The Special Ones, by Em Bailey

But I am the Esther, and Esther doesn’t dash. Her remembering book is very clear about that. Esther’s movements are dignified, considered – especially in the parlour. Esther would never let excitement or nervousness show, or waste time watching people walk.
Sometimes being Esther feels like wearing a Halloween costume. One that doesn’t fit. One I can’t ever take off.

Esther is one of the Special Ones: a chosen group of four who live in a secure farmhouse, watched by him. He keeps them safe from the toxic modern world, and in return the Esther and her three companions follow his rules, and give their followers advice and insights.  Esther fears doing something wrong, because to do so would mean she is no longer Special and will be renewed.

The Special Ones is an intriguing story which initially seems dystopian but fast solidifies as contemporary story of kidnap and psychological control. Esther and her three housemates is each given a set of rules to live by, as well as the story of their past, their likes and dislikes, set down in the form of a book. Any breach of the rules could be disastrous. Their captor is a shadowy presence in the first half of the book, but in the second many of the chapters are from his viewpoint, giving insight into the workings of his mind.

As might be expected, this is a confronting read, but it is also gripping.

The Special Ones, by Em Bailey
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2916
ISBN 9781742976280

Crushed, by Meredith Costain

Last year in art, Alysha, Mia and I always talked about what we were going to do before we started drawing or painting. What the background would be like, and what colours we were going to use. But Alysha’s got other things on her mind. And Mia’s not here. I shuffle the pastels around in the box for a while, then pick out a pink one and start sketching. Two legs. Two arms. A blobby body. But when it comes to the face I can’t think of anything to draw.
Anything at all.

Lexi is starting high school, but she doesn’t like the changes a new school entail. First, one of her two best friends, Mia, is put into a different class, and then the other, Alysha, starts acting strangely. Alysha wants to be in with the shiny people – even if that means ignoring Lexi or putting her down. Mia is still there for Lexi – but she also has a new friend, Mishi, who she has invited to join their group. At home, Lexi’s parents are constantly fighting. This year is shaping up to be hell.

Crushed is the first book in a new series – A Year in Girl Hell – by Meredith Costain. Dealing with issues which many teens will relate to, particularly in the transition from primary school to high school, including changing friendships, peer pressure, belonging, and family conflict, the story is one which will appeal to girls aged 10 to 14. The use of the first person voice also appeals, as we are given Lexi’s perspective of events and how they impact on her.

A great start to a series which is sure to attract a following.

A Year in Girl hell, by Meredith Costain
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2009