Category Archives: Teen fiction

Book Review: Red Queen and Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

red queen.jpg

These are the first two novels of a four part teenage, fantasy series.

The books are set in an alternative universe, or possibly our own future, we don’t really know.  The planet is like earth with towns, cities, rivers, mountains, etc etc. but the people are rather different.  In this world people are divided in two, there are the Reds and the Silvers.  Reds are just like us, humans, with red blood; Silvers look and more or less act like humans but they have silver blood and even more dramatically have what we would regard as magic powers, the Silvers call them ‘abilities’.  Some Silvers can control fire, some water, some can run amazingly fast others are incredibly strong, some have none physical powers like being able to read minds or perform mind control or see into the future.  There are a large range of abilities which tend to run in families.

As you may have guessed with such amazing powers the Silvers become the ruling dominant section of society – and they do not use this power benevolently!  Reds and Silvers live separately (except when Silvers need servants) the Reds live in all the poorest least desirable areas and are used by Silvers to perform all the horrid tasks in life; cleaning, hard labour, dangerous factory work etc.  And even worse, they are used as disposable foot-soldiers in the wars Silvers wage between their different groups and factions.  All young Reds must spend time serving in the Silver army and many don’t live out their conscription period, others come home physically broken, mentally scarred or both.  Obviously the Reds don’t like living this way and some do try to rebel but it is not easy when any insurrection can be crushed by superhuman Silver soldiers who the Reds cannot possibly beat in a fight.

So this is the set up for the novel.  In The Red Queen we meet 16 year old Mare who is a Red, living in poverty, trying to avoid conscription and help her impoverished family by petty thieving.  But one day something incredible happens, Mare discovers she has an ‘ability’ too, just like a Silver, except her blood in definitely Red and if anything her power appears stronger than that of an average Silver.  Her unique power is discovered by the ruling family of her country and they quickly decided the discovery must be kept quiet; their whole social order partly depends on everyone agreeing that Silvers are naturally superior to Reds.  By threatening the safety of her family she is forced to live in the palace and masquerade as a Silver so they can keep a close eye on her and study her developing ability.  I don’t really want to say much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for you, there are lots of unexpected twists and turns which is a real strength of the novels.

In the second instalment, Glass Sword, we see Mare leaving the confines of the palace and taking her ability out into the wider world as she goes on a search to find more Reds like her.  This is a dangerous quest as most Silvers are determined to hold on the power and squash any threat to the existing hierarchy.

Overall these are very exciting fun books, though the Red Queen is a slightly slower burner.  After the interesting set up to the story then exciting revelation that Mare has powers this book becomes a little more steady paced as Mare spends time in the palace learning how to act like a Silver; etiquette, history and dance lessons included (yawn).  The only thing to really spice up this dull section is an intriguing love triangle developing between Mare and the two half-brother princes of the Silver royal family.  I did reach the point when I decided to give up on the series as the Red Queen was a bit too boring…but then the final chapters are so thrilling and unexpected that I just had to find out what happened next!

Glass Sword does not disappoint, it is a thrill ride from the opening pages.  It is an improvement from the Red Queen in that there is constant movement and peril and a team of other characters helping Mare on her quest.  My only criticism of this book is that in the dialogue the characters can come across as a bit one note, everyone seems angry all the time!  It is a pet hate with some teenage books in that the authors seem to think the best way to demonstrate that the characters are spirited is to make them endlessly snappy and irritable!  Also, although some anger is expected in times of difficultly and peril, how come all characters seem to react to stress in the same way?  In the real world some people react to bad stuff by becoming quiet and withdrawn, or deflecting how they feel with humour, or being depressed, or over the top positive etc etc.  In Red Queen world everyone just seems to get cross so there is a lot of dialogue where everyone is snappy and angry with everyone else and the voices seem to become interchangeable.  BUT this is not a novel to choose for subtly drawn characters and sensitive dialogues it is all about the action so this fault is not difficult to forgive.

I look forward to the next instalment.

4/5

Zoe

Borrow Red Queen from Brent Libraries

Borrow Glass Sword from Brent Libraries

 

glass sword

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Book review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

This is the final instalment of the Divergent trilogy (there is another book, Four, but I believe this is a spin off not part of the main story).  The first novel Divergent introduced us to Tris and her strange home city that divides everyone in regimented factions, in Insurgent this society began to crumble, Allegiant takes the characters out of the city into the wider world for the first time.  Out there they discover some dramatic truths about their society, why it is closed off from the rest of the world, how the system of factions came to be and what it really means to be divergent.

