BfK 14+ Secondary/Adult continued

portrayed, something most girls now will not experience as airports are not so very different one from another! The author does explain at the end

what was fiction and fact within the story but Ada’s early life is imagined so well that she becomes a friend, someone you would really want to know. There are two photographs of portraits of Ada as a young wife and of her father Lord Byron, whose poems are quoted within the text. A book to inspire and enrich, to learn more about Ada, and maybe pursue science and/ or the poems of Byron! JF

The Girl Who Became a Tree HHHH

Joseph Coelho, ill. Kate Milner, Otter-Barry, 176pp, 9781913074784, £10.99 hbk

This novel in verse by poet Joseph Coelho tells the story of Daphne who is mourning the loss of her father. As she seeks solace in the library, atmospherically depicted as a forest, and on the screen of her phone, Daphne accesses both painful and happy memories and works her way through isolation and the stages of grief to re- connect with family and friends. The author skilfully re-works the

legend of Daphne, turned into a tree by her river-god father to avoid the attentions of Apollo, into a bleak and emotional YA story of loss and loneliness full of powerful imagery. Free verse and form poems combine to present themes of death, loss, hope and renewal and the dark, spiky black and white illustrations enhance

the atmosphere of fear

and dislocation. This is a thought- provoking book which merges fantasy and reality, inner and outer worlds, and urban and forest landscapes. It is an emotional and complex read, but those older readers who enter the forest with Daphne as she confronts the darkness inside will emerge with her into a more hopeful world. SR

Wrecked HHH

Louisa Reid, Guppy Books, 376pp 978-1-913101-367 £7.99 pbk

Following the Gloves Off which tackled

critically acclaimed bullying,

boxing and body image in verse form, Louise Reid now writes in similar form about a car crash in which the other driver, mother and nurse Stephanie White, was killed outright. Joe and Imogen were in the other car, but which of them was driving? Joe’s diary in verse

form runs

between the court case and the back story, explaining how Joe and Imogen got together and a lot about their relationship, including its impact on Joe’s life at school and at home.

to teachers, and is a bad influence on Joe, but he cannot see that. His friends are concerned, but also have their own relationship issues. His Dad is dying of an unspecified illness, but both his parents have high hopes that Joe will go to college and have a good career. It looks as if that may not happen after all, as Joe seems to be heading for prison. The fact that he had been working in a garage after school to help make ends meet, but stole and crashed the car he was working on, does not endear him to the jury. The barrister is eloquent, the jury mostly bored, and this is all very well described. The tension mounts as the witnesses are not always helpful, Joe’s Dad dies, and he has to face up to the possible consequences of his actions. Louisa Reid

has written other

books about people who are different in some way, and Gloves Off was her first in verse form. This one includes some examples of texting between Joe, Immie and their friends, which seems books.

almost obligatory in YA This, her second in verse is

indeed excellent writing, but perhaps too long – your reviewer confesses skipping to the end, and a teen reader may also lose patience. DB

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea


Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Walker, 416pp, 9781406395501, £7.99 pbk


love for Imogen, (or Immie), means that he as Captain lets his football team down when he doesn’t turn up for a big match, and his grades slip. Imogen is not an attractive character- she doesn’t see the point of school, is rude

This story is set in a world that has links to our past. There is all powerful Empire, that has similarities to the ancient Japanese world, but there are also pirates and subservient peoples who have been conquered. The two central characters are Evelyn, the daughter of a noble, who is being sent to a foreign land as the bride for the local governor and Flora a member of the ship’s crew who hides her gender and is known as Florian. What Evelyn and the other passengers do not know is that their vessel is actually a pirate ship and their lives are in danger. Florian is detailed to guard the young guest and it is not long before they are attracted to each other. Adding some magic to the story, the crew of the vessel capture a mermaid and keep it in order to sell when they make land and it is Evelyn who discovers how to provide it with food. However, danger is lurking around every corner and eventually the girls are forced to escape the ship, together with the mermaid and find themselves cast up on a shore. What happens thereafter brings them into contact with a witch and also with the sea itself; but will they save themselves and what will happen to the other people on the ship? This is a wonderfully imagined world which has been receiving excellent reviews in the USA and in Britain. The author has taken elements from different cultures and time periods and put them together to produce a fantasy world that both intrigues and

32 Books for Keeps No.244 September 2020

repels us at times. The characters, especially the two main ones, are well developed and have a depth that makes us want to dig deeper into their past. Essentially this is a love story but within the setting of a very cruel world, where it is dangerous to trust anyone, even those who are close to you. There is a recurring theme throughout the book about the importance and strength of female relationships. We have the central story, but there are also references to other characters that have had also found strength in such relationships.

