Tag Archives: Teenagers

The PM’s Daughter – Meredith Costain

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Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761046704
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I’m well aware that many things just pass me by – especially when it comes to TV. To be fair, though The Kid is a teen, she would be way too engrossed with her horror movies to watch a show on the ABC but it appears that this series has been quite the hit.

Inspired by the series, Meredith Costain has brought her considerable talent and experience to crafting a book that will, most certainly, engage your tween/teen readers. This storyline really has something for everyone. Cat (otherwise known as Catalina) is the daughter of Australia’s first single parent/female/foreign-born PM – which, let’s face it is hugely significant in itself (and really, let’s hope prophetic, shall we?). After a tedious and tiring FIFO scenario, Cat and her PM mum, plus great-aunt Tia (who is totes adorable) are re-locating to Canberra from Perth.

The Lodge is not the most hip place to live for sure (and yes, I have seen inside it, so can vouch for that) and Cat is well miffed at leaving behind home, friends, and pets to be faced with protocols, antique furniture, hideous clothes and boring functions. Most of all, she’s full fed up that she is expected to put aside her own values and beliefs around important issues like climate change and the voting age to ‘toe the party line’ for the sake of her mum.

And, of course, it’s not because she doesn’t love her mum but, after all, she’s a teen girl – that’s her prerogative surely? – disagree and battle over everything! (Trust me, I’m on my second time around raising The Kid so I know of which I speak!).

Canberra is, as always, a heaving mass of fomenting discord with agitators – especially the youthful ones – as well as opposition to the new PM’s proposed policies, the threat of WA seceding and the usual hoi polloi of political media circus. And Cat ends up right in the middle of it all as she navigates new situations, tries to make friends whilst dancing around the trust issues and struggles to make her own voice heard.

When her mum is in danger of losing her new post due to blatant sabotaging, it falls to Cat and her new chums to salvage a career – whilst maintaining their own values and beliefs, no easy ask.

This is a tremendously enjoyable read which I think kiddos from around 12/13 will greatly appreciate. It has action, tension, family relationships, friendships, a little romance and a good dash of suspense to keep the discerning reader interested.

I’m definitely going to talk this one up to my year 7s & 8s in particular, and already considering adding it the newly revamped lit circle program I’m creating.

Highly recommended for readers from 12 upwards – and those reluctant readers who can often be tempted by the film tie-in angle.

Friday Barnes #10: Undercover – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

February 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043659
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $15.99

Some readers of this blog may recall my review of the ‘re-appearance’ of Friday and her cronies. My kiddos at school lost their minds when it hit the shelves so make sure you stand back again because the rush will be on. Now that Friday et al are all teens, the secondary kids are tremendously excited to get back into one of their favourite series from primary school. They still relish the clever plots, Friday’s quirkiness and the unravelling of mysteries but also to enjoy the growing romances and relationships. Naturally, where Friday is concerned, romance is never going to be a smooth ride. Naturally, since her stint in jail, Friday is even more emotionally fragile, something her best friend Melanie pinpoints very astutely.

Friday is most definitely not avoiding big decisions (like working with her Uncle Bernie and Ian, her nemesis/boyfriend, investigating crimes) and she’s certainly not avoiding Ian and their growing romance (using the word very loosely). She is in fact, helping out her best friend’s brother in his hour of great need. Mel’s brother, Binky, is now living in the land of his beloved Ingrid and, following the directive of Ingrid’s stern father the King, is serving out the required term in the Norwegian army. All of this is fine but when Binky ends up being charged with dereliction of duty, he calls upon Friday to help him prove his innocence. Of course she does. But there’s more to come in Norway (and beyond): Princess Ingrid’s upcoming 21st birthday (and the mysterious incidents which keep preventing her return to Oslo), continuing art thefts across Europe, the reasons behind Binky’s set up and the connection with the Global Seed Vault.

Like all the Friday books this is a joyous romp with plenty of snort laugh moments but the growing depth to the plot lines, character development and interactions offers more for the serious and thoughtful reader. I’ll have great pleasure talking this one up in my new library in the coming weeks.

Highly recommended for your readers from Upper Primary to Mid-Secondary in particular. Thanks R. A. Spratt for another great adventure with everyone’s favourite daggy detective.

