Novel with a cash flow
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.