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BfK 14+ Secondary/Adult continued

possibly have such perceptive talents? The girls are divided into skill groups. The Seers can see snatches of the future. The Readers can read the thoughts of other people. The Feelers can sense the emotions of other people. Although the presence of the sisters at the Keane was supposed to be helpful to Annie, it turns out that Fia is the star. She seems to have the combined gifts of Seer, Reader and Feeler.

The talents of these gifted teenagers are, it transpires, to be put at the disposal of some unusual masters – the Mafia, run in the school by Mr Keane, whose son James will eventually own the place. The psychic girls are expected to learn how to become skilled assassins.

As the narrative unfolds Fia enters a blizzard of conflicting emotions. She wants above all to protect her sister, in keeping with a promise she made to her parents. But the skills she develops in order to understand and foil the threats to Annie are also the very skills her masters want her to develop, in order to become a more accomplished slayer. Quite a conflict. How far will she go to protect Annie? Will she ever learn to Feel?

The narrative pace of this novel is lightning fast. It’s a compulsive read, impossible to put down once taken up. The characterisation is strong. Fia is so unbelievably malign that her actions leave the reader jaw-dropped. Girls who are used to safe modes of existence will be bowled over. At the start of the book Annie is a credible character, easily irritated because her blindness renders her vulnerable to being babied. The later developments of the book somewhat spoil the presentation of Annie in ways I won’t divulge.

RB A Pocketful of Eyes HHH

Lili Wilkinson, Allen & Unwin, 9781742376196, £6.99, pbk

is grappling both with a dead possum and the strange prickly attraction she feels towards Toby, the geeky new guy in the department, her taciturn boss, Gus is found dead, and suddenly, there is a real mystery to solve. Was he murdered? To find out the truth, Bee must dissect a whole body of scientific skulduggery, whilst Toby attempts to play Watson to her Holmes. After the pair get up close and personal on the back of a stuffed tiger, Bee detects more than a frisson of chemistry between them. But she doesn’t know what to do about it. And as for the unsolved murder case, she doesn’t think even Poirot would figure that out. Until a chance remark from her mother’s drippy new Dungeons and Dragons loving boyfriend brings out her inner Agatha Christie.

Set in Australia, and written by a young IBBY Award-winning novelist from Melbourne, this is a thoroughly engaging tale. I was a little bothered by the almost complete lack of a police investigation into Gus’s death and my hackles were a teeny bit raised by the fact that the most unsavoury character in the novel is a Pom with a ‘monotonous English accent’. But only temporarily. For I liked the lack of preamble in the romance between Bee and Toby, who kiss early on and then take a big kangaroo leap back whilst they try and work out exactly what this courtship ritual means. And I liked the fact that Toby has said the word ‘vagina’ by p19 and it has nothing to do with being naughty. For as well as providing the entertainment of a murder mystery, this book is a zoological marvel. It will teach you a lot you probably didn’t know. How butterflies taste. What is so special about horseshoe crab blood. And whereabouts a platypus keeps its venomous spike. As well as ‘something beautiful and a little bit dirty about snails’.

CS From What I remember HHH

Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas, Electric Monkey, 978-1405264112, £7.99

Kylie is about to graduate from high school and being the class swot is set to be top of her class at the graduation ceremony. Then due to the theft of her laptop and the almost farcical events following it she ends up doing something totally outrageous. Fast forward 48 hours and Kylie wakes up in a strange bed, in Mexico, with the school’s most dateable boy lying next to her. This book is about the two days leading to these events and the consequences for all the main characters. The story is told from multiple viewpoints; all having interlinked reasons for being involved.

