Learning about life can sometimes be funny

Title  = losing it                                                                                                    

Author = Julia Lawrinson

Genre = Growing up, School, Relationships, Friendship, Homosexuality

Interest Level = Years 11, 12                                                                

Four girlfriends set themselves a challenge in the final year of school: to lose their virginity before schoolies week. Each girl takes it in turns to tell the story of her attempt to meet this challenge. Some stories are outrageously funny, some are tender, some are eye opening. And whilst not all the girls meet the challenge they all learn important lessons: about intimacy, about their own sexuality and about respecting themselves and others.

Due to the explicit focus on sexual themes, this book is more appropriate for more mature readers.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Surviving the pain of first love

beyond evieTITLE = BEYOND EVIE

AUTHOR = Rebecca Burton

GENRE = SEXUALITY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

There is a melancholy and forbidding air in the early chapters of this book. We know that Charlotte has been hurt by Evie. We also know that Charlotte is a quiet, thoughtful and reserved girl who is a tad worried about being too much like her father, who died when she was only 5, apparently as the result of his depression. Even though she is warned by a friend not too fall too hard, Charlotte does fall in love with the manipulative and mysterious, Evie, and is betrayed in the worst possible way. However, by novel’s end it is clear that for all her hurt and pain, for all her sadness, Charlotte has greater resilience than her father and is looking to a better future, whether this is with a he or a she, even Charlotte is not sure.

This is a beautifully written novel, although it seems to amble along gently, especially in the first half. The characters are beautifully drawn. Charlotte’s family, in particular, is delightfully real: her librarian Mum who reads incessantly, her Mum’s partner (Brian) who is the most true person  that Charlotte knows, her sister Amy (who is so dearly loved by her boyfriend, the kind and gentle, Noah). Charlotte is surrounded by good people, it is no wonder she manages to survive her relationship with Evie.

Recommended (dma) ****

Behind some games lurks a hidden danger

Headgames_cover.inddTITLE = HEADGAMES

AUTHOR = Casey Lever

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

This is an intriguing novel, with a strong sense of tension in the early chapters. Five teenagers decide to play a dangerous game of Truth and Dare, where the truths they have to face reveal something of their inner fears. Gradually the fears of the five teens is revealed: fears about their sexuality, about the grieving process (after the loss of a parent), fears about never breaking out of the poverty cycle or a life of crime . However, what the teens learn is that although confronting their fears is painful, facing the truth can also provide the opportunity for them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves or for others to offer support and understanding. Friends can become important in helping all of them to survive their family situations or to build stronger bonds with the family who matter most to them. A compelling read.

Highly recommended (dma) *****

The uncertainty of growing up

peterTITLE = PETER

Author = Kate Walker

Genre = Sexuality, Identity

Interest level = Years 9 and up

Although this novel was written nearly 20 years ago it does not seem dated as the characters and the central situation are all too real. Peter’s passions are motor bikes and photography and he is s killed at both. But he isn’t quite sure where he fits in the world. His dirt biking “friends” are obsessed with proving how macho they are by taking risks, talking rough and labelling anyone who doesn’t fit in as a “poof”. His best mate is obsessed with sex and setting Peter up with a girlfriend. So Peter begins to worry about his own sexuality when he doesn’t seem attracted to these girls and even more so, when he begins to have feelings for his brother’s best friend, David, who happens to be gay. Does this mean Peter is gay?? At 15, when he hasn’t even had sex yet, how is he supposed to know and what will it mean for him if he is gay?? Especially with a father who seems to think gays are in need of a cure (in other words, a good beating). This is a compelling novel as Peter’s dilemma unfolds with increasing urgency and the ending is also realistic. A CBCA short listed book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Reputations lost..and found

good girlsTITLE = GOOD GIRLS

AUTHOR = LAURA RUBY

GENRE = GROWING UP, CYBERBULLYING

INTEREST LEVEL  = YEARS 10 UP

Audrey is supposedly “a good girl”. She is an honours student, studies hard and wants to do well. But then she is photographed with her boyfriend doing something good girls don’t do; this photograph is sent via sms and email to everyone at school, it is posted on the web, it is even sent to her parents. In this engaging and credible novel, Laura Ruby explores the hypocrisy and stereotypes behind “reputations” – why are some girls labelled “good” and others “bad”?? Why are girls who engage in sex described as “sluts” yet boys are universally lauded as “players”. And when the spotlight is focussed all too glaringly on you – how do you survive??

This is a thoroughly engaging book by Laura Ruby because the characters at its heart are so authentically portrayed. Whilst the cyberbullying incident is all too credible in the way it unfolds, the strength of the story is that it is the relationships between the characters that lie at the heart of the book and at the heart of Audrey’s journey. For Audrey’s relationship with her friends, her teachers and her parents is well and truly tested. And perhaps most importantly she learns about herself, she learns not to judge others so quickly and she learns to enjoy life again.

However, as the cover warning mentions – there is explicit sexual content in this book so it is more appropriate for more mature readers. Readers who enjoy this novel might also enjoy “Bad bad thing” by Julia Lawrinson as it deals with a similar issues in an Australian setting.

Highly Recommended for mature readers (dma) *****

SURVIVING YEAR 12 …

MeasuringUp_Hi-Res_CoverTITLE = MEASURING UP

AUTHOR = G.J. STROUD

GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 11, 12

Jonah is feeling the pressure. He is in Year 12 but has no clear idea of where he wants to go when school finishes. One of his best friends seems to be taking to a life of drugs. The mother of a girl with whom he is close, is fighting a losing battle with cancer. His dad is the local town cop. And he has always felt that he lived in the shadow of his popular elder brother. The same brother who reveals he is gay but swears Jonah to secrecy. Is it any wonder that Jonah starts drinking too much and lets his studies slide? Is it any wonder that Jonah’s main obsession seems to be how to lose his virginity before he turns 18? Jonah is a refreshingly credible teenage boy trying to survive Year 12. He makes mistakes, says the wrong thing and doesn’t always know what he feels or why (especially when it comes to his brother’s sexuality). At heart he is a decent kid trying to make sense of his life and stumbling along the way; and as a narrator he has a delightful sense of humour, and is not afraid to laugh at himself. One of the joys in reading this novel is Jonah’s love of surfing – not only does he find solace in the sea and the physicality of surfing, but these scenes are also beautifully described and will be enjoyed even by the non-surfer. A great novel for older readers (the strong language and sexual themes make it more appropriate for this age group) which could be enjoyed by both boys and girls.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****