Luke can't seem to catch a break.
First, his older brother (known as Star Lad) gets superpowers after an asteroid has a near miss with Earth.
Then, to make matters worse, his friend Lara gets superpowers too. Her power? She gets to control the minds of animals. Well, not big animals, that would be dangerous. As Luke puts it, she's more like Snow White in leotards.
Now Luke has an even bigger problem, he's convinced that an alien attack is imminent and he knows his gym teacher, Sue Dunham, is behind it. The problem is that nobody believes him, not his brother, not Lara, not even his best friend Serge.
In desperation, Luke turns to the only person he has left, Christopher Talbot, the ex-super villain turned comic book shop owner. A hilarious battle between good and evil and everything in between begins!
There were some genuine laugh out loud moments in this novel. It reminded me of films like The Last Starfighter, Super 8 and Attack the Block.
I enjoyed the banter between Luke and his brother, his friends and the people around him. Of course, there's lots of twists and turns thrown in to keep the action going. Any fan of video games, humour and sci-fi will really enjoy this book.
I recommend it for Year 7 and up!
After the death of his mother, Albie feels even more alone. His father is an international scientists / tv personality, kind of like Bill Nye or that British guy I can't remember the name of. Anyway, his dad has little time for Albie.
Using his father's own logic, Albie decides that there must be a parallel universe out there where his mother is still alive. Using a banana, a cardboard box, his mother's laptop and the crazy neighbour's psychotic cat, Albie builds a machine to travel between universes.
Each world is slightly different than the one he knows. Well, there is that one world where dinosaurs don't exist. No, he doesn't land in a creationist museum, it's a completely different universe.
When I was a kid I loved Calvin and Hobbes, and this book has a very Calvin & Hobbes feel - when Calvin would build cloning devices and time machines, all out of cardboard boxes. I really liked Albie's determination and DYI attitude, there is a punk rock element to his actions.
There was also a movie with a young Ethan Hawke called The Explorers where a group of friends build a space rocket in their backyard. That movie was dripping with a sort of melancholy, just as Albie Bright does as well, for obvious reasons.
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is also full of scientific facts, it's teaching you guerrilla style while you fly through the pages hoping this kid will find his mother. I really recommend it, you'll be better off after reading it.
I recommend this book for Years 7 and up!
The 21 of November sees the start of Anti-Bullying Week here in the UK. We'll be discussing this with our students and to get them thinking more about bullying and the impact it has on people, I've put together a reading list that they can use. It's in PDF format if anyone is interested in printing it off for further use!
For most families, October brings sweaters, rubber boots, Halloween costumes and comforting soups to get you through the early dark that sets in mid month.
For Cara's family, every October brings broken bones, burns, twisted ankles and close calls. No, they aren't a family of UFC fighters, Cara's family are victims of something they call The Accident Season. The Accident Season is a time when Cara and her loved ones are inexplicably beset by physical injuries.
They try to take extra care by covering the floors in thick rugs and wrapping sharp edges in bubble wrap, but it never removes the threat completely.
Haunting their every move is the fact that Cara's grandfather, father and uncle were all fatal victims of The Accident Season. It hangs like a thick black cloud over their heads every year.
Running parallel to this story is the disturbing fact that one of Cara's classmates, Elsie, appears to have gone missing. Even more disturbing, nobody in Cara's school or neighbourhood seems to think it's very alarming that a young girl has seemingly been wiped from the face of the Earth.
Like a fever dream that pulls you in and out of consciousness, The Accident Season is an eerie tale about love, loss, friendship and the ferocious power of family secrets.
Fowley-Doyle's writing comes at you from a unique place, it's hard for me to put my finger on it but it's as if this novel could be read aloud in sections throughout a Pink Floyd album. I mean that in a good way. I recommend you pick up a copy and stick with it until the end, twists, turns and hauntingly cool writing.
I'd suggest The Accident Season for Year 10 students and up!
Swirling with the ghosts of Johnny Cash & the Deep South, The Serpent King chugs along like a good song that you never want to end.
Dillard Early (Dill) has a lot of ghosts to wrestle with. His father is in prison for a horrible crime. His mother wants him to drop out of school and work to support the family. His life is miserable because he can't escape his family name. Music seems to be his only release from the torment.
Travis' life is somehow even worse. His father is an abusive drunk, his mother is a wilted flower afraid to speak out of turn. Travis escapes his nightmare life through a gripping fantasy series he reads over and over again.
Lydia has it all, a supportive family, a popular fashion blog, over 100,000 followers on Twitter and a good lead on a spot at NYU in the fall.
Together, these three stick together as they feel the tight noose of small town life tighten around their necks.
I loved The Serpent King because I grew up in a small town where giant religious signs could be found. We would sit and watch for trains, we would escape through music and fantasy novels and Dungeons & Dragons. We would be picked on for being nerds before being a nerd was commercially viable and suddenly everybody wanted to wear glasses and talk about how nerdy they were.
