The Best Teen and Children's Fiction We've Read This Spring
Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith (Electric Monkey, YA)
Outside an abandoned shopping mall in small town America the end of the world has accidentally been unleashed. And nobody knows anything about it. If nobody acts soon an unstoppable army will take over the world. An unstoppable army of 6ft tall praying mantises that only want to do two things: eat and, well …
Austin and his friend Robby can’t help but feel slightly responsible for how events are unfurling and so, hidden underground in a secret silo with Austin’s girlfriend Shan, they try to come up with a plan to reclaim the world.
A dazzling coming-of-age story told against the backdrop of the insect apocalypse, this book is breathtakingly original. Austin’s voice is bold and authentic and you’re right there with him as he struggles to come to terms not just with the giant monsters taking over his town, but with his own sense of identity. I couldn’t put it down.
This is the truth. This is history. It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
--Beth Bottery, Schools Events Manager
Arsenic for Tea, Robin Stevens (Random House, 8-11)
It's 1930’s England, a world of bun breaks, jolly hockey sticks and cold-blooded murder. Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Easter holidays with Daisy’s family at their crumbling country pile. A party of family and friends gather to celebrate Daisy’s birthday but during the sumptuous birthday tea the flirtatious and duplicitous Mr Curtis suddenly falls ill. A few hours later, he is dead. Somebody has something to confess – and it is down to the Detective Society to solve the case before the murderer strikes again.
The second in Robin Steven’s Murder Most Unladylike series, Arsenic for Tea is a brilliant Agatha Christie-style murder mystery complete with an unsolved crime, an isolated country house cut off by a storm, a clever plot strewn with red herrings and a cast of suspicious characters all with their own motives for murder.
With a lightening plot full of twists and surprises and two super-smart girl detectives, Arsenic for Tea is completely gripping. I would recommend it to young Watsons and Sherlocks everywhere.
--Emma Lamont, Schools Outreach Co-ordinator
Goodbye Stranger, Rebecca Stead (Random House, 12+)
Bridge survived a life-threatening accident as a child, and it’s made her wonder a lot about why she’s still alive. Since then, she has always relied on her close friends Tabitha and Emily, but this year everything is different. As the girls begin to change and move in different circles, their friendship changes too, and soon enough Bridge’s whole world seems to be shifting around her, making her question more than ever what her place is. Meanwhile, an unnamed girl is missing from school on Valentine’s Day because she’s scared to face the consequences of her mistake.
By weaving together Bridge’s story, that of the unnamed girl and other perspectives too, Rebecca Stead creates a whole world within a remarkably short book, allowing the reader to find the connections and piece it together. Goodbye Stranger is a beautifully written, honest story about friendship, growing up and finding your identity.
Sarah Mallon, Schools Programme Administrator
Crow Mountain, Lucy Inglis (Chicken House, YA)
Set in Montana in the present day and in 1897, two young women find themselves taking shelter in an isolated cabin, each with a man who will change the rest of their lives forever.
Whilst accompanying her mother on a research trip to Montana, Hope meets a ranch hand named Cal who seems haunted by his past and quietly intrigued by Hope. After a freak accident they take shelter in the cabin where over a hundred years before a young Englishwoman called Emily found herself sheltering with a horse-trader called Nate who rescued her from her own dramatic accident as she travelled across America from London to marry a wealthy railroad investor chosen by her parents.
The novel follows Hope and Emily as they each learn about love, loyalty and freedom.
Crow Mountain is a love story and a family history of epic proportions. I was completely swept away by the intensity of the relationships portrayed and fascinated by the racial politics of Montana in the 1890s.
Most of what I knew about that aspect of American history was from watching old westerns as a child. I really enjoyed having a story with such an expansive scale to look at the impact of the railroads on America, and of settlers on Native American tribes, and how those effects are still felt today.
I can’t recommend Crow Mountain enough. I devoured it, and will definitely re-read, which is something I never do.
--Heather Collins, Schools Programme Manager
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant Egmont, YA)
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a new novel by Australian author Melissa Keil. It tells the story of Alba and her best friends living (or waiting out life….) in a small Aussie town. When a Youtube video goes viral, declaring the potential end of the world and states sleepy Eden Valley as a safe haven, hoardes of hipsters, hippies and ravers bring chaos to Alba’s life and home.
The relationships between Alba and her gang (including a new and improved friend from the past) take several turns but still manage to be funny and heart-warming. You might, like me, figure out what’s going on with the ever sulking Grady pretty early on – or it might smack you in the face towards the end. Either way, the story itself is a witty, comic book reference-filled tumble toward the end of the world that will have you desperate to try the bakery treats, give Alba a shake and spend a ‘free summer’ with your best friends.
--Antonia Clark, Read Write Count Assistant Manager
The Secret Live of Daisy Fitzjohn, Tania Unsworth (Orion, 8-11)
When Daisy’s mum disappears from Brightwood Hall, Daisy is worried and all alone in their huge, crumbling mansion. Then a stranger arrives and Daisy is fighting for her survival. She’s has help from the paintings, statues and topiary in the hall and grounds, who she imagines to be alive and who are her only companions. Can she leave Brightwood, for the first time in her life, so saving herself and her mum?
This well-crafted novel is perfect for fans of Eva Ibbotson, Katherine Rundell and Andy Mulligan and you can’t help but cheer Daisy on in both protecting her home and fighting her fear of leaving it.
All The Rage, Courtney Summers (MacMillan, YA)
After her assault at the hands of Kellan Turner, the sheriff's son and everyone's favourite golden boy, Romy Grey's life has been a misery. No-one will believe the story of a girl from the wrong side of town, and she is bullied relentlessly by the people she used to call friends. Romy tries to keep herself anonymous these days, carrying the enormous weight of past events silently. But when a girl with ties to Romy and Kellan goes missing, Romy has to decide whether to speak up and fight for the truth, or stay silent and risk other girls' safety.
This is the most visceral story I've read in a long time. Romy's voice is raw, full of the pain of trying to make sense of a senseless community. But even though her life is so hard, I never felt like the book was a drag: I was just rooting for her to find a way through all of her difficulty, and her attempts to explore the best path to take made me hugely sympathetic to her. Events, characters and dilemmas ring absolutely true, as Romy and those close to her try and carve out something good from adversity, and the plot kept me hooked until the last page. Not an easy read and definitely for older kids, but so rewarding.
--Chris Leslie, Schools Resource Developer
The Boy and the Globe, written by Tony Bradman and illustrated by Tom Morgan-Jones (Barrington Stoke, 8-11)
Set in 17th century London, The Boy and the Globe depicts Shakespeare as a weary, beleaguered playwright with writer’s block. The charming enthusiasm of Toby, an orphan boy turned pickpocket with a love for books, inspires Will to rekindle his love of the theatre.
This short, snappy quick read, published by dyslexia-friendly Barrington Stoke, is filled with enough detail to place the reader in Jacobean London, while being instantly absorbable. Tony Bradman’s style and content, along with the delightful cartoon-style illustrations by Tom-Morgan-Jones, make this book enjoyable for readers of all ages. 400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still very much alive and weaving his magic in the literary world.
--Thomas Jefferson, Schools Events Administrator
Looking for more recommendations? Check out our extensive library of book lists, with something for every reading taste!