This is

one of those books that might take a while to get involved with, but it definitely repays the perseverance.

It is worth

noting that there is some violence at a couple of points, but it is meant for the 14+ age range and I am sure most will be fine with the level of bloodletting. MP

Again, Again HHHH

e. lockhart, Hot Key Books, 292pp, 978 1 4714 0729 1, £7.99 pbk

Chapter 1 is headed: A LOVE STORY. Below that, This story takes place in a number of worlds. But mostly in two. Readers might see these opening lines in so many different ways; an enticing invitation maybe, a challenge, or a confusing conundrum. But before we get

to that, some

reasonably firm ground. We’re in rural Massachusetts. It’s summer vacation on the campus of Alabaster Academy, a co-ed American boarding school. Facilities are

lavishly funded, the

curriculum, the teaching faculty and the backgrounds and preoccupations of the students suggest affluence and

liberal contemporary, intelligence. well-heeled,

This is East

Coast America. Those students are frequently

sometimes intense,

in exploratory, often witty

conversation with each other. Adelaide Buchwald and her Dad,

Levi, are on campus for the summer. Levi teaches English at Alabaster, where Adelaide is approaching her senior year – so college applications are on her horizon. Things are not good at the moment. She has just been dumped by Mikey Double L (you’ll need to read the book); and she’s very worried about her many- layered

themselves and their relationships; they are

highly articulate about adept

immediately be repeated, using the same ‘starter lines’ before offering a third ‘what-might-have-been’. Multiple mini-Groundhog Days, you might say. Few events involving substantial action occur. Rather, we’re offered Adelaide’s thoughts or conversations between the limited cast of characters. This is a third person narrative, but Adelaide is almost ever-present on the page, so that we share her responses as she falls in and out of the early intensities and excitements of love with three dissimilar boys. Maybe these are her speculative explorations of what might or might not be – of what she’s looking for. Then again, maybe not. At times, her fear that she has failed Toby also

preoccupies Adelaide. Brief or

disjointed texts and phone conversations alongside those reworked passages increase the possibility of ambiguity and misunderstanding. The summer’s experiences, searching dialogues, frustrations, self-examinations and speculations do bring results; by the final pages, there are signs of a hopeful way forward into that senior year. Some will engage

closely with

Adelaide’s discovery of new ways of seeing others and herself as they find new ways of being a reader. At the far end of a spectrum of responses, others may have abandoned ship not too many chapters in. Depends on what they’re ready for. GF

Clementine and Rudy HHHH

Siobhan Curham, Walker Books, 336pp, 978 1 4063 9023 0, £7.99 pbk

On the surface, they could hardly seem more different; but as the narrative strips away that surface, Rudy and Clementine realise they have much in common. Their alternating chapters are driven by Rudy’s passion to create images and Clem’s exploration


poetry. Along the way, the two fifteen- year olds come to define themselves and trust each other, despite the difficulties both face at home. For Rudy, home is in a block of

relationship with younger

brother Toby, back in Baltimore in a rented house with their Mom. Toby’s in rehab – a recovering user. That’s it for the solid ground.

Readers should quickly realise that they must expect

the unexpected

from e. lockhart. From page 1, the text varies in layout in terms of line length. Paragraphs

uneven lines perhaps suggesting fragmentary thoughts;


dissolve into single or

a few words gain extra emphasis by owning their own line. Another regular device sees the narrative flow paused. Typeface changes to bold. Maybe four or five lines are repeated from a few pages back but then the earlier

narrative is replaced by a

very different alternative, often over several pages. That process might

council flats above Brighton. Her Mum works long, late hours in a casino on the seafront. She’s got a new man – Rudy thinks of him as ‘Idiot Dave’; Mum no longer finds the time she and Rudy used to share. Rudy’s ambition, which she keeps secret from her Mum, is to create mixed-media street art. As the novel opens, she is about to post her first-ever piece on an alleyway wall in the dark hours of the morning. Clementine

lives in fashionable

Hove, attends a private school, enjoys dance classes at a studio owned by a former member of the Royal Ballet. Her home is immaculate, cleaned obsessively by her mother, forbidden to pursue her

professional career

by Vincent, Clem’s repulsive and controlling stepfather, a has-been Radio DJ. Clementine is devastated to fail an audition for a dance show – but her disappointment is offset by a chance sighting of Rudy’s street art. Words spark in her mind, and soon she’s posting a poem on Instagram in response to the artwork. Social

media brings the two

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