As a big fan of Lari Don’s picture books, I was intrigued to see what she would do with a novel for teenagers, as part of the new KelpiesTeen imprint. These Scotland set books are designed Â to take young readers on from theÂ hugely popular Kelpies series for 8-12 year olds.
My first thought was that it is quite a long book, though the chapters are short and a simple graphic at the beginning of each chapter means that new chapters can be spotted coming along, so perhaps it’s not as daunting as it might seem.
Lari employs a technique that I’m not too keen on â€“ at the beginning of each chapter, there is a date and a flag as to who the viewpoint character is. In very complex and obscure books this might be helpful but it isn’t needed here.
Niggles like this aside, it’s a fascinating read about a family who have developed mind-reading powers, which they employ to pursue a successful family business. Quite what this is is never explained but we know that their methods are secret and that it isn’t very ‘nice’. The 14 year old hero Ciaran, (known by his surname â€“ can’t anyone pronounce Ciaran?) Â is the strongest mind reader yet, but he is too vulnerable to the onslaught of everyone’s minds when in public and there is a debate within the family as to whether his talents can ever be used.
But he finds himself at the heart of a stranger than usual situation, when the descendants of a scientific researcher who originally discovered his grandfather’s ability, are at risk of exposing them. Befriending the sister of the girl he found, he tracks down the remaining evidence, which Ciaran can then use to protect his family and his new friend. But first, he has to find a way to control his reactions to reading people’s emotions. Once he has done this, he can choose a path with the family of evil commerce or, perhaps, he can use his talent for good.
Lari’s writing is witty and sensitive, the characters believable and the hero likeable enough to attract a follow-on.