They say she’s cursed…

9781925324976Title: Black
Author: Fleur Ferris
Interest Level:  Year 8 +

Death follows Ebony Marshall. That’s what the whispers say anyway. Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. She’s not just bad luck; she’s cursed; she’s Black.

Once it bothered her, but now Black’s used to being on her own and she’s gotten very good at pushing people away. That is, until a new boy comes to school. He’s interesting and persistent, he won’t be pushed away. But after he’s rushed to hospital, the whispers get louder… Who or what is behind these deaths? Black doesn’t know who to trust and she can’t fight on her own anymore. Can she solve this mystery before death comes for her too? Or is she really cursed..?

A gripping read from start to finish, you’ll find that this thriller has teeth. Enter Black’s lonely world, set in the small Victorian town of Dainsfield, where a young girl’s hope of moving on becomes a fight for survival. In her second thrilling novel, Fleur Ferris grips her audience and causes you to question: who you really trust? If you’re a fan of thrillers or crime novels, then this fast-paced mystery will be perfect for you.

Highly Recommended: **** (ofr)

An unusual recipe for a brilliant book

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METHOD:
1. Find a desiccated bat.
2. Mix it with some water.
3. Drink it, and
4. see what the future holds for the offspring of each and every person you come across in the next few weeks.
What could go wrong?
Glory’s present isn’t easy. Her mother has died, and her father doesn’t want to leave his chair, his computer, or the copious amounts of comfort food that seems to provide little consolation for life’s miseries. Glory’s only friend is not so friendly, and she is about to graduate school with no plans for her future. Glory obviously needs the soothsaying bat juice to provide direction for her life!

But it seems that the future is not so bright. The second American Civil War is only decades away, and Glory has a vital role to play…
This is another thought provoking book from the author of Everyone Sees the Ants, Ask the Passengers, and Reality Boy. A.S. King is an extraordinary writer, who successfully twists and morphs genre in such a way so as the reader never loses the sense that every event in the book could happen in real life. This is a book for older readers who enjoy dystopian themes but who are looking for more than a rehashed The Hunger Games.

Wonderful: (ipe) *****
Author: A.S.King
Interest Level: Year 9+

A sad yet uplifting story

stay well soonTITLE = STAY WELL SOON

AUTHOR = PENNY TANGEY

GENRE = GRIEF, DEATH, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Make sure you have the tissue box handy … this is a great read bit it is also rather sad at times. Young Stevie hasn’t exactly got things easy: her mum can’t afford for her to go on school camp, let alone buy her a horse! Her best friend seems to have dropped her (so school days are lonely) and now her brother is sick(which means lots of time in his hospital. Even her friendship with the new girl, Morgan, gets prickly sometimes – Morgan asks too many questions in Stevie’s mind… and she doesn’t always want to answer .. or maybe she just doesn’t have the answers?

The one bright spot comes from Lara, the friend Stevie makes when chilling out in the Kidz Space at her brother’s hospital. Despite the fact that Lara is 14 and Stevie is only 11, they have a lot in common: they both love horses and they both love to draw. But Lara is sick too. How does an 11 yo make sense of her world when so much keeps shifting and there seems so much to lose?

This is a lovely story about family, friendship and coping with grief…and a young girl’s obsession with horses! Girls in particular are sure to enjoy this book, especially Stevie’s numerous drawings and sketches. But be warned… tissues may be needed at certain points in the story!

Selected as a Notable book in the 2014 Book of the Year Awards (Younger Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) ****

Struggling with grief

TITLE = MAX

AUTHOR = MICHAEL HYDE

GENRE = GRIEF, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

When his best friend takes his own life, Max doesn’t know how to cope. At first it seems like he is intent on risking his own life: daring the cops to catch him when he goes out to tag walls on his own, running headlong at trains, kayacking accidents in the river, getting into trouble at school. His friends and family are uncertain how to help and even Max can’t explain his own actions let alone his feelings.

Michael Hyde has written a compelling story about the pain and grief of losing a friend and the confusion that is felt by those left behind. Read more about the author on his website.

Given the themes and language in the book, this novel is probably more appropriate for older readers.

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** 

The joy of life in the midst of death

TITLE = THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

AUTHOR = JOHN GREEN

GENRE = DEATH & DYING, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, LOSS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

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.


A moving story of a girl, a swan and the beauty of life

flyawayTITLE = FLYAWAY

AUTHOR = LUCY CHRISTOPHER

GENRE = FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

Isla and her father have a passion for swans, especially the whoopers who migrate to their town at the beginning of every winter. It is whilst chasing these glorious birds together that her father suddenly has a heart attack and is rushed to hospital. Here Isla meets Harry, a stoic young cancer patient whose friendship comforts her as she struggles to cope with her father’s illness and impending operation. Harry takes over as Isla’s companion in tending to a young swan who has landed in a lake near the hospital.

Isla is struggling to cope at school since her best friend, Saskia moved away. Her one solace is her school Art project based on the theme of flight. As Isla has based her project on swans, she is hoping that it will keep up her father’s spirits. But she soon discovers that her swan-model does more than this: it brings her closer to both her grandfather and Harry and it helps her save the young swan. Her schoolmates also learn to respect her more, once they see the beauty of her creation. In many ways, the swan model also saves Isla, as it gives her a focus that enables her to cope with the heartbreak of having a father and a friend who are seriously ill.

