Family, friends and first love

TITLE = LITTLE SISTER

AUTHOR = AIMEE SAID

GENRE = FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, HOMOSEXUALITY, GAY THEMES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 – 12

Allison Miller is tired of playing little sister to her “perfect” elder sibling, Larissa. Larissa who can do no wrong. She is a star in the class room and in the swimming team, a champion debater and, of course, school captain. But the perfect role model that everyone else sees is, in Allison’s opinion, anything but perfect on the home front. As Larissa is completing her final year of study and aiming for a vet course, the Miller household panders to her every whim to ensure Larissa’s chances of success are maximised.

But what happens if a story leaks out that could tarnish the perfect Larissa’s image? And what if the leak is, amazingly, true? Will Allison care about Larissa at all? Or is she only upset that the mud might stick to her, too? Who is being self-centred now??

This is an entertaining and clever story. Not only does sibling rivalry come to the fore in a humorous way but there are also deeper threads to this tale: about homophobia, cyberbullying and growing up.  Thanks to the author’s sharp writing and Allison’s sharp wit, there is no danger of the story being issue drive – it is truly engaging throughout as Allison learns to look at herself and her family with more honest eyes.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

How does a modern girl survive without her mobile?!!?

mobile covers 2.pdfTITLE = I LOST MY MOBILE AT THE MALL

AUTHOR = WENDY HARMER

GENRE = HUMOUR, TECHNOLOGY, CYBERSAFETY

INTEREST LEVEL – YEAR 8 AND UP

When Elly loses her mobile phone she feels disconnected from her social world. How can she keep up aith the latest goss with her best friend, Bianca, and her gorgeous boyfriend, Will?? Thank goodness she still has FacePage so she can stay in touch!! Then Bianca’s boyfriend posts embarrassing photos of Elly on his FacePage – from photos on Bianca’s phone! How can she face her schoolfriends now??

When her computer is stolen so she can no longer keep in touch via social networking sites, Elly should feel even more bereft. However, by this time, Elly has begun to wonder about the benefits of revealing your private life to the world via Facebook type sites – especially after all those photos of Will….

This novel raises some serious issues in a wonderfully humorous way. The morality and the wisdom (and even the legality) of sending photos around via mobile phones or social networking sites is seriously questioned. But laughter is at the forefront the whole time – partly because Wendy Harmer’s protagonist, Elly is just a bit of a drama queen! Partly because Wendy Harmer is such a wonderfully comic writer.

One of the funniest books you are likely to read (and yes you will LOL so don’t read it in public if this will cause embarrassment!) Whilst there might be some important lessons for Elly to learn (about face to face communication and friendship and trust) the reader will have a lot of fun along the way.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Learning about true friendship

faking sweetTITLE = FAKING SWEET

AUTHOR = J. C. BURKE

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Calypso wants revenge on her ex-friend, Jess who she claims stole her boyfriend. When Holly moves to Sydney and to Calypso’s old school, she is ideally placed to enact revenge on Calypso’s behalf. But is Jess the nasty girl that Calypso has painted her … or could Holly have got things all wrong?? The more she gets to know Jess, the more she begins to have doubts about the whole revenge plan. And what is going on with Calypso – one minute she is texting Holly five million times a day to make sure Holly is up to date with “The Plan” the next minute she has blocked Holly from her MySpace page!?

Gradually Holly begins to question the meaning of friendship and betrayal. How do we judge a true friend? The novel also highlights the way modern technology (especially the ubiquitous mobile phone and social networking sites) can be used to manipulate people and spread rumours. There is a delicious sense of humlour underlying the novel which adds to the enjoyment of seeing just how far so-called friends will go when it comes to revenge!

An engaging novel, sure to appeal to young girls in particular.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

And if you enjoyed this novel, you might like to read some of the author’s other books about girls and friendship: The Starfish Sisters .

Or read what the author herself has to say about her books.

Reputations lost..and found

good girlsTITLE = GOOD GIRLS

AUTHOR = LAURA RUBY

GENRE = GROWING UP, CYBERBULLYING

INTEREST LEVEL  = YEARS 10 UP

Audrey is supposedly “a good girl”. She is an honours student, studies hard and wants to do well. But then she is photographed with her boyfriend doing something good girls don’t do; this photograph is sent via sms and email to everyone at school, it is posted on the web, it is even sent to her parents. In this engaging and credible novel, Laura Ruby explores the hypocrisy and stereotypes behind “reputations” – why are some girls labelled “good” and others “bad”?? Why are girls who engage in sex described as “sluts” yet boys are universally lauded as “players”. And when the spotlight is focussed all too glaringly on you – how do you survive??

