Excellent Readers - The Oxford Academy

Interest Level:
Aged 11+
This intriguing novel is based on the case of maidservant, Anne
Green, 'hanged for infanticide at Oxford Assizes in 1650.
Restored to the world and died again in 1665'.
Through a cleverly structured dual narrative Anne's story
unfolds from unconsciousness - a woeful tale of seduction by
her Master's grandson, pregnancy then still-birth, followed by
imprisonment, trial and hanging.
Her revival is recounted by Robert Matthews, a young scholar
attending the dissection of Anne's body, who notices the first
flickers of life.
This is strong stuff, with gruesome details aplenty, but Anne and
Robert's voices ring true and it's a fascinating insight into a time
when the upper classes wielded life-or-death power, and ideas
about medicine, science and religion were in constant flux.
Publisher: Definitions
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
A small boy helps deliver a baby to a fantasy warrior queen;
another finds courage from a mythical hero to confront a school
bully; a terrified, sleepless girl is carried off by Wee Willie
Filled with echoes from other tales, these stories probe that
uncharted, potentially dangerous gap where nightmares,
dreams and legends intersect with everyday life.
When they intrude - often suddenly and shockingly - the results
are sometimes terrifying, sometimes life-affirming.
The writing is lean and concentrated, with heart-stopping
descriptions and beautifully judged juxtapositions, setting
intense fear alongside the smallest details of safe, mundane
normality. Not an easy book - but one that repays perseverance.
Publisher: Definitions
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Lying forgotten on top of a wardrobe at the Archway Young
Offenders institution is a notebook. Inside its pages, the
notorious Emily Koll reveals the story she has refused to tell
anyone, even her psychiatrist - the truth about the crime she
committed, and why she did what she did to her best friend,
This taut, tense psychological thriller keeps the reader
guessing as Emily's story is gradually unravelled through the
pages of her notebook, blending her experiences of day-to-day
life at the institution with her memories of the events that have
brought her here. Dark, distinctive and different, Heart Shaped
Bruise is a memorable debut, offering an intriguing exploration
of revenge, identity and perhaps most of all the intensity of
teenage relationships. Readers are guaranteed to be gripped
by Emily's powerful story right up to the shocking final twist.
Publisher: Headline Publishing
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Fifteen-year-old Willo has been left alone in the freezing and
snow covered hills that have been his home for years. Willo
doesn’t know where his father and the rest of his family have
gone, but donning the skull of a dog, whose spirit guides him,
he resolves to try and find them. Willo’s journey takes him into
the dangerous world of the city, where people live in fear and
poverty. Soon Willo discovers some unnerving information
about his father and as his fight for survival grows increasingly
urgent, the boy must draw on reserves of strength he never
knew he had.
Tapping into the current trend for dystopian fiction, this bleak
novel is set in a futuristic ice-age and contains haunting scenes
and some strong language; it is a memorable story with an
ultimately hopeful resolution.
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
'It's like being in love, discovering your best friend' remarks a
character in this tale of friendship, war and espionage. Two
British girls from totally different backgrounds, form an unlikely
and life-changing friendship when they are stationed together
during World War II. Down-to-earth, Maddie is a skilled pilot,
while bold best friend Julie is from an aristocratic Scottish
family - together, as Julie writes, they are 'a sensational team.'
However, when Julie is captured by the Gestapo after a mission
goes wrong in France, the girls' friendship is tested beyond
anything they had every imagined.
This book makes compelling reading; scenes of Gestapo torture
are interspersed with stories from the girls' experiences before
the war, culminating in a tense and shocking ending. In turns
touching and heart-breaking, this book will stay with readers
long after they have closed the book.
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
A year after his brother, Rob’s, death, Jamie contemplates Rob’s
ashes, hoping that retelling last summer’s events might be
cathartic. Wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, Rob
was desperate to get back there, a rage inside him untouchable
by therapy, cannabis or booze.
Meanwhile, Jamie was falling for Caro; notoriously bad,
expelled from school, shunned by other girls, desperate to do
something politically meaningful. Unaware, innocent, Jamie had
no idea the two people he loved were so deeply damaged, or
that he was entangled between them. He’s still struggling to
forgive them...
Painful and sad as Rob and Caro’s stories are, it’s Jamie’s
unflinching honesty about his own naivety, about the depth of
his deception that stands out in this hard-hitting, compelling
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
In this unusual young adult novel, Pitcher once again creates a
vivid and engaging first person narrative - this time, the story is
told through a series of letters written in the frank and often
funny voice of a 15-year-old girl struggling to come to terms
with her crippling guilt because she is, by her own admission a
murderer. Seeking redemption for her crime, Zoe begins
writing to convicted murderer Stuart Harris, awaiting execution
on Death Row, confessing the secret of what happened, and
spilling out her feelings about a love triangle that went
tragically wrong, as well as the family turmoil she has been
Dealing with some complex and difficult themes and issues,
Ketchup Clouds is perhaps best suited to older teenage readers.
