Feeling Sorry for Celia, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Elizabeth Clarry is not a real teenager. She has a Teletubbies quilt cover and doesn’t own any makeup. Worse still, she has never been drunk, and her best friend has totally vanished. The best thing for her to do would be to climb into the refrigerator and disappear.

But Elizabeth doesn’t disappear. Instead, the reader of Feeling Sorry for Celia follows her path through the struggles of finding and losing her best friend, developing new friendships and figuring out her father.

Elizabeth and her friends Celia and Christina encounter many of the problems of adolescence – first love, sex, conformity and family dynamics. Author Jaclyn Moriarty manages to balance the seriousness of these subjects with just the right measure of humour and whimsy to make the book both entertaining and educational.

Feeling Sorry for Celia
is certain to appeal to 13 to 16 year olds and is as suitable for class reading lists as it is for private reading/. The only drawback for class study purposes is that its innovative letter format would be a little difficult for oral reading sessions.

This format, however, is part of the appeal of the book, with the story told through letters, notes and postcards exchanged between Elizabeth and the other characters, with delightful epistles from such fictitious sources as the Manager of the Society for people Who are Definitely Going to Fail High School.

Feeling Sorry For Celia is truly an outstanding piece of adolescent fiction.

Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
Pan Macmillan, 2000

Bantam, by Terry Whitebeach and Michael Brown

When their taste of city life disappoints, Mick and Toad return to Bantam, their home town. Unemployed and broke, their biggest problem seems to be how to survive until next dole day.

For Mick and his friends life is about drinking, fishing and looking for girls. For Mick there are also chooks and his dog, Jezebel.

But life has a funny way of turning serious. Bantam is a town like any other – with problems of unemployment, domestic violence and youth suicide.

Will Mick ever find balance in the roller cosater ride of his existence?

Bantam is a special book. To blend humour and tragedy is a delicate process, but author Terry Whitebeach pulls it off superbly. Readers will find themselves laughing, crying and cheering Mick and his mate Toad on, right to the last page.

Author Terry Whitebeach began working on Bantam after her son Michael Brown moved to a small town and started sending letters home telling her of his adventures. The stories he told seemed to be funnier and more terrible than anything she could imagine, so she wrote them down.

Bantam is Whitebeach’s second young adult novel and her son’s first.

Bantam, by Terry Whitebeach and Michael Brown
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Jinx, by Margaret Wild

Do not love me.
Be warned!
I am Jinx.

Margaret Wild is best known for her award winning picture books, including Fox and Old Pig. In Jinx she makes her debut as a writer of young adult fiction. Readers can only hope that this is a genre she stays with.

Jinx deals with topics not new to YA Fiction – including teenage angst and youth suicide – yet does it in a style which is both refreshing and daring.

Jinx is told in blank verse, which ensures that every word is carefully chosen and loaded with meaning. It also makes the novel a fairly quick read and accessible to readers of all abilities.

Jinx hasn’t always been called Jinx. She used to be called Jen, before she became a Jinx. Now, no one is safe around her. Her parents have split up, her boyfriends are dying. Perhaps everyone should stay away from her.

Jen’s story is a poignant one, dealing with serious topics, yet doing so with a gentle humour which prevents it from being either black or preachy.

Jinx
is excellent both for private reading and for class study, for children aged 14 and over. It is short listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2002.

Jinx, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2001

Finding Grace, by Alyssa Brugman

When Rachel leaves school, she thinks she knows everything there is to know.

But when she meets the mysterious Mr Preston and he offers her a job, she is no longer sure. Her job is to look after Grace – a brain-damaged woman who doesn’t talk. Rachel thinks the job is a wonderful opportunity – she gets to live in a beautfiul house close to Uni, and gets paid for babysitting and a bit of cleaning.

The reality is a little harder. She has to contend with the responsibilities of looking after a once vibrant woman who seems to be no longer able to think for herself, as well as contending with rude neighbours and Grace’s predatory sisters. At the same time she is trying to come to grips with Grace’s past and with her own identity.

This is a book with some intense soul-searching and serious issues, but manages at the same time to be funny, with Rachel’s eccentric almost-adult viewpoint and occasional switches from past to present tense.

A short listed candidate for the 2002 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards (Older Readers Category), Finding Grace will appeal to readers aged sixteen to adult.

Finding Grace, by Alyssa Brugman
Allen & Unwin, 2001

Facetime, by Winnie Salamon

When Esmerelda moves in with Charlotte she’s not sure if she’s done the right thing. The two don’t have much in common. Charlotte takes herself way too seriously and Esmerelda finds her intimidating and aloof.

Charlotte doesn’t hit it off with Esmerelda’s best friend Ned, either. Ned is a hardcore geek who wears flannies and Linux t-shirts and has no sense of style. He loves bad movies and trashy music. Esmerelda thinks he’s great.

