Jane Beaton – Class
Described on the cover, by Sophie Kinsella, as “like Malory Towers for grown-ups”. Oh, indeed. This is a boarding school story which has everything you need in a boarding school story (false accusations of thievery! Practical jokes! A school play!), with an extra knowing nod towards issues around privilege, education, and bureaucracy. The story focuses on new English teacher, twenty-five-year-old Maggie, who’s come from a rough school in Glasgow and is delighted to be there, if worried about fitting in, but there’s also plenty of space devoted to the headmistress, with a dark secret of her own, and two of the girls, scholarship girl Simone and rebellious Fliss. Delightful balance between the modern setting and a voice that at times is marvellously Brazilish or Blytonesque. I am so pleased this book exists, and even more pleased there is a sequel.
Alice Hoffman – The Ice Queen
Surprisingly, I had never read any Alice Hoffman before this, but this seemed like a good place to start. A woman struck by lightning feels frozen inside, until she embarks on a relationship with a man who sets things on fire, another lightning survivor. It’s about fairytales and chaos theory and family and love, beautifully written.
Rob Thomas (ed.) – Neptune Noir
This is a Smart Pop book, a collection of essays on Veronica Mars, one of the sharpest teen TV shows ever to grace the small screen. The show ran for three seasons, but this only covers the first two – which is in some ways disappointing, as some of the essays touched on topics that came up again in Season 3.
As ever, the essays are a mixed bag – some terrific (there’s a wonderful one about the characterisation of Veronica and Logan as children of alcoholic parents), some good-but-not-great. There is an essay about cars which is enlightening but also, well, about cars. On the plus side, the collection was edited by the show’s creator, Rob Thomas, so there are nifty little behind-the-scenes details thrown in where appropriate, and it’s interesting to get his take on some of the essays, even when they focus on something he disagrees with (there’s a ‘Camp Noir’ essay which argues for seeing the show as a balance between, well, camp and noir – very interesting).
Maureen Johnson – Suite Scarlett
Quirky and sweet book about a family who run a boutique-and-in-trouble hotel in New York, particularly focused on fifteen-year-old Scarlett. Fans of Johnson will… already have read this and the sequel (Scarlett Fever), probably, but if they haven’t, they’ll like it.