Allegiant

I was disappointed with this book, not because it was totally terrible but it just didn’t live up to its predecessors.  It begins right after the end of the action in Insurgent, which got me off to a bad start… I left about a year between reading the two books and couldn’t remember what was going on!  The book isn’t generous with the reader in this respect, there is no handy reminder with the characters conveniently reflecting on everything that has just happened within the first few pages!  (So if you do want to read this I recommend you read it not too long after Insurgent.)  It is good that it gets straight into the action though, this is the book’s main strength, it is fast paced throughout.  I can’t tell you too much about what the action entails as it is full of major reveals and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

As to the books weaknesses – a main one was the way Roth switches the narration between Tris and Tobias.  I don’t remember her doing this in the first two.  It seems totally pointless as the two characters experience almost all the same things and their inner voices seem totally interchangeable.  This often confused me, I would pick up the book half way through a chapter and after reading for a bit come across something like ‘I pull Tris to me and kiss her hard’ and I’m thinking hang on I thought this was Tris, has she just kissed herself?  This happened frequently.

I also found aspects of the plot irritating and a bit lazy.  The aspect I am referring to is the ‘serums’ that the whole plot suddenly seems to depend on.  We already came into contact with the fear and truth serum; now there are memory, death and peace serums too.  It seems that most problems could be solved with an application of the correct serum and also perils caused to characters by being exposed to the wrong serum at the wrong time which could then only be overcome by developing an antidote to the said serum.  The science of the development of all these serums and antidotes was as vague as expected.  It felt that rather that deal with how the characters were behaving and looking for ways the plot could cleverly effect their actions you just squirt someone with a serum and get the result you need.  A bit disappointing.

There were some good moments though, a few surprising elements and scenes with real heart (just not enough!)

3/5

Zoe    

 

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Book Review: Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe

Concentr8

This young adult novel is set in London in the near future.  Teenagers across the capital have been given a new drug called Concentr8 officially to treat ADHD, but many believe it is actually to control the behaviour of healthy but boisterous young people.  The drug becomes controversial and is withdrawn suddenly.  This leads to young people rioting across the city, is this because the drug was controlling their behaviour and the control is now gone, or is it withdrawal side effects, or is the rioting not directly related to the drug?  We don’t know.

The story focuses on a small group of five teenagers who break away from the main riots and kidnap a GLA clerical worker (this isn’t a spoiler I hope as it occurs very early in the book).  They go on to hold this man hostage in a warehouse.

There is some fantastic tension in the book as the point of view shifts each chapter between the different teenagers who all have a different take on the situation, the hostage, the officials and police working to free the hostage and the journalist reporting on the situation.  There is edge of the seat stuff as you wonder if the hostage will be harmed or killed and if the teenagers will turn on each other.  But as the novel reaches its final chapters and conclusion all this tension fizzles out rather.  It almost feels like Sutcliffe didn’t really know how to finish things and so rushed the end a bit because he was starting to get bored with his own story!  This is a shame as the set up was so very promising.

3/5

Zoe

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Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent

This is the second novel in the trilogy and picks up right where Divergent left off.  So Tris, Four and their uneasy alliance are sort of on the run after the vicious attack by mind controlled Dauntless on Abnegation.

Their society is more divided and ill at ease with itself than ever as our heroes have to seek allies and shelter with other factions as well as turning to the factionless for help.

This is a great book.  It’s action packed and exciting as well as taking time to explore more of the themes of Tris’ strange world and to follow her struggles to recover from the guilt at having killed a friend to defend her family in the last book.

I would say a downside is that Tris’ behaviour is a little infuriating at times.  She is needlessly (in my opinion) secretive with Four, who has made his love for her clear.  But I can see why the author has her act this way and she is trying to show just how messed up Tris is by the trauma and losses of the last book – she’s very human, acting illogically and making mistakes.

It’s good to get to know other factions a little better too.  Both the readers and Tris get to see that there are many members of factions who don’t neatly fit into the personalities they have been assigned.

The novel ends with a wonderful big reveal and a tantalising cliff hanger that has me impatient to read the next book!

4/5

Zoe

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Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is an excellent book!  A novel aimed at young adults which is the first of an exciting trilogy.

divergent

The story is about Beatrice.  She lives in a very strange society which I believe is Chicago in the future (although I don’t think this is spelled out for certain).  In their society people live in ‘factions’, each faction has different attributes.  Candor are honest, Abnegation are selfless, Dauntless are brave, Amity are peaceful and Erudite are clever.  These factions perform different functions in society and mixing between the factions is minimal.  There is also a sixth group ‘the factionless’ these are people who live outside of society in extreme poverty because, for whatever reason, they were cast out of their factions – being factionless is seen as a terrible fate in Beatrice’s world.

At the age of 16 people have to choose which faction they wish to belong to.  Most people remain in the faction they were born into but this is not compulsory if you feel you do not fit it – leaving a faction requires a big sacrifice though as it will mean leaving your family behind for good.  To aid people in their decision they go through a complicated aptitude test which is supposed to reveal beyond doubt where they belong.

