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Thought-provoking stories

Raising issues which repay consideration and discussion


Absolute Power

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Unobjectionable

The New Heroes, second-generation superpowered youngsters, have to make difficult decisions when their leader Colin runs away and they are under political attack from the worldwide Trutopian organisation led, unknown to them, by their enemy Victor Cross and the mind-controlling Yvonne.

Comic-book style superhero action; mind-control; the morality of military action; morality of prison conditions; human cloning.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Adam's Ark

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

Adam, unable to communicate with other humans on account of his autism, finds that he can talk to animals telepathically, and this helps him become more confident as he tries to find out why he should have been chosen to receive this particular gift.

Family strain caused by an autistic child. Hidden strengths behind apparently disadvantaged boy. Ecological slant to humans' treatment of the planet.

Animal, Thought-provoking

Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea

Style: Good

Attitude: Fairly Positive

One story from two memoirs; the orphaned evacuee who wants to find his roots and his daughter who achieves this.

Two memoirs; the first of a London evacuee from WWII, sent to Australia, where he grew up with the idea of finding his elder sister in England, by sailing a yacht back to GB. He died and – the second memoir – his daughter did the journey alone and met her aunt.

Adventure, Biographical, Documentary, Family, Friendship, Growing-Up, Romantic, Seafaring, Thought-provoking

Amongst the Hidden

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Luke is a third child in a world where only two are allowed per family, because of shortages.

A sideswipe, although ambivalent, at current policies and ideas about keeping population levels down to avoid shortages. Luke's farming family are close despite the problems of keeping him hidden. Jen's richer family have also risked many things to keep her safe.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Arm of the Starfish

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

17-year-old Adam Eddington is going to Europe to spend the summer working on a Portuguese island with the famous biologist Dr O'Keefe.

Accessible mild adventure story. Family closeness with faith, extending to friends. Dolphin intelligence.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking

A Bone from a Dry Sea

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care → Unobjectionable

Li, an intelligent Aquatic ape lives four million years ago on the shores of an African Sea; Vinny, now, is helping her father discover the fossilised remains of Li's tribe.

Interesting, helping the imagination discover the relationship between modern and ancient Africa; divorced parents; the birth of intelligence in mammals.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Young Bruno is upset when his family is uprooted from their comfortable Berlin townhouse and forced to live in the featureless Outwith at the insistence of his soldier father's chief The Fury.

A moving look at the horrors of Auschwitz through the eyes of an innocent young German boy, the son of the camp commandant. No explicit violence but the final moments are quite tragic. May be suitable for younger readers in company with an older reader who can explain what's happening if needed.

Friendship, Growing-Up, Historical, Moral Issue, Thought-provoking, War

The Bronte Girls

Style: Weak

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

A father and mother are convinced that the 20th century will corrupt their three daughters and so they buy a secluded farmhouse and base their life on the Bronte family.

Girls, Romantic, Thought-provoking

Brother in the Land

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

One of many post-nuclear-holocaust books, this one written in 1984 details one boy's experiences following a nuclear strike on England.

Ultimately tragic and with no real surprises it is quite readable and not too harrowing.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Bus People

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care → Unobjectionable

Bertram is a school minibus driver on the "Fruitcake Run", picking up various handicapped children.

Short, Thought-provoking

The Changes Trilogy

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

One day, without warning, the whole of Britain turns superstitiously against technology and millions of people flee the country leaving the cities and much of the countryside deserted.

A thought-provoking look at what life might be like if technology were no longer available. The need to combine skill and hard work in a post-industrial society. An assumed supernatural premise.

Adventure, Fantasy, Thought-provoking

A Cold Wind Blowing

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Unobjectionable

Piers Medley, a young Sussex forester at the time of the Reformation, takes in a girl whom he rescues from vagabonds.

Personal religious difficulties in post-Reformation England, including the marrying of professed Religious. Goodhearted generosity in a difficult situation.

Historical, Romantic, Thought-provoking

Coram Boy

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

In 17th-century England care for unwanted (often illegitimate) children is the responsiblity of the Parish which is often underfunded and ill-disposed.

Historical, Thought-provoking

Dear Olly

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Intelligent and talented 18-year-old Matt travels to Africa to help war-injured children, leaving his widowed mother and younger sister Olly behind.

Positive and thought-provoking look at the effects of war on the children of Africa, and on the difference one determined young man can make.

Animal, Growing-Up, Thought-provoking, War

Escape From Genopolis

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Usha and Arlo meet in the gladiatorial Circus, she as a recaptured slave who must fight for her life, he as a Natural who's been raised among citizens and who is now trying to return to the Regions outside the city to find his family.

