The winner and other shortlisted titles from the 2010 Booktrust Teenage Prize reviewed by the four teenage judges.
Thanks to Alice Ingall, Press Coordinator, Booktrust.
Unhooking the Moon
Gregory Hughes, Quercus, 978 1 84916 295 1, £6.99 pbk
Unhooking the Moon is a masterpiece among novels; a stunning tale of self-journey, friendship and loyalty. The plot focuses on the journey of Bob, a sensible rationalist who is drawn into the exploits of his younger sister Rat, a quirky, somewhat unstable girl, who has a knack for ‘seeing’ things. Following their father’s death they journey to New York in search of their Uncle Jerome and find far more than they ever imagined.
At first glance the book appears to be a classic fairytale, a Hansel and Gretel of sorts, but as the characters progress it seems happily ever after may not be the case after all. Gregory Hughes’ genius concept of combining the mystical with realistic themes spreads throughout the book and makes it far more satisfying than any one genre on its own.
For teenagers this book is an absolute treat and worth savouring. It lacks the obvious horror of other books in the market but still manages to keep an underlying darkness that is far more powerful than vampires and ghouls.
As you read you find yourself drawn into a world to which you can relate. Find yourself in situations that are at one minute utterly hilarious but take on a sinister turn moments later. The book is wonderful, refreshing and entirely capable of altering your mood, the way you see the world and the type of books you like.
All of the individual components – the depth of the characters, the realistic themes and the glorious descriptions – make for a well-rounded, loveable novel. The subtle darkness that lies beneath the masquerade of a fairytale created such tension that I found it hard to put the book down.
The book is an absolute delight, beautifully written and well deserving of the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010. Considering this is the first novel produced by Gregory Hughes we are in for a massive treat if he plans to create any more. It’s an absolute credit to the author and greatly received by the panel of judges.
Zizou Corder, Puffin, 978 0 14 132830 0, £7.99 pbk
Halo is set in the magical country of Ancient Greece, and is heavily based on mythology and Greek Gods. Halo is washed up on the beach as a baby and is found by a group of centaurs, who bring her up to live like them. Ten years later, Halo is captured and kidnapped when swimming with her adopted centaur brother Arko. She is then thrown into a captivating journey where she is trained by the famous Spartan warriors, becomes a doctor, suffers from the plague, and even manages to fall in love with Spartan soldier Leonidas. Halo also disguises herself as a boy during the book, as she believes that they are more respected.
Halo is a fascinating book with a great story line which will keep you captivated and wanting more. It tackles many issues teenagers come up against today, such as identity, sexism and relationships. The book has a very magical feel and will not leave you for a long time.
Marcus Sedgwick, Orion, 978 1 4440 0005 4, £6.99 pbk
Revolver is, from start to finish, an incredibly unique, uncompromising and searching book.
The setting is an Arctic wasteland of snow and ice; the focus is a small, ramshackle town, known as Nome, a gold mining outpost. The story is told through the eyes of a 15-year-old boy and recounts a tale of long-lost gold, revenge and escape.
As the book goes on, the main character’s position becomes more and more precarious as he (and the readers) learn more about his family’s past. The character of Gunther Wolff turns from mysterious to menacing as the book progresses, eventually leading to a dramatic and surprising conclusion.
I particularly enjoyed this book as I thought the characters were very original and believable. The setting was bleak and harsh and was almost a character in itself. Overall, the book raised questions about how to bring up children, how to shape your own life and the seductive power of a weapon. I loved it!
Sarra Manning, Hodder, 978 0 340 88373 0, £5.99 pbk
17-year-old Bea is a typical teenager, she dreams of being part of the ‘popular’ crowd and going out to parties every night, whereas in reality she’s stuck with her boring job following her Mum’s high expectations… So when the most popular girl in school Ruby and her friends take a sudden liking to her and invite her on a girls’ holiday to Malaga, Bea jumps at the opportunity. However after 48 hours on holiday with her new friends Bea realises being cool isn’t all she expected and heads off to Paris to find the father she never met. On the way she meets the perfect boy Toph, and Bea’s adventures really begin.
Nobody’s Girl is a beautifully written story about an average teenage girl who many could relate to. The descriptions of Paris are breathtaking and are enough to make anyone desperate to visit the city of love. Sarra Manning does an amazing job of getting into the mind of a teenage girl and this is a book that really excels in its genre.
Out of Shadows
Jason Wallace, Andersen, 978 1 84939 048 4, £6.99 pbk
Out of Shadows is the debut novel of Jason Wallace and is based around his own experiences as a teenager in Robert Mugabe’s new Zimbabwe of the 1980s. The novel follows Robert’s harsh journey through school as he fights with some difficult decisions and faces the realities of racism and the unforgiving politics of a new country.
From the opening line, ‘Go ahead, shoot…’ the reader is thrust into a world of violence and prejudice. Jason Wallace never patronises his young adult readers and doesn’t hold back when describing scenes of physical violence. As Robert is faced with dilemma after dilemma, moral questions are thrown up again and again.
Jason Wallace’s characters are always believable, no one is completely bad or completely good and characters are developed throughout the book so that our opinions are constantly challenged. A book to make you think and highly recommended.
Charlie Higson, Puffin, 978 0 14 132501 9, £6.99 pbk
The Enemy is set in modern-day London where ‘the sickness’ has infected everyone over the age of 14. The sickness infects the mind of the victim, killing the unfortunate person or turning them into a bloodthirsty zombie. Small groups of children survive together in fortresses (otherwise known as supermarkets!). One day, the character known as Jester turns up and tells them of a safe haven the other side of London (otherwise known as Buckingham Palace). The journey to Buckingham Palace is fraught with danger and zombies!
I really enjoyed this book because it’s a very tense and unsettling story. I became very attached to the characters and was fascinated by the intense and unpredictable plotline. The book raises questions about authority, society and violence. A gripping read!
The Booktrust Teenage Prize celebrates the best contemporary writing for young adults. The Reading Agency promotes the Prize in libraries across the UK. See www.booktrust.org.uk for more info.