Jane Beaton – Rules
The sequel to Class sees Maggie in her second year at Downey House, again faced with a troublesome form and that terribly handsome English teacher over at the boys’ school who she’s thinking about far too often for a woman engaged to her childhood sweetheart. This year, there’s a new girl – the American Zelda, heavily, heavily inspired by Zerelda of Malory Towers fame. But this being Jane Beaton’s series, Zelda not only encourages the girls into American fashions and dieting crazes (which goes a little too far in Fliss’s case) but also into drinking Jack Daniels at a midnight feast. Oh, you have to love it. The balance between the modern/realistic and the old-fashioned/knowing-nods-to-boarding-school-stories continues. There is apparently a third book on the way (six in total have been planned, it being a school series and all that), so here’s hoping that emerges soon.
Cheryl Rainfield – Scars
A YA novel that’s tense, intense, and compelling. The narrator cuts herself to deal with the memories of abuse that have recently resurfaced. She can’t remember who her abuser is, but she knows one thing – he’s still out there. And after her. Through her counselling, her art, and a newfound relationship with a girl at school from a messed-up background, she starts to figure things out – but this puts her in danger. I guessed the reveal, as I suspect some readers might, but that doesn’t make it any less horrifying. It’s not a pleasant read, exactly, but it is a memorable one.
Megan McCafferty – Bumped
A dystopian comedy, if there can be such a thing, from the author of the Jessica Darling series. The story’s set 25 years from now, when a virus has spread across the world, making adults infertile and teens – and the babies they can produce – the hottest commodity around. The book takes a while to get into – there’s very little explanation of how things came to be the way they were, which has the effect of making it all very convincing but also fairly confusing for the first 50-80 pages or so. The teenage characters use slang and various abbreviations that are left for the reader to slowly figure out. It is worth getting into, though – it’s a very vivid take on a possible future society, with the zaniness of the Jessica Darling series amped up a little bit. Ends on a cliff-hanger, but a sequel, Thumped, is forthcoming in spring 2012.
Lauren Oliver – Liesl & Po
This is Lauren Oliver‘s first title for 8-12s, as opposed to YA, and well worth picking up. If I have one complaint it’s that so much of it has a quasi-Victorian-England feel to it, with references to various places in Europe making it seem like it’s that side of the Atlantic, but then it’s clearly set in a version of the States, with dollars and New York and waffle irons and such like popping up. It’d be nice to have a more definite sense of place – not necessarily one anchored in a real time/location, exactly, but possibly one slightly more distanced from it. The story is lovely, though – Liesl sees a ghost a few days after her father dies, and they set out on a quest to return his ashes to the place Liesl grew up. Unfortunately, the box gets mixed up with another – one carrying a magic so powerful that a number of unpleasant characters will do whatever they can to retrieve it. Even though there’s some familiar elements here, they’re arranged in an interesting pattern. I’m looking forward to seeing if she writes anything else for this age group, as well as eagerly anticipating her next dystopian YA, Pandemonium, out in the spring.