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.
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.
You know those shows on TV about history’s worst jobs? I reckon parenting teenagers should be heavily featured!
Yes, I’ve raised three girls – only with moderate success, doing the best I could, with what I had and lots of tantrums/screaming matches/exhausting emotions – and now, raising a granddaughter about to become a teen. (Luckily a much more placid child than her mum was!).
Michael Hawton has used his many years of experience as a psychologist, clinical expert for NSW Children’s Court and teacher of behaviour management to provide parents with a handbook for negotiating tempestuous times with teens.
This is no heavy textbook filled with psych-babble and jargon but rather a practical easy-to-read, simple guideline for navigating the storms – or indeed averting them.
Each chapter is summed up with some essential points (say what you’re going to say, say it and then say it again) so that the reader (who may be slumped in exhaustion) can set these ideas into their long term memory. There are opportunities throughout to practise new skills and techniques and the whole is well developed with a family case study exploring three all too common issues.
My teacher head could easily relate to ideas presented but non-teachers will find it just as relatable I have no doubt.
I think that most of us would agree that our teens (and parents) are facing such a shift in societal thinking and attitudes that providing our kids with strong values and respectful relationships is arguably the most difficult it has ever been.
This is a highly recommended read and addition to your shelves – be they library for parents, your own personal or professional reading. I will certainly be sharing it with staff and parents at my own school as well as friends who are about to embark on the rollercoaster of teen-dom with their kids.
Stay posted for a Q&A with Michael on this blog – I look forward to picking his brain! In the meantime you can watch him here on Today Show Extra.