Blending powerful emotion and darkness with ironic humour, it
is a gripping and moving story about secrets, lies and growing
up. Sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes wistful, often funny
and always compassionate, this is a beautifully-crafted and
unexpected coming-of-age story that will win readers’ hearts.
Publisher: Indigo
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
One night 15-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are
hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars
and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia. An
unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn't
know if she'll ever see her father or her friends again. But she
refuses to give up hope. Lina hopes for her family. For her
country. For her future. For love - first love, with the boy she
barely knows but knows she does not want to lose ... Will hope
keep Lina alive?
Set in 1941, Between Shades of Grey is an extraordinary and
haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and
memories from survivors.
Publisher: Puffin
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Imagine living in a world where smiling, coughing or shivering
would get you killed. That is the reality for 17-year-old Gene, a
human living amongst vampires. Every day he is forced to keep
every natural emotion and physical reaction in check as he
attempts to blend in and stay alive. Then, one fateful day, he is
chosen to participate in The Hunt – a government sponsored
game that sets a few of the last remaining humans free so that
they can be chased and killed by the hunters. How will Gene be
able to compete when the game threatens to expose his true
This interesting twist on the vampire genre is a breath of fresh
air for horror fans. It is exciting and well-written, with even the
most minute of details carefully thought through. This
captivating novel is a page-turner right to the end; however
readers of a sensitive disposition should note that it contains
graphic scenes of violence and death.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Growing up in the hill fort amongst a community of sheepmen,
Kita grows up accustomed to hard work, hardship and rigid
routine. Life since the Great Havoc has been tough, and the
sheepmen are struggling to survive, but Kita chafes in a brutish
culture in which women are treated as chattels, friendship and
kindness are frowned upon, and every day is dominated by
endless, monotonous hard work.
Lurking always in the background is the threat of the sinister
and dangerous community of witches that live on the mountaintop, flickering strange green and purple lights by night witches that are said to use their evil powers to abduct girls and
brutally murder sheepmen. But Kita is no longer convinced by
the whispers about Witch Crag, and becomes intrigued by the
rumours about other young women who have previously
escaped the hill fort for good. Finally she makes up her mind to
leave in secret, taking her two best friends Raff and Quainy with
her. But can they escape the hill fort undetected - and what will
they really find waiting for them at Witch Crag?
Publisher: Scholastic
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Sophie has always felt alone. Losing her mother so early in life
and growing up in several foster homes has made her distance
herself from almost everyone. Her cousin Dani is the only one
who understands her - Dani may be flaky and emotionally
unstable but she is always there when Sophie needs her.
When it seems that Dani has killed herself by jumping off her
balcony, Sophie refuses to believe it could be suicide. Sophie
and her on-off best friend Reece start to investigate Dani’s life
and the circumstances surrounding her death, but they soon
find themselves embroiled in something far more serious than
they ever could have imagined.
The protagonist of this story is endearing and misunderstood: a
character that gets under your skin and stays there long after
you have finished reading. She is terrified to get close to anyone
in case they hurt her yet she tries so hard to prove that she is
worthy of their love. A moving read blending excitement with a
sweet love story.
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Kyla has been slated. Her memory has been completely wiped,
she has been given a new identity and placed with a new family.
She should feel lucky as slating is a new start for criminals who
would otherwise be executed, but Kyla doesn’t feel lucky.
Violent memories that shouldn’t be there haunt her dreams and
threaten her idyllic new existence. These memories drive her to
find out who she used to be and what she did to get slated, but
the more she learns about herself the more she realises she may
not want to know the truth.
Set in the not too distant future this book investigates the
restrictions on freedom and individuality that are placed on
society by an all-controlling government. Readers are
encouraged to decide for themselves whether the safety of
society can be placed above the rights of the individual. Kyla is
an intriguing protagonist and the true nature of her character is
withheld until the very end.
Publisher: Orchard Books
Interest Level:
Aged 14+
Growing up in an oddball family of clairvoyants, 16-year-old Blue is
used to taking the supernatural in her stride - including the longstanding prediction that she will one day cause her true love to die.
But Blue is shaken on St Mark's Eve, when, following tradition, she
goes to the freezing graveyard where the soon-to-be-dead will pass
by. Usually it's just her clairvoyant mother who can see them, but this
year, a boy emerges from the dark and falls at Blue's feet.
It doesn't take Blue long to discover that his name is Gansey, and that
he's a rich student from exclusive local private school Aligonby. Blue
has always gone out of her way to avoid the spoilt, privileged
Aligonby boys, known as the Raven Boys, but in spite of what she has
seen, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, charismatic Gansey
and his obsessive quest to discover the sleeping Owen Glendower, a
Welsh King who disappeared in the early 15th century.
