Archive for the ‘young adult’ Category

\Mystery and unsettling revelations keep up the suspense in this page-turning novel.

The last time I saw Sophie A, she was kissing James Bacon. She could have any guy she wanted, but she was kissing an English teacher who was eight years older than her.

Right back when Sophie MacKenzie started primary school, she was befriended by Sophie Twiggs and Sophie Abercrombie. Although they developed different interests, the threesome have stuck together through high school. But now Sophie Abercrombie is not just The prettiest Sophie, she is also The missing Sophie. As Sophie MacKenzie confides to her diary, Sophie A went missing sixty-four days ago and, despite police investigation, she has not been found.

The Trio of Sophies is no more.

A Trio Of Sophies

Eileen Merriman

Penguin NZ

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The Sophies have always been friends.  All different – Sophie A is the pretty one, Sophie M is the brainy one, Sophie Twigg (Twiggy) is the sporty one – but they have a close friendship, bonded by having the same name in a Year 7 class.  Now in their final year of school, Sophie A has disappeared without a trace and the remaining Sophies bond is quickly unravelling.  The police can’t find her  and there’s just questions and anguish for everyone.

The story is told in by Sophie M diary form, starting from the 64th day that Sophie A has been missing and working backwards to the day she disappeared.  Then it chronicles day 65 and jumps forward to various dates from then on.  This was a new way of telling a story for me but it was so clever.  You quickly figure out the who, but the how and why are slowly revealed and as new details emerge, everything makes sense.  It’s only at the end that you realise how manipulative Sophie is and the very last page – wow!

This is a great story, full of tension and drama while featuring situations teens might face – abusive relationships being one.  The writing is just fantastic and draws you into the story.  I just couldn’t stop reading and devoured the book in a few hours.  Read from front to back, don’t give in top the temptation to skip ahead to day 0 or you’ll miss vital bits of the story.

I highly recommend this book to teens and anyone who wants  a great read that will keep you enthralled and on the edge of your seat.

A gripping novel for young adults that captures both the daring and the everyday realities of serving in the Air Force during the Second World War.

Pete and Paul yelled together. ‘Bandit! Nine o’clock! Bandit!’
Jack spun to stare. There was the Messerschmitt on their left, streaking straight at them.

Eighteen-year-old Jack wanted to escape boring little New Zealand. But he soon finds that flying in a Lancaster bomber to attack Hitler’s forces brings terror as well as excitement. With every dangerous mission, he becomes more afraid that he’ll never get back alive. He wants to help win the war, but will he lose his own life?

Flight Path

David Hill

Puffin NZ

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Eighteen-year-old New Zealander Jack Sinclair arrives in England a few weeks before D-Day, 1944, as a member of a crew flying Lancaster bombers. His crew is nominally Kiwi, but there are 4 nationalities in the seven-man crew. The crew is green, and the first mission is a test for all. But soon they become veterans. At least with regards to war. In their personal lives, they are still mostly boys.

David Hill has written a good novel. Jack is the character of focus, and the point of view never strays. Hill captures the dullness of wartime rationed food; sausages and bread were renowned for being godawful. But there was the grey market, where farmers paid with produce. There was also the black market, which Hill flicks the curtain on. And we explore the various types of raids that the RAF undertook, and what could impede them because bombing required seeing the target.

Generally, Hill has done a good job. A couple of things grated with the rivet counter in me. First was calling some American bombers Super Fortresses. The Super Fortress was the B-29 bomber and was never used in Europe during WW2. It should’ve been the B-17 Flying Fortress. The other was American Tornadoes, which is completely wrong and I have no idea what plane David was thinking of. But he got right the camaraderie of a small team, and the bump that can occur if even one needs replacing.

I enjoyed this book, even if I am a few years outside the target market of young adult. Well paced, and the military actions being that dreadful mix of endless boredom punctuated by stark terror.

In the seventh Showtym Adventure, it’s a race against time for Vicki to find and train a brand new pony for the show season. Should she go for experience, or for potential?

