BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued

friend. Well, it seems that the author has decided that there is plenty of action still to be had and perhaps the friend, Jack is not dead after all. After receiving a very cryptic message Alex decides to investigate what had previously happened. This brings him into contact with the remnants of an old enemy and twin villains who are determined to get rid of him for good. The action takes us from the USA to Egypt and the South of France before bringing us back to the UK, but what does a stolen helicopter and a coach full of rich school children have to do with all this? Well you will have to read the story to find out. As we have come to expect from

Anthony Horowitz, this is a fantastically fast moving adventure.

There is a

lot of technology and very precise details about the various weapons and vehicles that are used, something that the audience will love. The author has several strands to the story and he manages to keep them all in the air, gradually weaving them together so that we get the full picture about what is going on. This is an exceptionally good read, even for those who are not usually smitten by action thrillers. Alex Rider is now 15 in the stories, so the author has to manage all of the changes and the

issues that

teens often have; and Alex is still a sympathetic character at the end of all this. Without a doubt this is going to be devoured by the loyal young fans and it will find new ones among the year6 and 7 pupils who have not been parts of the hype before. A great summer read for the holidays. MP

Being Miss Nobody HHHH

Tamsin Winter, Usborne, 384pp, 978-1474927277, £6.99

Tamsin Winter’s debut novel tackles a number of weighty themes - grief, loss, selective mutism, bullying – but does so in a story that is nonetheless full of laughter and very readable. Rosalind can only speak


her immediate family and to her neighbour, the kindly Mrs Quinney. Originally her parents and teachers put this down to acute shyness, but by the time she finished primary school it had been diagnosed as selective mutism. The diagnosis made things easier at school, but years of therapy have had little effect, and Rosalind is understandably

nervous about

starting secondary school especially as, on the advice of the therapist, it’s a school where she will know no- one.

Her worst fears are realised:

she’s branded a freak and either ignored or, worse, bullied. Bullying is rife at Manor High, and she’s not the only one whose life is made a misery by classmates. Rosalind tells no one what is going on, partly through shame and partly out of consideration

for her parents, who have an even worse worry to deal with: her little brother Seb has leukaemia and his condition is getting worse. Despite his illness, Seb is resolutely cheerful (he’s obsessed with poo jokes), and he’s thrilled when his big sister tells him she’s starting a blog. In the guise of alter-ego Miss Nobody, Rosalind is something of a superhero, able to expose the bullies and call them out

for their mindedness.

cruelty and narrow- Soon Miss Nobody

has hundreds of followers, and has provoked something of a fight back against the bullying culture. But then Rosalind

is using the Miss Nobody persona online and in a very different way - to encourage more bullying; what’s more, one of Rosalind’s own blogs have led to a teacher being victimised by pupils. The

selective mutism discovers someone else


Anthony McGowan, Barrington Stoke, 127pp 978 1 78112 723 0, £7.99, pbk

Young Nicky’s life has been tough. His Mum’s left home, his Dad’s been in trouble with the law, his older brother Kenny has special needs and Nicky is his main emotional support. As Rook opens, the brothers are in a much better place. They like Dad’s new girl- friend Jenny, who has helped a lot to sort their family out. Dad is his old caring self. Nicky’s doing fine. He’s still very close to Kenny – both of them love wild creatures and the novel begins with them finding a young rook near to death after a sparrow-hawk attack. They take ‘Rooky’ home to recover. Nicky’s in Year 9 now, coping well with daily life at school, despite some malicious bullying from three kids in Year 10. Trouble is, ‘Stanno’, the ringleader, is the brother of Sarah

Stanhope in Nicky’s year, and Sarah is the big secret in Nicky’s life. He really fancies her – so much so he can’t find a word to say to her. He’s desperate to impress, even ask her out. He’s got to do something, and soon, since his ‘insides were boiling over, like when you leave a milk pan on the heat.’ That kind of everyday image is typical of the writing. There’s also a kind of self-mockery; when he can stand back and look at himself, Nicky knows his adolescent angst is somewhat comic. Nicky’s story works out just fine: vulnerability and need turn out to lie beneath the bully’s bravado; Sarah is far from unattainable and she’s a great listener (Nicky’s needed that); and Kenny’s becoming less dependent on Nicky, making new friends of his own. Rook is an entertaining read and

will be widely enjoyed; it’s certainly accessible

reading whole books for themselves. GF 14+ Secondary/Adult Encounters HHHHH

Jason Wallace, Andersen Press, 298 pp, 978 1 783445288, £9.99 hbk

Alternating narrators, reporting on events and characters from different perspectives, are familiar enough to readers of YA fiction. But six narrators, with around 40 consecutive pages apiece, covering experiences ranging from aliens landing their spaceship in the grounds of a Zimbabwean prep school to the machinations of a paedophile – well, you wouldn’t accuse Jason Wallace of lacking ambition. The six are a varied bunch: an


Rosalind’s need to speak out and the importance of letting others know how you feel in sharp focus. Winter’s descriptions of Rosalind’s experience of her

condition are convincing

and vivid, and will allow readers to empathise with her special situation, while the story will also make them think about times they might need to speak out a committed

too. Mrs Quinney, Christian, inspires

Rosalind to consider her own moral compass, and it’s also a book that subtly raises questions about our own moral responsibility. Rosalind is an appealing central

character and her eccentric family provide light relief in what could otherwise be an almost unbearably sad story. In fact it finishes on a positive note, and will thoroughly entertain readers as well as giving them much to think about. . Simon Packham

also covers

selective mutism in Silenced, as does Faye Bird in What I Couldn’t Tell You. AR

eight year old white girl who attends the

with hopes of

school; a black teenage boy becoming a long-

distance runner at national level; the authoritarian headmaster’s 18 year old gay son, recently expelled from a prestigious boarding school despite being head boy and a potential international cricketer; Sixpence

Chaparadza, a lad from the local village repeatedly

forced to thieve

for his drunken father; 12 year old Gary whose outward arrogance and white

supremacist values his lonely vulnerability; and

protect Holly,

the flame-haired, freckled-faced daughter of a couple of American psychiatrists,

visiting the school to

explore the phenomenon of more than fifty students claiming to have seen the spaceship and even some of its occupants. There’s an extra twist here; in 1994, 62 terrified children between five and twelve from a Zimbabwean school did indeed claim to have witnessed such a landing, and nothing would shift most of them from their story. Each of these narrators requires a narrative voice, which Mr Wallace manages

with remarkable skill,

wavering only into cliché perhaps in the case of Holly, the girl from California. All have their own anxieties and dilemmas, which the


of the spacecraft – if that is what it was – brings to a crisis. In some instances, the encounters between the narrators result in clarification and moments of empathy; elsewhere, there is only sharpened conflict. The adult characters are also varied: a wise old African groundsman, several uncomprehending

and repressive

parents, a grandfather who knows how to listen, the autocrat who rules the prep school, his unhappy wife who knows she’s failed her son and herself; and in the shadows the sexual predator who pretends to love working with young people so much that he’s given access to the school, its students and their activities. Inevitably,

readers will be

challenged by a book so diverse in its perspectives on characters, plot and critical moments, which include the moving death of one of the narrators.

32 Books for Keeps No.225 July 2017 to those getting used to

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