her mother when she was younger and begins to understand more about the suffrage movement, Irish politics and what her mother stood for. She starts to help Rose and her husband Charlie on the farm and discovers an intriguing secret. Although she is too young to vote

14+Secondary/Adult continued ‘canon’.

characters grow and see them beginning to understand that

It is fascinating watching this

Stella is excited by the prospect that for first time women over 30 who are householders or married to a householder will be able to vote and promises to take Rose and Charlie to the polling booth in her aunt’s car. But her aunt falls ill with ‘flu and at the last minute Sandy steps in to drive the car

braving the town for the first time since he had arrived at


House. This is a well-constructed, taut novel

and you are drawn in immediately. Stella is an engaging character and despite everything she has gone through eager (some might say over- eager) to organise people and sort out their problems. She is by turns irritating, awkward and headstrong yet has a heart of gold. The tender and burgeoning friendship she has with Sandy is beautifully wrought and although some issues are only glanced over you get a very real sense of not only the political struggles but the horror of the Spanish ‘flu at that time. Although

Stella sometimes

gets carried away by her idealism the message underpinning the novel that individuals can do something to bring about change is powerful and life-affirming. A heart-warming gem of a book. JC

The Fandom HHHH

Anna Day (& Angela McCann), Chicken House, 406pp, 9781910655672, £7.99

When Violet and her friends have a day out at Comic Con in London they imagine that they will just be meeting up with other fans and cos-players of “Gallows Dance”, their favourite book and film. What they did not envisage was finding themselves drawn into a parallel world; the world of “Gallows Dance”. They definitely did not think they would find themselves in a nightmare where they accidently kill the fictional heroine and Violet has to take over the role in order to save the story and get them all back to the real world.

What follows is a roller

coaster ride that subverts the story that they know and places strains on the relations between this group of friends.

I must admit that when I first saw

this book it was a case of ‘not another dystopian novel’, however this has exceeded my expectations and in the end it was a really enjoyable read with lots to make you think. The central characters are well thought out and because of the changes in the expected plot line they have to develop and think beyond the known

world they have entered is not just a version of the film they have watched; the protagonists that they think they know have in fact undergone their own subtle changes and this makes it impossible to keep rigidly to the original storyline.

In many respects

this is a form of morality play in which people gradually realize that real life can lead to long term consequences and that we should never mistake fiction for reality. Due to a couple of the scenes that have a slight sexual theme this has been marked as a 14+ (by the publisher as well) and school librarians might want to read the book before they decide on access. Having said all this it was an excellent read and I would definitely recommend it for the suggested age range. MP

Goodbye, Perfect HHHHH

Sara Barnard, Macmillan, 308pp, 978 1 5098 5286 4,£6.99,pbk

This is a stunning novel, a must-read- not only for young adults, but for adult readers too. Eden and her sister Daisy have had troubled lives. They have been fostered so many times that Eden has built solid defences against what she perceives-often rightly-as a hostile world. When her unkempt appearance and sullen


invited yet more bullying at the most recent of her schools it was Bonnie, A* student with a perfect record, who rescued Eden and became the best friend she had always wanted. Eden

could not understand

Bonnie’s interest in her - she was wild, angry, underachieving as a result of the combination of her attitude and her dyslexia. What she failed to realise until much later was that Bonnie – obedient, compliant, exam- obsessed – saw Eden as her foil, the person she would have liked to have been had she felt able to break out of the persona she had been moulded into by her parents and teachers. The crisis comes for Bonnie when she decides to run away with the boyfriend she will only call Jack – her music teacher, Mr Cohn. Eden feels a double betrayal. She and Bonnie have

always shared

their deepest secrets but she had never confided this darkest one to Eden. Additionally, Eden had taken a titanic step in forming such a close friendship with Bonnie when her go- to survival strategy involved locking herself away from intimate human contact. Now adopted, she regards her parents, Carolyn and Bob as allies but that group is a very small one and Bonnie was right at the heart of it. Bonnie’s abrupt

departure with

her teacher, is, of course, treated as abduction of a minor and Barnard beautifully and subtly details the tensions between Bonnie’s conviction that this is the adventure she always

