Tag Archives: Young Adult

Rebel Gods: Monuments #2 – Will Kostakis – The Book Tour! with guest blogger Tiarna Georghiou

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What a double bonus for me! First to be part of the Book Blog Tour to launch Rebel Gods – the gripping conclusion of Will Kostakis’ Monuments series. Second to be able to introduce you all to an amazing young woman, Tiarna Georghiou – Year 12 student, blogger, reporter, talented performer, passionate reader and, I’m proud to say, one of my students! You can treat yourself to Tiarna’s reviews at her blog The Book Mermaids as well as finding her on other social media platforms but in the meantime here is her thoughtful review of Rebel Gods and her Q&A with Will.

Hachette AUG 25, 2020 | 9780734419262 | RRP $19.99

Rebel Gods, the final instalment of The Monuments series by Will Kostakis is an exciting new middle-grade / young adult novel. The novel follows the lives of three teenagers; Connor, Sally and Locky who are learning how to lead their parallel lives as newbie Gods, and ordinary teenagers. It is up to the adventurous trio to stop the rebel gods from reducing the world to ruin, however, they don’t know where to start. The three ‘newbie gods’ are faced with many challenges and difficult questions such as; who should decide the fate of the world? This novel is gripping and exciting, while still being heartfelt and emotionally driven at times.

I was drawn in to the story from the very first page, and was swept up in the writing style and the beautiful descriptions. The novel is told from a very authentic YA voice, which many children and young adults will be able to identify with. The book features a diverse cast of characters who are all humorous and fun. The book was adventure filled, and action packed, but still had lots of romance and friendships for the readers to invest in! I recommend this book for everyone who loves adventure stories, and wants to read a fun and exciting story!

Q&A

Q1) You were extremely young when you started writing novels, what childhood experiences led to you discovering your love of writing?

My pappou (grandfather) wanted us to be avid readers and writers, because he struggled with both, so he would wait outside newsagencies before they opened to buy exercise books and watch us fill them as kids. He instilled in me a love of reading and writing, and I carry that with me to this day.

Q2) What does the Monuments series mean to you personally?

I launched into the Monuments duology after writing my heaviest contemporary novel, The Sidekicks, which was an intensely personal reflection on the death of a friend in high school. That took an emotional toll on me, so I needed to write something fun and light – I didn’t realise just how much I needed to until I wrote it. Monuments was my escape, and writing Rebel Gods to escape Hellscape 2020 … So the books will always mean a lot to the author side of me.

But I wrote Monuments for that fifteen-year-old version of me who loved fantasy novels, but wished there were more than unfolded in his city, and that featured people like him as their heroes. I centred a gay, Greek protagonist, and instead of giving him identity angst, I let him be the star of a laugh-a-minute adventure.

Q3) What do you hope your writing to achieve?

Firstly, I hope my writing entertains. Secondly, I hope my books show their teen readers that there’s a place in the world for them, whoever they are, and that they are remarkable, just as they are.

Q4) Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

I draw from my life, the media I consume, and my surroundings. So, the Monuments series was equal parts inspired by my evolving relationship with my friends and family, and the media I loved as a teen – videogames like The Legend of Zelda and TV shows like Alias.

Q5) Who are your favourite authors?

I have way too many to list, but the ones who never let me down are Terry Pratchett (a childhood favourite I still revisit, and am still surprised by), Barry Jonsberg (he really kickstarted my love of contemporary YA), Ellie Marney (Australia’s queen of YA crime writing – her latest None Shall Sleep is so creepily wonderful), Melina Marchetta (her YA and adult books are so honest and real), Lili Wilkinson (I’m jealous of everything she writes – her latest is The Erasure Initiative), and John Corey Whaley (the final scene of his Where Things Come Back is a masterclass in writing).

Q6) What is your process for writing books? Do you plan them all before you begin, or do you just let the creativity flow?

I usually start with an opening scene that illustrates what a character wants, or establishes what the key theme is (in The First Third, the family breaking apart set the scene for a story involving the protagonist bringing it back together). I like to have five or six key scenes established and a clear end point before writing a book, so there’s room to experiment as I write, and let the creativity flow as you say, but I’ve realised I work best with some guard rails to keep the story moving in the right direction. My second draft is when I get very strict with structure, and if a scene or character doesn’t add to where the story is ultimately going, they get the chop. Then it’s a matter of fleshing scenes out and refining the book until it’s ready for release.

