The joy of life in the midst of death





A brilliant, brilliant book from a master story teller. The three main characters in this novel are all teenagers and all have cancer: one has lost an eye (and looks set to lose his other eye), one has lost part of a leg (after a “touch” of osteosarcoma) and one has to wheel an oxygen tank with her wherever she goes. They share not only an insider’s knowledge of cancer and its treatment but also a sardonic response to their situation. Their conversations about life, death and dying are sprinkled with witty, humorous asides and observations.

And here lies the brilliance of the novel: the finely tuned balance between light and shade, between the humorous dialogue and the pain it hides, between the hope and the honesty with which these teens live their lives. For whilst the novel is about dying and how we face death, it is also very much about life and how one can live with joy despite the looming shadow of death. Augustus fears oblivion; he wants to leave his mark on the world. On the other hand, Hazel is more worried about the impact of her death on those loved ones she will leave behind. Neither of them plan to complicate their lives by falling in love and neither of them quite expect what is to follow.

Whilst Green does not shy away from the awful realities of treatment and the pain involved in a terminal illness, he nevertheless manages to imbue the story with a sense of warmth. Readers may occasionally need to reach for the tissues but this is just as likely to be so they can wipe away tears of joy as tears of sadness.

A book that will open readers’ eyes and hearts and provide a new regard for both the power and the pain of loving, of living and of dying.

Check our John Green’s website to learn more about this book. There is an interesting thread from teens and others about battling cancer on his Nerdfighter’s ning here.

You might also want to watch some of John Green’s vlogs on this book – here is one to sample (look for others on his website):


It is no surprise that this novel is the SILVER INKY winner for 2012!!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

If you enjoyed this novel, you might also like to read “The Shiny Guys” by Doug MacLeod (reviewed here) or one of John Greens earlier novels: “Will Grayson WillGrayson” reviewed here, “Paper Towns” reviewed here, and Looking for Alaska reviewed here.

Struggling with grief.. struggling with food

beautiful monster good readsTITLE = BEAUTIFUL MONSTER




The cover of this novel is rather bleak and this is matched by the story itself. Within the first few pages, Tessa’s life is thrown asunder as she watches her younger brother die in a car accident. She and her family struggle to cope: Mum falls into a depressive illness from which she struggles to emerge, Dad tries to support her through this and Tessa’s response is to fall into the clutches of an eating disorder.

Realistically, Tessa cleverly hides her problems from family and friends for much of the novel.  A bright, intelligent girl she also plays clever mental games to maintain control over her eating.

McCaffrey has written powerful novels on difficult themes in the past but this one doesn’t quite gel. It is certainly a heartbreaking exploration of a difficult subject. However, the exceptional circumstances surrounding Tessa’s dilemma (brother’s death, mother’s breakdown) and the employment of “Ned” as a means of explaining her mental games tends to limit the resonance of the novel. In this regard, it suffers in comparison with “Wintergirls” a recently published novel about eating disorders which painfully exposes the mental anguish of sufferers in a more “every girl” manner.

Nevertheless, McCaffrey writes well and creates eminently believable characters and situations. Some teen readers may find the novel of interest – if they can get past the cover! (The title certainly provides food for thought). However, be warned that the ending may also seem a bit grim – so the novel may be more suited to older readers.

Recommended for older readers (dma) ***

The pain of an eating disorder

wintergirlsTITLE =wintergirls

AUTHOR =Laurie Halse Anderson

GENRE =Identity, Growing up, Mental Health

INTEREST LEVEL = Years 11, 12

This is a brilliantly conceived book but it is not easy to read, as the narrator, Lia quite literally struggles to stay alive. Laurie Halse Anderson certainly captures the mental games (and therefore the mental anguish) that can become a part of life for any teen who is suffering from an eating disorder, as Lia is. The frustration and concern of her family is also all too evident, as they fail to read the signs correctly or simply fail to understand how she deceives them at every turn, despite their best efforts to support her. The fact that Lia’s best friend, Cassie has recently failed in a similar struggle with anorexia and made a belated attempt to gain Lia’s support, only adds fuel to the fire of Lia’s guilt and exra dread and horror for the reader – as we hope that the same fate does not await Lia. The ending is all too believable.

