Teenage angst … with a strong dose of fun!

finding freia lockhartTITLE =FINDING FREIA LOCKHART

AUTHOR =AIMEE SAID

GENRE =GROWING UP, IDENTITY, FR!IENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

All Freia wants is to fit in but it seems like this is more dificult than it should be. Her parents are a tad old fashioned, so they wear clogs and cardigans to the supermarket (!!??) and insist on referring to “The Book” for parenting advice – so short skirts, makeup and parties have to be negotiated carefully. At school, her best friend Kate seems more interested in joining the popular gang of “B”s (Belinda, Bethanee and Brianna) – a group Freia shares little in common with – so every lunchtime now becomes a battle to avoid humiliation. School used to be a success story for Freia but now she has to work hard to even get average results and she is aware just how disappointing her parents find this (as she appeared to be genius material in primary school)! To make matters worse, Freia has been roped into helping out in the school play – and has been teamed up with the new boy with the bad reputation – surely the nickname Skeletor says it all.

As Freia tries to navigate the obstacles of parents, peers and school, she has trouble determining which is the right path for her – and she learns some valuable lessons along the way – about judging others and about being true to herself.

Freia has a fresh and funny approach to her dilemmas – so there are lots of funny moments in this delightful novel by new author, Aimee Said. A book that is sure to be enjoyed by teenage girls in particular.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Of ghosts and shadows … and looking from different angles

dreaming of ameliaTITLE =Dreaming of Amelia

AUTHOR =Jaclyn Moriarty

GENRE =Gothic, Romance, Growing up

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

Another wonderful novel from the acclaimed author, Jaclyn Moriarty. The setting of this novel will be familiar to readers of Jaclyn’s other novels (eg Finding Cassie Crazy, Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie) for once again we are visiting Ashbury High. And some of our favourite characters (Lydia and Emily) are once again key elements in the story. But there are new characters too – namely Toby and the enigmatic couplo, Riley and Amelia.

As with her previous Ashbury novels, structurally this novel is intriguing: this time instead of letters and emails, exams essays, assessment stories and school created blogs forward the story. However, the tone of this novel is different: laugh out loud humour has been replaced by a gothic story of ghosts and shadows, there is tension and foreboding as well – although, when two of the key writers of the story are Emily and Lydia, rest assured that there is also a lovely touch of humour as well. In fact, the drama , parties and occasional mild hysteria of surviving the final year of high school provides a brilliant (and often quite funny) backdrop for the central action of the story.

The structure of this novel may provide challenges for some readers, as the focus constantly changes but the reward is that the story unfolds in tantalizing ways: each writer tells their version of the truth about events, but it is the details they leave out (and others fill in) that build the story as a whole for the readers. Just as the opening exam question asks the students to write about first impressions, we as readers are shown that the first impressions we may have developed are not necessarily well founded. There are some delightful twists and turns in the story, the central mystery behind Rily and Amelia will also be revealed, and there are some delightful emails, blog entries to keep readers entranced. And Emily once again has the chance to spread her “legal” wings as the case against Riley and Amelia is mounted towards the end of the novel.

A more demanding read than some YA lit – particularly given its length (at over 500 pages) – but it is well worth the effort: not just to resolve the central ghostly mysteries at the heart of the novel, but also as a thoughtful commentary on truth and reality, on love and friendship and the importance of family … and of surviving high school and taking on the challenge of adulthood!

A wonderfully thought provoking and engaging read especially for more mature readers.

Why not check out Jaclyn Moriarty’s website – and learn more about her books (and how they were retitled for overseas markets).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, SCHOOL and lots of laughter!

finding cassie crazyTITLE =FINDING CASSIE CRAZY

AUTHOR =JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE =FRIENDSHIP, SCHOOL

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

What a wonderful read! So much humour is blended in with well drawn characters and a most amusing plot – readers are sure to gobble up this brilliantly funny book from Jaclyn Moriarty. Some of the characters may be familiar to readers of her earlier novel set at Ashbury High, “Feeling sorry for Celia”; but in this novel the focus is on Lydia, Cassie and Emily, who are best friends in Year 10. They are less than thrilled when their English teachers creates a new writing project: they are to become penfriends with the students at the local and “scary” public school, Brookfield High. So most of the novel consists of letters exchanged between the 3 girls and the males who become their penfriends. Through their letters we begin to see their characters emerging: drama queen Emily, prickly and perceptive Lydia – but we also begin to worry about Cassie – partly because of the rather nasty boy she has been writing to and partly as her story unfolds and we learn why she and her mum are going to counselling. Readers will be on the edge of their seats when the girls arrange to meet their respective partners, and then again, as Emily and Lydia try to take revenge on Cassie’s letter writing “penpal”. The adventure will reach a peak (and a frenzy of exchanged emails) when the girls are accused of breaking in to Brookfield High. Can they clear their names and save their secret diaries from being read?? And who exactly will save the day??

These are lively girls – not afraid to wag from “boring” maths for an afternoon – and their penpals are equally familiar with the principal’s office for their larrikinism. They are a wonderful match for each other – even though the path to love rarely runs smoothly …

A wonderfully funny and enjoyable novel which is sure to delight teen readers.

To read what other teens think about this book check out the reviews here.

Highly recommended (dma) *****

Falling in love

siggy and amberTITLE = SIGGY AND AMBER

AUTHOR = DOUG MACLEOD

GENRE =GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

This is a charming story – both funny and mysterious. Siggy has fallen in love for the first time; unfortunately he also threw up on the feet of the girl he loves which is not the best start to any relationship! As he sets about meeting and wooing the girl of his dreams (Amber) Siggy must also contend with his Mum’s new boyfriend, his sister’s ex-boyfriend, and the ghost at Tallis Point. Why is it that some people see ghosts even when they don’t want to, yet those who really want to see ghosts, can’t always see them?? And what do you do when the parents of the girl you love ban you from ever seeing her again??

In true Doug MacLeod style, this novel has some wonderfully laugh out loud moments mixed with some wonderfully weird characters. At its heart, though, is the joy of falling in love for the very first time and learning about why we should give people second chances.

Highly Recommended(dma) *****