Thank you so very much Tiarna!

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!

The Moonlight Dreamers – Siobhan Curham

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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.

One True Thing – Nicole Hayes

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857986887

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 400 pages

RRP $19.99

With this second novel, Nicole Hayes has absolutely confirmed her talent as a quality writer for young adults.  We are all too aware of the intense scrutiny under which our politicians are placed – and often, rightly so – and the accompanying media feeding frenzy which generally accompanies this, but how often do we give thought to the effect of all this on a public figure’s family or children?

Hayes has taken this idea and crafted a stunning story revolving around Frankie (Francesca) Mulvaney-Webb, daughter of the Victorian Premier, Rowena, who has stepped up into that position and is now running for election to confirm her post.

Amid considerable antipathy from some quarters about having a female state leader, Rowena is subjected to a vilifying media campaign over her connection with an unknown young man. Woven into this fabric: Frankie’s new friend (potential boyfriend) who is a dedicated amateur photographer, who has unwittingly provided the ‘evidence’ of this questionable relationship, her young brother and father who, like the rest of the family struggle to cope with the glaring spotlight and open “slur” tactics, her rather eccentric Irish grandmother who appears to be keeping secrets, Frankie’s indie band and her relationships with her best friends, all of which combine to impact on Frankie and her life in ways which would have many of us running for cover.

Despite her life seemingly going completely pear-shaped, Frankie demonstrates strength of character which is both admirable and inspirational. Strong female characters abound in this novel which makes it a must-read for young women as they also navigate their way to sometimes fraught teenage years.

For those looking for novels which also deal with gay issues, this is a worthy addition to your ‘Rainbow’ collection as Frankie also deals with the developing gay relationship between her two best friends. Her difficulties in adapting to being a ‘third wheel’ would easily apply to many other circumstances and her struggle to bring herself to an acceptance with grace and warmth is a pattern for similar situations.

Lending itself well to philosophical debates such as: when does the political become personal, when is a secret not ours to share, how does a family demonstrate its unity in the face of overwhelmingly opposition, loyalty, love and commitment to a cause, there will be much to unravel in discussions arising from the reading.

An amazing book which demands to be consumed immediately, I know I for one will follow Hayes’ writing career with great interest.

Highly recommended for readers, particularly girls, from around 13 upwards.

Teaching notes can be found here.

Footy Dreaming – Michael Hyde

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Ford St Publishing

May 2015

186 p. RRP: $17.99

ISBN: 9781925000993

Like so many other youngsters around the country, Noah and Ben live for their footy. They are both completely focussed on being the best players they can be in their provincial footy teams but also share a common goal: to be selected for the Bushrangers and go on to play the big game at the MCG. They are both prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve this by being rigorous with their training and skilling and always giving their best effort. Despite their similarities, their cautious friendship is marred by division. Noah comes from a solid and loving Aboriginal family, grounded in their kinship and supportive of each other and their culture. Noah plays for the Mavericks: a successful team who work as a team under the guidance of an experienced and wise coach. Ben, on the other hand, has only his dad and sister and plays for the Kookaburras (because he is made to follow the family tradition of doing so). The Kookaburras are a sloppy outfit with prejudices and favouritism rife in its ranks. It has not ever had a good name in the game.

Michael Hyde achieves a wonderfully realistic and utterly believable cast of characters, each with their own voice as he explores this complex small town scenario. The boys are drawn together despite their team rivalry through not only their shared goal but also their growing understanding of being in the other’s shoes – or footy boots.

With the kind of dramas one would expect in everyday Australian life such as death of a relative, teenagers struggling to find their own identity, dealing with racism and prejudices, bullying, establishing relationships with mates or girls, Hyde presents us with a view of this sport, which often verges on a fervent religion, as well as life outside the big city that gives real insight into these young players and their hurdles and their community.

If you have not yet found the right book for a young person in your readership clientele, this might well be the one that flicks the magic switch.

Both male and female characters are strong and resonant providing appeal to both boys and girls. The plot is well constructed and the important issues of racism, prejudice and bullying are handled deftly and with sensitivity.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 up.

