Author – Adriana Mather
Age – 13+
Sam (Samantha) and her step-mum Vivian have moved to her dead grandmother’s house in Salem, a small town where Sam’s dad grew up. She is instantly disliked at her new high school and she knows why. Her ancestor Cotton Mather was largely responsible for the Witch Trials in Salem centuries before.
‘The Descendants’ (a group of 5 teens always dressed in black, and true descendants of the so-called witches that died) are scathing of Sam and make life difficult. If it wasn’t for the neighbours, handsome Jaxon who sticks up for her and his mum; Sam would be just like she’s always been – friendless and feared.
People around Sam often end up hurt and she’s felt cursed since small. When this ‘curse’ follows her to Salem, it becomes much more serious. Is it all her fault? Where did this curse come from? Can she defeat it?
How to Hang a Witch is not only a fantastic read, it makes the reader aware of how close the 17th century witch trials were compared to the cyber-bullying of today. The phrase ‘Witch Hunt’ is applied to people in all sorts of conflict and this novel makes it clear why.
The other fascinating fact is the author is a descendant of Cotton Mather herself. Salem is a real town in America and she wanted to know more about both the Witch Trials and her own family history. Loved it!
(History, Witches, Ghost, Spell, Curse, High School, Popularity, Romance)
Author – Claire Hennessy
Age – 15+
Lauren is 16, a student at a Catholic Girls School and increasingly angry. It doesn’t help that her mum is the principal and seemingly too busy to notice what Lauren is going through. And she is going through a lot.
Her best friend Steph is now Evan, coming out to Lauren and the world. This is confusing because didn’t they have a night of something special together? Lauren thinks about her boyfriend Justin a lot, until she realises he is just using her.
School is a disaster as the school play has been announced and it includes boy characters. But much to Lauren and her friend’s dismay, they won’t be working with the local boy’s high school, but playing all the boy parts themselves.
Suddenly Lauren is dealing with a life-changing decision all on her own. She’s alienated her friends, her favourite teacher and stolen from her family. Reaching for alcohol, it numbs her for a while, but results in hours missing in her memory. Lauren is a mess. How will she climb out of the hole she has dug for herself?
This was a challenging read, but I was right there with Lauren and her confusion, pain and sense of hopelessness. Being a teen in 2017 is tough, and many issues they face are tackled with authenticity and courage. A great read.
(Sexuality, School, Friendship, Abortion, Trans, Bi, Lesbian, Choices)
Author – M A Bennett
Age – 12+
Greer MacDonald has a scholarship to the exclusive British School S.T.A.G.S.
She doesn’t have any friends, so when she is invited to Longcross Hall, the home of one of the most popular prefects; she believes her luck is finally changing.
Wined and dined along with two other ‘unpopular’ students, Chanel and Shafeen, Greer enjoys the attention. But something’s not quite right. The Hunting, Shooting and Fishing weekend they have been promised turns macabre, and Greer is swimming for her life…
A thriller that twists and turns. Who is on Greer’s side? Who can she trust? With references to movies throughout the novel (Greer’s father is a cameraman), this novel contrasts between the now (technology) and the then of the Aristocrat (servants, and an age-old order). Great read.
(Popularity, Change, Technology, Suicide, Cult, School)
Author – Sally Gardner
Illustrator – Nat Barlex
Age – 13+
Jazmin’s best friend Becky has gone. She jumped off a building with her boyfriend. But moments after they jumped they vanished, leaving Jaz with the fallout, a devastating court trial, and her life shattered.
No-one believed her testimony at the trial. No-one would listen to her. But now, a man called Mr Jones has come to interview her. She can finally tell someone what really happened.
A line on the cover gives a clue to the reader that this is a story that contains something not of this world ‘They came to Earth to find love‘. And indeed it does include alien beings. But the entire story is still set on Earth as we know it today, through a series of interviews. This style and structure was intriguing and had to be followed closely as each person recounted what happened before Becky disappeared.
Something different from a multi-award winning author.
(Aliens, Friendship, Friends, Love, Romance, Sci-Fi, Action, Fear)
Author – Aaron Topp
Age – 14+
Jamie Finland (or Fin for short), loves surfing, drinking, fighting and hanging out with his best mate Mike. But when Mike is killed in a car accident, Fin is devastated. He falls apart, seeing Mike everywhere and avoiding everyone. His surfboard gathers spiderwebs, he loses weight and moves in with Mike’s boss (Bobby) on a farm – the hard work numbing him from the world and his loss.
When Bobby’s nephew Jack comes to stay after being expelled from his Auckland school, Fin has something else to focus on. Especially when Jack’s older sister is visiting. Jess needs someone to write a final uni paper on and won’t take no for an answer. Fin’s training starts in earnest, the most exercise he’s ever done, and he notices a change in himself, inside and out.
Asked when he will ride the waves again, he can’t think of anything worse. He knows the loss of Mike will be even more real and raw in the surf. But these new people who have become close to him are helping him heal. Could he face the ocean again? Can he find the answers he needs to get over his loss?
By an Award winning Hawkes Bay Author, Single Fin has been re-released onto shelves this year. Just like his recent novel Hucking Cody, this story is perfect for boys 14+. Its straight talking, down-to-earth kiwi bloke language and realistic characters, draw the reader in. Anyone who loves to surf will devour it. Loved it!
(Surfing, Mates, Friendship, Relationships, Loss, Grief, NZ Author, Award, Kiwi, Sport)
Author – Scot Gardner
Age – 12+
Sparrow is kind, respectful, brave and friendly. He’s also resourceful and street savvy. He has to be – sleeping on a block of toilets at night, avoiding his brother and his paint sniffing gang of teens, and helping cafe owners with their chairs night and morning in payment for food.
Sparrow is a selective mute after a troubled childhood, and this story begins on a boat full of kids from juvie. A fire forces them into the croc and shark filled waters, and 16 year old Sparrow swims for his life to the far north Australian coastline. With determination and courage learnt on the streets of Darwin, he learns how to survive in the bush and mangroves.
This tale of survival is interspersed with chapters of his earlier life, people that have helped him, the reason for his mutism, and why he’s called Sparrow.
But he’s not alone on the coastline. Someone else escaped the burning boat. Someone who needs saving even more than him.
Sparrow is yet another compelling teen novel from this accomplished Australian author. This book is not only about survival. It’s about loss, courage, love and hope for a future that seemed impossible to imagine.
(Street kid, Survival, Love, Determination, Self sufficient, Fishing, Hunting, Australia, Love, Courage)
Author – Will Hill
Age – 13+
Moonbeam survived. She is full of grief and guilt that many of her brothers and sisters didn’t. Even Father John didn’t make it out, and he was their whole world for so long. But was he telling the truth about the outside?
The Holy Church of the Lord’s Legion has been Moonbeam’s home her entire life. She is promised to Father John as one of his future wives, which she once thought was a great honour.
But she’s not so sure anymore. Things are changing in the compound. Harsher rules and penalties are being dealt until Moonbeam can’t stand back with her head bowed any longer.
But the result is nothing like she could ever imagine.
From the talented Will Hill (Author of the Department 19 Series), After the Fire is completely different but just as intriguing. Moonbeam’s story is told in two different times. Before the fire that claimed many of her friend’s lives, and after as she is interviewed by the FBI and a psychiatrist. Loved it!
(Cult, Religion, Belief, Family, Blended family, Truth, Lies, Guilt)