Chess Nuts, by Julia Lawrinson

Jackson wanted to come back in, sit down, and blitz them all, but how could he? Everyone knew Jackson was the best athlete in the school, and why would someone like that hang around the chess room? Jackson could imagine what Flash Buckley would think if he saw Jackson with the Chess Nuts.
I’ll show them, Jackson decided.
Just not today.

Jackson is sporty and popular. He wins everything – and people are happy to see him win. But suddenly the thought of winning isn’t as enticing as it used to be.

Anna isn’t good at sport, but she is good at chess. She is the number one player in the A-team. Then Jackson turns up to chess, and Anna is not happy. He is good at everything else – why would he want to muscle in on Anna’s territory? As the chess season continues, however, both children find they have plenty to learn from each other.

Chess Nuts is an absorbing read for middle and upper primary aged readers. The focus on chess will intrigue both chess-mad readers, and those new to the game. It is wonderful to see an unsporty sport profiled, and the use of chess-board layouts to illustrate games or moves throughout the book is a wonderful addition.

Author Lawrinson is perhaps better known for her edgy young adult novels, but when she writes for younger readers she does it well.

Chess Nuts

Chess Nuts, by Julia Lawrinson
Penguin, 2010

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Bad Bad Thing, by Julia Lawrinson

You could hardly blame my mother for not having been model parent material. Given that she practically had to rent a room at my primary school for all the ‘discussions’ she was called in for, Mum was on edge with me a fair bit. She didn’t understand why I couldn’t restrain myself from committing the kinds of acts that led to those ‘discussions’, and I couldn’t explain it to her.

Seb has always been a difficult child. She is late for class, gets into trouble with teachers and fights with her mother constantly. But when she gets involved with the school bad girl, Bonnie, her past seems tame indeed.

Bonnie is the self-crowned Queen of the school and she will stop at nothing to stay that way. When Bonnie’s boyfriend, Alex, dumps her for the new girl, Rachel, Bonnie is determined to get retribution. Seb is involved because she just happens to live next door to Alex and is also best friends with Bonnie’s sister Lavinia.

Seb knows that getting involved with Bonnie is not a good idea, but she doesn’t even begin to imagine how horrible the consequences will be.

Bad Bad Thing is a fairly intense novel for teen readers about loyalty, inegrity and bullying. Author Julia Lawrinson creates a scenario that will have readers squirming as they follow a plot too horrible to be true and yet frighteningly real.

Lawrinson’s characters are skilfully rendered with flaws and foibles that are believable. All except the nasty Bonnie and her equally horrible mother have both positive and negative traits. Seb is somewhat self-focussed and rash, but we see her grow through the book and learn from her mistakes. Her friend Lavinia is the nicest girl in the school and shows courage and integrity throughout, yet finds it hard to be there for Seb, perhaps because of her own problems. Seb’s mother may not know how to deal with her unruly daughter, yet when things turn bad, she is there to offer support.

The plot is gripping, with a sprinkling of humour, some dark, dark depths and a dash of optimism.

High school aged readers will be drawn into this story and will like that Lawrinson has left them to draw their own conclusions about some of the issues covered.

Compulsive reading.

Bad Bad Thing, by Julia Lawrinson
Lothian, 2005

Loz & Al, by Julia Lawrinson

Loz (her real name is Laura, but no one calls her that) has a great best friend, Al (Alice) and belongs to a group of future stars – the Teen Queens. Soon she’ll be finished primary school and starting high school. All in all, life is pretty good. Until her Mum decides to leave home and her best friend decides to hate her.

Suddenly Loz’s life is upside down. Nothing is as it should be and she feels powerless to get it back on track.

Loz finds help and answers from the people and places she least expects.

Loz & Al is a rich mix of humour and heartache, of harsh reality and happy endings. Author Julia Lawrinson blends these seeming opposites to perfection, weaving a story that young readers can both believe in and enjoy.

Already an award-winning writer of young adult titles, this is Lawrinson’s first children’s novel (aimed at the 10-12 year old age group). It is sure to be equally as succesful.

Loz & Al, by Julia Lawrinson
Fremantle Arts Centre press, 2004