Growing up is hard to do
W HAT WOULD YOU do i f you woke up after a fatal accident in the body of a machine? This is the premise of Robin Wasserman’s chilling SF thriller, Skinned (Simon and Schuster, £6.99). Beautiful, popular 16-year-old Lia will never age or feel pain. Unable to eat, listen to music or feel emotions, she is cut off from all the things teenagers most enjoy. A “mech” or living experiment, she’s rejected by her friends and boyfriend. Only other “mechs” offer her refuge.
Like Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy and Neil Shusterman’s Unwind, Skinned goes deep into the existential dilemmas of modern teenagers. At its heart is the horror of living with a changing body, which feels out of control, alien and fake. Lia’s choice between con -tinuing to live a life of denial and accepting her own transformation dramatises adolescent fears, and weaves them into the first part of an intriguing, if two-dimensional, dystopian trilogy for teenagers.
If your children refuse to have their hair combed, Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (Bloomsbury, £11.99) will be a kill-or-cure treatment. Young Bonnie entreats Mister to let her comb his hair. He counters with a description of a bizarre kingdom within his locks: “gorillas leap/ tigers stalk and ground sloths sleep. Prides of lions make their lair, somewhere in my crazy hair…” As well as wild animals, his hair encloses dancers, posh folk in hot-air balloons, pirates and more. McKean’s illustrations are full of colour and movement. Hairy — and scary — for four-to six-year-olds.
These days, we have certain expectations of a holiday in Florida. But there are no Disney characters or scream-inducing water parks for teenager Evie, in Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic, £6.99). Instead, she encounters disguises and watery dramas of a different kind. Whisked by her family from New York to Palm Beach, Evie falls in love with a brooding charmer called Peter, who served with her stepfather in the war and now seems to have a mysterious hold on him. True, nobody is wearing an oversized Mickey Mouse head, but everyone — from enigmatic guests Mr and Mrs Grayson to her Evie’s own mother — seems to have something to hide.
As Evie unearths the truth, which includes a bitter brush with antisemitism, she begins to grow up. An atmospheric, noir blend, reminiscent of Rebecca and The Greengage Summer, for age 11 to adult.