The Boy on the Wooden Box – Leon Leyson

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  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 256 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471119682 |
  • May 2014 |
  • Grades 4 – 9

List Price

AU$ 9.99

– See more here

Subtitled ‘How the Impossible became Possible…on Schindler’s List’ which says it all, this is an amazing read. Most of us are no doubt familiar with the history of Oskar Schindler and his extraordinary efforts in saving his Jewish workers from certain extermination in wartime Poland, largely due to the publication of Tom Kenneally’s Schindler’s Ark (inspired by the retelling of the heroic rescue by Poldek Pfefferberg) and the subsequent Spielberg movie, Schindler’s List.

Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was a mere ten years old when his world imploded following the Nazi invasion of Poland and his family’s forced relocation to the Krakow ghetto. The overcrowded urban concentration camp was tyrannised by a vile despotic commandant, Amon Goeth, whose complete indifference to suffering and amoral and inhuman treatment of the Polish Jews, resolved Schindler to take action. Outwardly a staunch Nazi supporter, a womanizer, a black marketer and a capitalist, Schindler set about to protect some 1 200 Jews becoming a rather unlikely hero by continually ‘flying under the radar’ of the SS, using his own funds to bribe officials and subvert the Nazi war effort through his factory’s production of imperfect ammunitions.

Leyson’s memoir is the only one from a Schindler’s child and as one of the very youngest saved by that man, is a story of immense despair told without bitterness, and at the same time, a story of limitless hope – when one man’s refusal to stand by and do nothing resulted in the saving of many lives.

Seemingly a quiet and modest man, Leyson had not told his story until the book and subsequent film brought Schindler’s name to the wider public. After his first telling of his personal history he was asked many times to speak to groups and organisations which he did willingly to share his recollections and to honour both Schindler and the many victims of the Holocaust.

After providing his testimony verbally for many years, we are fortunate indeed to be able to read it as well and while there are certainly literary aspects to this book, for a large part Leyson’s voice as he recounts the often chilling evidence lends gravity to the telling.

Leyson died almost two years ago but in this book he has left a real legacy to young readers (as well as older ones). For your readers who have already seized on other Holocaust histories, whether factual or fictional, this will be an admirable addition to your library shelves.

Highly recommended for readers aged around 9-15.

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The First Third – Will Kostakis

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Penguin Australia

Published:24/07/2013

Format:Paperback, 248 pages

RRP:$17.99

price:AUD $17.99

ISBN-13:9780143568179

ISBN-10:0143568175

Yes, ok, I admit it. I may well be one of the last few teacher-librarians in Australia who hadn’t read The First Third – until the past couple of weeks.  I knew, from all the glowing recommendations and recognitions that it must be a brilliant read and so I knew I must put it on the Premier’s Reading Challenge list I was compiling, but I hadn’t yet read it.

And now I have. And I laughed and empathised and cringed all the way through it.  What a marvellous storyteller Kostakis is! This vibrant story of contemporary Australian family life interlaced with Greek culture is so well-written and so genuinely engaging. Throughout, I was reminded of every Greek person I have ever known from Sophie, my Community Officer at Marrickville Public Library, to my current library cleaner, Kathy, as I recognised expressions and attitudes and the warm wonderful humour.

Of course, the setting resonated with me – as a Sutherland Shire girl – suburb names like Brighton-le-Sands and Rockdale send a pang right to my heart.  But it was the people – the characters who are not really characters at all – but real people who might have been my neighbours that bring this story to life with such vivid clarity.

Billy (Bill) Tsiolkas is your pretty average 17 year old boy with a fiercely Greek yiayia (aren’t they all?) and a moderately dysfunctional family – single mum and two brothers at odds with themselves and the rest of the clan. He falls in love fairly regularly, he loves his family despite their oddities, he wants his Mum to be happy and he doesn’t want to lose his yiayia. When his grandmother gives him what is essentially her ‘bucket list’, Bill finds himself battling all the quirks of his family life to realise the list and in the process discovers much about himself, his family circle and life.

This is such a warm, funny and endearing book that it will no doubt remain on my bookshelf for re-visiting. It has such a ‘feel good’ vibe to it and as one who has often been the ‘glue’ in the family I can completely relate to it.

Of course, you already have it on your shelves but if you haven’t yet taken time to read it – YOU MUST!!!

