What Willow Knew, by June Colbert

My name is Sarah Carter, and, when I was sixteen, my aunt disappeared.
Missing presumed dead, was how the police put it. .
My beloved auntie and legal guardian, missing, presumed dead? .
Don’t think so! Not my Willow! .
She was too smart and tough to get killed. She was too paranoid to get killed.

Sarah is seventeen and has lived with her unconventional aunt Willow since her mother died five years ago. Willow used to be a hippy and is still slightly less than conventional. But with her disappearance, Sarah has to move in with her father, his second wife and their family. Sarah still blames Sandy, her stepmother, for the break-up of her parents’ marriage. Moving in with them, sharing a room with ‘the baby’, just makes Sarah more determined to find her aunt and to get her life back. With the help of two friends, the mysterious ‘Hawk’ and an old diary, Sarah discovers more about her aunt’s past. She also hopes to find clues that might lead her to Willow.

What Willow Knew is an intriguing title and this is an intriguing read. The central story question is very clear. What did Willow know and does it have anything to do with her disappearance? Sarah’s childhood has moved in roughly five year stages. First she lives with her parents, then with her mother after her parents’ divorce, then with Willow until her disappearance. When What Willow Knew begins, Sarah is entering a new stage – post-Willow’s disappearance. As well as searching for her aunt, Sarah has a lot of adjusting to do. She has little understanding of, or empathy for, the effect the changes to her life have on others around her. Only as she learns more about her aunt, and realises that she may not come back, does she slowly develop new relationships with her ‘new’ family. Themes of loss, adjustment and family structures sit next to power, corruption, conspiracy theories and long-kept secrets. The reader moves back and forth from the present to the 30-years-ago world of the university student Willow, until the two worlds connect across time. Recommended for upper-primary to mid-secondary students.

What Willow Knew

What Willow Knew, June Colbert
Lothian 2007
ISBN: 9780734409973

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

Volcano, by June Colbert

There are at least ten ways for a volcano to kill you.
The most obvious, being overtaken by lava, is actually the least common.

Sara’s dad is a Meatball. His job entails climbing inside volcanoes to see whether or not they are going to erupt. He thrives on the adrenalin rush which danger brings. Sara travels with her dad and his colleagues wherever there are volcanoes. When they are sent to South America to study Mount Cumbal, they are disappointed. Cumbal is quiet and sleepy. There’s no way it’s going to explode.

To make matters worse, Sara and the other teenagers in the group have been enrolled at the International School in the nearby town, where the other students, and even the staff, resent their presence. When some of these students decide to show Sara and her friends that Mount Cumbal is no threat, they put everyone’s lives at risk.

Volcano is an exciting teen novel, with a mix of action and issue. The focus on a live volcano will prove informative for many readers, providing an interesting and unusual setting. Problems of teen bullying, self esteem and responsibility are explored but not in such a way as to feel forced on the reader.

Suitable for readers aged 12 and over.


Volcano, by June Colbert
Lothian, 2007

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Last Boy, by June Colbert

There MUST be some other people. There have to be.
I can’t be the last living boy.
Why would I be?
I’m too ordinary to be the last surviving person.

Ben is sick of his family ignoring him, so he runs away and hides out in their bomb shelter. Surely they will miss him and come looking for him. But when they don’t come, Ben decides to head back into town. Only town is unlike anything he could have imagined – all the people have gone, dead people filling cars on the highway, and all the shops and businesses locked up. How could he have missed the Last Official Day? And how will he survive on his own?

The Last Boy is a diary format story which explores a frightening future where mankind finally drives itself towards extinction with the use of chemical and germ warfare. The use of the diary format makes it both personal and easily accessible, and also adds a touch of humour in the face of some pretty frightening events. The narrator is a believable fourteen year old boy who speaks with candour to his diary (and, hence, to the reader).

This is a thought-provoking read which is suitable for teens of all reading abilities and would make a great classroom novel.

The Last Boy, by June Colbert
Lothian, 2006