When Vicki’s multi-champion pony is injured, she is devastated. It’s the beginning of the show season and the 14-year-old must find a replacement quickly — but no pony comes close to the one she has lost.

Then Vicki sees beautiful and inexperienced Jackamo. She senses he has star quality, and chooses him over proven ponies with years of show-ring success. With so little time, will she be able to transform Jackamo into a winner? Or has she risked everything on the wrong pony?

In a turn of events they didn’t see coming, Vicki, Kelly and Amanda face heartbreak and difficult decisions about the future in this story inspired by the Wilson Sisters’ early years.

Jackamo, The Supreme Champion: Showtym Adventures #7

Kelly Wilson


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Vicki’s pony Coolio is badly injured and she has to make a tough decision.  Then the hunt is on for another pony but Vicki is torn – she’s still grieving and not sure she’s ready for a new pony.  Then she meets Jackamo.

Vicki trains Jackamo for the competition season and soon has fun on him.  All the Wilson sisters adjust to having a new pony – after Vicki outgrows him, Kelly will ride him, then Amanda.  Then Christmas comes and their parents have a big surprise for Vicki and her sisters.  Another hard decision has to be made by Vicki, and then the Wilson’s receive an unexpected offer.  Will they make the right decision?

The real-life Jackamo’s story is explained at the back of the book, along with an introduction to characters.  Each book has a detailed guide on crucial lessons the Wilson’s have learnt.  The how to in this book explains how to ride a showjumping course and how the scoring system works.  A handy glossary explains some of the terms used in the story.  I really enjoyed the story and could relate to the story, as some of the hard decisions are the ones every pet owner has to make.  Any horse-mad girl needs to read this book.

“Exceptional” is the sequel to the Sir Julius Vogel Awards finalist “Watched”, and continues the story of super-powered Prodigies Jason and Rory in their battle against the all-seeing Watchers.

While Rory pursues their leader, Chaos, in the Dark universe, Jason is forced into an uneasy alliance with AEGIS, a militarised intelligence agency that seems to know more about Prodigies than it should. A storm is coming.

Jason will determine its course, but there are truths waiting for Rory in the dark that will change everything. Both must decide where they stand before the storm breaks.

Exceptional: The Watchers Trilogy #2

Tihema Baker

Huia Press

Supplied by author

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

This is the long-awaited sequel to Baker’s 2015 novel “Watched”. So, it’s superheroes again, and very much again. I’m not sure that there’s much new and interesting here. Baker introduces a second organisation, AEGIS, connected to the Five Eyes Network, and just as determined to control prodigies (his name for super-powered individuals) as the Watchers from book one, but run by secret government agencies. Which takes away some of the charm, I think. Bureaucrats are just no fun.
Meanwhile, our heroes just want to be free and to rescue their friends. Which is not going to be a simple exercise, because one of them is stuck in another universe, an upside-down where dark energy and dark matter dominate. Baker tosses a lot of physics technobabble around in this book, and I’m not convinced he understands the subject well enough to be convincing.

Maybe it’s just that I’ve had quite enough of super-heroes and comic book bad science, but I really did not enjoy this book. The action kept me reading, and I did finish it, but maybe I’m just too far removed from the target audience, because it was tough going.

An unexpected inheritance gives the Heffley family a chance to make major improvements to their home. But they soon find that construction isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When things get rough, will the Heffleys be able to stay…or will they be forced to move?

Wrecking Ball: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14

Jeff Kinney


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Dylan Howell

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball is the 14th book in the bestselling series of kids fiction books written and illustrated by American author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney. It presents another thrilling compilation of events from the life of ‘Wimpy Kid’, Greg Heffley, who compiles dozens of anecdotal insights into the life of himself and his family with every novel. The series has been a success ever since 2004 when the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid (DOAWK) was released on kids’ website ‘FunBrain’ where it received 20 million reads. DOAWK ‘Wrecking Ball’ continues the success of this series in a hilarious new story.

