One of my favourite genres of stories for children and teens is horror. There weren’t many of these types of book around when I was younger, but there is plenty to choose from these days, from Derek Landy and Joseph Delaney, to Darren Shan and Barry Hutchison. Chris Priestley is an author of spooky, chilling and creepy stories that I’ve been reading more of lately and his latest book, Through Dead Eyes is a new favourite.
Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he’s doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there edging stealthily towards the terrible twist.
Through Dead Eyes is a chilling ghost story that haunts you long after you’ve turned the last page. I read it on a wet and dreary day which added to the chilling tone. Chris Priestley really knows how to keep the reader on edge throughout the story. The thing I love the most about Chris’s writing is that there are lots of twists that you don’t see coming, especially towards the end of the story, and he leaves you with a feeling of unease. You know that, even though the story has finished, things are not right in the life of the characters. Like any good ghost story you get pieces of the puzzle as the story progresses and you’ve got to figure out how they all fit together. You just hope that the main character solves the puzzle before it’s too late.
The setting of Amsterdam adds to the eerie feeling of the story, because Alex is surrounded by so much history. The buildings are hundreds of years old and they would hold many stories. Alex is drawn to the history of the hotel he is staying in and the strange feelings he has inside his room. This history and the connection between the mask and the paintings draw you in to the story.
The cover is fantastic and captures the tone of the story perfectly. It was the cover, with the mottled and cracked surface, and the creepy eye, that grabbed my attention and made me pick it up.
Through Dead Eyes is great for readers aged 11+ who like to give themselves a good scare.
Have you ever wished you were someone else, with a completely different life, a new face, a new family? In Martyn Bedford’s new book Flip, Alex wakes up to find himself in a strange bedroom in an unfamiliar house, in a different part of the country. The woman calling out to him is not his mother and the strangers sitting at the breakfast table aren’t his father or his sister. Alex gets the shock of his life when he looks in the mirror – the face staring back at him is not his either. Is this just a really bad dream or has something terrifying happened to him?
He discovers that the body he now inhabits is that of Philip Garramond (or Flip to his friends), a boy who is almost the complete opposite of Alex. Flip is sporty, fit and popular with the girls (something that Alex has never experienced before). Alex’s initial reaction is to deny that this is actually happening to him, but the more time he spends in Flip’s body the more it seems he’s stuck in this new body. He attempts to contact his parents and returns to his old home, but he’s in Flip’s body so nobody recognises him and he ends up distressing his old family and friends. Alex is determined to find answers and trawls the web for information, leaving his details on various blogs and forums. He finally gets a message from someone called Rob, who leads him to a website about psychic evacuation. This site provides him with the answers he’s been searching for about his condition, and when he meets Rob in person he starts to come to terms with life as Flip. However, Alex holds onto the hope that he can return to his own body and he decides there is only one way to do that. It’s a huge risk and it’s something that he can never undo.
From the very first page, I was swept up in Alex’s story. Martyn Bedford keeps the reader hanging, wondering whether Alex will accept his new life as Flip or try to get his old life back. The tension builds right up to the end and the thrilling climax. Alex is a really interesting and likeable character who I could really empathise with. I know if it were me in his shoes, I’d be determined to get back to my family and my old life. I found myself really wanting to take my time reading Flip because there was so much more to the story than Alex wanting to find out what happened. There is a lot of discussion between Alex and other characters about the nature of the soul/psyche which added to the story, making it have more of an impact on me as a reader. Flip is an excellent first YA novel by Martyn Bedford and I’ll look forward to reading more by him.
Recommended for 14+ 9 out of 10
Check out the amazing book trailer too:
Contact jumps straight back into the story of Jordan, Luke and Peter, three of the inhabitants (or prisoners) of the town of Phoenix. It starts off right where the first book, Arrival ended with Luke, Peter and Jordan hearing the ring of a phone and running off to find out who the phone belongs to. You learn in the first book that the phones and internet don’t work in Phoenix so it’s strange to hear a phone ringing. This mysterious phone sets off a string of events that Luke, Peter and Jordan get caught up in. The people who are in charge of Phoenix discover that the three of them are snooping around, so their principal gives them tasks to keep them busy. This doesn’t stop them investigating the plans of the Shackleton Cooperative to bring about the end of the world, and as they uncover more secrets they find themselves fighting to save themselves and the ones they love.
Contact is fast-paced and so suspenseful that I found I was racing to finish the book. Luke, Peter and Jordan get themselves into some really tight situations in this book and you wonder if they are going to get out of them alive. The part when they are in Ketterley’s office really had me on the edge of my seat, hoping that they didn’t get caught. One of the things I liked best about Contact is that Chris Morphew told the story from a different character’s perspective. We see things from Peter’s point of view, which is quite different from Luke’s in the first book. Hopefully the third book, Mutation will be told from Jordan’s perspective. I’m going to get started on Mutation straight away because I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Recommended for 12+. 10 out of 10