Teenage Fiction: Tales of mystery and imagination

From sci-fi to historical drama, these stories will set young minds racing

Do you need to keep your teens tamed with sparky new reads this summer?

Well there's a good range to choose from, whatever their individual tastes.

Books with fantastical elements – although none of the following four is hardcore fantasy of the sort loathed by most children's librarians – include Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson (Simon and Schuster, £6.99), a fast paced thriller with a dash of sci-fi set in contemporary America. In common with 200 others and, it transpires, her murdered mother, Lila has an unusual ability. Partly a love story (the dishy Alex alone will sell this to young female readers) and partly a quest, Hunting Lila also has a tense shoot out at the end. My only disappointment after 307 pages was to find that when you think you've reached the end, you haven't. We're in cliff-hanger territory, and a sequel is on the way.

A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler (Orion, £9.99) is an intriguing story of friendship, with timeslips, which reminded me of Antonia Barber's The Ghosts (1969) and Philippa Pearce's evergreen Tom's Midnight Garden (1958). To what extent can Jenni change the past and present by experiencing the future first?

In the riveting The Truth About Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne (Usborne, £6.99), Celia has a medical condition but all is definitely not as it seems, and the story races off into a world of unscrupulous doctors, a ruthless private detective who finally finds his inner decency, and Celia's beautifully evoked, troubled but determined mother.

The delightful Sol, who becomes Celia's friend, is well drawn, as are his iffy older brothers and kind, long-suffering mother.

Last in this fantasy-ish quartet comes Wreckers by Julie Hearn (Oxford, £6.99): not a bedtime read for the faint-hearted. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, this story of five teenagers is predicated on a mysterious box thrown up by 18th-century wreckers. There's something inside it, and the novel owes a lot to the story of Pandora's Box. It's neat and thoughtful, if a bit reminiscent of a Hammer Horror film in places.

Moving on from fantasy, we have two appealing books set a long way from Britain. In the Trees by Pauline Fisk (Faber, £6.99) takes us to Belize because Kid, whose late British mother had very little to do with his Belizean father, wants to find his surviving parent. In Belize, he's befriended by a group of gap year eco students, and learns that friendship is more sustaining than tenuous blood ties. Belize, where the author spent a research sabbatical, is almost a character in this colourful novel.

Outlaw by Stephen Davies (Andersen, £5.99) is a faintly old-fashioned tale of kidnap in Saharan Africa, complete with a Robin Hood figure, double-dealing policemen and British spies running amok. It's highly implausible but highly entertaining, and the hero, Jake, is engaging. Think The Riddle of the Sands with smartphones and clever apps.

And so to feet-on-the ground family stories. Bruised by Siobáhn Parkinson (Hodder, £5.99) is a hideously believable and heart-rending story set in Ireland, about a 14-year-old – the narrator Jonathan – who tries to save his eight-year-old sister from their dysfunctional, single mother by running away. It all ends in tears, inevitably, because fantasy this isn't.

From north of the border comes My Dad Is Ten Years Old by Mark O'Sullivan (Penguin, £6.99). Narrated by a child, it is the tragic story of a man left brain-damaged and amnesiac by a traffic accident. He lives with his family in the belief that he is a sibling but, of course, this cannot go on. Should he sleep with his wife whom he now regards as his mother? It's both tragic and funny.

There's a welcome grittiness in Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David (Frances Lincoln, £6.99), about a 16-year-old who wins £8m. Inevitably, the win marks the beginning of her problems rather than the end. It affects family relationships and friendships, and it takes Lia a long time to sort herself out. Despite the cover, and the flippant prose style given to Lia as the narrator, this is quite a thoughtful, salutary, well-researched tale. I enjoyed the common sense characters that are Lia's friends, Harry and Shaz, both delightful in their different ways.

The chilling Brother/Sister by Sean Olin (Razor Bill Penguin, £9.99) is narrated alternately by Asheley and Will, each of whom, we eventually realise, are being interrogated by Californian police about a series of murders, and there is no dissembling. Will is guilty – although there are complications and extenuating circumstances – and Asheley is an accessory after the fact. Will is coldly reasonable and wants to protect Asheley above all else, but his logic is deeply disturbed and his real feelings for Asheley make for unsettling reading. It is a rather brave and original psychological thriller.

Historical fiction, especially about Tudor times, is currently very popular with adults and, of course, some teenagers. Traitor's Kiss by Pauline Francis (Usborne, £6.99), with its shades of Philippa Gregory or Jean Plaidy, tells the story of the teenaged Elizabeth I struggling with friendships, burgeoning sexuality, the ghost of her executed mother and the horror of having so few people to trust.

Catherine Parr, now married to Thomas Seymour, after Henry VIII's death, is her guardian, but when Catherine dies in childbirth, the young Elizabeth is at risk. The Tower is never far away.

And finally to a novel for the younger, perhaps more innocent, teenager. I would have loved Olivia's First Term by Lyn Gardner (Nosy Crow, £5.99) at about age 12, when I was addicted to Pamela Brown's The Swish of the Curtain novels.

Olivia is at a theatre school owned and run by her seemingly fierce grand-mother, but she doesn't want to be there because her heart and talent lie in the circus with her widowed father. It's nicely told by Gardner, a well-known theatre critic and champion of theatre for young audiences, with plenty to engross those who love acting, singing and dancing, or just like reading about it. There's also a strong family story underpinning Olivia's First Term and, of course, it is the start of a planned series.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition