10 Spud

John van de Ruit, Penguin, 398pp, 978 0 141 32356 5, £7.99 pbk

This fictional diary is the ultimate in getting even the most reluctant teenage reader totally hooked. John ‘Spud’ Milton, enjoying but more often enduring his first year at an elite all-boys boarding school in South Africa, tells it how it really is. Weird fellow-pupils, episodes of ghostbusting and teacher baiting, first tentative feelings for girls, all are recorded here by a teenager with a sharp eye for comic detail. Three more Spud stories followed, just as comic but with moments of poignancy too.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

Louise Rennison, £6.99, Harper Collins Children’s Books, 256pp, 978-0007218677, £6.99 pbk

The first of many stories featuring Georgia Nicolson, this semi- autobiographical novel unforgettably describes the highs and lows of pre-adolescence. Georgia lusts after ‘sex God’ Robbie, disastrously dyeing her hair after he tells her she is

still too young to date. Further

embarrassments follow in her search for social success, but never daunted she is always up for another attempt. Rude, caustic and outspoken, her honesty plus her stream of jokes make her excellent company. She later appeared in two film adaptations.

Geek Girl

Holly Smale, HarperCollins, 378pp, 978 0 00748944 2, £6.99 pbk

Fifteen-year-old Harriet Manners knows

a huge amount about

everything except how to make friends. So when she is approached by a top fashion agent she jumps at the chance of transforming herself into someone hopefully more popular. What follows is a saga of highs but more often lows, with handsome model Nick remaining aloof despite all Harriet’s efforts. Clever, perceptive and endlessly witty, this is comic writing at its best, with three more titles following afterwards.


Carl Hiassen, Yearling Books, 292pp, 978-0-33041529-3, £6.99 pbk

Teenager Roy Eberhardt has moved to Florida and hates it. But one day he sees a mysterious boy running away from the school bus without books, backpack and even shoes. Determined to find out more, Roy follows him and ends up involved in a world of potty-trained alligators and burrowing owls. The author has written numbers of adult environmental thrillers but this one is for younger readers, and very funny it is too. Skink, Chomp and Flush, written after this title, are also highly recommended.

Saffy’s Angel

Hilary McKay, Hodder, 160pp, 978-0-34098904-3, £6.99 pbk

The best humour in fiction always appears unforced, not a quality regularly achieved in the comic stories written by the two David’s, Baddiel and Walliams, which is why they are not included in this list. I would instead recommend any novel by Hilary McKay. Her also

deceptively gentle prose

contains many laugh-aloud moments to treasure. The natural heir to Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, McKay’s six


about the different characters in the eccentric Casson family are miracles of understated humour. In this story, Saffy discovers the truth behind her loving adoption in an original but highly satisfying way. There are four more equally outstanding stories in this series.

Nicholas Tucker is honorary senior lecturer in Cultural and Community Studies at Sussex University.

Books for Keeps No.220 September 2016 13

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32