Between the lines
Kevin Sampson's Freshers (Jonathan Cape pound;9.99) is not recommended for anyone who remembers too clearly the faces of last summer's outgoing Year 13, or parents of those heading for university (especially to Sheffield). This tale of growing up is for grown-ups but it serves some of the purpose of Melvin Burgess's Doing It (more swearing, but a more appealing study of relationships), being honest and funny about the social and sexual pressures of the first year and the other hazards of halls-of-residence life, including drugs, alcohol and dodgy music. Kit, a likeable hero, worries about being a secret virgin, about drinking too much and about whether all his friendships are built on sand. The one thing he doesn't worry about is work, but that wouldn't be a good story.
If you like your adolescent turmoil more polished but just as harrowing, try Alice Hoffman's new novel, The Probable Future (Jonathan Cape pound;10.99), in which 13-year-old Stella is born into a long line of Massachusetts seers, with the ability to foresee others' likely causes of death. When the pressure gets too much, she finds unlikely refuge in her grandmother's Addams Family-esque residence. There are at least 10 kinds of rain in this book, which enhances its soothing pleasures after a long, hot summer.
Look in vain for talking animals in novelist Kate Mosse's online writers' and readers' retreat, www.orangelabyrinth.co.uk. She can't stand furry creatures spouting dialogue, she told a British Library audience as a BBC Big Read debate turned to The Wind in the Willows. What, not even Badger? But she loves Winnie-the-Pooh ("He's a toy, that's different") who's also on the Big Read Top 100 list, shortly to become the Top 21. Keep an eye on www.readon.org.uk for the latest resources.
If you're near Newcastle or Gateshead, the Orange Young Writing week sounds like a gift for any songwriters, poets, budding Quentin Tarantinos or fiction writers among your 13 to 19-year-old students, and also welcomes those who are new to creative writing. The free two-day workshops throughout half-term (October 27-November 1) have 15 places and are likely to fill up fast. Telephone 0191 232 9991 or email silvana@newwritingnorth. com for details. The week is just one aspect of an exciting Magnetic North programme of literary events throughout the north-east this autumn organised by New Writing North. See www.newwriting north.com or phone as above.