Bee Ross – a Nancy Drew devotee and would-be amateur sleuth – takes a summer job in the taxidermy department of the local museum. One day just as she

This is a bright, light and funny book which I enjoyed much more than anticipated. It made a great change from some of the dystopian and magical series filling the bookshelves and yet it does have some more serious undertones. All of the main characters are hiding a secret problem or sorrow and if anything this is the one slight downside to the book. It might have been better to concentrate on just a couple of

30 Books for Keeps No.198 January 2013

issues; having said that they are dealt with seriously, but not with a heavy hand, and add rather than detract from the story. A good read for the holidays and a real contender for a film or TV series. MP

The Winds of Heaven HHHHH

Judith Clarke, Allen & Unwin, 300pp, 978-1-74237-833-6, £6.99 pbk

and each very much an individual voice. Lissy, unknown to her, has been promised to the Hidden on her 14th birthday when she is old enough to begin breeding and provide the mortal blood they need to ensure that their destruction of the human race will succeed. Her mother Miriam’s long-distant affair with their ruler, the Swan King, produced Lissy and she must endure the deaths of her other two children, Rafe and Connie, if she does not surrender her daughter on the due date. Rafe wants only to save Lissy from her fate and, with Tom, Miriam’s partner’s son, becomes embroiled not only in the machinations of the Hidden, but the political scheming of the Fontevrault -an organisation formed in a centuries-old pact, intent on keeping the Hidden locked away behind a magic portal.

Hidden Among Us is a complex and dynamic tale in which both emotional and physical tensions are used to great effect. The sense of threat and danger is palpable, as the race to recover Lissy runs out of time and the Fontevrault pursue Rafe for the ancient manuscript he has stolen to help him in his efforts to save his sister.

Clementine loves her cousin, Fan, who is a year older than her. When she goes to visit,

gindaymaidhaany – meaning ‘sisters’ in Aboriginal. Fan is vivacious, beautiful and kind, but Clementine feels she is always seeking something – something undefinable, perhaps even unattainable. Clementine loves Fan, but Fan lives far away and visits are rare. As the two girls grow up, they drift apart. At eighteen, Fan is married with two children while Clementine is on her way to university. Clementine is concerned for Fan – her life is one of unfulfilled promise – but still she finds it hard to get in touch. Then suddenly tragedy strikes and the girls are separated for ever.

Written for young adults, this book deals with serious and important issues such as teenage pregnancy, depression and suicide. It is beautifully written – at times poetic – especially in its evocation of small-town Australia. Descriptions of the characters’ memories from the fifties and sixties are neatly sandwiched between a prologue and epilogue set in the present (2009). This book is part of a new and expanding genre that deals not only with the problems of growing up but with other important issues such as death, and includes Before I Die by Jenny Downham and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The Winds of Heaven can not provide a happy ending, but it is a beautiful book that encourages thought and understanding.

ARa Hidden Among Us HHHH

Katy Moran.Walker.304pp. 978-1-4063-2421-1. £6.99 pbk. 978-1-4063-4590-2 epub.

This carefully woven story is delivered by five narrators, each precisely delineated

the two girls become

The morality of the narrative is also clear a people persecuted and killed because they are different; despair at the way the human race is brutalising the planet; the strength of family loyalties and the futility and danger of desire. This is an ambitious and absorbing book with a sequel clearly planned - one to watch out for.

VR The Fault in our Stars HHHH

John Green, Penguin, 313pp, £7.99 pbk 978 0 141 354565 9

Published last year in hardback, this best-selling American novel raised huge interest even before publication and is now out in paperback. It concerns the growing love affair between a fiercely intelligent teenage boy and girl both suffering from terminal cancer. Victorian novelists used to write about dying children because there were so many of them. Today child death is a rarity at least in the developed world, yet more and more of them are once again cropping up in contemporary teenage fiction. At worst, such novels trade in mawkishness, with young death used as emotional shorthand for arousing readers’ attention quickly and easily. At best, stories with this plot encourage readers to face up to eternal questions about the very meaning of the life so many of us now take for granted until the arrival of old age. Which category does this novel fall into?

The answer seems a bit of both. The Fault in our Stars is indeed an accomplished piece of writing. Teenagers Hazel and Gus swap wry observations about their conditions in dialogue that remains always fresh and unpredictable. The sexual tension in their relationship is sensitively dealt with, and the trip they make to Amsterdam together is beautifully described. There they visit a reclusive, alcoholic writer whose novel initially served to bring the young couple together. Their meeting with him turns into a disaster when Hazel pushes him

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