The Boy/friend, by RM Corbet

Lou and I were out feeding the strays. All the tabbies and flabbies and scrawnies and toms that came by his house in the late afternoon. We were sitting side by side on his front step, watching their little pink tongues lap at the saucers of milk we’d laid out among the mountains of junk on his lawn, listening to their chorus of contented purrs. ‘Can you hear that, Maude? I think it’s an augmented fourth.’
‘Does that mean it sounds like a jazz chord?’
‘For jazz it would be an augmented eleventh.’
‘Okay then.’
Talking to Lou could be like that. He was a musician. Musicians never make any sense when they talk about music. Most times, though, I’d know what Lou was thinking almost before he did; and augmented, diminished, demented or cemented, that flock of lost cats made me smile.

Maude and Lou have been friends forever. They live in the same street and until recently, went to the same school. Now Maude is going to a posh school and has to catch the bus every day. She and Lou might be different, but they are best mates. Well, they were, until Lou asks Maude to the movies and suddenly it’s like the goalposts have been moved. Where Maude was always able to completely relax and be herself around Lou, suddenly she’s over-thinking every word, every sentence, every move. Lou can’t work out what she’s on about and suddenly it’s as if they have no more common language. Then the girls at school, the magnets, suddenly want to be friends. Maude is in, then she’s out, she’s all over the place. Thank goodness for another new friend, Phoebe. Then Maude discovers Phoebe has secrets of her own. Life will never be the same.

Friendships change. That’s a given. But no one gives you the rule book on how these things will pan out. Maude, who has been accustomed to walking a very stable path, is suddenly beset by change. Even the trees at the creek are changing. Cut down. Replaced. And that’s how she’s feeling, without the words to describe it. Maude is lucky though, she has friends both old and new to help (and hinder) her move through this period of change. Through the changes, Maude begins to reassess her relationships and her ability to take some charge. Friendship, family and change are big themes here, all wrapped in a pacy, realistic read. An entertaining new offering in the Girlfriend series from Allen & Unwin. Recommended for early- to mid-secondary readers.

The Boy/friend (Girlfriend Fiction)

The Boy/friend (Girlfriend Fiction), R. M. Corbet
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781742372860

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Three Things About Daisy Blue, by Kate Gordon

Three things you should know:
1. This wasn’t my idea.
2. I am doing this under duress.
3. I don’t like you.
–Daisy Blue.

There are three things Daisy Blue does not want to do. She does not want to go to Bali. She does not want to keep a diary. And she does not want to spend time with Paulina Gifford. In contrast, Paulina Gifford is delighted to be going to Bali. She’s also happy to keep a journal, noting her research findings while she’s there. But she doesn’t want to spend time with Daisy any more than Daisy want to spend time with her.

Still, the pair’s mothers work together and the trip to Bali is an important part of that work, so it is inevitable that they’ll both go, and that they’ll spend time together – yet neither really expects that by their end of their visit they might actually find something in common.

Three Things About Daisy Blue is a funny, upbeat, downright cool debut novel from Tassie-based author Kate Gordon. Daisy and Paulina are as likeable as they are different, and the reader will cheer for them both as the story unfolds and their differences and similarities both become clearer.

Part of the Girlfriend fiction series, Three Things About Daisy Blue is a wonderful offering for teen readers.

Three Things About Daisy Blue

Three Things About Daisy Blue, by Kate Gordon
Allen & Unwin, 2010
ISBN 9781742372129

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Thirteen Pearls, by Melaina Faranda

Out of the evening shadows two faces looked down at me. Both young men. Both good looking. One Eurasian face with olive skin and dark eyes. The other haloed by a wild mane of hair. He was trying not to laugh.
‘I’m fine,’ I said. I wanted to cry.

Edie Sparks has a dream. She wants to sail solo around the world. But first she needs to finish her boat and, for that, she needs money. So when her long lost uncle offers her a job babysitting his four year old son over the summer, she jumps at the chance.