All in all, a powerful novel but not for the faint hearted. Deserving nominee for several awards. More appropriate for older students due to the challenging content.

Recommended (with caution) ***** (dma)

Percy Jackson & the sea of monsters





This story is about a boy named Perseus Jackson who sneaks out of summer camp in order to retrieve the fabled GOLDEN FLEECE because  only with its powerful nature magic will Percy  be able to restore the sacred pine tree. The force of this pine protects the camp from a whole horde of monsters.

I liked this book because of the way it turns a famous legend into a powerful fantasy. Full of satyrs,centaurs and ancient greek gods and goddesses.

Highly Recommended (tamelania) ****






From the opening page we know that life isn’t easy for Jude. When her family shows up for parent teacher interviews we can’t help but laugh because her Dad is dressed like Elvis, her Mum wants to help organise the school play and her Gran trips up Jude’s potential boyfriend whilst knitting a really long scarf. But as we get to know Jude better, we realise that her homelife is really no laughing matter because her Mum has a serious drinking problem and her Gran has Alzheimers disease. Jude tries to hide these home truths from her friends at school, especially Kevin Carter, the boy who is keen to become her boyfriend. Jude seems to stumble from one family disaster to the next, especially when her Dad decides to remarry and her mum insists on attending the wedding. With all this pain in her life, is it possible for Jude to ever find happiness? Can she look forwrad to a happy ending. Have the tissue box handy as you read this  bittersweet novel by the ever popular novelist, Cathy Cassidy.

Dead Man Walking

Lance Armstrong Its not about the bike

By Lance Armstrong and Sally Jenkins.

Genre: Biography

This book is about Lance Armstrong‘s life through and after cancer. It talks about his miracle recovery from cancer that had him at 20% chance of survival to get back on the bike to win the 1999 Tour De France 18 months later. I recommend this book for year 7s up and any one whw likes great sporting stories. I would rate this book 9 out of 10.

Highly Recommended (dom) 9/10


Gilberts Ghost Train by David Metzenthen

Genre: Death and Dying

Interest Level: Yr 7/8

This book is about a boy who is dying and he loves trains. He meets a very nice guy who come every day to tell a story to this dying boy (who is 13 years old). The book tells the story about the boy before he died. It is a great book, in the end one of the people in the book is a ghost. I not going to give away much of the story or the ending. The book is written by David Metzenthen and he writes some great books. A few other good ones include, Danger Wave, and Tiff and the Trout both of which are great books.

Recommended: ****

The boy who wants to live!

pig heart boy Pig Heart Boy By Malorie Blackman (BLA)
Genre: Health
Interest Level: Year 8 and onwards

Pig Heart Boy is a book about a boy named Cameron who is in desperate need of a heart transplant. There are no human donors so they use a heart from a pig instead. There has obviously been a lot of research done about doctors, hospitals and medical terms which is what helped it to be such a good book. There is a lot of description used about his emotions and feelings, which really helps us to feel what he’s going through. This book helps us to appreciate life and not take anything for granted. It was a really good book, with barely any boring bits. It’s one that you can’t put down unless you aren’t into books about health and real life situations. We would recommend this book to anyone who loves books with a lot of drama and anyone who can handle sadness. It’s certainly different to what we normally read, but we can guarantee you, you will find it interesting.
Recommended Abby, Caitlin, Maddy ****

The surfing novel, with no waves.

Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton (HAM)
Genre: Biography
Interest level: Years 7, 8, 9.

This story is all about how the young surfer Bethany Hamilton got her arm bitten off by a shark, and her fight to get back on board. The most exciting event (the shark attack) was written on the first pages, and the rest of the book was all about how her parents met, her religion, her encouraging, supportive and helpful family and friends, and what she’s learnt through out her ordeal.

The story will be very important to Bethany, but for those of us who don’t know her, reading the novel was really quite boring. The advice could be useful towards those who are going through the same thing, however quite frankly, we’ve heard it all before.

If she didn’t drag on for so long with petty details we didn’t need to know, the novel could have been a lot better. We believe the first sentence of the book sums up what you’re in for. “To be honest, I never really wanted to write a book.”

Not recommended- 1.5 stars

By Greta and Nicki