird. We can expect more challenging and engrossing work.

With her punchy first person narratives, rambunctious realism and gripping plots, Keren David is a ‘rising talent’ who will be unstoppable in her ambition. Nominated for the Carnegie Medal and Highly Commended for the Booktrust Teenage Prize, David’s crackling debut novel When I was Joe and its sequel Almost True have attracted attention for their lively, confident plotting full of drama and tension and their strong

6 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011

characters. When teenager Ty witnesses a murder he goes to the police and identifies the killers, little realising what the consequences will be. A petrol bomb is thrown through the front door even as the police are about to move him and his mother under a protection scheme. The rather diffident Ty has the opportunity to reinvent himself but this can be problematic. Then there are the difficulties he and his mum face in coping with a new life without roots or history and the continual fear of being discovered. When this comes about, Ty must move yet again and the nightmare continues. David offers an astute portrait of a teenager who has witnessed horrific events and who lives under unbelievable stress, no longer sure who to trust or who he is. David’s next novel, Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery, is published in August.

Keren David

One of the most talked about novels in recent teen publishing, Blood Red Road is Moira Young’s stunning debut novel. Set in a dystopian future world, 18-year-old Saba, her twin brother Lugh and little sister Emily live by scavenging from landfills in a dried-up wasteland ravaged by sandstorms. Saba adores Lugh and is mean to Emily, blaming her for the loss of their mother in childbirth and their father’s subsequent depression. When Lugh is kidnapped by four mysterious horsemen, Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. Thrown back on her own resources, she discovers courage and strength she didn’t know she had – and eventually even love for the little sister who refuses to be left behind. Rescuing Lugh becomes a battle to destroy a corrupt society and along the way Saba teams up with a daredevil called Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries. Young’s style is fluent, witty and irreverent and her inventiveness with future world technologies and customs recalls Philip Reeve’s ‘Mortal Engines’ quartet. Both thrilling and serious in scope and imagination, this unputdownable novel is very much of the zeitgeist and Moira Young’s future work can be confidently predicted not only to entertain but to challenge our view of the world and the direction in which society is moving.

Moira Young

At the beginning of this article we commented on the quantity of ‘must-read’ debut children’s books. While limiting ourselves to 12 rising talents, we have also allowed ourselves runners-up. They are Samantha Mackintosh, Sarwat Chadda and Cristy Burne. n

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