Monthly Archives: March 2021

Bad Habits – Flynn Meaney

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Penguin Australia

February 2021

  • ISBN: 9780241407196
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • RRP: $16.99

Hands down, this is the funniest and most enjoyable YA novel I’ve read in ages! Naturally, the super stunning cover is a real drawcard but when I tell you that I’ve ripped through it over just the last couple of nights, you can guess it was just a joy!

Alex Heck really doesn’t like St Mary’s. After her mother floated off to a Buddhist retreat and her parents’ divorce was finalised, her dad shipped her off to his old boarding school in record time. Now in her junior year she’s racked up more visits to the principal’s office than anyone on campus and seemingly, about to be expelled for her latest contretemps (out after curfew visiting a boy’s dorm room). Really, she couldn’t be more pleased about that result but she hasn’t calculated on Father Hughes, principal, calling in her dad who, as it happens was at school with her major adversary, and suddenly her imminent expulsion is off the cards again. Alex riles up even more than her usual bolshie style suggests and determines that one way or another she WILL get herself expelled. Given her strident feminist principles she devises the perfect plan. She will produce the first St Mary’s performance of The Vagina Monologues. Alex is pretty certain that the word ‘vagina’ alone will be enough to bring her plot to fruition. But somehow the whole exercise becomes more than just shocking the nuns and priests and circumventing the strict rules enforced by the very conservative school.

Alex’ interactions with her sweet room-mate, Mary Kate, her burgeoning relationship with hockey player Pat (she HATES sports jocks!), her ongoing scorn of Katie Casey, President of Save Your Heart (the club for promoting abstinence) and the way she is the ‘go to’ person for all the girls with problems in her dorm hall are pure hilarity. Somehow, her purple lady-fauxhawk, piercings and tat, vegan leather jacket and tough motorcycle boots just cannot withstand the growing certainty that she is becoming an integral part of the St Mary’s community and far from feeling frustrated at not achieving her goal, she discovers that she can make a difference and that there is strength in numbers.

This is just a delightful romp through themes of the importance of good friends, not judging on appearances and finding your own voice, as well as joining voices with unexpected supporters. There is a liberal use of strong language and frequent sexual references so for most of us this means this will need to be a Senior Fiction title only but truly it deserves to be read and enjoyed by many teens determined to find their own identity and place in their world.

My highest recommendation for this thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking novel for readers from around 15 years upwards.

Penguin Bloom Young Readers’ Edition – Chris Kunz, Harry Cripps, Shaun Grant

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733341670
  • ISBN 10: 0733341675
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

Unless you were in some kind of mystical retreat with no access to outside communication, you could not have missed one of the summer’s biggest cinema releases, Penguin Bloom, based on the real-life story of Sam Bloom. Sam’s story, and that of her family, her life-threatening injury and subsequent inspirational journey was beautifully translated to film and many young people would have seen this during the holidays.

This media tie-in edition for younger readers will give both the kids who saw the movie, as well as those who missed it, the chance to explore the story from the perspective of Noah, oldest of the Bloom children. Noah’s voice is authentic and will immediately resonate with other children as he describes the aftermath of his mother’s devastating injury, sustained when she fell from a balcony during a family holiday in Thailand. The complete turn-around in their circumstances and family life put immense pressure on the Blooms and while Sam struggled to come to terms with her new physical limitations, Noah has secretly blamed himself for the accident. The exploration of the emotions is often raw and terribly moving but the fortitude and determination of this young family to repair their lives to be the very best they can be, is truly admirable. All this healing springs essentially from the family’s adoption of an orphaned magpie they name Penguin. When Penguin becomes Sam’s constant companion, she is able to pull herself through the overwhelming depression that engulfs her and begin a new acceptance of her condition as well as the resolution to transform herself, despite any impediments.

This is a beautiful and very special story and one which will provide young people with inspiration in adversity, and imbue within them Sam’s own attitude of “Never, ever give up.”

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.