In DOAWK ‘Wrecking Ball’ Greg Heffley and his family embark on a brand new adventure, after receiving an inheritance large enough to convince the Heffley’s to make some home improvements. Of course, hijinks ensue -Mould, rotting wood, rodents living where they shouldn’t be, and Greg is struggling to cope with the potential loss of his best friend, providing new material in another triumph of originality for the series. Which is at heart, a slice-of-life comedy series that shouldn’t be missed by anyone.

As a long time reader of these books, I’ve grown up with the DIAWK series, with Greg Heffley being one of the first protagonists I could ever relate to. Somehow, through over 15 years of writing, and drawing, and his audience of people like me growing up, Kinney manages to make me laugh every single time and I make sure to never miss any new novel. His books are like magic, with every new story he uses his wit and humour to stack up the pieces and jokes so expertly it’s mind blowing when he knocks them all down at the end and you feel like you’re watching the events on the page unfold for real.

More than once did I laugh out loud reading this, the 14th book in the series. These stories are timeless, endlessly original and enjoyable for any age. Diary of a Wimpy Kid deserves all the credit I can give, and this book is another perfect installment in the series that just won’t stop putting out knockout tales from the life of Greg Heffley. I can recommend this book for ages 7+. If you love David Walliams, or Roald Dahl, or if you’re a plain funny human being, I can easily say this explosive comedy novel is for you.

When the human creatures appeared, they ravaged the forests and hunted many birds to extinction. The flightless Striggs had only one option:

They went down, down under the ground . . . And it’s there, as you may have heard it whispered, that they still remain. Far below, in a place of stone and darkness . . .

Over thousands of years, they colonised a labyrinth of tunnels and caves, but even underground the Striggs are not safe: chemicals now pollute their water and a deadly sickness threatens the flock.

Even worse: an inquisitive young Strigg called Ellee Meddo discovers a human boy, trapped deep in a well. Humans are to be feared and saving him could mean travelling to the surface, a place of untold peril. What will Ellee decide to do?

A Place of Stone and Darkness

Chris Mousdale


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

It is argued that there are only 7 story archetypes: Rags to Riches, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth, The Quest and Overcoming the Monster, so it is difficult to imagine there are an infinite number of ways to tell the same story. It is true. Some stories are too familiar, pale imitations to ones we have already read. Then there are stories that we think we know, and yet we do not.

A Place of Stone and Darkness follows the unexpected meeting of a young Strigg called Ellee Meddo and a Toppa called Blue. Deep below the earth’s surface they must overcome everything they have been taught about Monsters in order to save each other and everything they hold dear.

Mousdale’s first foray into Young Adult Literature could be read as a list of humanity’s crimes against nature, where our arrogance as taken us to the brink of extinction. It could also be read as the conflict within each one of us to honour our community without losing our own identity. But perhaps the best way to read it is that everything can change in a heartbeat if you are brave and kind, and even when you are afraid you do not give up hope. Mousdale’s original imagining of creatures below the earth, in a time we hope never happens, is embellished with his whimsical vocabulary and engaging imagery. A great read for those who like their adventure to quicken their pulse with each turned page.

Tracy Beaker is back, and she’s a mum now…

The Dumping Ground is far behind her, and Tracy Beaker has grown up, living on a tough housing estate with her daughter, Jess.

This time, it’s Jess telling the story.

Jess looks like a mini version of her mum- but she’s not quite as fiery. Well, not often. Jess and Tracy are living a hand-to-mouth existence on their estate, until Tracy meets up with someone from her past and their whole lives are turned upside down…

My Mum Tracy Beaker is a fantastic new story, reuniting readers with a much-loved old friend. Just like old times, it’s packed full of illustrations from Nick Sharratt throughout.

My Mum Tracy Beaker

Jacqueline Wilson


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

Even the redoubtable Tracy Beaker can get stuck in a relationship that is not all it should be. We meet Tracy and her daughter Jessica when Tracy has just started a new relationship with the wealthy and handsome ex-footballer Sean. But Jessica isn’t convinced that Sean is fond of Tracy’s famously independent ways and no-filter mouth. Tracy has to battle through finding and losing, then finding, love, finding and losing jobs and looking after her daughter with every fibre of her being. A heart-warming story of what really matters in life.

