Category Archives: YA fiction

Never Say Die – Alex Rider

Standard

alexrider

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406377040
June 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

How absolutely apt that as we mourn the loss of the suavest Bond of them all – vale Sir Roger Moore – the new Alex Rider explodes into our reading lives with every bit of excitement that we have come to anticipate from the teenage spy.

When Anthony said that Alex’ career had come to an end we were all pretty sad. But unexpectedly, three years after what we thought was the last book in the series, the youthful hero is back. Following on from Scorpia Rising and the defeat of the international crime ring, Alex is living in America pretty unhappily, especially as he is still grieving for Jack Starbright, believed killed.

But the world has never had a shortage of villains (as we see so clearly in the news) and from Scorpia’s ashes have risen the Grimaldi brothers – eccentric and evil identical twins every bit worthy of being in an Ian Fleming book. When Alex receives a cryptic line of email he is positive that Jack is still alive and abandons America, his host family and school to find her.

From Egypt to Saint Tropez to a lonely corner of Wales, the action is super-charged and electrifying. Twists and turns abound as we know they will from such a master crime storyteller as the Grimaldis’ ingenious plot is revealed.

While some things have changed  – Mrs Jones is now head of MI6 replacing Alan Blunt – familiar faces are back, like Ben Daniels, Alex’ especial side-kick.

Alex Rider is back: back home, back in MI6 and the thick of espionage, back with his loyal Jack Starbright and back in our reading lists. Bring on some more please Anthony! This is a dose of adrenaline that we all love!

As you are aware there is quite a bit of violence in these but it’s not horribly graphic. I recommend them to my older primary students and upwards.

By the way, the whole series has been re-issued with some very spiffy new ‘dinner jackets’ – you can predict that they are already on my ‘to order’ list!

This one comes with my highest recommendation for thrill-seekers and I eagerly await more from Anthony’s fertile imagination.

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

Standard

letters

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408883525

Publisher:

Bloomsbury UK

Imprint :Bloomsbury Child

March 2017

RRP $16.99

Juliet’s mother died in a terrible hit-and-run accident. On her way home from yet another international photography mission documenting the heartbreak of war zones and disasters, she returned early at Juliet’s request and on her way from the airport was suddenly and terribly gone forever. Like so many of us who have lost someone so dear, Juliet cannot let go, especially of rituals, like writing letters to her mother as she has done all her life. Only now she leaves them at the cemetery.

Declan Murphy is known by his ‘reputation’. He’s tough looking and constantly confrontational, he’s spent time in jail, he’s doing community service and he spends most of his time skulking around trying to be invisible. Nobody knows the truth behind his attitude, not even his best friend realises the full depths of Declan’s story.

When Declan, as part of his mowing community service at the cemetery, reads one of Juliet’s letters, he is so overcome with empathy that he responds with his own comment.  Outraged beyond belief at the invasion of her privacy, Juliet responds to him with undisguised contempt and rage. And thus a strange correspondence begins.

Along with that, a close and trusting relationship between two dreadfully despairing young people who do not know each other slowly builds. Or are they strangers?

Slowly but surely each is unravelling the real identity of the other and along with that an antipathy which belies the honesty and trust of their anonymous letter exchanges.

For both the healing process and the road to hope is their unfailing support for each other as their separate tragedies unfold and their defences are lowered.

The characterisation in this is excellent – even relatively minor characters bristle with life and emotion.  I particularly like the ‘voice’ of both Juliet and Declan – though Declan’s intellect has been shrouded by other details this as well as his inherent compassion shines through. There is, as one might expect, from seventeen year old protagonists some low level swearing but it is all totally in context and expressive in itself.

There is a real twist in the tale which avoids cliché or triteness and is exactly the kind of ‘messiness’ that might happen in families. All in all it’s a terrifically engaging read and the reader develops a real affection for these characters.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 upwards.

 

 

The Moonlight Dreamers – Siobhan Curham

Standard

moonlightdreamers

ISBN: 9781406365825
Imprint: WALKER PAPERBACK
Distributor: Harper Collins Distribution Services for Australia and New Zealand

Release Date: July 1, 2016

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

 

Four teenage girls couldn’t be more different in personality, home life, culture or beliefs; yet one thing brings them together. They are all fed up with other people, whether peers or adults, telling them how they should look, what they should wear, how they should think and behave. Each feels that there is worth in their own personal expression of themselves yet each is continually bombarded with negativity or bullying from others.