Soon she is on a tiny island off the coast of Far North Queensland, battling a seemingly uncontrollable child and a sullen, controlling uncle. The only bright side of the island are the two workers – Kaito and Leon.

Thirteen Pearls , part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, is a pleasing blend of adventure, romance and personal development. Whilst Edie learns, through trial and error, to care for and control her young charge, she also learns a lot about herself. At the same time, the story is liberally sprinkled with humour, with Edie a wry first person narrator.

An absorbing read.

Thirteen Pearls (Girlfriend Fiction), by Melaina Faranda
Allen & Unwin, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dear Swoosie, Kate Constable & Penni Russon

Dear Swoosie,
I was thinking about what you said all the way home. Of course I trust you!!!! I can’t believe you need to ask. It’s just that after all this time, I’d almost given up hope that I would find anybody special. I’m so scared that talking about it, even thinking about it, will jinx it and it (he!!) will slip away before anything has a chance to happen. So please forgive me for not wanting to talk about it out loud. (Because you never know who might be listening!) But I know I CAN trust you not to tell anyone. So yes, it’s true, (here goes, deep breath):
I think I might be in love!!
But you already guessed that.

India has skills which help her to predict the future, and Poppy is trying to change her past, but they have nothing in common. Until they land themselves in trouble and have to clean out the school attic together as punishment. Among the dusty boxes and old school play props, they find a bundle of old letters and can’t help but read them. Who is the mysterious Swoosie, and what connection does she have to the girls? As they find out, the pair find themselves working together to try to heal old wounds.

Dear Swoosie is a story about the challenges and the joys of teenage friendship, as well as about love and about family relationships. Written by the talented pairing of Kate Constable and Penni Russon, and using a combination of alternating first person narrators and letter format, this is another wonderful addition to the Girlfriend Fiction series.

Dear Swoosie (Girlfriend Fiction), by Kate Constable & Penni Russon
Allen & Unwin, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Little Bird, by Penni Russon

I was curled up in the seat by the window. Out in the street a little bird bounced along the footpath, pecking up invisible crumbs. It didn’t seem to care about the world around it – the busy shopping strip and the people dashing by. It just hopped out of the way and kept pecking, as if it didn’t even know how small and crushable it was. The more I watched it, the more sure I became that someone would tread on it. A small child raced along the footpath, and a big red-faced woman laden with shopping backs lumbered after him. Suited men in shiny shoes and suited women in dangerous high heels hurried past the window. Two women walked side by side, pushing big-wheeled prams. A young guy loped past, his head tilted upwards, as if waiting for something to fall out of the sky. None of the passers-by seemed aware of the little bird’s existence. If I were a bird I’d fly all the time. I’d never come down to the ground.

Year 11 student, Ruby-Lee is stuck in a bit of a rut and unfortunately it’s not even a comfortable rut. Her sister, Shandra, has transformed into Bridezilla, her father has remarried and has a new baby, her best friend dishes out doses of friendship tied tight with strings. When her sister offers her as babysitter for Maisy, daughter of chief bridesmaid, Colette, Ruby-Lee is cross and uncertain. But Maisy quickly wins her heart. When the one-off becomes a regular gig, Ruby-Lee quickly falls madly in love with this gorgeous baby. Then Spence, Maisy’s father and also at teacher at Ruby-Lee’s school turns up. Things start to get more complicated as Spence’s mother arrives, Shandra’s wedding is called off and Colette starts to stay out later and later. Ruby-Lee has to navigate her way past the morass of other people’s problems to sort out just who she is and where she’s going.

It’s hard to know the answers when you don’t understand the questions. Ruby-Lee’s life is like that. She can’t articulate what’s missing in her life, only that something is. She tells her story in first person and the reader weaves through the narrative with her as she bumps and grinds her way through with little sense of where she’s going. Her parents’ divorce and subsequent repartnering initially appear to have little effect on her, yet the changes brought are at least partly responsible for continuing the friendship with Tegan. The only good part of the friendship seems to be its longevity. Her sister’s volatility seems to have its basis in the same unacknowledged insecurity. There are many relationships on show here, some functional, others less so. Only by watching closely those around her can Ruby-Lee begin to address her English essay topic, ‘What is Love?’ Recommended for secondary-aged readers.