This is a beautifully written story: it unfolds in a slow and gentle manner, it is moving without being melancholy. The chapters are short and simple to read and the pretty scene of the flying bird, which heads each chapter, adds to the beauty of the story. It is no surprise that it has already been shortlisted for a number of awards.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A strange and funny tale from the murky past

life of a teen bodysnatcherTITLE = THE LIFE OF A TEENAGE BODY SNATCHER

AUTHOR =DOUG MacLEOD

GENRE =HOSTORICAL FICTION, HUMOUR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

The opening chapters of this novel may take a little getting used to – the strange world of ‘body snatching” is a little murky and it all seems a little unclear – but rather cleverly, this mirrors the experiences of the hero of the story: Thomas Timewell. For he too is caught up in events, and in a world, that he doesn’t fully understand and that drags him into new and unusual places and adventures. Clever plotting by author, Doug MacLeod allows the many and varied stramds of the story to be pulled together in a satisfying and credible manner. If some of the action seems rather dark and sinister, MacLeod fequently introduces some wry humour. The cast is sprinkled with engaging characters and our hero, Thomas, is certainly likeable. His family may be rather odd but this is all part of the fun. An enjoyable read (even if the central storyline is rather unusual in the world of YA fiction).

This novel has been shortlisted in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards (Older readers) : 2010

Recommended (dma) ****

Learning how to survive life’s obstacles

girl saves boy 2TITLE = Girl saves boy 

AUTHOR = Steph Bowe

GENRE = Growing Up, Families, Friendship, Romance, Relationships

INTEREST LEVEL = Years 9 and up

This is an engaging novel by a new, young author and it has already been well received by many teen readers. In the opening chapter a girl (Jewel) quite literally saves a boy (Sacha) by jumping into the local lake to pull him out. We then discover why Sacha and Jewel were both at the lake in the first place and how, in different ways, they have both experienced rather difficult childhoods. What gradually unfolds is a story of how different people cope with tough times: whether that be a death in the family, a serious illness, or relationship problems. On the surface, there seems to be a lot of death and grief in the lives of the main characters -but the author has cleverly introduced some welcome humour which lightens the mood. The “side kick” characters (especially Al), the subplot about garden gnomes and the breezy dialogue all add a light touch. There is a lot to enjoy in this novel which is told in alternate chapters by Jewel and Sacha… the ending even manages to be somewhat upbeat! 

To learn more about “girl saves boy” or its teenage author, why not have a look at her blog.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gripping story … unputdownable!!

THE DEAD I KNOWTITLE = THE DEAD I KNOW

AUTHOR = SCOT GARDNER

GENRE = MYSTERY, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

Aaron is an unusual boy – he seldom speaks, he sometimes needs to be reminded about basic social niceties (like saying “please” and “thank you”) and he has just started working at a local funeral parlour. Home life for Aaron is equally odd: he lives in a caravan with Mam, who appears to be his mum but whose dementia means she is the one who needs mothering. To make matters worse, Aaron is a sleepwalker – often waking from his dreadful nightmares to find he has wandered far from home. So the reader is soon fascinated by Aaron and his daily struggles. We watch with sympathy as he tries to navigate the often painful task of dealing with the dead in his new job. But we also begin to wander about those snippets of nightmares that are gradually revealed: clearly Aaron has either seen something truly horrible or he has done something truly horrible… and the novel becomes a real page turner as we race to solve this mystery. A brilliant and moving book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Accident survivor

5 parts deadTITLE = FIVE PARTS DEAD

AUTHOR = TIM PEGLER

GENRE = GROWING UP, SURVIVAL, GHOSTS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

Dan should feel lucky to be alive – of the 5 teens in the car he is the only one to have survived a horror smash. And this is not the first time he has escaped death. So the meaning of the title becomes painfully clear early in the novel. Through a series of flashbacks, we gradually  learn about Dan’s escapes from death and the circumstances around this most recent car acident. Dan admits early on that he hasn’t told the police the full story so we are intrigued to find out why he still feels so guilty – and how a kid who seems to be a pretty decent young man could have had a part to play in the horror of that night.

Dan is spending the hols recovering from the accident with his parents, twin sister, Mel and her friend Pip, staying at a lighthouse on the coast. As he is restricted by his broken leg and crutches, Dan is often confined to home base and starts to read the old lighthouse log where another miscarriage of justice appears to have occurred – is it ghosts from the past or more recent times that are disturbing Dan? The two stories are cleverly woven together and offer interesting parallels.

And will Dan’s burgeoning friendship with Pip develop into something more? Or could he ruin this too?

This is a thoroughly compelling book – from page one the reader will be caught up in events and be keen to learn the truths that are revealed at novel’s end – to resolve the mysteries from the past and recent times. Dan is a likeable young man and his journey provides an interesting perpspective on an all too common occurrence – road accidents caused by inexperience, drink and speed. The cover is enticing and the  flag signals at the beginning of each chapter are a clever device given the novel’s location.

Highly Recommended (dma) ****