Children's Fiction Special: The Dark Ground by Gillian Cross<br></br> Troll Fell by Katherine Langrish<br></br>A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence<br></br>

Children's fiction deals with all sorts, from Nazi Germany to parallel realities. But what's worth reading? Edward Malnick (15) knows
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The Independent Culture

The Dark Ground by Gillian Cross (OXFORD £9.99)

Coming from the author of the Demon Headmaster and Wolf, The Dark Ground potentially has a tough climb up to Gillian Cross's hall of fame, buther latest reeks originality, imagination and sheer brilliance. Robert Doherty suddenly finds himself in the middle of a jungle, and Cross's gripping tale follows Robert's attempts to resolve the mystery behind his journey from reality on an aeroplane to here. The story contains mystery in all the right places, and close attention to detail brings the tale alive. A riveting masterpiece.

Troll Fell by Katherine Langrish (COLLINS £10.99)

When Peer Ulfsson's cruel uncle comes to take him away from his village not even minutes after his father's cremation, he realises that he is in for a hard life. On arrival at his uncles' mill, Peer is overworked and starved, and it's not long before he discovers that his two uncles are planning to use him as a present for the Dovreking, from the local community of trolls. The style is enthralling, and the adventure persuasive and gripping. A juicy read for children.

A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence (ORCHARD £12.99)

Alaric's mother died two years ago in a train derailment, when he was a mere 14 years old. Two years on, Alaric discovers a second reality, running parallel to his own life, in which he is replaced by a girl who leads a life with the exact parents that Alaric had kissed goodnight two years ago, and the exact mother that was in the terrible accident ... but in this reality she survived. The complexity of the storyline is not something that many authors could successfully handle: however, Lawrence has written with a truly cunning hand.

Freewill by Chris Lynch (BLOOMSBURY £5.99)

Freewill is the story of Will, a teenage workshop student, isolated from his peers by his lonesome nature. When Will discovers that he seems to hold some sort of curse, delivered through his woodwork, he begins to doubt himself. Lynch has developed his character to heights that are rarely reached in teenage fiction and has merged superbly the complexities of life with the paranormal. Freewill is original and gripping.

Last Train From Kummersdorf by Leslie Wilson (FABER £9.99)

Two 14-year-olds, Effi Mann and Hanno Frisch, are attempting to reach their respective families by travelling through Nazi Germany in the thick of fighting with the Russians. Their greatest fears are the Russians, but as the story progresses they discover that it is the people of their own country whom they should fear the most. Wilson has commendably made such a complex and disturbing subject suitable and indeed readable for children, but the distasteful injection of modern-day English language ("...scared shitless") devalues the power of the story.

Ruby Tanya by Robert Swindells (DOUBLEDAY £10.99)

Twelve-year-old Ruby Tanya was born into a family with an overbearingly nationalistic father, and a calm, good- natured mother. The local school in their village is attended by the children of the refugees living in the nearby refugee camp, but when a bomb goes off in the school, the effect reaches far beyond that of physical damage. The subject is very relevant today and Swindells' approach for young readers is superbly formed.

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