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reviews 14+Secondary/Adult continued


girl who finds herself gradually being caught up in events and is made to wonder, by Caleb’s mother, whether she was in any way to blame for what has happened. As the story develops she begins to add the clues together and this leads her own family to worry about her health. This is very much a story about family and relationships, as well as the difficulties of being a teenager.


It also asks ‘how well do


you actually know people?’ Jessa is lucky to have family and friends who are supportive but even they find it difficult to understand what she is doing. The author has woven a really fascinating story that gradually hooks the reader into the lives of the characters; the plot is strong and fast flowing but with periods of reflection. This will be popular with those who like puzzles to solve, but also like a slice of romance to go with it. MP


Renegades HHH


Marissa Meyer, Macmillan, 523pp, 978-1-50987-643-3, £6.99 pbk


This book is squarely aimed at fans of The Hunger Games, the Marvel superheroes and lovers of dystopian future tales and, as such, is very much on trend. Two factions-the


abounds. Fluttering chests, pounding hearts and a feeling of being held like ‘precious cargo’ or ‘a damsel in distress’ bring little of any real worth to the narrative. There is an unexpected twist at the


end of the book which clearly signals a sequel. This will delight lovers of the genre and those who relish a long and sustained read. VR


Slay HHHH


Kim Curran, Usborne, 298pp, 9781474932318, £6.99 pbk


Milly was finding life tough enough as she and her mother moved around with the


latter’s operatic career. Renegades


and the Anarchists-vied for control of society. The Renegades won the battle and were lauded as the dispellers of chaos and the restorers of order. Ace Anarchy was believed to have been killed and his niece, Nova Artino, vowed revenge for the man who had raised her when her parents and baby sister were murdered. Living with a small band of Anarchists in disused underground train tunnels she saw little hope of achieving her goal until it was decided that she would infiltrate The Renegades and destroy them from within. One thing The Renegades and


Anarchists have in common is that they are all prodigies, possessing superpowers which can be used for good or evil. These powers are revealed by Meyer in a series of set battle pieces and the prodigies are named for their gifts, helping readers to keep track of the fast-paced action. The core of the book is built around these confrontations and, as a result, there is some stereotyping of characters and some repetition of scenarios and thought-processes. However, Meyer


injects a moral


dilemma into the narrative as Nova is reluctant-at least at first-to kill and she articulates her concern that society is looking to The Renegades to solve all its ills, with little or no input from ordinary people. The political dangers are clear-and, indeed, reflect to some extent those existing in contemporary society. Somewhat inevitably, romance between


builds Nova and the


adopted son of the two leaders of The Renegades and this is where cliché


However things go from bad to worse when Milly arrives home to find out that her mother has been taken over by a particularly nasty demon. What Milly did not expect was that she would be saved by the members of a world famous boy band, appropriately named ‘Slay’. The five members of the group and their manager/mentor Gail lead a double life; playing free gigs whenever they are called to fight demons somewhere and travelling the world as a consequence. Milly finds herself drawn in to this world as the team try to stop her ‘mother’ from bringing back the Aztec god of Death and Demons, but they only have a couple of days to do so and time is really running out on them. This is a really great adventure for


those who crave a bit of darkness in their stories.


It is not as gory as


say Darren Shan’s oeuvre but there is some death and destruction, so perhaps not for the fainthearted. It is a really fast paced, action filled story that will appeal to both boys and girls particularly because of the boy band set-up.


The heroine is strong willed


and a bit of a geek, so not the most obvious person to be fighting demons. Having lost


her father two years


previously she does not want to lose her mother, despite their relationship not being obviously close. The story is told from the perspective of Milly and of JD, one of the band members and this provides balance and also an element of friction, as the latter worries that Milly might affect the dynamics of the band. I surprised myself by really enjoying this story and find myself looking forward to the next in the series. Despite its theme it provides a bit of ‘light’ relief and is a very easy read, depending as it does on action and plot rather than character and emotion. This is a great choice for the secondary library. MP


In Paris With You HHHHH


Clementine Beauvais, translated by Sam Taylor, Faber & Faber, 346pp, 978 0 5713 3971 6, £9.99 hbk


In Paris with You tells the story of Eugene who bumps into Tatiana on the Paris Metro ten years after they


had parted. At that time Eugene, a wealthy bored student had decided to spend the summer with his friend Lensky, a poet and hopeless romantic in love with his neighbour


Olga.


