Dunedin writer's sequel action packed

Tania Roxborogh reviews four very different books for the teen market.

I couldn't' wait for the sequel to Ella West's wonderful first novel, Thieves, so was excited to hold Anywhere But Here (Longacre, pbk, $20) in my hot little hands.

I was a bit worried I'd had to wait too long and would've forgotten the story, but once I started reading, it was as if I'd only just finished the first book in this planned trilogy.

That's how seamless it was - not that there was "oh, I better fill you in on the other book", but more of subtle reminders.

Our protagonist, Nicky, and her team of travellers have managed to escape from The Project and are hiding out in LA.

Trouble is, though they are enjoying their new-found freedom, Jake has been shot and needs medical treatment and the mysterious Guardian has been able to track them so they have to constantly be on the move.

Added to this is the realisation that the information they stole from their last mission has the potential to save hundreds of lives.

Anywhere But Here is an action-packed adventure and I couldn't put it down. Get this and the prequel as a Christmas gift for your teen.

A voice in the distance by Tabitha Suzuma (Definitions, pbk, $20) is the stand-alone sequel to A note of madness.

I read the former first and hunted out the latter because I enjoyed Suzuma's writing and characters so much.

A voice in the distance is a story told through the eyes of star pianist Flynn Laukonen and his equally musical girlfriend, Jennah.

Flynn, though brilliantly talented, is bipolar and must keep up his medication to keep the highs from getting out of control and the lows from driving him to suicide.

The side effects of the drugs, however, impact on Flynn's playing.

He makes a conscious choice to go it alone to battlehis disorder and, as expected, things get wildly out of control and his actions affect those closest to him.

This is a fabulous book: wonderfully convincing characters, beautifully crafted writing (like the beauty of the music created by Jennah and Flynn) and an utterly convincing journey seen through the eyes of both the sufferer and his lover.

Highly recommended for any mature teen, especially those with a love of music.

The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen, (Puffin, pbk, $20) is an engaging novel about a teenage girl who works very hard to be perfect and live the perfect life: to please her mother, her perfect boyfriend and to satisfy her own expectations.

One summer a team of chaotic and charming characters collide with Macy's perfect world and pull her along on a wild and funny and freeing journey as they lurch from one catering crisis to another.

In contrast to the creative and honest Kristy, Delia, Bert, Monica and Wes, Macy's mother and the two uptight librarians she is forced to work with during the day, do not approve of the changes to Macy and her behaviour.

I really enjoyed the reading experience: the way the characters interacted and their developments.

Only the two librarians and perhaps the perfect boyfriend, were somewhat sketchily drawn but that is to be expected as they never open up to us in the same way as the other characters.

It's a chick book and would make a great present for Christmas and long summer days.

The best interpretation of a Shakespearean play I've seen for ages is John Marsden's Hamlet, a novel (Text, hbk, $35).

Its expensive so English departments will need to consider if they want to buy this but, if I were in charge of the purse strings and Hamlet was a set text, I would buy a class set for those students who struggle with the demands of level 2 (sixth form) English.

This is a beautifully told tale and I loved that Hamlet is the young, confused teen portrayed in this book - it suits so much the angst Shakespeare put him through.

Marsden has captured the ideas of the language and the essence of the play and it strays little from the 17th-century edition.

This will be a delight to those who love Shakespeare's Hamlet and a wonder novel for those who have never read (or understood) the play.

The setting is timeless and for those who know the work well, lovely little acknowledgments to the master playwright.

Of course, there is no happy ending, but I knew that would be the case.

It's another exciting way to access the great stories of Shakespeare. A great gift for the teen (or adult who loves our dear Will).

This is a must-have novel. (I'm inspired to dust off my plan to write a sequel to Macbeth.).

- Tania Roxborogh is a Dunedin teacher and author

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