You’ll Be the Death of Me – Karen M. McManus

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Penguin Australia

November 2021

ISBN: 9780241473665
Imprint: Penguin
RRP: $17.99

Really, this author and her books need no promo via my humble opinion, although I am more than happy to provide it. In my library and among my reading circle, these are just unstoppable – particularly so since the series exploded onto the small screens. The teen thriller market is just huge right now and looks set to continue blazing across the best-seller lists for some time.


This is one of McManus’ stand-alone novels and centres on three young people who take a day off school on a complete whim, all of them for very different reasons. Ivy, Mateo and Cal were friends in middle school following another spontaneous ‘walkabout’ day but have somewhat drifted apart now they are in senior school. For all three their memory of The Greatest Day Ever, shared in innocent good fun, lingers and with all the various pressures on each, makes the day off idea all the more appealing.

But when they arrive in Boston and start wandering, and arrive at an art studio used by Cal’s mysterious friend, they are confronted with what appears to a murder scene. As if that’s not confronting enough, the victim is a fellow senior, known to them all. Brian “Boney” Mahoney is pretty much a jerk but he’s also a jerk who was just voted in as Senior Class President, over Ivy – even though he only ran as a joke. That does appear to put Ivy in the frame as a potential suspect, especially when the news breaks. But her two comrades also have secrets which impact on the situation. Cal is ‘involved’ with one of their teachers and Mateo’s cousin/sister has got herself tangled up in some kind of criminal activity.

It really is another convoluted and gripping narrative with suspicion falling in one direction after another and it took this reader quite some time to even start to sort out the who’s who in this nefarious plot. Your teens are going to love it and I know it’s going to be in high demand/rotation when we start back at school.

Highly recommended for your readers from around 14 years upwards – some strong language and drug references but nothing too shocking.

Banjo Tully – Justin D’Ath

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Ford St Publishing

September 2021

ISBN: 9781925804904

RRP: $17.95

It was a hair salon day and as usual, I took a book with me – one I’d only unpacked from its box this morning – although I have some others still half-read, because I always love Justin’s writing. And this was no exception – I read it from start to finish with barely any conversation with my stylist. After weeks of scowling in the direction of Year 9 boys, it was so good to read a story about one that is not a complete horror – even if only fictional LOL.

But seriously, in the past week three separate people have asked me for recommendations for teen boys in particular – including those who are either reluctant or not skilful readers – and here is a perfect example of such, and one which excludes no students. There is a significant female character who also happens to be from a different culture, there is some rich unpacking to be done around life in the country (versus life in the suburbs or city), family dramas, surviving crises, support from friends and others and, not least of all, climate change. Coming hot on the heels as it does of our government’s embarrassing presence at COP26 in Glasgow, this will spark intense and profitable discussions with your teens.

Banjo’s parents are doing it tough on their farm because of the ongoing drought, just as many others in their district and beyond are also. Their cattle are already sold off and now it looks like Banjo’s much-loved horse, Milly is next to go. He’s already had to drop out of the basketball team as the petrol costs of running back and forth to town prove difficult, although at least he can still attend Venturers. When Banjo decides to mount a protest against Ride to School Day, in which all the townie kids who ride the bikes will get a free movie pass, he takes Milly almost 30 kms into town to arrive in a different style altogether. However, problems arising from this escalate his statement into more of an escape, until he meets up with teenage conservationist, Mai Le, and suddenly he becomes the youth Eco Warrior riding his faithful horse to Canberra to tell the politicians exactly what he thinks should be happening – before the whole country, indeed the world, goes beyond the point of no return.

This is a well-paced narrative which will appeal across genders and abilities with ease and, given it’s setting and topical focus will also resonate with many. It would as easily make a successful read-aloud as a class novel and will certainly be on the list I am compiling at present for our Head of English. I highly recommend it to you for your readers from around Year 7 upwards. Thanks Justin for another cracking read that will have real impact for our young adult readers.

Two for Tweens/Teens

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Well here we are a week out from Christmas 2020 and while you likely have most of your shopping sorted you may just still be tearing your hair out for the age group that always seems to be the hardest to please.