Amber is an Oscar Wilde devotee with two dads and a penchant for wearing tailored clothes and collecting anything vintage. Totally over being friendless and victimised by the fashionista clique at her school she sets about recruiting some like-minded girls for a ‘moonlight dreamers’ society.

More by chance than her planned design she encounters Maali, Sky and Rose.

Maali is a shy and reserved Indian girl whose passion is photography. She has an unwavering belief in Lakshmi the Hindi goddess of good fortune and prosperity. She longs to overcome her shyness enough to talk to a boy – after all, how will she find her soulmate if she can’t even hold a conversation with the opposite sex.

Sky lost her mum when she was eleven. Since then she and her dad Liam have travelled the world like gypsies as he teaches yoga in ashrams all over the globe. Now that she’s in her senior schooling, Liam has decided that they should be more settled and they have been living in their canal boat while Liam has pursued teaching yoga to the rich and famous. Their hippie lifestyle is under threat as Liam has fallen for an aging though still stunning model, Savannah. Moving in with Savannah means also moving in with her sullen daughter Rose, who is being pressured into being as beautiful and sought after as her mother. The monumental clashes between these two are epic.  Sky yearns to be a performance poet and Rose, in an unlikely rebellion against her mother has her heart set on being a pâtissier.

The rocky road of bonding between these four girls makes for a fabulous narrative and in my opinion accurately and truthfully reflects the often turbulent nature of teen girls.

This is a story about more than just friendship. It is about being true to yourself despite the obstacles in your path.

I highly recommend it for readers from around twelve up. There are some considerations for some as there is a sexting incident and some sexual references. However, I feel that in the context of the story these are a valuable lesson about the pressures put on young girls.

I Knew You Were Trouble A Jessie Jefferson Novel By Paige Toon

Standard

 

  • i-knew-you-were-trouble-9781471118807_hrSimon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 336 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471118807 |
  • November 2015

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 18.99

 

The second in a series this is a light read for your senior girl readers. Full to the brim of parties, jetset lifestyles, rock and roll and hot boys this will appeal to girls from around 15 up.

Jessie Pickerill has had a very ordinary life so far, living with her mother and stepfather, going to school, gossiping about boys – all the normal things. But since her mother died in a freak accident, she has discovered the truth about her real father who is none other than Johnny Jefferson, possibly the most famous rock god of them all.

After a six week stay in L.A. experiencing life with her father, his wife and two little boys not to mention some exciting new friends, especially a certain young up-and-coming rocker called Jack, Jessie is attempting to settle back into her regular life while trying to keep the secret of her true parentage.

A visit to England from her dad and his family sees that secret blown apart becoming a media frenzy and Jessie needs to get away from school, her home and stepfather and new boyfriend, Tom. Can she sustain her home relationships while living in L.A. till the storm blows over? Which place will she decide is her true home? And which boy will she choose?

A holiday read for your older girls who might be looking for some escapist respite from assessments and assignments.

 

Zeroes – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Standard

 

 

ISBN:97819252665

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:October 2015

Page Extent:496

zeroes

RRP $19.99

 

When three highly respected authors collaborate on a novel, you might expect something extraordinary and Zeroes delivers just that. This is a slam-dunk in-your-face novel that brings something quite out of the box to readers.

Meet six unique teenagers:

Nate aka Bellwether – the ‘Glorious Leader’ has a power of persuasion which can bring others to his way of thinking. He is also super-organised and has disposable income.

Ethan aka Scam – with his ‘other’ voice is uncanny, all-knowing and completely uncontrollable

Chizara aka Crash – who can be driven crazy by electronics hammering her senses, can mentally dismantle any circuit and is slowly developing an ability to repair these

Riley aka Flicker – blind twin who can however see through the eyes of others

Thibault aka Anonymous – who is so mentally invisible to other people that even his own family has no memory of him

Kelsie aka Mob, the newcomer – who can infuse a group of people with whatever emotion she chooses.

With their disparate and not always advantageous powers the Glorious Leader has ambitions to blend this group into a force with which to be reckoned.

In just one week, their lives and their shared inexplicable skills are completely revolutionised when Scam becomes embroiled in both the theft of drug money and a bank robbery which has been undertaken by a group of men including Mob’s disreputable father.

This is exactly the kind of scenario for which Nate has been waiting – a chance to weld his unlikely and often unwilling friends into a team.

This is fast-paced and a real page-turner written with a real slickness that will engage teen readers both boys and girls.

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 upwards. Read an excerpt here.

