Tag Archives: Young Adult

The Moonlight Dreamers – Siobhan Curham

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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.

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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!

Coming of Age: growing up Muslim in Australia – Amra Pajalic & Demet Divaroren [Edit.]

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ISBN: 9781743312926
Australian Pub.: January 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Young adult non fiction

RRP $18.99

As many in our nation continue to fear and abuse any of the Muslim faith and while even the global media whips this anti-Islam feeling into frenzy, this is an important book for young Australian adults.

This is a collection of memoirs of growing up in Australia in the Muslim faith contributed by both well-known and unknown young Australian Muslims. From funny to touching to sombre, these experiences recount the challenges encountered growing up in our multicultural society provide a real insight to the diversity of the Muslim experience and the influence of culture, family and gender in shaping identity.

With Harmony Day just a matter of weeks away, this book is prominent in our library’s display to celebrate this event and would be a valuable resource for any secondary library or curriculum study.

Pajalic and Divaroren, both experienced and successful writers, are also the co-authors of another volume What a Muslim Woman Looks Like.

While even young adult readers will be aware of the beard, the hijab, the front page news; through this collection, they will be able to dig deeper to a greater understanding of Muslim life in Australia.

….dispelling myths and stereotypes, and above all celebrating diversity, achievement, courage and determination… [Publisher] this volume, IMO, should be on offer in every high school particularly with reference to the ACARA general capability of Intercultural Understanding.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 7 and upwards. Find extensive teaching notes here at Allen & Unwin.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line: Veronica Mars 1

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An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas

Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

ISBN: 9781760112363
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Young adult fiction

Some of your students may already be acquainted with Veronica Mars from the highly successful television series and movie, created by Rob Thomas.

Now, in conjunction with Jennifer Graham, Thomas has embarked on a book series featuring the feisty private investigator.

Returning to her home town of Neptune, California, after a decade’s absence, Veronica is in partnership with her father in his private inquiry business. Struggling to stay afloat financially, as her father recovers from an accident and pursuing only dreary matrimonial disputes and similar, Veronica is anxious for the future of the business.

Then spring break arrives and Neptune is flooded with hordes of young people from colleges all over hell- bent on drinking, drugs, and parties while generally creating havoc in the normally quiet though somewhat seedy town.

When a young girl disappears from a wild party, Veronica is employed to assist with the investigation much to the chagrin of the local inept and corrupt sheriff. When a second girl disappears, things get really messy as it turns out this second girl is the stepdaughter of Veronica’s long estranged mother. Veronica’s investigations uncover drug cartel ties with party hosts and links to some very unsavoury characters.

This was a real thriller in every sense of the word. Fast-paced with the action moving along at a great clip, believable characters and a good plot twist all engage the reader with ease.

The publisher suggests this is a novel for the 14-18 years bracket. However, I will be firmly making this Senior Fiction only in my library. Very plentiful strong language, sex and drug references would make me extremely hesitant to recommend this to readers in Middle School.

For readers who enjoy series reading, this is the first in what promises to be a very exciting, slick and sexy collection.

click here to hear a teaser from the audiobook..