Recommended reads for November 2021
The Infinite, Patience Agabi
A highly original, mind-bending, time-travelling adventure story. Twelve-year old autistic Elle is a Leapling, born on 29 February with the 'Gift', an ability to travel through time. She lives with her larger-than-life Nigerian grandmother. Her true friend and protector is Big Ben.
It is 2020 and Elle and Ben are invited to visit the Time Squad Centre in the year 2048. Here, they are introduced to an elite group of time travellers who fight time crime. However, it soon becomes clear that something is awry. Leaplings are missing and there is a mystery to be solved! 10+
Refugee Boy, Benjamin Zephaniah
This is a story about being a refugee and of being displaced, alone, feared and resented. It is also a story that speaks of the innocence and good humour of the young and the integrity of people willing to stand up for acceptance and tolerance. And because of this quality, it quietly simmers with compassion and positivity. The prose is simple, direct and beautiful to read; delivered with Zephaniah's characteristic energy and lyrical know-how.
It is Alem's astonishing story. A fourteen-year-old left in England by his parents so he can escape the horrors of the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict. He must and will learn to adapt. 11+.
Empress & Aniya, Candice Carter
A novella with a tight plot but big themes - friendship, acceptance, social mobility, pride and kindness. It's written by Candice Carty Williams, and anyone who has read Queenie will recognise the punchiness and honesty in the narrative voice. There's no frothiness here - the author is straight talking and delivers her story well, which centres on the refreshing, developing friendship of Empress and Aniya.
I have no doubt even the most reluctant teen reader could be drawn into the contrasting worlds of its main characters. And, with a sprinkling of magic - the girls swap bodies on their 16th birthday - it reads very much like a modern day fairy tale. YA
Ace of Spades, Farida Abike-Iyimide
Big, bold, to the point, twisty and full of deceit and thrills.
The setting might seem conventional - a posh school for spoilt kids, with a few scholarship kids trying to find their way and a few rich kids who have a lot to prove. Sort of reminded me of The Hate U Give. But, when an anonymous texter, called Aces, starts sending messages around the school - picking out targets with secrets to hide - things start getting very interesting.
Throw in love, broken trust, identity crises and lots of intrigue and you have a book that is very hard to put down. A fierce debut by a very young writer. I think teens (15+) will love it. Be warned there are mature themes.