Little Bird (Girlfriend Fiction)

Little Bird (Girlfriend Fiction), Penni Russon
Allen&Unwin 2009
ISBN: 9781741758641

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Something More, by Mo Johnson

‘Where is she, Isla?’
Terry barged her way into my room, slamming the door so violently that Mr Jingles the sting puppet fell to the floor in a tangled heap.
‘What have you done with Mitsy, you cow?’
Ignoring her, I began to do a mental count. By three she was fuming. By eight, her skull was about to blow off. I leant back in my chair, ready to say the last digit out loud. ‘Tenahhh!’ Unfortunately, I overbalanced and crashed to the ground. That’s the trouble with wheelie chairs: they’re great for spinning, but the minute you get the loading wrong you’re road kill.

A year ago, Isla and her family moved from Scotland to Australia. Mum and Dad are settled, her combative just-younger sister Terry can almost talk Australian, but Isla is still struggling. She misses her feisty, advice-wielding grandmother and her best friend. She also misses Brian, her old boyfriend. She said it would be easier for them to have a clean break an no contact. Add to that the fact that everything here seems to revolve around swimming pools and she can’t swim. Isla feels she is living a half-life. Her physical self might be here, but her heart is ever-winging its way back to all she left behind. Not that there aren’t potential compensations here. Her art class is great, and includes Sam (dreamy boy) and Jack (intriguing boy). But then Terry reveals a serious secret, one too big for her to manage alone. It’s time for Isla to make some decisions about how and where she belongs.

Something More is about coming to terms with life changes. At a time when every teenager is struggling to make sense of their lives, their selves, when every decision seems super-important, Isla discovers that some decisions are more significant than others. Isla tells her story in first person, but others offer their perspective very clearly in their direct speech and their actions. Isla’s view of the world, and her place in it, opens up through the novel. It’s clear to the reader from the beginning that her personality is a strong one and her perspective true, but Isla herself takes her time to grow into her new skin…to become something more. There are elements of early romance in this and other Girlfriendfiction titles but there is much more. The plot is fast-moving and realistic. Although much of the drama involves Terry, it’s is Isla’s journey and she keeps the reader close by her the entire time. Recommended for early- to mid-secondary readers.

Something More (Girlfriend Fiction)

Something More (Girlfriend Fiction), Mo Johnson
Allen&Unwin 2009
ISBN: 9781741755282

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Winter of Grace, by Kate Constable

It wasn’t possible that Jay could like me better than Stella – Stella’s the pretty one. I’m short and frizzy-haired and just generally blah. Maybe he was concussed and he’d mixed up our names. That would be it.

Bridie and Stella have been best friends for ever, and nothing is going to change that. So, as war looms, they are united in their opposition, and attend a peace rally. But when they rescue a boy who is attacked at the rally it starts a chain of events which sees their friendship threatened.

Jay, the boy they rescue, seems to be attracted to Bridie – but is Stella who always gets the boys. There is more. Jay is a committed Christian, and as Bridie gets to know him and his religion, the strain it places on her friendship with Stella is immense. Bridie isn’t even sure she can be friends with Stella any more.

Winter of Grace explores issues of friendship, religion, and family relationships, as Bridie struggles in her search for meaning to life and a need to belong. Both her friend Stella and her mother have issues with organised religion, and Bridie is pressured by the opposing views of those two and of her new friends. Author Constable is to be commended for exploring an issue not often covered in teen fiction and for avoiding being prescriptive or simplistic in the resolution.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, and with a romantic element, Winter of Grace will appeal to teen girls.

Winter of Grace (Girlfriend Fiction)

Winter of Grace, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Big Sky, by Melaina Faranda

I drifted off, worn out from the long day. From the swag close to mine there was a soft, male sigh. My eyes fluttered open. Dan. Then I crashed.