Also drawn into Gansey's quest are three other Raven Boys: Adam, a
gentle scholarship student who quietly resents the privilege of those
around him, yearning for a different life; Ronan, plunging from fierce
anger to despair following the death of his father; and the enigmatic,
watchful Noah, a troubled soul. Together, the boys and Blue find
themselves tangled in a strange adventure that takes in ley lines,
ghosts, psychics and forests that whisper Latin words - but what will
be the ultimate consequences of Gansey's obsession with
Publisher: Scholastic
Interest Level:
Aged 13+
Sofia and her family flee their Mozambique village after her
father is killed by bandits. They attempt to start afresh, but the
dangers of war are ever-present, and Sofia is forced to rebuild
her life again when she and her sister are involved in a
landmine explosion.
This beautiful story of tragedy and hope succeeds in being an
eminently positive read, delivered with sensitivity but without
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Children's Books
Interest Level:
Aged 13+
Mickey Bolitar is having a difficult time. His father is dead, his
mother is in rehab, and he's been forced to move in with his
estranged uncle Myron, and to start at a new high school. The
only good thing about his new school is fellow new pupil Ashley,
but after just a couple of weeks of getting to know each other,
Mickey's perfect new girlfriend has stopped turning up to
classes, just as if she's simply vanished into thin air.
Unwilling to let another person disappear from his life, Mickey
starts to investigate what has happened. Unexpected help
comes from two fellow school outsiders, Spoon and Ema, who
rapidly become friends - but as the three follow Ashley's trail,
they soon discover that she wasn't all that she appeared to be.
What's more, the mystery of Ashley's disappearance leads to
some extraordinary discoveries about Mickey's own family, and
especially his beloved father.
Publisher: Indigo
Interest Level:
Aged 15+
Winning the 2010 To Hell With Prizes First Novel Award and
being picked up by Canongate isn’t bad for a novel that lay in
David Whitehouse’s agent’s drawer of ‘destined for the big time’
And now it’s out, what do we make of Bed. It’s a grotesquely
funny, arch and morbid tale of two brothers, one second-best
and the other spoilt and lazy. The spoilt lazy one hasn’t left his
bed in over twenty years. We’re treated to some pretty
disgusting descriptions of what happens to an immobile body
as it rots in its own filth, doted on by its mother, and how this
becomes Mal (the lazy one)’s unique ticket to fame… doing
Whitehouse has an eye for the one-liner, for the particularly
gruesome turn of phrase and for comedy that is both unspoken,
physical and witty.
Publisher: Canongate
Interest Level:
Aged 13+
Life ends catastrophically suddenly for Elizabeth Hall, in a road
accident. Not for her a future filled with love, marriage and
children; instead, she awakes aboard a quiet, white cruise ship,
steaming to Elsewhere. Elsewhere is calm, ordered and
inhabitants get younger, living backwards until reborn as
babies. While the pain of leaving her family never stops, in
Elsewhere Liz meets her grandmother, makes new friends and
falls in love, as time steadily ticks down to her rebirth. How
Elsewhere ‘works’ is elegantly described and Liz's progress
from misunderstanding and rage to acceptance of what has
happened to her, creates a thought-provoking and absorbing
meditation about how we enter and leave life. A book you will
want to return to.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Interest Level:
Aged 13+
Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never
been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster
family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a
concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and
the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin
NARRATED BY DEATH. It's a small story, about: a girl, an
accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and
Publisher: Black Swan
Interest Level:
Aged 12+
Book one of the Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater
Set in small-town Minnesota, Stiefvater’s moving and poetic
novel of human/wolf interaction and relationships is a werewolf
story like no other, explaining the condition as the result of a
wolf bite and temperature variation.
The story is told from the viewpoints of Grace, a teenager bitten
as a child but unaffected by temperature, and seventeen-yearold Sam, the werewolf who saved her and has secretly guarded
her since.
Grace is drawn to the wolves - and to Sam, whose transition from
human to wolf is increasingly susceptible to cold, and who will
ultimately remain a wolf.
Publisher: Scholastic
Interest Level:
Aged 12+
Hayaat lives in the West Bank after her family were driven from
their land by Israeli settlers.
Grandmother Zeynab dreams longingly of home and fills
Hayaat’s head with her memories; when Zeynab falls
dangerously ill, Hayaat is convinced that some soil from home
might restore her will to live.
Hayaat undertakes a dangerous – and highly illegal – journey to
Jerusalem to fill a hummus jar with the precious earth.
This understated novel about one ordinary family struggling to
survive in a world of random curfews and checkpoints, while
dealing with the physical and mental scars of exile, is a moving
and absorbing (although admittedly partial) novel about the
Middle East situation.
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books