These two titles have been thoroughly vetted by The Kid who approves of them with enthusiasm, the content being two of her favourite topics.

We Love Billie Eilish: her life, her music, her story

Allen & Unwin

Publisher: Mortimer Imprint: Wellbeck

November 2020

ISBN: 9781839350252

RRP: $14.99

Table Of Contents:Welcome • Profile: Billie • The Story So Far • Profile: Finneas • Don’t Smile at Me • 9 Reasons We Love Billie • When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? • Billie By Numbers • Music Videos • Speaking Out • Promoting Change • Gallery: iconic looks • Quiz: Your Billie look • Awards and Nominations • Influences • How to Be the Ultimate Fan • Top Billie Quotes • Spot the Difference • Hair gallery • Songwriting Process • Things You Didn’t Know • Gallery: Performance highlights • 2020 Tour • Quiz: How Well Do You Know Billie? • The Future.

She’s probably be one of the most talked about performers this year and by all accounts a great role model for young people. Still just 19 this young woman has risen to the pinnacle of stardom by staying true to herself whether that’s with her music, her style or her advocacy.

Young fans will gobble up the facts and images in this attractive informational text and perhaps find their own inspiration to create. With stats galore, packed with fabulous photos, quizzes and with loads of quotes from both Billie herself as well as her family this will be a highly-prized addition to a bookshelf. I foresee many of our students going wild to get their hands on it (we had put it on our orders list when it was first promoted!).

‘I’m not going to say I’m cool, because I don’t feel that. I just don’t care at all, and I guess that’s what people think is cool.’

Show your cool and get this one into the hands of some young thing who knows their stars.

Recommended for kiddos from around 10 years upwards.

The Ultimate Fan Book Tik Tok Famous – Malcolm Croft

December 2020

ISBN: 9781838610760

Publisher: Welbeck

RRP: $14.99

We might all shake our collective heads at the ubiquitous social media sensation – and of course, are cautious about the content – but there’s no denying there has never been anything quite like this phenomenon in my experience.

The Kid loves watching the dance clips and for her it’s just an amusing diversion but for some it’s a huge money-spinner like no other. This book gives the facts and photos about the virtual superstars who have gone viral around the world.

Beginning with a general introduction to the app that’s taken the world by storm the content is then categorised: houses, people, artists, music and fashion which kids will no doubt find fascinating (as they plan their own stellar future digital careers). The book concludes with some rising stars and a very handy guide on How to be Tik Tok Famous which I’m sure they will love!

Given that over the past few years approximately half the secondary students I’ve asked re their potential future careers have given the response ‘I’m going to be a YouTuber’ I feel sure that answer has probably been overtaken by the hullabaloo that is Tik Tok.

Recommended for readers from around 8 upwards.

The Long Distance  Playlist – Tara Eglington

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

ISBN: 9781460755211

ISBN 10: 1460755219

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

RRP: $19.99

Well if you told me I would absolutely fall in love with a YA (primarily) romantic novel I would no doubt have scoffed loudly. However, this is just delightful and so so much more than just romance. Eglington explores contemporary culture, family relationships, aspirations, dreams and music with such a deft and ‘spot on’ ability that this will be a sure-fire hit with your teen readers.

It’s an immediately engaging format told for the greater part through Instagram messages, Skype, email and texts, accompanied by playlists (readers will love these!) which bounce with growing rapidity between Isolde in Sydney and Taylor in Queenstown. This young pair has been best friends all their lives, with a quirky but cool family connection, until a big bust-up when each speaks their mind and a rift of Cold War proportions extends over eighteen months.

In that space of time momentous things have happened to both. Taylor, who had been a rising snowboarding champion, lost his lower leg in a car accident which has effectively rendered him gloomy and despondent. Isolde has studied  – actually lived and breathed – ballet her entire life and has her sights set on the National Ballet company but within a year she has muffed her first audition badly and also been terribly hurt in her first romantic relationship and feels similarly.

However the two do reconnect and forgive each other and over a space of almost a year their online conversations become deeper and more meaningful and are headed, for both, towards feelings that run much deeper than childhood friendship. The growing warmth between them is not without hiccups though as (don’t we all know it?) the medium of cyber conversations can lead to missteps and misunderstandings. Happily though there is a completely satisfying resolution – though the ending does lend itself to a continuation at some point down the track.