When Ned suggests Esmerelda try internet chat rooms she meets and falls for Jack, an American geek who is both charming and mysterious, and who seems to like all the things Esmerelda likes. They share secrets, even passion – so much so that Jack decides to fly to Australia so they can meet.

Is love in a chat room the same as love in real life? Can Jack and Esmerelda sort out the teething problems of their relationship? And what of Ned – how will he feel about this intruder?

If you have ever sung along to 99 Luft balloons or Electric dreams or lip-synched with b-grade horror films, then Facetime is for you. If you haven’t, you will probably find yourself somewhere in this book anyway. Full of geeks and gnomes, and young people finding their way through life, along with inflatable underwear and loads of other weird stuff, this is a fun read for the 16 plus young person (of any age).

Author Winnie Salamon is a writer and freelance journalist who has written about everything from amputee fetishes to Posh Spice. This is her first novel.

This closet geek hopes it won’t be her last.

Facetime, by Winnie Salamon
Allen & Unwin, 2002.

Fifteen Love, by Robert Corbet

When Will sees Mia Foley he is captivated. He thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. But how will he ever get to talk to her and, if he does, what will he say? He has no idea what girls talk about.

Mia is also watching Will. She thinks he might be interesting. She sees him lying on the grass, staring at the sky, and wonders what kind of deep thoughts he might be thinking.

Being in the same school, Mia and Will do cross paths regularly, but it always seems to be awkward. Does a tracksuit-wearing, tennis-playing boy have anything in common with a beautiful viola-playing girl? And where do Mia’s dog Harriet and Will’s wheelchair-bound brother Dave fit in to all this?

When Will is picked up by Mia’s sexy friend Vanessa, it seems there’s no hope for them.

Fifteen Love, new from author Robert Corbett, takes an insightful look at the differences between the sexes and the tricky world of teenage friendship and romance. The novel use of alternating viewpoints allows Corbet to capture the emotions, the confusion, the highs and lows of both Mia and Will.

This is a great fun read for any teenager who has ever fallen in love or who ever dreams of falling in love.

Robert Corbet is a Melbourne author who fell in love with many girls before meeting a girl in pink overalls and eventually settling down and having three children.

Fifteen Love, by Robert Corbet
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Candle Iron, by Sally Odgers

Allyso of Torm is nearly fourteen, but doesn’t look older than eleven. Even those who know her have trouble remembering her age. Yet Allyso is the heir to Torm, and knows she will one day have to lead as Merritt, her uncle, does now.

Merritt is known for his generosity and good nature, but this generosity is pushed too far when a stranger comes to their home. Soon the castle is under siege and Merritt is dying, cursed by the very stranger he so generously gave lodging.

Only the Gem of Time can save Torm and its inhabitants, but Allyso is the only one with opportunity to leave the castle and find the gem, and the sorcerer who can use it, The Master of Time. Does this slip of a girl have the courage and the strength to survive this dangerous quest and save Merritt and her inheritance?

Candle Iron is an outstanding fantasy novel, combining the best elements of the genre – a quest, an adventure, strange and unknown lands, and a satisfying ending. It is little wonder that author Sally Odgers was the recent recipient of the Aurealis Award for Best Long Fiction (Children’s) for this novel.

Although not a sequel, Candle Iron is set in the same reality as two of Ms Odgers earlier books, Amy Amaryllis and Shadowdancers. Though billed as a young adult title, the book will appeal to fantasy lovers of all ages.

Candle Iron, by Sally Odgers
Angus & Robertson (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers), 2001.

Interview With Beverly Paine, Author of The Chimaera Conspiracy

Aussiereviews spoke to new author Beverly Paine about her new novel The Chimaera Conspiracy This is what she had to say.

AUSSIE REVIEWS: How does it feel to see your first novel in print?

BEVERLY PAINE: I am trying not to get over-excited and to take it in my stride, but every one around me, all my friends and family are over the moon. It’s a relief, after all the hard work, to finally hold the novel in my hand, but I haven’t read more than a few pages yet myself. The cover illustration by Perry Mallet is beautiful, just what I imagined. My lifelong ambition was to write science fiction novels and now it’s realised. I like that.

AR: The Chimarea Conspiracy has both an interesting setting and a controversial topic. Where did the idea come from?

BP: My interest in genetic engineering and cloning stems from my adolescent years. I was an avid science fiction writer, but over the last ten years I have followed the scientific developments with interest. The actual idea to set the story underwater came from encouraging my children to enter a short story competition staged by Lego as a promotion of their new Aquazone sets several years ago. As a child one of my favourite television shows was Marineboy, about a boy who could breathe underwater. The Chimaera Conspiracy is a blend of many ideas, nurtured over a lifetime.

AR: Tell us the story of The Chimarea Conspiracy ‘s creation – the process from first idea to publishing. Was it easy?