 

The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard

Standard

oktober

ISBN:9781743315897

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:February 2016

Age: 13 – 17

 

I am always in awe of those multi-talented writers who can turn their hand to such a wide range of text types. From picture books to novels for younger readers to such as this for young adults, Glenda Millard is one of those amazing talents.

Alice Nightingale is fifteen but twelve, trapped in an acquired brain injury following a violent and traumatising attack which tore her apart along with her family. Unable to cope with the rigours of ordinary life such as school she is protected and loved by her brother and her ailing grandmother. Isolated and lonely, Alice expresses her perfect thoughts through her broken speech poetry and her creativity by making unique and beautiful fishing flies.

Manny James is a refugee from a dark and turbulent warzone and is desperately trying to put ugly and terrible memories to rest. He lives with a kind older couple who are wise with their understanding of differences and staunch in their support of a sensitive young man.

He is intrigued when, on one of his night time runs, he sees Alice on her rooftop – hair streaming, arms wide – and then when he finds one of her poems he is driven to know her. Alice’s first sight of Manny similarly mesmerises her.

carved from ebony

polished with beeswax

a saint from the book of kells

a warrior

a dream with

embroidered-on hair

neat tight french knots

i wanted to

touch them

read them like Braille

run my fingers along

the lumpy scar that joined

shoulder to elbow

i wanted to

know why it was there

what had shaped this boy?

 

The story of Alice and Manny is haunting, touching and powerful.  They both have extraordinary obstacles to overcome not the least of which is the ignorant small town bigotry which seems to abound in so many places.

Told in two parts from these young people, the text is lyrical and full of beauty as Alice and Manny overcome the wrecks of their childhood lives and cleave to each other for strength.

This is a novel that will move you and I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around 13 years up.

 

Hello, Goodbye & Everything in Between – Jennifer E. Smith

Standard

hellogoodbye

Hachette Australia


  • ISBN:
    9781472235565
  • Publication date:26 Apr 2016
  • Page count:256
  • Imprint:Headline

RRP $19.99

If, like me, you have often struggled to find a romance for tweens without graphic or inappropriate content, this is one to put on your list.

From the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First and The Geography of You and Me this is the thoroughly enjoyable story of Clare and Aidan – and a list.

These two seniors have been an item for the final years of high school and along with their best friends, Stella and Scotty, are about to embark on the thrilling but anxiety-making adventure of college.

The conflict lies in the fact that these two are bound for colleges on opposite sides of the country and their last night is one of very mixed emotions. Clare has made a list – that’s something she is very good at – and the pair re-visit their favourite haunts, the scenes of ‘firsts’, catch up with their friends and toss the problem of whether to break up or not back and forth. The very thought of being apart after their two years of being virtually inseparable is completely distressing for both and they postulate on whether it might be less painful to break up rather than let the relationship die away from long distance constraints.

Along with their own personal dilemma the night holds many other complications as tensions run high while they hang out with each other and others. Of all the events that impact on the pair probably the most confounding is that Stella and Scotty who have sniped at each other incessantly since kindergarten have suddenly become a couple. And it is this that influences their respective thoughts as much as anything else.

All in all this is a really engaging novel with very likeable characters for which the reader can really care. One cannot help but wish them the happiest of endings as they are such funny and endearing people.

Recommended for your romantically inclined readers from around 12 years up.

Rich & Rare – edited by Paul Collins

Standard

rich&rare

ISBN: 978-1-925272-11-6
Publication date: October 2015
Extent: 512 pages
Format: B Format paperback
Price: AUD$24.95
Category: Genre fiction and poetry
Age guide: 11+

 

This is a sumptuous and luscious smorgasbord feast for any reader, gathering delicacies supplied from Australia’s best storytellers. Our ‘young and free’ creators include: Michael Gerard Bauer, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath, Scot Gardner, Kerry Greenwood, Libby Hathorn, Leigh Hobbs, Sofie Laguna, Kirsty Murray, James Roy, Shaun Tan and Gabrielle Wang.

Ford St seems to have a monopoly on providing us with wonderful anthologies that are both fresh and contemporary. This is another that will provide fabulous reading for individuals and also for reading aloud. I have been advocating and supporting reading aloud to older students and this is a perfect volume for such a purpose. The diversity of the collection allows for students to be introduced to this impressive cast of writers, to sample a wide-ranging variety of genres and to explore the structure of successful short story writing and poetry.  Here they will find humour, horror, reality, fantasy and much more. There is something for everyone on this menu!

