A novel about footy, fans, grief and life

TITLE = THE WHOLE OF MY WORLD

AUTHOR = NICOLE HAYES

GENRE = FOOTBALL, MYSTERY, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIPS, GRIEF  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9-11

Shelley Brown is hoping for a fresh start: a new school, new friends, new interests – a new life. Since the loss of her mother, Shelley and her dad are drawing a line between the past and the present, so Shelley jumps at the chance to attend footy training with her new friend, Tara. After all, football has always been Shelley’s passion especially her beloved Glenthorn Football Club. Attending Thursday night training also gives Shelley a chance to befriend the new player, Mick Edwards.

Shelley and Tara are obsessed by their footy team and this novel is cleverly structured to reflect this passion: every chapter and section references the game, from “The Draft” to the “Pre-Season” to “The end-of-season Trip”. And the plot unfolds cleverly too: whilst most readers will accept Shelley’s lingering grief at losing her mother, midway through the novel the full story behind Shelley’s loss is revealed so we understand more fully the deep pain behind her journey of rebirth.

In a sports mad country like Australia it is intriguing to shine a light on that obsession:  the euphoria of the fans when their team wins, the despair when they lose and the relationship they have with the players themselves. However, this is more than just a football yarn; set against the football background is a bigger story about grief and loss, about family ties and family breakdown, of burgeoning love and the resilience needed not only to face another football season but also to face life’s many ups and downs.

Even those who don’t love football will find a lot to enjoy in Shelley Brown’s world.

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

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An enticing opening to a fascinating fantasy series

TITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE: Book 1 – A CORNER OF WHITE

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FATHERS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

This is a truly enchanting book by Jaclyn Moriarty who writes in an evocative and original manner. It may take some readers a while to truly get into the book as it really contains two stories in one: the story of Madeleine and her Cambridge friends, set in the world we know as ours and the story of Elliott and his friends, in the Kingdom of Cello. But when a letter moves through a crack between these 2 worlds, the stories begin to merge and Elliott and Madeleine begin to tell each other about themselves and their worlds.

Both Madeleine and Elliott are living alone with their mothers and have missing fathers. But whereas Madeleine left her father by choice, for Elliott, there is a deep mystery surrounding his father’s disappearance. Over the course of the novel both teens must face the reality about their fathers, face the fact that these men who they loved dearly may in fact have been quite flawed. Both teens worry about their own failings and how much they may have followed in their father’s footsteps.

There is much to enjoy in this book. The letter writing and gradual friendship between Elliott and Madeleine does not run smoothly as she is initially quite dismissive of him, refusing to believe that he really exists. But they both help each other thorough some difficult times and by novel’s end may in fact need each other to survive the future. Certainly, Elliott’s friendship with Madeleine is daring: for in his world contact with the Other World is shunned, punishable by death…but surely, when you are a popular heroic boy like Elliott, your life couldn’t be at risk??

There are some very clever twists in the plot of this story that will keep the reader intrigued till the last page and eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this fantasy series. The author has said that she likes making her readers think and she has certainly achieved this with this amazing new book.

This novel is a worthy Notable Book for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gentle sad story in words and pictures

TITLE = BROKEN

AUTHOR = ELIZABETH PULFORD

GENRE = GRIEF, DEATH, RESILIENCE, ABUSE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

Jem Wilson has been killed in a motorbike accident when he swerved to avoid hitting a young child. His sister, 15 yo Zara has been seriously injured and lies in a coma. This book tells her story. She is very much aware of her visitors and what they are saying to her but due to her coma, she is unable to respond to them. However, we learn from these visitors more about Zara and how close she was to her brother.

Parts of the story are also told more through images; these are the scenes where Zara is chasing down corridors searching for her brother or being chased and hiding from a shadowy figure. These sections have slightly different font, signalling that although they are Zara’s story they differ somewhat. It becomes apparent that Zara is having trouble coming to terms with her brother’s death. It also becomes apparent that when she was young, Zara experienced something dark that she has never revealed to anyone else- except Jem.

As these two story strands come together, the key question for Zara and the reader is: will she survive? And what does she need to do to actually come out of the coma.

This is an intriguing story – cleverly woven together so that the reader is trying to unravel the parts, just as Zara is trying to find meaning in her past and for her future. Whilst there are some dark events in Zara’s background they are hinted at rather than fully revealed, demonstrating the author’s sensitive handling of a difficult topic.

Nevertheless, this story is likely to appeal more to older readers.

Recommended for mature readers (dma) ****

 

A compelling story about families

TITLE = PAN’S WHISPER

AUTHOR = SUE LAWSON

GENRE = FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, MENTAL HEALTH

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

When we first meet Pan she is an angry young girl who is being delivered into a foster home, clearly against her own wishes. So the reader is instantly intrigued: why has a judge ordered Pan into foster care? Where is her own family? And why does she shudder every time the name Morgan is mentioned? We follow Pan as she struggles to settle in with her new family, attending a new school and making new enemies (and one friend, Hunter). Gradually we learn more about Pan: including the fact that she has some physical injuries. How did these happen? Why doesn’t she trust Hunter?

Pan’s foster mother suggests that writing to her sister (Morgan) might bode well with the judge’s decision about Pan’s future. And so the structure of the book changes: interspersed between the story of her current life are Pan’s letters to Morgan which describe her new life and recall pleasant memories of their life as young children.

And after each of these letters is a chapter from this past but told from Morgan’s point of view. So gradually we learn that Morgan’s view of their childhood is very different from Pan’s, for Morgan spent much of her time shielding Pan from the truth of their family situation.  Gradually these story strands come crashing together as Pan faces the reality of her childhood and the consequences this brings for her current life. This is a compelling and moving novel from Sue Lawson, an absolute page turner for older readers.

