Katherine is just like any other eighteen year old – she has dreams and she has insecurities. Still, she is keenly aware that she doesn’t look like other eighteen year olds. An accident at the age of three has left her with severe burn scars.
At times Katherine believes that no one else can possibly understand her problems, but as she deals with them and grows, she learns to communicate – with those around her and with herself. She faces her troubles with dignity and with humour, refusing to give in to self pity.
Butterflies is a superb young adult novel. Author Susanne Gervay has a wonderful talent for creating stories which explore serious issues with a perfect blend of humour and empathy, of detail and entertainment. Her books don’t hold back from the truth, but are positive and uplifting.
Butterflies is an inspirational novel by an inspirational author.
Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay
Angus & Robertson, 2001
Sam isn’t keen on going on school camp. For eight days he and a group of boys he doesn’t particularly like are going to trek through the bush, over mountains and even into caves, on a survival camp that is supposed to be a physical and personal challenge.Sam’s friends are in a different group and he has nothing in common with the ones he’s with.
The camp has all the challenges Sam expects – no toilets or showers, gruelling walks, not enough decent food – and plenty that he doesn’t. As well as dealing with these, he must also deal with the memories evoked by the camp – memories of happier times, camping in the bush with his grandfather before he died. The camp will reveal many things he didn’t know before, about himself and about the people around him.
The Cave is much more than a story about a school camp. It is an exploration of modern male youth culture. Violence, bullying, drugs and sex mingle with more positive elements such as mateship and loyalty. As Sam learns, so does the reader.
Susanne Gervay has a style which allows readers inside the minds and emotions of her teen characters to reach understanding of the complexities of their lives. Teen readers will learn and grow, but there is much here for older readers as well.
The Cave, by Susanne Gervay
Angus and Robertson (An imprint of Harper Collins), 2002.
Megan is one of the leaders of the ‘in’ group. They do everything together, moving in a pack and thinking in a pack. She can’t imagine what it would be like not to be popular. Perdita, on the other hand, has no friends. She is so different that Megan’s group call her ‘the Freak.’ These two girls have nothing in common.
When Megan and Perdita find themselves together on detention, Megan finds herself getting to know and almost like Perdita. Perdita teaches Megan about poetry and about a whole different side of life. Megan shows Perdita what a family is like. Ultimately, though, Megan has to choose between her ‘old’ friends and the popularity of the group and her almost-friend Perdita. It seems a simple decision, but Megan’s choice will have shocking consequences.
Walking Naked is the second novel for talented young writer, Alyssa Brugman. Her first novel, Finding Grace found critical acclaim and made the shortlist of the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards. Walking Naked is sure to draw similar praise. It has a skillful balance of humour, insight and tragedy, making it both entertaining and shocking.
This is a must read for every teenager.
Walking Naked, by Alyssa Brugman
Allen & Unwin, 2002
Kathleen’s life is without purpose. Her Mother, who never wanted her, has recently married and, as well as a step-father, she now has a little ‘sister’, Sally. To top it off she has just started at private girls school, where she is mostly alone and unliked.
When the serpent comes to beckon her with promises of happiness, she is lured by his talk of death. Suicide, she thinks, will put an end to all this. But another animal comes too – a nightingale which she will hear sing if only she can be patient.Kathleen will have to choose -the comfort of death with the serpent, or the comfort of life with the nightingale.Neither offers a quick path to happiness.
Listen for the Nightingale is a gentle young adult novel which looks at the issue of suicide as well as those of family, friednship and child abuse, among others. Whilst being challenging and thought provoking it is not a dark or depressing story. What is offer is an insight into the thoughts and life of one teenager with problems which lead her to consider suicide.
Listen for the Nightingale, with its ultimate message of hope, is a novel which would be well suited to classroom study, but is equally valuable for personal reading.
Zenda Vecchio is a South Australian author. Listen for the Nightingale is her first published novel.
Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio
Greater Glider Productions, 2002
A girl lost in the outback, a group of boys raising a pair of undies on the school flagpole, an Italian youth migrating to Australia – subjects as diverse as the young writers who chose them. What binds these stories however, is their quality and the fact that they were written for entry into the annual Tim Winton Young Writers Competition.
Following the success of the first compilation of prize-winning stories from the contest, Destination Unknown (2001), Life Bytes brings together 13 first class stories. At times it is hard to remember the stories were written by primary aged children – with both the subject matter and the writing style often showing a maturity unexpected in pre-teens.
The Tim Winton Award, sponsored annually by the City of Subiaco, offers children across the Perth metropolitan area the chance to develop and demonstrate their creative writing abilitites. Life Bytes, showcasing some of the best entries submitted in the award’s ten-year history, is a great read, especially for those who work with young people.
Editor Alwyn Evans is a contest judge and editor and author of children’s books.
Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans,
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002
The wall of ice that surrounds Antaris is impenetrable. No one can get in or out of the land without the powerful chantments of the priestesses who live within the wall. So, when Calwyn finds an unconcious stranger lying inside the great wall, she can’t believe her eyes. Somehow this stranger has achieved the impossible.
Calywn decides to help the man, and is drawn into the biggest adventure of her life – a quest which may impact not only on her own future, but on that of the whole of Tremaris.
With Darrow (the injured man) she meets and journeys with Tonno and Xanni, fisherman brothers, Mica, who can call the wind, Halasaa, who can talk to the beasts without words, and young Trout. Together the group hopes to defeat the evil sorcerer Samis, who seeks to master all Nine mystical powers of Chantment and so be the Singer of All Songs, and ruler of Tremaris.
This refreshing fantasy is a gripping read, with appeal to both female and male readers, from teen to adult.
Kate Constable has previously had stories published in various literary magazines. This is her first novel.
The Singer of All Songs, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2002
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
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
Do not love me.
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
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