I wish I wasn’t the weirdest sixteen-year-old guy in the universe.’

Felix would love to have been a number. Numbers have superpowers and they’re safe – any problem they might throw up can be solved.

‘If I were a five, I’d be shaped like a pentagon … there’d be magic in my walls, safety in my angles.’

People are so much harder to cope with. At least that’s how it seems until Bailey Hunter arrives at school. Bailey has a stutter, but he can make friends and he’s good at judo. And Bailey seems to have noticed Felix:

‘Felix keeps to himself mostly, but there’s something about him that keeps drawing me in.’

Both boys find they’re living in a world where they can’t trust anyone, but might they be able to trust each other, with their secrets, their differences, themselves?

Invisibly Breathing

Eileen Merriman


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

Each generation grows up in a world that has changed since their parents were their age. When we are children we make a promise that we will be better parents than our own, a promise we forget as easily as we forget what it was like to be young. In this ‘coming of age’ novel, Eileen Merriman explores how much things have changed (what we will accept) and yet how much has stayed the same (people can be so cruel).

Invisibly Breathing is written from the point of view of a young boy, Felix, at a moment in time when figuring himself out includes figuring out love. For Felix, school and family mean dealing with the ripple effect of bullying and dangerous secrets before someone gets hurt.

Eileen Merriman has a whimsical style of writing, her characters are both quirky and familiar individuals; a snapshot of the youth of today’s society. This is a novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy the realism that a good ending doesn’t have to be happily ever after.

An all-new collection of short stories from the world of Magnus Chase!

How well do you know the nine Norse realms? Do you get all those heims mixed up?

Well, this collection of rollicking short stories – each set in a different world and told by a different character from the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series – will help straighten you out.

And even if it doesn’t, you’ll enjoy reading about how Alex saves Amir’s pants, Samirah plucks a giant’s harp, Mallory teaches a dragon how to throw down insults, and much more.

Just watch out for Thor, who is running through the whole thing and raising quite a stink . . .

Magnus Chase: 9 From the Nine Worlds

Rick Riordan


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

I get the feeling that Rick Riordan had these spare chapters that didn’t make the cut….But they are entertaining and have plenty of trademark snark.

Niflheim, Muspelheim, Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Svartalfheim, Helheim. Are you ready for mad shopping skillz, dragon insulting and seven other adventures from our favourite characters from the Magnus Chase series? Be nice to think that Hearthstone, Blitzen, Samirah, Alex, Jack, T.J., Mallory and Halfborn could stave off Ragnarok until Magnus gets back from holiday but maybe not…

Seven-year-old Amanda Wilson dreams of training her own wild pony, just as her sisters have done.

Then comes the chance she has been waiting for — a muster of beautiful Welsh ponies that have run wild in the hills.

Among them is Chessy, a striking stallion, and just the right size for Amanda. But small doesn’t equal easy, and first Amanda must prove she has what it takes by training a stroppy mare from Pony Club. Will Chessy ever be safe enough to join Amanda on her crazy adventures?

Vicki and Kelly must help Amanda to win her pony’s trust in this engaging story of perseverance and reward inspired by the Wilson Sisters’ early years.

Chessy, The Welsh Pony: Showtym Adventures #4

Kelly Wilson


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

Another in the series by Kelly Wilson of the Wilson sisters who starred in Keeping up with The Kaimanawas. A family who have devoted their life to horses, show jumping and advocating for wild horses around the world, taming and raising awareness about the plight of the American Mustangs and Australian Brumbies and specifically the beautiful wild Kaimanawa horses near their home. They also run Showtym Camps, riding camps for young riders.

The sisters rescue and tame wild horses and this book, written at a young adult level is loosely based around a story from Amanda Wilson’s childhood.

It’s not the size of the pony in the fight but the size of the fight in the pony. Chessy is a beautiful stallion just the right size for the seven year old Amanda to train, but he has been running wild most of his life. If Amanda is to save Chessy and train him for a forever home with a kind family,  first her parents want her to prove herself by training Magic a very difficult mare from the Pony Club. It’s a big ask.