Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw (David Fickling Books, £10.99)

Most authors will tell you that writing for the young adult market is both a privilege and a challenge. Bringing fresh ideas to young minds can be exhilarating but they can be an unforgiving audience if you don’t keep the pace and plot strong.

Outwalkers, the first YA novel from Fiona Shaw, has the balance just right. The book is set in a dystopian England where a sinister government called the Coalition have closed off England to the rest of the world and keep the population tracked through Hub chips, and suppressed by fear and obfuscation. Orphaned and wayward children are kept in Home Academies until they are old enough to be sent out to the fracking fields.

It is from one such institution that our hero Jake escapes. He is taken in by a gang of Outwalkers, a motley crew of youngsters all desperate to flee the country. As they make their way towards Scotland they have many close shaves. The picture of England which Shaw creates is at once recognisable but also truly horrifying and all too plausible.

This has the feel of a post-Brexit novel yet I can see it staying relevant for years to come. Shaw tackles difficult moral issues and her characters have to make uncomfortable and frightening decisions. Their naivety is often exposed as a weakness and the child’s willingness to trust sometimes leads to great danger.

Now more than ever, people of all ages are reading young adult books, and some of the best writers around (like Shaw) are providing them. Fiona Shaw lives in York and thanks Bishopthorpe Road’s Pig and Pastry in the acknowledgements. It is going to be an exciting year for Fiona as the film of her earlier novel Tell it to the Bees is also scheduled for release. Meanwhile I very much hope she is working on a follow-up to this.

Review by Philippa Morris, Little Apple bookshop