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) *****
Interest Level: Year 9+
Lucy Lam should feel like the most fortunate of girls. She has won a highly coveted scholarship to an exclusive girls’ school, Laurinda. It is an opportunity of a lifetime; an opportunity which Lucy and her parents believe will allow her to ultimately improve her life.
As the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Lucy struggles to adapt to her new school, and the fact that she is no longer amongst the smartest and most studious in her class. Lucy’s feelings of dislocation are compounded by the hierarchical nature of the school, and the trio of girls known as the Cabinet. They are not your run of the mill clique, but three girls who believe it is their personal mission to control and manipulate the students, staff and administration of the school. Lucy faces her greatest hurdle when the Cabinet decide that she must join their group.
Laurinda is an entertaining read, which is at times so autobiographical in tone that you may find curiosity driving you to “google” Pung’s biography. The descriptions of Mrs Lam’s life working long hours illegally as a seamstress from her garage are confronting. So too are the demands placed on a fifteen year old Lucy to attend school, study, and run a household all whilst caring for her infant brother. Pung has created a book that is highly critical of patronising programs run by some “elite” schools, but is equally disapproving of the oftentimes onerous expectations that prospective students’ families place on their young people to achieve academic success.
Highly Recommended: ipe
Author: Alice Pung
Interest Level: Year 7 +
Title: Dead Ends
Author: Erin Lange
Interest Level: Year 9+
Dane has just about used up all his chances. One more mistake and he will be expelled from his High School.
Billy D has changed schools and needs help avoiding bullies like Dane. What better way for Dane to redeem himself than helping a kid like Billy D? Or at least the principal thinks so…
As reluctant as he is to help, Dane quickly discovers that Billy D needs more than a bodyguard, he needs a friend. Dane isn’t really sure anyone is equipped to be that friend. Billy D is a demanding task master who is not above threatening and manipulating Dane to make him do what Billy wants. And yet, Dane and Billy D have much in common; they both struggle to fit in and both are missing their fathers. Dane has never known his father, whilst Billy D has lost contact with his. It is this common bond, and the resulting search for their fathers that ultimately brings both boys a little closer to adulthood.
This is Erin Lange’s second book. Her first, Butter, was a stand out for its original and contemporary approach to issues such as obesity and teen suicide. In Dead Ends Lange in her straight forward and uncompromising way, tackles disability, bullying and poverty of opportunity. There are no neat resolutions or happy endings for the characters, however, Dead Ends does leave the reader believing that the boys’ lives are better for their friendship and that there is potential for happier futures.
Recommended (ipe) ***
Title: 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): ***
TITLE = THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF CINNAMON GIRL
AUTHOR = MELISSA KEIL
GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+
Sarah Jane (otherwise known as Alba) has lived in the small country town of Eden Valley all her life. With a small but close group of friends, she has just completed Year 12 and is facing the next stage of her life…with some trepidation. AS a comic book lover and artist, she may have created a fantabulous character in Cinnamon Girl but can she find the courage to set her off on new adventures?? Just as her comic creation has stalled, life for Alba has turned on its head. There are still the old traditions (that she has created) like Monday morning brekkie on the lawns of her mum’s bakery, and Monday night TV & drinks and Christmas Eve picnic tea…. But this maintenance of the old is being fast swamped by new events with which Alba is struggling to cope. First there is the invasion of her town by doomsdayers who believe that the world will end on New Year’s Eve – all except for Eden Valley … then there is the strange behaviour of Grady her longtime best friend, who alternates between yelling at her and disappearing altogether…. and the return of one of their childhood friends, Daniel, only adds to the complications. Why can’t Alba think through the fog in her head… and why can’t she see what everyone else can see…about her future and her love life?? Most importantly, will she sort it all out before it is too late??
Fans of Melissa Keil’s first novel (“Life in Outer Space“) will enjoy her new book and if you love a warm-hearted romcom or if you love comic books you are sure to delight in Alba’s incredible adventures … it is a wild and comical ride with a fanciful and talented young heroine.
And the cover is to die for!
HIghly Recommended (dma) *****
TITLE = 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) *****
TITLE = DEAD DOG IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
AUTHOR = ARCHIMEDE FUSILLO
GENRE = FAMILY, GROWING UP, VIOLENCE
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+
This is a dark novel with a sense of brooding violence and anger lingering at the edge of every page. Primo has a lot on his plate: his father is in a nursing home and his girlfriend wants to break up with him. His home-life hasn’t got any easier since his brothers have moved back in, bringing all sorts of problems and pressures with them. How can somebody concentrate on their VCE studies with all this going on?
