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reviews 14+Secondary/Adult continued


Wallace leaves the facts of the alien landing unresolved (I think); often through the American psychiatrists, he prefers to invite his readers to reflect and speculate alongside some of his narrators about the universe and its possible inhabitants. There is no room for a loss of concentration, for information of little significance to one narrator acquires intense meaning for another. For the many readers who will become engaged by the different crises faced by each of the narrators, the book offers a demanding read with many rewards. Mr Wallace’s debut Out of Shadows was a multiple award winner; this second novel reflects an exploratory mind, uncompromising yet respectful towards his readers’ capacity for agile response. GF


Coyote Summer HHHHH


Mimi Thebo, Oxford, 276pp, 978-0-1927-5943-6, £6.99 pbk


This new novel by Mimi Thebo gives a moving and gripping portrayal of a teenage girl growing up and learning lessons the hard way. It tells the story of Jules, a rich, entitled and troubled teenager, who has veered so far off the rails after failing a ballet audition that she has caused the serious injury of a fellow pupil. Her efficient, distant business woman mother takes the decision to uproot Jules from her comfortable, indulged, if lonely, life in London and send her to live on her aunt’s farm in the wilds of Kansas.. There, the love is tough, the rules are strict and Jules, at 14, is thrown into hard farm work, learning to drive, coping with a new school and new relationships and discovering a family past that she hardly knows about. In the empty Kansas landscape she begins to dance again, watched by a lone coyote, and the two form a subtle bond that empowers Jules to rebuild her life, to learn about her part-Cherokee heritage and to work for what is important to her. This is a beautifully written teen


story with a deeply sympathetic and who


believable changes


greatly


central and


throughout the book. The


themes of growing up, dealing with disappointment, taking responsibility, learning from mistakes and building relationships


are powerful. The


almost spiritual link between girl and coyote, together with the depiction of a sparse, open landscape, give a haunting feel to the novel.


Jules is


impressive, resilient and honest and the reader roots for her throughout this poignant, memorable book. SR


A Berlin Love Song HHHHH


Sarah Matthias, Troika Books, 423pp, 978-1-909991-40-8, £7.99 pbk


This gripping novel begins as a love story set in Berlin immediately prior to the Second World War: Max


character develops


Hartmann, a German schoolboy, meets Lili Petalo, a Romani trapeze artist, when he takes his younger brother to her family’s circus. He is immediately


engulfed by powerful


feelings for her but as she reads his Tarot cards she is shocked by a future which is full of turmoil and divided loyalties. This reading, highly pertinent to their future relationship, also creates a microcosm of wider political events


soon to change


Germany for ever. Matthias uses a dual narrative,


which effectively symbolises both the distance between the protagonists’ lifestyles and the differences in the way they are treated in Hitler’s Germany. Poignantly, the story begins at the end of Max’s life, when Lili has been dead for many years, murdered in an internment camp. The connection has remained between them and he hears her voice, urging him to tell their story, that others may learn of the sweetness of their forbidden love and the sour bile of needless persecution.


a white gentleman with Benjamin as her slave. They face a thousand mile journey to freedom in the north and the many obstacles they face cause the tension and sense of jeopardy to rise as they near their goal. This is a story of incredible


resourcefulness and bravery as two illiterate slaves


travel to freedom,


facing terrible odds with only their own ingenuity and determination to help them. Their struggle does not end in the free north as the introduction of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 forces them to flee again, this time to England. Tanya Landman has written a work of historical fiction inspired by the real- life escape of William and Ellen Craft from slavery in America’s Deep South. It is an inspiring story, particularly Rosa/Ellen’s sustained impersonation of a white gentleman, but it is also a story of fear, desperation, brutality and sexual abuse. It presents the horror of the white slave owners’ behaviour and their justification for this behaviour. The language that would have been used at the time is not censored, though offensive


terms are used


sparingly, so as not to lessen the impact of the brutal reality of the time. In just one hundred pages Tanya


