With a whole load of books out this month, it was actually hard to pick out some recommendations. These are a mixed bunch aimed at a variety of audiences, but not limited to those audiences. Click on the title links to full reviews for more details.
I Still Dream by James Smythe – A novel about a girl who builds an AI to listen to her problems and how that AI becomes so much more, but also stays as her personal friend and confidant. Proof that books about tech can also be about memory, loss, and the minutiae of people’s lives.
The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla – A story of three generations of the same family, and how their different cultural experiences in Kenya, Keighley, and beyond and their differences of opinion and life shape how they interact.
Clean by Juno Dawson – Exciting whilst also hard-hitting, Clean is a young adult novel about addiction, but also about privilege, what makes people different, and how you can have sympathy for abrasive characters. Treats the subject matter seriously, but is also witty and clever.
Circe by Madeline Miller – Miller turns from the Iliad to the Odyssey in this rewriting of the story of Circe that weaves together a great deal of stories, showing the tension between gods and mortals from the perspective of an outcast.
The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas – The next book in Thomas’ charming magical children’s series that imagines a world where electricity is no longer reliable and magic and books become crucial.
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo – The next book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series takes Macbeth and gives it a crime thriller treatment that strips that magic and retains the paranoid corruption. Undoubtably will be popular in libraries.
Charming sequel in this bookish magical children’s series: The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas
The Chosen Ones is the second book in Scarlett Thomas’ Worldquake children’s fantasy series. It follows Effie Truelove and her friends Maximilian, Wolf, Raven, and Lexy, all of whom have different magical abilities following the ‘worldquake’ that made magical seep into the world they know. Effie is now able to travel into the Otherworld, where she wants to know more about the magical books that have so far impacted her and her friends’ destiny, and her friend Maximilian dreams of visiting the dark Underworld to see what lies there. But when both of them disappear, the other three realise something must be wrong. Soon they are all fighting a devious plot that relates to being the Last Reader of a book, something which holds huge magical power.
The book is as charming as the first in the series, Dragon’s Green. The emphasis on the importance of reading, books, and personal ability and individuality makes the series feel distinctive, whilst the quirkiness of the characters and scenarios (for example, magically powered tennis matches between Effie and Wolf and the strange pupils from a rival school) will appeal to children’s imaginations. The Chosen Ones combines various good and nefarious magical plots and jumps between the five main characters as well as some smaller ones, meaning that it is fast paced and doesn’t get boring.
Anyone who enjoyed Dragon’s Green will be pleased with this next instalment, which ups the drama and gives more information about the world of Effie and her friends. Despite being aimed at older children, the series has plenty of appeal for being read together with parents, or even adults picking it up themselves (there is, for example, a reference to Barthes’ famous ‘death of the author’ essay which is unlikely to be picked up by 11-year-olds). It will be good to see what Thomas does with future books in the series, particularly with the main characters who’ve not yet had as much focus as Effie and Maximilian.