This is a thoroughly engaging book by Laura Ruby because the characters at its heart are so authentically portrayed. Whilst the cyberbullying incident is all too credible in the way it unfolds, the strength of the story is that it is the relationships between the characters that lie at the heart of the book and at the heart of Audrey’s journey. For Audrey’s relationship with her friends, her teachers and her parents is well and truly tested. And perhaps most importantly she learns about herself, she learns not to judge others so quickly and she learns to enjoy life again.

However, as the cover warning mentions – there is explicit sexual content in this book so it is more appropriate for more mature readers. Readers who enjoy this novel might also enjoy “Bad bad thing” by Julia Lawrinson as it deals with a similar issues in an Australian setting.

Highly Recommended for mature readers (dma) *****

Betrayal and Revenge

bad bad thingTITLE = BAD BAD THING

AUTHOR = JULIA LAWRINSON

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, SELF-DISCOVERY, BULLYING

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

Seb and Lavinia have been friends since they first started high school. Lavinia is quiet and honest, a stark contrast to her older sister, Bonnie, acknowledged by all as the “Queen of Senior School” . But when Bonnie is dumped by Alex, for new girl, Rachel, it is to Seb that Bonnie turns. For despite putting on a brave public face, Bonnie is not happy about being dumped and she needs Seb to help her spy on her ex-boyfriend, Alex. The fact that Alex (her neighbour) is like an older brother to Seb, that he has supported her through her many trials and tantrums with her mother, that Alex warns her against becoming too close to Bonnie – this is not enough to stop Seb from helping the deviously nasty Bonnie. Even losing her best friend, Lavinia, does not send enough warning bells to Seb to make her stop her snooping and spying. It is only when things have got out of hand that Seb realises her mistake but by this time Alex and Rachel have been humiliated in front of most of the school at Bonnie’s party.

The focus for the last third of the novel cleverly switches from Bonnie to her victim, Rachel, as Julia Lawrinson explores the impact of what is essentially a campaign of bullying – which utilises secret video clips, posters and the possibility of internet streaming. Bonnie utilises modern technology to spread humiliating images of Rachel across the school – having an effective and soul destroying impact on her rival.

“Bad bad thing” presents an interesting expose of those involved in bullying: from the bully, to their minions and finally through the eyes of the victim. The betrayal and self-centredness that lie at the heart of the bullying campaign and the friendship, integrity and inner-strength that are needed to overcome it are convincingly conveyed in Julia Lawrinson’s novel. A clever blend of humour and darkness.

And, if you enjoy reading this book, you might also enjoy “Good Girls” by Laura Ruby which deals with similar issues in an American high school.

Recommended(dma): ****

The horror of cyberbullying revealed

destroying avalonTITLE = DESTROYING AVALON

AUTHOR = KATE MCCAFFREY

GENRE = SCHOOL STORIES, GROWING UP, PEER PRESSURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 UP

This is a powerful story and a deserving winner of numerous awards. Avalon is pretty and smart and has every reason to feel confident about herself. But starting the new school year at a new school can be daunting for any teenager and things are no different for Avalon, especially when she finds herself at the centre of a vicious cyberbullying campaign. With nasty postings about her placed on the web and messages about her sent to students’ mobiles, Avalon feels threatened and exposed. Her bedroom is no longer a sanctuary. Fear prevents her from telling her parents or her teachers (because she believes their interference will only make it worse). The only support she finds at school is from a group of “misfits” who befriend her, especially Marshall, a boy all too  familiar with school yard taunts, as half the schools assumes he is gay. When the bullies turn the full glare of their campaign from Avalon to Marshall, things go from bad to worse.

The power of this book lies in its credibility, from the school yard to the classroom to the main characters themselves. The pain suffered by Avalon and Marshall is raw and terribly convincing – as victims they are too afraid to reach out to the very people who ultimately can help them: the school and their families. For solutions and answers are also provided and perhaps the most telling part of this story is in the revelation of who is the perpetrator of the bullying campaign.

There are clearly some powerful messages in this novel about bullies and victims, about the insidiousness of cyberbullying and the dreadful impact it can have on all it touches. The fact that these messages are woven into a compelling story ensures that readers will not want to put it down till they reach the final page. However, readers should be warned that the ending is incredibly moving and may challenge younger readers.

Highly Recommended for mature readers (dma) *****