Landman has written a powerful, shocking and thought-provoking story, based on real events, and she deals with strong themes, slavery, race, cruelty, sexual abuse, miscarriage, identity, in such a way as to encourage reflection and discussion. The story is told through Rosa’s narration, thus giving Ellen Craft a voice she did not have in contemporary accounts, and one of the most moving and powerful moments comes at the end of the book when Rosa finds her own voice to lay to rest the tormenting ghosts of her past. This is a Barrington Stoke title which makes it particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic older teen readers. This dyslexia friendly


format combines with the The horrors of war for those deemed


unfit by the Nazis to live are vivid and moving-personalised and thus more powerful because they are told through Lili’s voice, seen through her eyes. This story was written about the Romani Holocaust, and Matthias quotes Angela Merkel’s words as she opened a memorial to the Roma and Sinti who were so brutally killed in the camps: ‘Èvery single fate in this genocide fills me with sorrow and shame.’ This book needs to be read, so that they might be remembered. VR


Passing for White HHHHH


Tanya Landman, Barrington Stoke, 103pp, 978-1-7811-2681 3, £6.99 pbk


Rosa, a slave in the Deep South of America in the 1840s, has skin pale enough to ‘pass for white’. So when she and her husband Benjamin can no longer tolerate the sexual abuse of Rosa by her mistress’s husband they devise a desperate escape plan that involves Rosa disguising herself as


author’s skilful writing in a particularly effective way to ensure that every word counts in this powerful story. SR


Love and Gelato HHHH


Jenna Evans Welch, Walker, 336pp, 978-1-4063-7232-8, £7.99


This, as the title suggests, is a


sweet and frothy confection which nevertheless holds the reader firmly in its grip. Welch both entertains and illuminates through the medium of more thought-provoking topics. Lina’s mother has just died and her


last wish was that her daughter should spend time in Tuscany with Howard, the father she has never met. The journey from America is a long one for her, physically and emotionally and at first all she longs for is to go back home. Indeed, all that keeps her in Italy is her refusal to break her promise to her beloved mother. Gradually, however, she realises that life is not always as it seems on the surface and people can be a constant source of revelation and hope. The novel paints a vivid picture of


landscape, food and an unfamiliar


but beguiling language and so Lina’s gradual conversion to all things Italian is a credible


one-especially when


she forms a strong friendship with Ren, who acts as a conduit for her conversion and slowly but steadily becomes an important part of her life. This is perhaps the most predictable part of a story otherwise scattered with surprises. The other major protagonist is her mother’s journal, which Lina determines to unravel in a search for clarity about her parentage, discovering some stark truths along the way. Welch allows the reader to walk alongside Lina, watching her shock at being suddenly alone, with her life completely changed. Her best friend Addie provides a frame of reference and a sounding board as Lina regales her with the shocks which her new life provides-not least that Howard lives in a graveyard-as a custodian of the military graves. Welch has a finely tuned ear for teenage dialogue, a keen sense of pace and draws readers in to what is a satisfying and absorbing story. VR


Piglettes HHHH


Clémentine Beauvais, Pushkin Press, 288pp, 978 1 7826 9120 4, £6.99 pbk


This book was written in French, and translated into English by the author of the original, Les Petites Reines, which won four book prizes in France. The Piglettes in the title are three girls who have


been voted students the


Bronze, Silver and Gold medals in their school’s online Pig Pageant: Mireille, Astrid and Hakima. It seems unbelievable that be so cruel:


could setting up a Facebook


page discussing the girls’ ’ugliness’ and voting for the worst-looking ‘pig’. Yet every day we hear horrendous accounts of trolling, so perhaps it isn’t as far away from the truth as we would hope. The story is narrated by Mireille,


whose outlook is refreshingly positive, funny and courageous. She is clever and witty and enjoys winding people up, especially her mother and step- father.


Mireille and Astrid band


together to visit Hakima, to offer her their support when the Pig Pageant results are announced. They find that she has more important issues on her mind. Together they team up, and decide to set out on a road trip to Paris, their aim being to attend the President’s garden party at the Elysée Palace on 14 July. They all have their reasons for wanting to be there, and important points to make. The journey, by bike, is funded through sales


of sausages, which


they take with them in a trailer and cook up each day when they reach their next destination. The girls are chaperoned by Hakima’s older brother Kader, a former soldier, who has lost both legs in action. Kader’s friends have clubbed together to buy him an amazing wheelchair, to help him come to terms with his disability.


Books for Keeps No.225 July 2017 33


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