So winter nights are good for reading it would seem! Lately I've completed another 3 reads in the YA category all very different from each other.
In The Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
This is Barker's first novel and it was discovered through Allen and Unwin's Friday Pitch - a place for emerging authors to get their work in front of a potential publisher. The book centres around Alice, whose identical twin sister has previously taken a gun to school and murdered 7 children. Now Alice, in small town Australia, walks around with the face of a monster. It's a small and sad life that she leads until there is a strange twist in her tale and she discovers herself in an alternate reality. This story is strange and dreamlike in its narrative, it doesn't feel constrained to conventions or Hollywood-style answers. It is clever and demanding as a read. I liked the way things unfolded and concluded but that it still felt a slightly defiant read... all the answers weren't neatly tidied up. For its realism, although it is fantasy, I think this will have a really positive response with readers. I think it will be enjoyed by mid to older teens. I will be interested to read what Barker produces next.
Details: Allen & Unwin July 2015, RRP $17.99
The Cut Out by Jack Heath
Heath is another new-to-me author even though he is now an established author with 11 titles to his name. (He started writing as a teenager when he was disappointed by the selections on offer!) This book is a great well paced easy read. Following Troy Maschenov doppelganger for an enemy agent, plucked from regular life and sent on a complicated mission to potentially save millions of lives. This book provides all the thrills and gadgets any reader of this genre would like. There's a tough girl/ double crosser/ loyal agent he has to pair up with meaning the story doesn't behave in a static-sexist stereotype. This book, and I hope the author forgives me this, is a bit like a grown up, hyped up version of the little people Zac Powers novels - not that the writing style is similar but it's the kind of book I think younger readers who liked the ZP style will adore as teenage/ emerging teenage readers. There isn't any sex or overt romance and I really appreciate that. I think my boys will enjoy this when they are a little older. Suitable from about 11+ but substantial enough for high school and beyond.
Details: Allen & Unwin July 2015, RRP $14.99
Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha VanLeer
This book is the sequel to Between the Lines which I reviewed last year. I actually like the second book better than the first. It deals with more of the real world and realises some of the issues and dramas that face young people in high schools in a more convincing manner. There are some really great moments when there is opportunity to pause and reflect on the ways in which people tend to gather around similar people to make friends and the power of moving outside of your usual circles. It's definitely a fairy-tale type story and all the things that should work out do, but it's done with a few nice turns along the way. I could see my 11-14 year old self loving the romance and drama of the tale and I think it's a nice alternative to the sickly sweet and overtly image driven sweet valley high rubbish I used to read - there, now you know my terrible secrets. Appropriate level romance, some suggestion of things going beyond kissing but no sex, thanks authors! This is a collaboration between Picoult and her daughter and it flows well.
Details: Allen & Unwin May 2015, RRP $24.99
So now that you know my terrible secret, what rubbishy books did you love as a young person??
love you more than a confession made xxx