In a dark future how do you survive?

the sky so heavyTITLE = THE SKY SO HEAVY

AUTHOR = CLAIRE ZORN

GENRE = FUTURE, VIOLENCE, SURVIVAL, FRIENDSHIP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an exciting story of survival which also gives the reader plenty to think about. The opening line takes us straight into a dramatic situation and awakens a strong sense of peril and fear. And then we go back to find out what brought the narrator, Fin to this urgent situation.

And it all began on what seems like a typical day in the life of teenaged Fin: catching the bus to school, trying to chat with his crush (Lucy), listening to his teachers waffle about the world outside their own Blue Mts. At home, his brother clashes with his father and step-mum, so the boys are left on their own … and that’s when the horrifying adventure really begins.

In an apocalyptic future, Fin and his brother Max must face the danger alone. The power goes almost instantly so any chance of communication with the outside world is immediately restricted. It becomes a daily battle to keep warm and feed themselves, let alone entertain themselves… as they wait for dad to come home …or to be rescued.

Fin is a decent and responsible lad but even he can be pushed to extremes when faced with the mammoth job of keeping his brother alive and safe. Suddenly Fin decides to take action in a morally questionable way … this leads the way for a clever and thought-provoking strand to develop in this novel. For the story gradually raises questions about actions and consequences: does the end always justify the means? Does the fight for survival give one the right to hurt others? How far is too far?

Fin joins forces with Lucy and another boy from their school whose religious leanings provoke some of the moral questioning. Fin is a credibly flawed character who faces great odds and readers will be truly engaged in his story.

Shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers), this book was announced as AN HONOUR BOOK!! CONGRATULATIONS TO CLAIRE ZORN.

Recommended (dma) ****

The final stunning chapter in a heartfelt series

TITLE = PARVANA’S PROMISE

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

The opening of this book may well surprise readers of the Parvana series: for it is set in a US Army base in Afghanistan and it appears that the young girl who is being questioned as a suspected terrorist is, in fact, Parvana! Readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering how this has come about and what lies ahead for Parvana.

And so the story unfolds in dual paths: part of the story recounts the interrogation process and Parvana’s imprisonment whilst alternating chapters take us back to see how events unfolded to bring Parvana to this point. We see Parvana working with her mother and sisters in setting up a school, trying to help her fellow refugees against great odds. For this education project is not welcomed by local villagers especially some very traditional men who see it as inappropriate for girls to be wasting their time on an education. The hatred that the school inspires may seem inexplicable to modern Aussie teens, but it is credibly portrayed and provides a threatening backdrop to the book.

Yet balanced against this is the more immediate threat of the Army officers who see Parvana as a potential source of danger. Will she survive against the emotional drain of interrogations or will she gain her freedom?? And why is she staying so silent anyway??

This novel cleverly brings the reader up to date with Parvana’s story whilst also introducing readers to the idea that foreign troops may be trying to bring peace to this region but they may in fact bring further torment for the surviving people of this war-ravaged land. A thought-provoking novel, in keeping with the rest of this wonderful series (“Parvana“, “Parvana’s Journey“, “Shauzia” are the previous titles in the series) .

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting wilderness adventure

TITLE = HATCHET

AUTHOR = GARY PAULSEN

GENRE = SURVIVAL, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 10

This is a gripping and credible story of survival in the wilderness. 13 year old Brian is a city boy whose parents have recently divorced. So now he spends term time with Mum in New York City and the holidays with Dad. At the beginning of the story we find Brain aboard a light aircraft heading for his first holiday with his father who is working as an engineer in the Canadian woods. Unfortunately, part way through the trip, his pilot suffers a heart attack, leaving Brian alone. Despite repeated attempts to radio for help Brian is left to wait for the fuel to run out and he crash-lands in a lake.

And so the struggle for survival begins for Brian. With little knowledge of the woods, the only tool Brian possesses is a hatchet which his mother gave him before departure. Can a 13 yo city boy survive long enough to be found by rescue parties?? An exciting and action packed story that is very popular with teen readers.

A deserved Honor Book (Newbery Prize)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

The plight of child refugees

no safe place TITLE = NO SAFE PLACE

AUTHOR = Deborah Ellis

GENRE = Growing up, Survival, War, Refugees

INTEREST LEVEL = Years 8 and up

This is another powerful novel from an acclaimed author, Deborah Ellis. Once again Ellis brings the spotlight to bear on injustices in the world and how they impact on children’s lives. In this novel, she moves her focus to Europe and tells the stories of 3 young teens, from varied backgrounds, who have been brought together as refugees struggling to find safe passage to England, where they hope they will find the safety and security that they have failed to find in their homelands. Abdul has seen first hand the toll the war in Iraq takes on innocent families, women and children. Rosalia is escaping the harsh life of a Roma child sold into prostitution and Cheslav, too, has been abandoned in Russia when his Mum sought a new life as a mail order bride. All 3 children have learned how to survive against the most horrific of circumstances and this makes them cautious about trusting others, even each other. The first half of the novel is especially powerful as it conveys the harsh life of a refugee child and the skill and stamina needed just to stay alive. We learn about each child’s back story via flashbacks which allows the reader to sympathise with each of the children. However, some of the action in the second half of the novel seems a little too tidy and convenient (especially in the children’s ability to steer a large yacht) so the sense of compelling action is diminished. Perhaps not Ellis’ best work but still this novel provides an eye opener to world events that Aussie children may know little about. Those who have enjoyed reading the Parvana trilogy will find this novel to be a worthy and interesting read.

Read more about Deborah Ellis and her books on her publisher’s website

Recommended (dma) ****

Action packed drama

chasers aloneTITLE =chasers (ALONE series)

AUTHOR = JAMES PHELAN

GENRE =ACTION, DRAMA

INTEREST LEVEL =YEARS 9 UP

Jesse is an Australian teenager, selected to attend a UN Youth Ambassadors conference in New York. His world is turned upside down quite literally when an explosion rocks the subway train on which he is travelling with 3 other teen delegates. Together the 4 teenagers must struggle to survive in a world that is suddenly isolated and very dangerous. They are not entirely sure what has happened and they are not sure why there are no adults or police to help them out. When they climb to the top of one of New York’s highest buildings they suddenly become aware of the spread of the desolation – and how alone they really are. The streets are mainly deserted except for wandering wild beings that chase and attack anyone they see. So the teens hide out at the top of the building – trying to decide whether it is safer to stay or go.

Some way into this novel the dialogue punctuation disappears – what may seem like an editing lapse finally becomes an important turning point in the story. A very clever story about young people trying to survive in a strange and scary world where all the rules seem to have changed – can they survive? can they retain their humanity?

Highly Recommended (dma) *****