Novel with a cash flow

The Jewish Chronicle - - Books -

WHAT WOULD you do if you had the power to put right some of the world’s big­gest prob­lems? End famine? Pro­vide a less-de­vel­oped coun­try with clean wa­ter?

But what if you had to choose be­tween the big prob­lems and the lit­tle ones? If you could fi­nance your dad’s bak­ery? Buy your sis­ter singing lessons so she could go on Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent?

These are the kinds of dilem­mas that form the back­drop to two of this month’s nov­els for teenagers.

In Lia’s Guide to Win­ning the Lot­tery, by Keren David (Frances Lin­coln, £6.99), Lia wins mil­lions — and swoons into the arms of gor­geously mys­te­ri­ous, pale and soul­ful new boy, Raf, who may (think his Twi­light-aware class­mates) be a vam­pire. Lia’s mil­lions com­pli­cate ev­ery as­pect of her life. Her best friend, Mus­lim Shazia, is not al­lowed to ac­cept so much as a cof­fee from her, be­cause Lia’s weal t h i s t h e prod­uct of gam­bling.

Mean girls and the me­dia turn against Lia. Even Raf may not be what he seems. Is Lia’s num­ber up?

Lia’s Guide to Win­ning the Lot­tery is wise, funny, in­ge­niously plot­ted and — like Lia and Raf them­selves — deeper by far than its chick-lit-type ex­te­rior sug­gests.

Also clad in a de­cep­tive cover is Meg Rosoff’s There is No Dog (Pen­guin, £12.99). It looks like a book for younger read­ers, but is de­cid­edly 12-plus. Rosoff de­picts God as a teenage boy called Bob, who is too lazy to look af­ter hu­man­ity. “Like a child who couldn’t r e s i s t a d d i n g more sprin­kles to an over­loaded ice-cream”, Bob em­bel­lishes his c r e a t i o n ( f o r e x a m p l e , b y in­vent­ing l ots o f l a nguages, so peo­ple can­not un­der­stand each other) and ties the weather to his moods, caus­ing havoc when he falls in love.

Mean­while, Bob’s mother has gam­bled away the life of his pet, the “pen­guiny” Eck, which steals the show with its en­dear­ing greed and pan­icky but sto­ical attitude to its im­pend­ing death.

It is the Job-like Eck, too, who in­vites us to won­der: what is the mean­ing of life, amid all this suf­fer­ing? The Cre­ation and the story of Noah are re­played, but with a 21st-cen­tury, Amer­i­can vibe — phi­los­o­phy with a side or­der of waffles and syrup.

Also out now for teens, The Non­such King, part four of Ben­jamin J. My­ers’s ur­ban fan­tasy (Orion, £6.99) — dark, dra­matic and Dick­en­sian — and Mary Hoff­man’s David (Blooms­bury, £10.99)— Floren­tine po­lit­i­cal his­tory from the per­spec­tive of the boy who mod­elled for Michelan­gelo’s David.

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