Getting lost isn’t always a bad thing

book coverTitle:  Let’s Get Lost

Author: Adi Alsaid

Interest level:  Year 7 +

This really is a book to get lost in. Leila’s journey across America and Canada to witness the Northern Lights is told from five different characters’ perspectives. As Leila travels North she meets, befriends and ultimately changes for the better the lives of Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia. It is not until the conclusion that we learn that Leila’s journey is one in which she ultimately finds herself.

It is difficult not to be deeply distrustful of publishers who promise that a book is “…for readers of JOHN GREEN…”, yet, this is definitely a book for those of us who have enjoyed stories where adolescents face and meet real life challenges. Whilst there are a couple of situations in this book that are less convincing (Leila’s challenge may be medically “questionable, for example), Let’s Get Lost is still a very good read for people who are looking for happy resolutions. A feel good book of the first order.

Recommended (ipe): ***

Growing up with a disability

out of my mindTITLE = OUT OF MY MIND

AUTHOR = SHARON M. DRAPER

GENRE = DISABILITY, MENTAL HEALTH, FAMILIES 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Melody was born with cerebral palsy, which means she has difficulty controlling her body movements, is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. Her greatest desire is to be able to communicate with others and let them know that just because her body doesn’t work properly this doesn’t mean that her brain is not sharp. She is an intelligent girl with a whole lot to say to the world – she just can’t get the words out.

Melody tells her story in first person so we are given a great chance to see what life is like for this remarkably strong young girl. She doesn’t want our pity she just wants to be understood. Fortunately, Melody has a lot of people around her who want to help: from her loving parents, to her remarkable neighbour and a caring aide at school.

Not everyone at school is helpful, though: some teachers can’t see past the wheelchair and some kids can’t see past her drooling. So when Melody tries out for the school Quiz Team there are bound to be some raised eyebrows … just how far can this young girl go, if given the chance.

This is a moving story with a very believable main character. Her story is not whitewashed: not everything goes Melody’s way and there are some moments of true heartbreak for her. But it is a powerful tale and will make readers genuinely think about the power of words, the power of speech and perhaps reconsider our beliefs about disability. This book understandably spent 9 months on the NY Times bestseller list.

Check out the author’s website: a teacher and a highly awarded author, who has some genuine understanding of Melody’s situation as she has a disabled daughter (although Sharon Draper is keen to tell readers that Melody’s story is NOT her daughter’s story)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Parkour and poetry provide a powerful mix

runTITLE = RUN

AUTHOR = TIM SINCLAIR

GENRE = PARKOUR, POETRY, VERSE NOVEL, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Ever since his friend Trench introduced him to parkour, Dee has fallen in love with it: running, jumping, moving through his suburb and city with athleticism and daring: seeing his environs in ways others can’t and using this skill to move … to run, to free himself from all around. It gives him a buzz, it makes him feel alive. But when a photographer offers him a chance to be filmed, Dee finds himself running from trouble. With the help of his new best friend, Jess, and her hacking skills, Dee just might be able to get out of trouble … or he might be heading deeper into danger. And just what did happen to his old friend Trench – is there a warning there for Dee?

Dee tells his story using free verse. The flow of his voice is natural and easy to follow, with the occasional clever image or metaphor. At times the author, Tim Sinclair, uses shape poetry to good effect: to catch the image of waves or a wire-fence in words. On pages describing Dee’s parkour antics, there are also bruised rubbings splashed across the page, perhaps mirroring Dee’s own light touch and flashes of movement.   Arrows which break up chapter sections also emphasise the sense of movement which is so important to Dee’s story.An unusual format, which is both visually engaging and also tells an intriguing story.             

It is clear why this book was selected as a 2014 Notable Book (Older Readers) by the CBCA Judges.  

Recommended(dma) ****

When courage and resilience are needed

TITLE = ZAC & MIA 

AUTHOR = A J BETTS

GENRE = ILLNESS, FRIENDSHIP, RELATIONSHIPS, DEATH & DYING

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 – 12

Zac and Mia are both suffering from cancer. Zac is an old hand at this, given that his leukaemia was diagnosed some time ago. He has been through several unsuccessful bouts of chemo and now he is back in hospital having a bone marrow transplant, which means he is in isolation: only doctors, nurses and his mum can visit him whilst his body recovers. Zac seems tolerant and practical about his condition and where it has left him (currently playing endless games of scrabble with his mum!) but he has also done his research and knows the cancer stats. He knows his odds of survival have been reduced by the failure of the initial treatment.

He also knows that the odds for Mia are much better. Mia is the newbie on the ward and the 2 teens hook up via FaceBook where Zac tells her she is lucky (because her type of cancer is treatable and survivable). However, Mia doesn’t see herself as lucky. In fact she seems determined to fight the doctors, her mum and the facts about her illness. There is no mention of her cancer or treatment on her FaceBook page so her friends are clueless about what she is going through. And she seems to know little about her condition too – freaking out when she starts to lose her hair. Can Zac help Mia through her treatment … or does Mia have lessons in store for Zac??

This story is told by the 2 teens themselves. The first third is in Zac’s calm voice but then Mia takes over  5 months later and we see from her point of view, what life has been like for her and how Zac and his family are coping. Can she really run away from her cancer and will Zac want to follow her?

A moving and compelling book about a difficult topic (almost as good as John Green’s amazing “The Fault in our Stars” – why not read this if you haven’t already – a review can be found here)

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Gold Inky award.

Deb Marshall  (Highly recommended) *****