Pre-teen sagas;Children's books

15th January 1999 at 00:00
GIRLS UNDER PRESSURE. By Jacqueline Wilson. Doubleday pound;10.99

BEST FRIENDS TOGETHER. By Rosie Rushton. Piccadilly pound;5.99

DREAM ON. By Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore. Piccadilly pound;5.99

DARE, TRUTH OR PROMISE. By Paula Boock. The Women's Press pound;4.99

4EVER FRIENDS. By Bernadette Leach. Attic Press pound;4.95

If you've ever seen the nine and 10-year-olds flocking around the teenage carousels in your local library, you will know that the books known as "Young Adult" on the publishers' lists sometimes have a very young readership.

Teenagers are strange creatures who read Dostoevsky one day and the Babysitters' Club stories the next. Pre-teen children want to know what it will be like when they too become adolescent. What will they be expected to do with their boyfriends? Will people like them for who they are or for what they are wearing? These novels address some of these concerns.

Jacqueline Wilson's books, with their delightful covers by Nick Sharratt, are popular with primary pupils, and in Girls Under Pressure she extends her readership to the first few years of secondary school. The nar-rators speak so amusingly that everyone from 7 to 14 feels included.

This is the sequel to Girls in Love (now available in paperback) which introduced Ellie, Magda and Nadine in accounts of their first skirmishes with the opposite sex. Now we move on to the thorny topic of body image. The main focus is on Ellie, who thinks of herself as "Ellie-the-elephant" and tries to slim. Wilson addresses the issues in a light-hearted but sensible way.

Rosie Rushton's new series is set in Leeds and concerns five young people about to go into the sixth form. They come from different backgrounds and ethnic groupings, and have all sorts of problems to deal with: the death of a parent, violence in the home, newly-acquired riches, love, pressure from parents to succeed, and all these in the first volume of a series. We become involved with Rushton's characters as we do with our favourite soap. She writes directly, and with humour when it is appropriate.

Readers of about 12 will enjoy this book, and everyone will have a character they like best. I'm fond of Chlo who at the moment is pining after an unsuitable holiday romance, but that is set to change... watch this space!

Also from Piccadilly comes Dream On, a jolly novel about a school production of Romeo and Juliet by two former drama teachers, who are obviously writing from experience.Much of the fun comes from the contrast between reality andthe heroine's daydreams. Charlie loves the gorgeous Garth, but will he return her feelings?

Dare, Truth or Promise comes from New Zealand, where it has already won a prize, and The Women's Press is to be congratulated for bringing it out here. It's a well-written and lively account of the love between two young women, with all its attendant problems and pleasures.

From the Attic Press in Cork, Ireland, comes 4ever Friends by Bernadette Leach. The 4 may be annoying but it'sa piece of genuine teen culture, seen in graffiti everwhere.

This tale is in the form of a diary, written by Anna, a tall redhead who has more relatives than she can cope with. It's an engaging variation on themes of school and family life, and is particularly interesting on the subject of siblings.

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