This novel was shortlisted for the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary award.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

When dreams and footy merge

TITLE = TYGER, TYGER

AUTHOR = MICHAEL HYDE

GENRE = FOOTBALL, GROWING UP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

Johnny Carbonne is feeling the pressure. Johnny has been promoted to the Seniors in the same club where his father played. Johnny’s dad (Sam) was a great footy player and is well remembered by the old timers in the club, including the coach. But Sam died in his prime, when Johnny was only 7, so Johnny feels the weight of is heritage. On top of this he is not playing well at the minute, a footy scout is interested in watching him play and then, to top it all off, he gets injured.

When dreams start disturbing his sleep, it seems a good time for Johnny to head down to Tassis to visit his grandparents and see the site where his father died. Will the trip south provide him with answers or just up the ante even further?

A compelling book about footy, families and tradition.

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) ***** 

A compelling blend of sadness and humour

TITLE = THE SHINY GUYS

AUTHOR = DOUG MacLEOD  

GENRE = MENTAL HEALTH, GRIEF, FAMILY, FRIENDS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 10 – 12

This should be a grim story as it focusses on 3 teens who are in a mental institution in 1985. And life in this hospital is not a bundle of laughs for any of them. However, Doug MacLeod has managed to imbue a certain sense of humour and warmth into the story- partly through his warm depiction of the characters and partly through some sharp and funny dialogue.

There is also an element of mystery underlying the novel: as the story develops we learn more about the disappearance of Colin’s young sister and the impact of her loss on Colin’s developing mental illness. WE also learn more about his family and how they have coped with grief.

Some parts of the novel may be confusing for the reader because Colin is the narrator, so when he starts to describe weird events and conversations the reader may not be sure if he is imagining them or if this is part of his mental condition. As such, the novel becomes a powerful study of depression and psychosis in a young teenager.

This may not be an easy read but it is certainly a moving tale and the reader will come away with a greater understanding of the difficulties of living with grief and of living with a mental illness.

To read more about  Doug MacLeod’s motivation & inspiration in writing this book why not check out his website.

In fact, its worth looking at the author’s blog, too – very entertaining, as you might expect from this author.

This novel is a worthy selection on the shortlist for the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

You might also like to read John Green’s book “The fault in our stars” another book which manages to balance the humour and the pain of illness in teens.

 

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.


The impact of terrorism explored with humour & sadness

TITLE = WE CAN BE HEROES

AUTHOR = Catherine Bruton

GENRE  = GRIEF, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, 9/11

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

This novel is an engaging combination of action, adventure, humour and emotion. It describes the impact of 9/11 on modern day Britain, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Ben is a quiet, observant boy who copes with life’s mysteries by making lists of questions (often quite poignant) and drawing cartoons (often quite funny). Ben’s dad died in the 9/11 attacks and his grieving mother is in hospital, so Ben is spending the summer holidays with his father’s grandparents. Here he meets Priti, who is everything that Ben is not: loud, outspoken and fearless. She is the youngest daughter of the Pakistani family who live next door to Ben’s grandparents. Within a few days they are joined by Ben’s angry cousin, Jed and then the fun really begins.

Soon the three youngsters are caught up in the adventure of spying on Priti’s brother, Shakeel, who they suspect (on very flimsy evidence) of being a terrorist bomber, and trying to hide the unsuitable romantic liaison of Priti’s eldest sister, from her hot headed brother, Mik. But what seems like a game to the children suddenly takes a more sinister turn when adults become involved. Only then can the true heroes emerge – and the readers may be surprised by the end result!

There is horror, sadness and plenty of high drama before the situation can be resolved. But fortunately there is also humour to be found especially in Ben’s comic at the end of the novel which also allows the children to finally be the heroes they yearned to be!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gripping and beautiful story in photos and words

every me every youTITLE = EVERY ME, EVERY YOU

AUTHOR = DAVID LEVITHAN

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, GRIEF, MENTAL HEALTH

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

Stunning is the best way to describe this novel because it truly is stunning on many levels. Firstly, there is the way the story unfolds: quite literally based around photographs that the narrator keeps finding (or is he searching for them?).

Then there is the mystery surrounding the central story. We know that Ariel has gone but in the early chapters it is unclear whether she has simply left school, left town or died. Ariel was Evan’s best friend and he not only grieves for her loss but also feels guilty and responsible. The only one who shares his burden of grief and guilt is Jack, Ariel’s boyfriend. So who is leaving these photographs for them to find … does someone else know what happened that day with Ariel? As the photos are revealed so, too, is more of the back story; about the friendship between Evan and Ariel and about the fateful events on that day when she left. Has Ariel been trying to commit suicide?? And is Evan feeling guilt over helping her or hindering her?

A powerful element in this story is the depiction of Evan’s gradual decline as he struggles to deal with his grief and guilt. The more he finds out about the photos and Ariel’s life the more his own mental health seems to be mirroring her own decline. Will his refusal to let go of Ariel be at the cost of his friendship and sanity??

In true David Levithan style though, despite moments of darkness, there is hope and the possibility of a better future by novel’s end. For if the story has been about how photos can tell a story, Evan learns that he can use those same photos to tell his own story – and that the Ariel he knew and loved may not be so lost after all.

Readers will not only be stunned by the story itself but also by learning how the story came into being in the amazing collaboration between author (David Levithan) and photographer (Jonathan Farmer).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****