Beatrice is born in Abnegation and is torn in the run up to her decision because, although she loves her family, she doesn’t feel it is where she truly belongs.  But she is not sure she truly belongs in any of the other factions either!  She feels her personality is a mixture of different attributes (like a normal person to us!) in her world this is virtually unheard of as in is seen as vital that everyone fits in neatly to a fixed role.

Anyway, Beatrice makes her choice (I won’t spoil it for you) and begins the tough initiation process all teenagers have to go through before being accepted as full members of a faction.  The process is all the more tough for Beatrice as the whole time she has to hide the truth – that she does not fully fit in to any one faction.  Her uniqueness comes in handy however, as being slightly apart from the pack makes her more questioning which helps her spot something very dark brewing in the rigid and regimented culture she lives in.

This is a great story.  I found it very exciting and action packed.  I also loved it because of the parallels drawn with real teenage life.  OK we don’t have to choose a faction for life exactly but we are expected to know who we are and what we want to do with our lives at a very young age.  There is a lot of pressure to fit in and being a person who does not fit easily into an established mould can feel rather isolating – just like life is for Beatrice.

I am looking forward to seeing where the next two books take the characters and the rather sinister world they live in.

4.5/5

 

Zoe

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See the Life Through Their Eyes – 13 YA Novels about Mental Health

Do you know someone that has a mental health condition? Would you like to know more about how hard are they struggling with their conditions? Would you like to find stories full of love, hate, sadness, happiness, tears, laughter, lost, pain, joy? Are you able to show empathy and patience towards all the people who need “someone to talk to”? We are not doctors, but we can be a friend, or a shoulder for someone that desperately needs it.

If the answer is YES, than have a look at the list bellow with books that shine a light on experiencing mental health difficulties. Young adult novels are powerful potions that can blow up the bridges between I’m fine and I’m not fine, and this stories remind us that above everything, we are Humans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Georgiana

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Boy Nobody, Allen Zadoff

 

Allen Zadoff has written an unbelievable book. Honestly, it’s one of the best novels I have ever read. It dazzles in every aspect and never ceases to surprise.

 

So we start the book in the mind of our protagonist, this is a first person book. We don’t even know the protagonist’s name. The story starts off when “Boy Nobody” is friends with a kid called Jack. Jack invites “Boy Nobody to his house where his father is and that’s when we start to realise who “Boy Nobody” actually is, he’s an assassin. From the very first pages we sense that our protagonist is something special: “Jack’s dad wanders by with a beer in his hand. Chen Wu is his name. His friends call him John. He’s the CEO of a high-tech firm along Route 128. Lots of government contracts.” Our protagonist notices every little detail. Eventually he injects a poison into Mr Wu which kills him, “Boy Nobody” escapes, arousing no suspicion. That’s only the start of the book though.

Shadow Boy

Bit by bit we start to learn more about our protagonist. He gets new assignments every time he finishes one, his superiors are called Mother and Father and he still has memories of how it started. A few chapters in he’s sent on a new assignment, to kill the mayor of New York by befriending his daughter. I won’t describe what happens after that because then I would spoil your read.

 

What is so good about this book is how we discover more and more about our character as the story goes on. The author makes us believe that his mind works like a robot who’s constantly calculating but more importantly has no emotion at all. But as the story goes on we learn that’s not true. Our protagonist starts to feel emotion as doubt creeps in. The author completely submerges us into his brain; we know all his thoughts and dilemmas. What I also enjoyed very much was the attention to detail. I’ll give you an example: “She’s maybe fifteen, long brown hair, too much gloss on her lips. She has a backpack slung across one shoulder. The strap pulls her shirt tight, the swell of her breast pressing against fabric”, this is all in the mind of our protagonist.

 

AllenZadoff

Allen Zadoff

 

 

This is a fantastic read, with plenty of surprises, I guarantee if you like action, thrillers and even romance books you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one, it’s a cracker!

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Russian Roulette, Anthony Horowitz

If you happened to have read the Alex Rider series, you’ll absolutely love this one. It’s a spinoff of that bestselling series, following the dangerous Russian assassin Yassen Gregorovich. It’s basically the fictive biography of a killer.

anthony horowitz

Anthony Horowitz

 

The book starts in the 3rd person, following this strange man checking into his hotel room. The author describes his ultra-careful thoughts and his precision. Before long we are told that he sits down to read his diary. That’s when we embark on an epic adventure.

His story starts in a very small village in Russia, home to the people working in the factory. Little Yassen lived with his parents and his grandmother. His best friend was a boy called Leo. But this book is all about twists and surprises, and the first one would change his life forever. A disaster strikes and suddenly everyone starts dying including his parents who inform him that he’s immune to the killing gas. Yassen escapes the village but dangerous men would come for him. From then it’s all about survival, whatever it took.

