Ransom Riggs' brilliant debut novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, came out of nowhere but ticked all the boxes in terms of what a good book should be and accomplish.
But for some strange reason, Miss Peregrine did not win the millions of fans or become the cult phenomenon it deserves to be. This tale of a teenage boy tracking down the truth about stories his grandfather told him as a child is a wonderful and imaginative read with lots of tricks up its sleeve. Don't wait until the planned Hollywood movie version comes out. Treat yourself to the brilliance now.
Lindsey Barraclough's tremendous Long Lankin was another debut novel that impressed. This slow-burning thriller for older teens is a compelling and brilliantly written novel that reminded you on every page why you love reading. A cold sense of menace seeped out of the tale at every twist, and the build-up of suspense towards the resolution was masterly. Long Lankin is a novel that puts many so-called adult thrillers to shame. Read it - then pass it on to your parents.
Dealing with a lighter theme, David Walliams' Billionaire Boy was a delicious comic gem for younger teens. Walliams, a popular British comic actor, is one of several celebrities who have branched out into writing for youngsters, yet he isn't wasting his - or our - time. Walliams knows exactly how to make the young ones laugh out loud. Adults will find his work a bit silly and sloppily written, but he is writing for children, not for grown-ups. Billionaire Boy was a comic breath of fresh air blowing into the sometimes dusty teenage section of our bookshops.
Then there was Chris Priestley, the chill-master of teenage fiction, who froze the marrow in our bones with The Dead of Winter. He created a spooky, old-fashioned ghost story that relies on shadows and freezing breath on the back of your neck to unease grateful readers.
The Dead of Winter is up there with classic Victorian horror stories - as well as with Sarah Waters' modern adult ghost masterpiece, The Little Stranger. (And any older teen hooked by The Dead of Winter should pick up The Little Stranger, too.)
Historical novels for teens can often be dry bores packed with facts but lacking in excitement. Simon Scarrow's Gladiator: Fight for Freedom was a gripping shot in the arm for the genre. There was no dense writing here. Scarrow expertly mixes Roman history with breath-taking thrills into this epic tale of a teen seeking revenge for his father's death.
And last but not least, Australian writer Glenda Millard gave us A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, a classy piece of fiction that took our emotions into unexpected places. The book is a deeply affecting tale of a small group of teens struggling to survive in the face of great odds.
I hope 2012 proves as exciting!
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books
ISBN 978 1 59474 476 1
Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Published by Bodley Head
ISBN 978 0 370 33196 6
Billionaire Boy by David Walliams
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 978 0 00 737104 4
The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 4088 0013 3
Gladiator: Fight for Freedom by Simon Scarrow
Published by Puffin
ISBN 978 0 141 33363
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard
Published by Templar
ISBN 978 1 848877 027 0
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com