Through them Eugene meets fourteen year old Tatiana (Olga’s sister) who is quiet and intelligent. They spend time together discussing literature, films, music and the world in general. And the more time they spend together the more Tatiana falls in love. When she eventually decides to write to Eugene expressing her feelings these are firstly ignored and then brushed aside. The summer ends in tragedy and Eugene and Tatiana part. Years later when they meet again Eugene is the one who is smitten, obsessively jealous of the other men in Tatiana’s life and determined to make her his. Though still attracted, Tatiana is on the brink of great success and change in her professional life. Will she pause to give their relationship the chance by spending a weekend in Paris with her first love? This book is based on the


celebrated verse novel by the 19th century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin also well known as an opera By Tchaikovsky. The English title is taken from the poem of the same name by James Fenton, the French title Songe a la Douceur a line from a poem by Baudelaire. In Paris with You tells a story of


young love, lust, regret and fate. It is told by a narrator who takes different perspectives


allowing the reader


to step inside the heads of its main characters and explore their confused thoughts and feelings, taking us back and forward in time to explore the events which shaped the individuals they have become. At times the narrator steps into the story directly to interrogate the main character about his role in a key event in the narrative. Wonderfully


beautifully told in


readable a


contemporary style the lyrical


and yet


translation


has been praised not least by the author herself. A great read for teens and adults too. SMc


The Unpredictability of Being Human


Linni Ingemundsen, Usborne, 272pp, 978 1 474 94063 4, £7.99, pbk


The first chapter (You, Me and God Himself) is just six pages long, but by its end we know 14 year-old Malin has her problems. Her dad “storms in” and “storms out” of rooms, her mom’s “a bit on edge these days”, her older brother Sigve is yelled and shouted at by her dad but doesn’t give a toss. Malin herself gets caught shoplifting a Stratos chocolate bar (she hates Stratos) because a couple of the most popular girls in her class say she must if she wants to be in their group. In the process, she inadvertently


incriminates


a more experienced shoplifter - but somehow they become


Hanna, friends.


There’s some scene-setting in these busy six pages too: Malin lives in a


HHHH


village in south-western Norway; there are hints that she is oddly obsessed with time and numbers; and at first it seems she’s telling her story in that slick-witted way which YA readers will quickly recognise in fiction if not in daily life. As so often, the book’s first sentence sets the tone; “If I got to be God for one day, the first thing I’d do would be to microwave a bag of popcorn to perfection.” Linni Ingemundsen tells us that


growing up in SW Norway was “her greatest writing influence” in working on this debut novel, begun during a Creative Writing MA Course at Oxford Brookes University. Other than the geographical setting, UK readers will find Malin’s troubled home and her secondary school, with its spiteful jealousies


and ruthless bids for


popularity, familiar enough. They’ll also recognise elements of the plot; events here culminate in one of those YA fiction parties, in this case the school prom. As we come to know Malin better, we realise that her fragile confidence is linked to her need to measure and record time precisely; and we also understand that her narration is far less self-aware than it seemed in that first chapter. Her sentences often have a simplicity which reflects the way she takes others absolutely literally, sometimes with unfortunate consequences. Her ability to read numbers contrasts with her inability to read people and situations. When it emerges – as she sees it – that her mother, her father, her aunt and some of her classmates have all lied to her, she is devastated; the clues have been there for readers to get


there before her. There is


perhaps an echo here of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time though, as in Haddon’s novel, there is no explicit mention of any specific disorder. As readers


recognise that they


are in the hands of a likeable but vulnerable narrator, their concern for Malin and their interest in her story will surely become deeper. Malin’s literal grasp of situations leads her into some excruciating – but often comic - predicaments. For selfish reasons, her friend Hanna lines her up for a first date with a boy she doesn’t know. By way of preparation, Malin decides she’d better google “How to Kiss a Boy”. Having read the instructions, as it were,


she’s confused when


things don’t play out according to the script. She’s not helped much at school, either. Her teachers are an odd bunch themselves; not one of them spots that Malin’s mind moves in unconventional ways. It is not until she moves schools that a Maths teacher tells her she’s really smart and should be in an advanced class; and in that new school, she at last makes a friend of a kindred spirit. It’s taken some harsh experiences and overwhelming family revelations – and even a death – for her to arrive at the optimistic final chapter. Now, at last, things are looking up – for her family as well as for Malin. GF


Books for Keeps No.230 May 2018 31


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