Tag Archives: Teen Issues

Detention – Tristan Bancks

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detention

Penguin Random House

Imprint: Puffin

July 2019

ISBN: 9780143799

RRP: $16.99

 

Just wow! Once again Tristan has crafted a sensational narrative with high-impact tension and thought-provoking themes which will keep readers eagerly turning pages.

Two young people are both, each in their own way, prisoners of sad circumstances. Sima, with her family, is detained in a centre for illegal immigrants and under threat of deportation after three years of trying to reach a safe haven, escaping violence and turmoil at the hands of the Taliban. Dan lives in a run-down caravan park on the edge of local society ostensibly with his mother, except she’s been absent for long periods engrossed with her new partner, leaving Dan to fend for himself. Both are desperate for escape.

When protestors help fifty detainees in a daring and dangerous flight from the centre, Sima is separated from her family and does her best to evade capture by hiding out in a toilet block at the local high school.

The school goes into lockdown as a result of the incident at the detention centre and Dan inadvertently becomes involved in Simi’s predicament. For both it is a delicate balance of trust and neither is confident of the response from adults such as Dan’s mum or his teacher but it seems that, almost unexpectedly, the morality of the issue outweighs the legality and help comes when it is least likely. After all, what price a life?

As the plot unfolds the reader becomes completely invested in the characters that are realised with a deft portraiture which is compelling and emotional without becoming cloying or stereotyped. Details which round each one out are often subtle and understated lending more weight to the overall picture. It is certainly clear that one cannot categorise people as simply one thing or another – good or bad, sympathetic or callous, that there are dichotomies in everyone. This viewpoint alone would give rise to much worthwhile and meaningful discussion with young readers.

Tristan points out that essentially he has written ‘a human story, rather than a political one’ with the ultimate goal of exploring the reactions, observations and actions of those dealing with difficult situations.  Despite this there is no doubt that for many readers there will be, like Dan’s teacher Miss Aston, opportunity to discuss and debate various aspects of current social conditions.

It’s never been difficult to ‘sell’ Tristan’s books to  my students and now the ripple effect is evident as more and more share their recommendation with peers but this one will be a block-buster I foresee. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts with our staff as I believe it will make a great read-aloud for Middle year students.

Don’t miss out – get your copy on order now!

Love Lie Repeat – Catherine Greer

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Penguin

9780143791225

March 5, 2019

$19.99

I’ve mentioned before that I have in recent times been somewhat disenchanted with many of the YA novels that have come my way. There have been a few exceptions. This one, debut novel and all, is an absolute corker!

Annie and her ‘island girls’ (the kind you take with you to a desert island), Ashlin and Ruby have been a threesome forever. They are bonded so closely that nothing could ever tear them apart. While their family lives may be complex in one sense with divorces, absent fathers, family secrets they lead privileged lives with money, fashion and solid support.

When Ashlin’s hitherto unknown half-brother, Trip, arrives from Canada, asked to leave his school due to some unexplained arson attacks, the girls’ previously tight bonds of friendship begin to fray in varying degrees. Annie’s burgeoning relationship with Trip seems destined to follow some kind of roller-coaster experience as she repeatedly trusts him, rejects him, reconciles with him. Ashlin’s secret sexual identity begins to reveal itself while Ruby, ignoring Annie’s obvious interest in Trip, starts throwing herself at the boy with little regard for her friend.

Into this mix of emotional angst are the girls’ usual activities of sport, singing, holidays and fashion but all of these seem to be overcast by some sinister atmosphere and more frighteningly, inexplicable random fires.

Greer has put together an intense and gripping narrative with many twists and turns and the ending is not to be missed.

Given its fairly adult themes this is not a book I would recommend for your younger teens but I have no hesitation in promoting it to senior secondary students.

Just Breathe – Andrew Daddo

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Penguin Australia

9780143573623

July 30, 2018

RRP: $17.99

It must be hard to be so multi-talented *wry face*.  Andrew Daddo has certainly proven his ability as not only a media figure but a very able and engaging writer.

I’ve not been enthralled in recent times by a lot of the YA coming my way – it’s been too much ‘same oh’ for my taste but this is fresh and sparky and real in a way that will grab readers from the very start.

Emily needs to leave her country town for a while. She has a mysterious growth near her brain which requires specialist attention in Melbourne. She and her mum put on a positive and brave face as they leave home, Dad and Siss to go stay with Aunty Astrid. Emily is not only nervous about her condition but also the prospect of a new school, no friends and the unknown in general.

Hendrix is a very recognisable character. He is a boy whose father drives his own failed athletic ambitions and his hidden guilt through his son, pushing him harder and harder to achieve an Olympic dream with his running.

These two could not be very much different and yet in many ways are similar. Both face difficult challenges, both feel isolated from the normal teenage social existence and both are essentially lonely.

When they meet in the park – Hendrix running and Emily walking her new puppy – it is not a situation that seems likely to fire a romance. Yet both find themselves continually thinking about the other. Their romance develops in spite of their respective difficulties. Daddo has beautifully created the respective parents alongside the young people’s story. Emily’s mum, loving and supportive, understanding and compassionate, firm but realistic and Hendrix’ father, immovable, almost unbelievably strict and controlling, and it would seem without a shred of real paternal care and concern.

