Have you wandered through Teen Fiction recently?
Two boys defending trolley-boys in a carpark; the discovery of a pet being smothered to the sound of giggles; high profile bullying on social media; a broken knee, a ruined first love, a forced relocation – what do all these events have in common? They all belong to 17 year old characters from Sydney and the books these characters belong to are all by Australian authors writing young adult fiction in 2016.
Want to know more? Read on.
The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub
5 Sydney teenagers, all studying Year 12 at a prestigious high school, all above average in some way, (whether it is academic, financial, social) and yet all of them dealing with personal issues in one way or another, and all of them still an Aussie teenager you could almost know. None of them friends until they are forced to work together on the Yearbook Committee. Written like daily blog entries, the narrative changes from one character to the next, drawing you along as the year progresses. It is an easy enjoyable read that still packs a solid punch.
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
If you’ve read Justine Larbalestier’s last book Razorhurst, you would know not to expect a comfortable read, but this is more than unsettling, it had me on edge all the way to the end. When? Who? How? I don’t usually read sinister and chilling but I couldn’t put this down. I’m still reeling and very thankful I haven’t crossed paths with this kid. Nalini Haynes, reviewing for Dark Matter Zine said “The sense of impending doom overshadowed all. It will take some time to truly absorb My Sister Rosa and more time to recover.”
The Way We Roll by Scot Gardner
This is a fast paced tale of two young blokes from opposite sides of the tracks whose only common ground is the carpark they both work in. But sharing a brawl, a beer and a BBQ makes all the difference. It’s funny and as Aussie as it gets. No preaching hard morals or themes here, just “a simple story with engrossing characters, humour, and an optimistic ending.”
After reading three YA novels in quick succession I thought I would take a break and read some adult novels but then I picked up an anthology of Australian authors that begged me to take a quick look.
Where The Shoreline Used To Be, edited by Susan La Marca and Pam MacIntyre, is a collection of stories, song, illustrations and poetry aimed to challenge older readers and there are some fantastic little gems inside.
The title comes from Davina Bell’s contribution and is a thought provoking conversation between a girl and a blue whale who … “was washed where the shoreline used to be because the tide had gone out so far it was touching yesterday.”
PM Freestone gives us a taste of the near future with her take on Henry Lawson’s Drought-Stricken. Published in this year that has been declared the hottest on record, this piece makes me question who can afford to protest against injustice and how can anyone afford not to.
A lot of these stories are uncomfortable to read, challenging our comfort zones, which is often part and parcel with teen life, but an anthology like this allows less daunting bites and is a perfect way to explore authors who offer new ideas and writing styles.
The Journey of Velvet Brown by Myra King
My most recent teen read was set in some very familiar country as the lead characters live only 90 kilometres from Adelaide. This is good ‘country’ fiction featuring a horse whisperer, a bus driver who takes hours to get to school because he ‘no move the bus’ until trouble sits silent, a mystery to be solved, a dash of romance, more horses, and of course, a road trip adventure.
And just so I’m not thought completely parochial, the next two books come from authors further afield.
Skate Fate by Juan Felipe Herrera
Herrera was named US Poet Laureate in 2015 and this book is more a poetic journal rather than a skate read. The presentation is varied, some pages only contain a few words, the scenes are jumpy, the language has plenty of rhythm and uses strong imagery. Following the story is challenging but with only 116 pages it’s something you can pick up and fly through it, or browse here and there. As Melissa Mcavoy says in her review, “Reading the book is a bit like excavating the backpack of a fifteen year old skater, you never know what you might find, you just know it won’t be spelled conventionally.”
From modern Hispanic America to Bristol, England 1697
Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
This tells the story of a teenage Edward Teach, later to become the feared pirate Blackbeard. The tale is told from the alternating perspectives of a black servant lass called Anne who works in the Drummond household, and the young master Edward. Rather than a story of pirating, it is a story of class differences, racism, and the struggle to follow your dreams in an age when young men and women were expected to conform to their parents’ wishes.
I haven’t read these yet but the following are on my ‘to read’ list:
- The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight, a New York mystery.
- Desolation by Derek Landy, book 2 in Landy’s Demon Road series.
- The Haters by Jesse Andrews, a road trip for musicians (apparently aimed at older audiences)
- The Voices Project 2016: All Good Things by Australian Theatre for Young People, the final in this series of short plays for teens.
If you want to take a look at some of the latest titles coming through in young adult it’s worth taking a moment to scroll through the list of Latest Titles by clicking on the Teen Items tab on our catalogue here: http://bit.ly/1sbN8ZY