BfK 14+Secondary/Adult continued

Manning expresses the most familiar aspects of Amnesty’s work. Otherwise, these

touch some of its young readers’ lives directly, in which abuse and exploitation is suffered at the hands of adults and other young people, or (in Sita Brahmachari’s story) as a result of social isolation, rather than through a repressive political regime. An impressive array of writers offer a variety of themes, including: the fate of refugees (Jackie Kay poems); racial discrimination and violence (poems by Amy Leon, story by Bali Rai); sexual abuse (John Boyne); the torture of children suspected of being witches (Francis Hardinge); the dangers of the stereotyping of Muslim teenagers in the government’s anti-radicalisation programme

discrimination against gay people (Liz Kessler);

L Kennedy); and sexual trafficking (Elizabeth Laird). Usually the writers speak directly to teenagers. In only one or two stories – dealing with gang violence and intimidation (Chibundu Onuzu) and female genital mutilation (Christie Watson) – is the viewpoint adult. Often the writers speak in the voice of the victims, or as onlookers who fail to act to prevent

consequences, and sometimes as perpetrators of injustice, realistically

powerlessness accepting the

protest is, after all, your right’; but, in many stories, the question posed to readers, and the stand they are urged to take, is more about respect, tolerance

responsibility. and

personal CB

How Not To Disappear HHHH

Clare Furniss, Simon & Schuster, 406pp, 978 1 4711 2031 2, £7.99 pbk

In a brief Prologue, seventeen year old Gloria spins and dances on a South London common sometime in the late 1950s, celebrating the gentle warmth of a Spring Sunday morning, free from her joyless Roman Catholic School and equally joyless home. Her cowed mother stands anxiously by: “‘Father will be wondering where we are.’ ”

tells us, “her quiet desperation to prevent confrontation.”

beautiful people, including exotic new girlfriend Camille, on the Tropez waterfront.

Reuben and she’s also missing best friend Kat, away at the Edinburgh Festival with her new lover, Zoe- from-Kettering. Meanwhile Hattie is grinding out shifts at The Happy Diner. What she’s not told Reuben is that she’s pregnant. By him. The

and Hattie is soon established. Hattie connection between Gloria Hattie’s missing who’s moral readers that

young people and sometimes their culpability. The Amnesty postscript reminds

‘peaceful of children

perhaps relative and


(Sabrina Mahfouz); bullying in school (A

are stories more likely to

takes a ‘phone call which reveals she has a relative she’s never heard of, a Great Aunt Gloria. The caller, a caring neighbour, is anxious because Gloria

and maybe worse. Time may be running out. Gloria’s alone, and has never mentioned any family, but the neighbour has somehow got the Lockwoods’ number and thought they might want to be in touch. Hattie decides to visit and finds

isn’t at all well. Dementia

a sparky if irascible retired actress pouring the champagne and gin slings very early in the day. It’s soon clear she’s got loose ends in her life which she is desperate to resolve before memory and body fail. She needs to travel – to Cambridge, the Lake District, and then Whitby. Why? She’s not saying. She can’t make such a journey alone. So Hattie decides she’ll take her – why not? She’s just passed her driving test, Mum is in Spain with would-be husband Carl, and her Fiesta’s in the drive doing nothing. Throughout

the so

perspectives we

dual narration continues, share

clearer understanding as the secrets of past and present emerge. The parallels are often exact. Both had an unwanted pregnancy aged seventeen. Both had fathers damaged by war. Both become involved with boys who, in different ways, break the conventions of the day. And, although we learn just how harsh life has been to Gloria, we know she would agree with Hattie’s determined ‘I’m not scared of anything’. As Gloria and Hattie travel, they won’t allow the other to evade their searching questions. More than 50 years divide them, but their growing care for each other enables ever more significant family secrets to emerge. Time is pressing though, since other issues demand resolution.

want to keep her baby? Gloria says her story will end at Whitby – given her health, her failing mind and her impulsiveness, Hattie cannot rule out her Great Aunt stepping off that high cliff. The supporting cast – Reuben, Kat, Hattie’s mother, Carl - also have life-changing decisions to make. Here, the women are complex,

“I can’t bear her fear,” Gloria

we’re into Chapter One’s witty email from our main narrator, Hattie Lockwood, Reuben,

chatting to her friend mingling with the

St Quick as a change of typeface,

caring, usually eager to learn and to grow. Males are often far less nuanced; are


unwilling to handle responsibility in relationships. An exception to such male inadequacy is Sam, the boy Gloria loved in her teens. He’s kind, reflective and he is responsible; but more than half a century ago, his skin colour precluded his acceptance by her family members – especially the men. So Sam disappears from Gloria’s life quite early; thereafter she meets first with appalling brutality and later makes three marriages to vacuous husbands. In a novel whose female characters are drawn with engaging subtlety, there may be a risk of imbalance.