Now I warn you, before you start reading this, it’s not a kid’s book. There’s plenty of deaths and straight-up horror, but it’s an absolutely brilliant read. There are countless twists and turns and in some parts you just won’t believe what you’re reading. I feel the real goal of the book is to show us how a normal kid, living a normal life can somehow turn into a cold-blooded killer. The reader inevitably struggles to keep up.

YassenGregorovich

Yassen Gregorovich in the movie “Stormbreaker”

 

I love this book because Horowitz is so in control of every sense (taste, feeling…). He always keeps you on your toes and even if you read all the Alex Rider books, he still comes up with plenty of surprises. At the end of the book you will feel as though you have been taken on a journey, physically and mentally. But the scary thing, despite all the bad things Yassen did, you come to love this man, and even understand him.

 

Fred

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Reading Well for young people

The Reading Agency have compiled a list of books to help young people deal with and  gain understand of mental health issues.  This is an extension of the successful Books on Prescription scheme.

There’s some really interesting choices and it’s not all about self-help, there’s fiction and graphic novels too.

What do you think?  Can reading help with health?  Would you add anything to this list…or take any of the titles off it?!

Here is the list the Reading Agency suggest:

  1. Stuff That Sucks: Accepting What You Can’t Change and Committing to What You Can by Ben Sedley (Robinson, Little Brown)
  2. Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson (Hot Key Books)
  3. The Self-Esteem Team’s Guide to Sex, Drugs and WTFs?!! by The Self-Esteem Team (John Blake Publishing)
  4. Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed by Nicola Morgan (Walker Books)
  5. Quiet the Mind by Matthew Johnstone (Robinson, Little, Brown)
  6. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Walker Books)
  7. Kite Spirit by Sita Brahmachari (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  8. House of Windows by Alexia Casale (Faber)
  9. Every Day by David Levithan (Electric Monkey, Egmont)
  10. My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael Tompkins and Katherine Martinez (Magination Press, American Psychological Association)
  11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Simon & Schuster)
  12. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (Sceptre, Hodder)
  13. Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User’s Guide to Adolescence by Luke Jackson (Jessica Kingsley)
  14. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Vintage)
  15. Teen Life Confidential: Bullies, Cyberbullies and Frenemies by Michele Elliott (Wayland, Hachette Children’s)
  16. Vicious: True Stories by Teens about Bullying Hope Vanderberg (Free Spirit Publishing)
  17. Banish Your Self-Esteem Thief: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Building Positive Self-Esteem for Young People by Kate Collins-Donnelly (Jessica Kingsley)
  18. Teen Life Confidential: Self-Esteem and Being You by Anita Naik (Wayland, Hachette Children’s)
  19. Face by Benjamin Zephaniah (Bloomsbury)
  20. Am I Depressed and What Can I Do About it? by Shirley Reynolds and Monika Parkinson (Robinson, Little, Brown)
  21. I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone (Robinson, Little, Brown)
  22. Can I Tell You About Depression? by Christopher Dowrick and Susan Martin (Jessica Kingsley)
  23. Can I Tell You About Eating Disorders? by Bryan Lask and Lucy Watson (Jessica Kingsley)
  24. Banish Your Body Image Thief by Kate Collins-Donnelly (Jessica Kingsley)
  25. Touch and Go Joe by Joe Wells (Jessica Kingsley)
  26. Breaking Free from OCD: A CBT Guide for Young People and their Families by Jo Derisley, Isobel Heyman, Sarah Robinson, Cynthia Turner (Jessica Kingsley)
  27. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten (Walker Books)
  28. The Truth About Self-Harm by Celia Richardson (Mental Health Foundation)
  29. Fighting Invisible Tigers: A Stress Management Guide for Teens by Earl Hipp (Free Spirit Publishing)
  30. Teenage Guide to Stress by Nicola Morgan (Walker Books)

(All these books are available to borrow from Brent Libraries)

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Filed under books, Brent Libraries, Libraries, mental health, reading, Reading Well, Teen fiction, The Reading Agency

Book Review: Maze Runner by James Dashner

The_Maze_Runner_cover

The author is James Dashner it part of a trilogy. The book is narrated by Thomas and starts of with teens being trapped in a maze for two years and have their memories wiped and all they remember is their names.  Then Thomas arrives and on the same day so does Teresa the first girl to ever arrive in the maze. She some how triggers the ending. If you choose to read the book you will know what that means.

I’m currently reading the Scorch Trial the second book in the trilogy. The books don’t take very long to read but are full of action. I definitely recommend this book especially if you enjoyed reading the Hunger Games. They’re pretty much the same genre.

I will give this book a 3/5.

Umaimma

The_Scorch_Trials_cover

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