It is charming, refreshing, often humorous but also sobering at times with serious family issues with which both teens are faced. The trans-Tasman relationship will most certainly be of appeal to a wide readership and the insight into both settings, not to mention both passionate pursuits,  is fascinating.

Unlike others in this genre there is nothing which might preclude readers who may be younger or more ‘sheltered’. Even swear words are not explicit which will mightily please many who would want to include it in their collections but otherwise might have to pass it up.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 years upwards. Loved it!

Outback Wonder – Juliet M. Sampson

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outback-wonder

Brolga Publishing

2017

ISBN: 9781925367935

RRP $19.99

Many of you will be familiar with Juliet’s recent picture book, Grace’s Mystery Seed, which has been widely praised and garnered considerable accolades – and rightly so.

However you may not be so well acquainted with her earlier novels which have also been positively received. Outback Wonder is Juliet’s third novel and eminently suitable for your readers who are embarking on their exploration of YA fiction – particularly if they prefer a novel without the overt or possibly contentious aspects of some.

Hannah is approaching her final year at school but is weighed down by the emotional upset caused by her parents’ separation. She is so depressed by this she feels she cannot even confide in her friends.  Her father who had been unable to find work for some time, causing much of the reason behind the marriage breakdown, has finally found a job he loves – out in the Flinders Ranges. The outback is so foreign a concept to Hannah that she cannot comprehend why anyone would want to go there and when her dad sends an email inviting her to visit during the holidays, she is beset with conflicting feelings. Though she misses her father terribly she has less than zero desire to visit the remote location and can only think of flies, snakes and endless desert landscapes – not to mention no friends, holiday outings, shops and cinemas.

Yet, when she arrives it doesn’t take long for her to become swept up in the unusual surroundings, the quirky characters and the unexpected delights which include opals and a certain good-looking young pilot named Sam. Along the way there is a wealth of description and vicarious observation of this stunning part of Australia.

During her stay Hannah is able to come to terms to some extent with the dilemma she has faced and with Sam’s help begins to reconcile her resentment of her personal situation, and accompanying turmoil, with the reality that her parents have parted for their own reasons.

For your girls aged from around 13 upwards who are looking for a novel that combines adventure, travel and romance this is a perfect choice. I can say only one particular point jarred with me which was within a reference to a photograph with koalas and the mention that Hannah was holding ‘the bear’ – oops!

Apart from that blip this would be a welcome addition to your shelves and a glimpse into a landscape that most likely will be unfamiliar to your readers but with a character with whom they can completely empathise.

You may also enjoy this blog post in conversation with Juliet.

Mercy Point – Anna Snoekstra

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Harper Collins

June 2019

ISBN: 9781460709887

ISBN 10: 1460709888

RRP: $19.99

For so many the teen years are times of angst, struggling for self-identity and confidence and feeling that one ‘fits in’. For a group of five young people in the Blue Mountains it’s even more fraught as all of them suspect they may be adopted and yet no one is telling them that it’s so.

Bonding anonymously on an online chat page, the group has no idea that in real life they not only know each other but to all intents and purposes dislike individuals in the group.

When they all decide to meet up and investigate their suspicions together, there is a good deal of shock involved when they realise just in whom they have been confiding. But their need for the truth overcomes personal prejudices as each begins to uncover long held secrets and they come together to discover their true origins.

No one would suspect that their small town could hide so much deception: the terrifying truth that awaits them is something that none of them could ever have imagined.

Told turn about by each character the group gradually bond as a team and the mysterious ‘outsider’ Sam begins to reveal more and more to aid them – and shock them

For those of us who know the mountains there are many references to well known places and events which makes the reading all the more accessible. I understand there is already a plan to make this into a tele-movie or series and it really is a highly suitable vehicle for this with its surprise twists and turns.

Despite my habitual resistance to sci fi this is a great read and aside from my knowledge of the area I found it highly engaging and thoroughly engrossing.

Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 13 years upwards.

Check out teaching notes here.

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!