Book review: Teen treats and fun activities with Usborne books

From exciting sticker books to a stunning teen novel, Usborne Children’s Books have a very special line-up for young readers.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 27th August 2014, 10:00 am
Teen treats and fun activities with Usborne books
Teen treats and fun activities with Usborne books

Holly Bourne, undoubtedly one of Britain’s best authors of young adult books, delivers an extraordinary tale of teenage angst, Stephanie Perkins rounds off a delicious romantic trilogy and there’s sticker book heaven for busy little hands.

Age 14 plus:

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne

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‘I’m boring, I’m a nobody. I don’t live life.’

Holly Bourne knows all about the trials and tribulations of being a teenager… at 28, her memory bank must still teeming with painful recollections of peer pressure, bullying, insecurity, first love and all the other turmoils of youth.

But it’s not just her empathy that makes her writing so remarkable… it’s the breathtakingly imaginative and emotive way she puts her hard-earned experience and wisdom into funny, moving, compelling books that speak loudly to troubled teens.

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting follows on from Bourne’s much-acclaimed debut Soulmates but inhabits a different universe. While Soulmates was an electrifying paranormal romance, this clever, bold, cautionary story is grounded firmly in reality.

Seventeen-year-old Bree has come to the conclusion that she is a ‘massive loser’ but she hasn’t always felt that way about herself. For years she considered she had life and her future career sussed. She was going to be a novelist and to that end, she had plotted a no-fail manifesto.

It didn’t matter that other parts of her life were not what she wanted them to be. She hates that her rich parents seem too busy to listen to her, she tries to keep clear of the ‘perfect posse’ of girls at her private school and she certainly doesn’t like the pressure on her to make herself more ‘popular.’

But now a pile of rejection letters telling her that her second attempt at a novel – about a girl who wants to throw herself off the end of a pier – is something that publishers can’t ‘take forward’ has dented her conviction that she was born to be a writer.

Taking on board the advice of her English teacher Mr Fellows that to be a good writer she must do more interesting things and live a life worth writing about, Bree has come up with another of her endless lists… this time a manifesto on how to be interesting.

She has six steps that she must follow, six steps that will see her infiltrate the popular set, fall in love with someone forbidden and do all the things that others are too scared to do.

Her journey of self-discovery from ‘the invisible girl’ to ‘someone you would want to read about’ will lead her down paths more perilous than she could ever have imagined…

Intelligent but introverted Bree might not seem at first to be an ‘every girl’ but her fears, her emotions, her vulnerability, her search for love and happiness are universal and her way of looking at the world and working through her dilemmas will strike a chord with both teens and their parents.

Bourne is a prodigiously talented author who has the gift of making fiction seem real and as she so eloquently proves in this beautiful story, being ‘interesting’ isn’t important… but being happy and true to yourself is.

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age 14 plus:

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

It started with Anna and the French Kiss, introduced us to Lola and the Boy Next Door and now the final instalment of Stephanie Perkins’ irresistibly romantic teen trilogy reaches a fabulous conclusion.

The long-awaited finale to a tale of three charismatic couples focuses on Isla and Josh as well as a catch-up with Anna and gorgeous Étienne, and the lovely Lola and Cricket.

Perkins dishes up the perfect mix of full-on, bright lights Manhattan love affair with the subtle, moonlit tones of amour Parisian style as hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh are forced to confront the heart-breaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

‘The café is boiling, the atmosphere is clouded with bittersweet coffee. Three years of desire rip through my body and burst from my lips: ‘Josh!’ His head jolts up. For a long time, a very long time, he just stares at me. And then…he blinks. ‘Isla?’

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on brooding artist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And, after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer break, romance might be closer than Isla imagined.

But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to face uncertainty about their futures, and the very real possibility of being apart…

Set against the stunning backdrops of New York, Paris and Barcelona, Isla and the Happily Ever After is feast of young love, high emotion and rampant hormones… a teen dream come true!

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Zombies Sticker Book by Kirsteen Robson and Seb Burnett

How about a zany zombie sticker book with more grisly ghouls than a hundred haunted houses?

This madcap monster sticker book comes with over 600 vibrant stickers which daredevil youngsters can use to bring the naughty, nasty scenes to life.

Discover what happens when Z-Day dawns in Cozyville and the once lively town becomes a spooky zombie zone. There’s hours of fun to be had in bringing to life the scenes of chaos with stickers that include all kinds of zombies, insects, bones, brains and even the foulest zombie food!

Join in the atrocious antics at the skate park, the funfair and the bowling alley and see how the zombie hunters fare in their mission to make Cozyville a zombie-free zone once more.

A brilliant book… but better enjoyed in daylight hours!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 4 plus:

Sticker Puzzle School by Susannah Leigh and Brenda Haw

Don’t say it too loudly but the countdown has started to a new school term… so soften the blow with a fun and entertaining sticker book.

As well as 140 stickers and intriguing puzzles to add to the sense of adventure, this inventive little book has a charming story about a class full of mischievous children.

When Greg’s teacher Mrs Smith is away for a day, Miss Debbie takes charge. But Miss Debbie is always in a muddle. Will she ever get all the classroom jobs done before it’s time for the school trip?

Children can work their way through the action by adding the stickers, solving the puzzles and testing their visual skills as they spot things along the way.

The range of activities helps to develop essential skills including visual discrimination, sorting and matching, comprehension, maths and logic. Hints, along with the answers to all the puzzles, are included at the back of the book.

School doesn’t have to be boring!

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)