Summer Skin, by Kirsty Eagar

9781925266924.jpgJess froze. There was a guy. Watching her. Well, technically, he was watching her arse – of all the times to be wearing cut-offs. Worse, the guy in question was probably that guy. She didn’t know what to do, so she did nothing, just stayed in position, her heart racing like a mad thing. Absurdly, she identified LOLO BX playing on the radio and was glad they were getting airplay.
But then he said, ‘Can I help you there?’
Jess turned to look at the speaker, feeling woozy as the blood drained from her head. It was Blondie, all right…

Jess and her friends hate the jocks from Knights College, especially the ones who shamed Jess’s best friend. This year she is out for revenge, and she has a plan. But her target – Blondie, also known as Mitch – might be a little more than she’s bargained for. He’s gorgeous, but he’s arrogant, cold, and has some pretty big chips on his rugby-playing shoulders.

As sworn enemies, Jess and Mitch should have nothing in coming – but they’re both vulnerable, and they’re both searching for something, even though they know that thing does not involve a relationship. So, if they agree to some occasional get togethers with no strings attached, nobody’s going to get hurt. Or are they?

Set in the world of university residential colleges, Summer Skin is, in part, a romance, but it’s anything but typical. Jess is a clever, resourceful girl with a strong group of friends, who knows what she wants in mo0st areas of her life. Mitch is, on the surface, a sexist pig, but it doesn’t take long to realise that he’s hurting and flawed. Both have plenty to learn about the opposite sex, and about relationships, but, perhaps mostly, about themselves.

An outstanding new adult read.

Summer Skin, by Kirsty Eager
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781925266924

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke

The other girls are looking up and laughing, the tension dissolving around them. But it’s not for Sarah. Where Sarah and Tallulah have found themselves in their first year of college is worse than Sarah could ever have been imagined.

AT school Sarah, Tallulah, Jess and Tallulah were inseparable, so when they were all offered places at the same university college, it seemed certain their friendship would continue to flourish. But none of them could have foreseen the way their first year at university would pan out. Sarah’s having relationship trouble with her long-term boyfriend Wil, Paige and Jess hare both keeping secrets about their new crushes, and Tallulah is partying way too hard. Then Sarah finds Paige face down in the university swimming pool, and although she saves her, the months that follow are confusing. Was it a terrible accident, or did someone hurt Paige? Sarah saw something that night, but hasn’t told anyone, for reasons of her own. Then Jess has a fatal accident, and the remaining girls struggle to remain connected.

Pretty Girl is an intriguing blend of thriller and coming of age tale. Told from the dual perspectives of friends Sarah and Paige, readers are able to piece together much of the mystery of what has happened, but at the same time can only guess at how it will end. Alongside the mystery, we see the two girls, and (to a lesser extent) their friends, struggle to find their place in the world. Their friendships, their relationships and their sense of identity are all questioned as they navigate a tumultuous year.

An absorbing read for teens and young adults.


Pretty Girl, J.C. Burke

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781741663136

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Mimosa Tree, by Antonella Preto

‘I’m not miserable,” I say but she is already turning away from me, sliding her handbag up her arm until it gets jammed tight around her flesh. Mum looks like she is about to cry about my pathetic life. ‘I’m fine, Mum,’ I say nodding encouragingly towards the door, and then because she looks so mournful I add: ‘I’ll make some new friends, okay? At university.’

It’s 1987 and Mira has left school behind and is ready to start university. There she is sure her life will be different. She can be who she wants to be. To celebrate she’s got an all-black wardrobe and a new haircut. But her interfering aunt has arranged a new friend for her – the perfect, rich Felicia – and it’s hard to get excited about studying teaching when she only enjoys art. Then there’s her certainty that the world is going to end soon, anyway, when Russia and America decide which of them will drop the first bomb. It’s true, her world IS about to change – but that change won’t come from the skies.

The Mimosa Tree is an outstanding début novel from West Australian author Antonella Preto. Set in the Perth of the 1980s, it is a haunting tale about growing up, finding one’s own identity and surviving adversity. Mira is embarrassed of her Italian family, but as her world collapses she finds a new appreciation of them and of her new friends, too.

The character of Mira is intriguing and the use of first person narration effective. Mira should be unlikeable – she is self-centred, morbid and down right rude to pretty much everyone. But she’s also self-deprecating and honest, so the reader can connect, and see that her flaws hide a troubled teen. She has a lot to deal with – especially her mother’s recent battle with cancer and her alcoholic father’s moodiness. Her bossy Aunt Via wants to run her life, but seems to never have a kind word, and she has no friends except for one foisted on her by her Aunt, and whom Mira feels she has nothing in common with.

Mira’s story will appeal to teens, as well as to those who were teens in the 80s.

The Mimosa Tree, by Antonella Preto
Fremantle Press, 2013
ISBN 9781922089199

Available from good booksellers or here.