reviews 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued

remember where he comes from, or why he is in England. He also has some amazing ‘powers’ which allow him to manipulate some aspects of a computer; all of which is very disconcerting to say the least. Things start to get more complex as Kofi tries to discover Rorty’s origins and there are other people who are also on the lookout for this lost character. This is a quirky and wonderful

story that has a distinct feel of Stig of the Dump or even Nation by Terry Pratchett. It is the concept of the ‘innocent abroad’ and the often very manipulative and even dangerous world that we tend to live in; it also looks at how we can use technology to change the way the brain works. At the heart of the story we have the theme of family and home and we see how Rorty just wants to get back to the world that he knows. The author has given us some really dastardly villains as well as some very unlikely heroes and it is fascinating to see how they are unveiled as the plot develops. I really enjoyed the various layers of the story in which differing elements gradually come together and create a satisfying whole. It is a truly original story and I feel that it will have a long life as a classic tale for both individual and also class reading. It will definitely be a hit with the top of KS2 and has all the hallmarks of a possible film or TV adaption, only time will tell. MP

The Warrior in the Mist HHHHH

Ruth Eastham, Shrine Bell, 203pp, 978 1 9113 4238 0, £6.99 pbk

Ruth events

story to profound

Eastham through weaves of the historical

powerfully illustrate impact

reserves, with no

this fast-paced the


past on the present. Aidan’s village is being invaded by frackers, intent on plundering the land to harvest its

thought of

the damage they will cause to the ancient Carrus Woods, but only of the money they will make. This is a place which still echoes to the sound of the conflict between Queen Boudicca and her Iceni warriors and the Roman army-she as hopelessly outnumbered as the fracking protesters but, like them, determined to fight on. She

died heroically, but not

before she had seen her daughters slaughtered and their ghosts haunt the land, asking to be reunited in death. It is to Aidan they first appear- `wisps of bluish mist’-trying to lead him to their tombs, the only things which will halt the frackers. There have been other clues such as gentle, slow-witted Robbie’s discovery of a gold armband, clearly from a royal grave

site-but these have been

destroyed by an act of arson and the attempted murder of Robbie with a fast-moving car. Aidan and his friends Jon and Emmi

vow to find the site of Boudicca’s tomb and thus halt the fracking company, but

time is running out. If they cannot beat this sinister ticking clock then not only will the woods and the tomb be destroyed but Aidan’s father’s job with the horses belonging to

the local landowner,

Lord Berryman, since the land will be swallowed by the fracking process and the horses no longer needed. The narrative races on, full of twists

and turns and thick with tensions. The three friends only discover the tomb at the very last minute, just as the frackers are about

to detonate an explosion

which will destroy it-and them-and the twist at the end of the book reveals a surprising villain and also an unexpected morality in Lord Berryman. This is a roller-coaster of a read, and if the ending is a little too neat and tidy, then the merits elsewhere offer ample compensation. VR

The Girl who Drank the Moon HHHHH

Kelly Barnhill, Piccadilly Press, 386pp, 9781848126473, £6.99, pbk

The people of the ‘Protectorate’ have lived with fear and sorrow all of their lives. For as long as anyone can remember they have had to leave the youngest child of the town out on the hills, as an offering to a wicked Witch who lives nearby. Xan, the witch is actually a kind and loving person and every year saves these children after they are ‘abandoned’; she then finds homes for them in other towns. In one momentous year everything begins to change when the mother of the sacrificial child objects and is overtaken by her grief.

The baby is

accidently imbued with magic and Xan decides to look after the child she calls Luna. The book follows Luna as she grows towards adulthood and as she heads towards 13 years things start to come to a head, because there really is a wicked witch but she is hiding in plain sight of the townspeople. This is a truly beautiful and magical

fairy tale that deserves to become a classic in the future.

