TITLE = GIRL v WORLD: Sophie Bennett saves the Planet
AUTHOR = MEREDITH BADGER
GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9
A delightful addition to the Girl v World series, which employs a range of authors to tell stories of strong girls. Meredith Badger introduces us to young Sophie Bennett, who doesn’t feel strong at the beginning of this story, she simply feels like the odd one out. This is partly because of her environmentally aware family. Both her parents are strong advocates for the environment in every aspect of their lives including diet (vegetarianism), entertainment (no TV) and lifestyle (growing most of their food and reusing products, such as Sophie’s bicycle). Sophie has grown up with a similar philosophy and is well aware that this has made her very different to most of her class mates and being different isn’t always easy as a teenager; sometimes it can lead to bullying or loneliness.
When her folks have to leave her with a neighbour for a week, Sophie begins to question some of her values and ideas as she tries out new experiences with new friends. But if Sophie is trying new things, so too are some of her friends thanks to Sophie who learns that being different can sometimes be fun, too.
A quick and enjoyable read in a very popular series.
Recommended (dma) ****
TITLE = LOVE-SHY
AUTHOR = LILI WILKINSON
GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP, RELATIONSHIPS
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10
Penny Drummond is a talented and determined young lady. She aims to be a leading journalist and is just waiting to find the right story with which to make her mark. She is also on every second club at her school and is well aware of her own talents. According to Penny she IS the debate team (or the reason for their success, anyway), she is the best swimmer, the best form leader, the best writer on the school magazine. Is it any wonder that Penny has little time for others and their weaknesses.
And then she finds the story she is looking for, or rather, she finds the poor victim of love-shyness. At first all she knows is that this young student at her school is sick at heart because he can’t talk to girls without fear of panic attacks. So Penny sets out to write his story (without telling him) and to cure him as well!
However, the more Penny delves into this young man’s life, the more her own starts to unravel and soon the perfect Miss Penny’s abilities begin to look less perfect and Penny is forced to re-evaluate her life.
There are some comical scenes in this book and Penny’s gradual growth in self-knowledge is to be commended but the portrayal of the love-shy young teen does not always ring true and this tends to make the middle portion of the novel a little bit uneasy.
Nevertheless, there is a lot to like in the book and fans of Lili Wilkinson are sure to enjoy her snappy dialogue and strong female character.
Recommended (dma) ***
TITLE = PINK
AUTHOR = LILI WILKINSON
GENRE = IDENTITY
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10
Lili Wilkinson’s latest novel PINK is great fun. Young Ava wants to reinvent herself. So she sets off enthusiastically for the Billy Hughes School of Excellence where she is hoping to get in touch with her brainy self. This means leaving behind her girlfriend and her gay self … but this is a sacrifice she is willing to make because she isn’t quite sure how gay she really is. However, fitting in to a new school is never easy, especially when you are still not sure who you really are. Is she ready to fully embrace the nerdy stage crew (screws)? Is she ready to be a popular pastel? Does being feminine and wearing pink really mean she is selling out her feminist self? And why doesn’t she heed Jane Austen’s advice in “Emma” and stop match making before she causes heartbreak to all around her. Whilst the issues Ava faces are significant in themselves and important in most teen lives, Lili Wilkinson introduces a light and humorous touch when it is needed most. Readers may shake their heads at some of Ava’s decisions but they will also laugh along with her at some of the comical situations she finds herself in. Famed author John Green has provided a supportive quote on the cover of this book and readers of his novels will certainly enjoy PINK too – there are some Green-like elements in the drive for “awesome” and the “mission” the screws go on to honour their mentor.
Read more reviews of this novel here. And to find out more about this wonderful YA author why don’t you check out her website or her blog. And don’t forget to read some of her other novels, including the hilarious “The (not quite) perfect boyfriend”.
**** Highly Recommended (Booklover)
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Interest level: Yrs 10 and up
An enchanting story. Old fashioned in style, with a wealth of literary allusions and a real sense of story (rather than character) dominating the narrative flow. The narrator may only be 16 yo and may be quite naïve in the ways of the world but she is perceptive and her love of reading allows her to describe situations, scenes and events in a charming, insightful and compelling manner. The literary allusions are sure to be enjoyed by more mature readers. The novel is set in the 1930s and the style and language is very “English” which is understandable given the location and characters’ ties to England. The drama unfolds gradually but there is a genuine sense of urgency in the adventurous events at novel’s end. Whilst on one level this is a “coming of age” novel for the narrator, Sophia (who gradually learns that she has wisdom and courage and how to read others, and herself) the main focus of the novel is on the unfolding world events and the family saga (rather than on teenage angst).
Highly Recommended (dma) *****
MY CANDLELIGHT NOVEL by Joanne Horniman
GENRE: Relationships, Coming of Age
Interest Level: Yr 12
A beautifully written, charming novel that will appeal to booklovers, particularly girls. Although this is almost a sequel to “Secret Scribbled Notebooks” this novel can certainly be read as a stand alone novel. The narrator, Sophie, is a 21 yo single mother living in the “backwaters” of Lismore. She admits to being bookish and this colours her perception of the world; she often ponders how a poet would see her daily world so there are a lot of references to authors and books that the well-read teen and adult will appreciate. We learn about her unusual upbringing, her restless streak and her burgeoning romances and friendships. The novel meanders along its way and comes to a satisfying conclusion: Sophie appears to have gained some self-knowledge and admirable acceptance for her lot in life. The depiction of her mundane life (whether at home doing the housework or at uni) is credibly drawn, her love for her child, Hetty, for her substitute Mum, Lil and her dead mother is beautifully revealed and a wonderful acknowledgment of the power and impact of love. Sophie explains that she loves books because “… of the worlds they described, worlds that I could live in for a while, and which somehow …enriched my own…”. This novel will also enrich the lives of its readers.
Highly Recommended for Older Readers (dma) *****
FINDING DARCY by Sue Lawson (LAW)
Genre: War, Family Relationships
Interest Level: Year 9/10
There is an interesting blend of themes in this compelling novel. On one hand there is the story of Darcy who is being bullied at school and facing family problems at home. The family issues are worsened when she is given a research task by her social studies teacher which involves interviewing family members about wartime experiences. For Darcy’s problem is that her family is haunted by death of her great-grandfather during the war, an experience which no-one will discuss. The intrigue behind this mystery leads Darcy to learn more about an incident in Australia’s involvement in WW2 which will provide compelling revelations for most readers. As Darcy finds herself she also finds her family and helps them to find solace for past grief. Darcy is a likable character and the school scenes are well drawn and believable. An intriguing story which should appeal to both girls and boys; to those who enjoy reading about relationships and those who are fascinated by war. This novel was longlisted for the 2008 Inkys.
Highly Recommended (dma): *****