Of bullying, guns and pigshooting

pig_boy_COVER_ARTWORK_Layout 1TITLE =PIG BOY

AUTHOR = J.C. BURKE

GENRE = RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

This is an engrossing story which is cleverly told. Readers will be constantly on the edge of their seats trying to figure out whether they like the main character Damon Styles (or whether they are somewhat scared by what he might be about to do). Because Damon is not a particularly likable character – he can be quite angry and rude, even to his mum and his (few) friends. He clearly has anger management issues at times and can explode aggressively. He is also fascinated by violent computer games and makes lists of people he doesn’t like. Yet the reader also has some sympathy for the boy: he has obviously been mercilessly bullied from a young age, his mother isn’t always as loving and “parental” as might be expected (in fact, Damon sometimes has to mother her) … and Damon is clearly (and understandably) terrified of the town bullies. We know he wants to get a gun but we also know that is too frightened to use one when he starts working for the local pig shooter. This book is about bullying and violence but it is also about prejudice and how easy it is to misjudge those around us – whether they be friends, foe or family.

An exciting and well written story which should appeal to boys especially with the clever twists and turns in the plot.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Diamonds, clubs, spades and hearts…open up a mystery

THE MESSENGERTITLE =THE MESSENGER

AUTHOR =MARKUS ZUSAK

GENRE  =GROWING UP, IDENTITY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL =YEARS 9 AND UP

Ed Kennedy admits that he lives a pretty pathetic life: his job is driving a cab (which is hardly his passion), he lives in a fibro shack with a smelly, coffee-loving dog, his main entertainment is playing cards with his friends, and he is in love with Audrey (but too frightened to tell her).

So Ed hardly seems like the stuff of heroes. But when the book opens, Ed finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery … and suddenly he is called on to act in a heroic manner.

And then the first ace turns up in his letter box… 3 addresses that Ed must visit… and decide what action is needed to set things right. And as Ed rises to the challenge… he begins to wonder… why was he chosen? What happens if one of the addresses belongs to a friend? What happens when the last ace is dealt?

This is another brilliant book from Markus Zusak that will keep the reader on the edge of his seat – sometimes squirming for Ed, sometimes watching on in horror, sometimes realising with Ed that even a small act of kindness can make a big difference … and like Ed, we will wonder who is behind the aces?

Again, Zusak writes a book that is set in the real world of the suburbs but that often shines and sparkles with his wonderful turn of phrase.

Winner of the CBC Book of the Year award (Older Readers) 2003

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

WARNING:contains awesomeness

city-of-bonesCITY OF BONES

Author=Cassandra Clare

Genre=Fantasy-Romance

Interest-Young Adults-Adults

Angels,Demons,Vampires,Werewolves,Fairies,Warlocks,Nephilim.

If clubbing in New York you must be careful as it might be your last dance: monsters are on the prowl.

Clary Fray once thought she was human till she got a visit from a very arrogant, hot shadowhunter, Jace. Her life changed for the worst.With her mother in a coma, her only choice is to trust the shadow hunters as she might otherwise be killed by one of New York’s monsters.

Rating=***** Highly Recommended

JESSI

Being brave and falling in love

when dogs cryTITLE = When dogs cry

AUTHOR =Markus Zusak

GENRE =Growing up, Identity, Family relationships, Romance

INTEREST LEVEL =Years 10 and up

Cameron Wolfe comes from a struggling, working class family. Whilst he might not always see eye to eye with his brothers, he will fight to the death to support them if attacked by others. He is the youngest in the family and seems to be always in their shadow – a fact of which he is aware. He is desperate to find his way in the world and desperate to find love and this novel record his journey towrads both. AS he starts to write down his feelings, Cameron finds through the written word and poetry he can articulate some of the unruly feelings inside himself. The inner howling begins to make more sense. And as he takes his first tentative steps with a girl rejected by his brother, Cameron also begins to fall in love and feel even better about himself.

Gradually, his older brothers see that Cameron is someone of whom they can feel proud – and more importantly, Cameron begins to see this in himself, too.

This is a beautifully written book but may present a challenge for some readers, with the inclusion of poetry and symbolism. However, this beauty is matched by a very credible and often raw portrait of the violence and reality of the working class family.

Interesting review and biographical details provided in this article from Answers.com

Another great synopsis and review

A worthy CBCA Honour book (OR – 2002)

Recommended (dma) ****

An intriguing study of violence

violence_101 TITLE = VIOLENCE 101

AUTHOR =DENIS WRIGHT

GENRE =GROWING UP, THRILLER

INTEREST LEVEL =YEARS 9 AND UP

This is not always an easy book to read as it focusses on a very violent young man. However, it is cleverly written and quite compelling. Hamish Graham is highly intelligent and articulate. He is also very violent and that is why he is in a juvenile detention facility. Alternate chapters are written from the point of view of the tired staff who work in the facility – some of whom seem quite cynical in their attitudes to Hamish. Other chapters are told as journal entries, written by Hamish as part of his “rehabilitation”. They reveal a young man who can adeptly analyse the power hierarchy within the boys at the facility whilst also seeing through the staff and their motives. We also see a young man whose heroes are military minded leaders, who openly admires their tactics and their courage; and a boy who loves language.

But this boy (who often seems older than his years) has also been cruel and aggressive to others, often astonishingly so. The reader is likely to be drawn to Hamish – wondering what makes him tick and where he will finish up. However, whilst the ending offers a new beginning for many of the main characters (including Hamish) there are still some questions about Hamish and his aggression that appear unanswered by story’s end (anger is one thing but his cruelty towards animals??). So not all readers may feel satisfied.

An interesting study of violence however, and quite a compelling read. If you liked this book you might also enjoy Ironbark (Barry Jonsberg).

Recommended for older readers (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.

Another one for the girls

starfish sistersSTARFISH SISTERS by J.C’ Burke (BUR)
Genre: Girls Fiction, Friendship, Families
Interest level: Years 10/11

The award-winning author has written many teen novels (including “Faking Sweet” and the cbca winner “The story of Tom Brennan”). The setting for this story is a three week camp for budding female surfers who are seeking entry into the Australian team. The title refers to the name of the room that the four girls are sharing: the starfish room. Alternating chapters allow the girls to each tell the story from their point of view. Georgie is a great talent, she surfs like a boy because she is so strong but her big thighs bring self-doubt: does she still have the fire in her belly, is she scared of competition?? Kia is Georgie’s best friend but she fears her dad does not think highly enough of her and is jealous of Micki, who her dad seems to idolise and who just happens to be his best friend’s daughter. Micki is the youngest at 13 years but she is very talented & tough emotionally (her Mum has died and her Dad is a drug addict so she has had to grow up fast). Ace is talented & pretty, but she knows it; she has received sponsorship already but is her heart still in it? Can she focus on her surfing or is she too distracted by boyfriends – old & new?? All the girls learn more about themselves & each other on the camp. This is an entertaining read – even if you don’t know anything about surfing! pipelines.
A sequel to this novel is expected!!
Note: the book has a dark element – Kia’s fears mean she has a dark & well kept secret of self-harm – dealt with sensitively & realistically.

Highly Recommended (dma). *****

If you enjoyed this book you might also like J C Burke’s take on friendship and revenge: Faking Sweet.