Skye isn’t happy when she finds out it is up to her to lead the annual muster on her family’s Kimberley cattle station. She was supposed to be partying with her friend Aria. But dad has broken his leg, and Mum is overseas on a business trip, so Skye finds herself on a plane home from boarding school and in charge of a group of mostly in experienced station hands.

One of the musterers, however, is experienced – and, to top it off, totally gorgeous. Dan seems interested in her, too, but as leader of the muster, Skye can’t let her attraction – or her hot temper – get the better of her.

Big Sky is part romance, part adventure, in a mix that will appeal to teen readers. Set in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and including dingoes, crocodiles, cattle chases and more, there is much to interest readers who may be unfamiliar with station life, but also plenty to which they can relate, including the problems of teen friendship and first romance.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, Big Sky is a gripping read.

Big Sky (Girlfriend Fiction)

Big Sky, by Melaina Faranda
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Cassie, by Barry Jonsberg

I’m Holly Holley and I’m short, I’m ugly and I’m overweight. I have only one friend in the world and she cares more about books than boyfriends. And now I’m lying in a strange room while strangers lie in mine. And they’re the reason I’ve blown my chances with Demi.
It’s not fair.

Holly Holley has an embarrassing name and terrible life. She’s overweight, unattractive, and not in with the right crowd. The boy she fancies doesn’t even know she exists. And, as if all that isn’t enough, now her household is being turned upside down by the arrival of her aunt and a cousin she doesn’t know. Cassie, the cousin, has severe cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to communicate with anyone other than her mother. Holly has to give up her room for Cassie and her mother, and move into the tiny, smelly spare room. Everything about her life is unfair – until the coolest girl at school, Demi, decides to take Holly under her wing. She is going to help Holly transform herself. But will that transformation come at a cost?

Cassie is a story about friendship, loyalty and self image, and also explores issues including disability and honesty. Whilst this seems a big list of topics, the story is also a fun read, and not overly-complex. The use of differing perspectives – including those of Holly and Cassie, and their mothers, Fern and Ivy – allows plenty of insights into the motivations and dilemmas of all characters, and it is especially intriguing to be offered the perspective of Cassie, who, unable to speak, could so easily be simply a token character in the book but who is, as the use of her name for the title suggests, integral to the story. Whilst Holly faces problems many teen readers will relate to – peer pressure, friendship and boy problems and so on – Cassie’s challenges are huge, but rather than this making her unable to relate to Holly’s problems, they enable her to empathise and connect with her cousin.

Part of the girlfriend fiction, Cassie will appeal to teen readers.

Cassie, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2008

Bookmark Days, by Scot Gardner

My name is Avril. This story is about me and my cousin Katie, who is from another planet. My planet is run by sheep, hers is run by fashion. You’ll also meet our families, a few horses and dogs, and one seriously hot guy.

Avril Stanton lives a quiet, isolated life. She lives so far from her nearest town that she doesn’t even go to school. In between doing correspondence lessons, she helps on the family farm, with her parents, grandparents and little brother. In contrast, her cousin Katie lives in the city and always has at least one boy on the go. But in spite of their differences, the two are best friends, and Avril can’t wait for Katie’s annual visit.

But this year things are different. Katie is driving Avril crazy with her nonstop talk about boys and boyfriends. Avril has never been in love – but has just met her neighbour, Nathaniel, who would be perfect if he wasn’t a Carrington, from the one family Avril is supposed to hate. Avril finds herself jealous of Katie’s confidence and ease with boys, and wonders if their friendship is in trouble.

Bookmark Days is a story about friendship and first relationships, as well as family structure and loyalty. As Avril and Katie deal with their own problems, they are also affected by the strain between Avril’s family and the neighbouring Carringtons, a feud which spans three generations, and have to realise that insecurity and relationship problems are not just the domain of the young.

Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, Bookmark Days Deals with issues which many teens will face, with the rural setting and city/country contrast providing a novel setting.

Bookmark Days, by Scot Gardner
Allen & Unwin, 2009