AS Primo tells his best mate, Tony, smart guys sometimes make dumb decisions … and it seems like Primo is talking about himself … first with his dad’s beloved car and then with the dead dog. What seemed like a good idea at the time may turn out to be a very very bad idea once it has been executed. And trying to fix one bad idea with another bad idea is surely never going to work? But hindsight is all very well – it is not going to help if the thug from work wants revenge, it is not going to help when he has to tell his mother the truth … as Primo learns all too well.
And ultimately that is what becomes important in this book: any one can make mistakes but it is how we deal with these mistakes, how we learn (or if we learn) that can make us grow up to fight another day… in a better way. Will Primo see that before his world comes crumbling down around him …and what will he learn about his family in the process? A book which may be dark but which also shows that strength doesn’t always come from a fist and dignity can be found in unlikely places.
Recommended (dma) *****
TITLE = TWO WOLVES
AUTHOR = TRISTAN BANCKS
GENRE =CRIME, FAMILIES, GROWING UP
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8
Ben loves making movies; his favourite pastime is to create his own stop-motion movies using all sorts of odds and ends to create the settings and the characters. His favourite genre of movie is crime: cops and robbers (with maybe a zombie or 2 thrown in for good measure). But one day his parents arrive home, bundle Ben and his little sister, Olive, into the car and take off. Suddenly, instead of directing a movie, Ben has one of the starring roles.
What is Ben meant to do once he realises that maybe, just maybe, his parents are not the law abiding citizens he always thought them to be? Is he brave enough to stand up to his dad? Should he turn them in to the police… they are family after all? And what about his little sister … can he drag her along with him?
These are tough decisions and Ben is in a tough situation. This is an exciting story from a popular author (Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space, Mac Slater, Cool Hunter) which is sure to be enjoyed by young readers, both boys and girls.
Recommended (dma) ****
TITLE = THE YEAR MY LIFE BROKE
AUTHOR = JOHN MARSDEN
GENRE = SCHOOL, SPORT, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-8
Josh has always loved sport. At his old school he was a sporting champion and often captained school sides. In fact, he may even have been school captain this year…if he was still at his old school. But life has changed drastically for Josh and his family: his parents’ financial crisis has forced them to move to a crummy house in a crummy town and now Josh is the new kid in a crummy school.
Josh decides to start afresh; rather than be sports mad again, he wants to sample life without his beloved cricket. But this might just put him on the outer with the other boys in his year level and with the PE teacher in particular. How will they react when they discover that Josh has been hiding his talent??
Is there more to life than cricket? And is there more to this town and more to his new school than Josh has been willing to see?
A story about sport, friendship and family with plenty of action and entertainment.
Selected as a Notable book for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers)
Recommended (dma) ****
TITLE = PICTURE ME GONE
AUTHOR = MEG ROSOFF
GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, GRIEF, GROWING UP
INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+
Meg Rosoff always writes interesting books with unusual and thought-provoking themes and this book is no exception. 12 year old Mila and her father are about to travel from London to NYC to see her dad’s best friend, Matthew, when they receive news that he has gone missing. Mila has always wanted to thank Matthew because he once saved her father’s life, although she is also aware that if not for Matthew, her father would not have been mountain climbing, so his life would not have needed saving!
When they arrive in NYC they meet Matthew’s wife and baby son before heading off on a road trip with Matthew’s dog, to a cabin in the woods where they hope to find the missing man. Whilst they search for her father’s friend, Mila is also thinking about her own strained friendship with Catlin who is going through a tough time as her parents have just split up.
Against this backdrop, Mila is trying to make sense of the man she is hoping to find. Matthew has always been described as a kind of heroic adventurer but is he really? What makes a man run away from his family … would a hero do this? There is also the mystery to be solved about a car accident many years ago. Is this the first time Matthew has run away? Mila has many questions she would like to ask Matthew … and as their search goes on, she begins to doubt the world of adults and she begins to learn a bit more about the meaning of friendship, whilst also rethinking her relationship with her own father.
This isn’t a simple read but it is certainly a moving and thoughtful book that has much to offer readers.
Highly Recommended (dma) *****