It has already

won the Newbery Medal in the USA, something it really deserves and I would like to see it receive recognition in the UK. The author has a lyrical, almost poetic way of writing at times and there are times when it really touches our heartstrings. Although it is told in the third person we are invited to share the

thoughts of

the main characters and in doing so we gradually begin to know and appreciate them. This story includes all the elements that you would expect from a fairy tale; we have a quest, as well as heroes and villains, a dragon and a poetry loving bog monster. The story is multi-layered but it is about

love and hope overcoming

sorrow and bitterness. It is also about accepting people for what they are; their

personality rather than their

looks. I have now read this story twice and it still has the power to make me emotional, I really do recommend this ultimately uplifting book. MP

14+ Secondary/Adult Things a Bright Girl Can Do

Sweetfreak HHHHH

Sally Nichols, Andersen Press, 420 pp, 9781783445257, £12.99 hbk

This story is set in the period of the First World War and the passage of the Act of Parliament that gave women over the age of 30 the right to vote. It is told from the viewpoints of three very different women, namely: Evelyn Collins, a clever upper class girl with sights set on university; May Thompson, who is a middle class girl, like her mother a Quaker and a pacifist; and Nell Swanscott, a fierce young woman living close to poverty. The role and situation of pacifists in this period are rarely well depicted. All three of these young women are militant suffragists. Nichols’s book

is unusually HHH

Sophie McKenzie, Simon and Schuster, 352pp, 978-1-4711-4543-8, £7.99 pbk

Carey Logan is a British fourteen year old who is best friends with Amelia. Carey’s older

sister Poppy

was dating Amelia’s brother George. Carey showed Amelia a photograph of Poppy kissing a Spanish boy while she was on holiday. Jealous George dumped Poppy when he saw the photo. Amelia starts receiving truly disturbing messages online from an unknown sender named Sweetfreak. She convinces herself that Carey is the guilty sender. Their friendship ends. The police suspect Carey of online harassment. Now Carey must prove herself innocent. The reader initially fails to warm to

the heroine of this story. It is Carey herself who triggers the end of her sister’s relationship by showing the photo to George. And whatever troubles affect other people, her first and only thought seems to be for herself. But as events conspire to place Carey at the centre of a nexus of suspicion (even her mother doubts her innocence) then the reader’s sympathy begins to be earned. She is cast in the lead role in her school’s musical. But she is suspended from school and of course loses the prized lead. When the police are looking for

Carey she runs away with no idea where she is going. It did not seem entirely convincing that a sensible fourteen year old would act in such a wildly senseless manner. The novel maintains its pace

and ends with a powerful surprise denouement. RB

No Filter

successful in three significant ways. The narrative emerges from three very different protagonists. Nichols makes each of them convincing and she welds their contributions into a consistent

impressively the

women brought to their struggle for the most elementary of political rights, the right to a say in who governs. And she depicts with conviction what was then a highly unconventional – not to say illicit – sexual taste. Books set in period demand of an author

willingness to tackle a

serious research task if verisimilitude is to be achieved. Nichols is to be congratulated on demonstrating her power over what must have been a mountain of research, though the detail never clouds the narrative. The publication of this book in the

centenary year of Passchendaele is wholly appropriate. RB


Orlagh Collins, Bloomsbury, 368pp, 978-1-4088-8451-5, £7.99 pbk

whole. She captures passion these

This summer romance makes perfect summer end of

looking forward to the holidays with a mix of excitement and apprehension. Her friends have behaved cruelly

reading. It begins at the term when Em (Emerald) is


another girl and though Em stood up for her, she didn’t do so firmly enough to appease her conscience, and she’s very aware too of how easily she herself could become the subject of her friends’ spite. These worries are nothing to what happens when she arrives home to find her mother unconscious after a suicide attempt. With her mother in rehab, Em is sent to her grandma in Ireland. It’s another country in more senses than one, and she soon decides to close her social media accounts for the summer, a clean break with her other life. On her first night there, she meets a

boy on the beach. Liam’s background is very different to Em’s, though as we later find out, their family stories are

Books for Keeps No.226 September 2017 29

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