A warning story about the dangers of cloning and genetic manipulation.

Adventure, Moral Issue, SciFi, Thought-provoking

The "Fourth World" Series

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Maggie & Bernard have discovered the Missing Link gene which gives humans the ability to reason and to speak.

Amoral genetic manipulation of human beings and animals within a family community. Origin of intelligent life. Friendship and loyalty in times of social breakdown.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Frozen in Time

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Edifying

Ben & Rachel inadvertently wake their Great Aunt and Uncle Polly & Freddy, cryogenically frozen since the 1950s and still 12 years old.

Lightweight plot from an interesting premise. Nice juxtaposition of old and new attitudes to people and society. Bravery, courage and affection in difficult circumstances. Moderate violence in justifiable self-defence.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking, Time-Travel

The Garbage King

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Mamo & Dani form an unexpected alliance while each is sleeping on the streets, and together they join a gang of streetboys, begging but not stealing.

Growing-Up, Thought-provoking

Gideon Ahoy

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The story of Gideon, a 16-year-old deaf and retarded boy, who is given a job on a barge for the summer.

Family, Thought-provoking

The Giver

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Jonas is about to turn 12, the age when people in his futuristic community become adults and are assigned jobs.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

The House in Norham Gardens

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Clare, a 14-year-old orphaned when young, is living with her great-aunts in the draughty big Victorian house her family has always owned when she finds the tribal tamburan her great-grandfather brought back from New Guinea.

A multi-layered book, exploring cultures which differ by place and by time. Clare's level-headedness and responsibility in the face of her elderly aunts' occasional inability to focus on the real world. The robust history and interests of Clare's aunts.

Growing-Up, Historical, Spooky, Thought-provoking

Inventing Elliot

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

13-year-old Elliot Sutton is picked on and bullied at school, so when his family moves to a new house in a different area, he wants to make a fresh start at his new school.

Friendship, School, Thought-provoking

Jimmy Coates: Killer

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Jimmy Coates is an ordinary 11-year-old, fighting with his sister, grumbling over his homework, until some people turn up at his house and try to take him away.

Genetically-engineered assassin child

Adventure, Family, Friendship, SciFi, Thought-provoking

Jimmy Coates: Revenge

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

Jimmy Coates, along with his family & friends, is hiding safely from the British Secret Service in New York's Chinatown until he starts to experience painful headaches leaving images in his head which he believes point to an assassination attempt against the American President.

Enjoyable action-packed adventure with a certain family warmth and a thought-provoking core. Three genetically-altered assassin-youngsters with issues of free will and responsibility. Political-military complexities between three regimes. Deceptions and subterfuges between supposed allies. The loyalty of Jimmy's family and friends in difficult situations. Brutal action sequences between the youngsters.

Adventure, Family, Friendship, SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Left Hand of Darkness

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

Genry is the envoy from "The Ekumen", a federation of human planets originating from Earth, to the world known as Winter, cold all year round and where everyone is ambisexual: sexually latent for most of the month, but able to mate for a few days when one or other sexual characteristic will dominate.

An intriguing story, suitable only for mature teenagers or adults, which explores the issues in a world where everyone is both male and female, sexually latent for most of the month, but open to mating for a few days. Contraception and other sex-related drug use along with kemmer houses for the recourse of the sexually active. Stoic bravery and endurance by the lone envoy who is committed to his cause of welcoming a new planet to the federation. Two characters taking many risks for friendship's sake. Some prophecying.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

When Fang is badly injured in a battle with new, fiercer Erasers, the Flock are forced to go to hospital where they are interrogated by the FBI but then taken under the wing of Anne and go to live at her home and go to normal school.

Slow-paced extension to the first book, developing little and establishing few new elements. The older children start to discover relationships with the opposite sex. Iggy finds his real family but they are only interested in the financial possibilities he offers.

Adventure, Moral Issue, SciFi, Thought-provoking

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Max and the Flock, children with wings, have run away from the School, the lab complex where they spent the first part of their lives locked in cages and experimented on.

Grotesque and disturbing genetic and behavioural experiments on young children with commonly fatal results. Tremendous love and supportiveness between the six children. Max's efforts to make sure she and the others do the right thing. Positive reference to religion. The children's desire to know whether they have parents and who they are. Some thefts by the children in difficult circumstances. Serious violence.

Adventure, Moral Issue, SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Missing Link

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Christie follows Danny his strange half-brother and Darling the starling to Dublin early one morning, where they meet Tina, the homeless teenager and Oggy the dog and set off for the north of Scotland where Danny's mother lives with other talking animals.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

A Monster Calls

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed

Conor is a boy who cannot accept the reality of his mother dying.

