The students have voted. The shortlists have been confirmed. The books have arrived. So. Many. Books. This can mean only one thing… it’s time for the Cheshire Schools’ Book Award 2023!
We would like to thank all the secondary students across Cheshire, Warrington and Halton who nominated books for the shortlist. From spooky shenanigans in Jennifer Killick’s Dread Wood to hilarious high school politics in Simon James Green’s Gay Club!, the shortlist is an exciting mix of genres and voices, sure to appeal to a variety of readers.
All secondary schools who subscribe to ELS are welcome to join in. Participation is free, fun, and it can help promote reading for pleasure within your school. Also, it’s a great excuse to crack open the biscuit tin during book club meetings. What goes better with a bourbon cream than a bit of healthy book debate?!
We would love for more schools to get involved this year. Whether you have students who enjoy writing book reviews, creating fantastic fanart, or curating bookish playlists, we want to know about it!
Now, without further ado, here’s a quick look at the shortlist. Spoiler: it’s a belter.
Cheshire Schools’ Book Award 2023 shortlist
Dread Wood by Jennifer Killick
It’s basically the worst school detention ever. When classmates (but not mate-mates) Hallie, Angelo, Gustav and Naira are forced to come to school on a SATURDAY, they think things can’t get much worse. But they’re wrong. Things are about to get seriously scary.
What has dragged their teacher underground? Why do the creepy caretakers keeping humming the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider? And what horrors lurk in the shadows, getting stronger and meaner every minute . . .? Cut off from help and in danger each time they touch the ground, the gang’s only hope is to work together. But it’s no coincidence that they’re all there on detention. Someone has been watching and plotting and is out for revenge…
Fight Back by A.M. Dassu
Aaliyah is an ordinary thirteen-year-old living in the Midlands – she’s into her books, shoes, K-pop and she is a Muslim. She has always felt at home where she lives … until a terrorist attack in her area changes everything.
As racial tensions increase and she starts getting bullied, Aaliyah decides to begin wearing a hijab – to challenge how people in her community see her.
But when her school bans the hijab and she is intimidated and attacked for her choices, she feels isolated.
Soon Aaliyah realises that other young people from different backgrounds also struggle with their identity and feel alone, scared and judged. Should she try to blend in – or can she find allies to help her fight back?
Channelling all of her bravery, Aaliyah decides to speak out.
Together, can Aaliyah and her friends halt the tide of hatred rippling through their community?
Resist by Tom Palmer
As the brutal Second World War stretches on with no end in sight, life for ordinary Dutch people in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands is fraught with peril and hardship. There is very little to eat and the population lives under the constant threat of arrest and enslavement.
After the murder of her beloved uncle and the capture of her brother by the Germans, Edda is determined to do anything she can to help the resistance fight back against their oppressors. But what can a teenage girl do and how much risk is she willing to take?
Award-winning author Tom Palmer shines a light on the incredible work of the WWII Dutch resistance, in a story inspired by the childhood of Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn.
The Rollercoaster Boy by Lisa Thompson
Todd and Laurie’s dad is either on top of the world, taking them on fun adventures, or down in the depths and sleeping all the time.
In the middle of the night, he bundles them into the car and drives them to the Paradise Hotel. He paints a picture of a luxurious mansion by the sea, but the reality is a rundown dump and the disappointment means Dad takes to his bed.
Todd and Laurie have the run of the place, and meet Scout, the daughter of the owner, who tells them about the night many years ago when a famous novelist vanished from her room on the top floor, which was locked from the inside… with clues to crack, a mystery to solve, and Dad to worry about, this holiday is full of twists and turns.
Fake by Ele Fountain
Imagine a world where your only friends are virtual, and big tech companies control access to food, healthcare and leisure. This is Jess’s world.
But when she turns fourteen, Jess can go to school with other children for the first time. Most of them hate the ‘real’ world, but Jess begins to question whether the digital world is ‘perfect’ after all.
Back home, her sister Chloe’s life-saving medication is getting ever more expensive. Determined to help, Jess risks everything by using skills forbidden in the cyber-world, only to stumble on something explosive. Something that will turn her whole world upside down.
It’s up to Jess to figure out exactly what is real, and what is fake – Chloe’s survival depends on it.
Are You Okay. Elliot Hart? by Kate S. Martin
You keep it on the inside because it’s the safest place to hide.
Fifteen-year-old Elliot ‘Matchstick’ Hart spends his days caring for his mum and hiding from the school bully.
Fifteen-year-old Josh McBride spends his days tormenting Elliot and avoiding his abusive stepdad.
Inspired by a picture in an old newspaper, Elliot embarks on an adventure to the city. Little does he know that Josh has decided to join him. On their journey, strangers and surprises force them to look at each other in a different light.
As secrets are uncovered, can the boys bury their differences or will it tear them further apart?
Her Dark Wings by Melinda Salisbury
Her Dark Wings is a potent, passionate modern-day take on the Persephone myth. On an island, near the entrance to the Underworld…
Corey and Bree’s friendship has always been unbreakable. Or so Corey thought, until Bree betrays her in the worst way possible, and then Bree’s sudden death leaves Corey heartbroken and furious. But the Underworld calls to Corey too: enraptured by the passionate Furies, she is taken to the realm of a god who is unyielding, cold and irritatingly arrogant. It will change her, because the more she learns about herself, the more Corey’s own power stirs. But can she resist her darkness within?
Gay Club! by Simon James Green
Barney’s a shoo-in for his school’s LGBTQ+ Society President at the club’s next election. But when the vote is opened up to the entire student body, the whole school starts paying attention. How low will the candidates go to win? Buckle up for some serious shade, scandals and sleazy shenanigans. It isn’t long before it’s National Coming Out Day – for everyone’s secrets!
But when the group faces an unexpected threat – and a big opportunity – can the club members put politics aside and stand united?
The Dark Lady by Akala
A pickpocket with an exceptional gift.
A prisoner of extraordinary value.
An orphan haunted by dreams of the mysterious dark lady.
Henry is an orphan, an outsider, a thief. He is also a fifteen-year-old invested with magical powers …
This brilliant, at times brutal, first novel from the amazing imagination that is Akala, will glue you to your seat as you are hurled into a time when London stank and boys like Henry were forced to find their own route through the tangled streets and out the other side.
Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy
The students at Morton Academy are high-achievers, selected based on academic excellence. So when a series of murders target the school’s brightest and best, the pressure is on. Someone is determined to stop at nothing to clear their path to the top. But who is it? And can they be stopped?
For more information on how your school can join in, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us on 01606 275801.