Summer! And what a scorcher! Although there's never much time to review in the holidays, our reading time definitely increases. With lazy lie-ins, sleepy stories in the shade and trips to the library to complete the summer reading challenge, we've been whizzing through the pages. I've even been lucky enough, courtesy of NetGalley, to get my hands on some brilliant upcoming releases...
Fight Back by A.M DassuLink to publisher
Published by: Scholastic, June 2022
Following the success of Boy, Everywhere, A.M Dassu has released her second novel, Fight Back - a powerful story about identity and fighting hate and discrimination.
When Aaliyah and her friends are caught up in a terrorist attack at a local pop concert, fear grips both her and her community. It's not long before Muslims are being blamed for the event and Aaliyah herself becomes the target of abuse.
Determined to fight back, Aaliyah makes the decision to wear a hijab at school. But when the school responds by banning all religious symbols, will she find support to continue her fight?
With an easy-to-read, accessible voice, this is a fantastic read for teens, young adults and adults alike. Although a fictional novel, it's clearly based on real-life events, giving a moving and deeply thought-provoking insight into the devastating impact of terrorism and the division, fear and hate it creates within a community.
What I particularly love about this novel is that it is firmly grounded in the life of a teen and full of school, friendship, older siblings and banter. And yet, amid all this, Aaliyah is grappling, not only with the horrors of the terrorist attack, but with the verbal and physical attacks she experiences on a personal level. With tensions running high, family, friendships and the stability of the whole community are threatened. This is the story of one girl's fight to make a difference.
A.M Dassu's writing makes you feel all the emotions, whilst opening readers' eyes to the truth of the world. It calls for change in the most important way - by showing, not telling, the story of a character we care about and who bridges the gap between fiction and reality. It's enlightening, empowering and needs to be in every library, school library and classroom!
Published by: Walker Books, April 2022
Another brilliant read for upper middle-grade and teen readers is The Great Fox Illusion by Justyn Edwards. The first of a series, this is the story of Flick Lions, a young magician taking part in a TV show to win the prize of a lifetime...
The Great Fox is dead and now Flick Lions has been chosen to compete in a TV series to win his legacy. But solving puzzles and revealing the secrets behind magic tricks to win the prize is not what Flick is interested in. The Great Fox destroyed her family and she will go to any lengths to uncover the truth and put things right.
Hooked in just by the title, this debut novel really got my attention when I read an extract in WRD magazine. Not only does it appeal to readers who love mystery and sleuth stories, it also goes one step further by giving us the USP of magic tricks and illusions. Who doesn't want to know the secrets behind these - well, apart from Flick? But the fun doesn't stop there. Set in a mysterious, old house full of endless secrets, with the addictive feel of a reality show, Justyn Edwards has really pulled it out the bag in terms of pace, plot and puzzles. It's Now You See Me ( a brilliant adult film) for children in book form and utterly mesmerising.
Flick is a great character. Slightly stand-offish at the start, I quickly warmed to her as we learn about her internal struggles and the high stakes that are involved in her bid to find the truth. Charlie creates a lovely balance to her reserve (as well as being totally loveable) and the mix of villains - both adult and child - works brilliantly. It was also great to see an amputee take centre stage as the main character and there are some poignant moments as Flick manages this.
For me, this ticks every box for a series. It's imaginative, packed full of puzzles and geniously put together. I absolutely can't wait for the next one...
UPCOMING RELEASE: Ember Shadows and the Fates of Mount Never by Rebecca KingLink to publisher
This story is classic in feel. There are strong parallels to Narnia with a land cursed by an evil ruler and yet the story and the world-building is very different in feel. Amy is a headstrong, outspoken and not always likeable main character and yet her inability to listen, her ability to speak the truth and her steely courage makes her a strong, feminine lead in a world of men.
I really enjoyed the different landscapes in the novel. From forest, to castle, to fang lands, to swamps, the settings keep the story pacy and compelling. I found the unsual presense of adults in the novel - the Fianna warriors who are comparable to Aragorn and the elves in Lord of the Rings - really interesting and, for me, this brought to the fore something I haven't seen in a while in a fantasy story. Oscar and Culaan make for a great side story and I love how the relationship between Amy and Oscar develops.
The dual narrative between Amy and Liam works well. It offers us an intriguing insight into the world of the villain - a terrifying mage - and offers clever foreshadowing to the twist at the end. If you love fairy tales, magical worlds and epic quests then this is the book for you.