This is a heart-wrenching story with real guts to it. Highly recommended for Years 10 and up.
Bella Fisher can't catch a break.
Not only is she stuck in a smelly caravan in Wales on the worst family holiday of all time, she's missing the party of the year.
In a twist of fate, she meets Zac while on holiday and instantly falls in love with him. That's the good news. The bad news is that Zac is seventeen and Bella is only fifteen.
This doesn't stop Bella from lying about her age so Zac doesn't go running for the dreary Welsh hills. Once she's back home, all of Bella's little white lies and attempts to be the focus of Zac's life backfire on her in a spectacular fashion.
This book is very relatable for guys or girls. Everyone has those moments in high school when the world comes crashing down. Bella just seems to have them happen on a daily basis. Her actions don't come across as forced, though. To her, the world actually is falling apart, which is a common thread amongst teens of her age. Everything is enhanced, the slightest embarassment is magnified by fishbowl that is every single high school on earth.
There are tons of pop culture references and acronyms that teen use to survive the daily minefield of teenage life. Bella's friends are developed characters that get caught up in her circus of white lies and misdirection. Of course, there's a huge redemption scene where Bella learns how to be a real friend and to stop trying to force life to happen.
Our Year 8s are going to be Skyping with Beth Garrod in a few weeks and I know they'll love this novel and speaking to her!
1959 Virginia. The U.S. is locked into a fight between those that want black and white people to integrate, and those that want to keep them separate.
Caught in the middle of this is Sarah, her friends and her family. Being the first black students to enter the halls of Jefferson High, they have only the slightest idea as to what are about to endure.
It's clear they're not welcome, not by the teachers or the students. Even worse, the teachers look the other way when the meaner white students harass, threaten and attack the black students.
On the other side of the coin we have Linda, daughter of a staunch segregationist and nominee for Worst Father in America 1959. Linda writes scathing articles in the school newspaper about the dangers of integration and how it will destroy white culture.
However, when they're forced to work together for an assignment, both realise things about each other. First, that not everything is as plain as it seems on the outside. Second, the feelings Sarah and Linda start to have for each could have dangerous consequences.
It's a book that will make you angry and happy all at the same time. I recommend this book to Year 9 and up although some Year 8s will probably enjoy it as well.
Katherine and Matthew can't catch a break.
After some serious research, they discover that they've both lived past lives together. From the 1745 Siege of Carlisle to the Crimean War of the mid 19th century to the near future (2039) and more, they are destined to be together.
Each time, however, they are torn apart by tragic circumstance. This is something that the 2039 Kate and Matthew are determined to reverse, but can they before it's too late?
Kate and Matt are good together, and James creates some believable chemistry that spans the ages. I found myself enjoying all of the time periods that they existed in. None of them felt forced or tired, there was enough suspense and action to keep my going right to the end.
The story is told through emails, diary entries, newspaper articles and actual historical documents. A smart, funny and tragic story about love through the ages. If you enjoy Marcus Sedgwick's work, or the Time Traveller's Wife, you'll really like The Next Together.
A year after the tragic death of her sister, Skye is sent to a summer camp for bereaved teens. It's just like regular summer camp, except everyone has a really legitimate reason for not feeling motivated to take part in the activities.
Not long after arriving, Skye starts to receive text messages from her dead sister. Consumed with paranoia, Skye starts a campaign to figure out who might be sending her the messages. There's Fay, who's super smart but possibly super devious. Then we have Brandon, Skye thinks she might have a crush on him, but can he be trusted? Joe is calm, kind and focused, but is it all a charade?
All of these guys and more could be a suspect. It's either that or admit that she has truly lost her mind
It's a story about loss, redemption and coming to terms with your past.
I'd recommend Lying About Last Summer to Year 8 and above. There are a few mentions of drug use and violence, but it's done in a cautionary way. It's a sad story but it will have the students coming back for more, great stuff!
Catrina and her family are moving from the hot, desert-like conditions of Southern California to a location further north. Catrina's sister, Maya, is ill and the northern climate is thought to be better for her.
Catrina doesn't want to go, she misses her friends, she misses her old place. She tries her best not to complain, but she's a teen and that's what teens do.
One their first night, Catrina and Maya decide to explore the town a little. They find a seemingly abandoned arcade. It's dark, creepy, and a awesome at the same time. It's here that they discover one of their neighbours, and he drops a bombshell on them.
The town they just moved to is haunted.
Younger Maya is thrilled to learn this. Catrina? Not so much.
Is this a hoax, or is there something true in the chilling words of their neighbour?
Filled with humour and heart, Ghosts is a story about facing your fears and coming to terms with change. I think anyone aged 9-90 would love this story. I read it quickly, and then went back to admire the beautiful illustrations.
Raina's stories are always a huge hit in the high school library that I work at. I try hard to put her books in the hands of students that I feel are reluctant readers or give me the dreaded "I hate reading" song and dance.
It's also a great book to promote for Halloween, so if you're in the position of recommending books to students, don't forget this!