I began writing in 1995 and worked on the story off and on. Initially I wrote it using a third person and past tense and spent a lot of time working out the back story and the history of the characters. As the story grew I thought I had a trilogy on my hands. I rewrote and polished the first manuscript endlessly, and changed to first person, then finally sent it out to publishers in 1999. It was rejected by one publisher because they didn’t do series, but Jill Morris from Greater Glider Productions read it and offered a contract. Jill suggested a few changes, including a change of tense. Reworking the first chapter in present tense tightened up the story, and brought the main action in the second novel, already written, into the first in a way that surprised and delighted me.

I have learned a great deal about the craft of writing during the process of writing this novel. I think it is the hardest thing I have ever done, the most frustrating and the most exhilarating. I’ve plunged into the depths of depression, doubting myself as a writer, when faced with rewriting major sections; glided on wings of excitement and joy when it all worked well and new ideas or ‘perfect’ sentences appeared on the page; and impatiently waited out writer’s blocks – one went for six months after a major character unexpectedly wrote himself into the story! Greater Glider have worked patiently with me for over two years to produce the best story we could.

AR: As an experienced home school educator, do you have suggestions about how The Chimarea Conspiracy could be used for lessons in literature or other curriculum areas?

BP: I’d like to see young people explore where Katya, Coen and Edan go next – do they keep their heritage a secret and hide from the world, or do they declare their uniqueness and use their extraordinary abilities to help society? What would be the consequences of either action? There is great scope to explore the moral and ethical implications involved with human genetic engineering in the classroom. If my book excites young people to write stories of their own I would be very happy.

AR: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers of young adult fiction?

Don’t spend too much time worrying about publishing during the writing process. Barbara Kingsolver said close the door and write with no one looking over your shoulder. Resist the temptation to put the work ‘out there’, even for feedback from family and friends, until you’re finished the first draft. Don’t even talk about the main ideas or characters unless you really need to – keep the energy bottled up for the fingers to use when playing on the keyboard or on the page.

The Chimaera Conspiracy, by Beverly Paine

My back aches and my body is numb from the vibration of the shuttle’s engines. I lock my right calf muscle, stretch my cramped legs and wince, flexing my foot to alleviate the pain. I’m hurting inside and out. It’s not fair. I don’t want to live on Aquadome.

Katya has never felt as if she belongs – not even in her own family. But at least living on the farm with her Aunt she has known some peace.

Now everything is about to change – she and her siblings are joining her parents in the Aquadome, an underwater research colony. Although she loves her parents, Katya does not want to go, without really understanding why. It has something to do with the dreams she often has – dreams so real she wonders if they are memories. She also hears voices in her head, voices she doesn’t understand.

At the dome, Katya comes into contact with some unusual people – first there’s the head of security, Jerome, who Katya doesn’t trust. Then there’s Coen, the strange boy who can swim with the dolphins.

Between them, these two sweep Katya up into a startling chain of events. As Katya fights for her own life and that of her new friends, she also embarks on a journey of discovery, learning secrets about her past she could never have guessed at.

The Chimaera Conspiracy is an outstanding new young adult novel by Australian author Beverly Paine. Ms Paine hails from South Australia and has previously published books and pamphlets on home schooling.

The Chimaera Conspiracy is part of the successful Storm Glider series of young adult fiction published by Greater Glider Productions.

The Chimaera Conspiracy, by Beverly Paine
Greater Glider, 2002, rrp (AUD) $14.30
ISBN 0947304525

Tev, by Brendan Murray

My parents call me Tev, usually, and Tevita when they’re annoyed with me. There’s been a lot of ‘Tevita’ lately. That’s the reason I’m being packed off to my mum’s family in Tonga, to ‘sort me out’, get rid of a few demons,’ as Dad put it.

Just before his fifteenth birthday, Tev finds himself on a plane bound for Tonga, to stay with his extended family, whom he hasn’t met before. His mother is Tongan and his father Australian, meaning that Tev often feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. In Australia he’s a ‘Choco’, but when he lands in Tonga he stands out as not being the same as other Tongans.

Despite this, his family are delighted to see him – his Uncle Maka, his grandfather Pita, and numerous cousins, all hug him and welcome him into their family life. He is also welcomed by Siale, a beautiful friend of the family who he admires from afar.

Yet, welcomes aside, life in Tonga is not always laid back and simple. He clashes with another family friend, Tui, and has to deal with the culture shock of a whole different way of life, not to mention the forces of a destructive cyclone, a death in the family, his growing feelings for Siale, and more.

Tev is an outstanding story of coming of age, of dealing with being different, and of adventure. It will appeal to both boys and girls of fourteen and over.

Bendan Murray is a Western Australian-born teacher of English, currently based on Christmas Island. Tev is his first novel.

Tev, by Brendan Murray
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002