London, Franklin Watts, 2012, 53p
It's always a delight to stumble across a short read for teenage or young adult readers.
Payback is about Greg who finds his rather boring Saturday taking a turn for a worse when he picks up a mobile-shaped item from a park bench. The oblong talks to him, telling him he is a Watcher for the Reapers, helping them see who is ready to move on from this world into the next.
It is a rather strange concept for a short story - and one that is very hard to develop in such a limited space. But it is written in such a way that it pulls you in: no words are wasted, meaning it is perfect for reluctant readers who might get lost in the waffle of many longer pieces of fiction.
What I love about the Rivets / Edge series from Franklin Watts is their accessibility. These books are printed with large font, but within a frame that looks like any other, meaning students do not appear to be reading anything different or special from their more able classmates. And the content is brilliant - fast-paced fantasies or thrillers about normal teenage kids in unusual situations, taking the reader on an imaginative adventure.
Furthermore, the language is perfect for the target audience - a great mix of simple, colloquial phrases with some more challenging words, explained so that the reader is learning new vocabulary without realising.
I imagine it is fairly tough to get the balance right when writing short novels like this, especially in terms of successfully creating a whole story in such a constrained word count. Payback is a slightly peculiar concept, but a perfect example of a short story for older students.