As the narrative develops and reaches its denouement the characters become fully rounded and grow to the point where the reader is totally embroiled in their lives.

I highly recommend this for both boys and girls from around 13 years upwards. There is some sexual activity and some ‘bad’ language which some find disturbing so err on the side of caution if this would not fit your collection’s ethos. However that being said it is absolutely believable and realistic and many teens would relate to its themes.

I am Out with Lanterns – Emily Gale

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Penguin Random House

9780143782766

July 30, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $17.99

One of us is in the dark. 
One of us is a bully.
One of us wants to be understood.
One of us loves a girl who loves another.
One of us remembers the past as if it just happened.
One of us believes they’ve drawn the future.
But we’re all on the same map, looking for the same thing.

If you love The Other Side of Summer with its beautifully drawn characters and superb writing you will be thrilled with a continuation which now turns its focus to Wren, the older sister.

Wren is an outsider she feels and gravitates towards other loners. As that turns out one of these is a strange girl, oddly familiar to some, newly arrived in town. Adie, it seems, has been dragged from pillar to post by a drunken artist father with his endless parade of nasty girlfriends since Adie’s mother left when she was little. While Wren seems fascinated by Adie, her neighbour Milo burns with unrequited feelings for Wren despite his lack of confidence, largely due to his autism.

In this mix are also Hari, Juliet and Ben each with their own story and their own sense of exclusion for various reasons. Year 10 is off to a disturbing start with upheavals galore for all these troubled teens. But the forging of friendships can be a great leveller as well as an equaliser for those who suffer through their individual crises.

I freely admit to a binge read of this one – it was too good to put down!

Emily Gale’s ability to create such believable and intriguing characters that make you sad to leave them is astonishing.  Each chapter takes the reader into an individual character’s narration giving some beautiful insight into each.

While you certainly could read this as a stand-alone it would be helpful to know the back story from the previous book. Reconnect with this amazing cast of characters and meet some new ones – you won’t regret it.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14/15 upwards.

 

Pretty Girls Don’t Eat – Winnie Salamon

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Ford St Publishing

Jul 2017

9781925272772

AUD$17.95, NZD$22.99

 

“Body image is one of the top concerns for young people in Australia right now,” Dr Vivienne Lewis, associate professor and clinical psychologist at the University of Canberra told The Huffington Post Australia. November 2016

 

Eating disorders are estimated to affect approximately 9% of the Australian population.

http://www.nedc.com.au/eating-disorders-in-australia

Eating disorders are common in young people, especially in female adolescents and young women, although males can also be affected (1). In their lifetime, about 0.3% of adolescents aged 13 to 18 years have anorexia nervosa (same % for males and females), 0.9% have bulimia nervosa (males 0.5%; females 0.9%), and 1.6% have a binge-eating disorder (males 0.8%; females 2.3%) (2).

https://headspace.org.au/health-professionals/understanding-eating-disorders-for-health-professionals/

With statistics like the above Pretty Girls Don’t Eat is a very timely book which will empower young people to approach their own body image more positively and illustrates the potential dangers of eating disorders.

That being said it is in no way ‘preachy’. Winnie Salamon has written a beautiful warm and engaging narrative that will have a great appeal because of its inherent readability.

Sixteen year old Winter is a highly talented fashion designer and sewer. She is also very smart and very funny. She is also deeply disturbed by her size. Living in a dysfunctional family with a mother obsessed with her own body it is no wonder that Winter has taken on board the feeling of guilt and shame she carries around. While her two best friends – slender and stunning Eurasian Melody and geeky and gay George – both fervently assure her she is gorgeous and support her in all she does, when Winter meets Oliver she is convinced she needs to be thinner to hold his interest. And so begins a real rollercoaster of terrible weight loss ultimately fuelled by laxatives.  Winter is adamant that she needs to be skinny to achieve her dream of working in the fashion industry and to be attractive and risks everything to be so. Fortunately, her new job with a beautiful and fat – yes, fat – independent designer goes a long way to help her begin to question her own weight loss methods. But it is not until the laxative abuse lands her in hospital and she begins to work with Rosie, a sympathetic counsellor that she really starts to heal.

Fifteen years ago I too lost a lot of weight – though not by Winter’s drastic methods – and it is exhilarating to feel that you are no longer the fattest person in the room. Yet no matter that I had lost around 25 kgs all up I still saw a fat person when I looked in the mirror so I can totally relate to Winter’s mindset.  These days I really don’t care but then I don’t have the pressures by which Winter and other young girls, particularly, are continually bombarded. We have a long way to go in this journey to convince our young people to embrace themselves for who they are and not what they look like but there are moves to do so. The link here will demonstrate an initiative that is just one way in this serious issue is being addressed. Other programs such as that supported through KidsMatter are also in place.

Well written narratives such as this one should be heavily promoted in our school libraries so that we can create positive and helpful discussions around this issue.

I highly recommend this to you for your libraries and will definitely be promoting it to my readers.

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