GF 30 Books for Keeps No.220 September 2016

feckless, to

they include men who devoid point

the rape

of empathy, of

or Does Hattie alongside Hattie’s Gloria’s their road trip, confused

The Stars at Oktober Bend


Glenda Millard, Old Barn Books, 288pp, 978-1910646151, £7.99 pbk

and The Stars at Oktober Bend is so beautifully and so carefully written it seems each word is pure gold. Alice Nightingale tells us she is broken. Following some terrible act of violence, she has been left with stitches to her head, ‘crazy electrics’, and will be ‘forever twelve’. Yet she is an extraordinary and powerful narrator, describing her daily life in the fields and on the riverbank near the home she shares with her grandmother and brother


a voice that stutters and wanders but shines with close observation and

interspersed with her poems too, and it is through verse that Alice finds voice for her feelings and ways to talk about what otherwise can’t be said. She scatters the poems around her home and in the little town nearby but they seem to fall by the wayside until she meets Manny. If Alice is the girl ‘with songs that no-one understood’, Manny is the boy ’sad because he had no songs left inside him’. Both are running from terrible experiences but, awkwardly, in a story of stops and starts, together both move towards happiness and freedom. Despite the tragedies in Alice’s life, it’s a story full of hope and often laughter too. Alice’s mother has gone, her father is dead and her grandfather is in prison, yet love holds her small family together, we are never in any doubt about that, and because of that she is able to open up to Manny, to let him in ‘though a crack in my heart’. Out of terrible crimes evolves a story of forgiveness and redemption, told with passion, heart and humour; it is unforgettable. Read a Q&A interview with Glenda

Millard.. The Yellow Room


Jess Vallance, Hot Key Books, 272pp, 978-1-4714-0581-5, £6.99 pbk

Anna Roddick is a lonely sixteen year old. Her mother is a widely respected university science

absorbed in her work that she hardly seems to notice she has a daughter. Anna has not seen her father since she was a child. Out of the blue she receives a letter

Southwood, her father’s partner. It seems Anna’s father has died. Edie (as she soon becomes known) suggests that she and Anna might meet. Edie turns out to be somewhat eccentric,

more interested in Anna and her welfare

preoccupied mother. Gradually Edie and Anna form an ever closer bond. Anna has a secret from the past.

She was baby-sitting an unruly boy named Shay. While Anna was looking after him he attacked a cat. What followed remains a secret, which Anna divulges to her new friend. As it happens the episode following the attack on the cat was witnessed by

than Anna’s but

nevertheless much academically

from Edith lecturer, so vivid images. The prose is

a boy at Anna’s school, who uses his knowledge to try to blackmail her. The big question at the heart of this

question will only gradually emerge and will exert a massive influence on Anna’s life and wellbeing. The book works well on the whole

to this Joey in

Glenda Millard is one of Australia’s most respected children’s

novel is whether Edie can be trusted. Is she the kind and reliable friend she seems to be, or will a more sinister Edie appear? The answer

but there is one major flaw. The reader is presented with a picture of Anna’s mother that strains credulity. She is of course a busy scientist. But can she really be so preoccupied that her daughter can stay over at the home of someone her mother doesn’t know, of whose very existence she is unaware, without the mother expressing any concern or asking any questions? It doesn’t ring true. Where were you last night, daughter dear?

RB Re-made HHH

Alex Scarrow, Macmillan, 370pp, 9781509811205, £6.99 pbk

When a totally new virus appears in Africa and develops into an epidemic, it is not long before it reaches across the world. However this is no ‘normal’ virus, this is one that has the ability to change and develop to the point that it seems to be able to think. The victims of this virus range from humans to any animals that it comes into contact with and it seems to be trying to replicate their genetic make- up. Leon, his sister Grace and their mother find themselves running for their lives, trying to avoid any contact with these mutations.

seem to be immune, but eventually their mother is caught and killed by creations they call ‘Snarks’ (small crablike animals). The most horrific element of the story is that the ‘virus’ is learning and gradually develops the

according to their DNA pattern; so who is real and who can you trust in this new world.

that Leon will have to find out as he battles to care for his sister. This is the start of a truly horrifying

That is something

new series by Alex Scarrow, the author of the Time Riders series. It is a very different theme for him and is definitely aimed at an older audience;


ability to replicate creatures

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