Exciting, well-paced stories offer a chance to rock and read

How Embarrassing is That?

By Pete Johnson Kill Swap By James Lovegrove

Hard Luck By Mary Arrigan

The Bone Room By Anne Cassidy Barrington Stoke pound;4.99 each


Reading age eight-plus, interest age 13-plus

This pacy, short fiction is targeted at reluctant readers in their early teens. There are stories here to fit all tastes, from the trying-too-hard middle-class parents of How Embarrassing is That?, to the homelessness and casual street violence in Hard Luck.

All the books are to be read purely for pleasure, but they will kick off serious classroom debate. For example, in Kill Swap, a reality TV programme encourages the young hero to shoot his family's tormentor. The book ends with him intending to commit a real murder.

There is much to examine in the references to a media format which is probably more familiar than books to reluctant readers.

Similarly, The Bone Room also goes for a contemporary issue: young women who are illegal immigrants being forced into prostitution. It is a charged read, replete with the inarticulate sensitivity of its main protagonist, "The pink heart looked as though it had been sewn on by hand. It made him feel sad. He didn't know why".

It would, like all these books, make a great class reader for lower-ability groups, not least because these texts do not assume slow readers lack sensitivity, intelligence or knowledge of the world. These are risky, edgy, provocative stories and the better for that.

Jo Klaces teaches English in Birmingham

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