Daniel Handler’s sharp and sour first novel, The Basic Eight, revealed him as a natural writer for young adults. It was published in 1998, before the young adult market was ready for it, and Handler swiftly moved on to his Lemony Snicket marathon. Why We Broke Up (Electric Monkey £8.99) sees Handler back on form for older readers, including adults, with this chronicle of relationship discontent. A would-be film director, Min casts against type when she responds to the advances of the boisterous basketball co-captain, Ed. They spend a bitter and occasionally sweet five weeks together but it feels like five years, documented by Maira Kalman’s artwork. The reader is seduced into buying into their coupledom and imagining pictures of their children, then equally swiftly convinced that it never could have worked.
Aidan Chambers is especially sure-footed when depicting boys’ romantic trials. Dying to Know You (Bodley Head £12.99) sees plumber Karl jumping through hoops to keep his hard-to-get girl. Chambers offers an unusual narrative perspective in Karl’s ally, an elderly widowed male writer struggling with grief and creative blocks. The young man reveals increasingly complex troubles, the older man shows more of his own vulnerability, and they transform one another’s lives.
The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant (Faber £9.99) is a harrowing romantic adventure set in occupied France in 1944, but Arianne and Luc feel like a contemporary couple. The lovers are at the mercy of the precarious politics of their village, where informers and Resistance activists live cheek by jowl. Farrant’s vision takes in both sides of the conflict in equal emotional depth, visiting young German soldiers who have to live with the atrocities they are ordered to commit.
Natalie and Lizzie of Diana Hendry’s short, subtle, unsettling thriller The Seeing (Bodley Head £10.99) are in relatively safe 50s England. Lizzie is recruited to Natalie’s campaign to rout out “evil” from their dull seaside village. Natalie’s little brother, who has second sight, is their secret weapon…
In Whisper by Chrissie Keighery (Templar £6.99) Demi has become profoundly deaf at 15, and the difficulties of being understood and understanding are overwhelming enough to induce panic attacks. Her account of being excluded from films, parties and sleepovers – and of struggling to find a place in the deaf community with its many facets and challenges – underpins this absorbing story.
In Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid (Penguin £6.99), Rebecca also has an isolating, misunderstood disability: the genetic disorder Treacher-Collins syndrome has left her with facial deformities as well as partial deafness. Rebecca and her attractive non-identical twin sister, Hepzibah, have both been systematically abused by their parents Hepzibah seems better equipped to fight back and escape while Rebecca resorts to playing invisible. But when she is left alone with her parents, she finds strength and support on her doorstep. A harrowing tale, which leaves the reader questioning whether such difficulties in early life can be survived.
The Circle by Sara B Elfgren and Mats Strandberg (translated by Per Carlsson, Arrow £12.99) reads like The Demon Headmaster set in a Swedish Twin Peaks with a nod to Stieg Larsson. The six high-school girls who take on the forces of evil with their new-found witches’ powers are sub-Buffy specimens. Once gathered together after a 100-page-plus intro, the Chosen Ones acquit themselves like a losing team on The Apprentice until a second suspicious student suicide makes them up their game. It beats Big Brother, and it also has strong language throughout.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Seit 1996 bin ich freier Mitarbeiter der Salzgitter-Zeitung, als Experte für das Geschehen im hiesigen Kreisfußball. Daneben sind meine Kolumnen seit 2005 fester Bestandteil im Lokalteil der Salzgitter-Zeitung. Zusammen mit Frau und Tochter sowie zwei gefräßigen wie faulen Stubentigern versuche ich das zu meistern, was das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest an Absurditäten für uns bereithalten.