How a young boy copes with the impending death from cancer of his mother.

Boys, Coping with, Family, Fantasy, Gritty, Growing-Up, Moral Issue, School, Thought-provoking

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Style: Classic

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

Widowed fieldmouse Mrs Frisby turns to the rats for help when her family's house is threatened, only to find them abnormally intelligent and with technology.

A gentle story, highlighting a mother's love for her children and the risks she'll take to help them. Normal animal behaviour combined with intelligent actions and, in the case of the laboratory-enhanced Rats, developed technology which they're giving up.

Animal, Classic, Thought-provoking

Only Human

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Bernard and Colin return from Africa with signs that the legendary Yeti of the Tibetan Himalayas may be the answer to how mankind acquired the Missing Link gene.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Origins

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

The stone which Christie was given by the Yeti is linked to the mysterious creature which takes over the lab at Fourth World; meanwhile in some unspecified place and time, the Dogs and the Cats are in a permanent state of conflict.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Out of the Silent Planet

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

Elwin Ransome, a Cambridge don on a walking holiday, is looking for shelter for the night and chances upon two men, one of whom he knew at school, who drug him and take him with them to Mars in their spaceship.

SciFi, Thought-provoking

Private Peaceful

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

Like many other English soldiers in WWI, 'Tommo' Peaceful is too young to fight, however he lies about his age.

Historical, Thought-provoking, War

Prove Yourself a Hero

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Jonathan Meredith, son of a rich horse-dealing family, is kidnapped and held to ransom.

A worthwhile read.

Adventure, Thought-provoking

Sakkara

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Sakkara is a secret US base to which young superheroes Danny, Colin and Renata are taken when their identities are exposed.

Lightweight young superhero thriller with typically violent action scenes. Slightly disturbing prophetic images. Impossible moral decision leading to a character's death.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Shapeshifter Series

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

In [Finding the Fox], Dax Jones discovers that he can turn into a fox and learns that he is one of the Children of Limitless Ability (COLA), to be educated in a secret government school on the Cornish coast.

Children with extraordinary powers: telekenesis, shapeshifting, healing, telepathy, illusion, dowsing and pyrokenesis. Common and sometimes comical acceptance of dialogue with the dead. All the children are motherless for plot reasons. Friendship and support among the children and between them and their teachers. Occasional plot-related brutal or vindictive behaviour including an attempt to auction the gifted children into slavery.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking

A Song for Summer

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

Ellen, defying her aunts' idea of what a modern young woman should do, takes up the role of Housekeeper at a school in Austria run on alternative lines for children of rich parents.

Marriage as merely a convention. Generosity and maternal care by Ellen for the children and others in her charge. Bravery of those helping Jews escape from Nazi detention. Ironic view of militant spinsters, pretentious playwrights, and alternative lifestyles.

Growing-Up, Romantic, School, Thought-provoking

Starseeker

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

Luke Stanton, a gifted young musician, falls in with a local gang after his father dies but when he starts to rob an old lady's house, he finds himself drawn into her life.

A gifted boy runs with a gang to rob a house; the boy's mother apparently sleeps with a man; a childless woman keeps a child she finds injured by the roadside; existence as music; delight in music as a gift; the support of another girl for the boy who's trying to come to terms with himself

Coping with, Growing-Up, Thought-provoking

Tuck Everlasting

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The over-protected eleven-year-old Winnie Foster loses her patience and runs away into the woods next to her house where she meets seventeen-year-old Jesse Tuck drinking from a water spring.

A brief but deeply philosophical fantasy that explores the nature of life, change, death and immortality.

Classic, Fantasy, Historical, Thought-provoking

Voyage to Venus (Perelandra)

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

Ransome is transported by the power of Malacandra, the oyarsa of Mars, to Venus (Perelandra) where intelligent life is beginning.

Classic, SciFi, Thought-provoking

The Wish List

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

Meg and Belcher are both killed as they argue about letting an old man bleed to death whose flat they've tried to burgle.

Quirky take on the afterlife. Amusing in many places and sympathetic treatment of an old man trying to right the wrongs of his life. Probably rather dubious theologically. (But who knows?)

Humorous, Thought-provoking

A Wrinkle in Time

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

Meg crosses dimensions to where The Dark Thing is holding her father captive, taking Charles Wallace and Calvin to help her free him.

Intriguing if slightly dated sci-fi morality tale. Strong bonds of family and friendship. A warning about creating a perfect state if the cost is the loss of individuality and love.

Adventure, Fantasy, Friendship, Growing-Up, Romantic, Thought-provoking