30 Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018

wanted with the man she loves and the criminality of Mr Cohn’s actions. As Bonnie strives to live the


of abandon which she sees as an escape route from the claustrophobia of study, exams and parental expectations, Eden tries to save her from herself. Extracting clues from the texts and calls she receives from Bonnie, she persuades her boyfriend Connor and her older adoptive sister Valerie to go with her to Glasgow to Track Bonnie down. Barnard excels at the shift and drift of relationships, avoiding sentimentality and

always cliché

and resisting the tightly bound up climax. Both Eden and Bonnie appear to change markedly during the course of

this book-but is that change

really just a gradual admittance and acceptance of the flip side of their personalities, long locked away until a crisis thrusts them out into the cold light of reality? VR

The Last Days of Archie Maxwell


Annabel Pitcher, Barrington Stoke, 104pp, 978-1-7811-2728-5, £7.99 pbk

Archie is a teenage boy. The story opens as Archie has discovered that despite having apparently enjoyed a happy marriage to Archie’s mother, his adored father has come out as gay. Thereafter the question is whether Archie will come to terms with this fact or will prove incapable of doing so. There is also a subplot. Tia, a girl that Archie likes, had a brother Tatham who died by suicide on the railway track behind Archie’s house. A second question is whether Archie can help Tia find peace from her grief. This book is a searing and no

holds barred exploration of Archie’s descent into deep depression and suicidal thoughts. The text is marked by extreme homophobic prejudice and profane language in which the boys communicate one with another. The language gives the impression of veracity.

Pitcher’s book is brave and honest,

dealing with a topic more cautious authors shrink from. This reviewer found only one reason – though an extremely important reason - to give this book less than a five star rating.

Archie has an older sister

Maisie. She refers to something she dislikes as ‘retarded’. This word is as problematic as the homophobic language employed by the boys. Yet the narrative poses an unfavourable verdict on the characters who use the homophobic language. Maisie uses her unacceptable language without rebuke. RB

Shell HHH

Paula Rawsthorne, Scholastic, 416pp, 978-1-4071-8025-0, £7.99pbk

Lucy Burgess is a teenager in the end- stage of terminal cancer. Her parents are fabulously wealthy and her mother decides she cannot let her die so

a bizarre

– without Lucy’s knowledge

procedure is performed or

agreement-in which her brain and eyes are removed and grafted onto a donor body. Family and friends are told that Lucy has died-there is even a funeral – and Lucy takes on her new existence as Renee, a family friend who has been taken in by Lucy’s parents. This surreal

and beginning then gives way to

unsettling an

examination of the moral, ethical and practical implications of such a clandestine procedure. Lucy insists on returning to her old school but cannot get her former best friend Makayla to view her with anything other than hostility and suspicion. Instead, her ‘new’ athletic, attractive body brings her to the attention of the cheerleading squad, who she always despised for what she saw as their shallowness. Now she enjoys the

comments from the boys in her year. However,

attention-and it

is impossible the looks

and to

reconnect with her beloved grandmother, or Arthur, her dog- or her horses. All three


that `Renee’ is in some way not what she seems to be and withdraw from her. But she is not the only fraudulent element in this equation. Her consultant, Dr Radnor, who Lucy trusts initially, also

has another trying

identity. He runs a clinic in which he claims he is

horrifying to cure

young, terminally ill people but he is really abducting and murdering to order, so that those who have enough money to pay-young or old-can literally have a new lease of life. As Lucy/Renee becomes increasingly unhappy the tremors which she noticed in her hands have now spread to the rest of her body and need new, powerful medication. The plot climbs steadily to new

heights of hysteria as Lucy’s mother discovers

the source of Lucy’s

distress but blocks out the possibility that the doctor she regarded as a saviour, is, in fact a murderer. Instead of phoning the police she locks Lucy up in the house and summons Dr Radnor so that he can administer the medication which will stop the life-threatening tremors. Meanwhile, a chance encounter with the brother of

Lucy now inhabits by means of a party

inadvertently the

shooting Lucy’s

cornered father

Dr dead

the murdered girl whose body prank

captured on youtube forms an alliance

between the boy and Makayla, who witness

Radnor and

calamitously wounding her mother. Reader credibility is stretched to breaking point by this time and what could have been a pacey thriller concerned with identity and the value placed on human life becomes a rather overheated story which piles on one too many pieces of action. VT

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