RAIDER'S TIDE. By Maggie Prince. Collins. pound;4.99
STEP INTO THE DARK. By Bridget Crowley. Hodder. Children's Books. pound;4.99
WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW. By Sonya Sones. Orion. pound;8.99.
Readers from the post-war generation are likely to have met Romney Marsh in the stories of Monica Edwards and Malcolm Saville; the area's proximity to France and its smuggling heritage provided the background to many an adventure. Bernard Ashley's contemporary story combines the flavour of a crime thriller with the story of a girl grieving for her recently dead father and at odds with a mother as headstrong as herself.
When her mother insists on leaving London for the coast after the accident, half-Italian Sophia writes poetry to communicate with her father, and later to explore her feelings about a new love. A parallel plot involving stolen diamonds hidden in France sees various characters converging on Revenge House, endangering mother and daughter. Many readers will identify with Sophia, whose outward confidence and mouthiness belie her insecurities. A briskly streetwise style carries the reader to a dramatic but uncontrived conclusion.
Raider's Tide also has a coastal setting, in the north-west of England in the 16th century, where raids from warring Scots are constantly feared. First-person, present-tense narrative gives immediacy to the story of Beatrice, a 16-year-old with wayward parents and a determined younger sister. Both girls are expected to marry their parents' choice, but each has other ideas; Beatrice is compromised when she finds a young Scottish raider wounded in the woods. Vivid evocation of landscape and domestic detail, and a heroine whose desire for independence will strike chords with teenage girls, sweep the reader into Beatrice's world.
Step into the Dark is a highly likeable and accomplished first novel by Bridget Crowley, based partly on a Hackney ghost story. As assistant lighting technician, Beetle has an unusual view of the rehearsals for a community variety show, finding himself in trouble when he tries to rescue a young girl he believes has strayed to the high balcony. Beetle's inadequate mother and sordid home life are touched on, but the theatre offers purposeful occupation and an escape from the thuggish boys who might otherwise be his companions. As well as linking various plot strands, the theatre project involves a range of well-drawn characters of various ages and abilities. Briskly paced without being rushed, the story will engage readers of 11 and above with its real sense of urban teenage life.
What My Mother Doesn't Know is Sonya Sones's second "novel in poetry". Free verse tells of this Boston teenager's life, love and friendships: gorgeous Dylan whose appeal gradually wanes; an internet flirtation; arguments with her mother.
I approached this book with scepticism, especially when reading prose with a lot of white space left around it. But the mix of frankness, lust, confusion and the need for peer approval is appealing, capturing the telling moments familiar to every teenager and to everyone who has ever fallen in love. Sophie's gradual warming to the classmate she has always dismissed as nerdish will make female readers long for a Murphy of their own. This could be a word-of-mouth success with teenage girls, including those who wouldn't usually glance at poetry outside the national curriculum.