Adele Geras picks out girl-friendly books that deliver between the covers what they promise on the jacket
Help is at hand for teachers who want to offer pupils something other than fantasy and adventure in their reading. These books all have real-life-drama plots and unashamed girl appeal. Their covers are predominantly pink and they could be categorised as junior chick lit in terms of presentation and content (with the exception of Hilary McKay's novel). But it's possible to combine commercial edge with quality. All the books here will enlighten girls of 12 and above about some important aspects of the real world, while being fun to read.
Cathy Cassidy is Puffin's answer to Jacqueline Wilson. She shares the same concern for children in difficult circumstances, dealing with life as best they can. Her first-person voice, though, is all her own in Indigo's account of what follows when her mother has a relationship with an abusive man. All ends well, but there's no glossing over the facts. Misti, Indigo's baby sister, is particularly endearing and school life and friendships are well described. Places are brought to life: you can practically smell the rooms the family end up in, both before and after they've made them habitable.
Two novels from Macmillan are glitzy offerings for girls who enjoy witty, amusing tales of wish fulfillment and romance. Meg (Princess Diaries) Cabot is American and Rose Wilkins is British, but they share a fast-moving, wise-cracking style and the iridescent covers make these, if a little expensive, surely the books all embryo fashionistas will want to be seen reading and packing in their stylish bags. Showbiz figures large in both of them, and both writers cast a shrewd and knowing eye on teenage life.
Cabot's book is about a young Hollywood heart- throb coming to research a role in an ordinary school. In Wilkins' novel, a sequel to So Super Starry, the heroine, Octavia, has moved from a posh academy to the local comprehensive, but this doesn't mean she's escaped the trials of being the daughter of a soap star.
Who remembers Fame on television? Even those who are too young will be pleased to welcome Cindy Jefferies' new Fame School series, which will follow Chloe and her friends from their acceptance at Rockley Park school to eventual fame (maybe). The glittery jackets will attract girls who are drawn to follow in Chloe's starstruck footsteps.
The series has its practical side: Jefferies' children are involved in the music business and she has learned from their experiences. The message is positive and helpful; the story is fast-moving, involving and short enough to leave readers eager for more, so each book leaves us with a chapter from the next one. In the second book, Rising Star, Chloe has made it to Rockley Park but loses her voice before the big concert and has to share a room with someone who's far from a friend.
Hilary McKay has been writing prizewinning books for more than a decade, but is still not the household name she deserves to be. Perhaps the marketing that Hodder is promising for Permanent Rose, this latest in the series about the Casson family, will change all that (for full review see TES, March 25). The striking cover and enticing name of the main character (her artist parents call all their children after paint colours) will, with any luck, attract thousands of readers.
Ros Asquith, author of the Teenage Worrier series, is known to both teachers and pupils. Her take on teenage pregnancy is also a novel full of humour, with its heart in the right place about a serious issue: Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. There's a list of helpful addresses at the end. This book would be a useful addition to any reading list on this topic.
Lovers of Georgia Nicolson (and she's a favourite on both sides of the Atlantic) will be thrilled to read that she's lost none of her pizzazz in Louise Rennison's sixth book, which finds our heroine visiting the United States (Hamburgerland, as Georgia calls it) and still entranced with the Lurve God. Rennison is in the business of making her readers hoot with laughter. Fans will be thrilled with this latest instalment of the "mad marvy confessions". The language is very contagious, so be warned: you, as well as your pupils, could well end up speaking like Georgia, which is a fabitty fab prospect if ever there was one.
Adele Geras's latest book for teenagers is 'Other Echoes' (Red Fox, pbk, Pounds 4.99)
Indigo Blue. By Cathy Cassidy. Puffin. pound;4.99 (pbk)
So Super Stylish. By Rose Wilkins. Macmillan. pound;9.99 (pbk)
Teen Idol. By Meg Cabot. Macmillan. pound;9.99 (pbk)
Fame School: Reach for the Stars ; Rising Star. By Cindy Jefferies. Usborne. pound;3.99 (pbk)
Permanent Rose. By Hilary McKay. Hodder Children's Books. pound;10.99 (hbk)
Love, Fifteen. By Ros Asquith. Corgi. pound;5.99
Then he ate my Boy Entrancers. By Louise Rennison. Harper Collins. Pounds 10.99