Fire!; Shouting at the Stars; Witness
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Three more titles in this expanding series for teenagers who require shortish, quick reads and only a moderate level of language difficulty. The presentation of this series deserves mention; it is stylish and quality work.
Belbin’s tale is of a disabled young singer, singing her own material and rapidly rising to stardom. However, her troubled past begins to exert itself and as success brings its own stresses, so Layla becomes convinced in her own mind, that she is the victim of a disruptive stalker. The text has some subtlety and lands surprises which makes it a satisfying read. The content is very contemporary and will resonate well with youngsters.
Fire! puts flesh and blood into the story of the Great Fire of London. The device of brother and sister in separate parts of the city, each telling their particular experience, serves the material well. Inevitably Pepys gets into it and the historical detail is evident but not invasive. As an easy historical novel it does a fair job.
Witness is good on the dilemma that we all face when we witness crime, be it petty or serious. Todd is not a great respecter of the law. Then he sees an old man mugged and he knows the attacker. Telling the police seems right, but only because he knew the oldster as a considerate employer for whom he did a paper round. So begins intimidation by a bully boy and frightening danger to Todd’s disabled friend Dex. Of course Todd and Dex come out of it well and morally superior! The language and modern tone of this one seem particularly well realised. DB