This was one of my outstanding ‘holiday’ reads as I spent time in the beautiful Blue Mountains with family as I could easily pick it up at any time and read one or two stories in moments of complete laziness. Perhaps my only ‘complaint’ is that some of the stories are so engaging that I was almost disappointed to reach the end so quickly. I think my favourite was the marvellous violin which springs to life after long disuse – you will see what I mean when you read it!

This collection sits easily on shelves for your upper primary to secondary students – only one story had a few ‘iffy’ moments but nothing graphic or disturbing.  Illustrated throughout the text is even more accessible for those reluctant readers.

Certainly if your English program includes exploring the short story genre this would be ideal for demonstrating to students how this can be achieved.

Oh and that cover is JUST divine!! 🙂

Highly recommended for both personal and classroom/library reading.

Teaching notes are available at the Ford St website – so you can easily plan to incorporate the book in your planning.

The Boy with Two Lives – Abbas Kazerooni

Standard

boywith

ISBN:9781743314838

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:September 2015

RRP: $15.99

 

Many of you will resource units of work/inquiry examining the lives of inspirational people through biographies and memoirs. This book and the previous memoir are perfect, timely and contemporary for readers from Middle Primary upwards.

This second instalment in Kazerooni’s powerful history continues from his international bestseller On Two Feet and Wings. The first volume retells then nine year old Abbas’ amazing escape from war-torn Tehran during the Iraq-Iran conflict. This second continues the story of a character determined to survive and succeed.

Now a refugee in England, the cousin who is supposed to be caring for Abbas as his sponsor and guardian dumps him in a boarding school where the boy thrives, makes friends, impresses staff with his character but grieves for his absent family. The feckless and cruel cousin Mehdi has one saving grace. His girlfriend has compassionate and kind parents who take Abbas into their home and offer much love and comfort. That is, until Mehdi decides he is tired of waiting for money from Abbas’ parents to pay school fees and puts the young boy to work illegally in each and every school holiday under the threat of deportation.
After some time this awful situation gets worse when after several traumatic life changes, Mehdi abandons Abbas to homelessness at age 13. His triumph at winning a scholarship to a prestigious school is marred by his daily struggle to simply survive with little food or personal comforts such as clean clothes, warmth and shelter. With family and friends unaware of Abbas’ situation he is forced to improvise his own life as he becomes all the more determined to attain his education.

This is a gripping read (one sitting for me) made all the more poignant because Abbas’ amazing character shines through despite all his dreadful situations. At no time is there a total collapse into self-pity, instead even in his darkest hours and immense despair Abbas finds inner strength and resilience somehow.

When Mehdi goes one step too far and threatens to kill Abbas, thinking the boy has ‘snitched’ on him and his nefarious activities, Abbas is finally rescued from his nightmare.

Tracing the extraordinary and at times harrowing journey undertaken by the young Abbas makes the reader reflect on the many things we often take for granted here in Australia.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – please take some time to find out more about this exceptional man who is now a successful writer, actor and producer living in California. I was fortunate enough to hear an interview with him on Radio National a couple of years ago and hope to secure a blog Q&A with him if possible.

abbas

Nightbird – Alice Hoffman

Standard

 

  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 208 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471124211 |
  • March 2015

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 18.99

nightbird

Yes this one had remained incognito on the shelf for a long time and really I am sorry I did not read it sooner. If you have girls aged around 12 years and up this is the modern fairytale full of romance and magic to recommend to those who want a gentle and lyrical story about families, true love and ancient curses.

Teresa Jane Fowler known as ‘Twig’ because of her tree-climbing tendency lives in small-town Massachusetts with her mother, reputedly the most beautiful woman in the state, on their Pink apple orchard. She hasn’t always lived there although her mother grew up there. They used to live in New York City but when she was younger Twig and her mother moved back to the family home – arriving in the middle of the night with their secret.

Since their arrival her mother has turned the Pink apple orchard into a thriving business, Twig goes to school and hangs out in trees and both completely avoid social contact with other townsfolk in order to keep their secret safe.

But things are changing in their town of Sidwell. There are rumours of a monster lurking at nights, the local owls are under threat from a new development and some new neighbours move into the old witch’s cottage next door.

Despite her enforced isolation, Twig is drawn to the new girls next door, Julia and Agate, and they become her first real friends. But will this friendship to expose the long-hidden secret?  And there are other secrets arising from the past and the time of Agnes Early, the witch who first lived in Mourning Dove cottage.

Twig’s friendship with Julia encounters many obstacles not the least of which is Agate’s discovery of Twig’s family secret and its consequences.

As you can tell, I don’t want to give away too much but suffice to say this was a ‘one sitting’ read which kept me thoroughly engaged from start to finish.