Queensland Premier’s Reading Challenge 2015

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The 2015 Queensland Premier’s Reading Challenge was launched on Monday and for the first time is extended down to daycare/kindy children as well as up to Years 8 & 9 students.

I was extremely pleased to be invited by DET to compile the list for the 7s and 9s and included many books I have personally reviewed during the past year and highly recommend. You may like to have some ideas or suggestions for your middle year students, particularly as many of you will be looking at developing your collection in this area.

I particularly would like to thank my many publishing contacts for their superb support as I pursued titles which I had not yet encountered to add to this list.

Love and Other Perishable Items – Laura Buzo

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ISBN: 9781760112424
Australian Pub.: January 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Young adult fiction
Suitable for ages: 14-18

Originally this debut novel from Laura Buzo was published as ‘Good Oil’ and commended in the CBC Older Readers offerings of 2011.  It was further shortlisted in the 2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

Now re-issued with a new title, this is a wonderfully funny, tender and compellingly engaging read. Buzo has a marvellous knack of writing real-life with a completely authentic and convincing voice which resonates strongly throughout her novels.

When 16 year old Amelia lands herself her first job – part-time at her local Woolies – as so many young people do, she meets 21 year old Chris, final year uni student. Outwardly a gauche awkward teen and an extroverted ‘class clown’ with a six-year age gap that seems an insurmountable chasm, these two ‘click’ with immediacy as they discuss every conceivable topic from quality literature to feminism to pulp movies with gusto and passion. And of course, fall in love – though not without obstacles.

Amelia is smitten from the start but despairs of Chris ever regarding her as more than the quirky ‘young ‘un’, while Chris stumbles from fantasy perfect woman to unsuccessful pursuit, all the while falling more and more convincingly for Amelia.

Not only the main characters but those secondary and even on the periphery of this story are drawn so utterly real and the plot unravels with warmth and wit, absorbing the reader who is drawn into this melee of personalities with ease.

There is an intriguing and subtle comparison of the two personalities revealed through their alternate narrations. Apparently ‘uncool’ Amelia has in fact developed far more sophisticated coping mechanisms to deal with her stresses with family life and school than the generally perceived ‘cool’ Chris, who resorts to over-indulgence in alcohol and recreational drugs to escape from his own troubles.

The parallels which can be drawn between Amelia’s English reading list (and frustrations with the curriculum and her teacher) and the gradually evolving relationship between herself and Chris are also delightful, as the reader is invited to predict the eventual outcome between these two distinctly likeable characters.

Highly recommended for mature readers of around 15 and up, you won’t go wrong with this one.

Holier than Thou – Laura Buzo

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Before I started this blog, I wrote this review of Laura Buzo’s second novel. I am reposting here as I’m about to review another of this terrific author’s books. Stay posted!

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Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781741759983.
Recommended for Year 11/12 students. Wonderfully funny, heartbreakingly poignant, undeniably bursting with life, Laura Buzo’s second novel Holier than Thou is contemporary fiction that crackles with emotion and energy.
Holly Yarkov is 24, a social worker in the toughest neighbourhood of the city. The tragic death of her beloved father during her high school years propels Holly not only towards her chosen, and difficult, career but also to a rollercoaster ride of relationships – with friends, family and lovers.
Set in a gritty but very vibrant area of Sydney, well known to this reader, Buzo’s true-to-life portrait of the Inner West captures its very essence.
With an intuitive insight into the different ways the human psyche deals with the tremendous impact of grief and the ensuing, and often enduring, emotions it engenders, Buzo peels back layers of Holly’s struggle to hold fast to a status quo which relentlessly continues to slide out of her grasp and strikes a resounding chord with the reader. The irony of her Woman-of-Steel nickname, bestowed upon her by her peers, coupled with her drive for perfection and her ‘compulsive volunteer[ing]’ cannot fail to move even the most cynical audience.
It is impossible to follow Holly’s journey without a true empathy and involvement with her compassionate character. This novel comes recommended highly by this reader, but with caution, as suitable for mature young adult readers – there is a very liberal application of strong language, drug references and sexual situations. The completely authentic voice of this outstanding novel is no doubt, directly attributable to Buzo’s own intimate knowledge and experiences as a real-life social worker in Sydney. This reader freely confesses a habitual antipathy towards this genre but can honestly say without hesitation this is a cracker of a novel. Loved it!