A Shadow’s Breath, by Nicole Hayes

‘We need to get out of here,’ Nick says.
Tessa nods gingerly. She must have hit her head at some point; pain like a knife presses behind her ear, and she’s plagued by the constant feeling of battling to stay conscious. She feels trapped and helpless, but she knows they can’t stay in the car.

Tessa’s life has been difficult for a long time: the death of her father when she was just eleven was followed by her mother’s battle with alcohol and an abusive new partner. Lately, though, things have been improving. It’s just Tess and her mum at home, and Tessa has a boyfriend, Nick, who she adores. Now, though, Tessa and Nick are in trouble. A corner taken too fast on an remote road has left them trapped in a car. No body knows where they are, and it’s up to Tess to lead them to safety. Thing is, she isn’t sure that she wants to be found: maybe it is all to hard to carry on.

A Shadow’s Breath is a heart wrenching tale of bravery in the midst of terrible circumstances. Using alternating chapters of ‘Then’ -(Tessa’s life before the accident) and ‘Now’ (the aftermath of the accident, and Tessa’s struggle to find a way out of the wilderness she and Nick have crashed in) the story gradually reveals both what lead to the crash and the days following, inviting readers to unravel events as they gain more understanding.

Both beautiful and heartbreaking, A Shadow’s Breath is a journey readers will be glad they took.

A Shadow’s Breath, by Nicole Hayes
Random House, 2017
ISBN 9780143781097

Thirst, by Lizzie Wilcock

Karanda crawled off Solomon and stood up, dusting herself off. ‘Well, you can’t stay here,’ she said, crossing her arms.
‘It’s not your desert,’ Solomon said, sticking his chin out.
‘No, it’s not my desert,’ she said. ‘But this is my escape. I’m running away. I’m doing it on my own. I won’t make you go back to the road, but you can’t come with me. It will be hard enough taking care of  myself – I don’t want to have to look after a little kid, too.’

Since her mother abandoned her, Karanda has been through a strong of foster homes, and has quickly learnt to rely only on herself. So, when a car crash on the way to her sixth foster home sees her stranded in the desert, she takes the opportunity to run. She is going to escape and start a new life of her own. What she doesn’t count on is pesky eight-year old Solomon wanting to tag along. If only he wasn’t so nice to her all the time, she could leave him behind.

Thirst is a story of survival set in the harsh Australian desert, a setting which is echoed in the harshness of fourteen year old Karanda’s life to date. As Karanda and Solomon set out into the desert, hoping to avoid being found following the crash which has given them freedom, they must battle the elements one would expect to find in the Australian desert – heat, thirst, flood, lack of shelter, hunger and dangerous wildlife. They must also battle their own demons and, at times, each other.

Young readers with an interest in survival stories and adventures will enjoy the story and the bush tucker, and as the characters develop will come to want to see them become friends and, ultimately, find happiness.

Thirst, by Lizzie Wilcock
Scholastic Press, 2015
ISBN 9781742839660&

Stubborn Buggers, by Tim Bowden

…there were far more brutal places than Changi.

While the stories of the suffering and survival of Australians at Changi, the biggest prisoner of war camp on Singapore island, are well known, the stories of Outram Road Gaol are far less so. This was where escapees and traitors were sent, including allied prisoners of war as well as Chinese civilians and even Japanese soldiers. It is estimated that thousands of people died here, many executed, others of malnutrition or disease.

Stubborn Buggers tells the stories of twelve Australian prisoners of war and their experiences in Outram Road Gaol as well as on the Thai-Burma Railway and Sandakan. It is not an easy to read book, because of its subject matter, but it is compelling, sharing not just facts, but stories of survival and perseverance, even humour.

Drawing on extensive interviews with the survivors, this is a moving and important look at a dark piece of history.

 

Stubborn Buggers, by Tim Bowden
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743314425

Available from good bookstores and online.