Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, & Deborah Biancotti. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2015.
There is a saying that says you can go from hero to zero in a matter of moments. You could say that about the six teenagers with special powers who are the main characters in this first of three novels for teens. The teenagers have super powers but there is a price to pay.
The group are loosely connected and haven’t seen each other for about a year due to Ethan aka Scam. He has a voice inside him that reflects his wants and desires but with incredible knowledge about anybody he speaks to. He knows them intimately and can disarm and enrage them in one conversation and can con his way out or into anything.
It is Scam who prompts all the action after conning a drug thug out of a duffle bay full of money then being in a bank robbery while trying to deposit the money. Scam calls on Nate Bellwater called Glorious Leader because of his power to organise and placate things, to help him out.
Nate calls on Chizara aka Crash to spring Scam from jail with her powers to shut down any electronic software in a building. She is assisted by Flicker a blind girl who can see through other peoples eyes and together they create chaos.
Scam needs to hide and does so with Thibault or Anonymous who has the power to be forgotten by anyone who connects with him.
The last of the Zeroes is Kelsie who has the power to take control over crowds. She is aware of her powers but has not met the other Zeroes and they are not aware of her.
Thrilling action as the Zeroes get together. Three authors and you cannot tell which of them is writing which parts. All three are great writers and while this is a long book it is easy to read in short sharp chapters with great dialogue and fast moving action.
A totally unique idea with a sequel titled Swarm already out and a third part Nexus out this year. Readers of action will love this series.
The Devil You Know by Leone Norrington. Pub. Allen & Unwin 2009.
Amazingly the Australian author who wrote this novel is hardly known in New Zealand but she should be. I have heard of the Barrumbi Kids but never read it.
I guess she writes about Australian stuff but the themes of this novel are universal and powerfully presented by Leone Norrington. So powerful in fact that some adults may balk at giving it to their intermediate and high school kids to read. They shouldn’t.
Damien lives with his mother, he is about 12 years old, they live in rough household conditions in the Northern Territory where the pub is the centre of life and a host of weird characters coast around. Damien’s mom is terrific with great values and a big heart. Damien loves her to bits and is very protective of her.
Damien’s father is a different kettle of fish. He is a biker with the number 88 as his monika. He rides a Harley and has just come back into Damien’s life after a separation caused by physical abuse of Damien’s mother.
Damien hates him but has to adjust because his mother says his father has a good heart and it was the booze that caused the problem. She has a drink problem too
But 88 wants to give it a good shot and seems to be doing the right thing. Damien is not so sure and his art work throughout the novel reflects his anxieties.
For Damien his life is centered at school and issues like bullying are big here. The teachers and Principal are mostly terrific but there is the issue of sexual abuse to contend with. Brilliantly written and easy to read. I was intrigued from start to finish. It starts and finishes with superb art work. Boys will love it and it has a positive ending.
No One Here Gets out Alive by Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugerman. Pub. Plexus Publishing, 1980.
A journalist once wrote “the Beatles and the Stones are for blowing your mind: the Doors are for afterwards, when your mind is already gone“. This biography comes under the same category.
I loved the Doors music and the image of Jim Morrison as it was revealed to us then, but I really didn’t know the truth about him and I guess most of it has gone to the grave. I visited his grave at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris in 2004. It was hard to find and a bit of a let down, but I hummed Riders on the Storm to myself and wondered.
This book pulls no punches and much if it is based on anecdotal stories from his friends, his women and from his younger brother. Surprisingly nothing from Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger or John Densmore his fellow Doors.
The story however is gripping and riveting and is told in three parts with image of a bow being draw, the arrow flying and dropping to the ground. A full discology of the Doors songs, when they were played, how they were recorded and Morrison’s behaviour throughout.
All the major events at concerts including his arrest for lewd behaviour are recounted and the drugs and booze extravagances that Morrison put himself through. The best part for me is the analysis of the songs that evolved from his poetry and the extraordinary imagery that Morrison gave to his writing. The title is a line from the anti war song Unknown Soldier. Morrison wanted to be taken seriously but his destructive behaviour prevented him being bigger and better than he was.
In the end Jim Morrison was a poet but lived a rock star life. It destroyed him. Read for yourself. He was the third member of the 27 club after Hendrix and Joplin. He knew them both.His death was controversial but if anybody could have faked it, it was Jim Morrison.
Boy X by Dan Smith. Pub Chicken House, 2016.
This is an easy to read action/ survival thriller set in a research Lab on an island covered in a deadly jungle.It is aimed at high school students and intermediate aged readers
Ash is about 16 years old and he awakes in a bed in the research laboratory with memories of a man called Thorn having stabbed him in the neck with a needle. He goes looking for his scientist mother and stumbles into a heap of action including a helicopter crash.
He meets Isabel, an Hispanic girl whose father is also a scientist and together they make their way to the laboratory where Ash’s mother and Isabel’s father are sealed in. They learn that both have been injected by a lethal virus called Kronos which has the potential to destroy the World.
Fortunately there is an antidote but some villains have taken both the virus and antidote and fled across the dense jungle to a boat on the other side of the island. Isabel and Ash need to stop the virus from leaving the island and to get back to their mother and father to give them the antidote.
They have 24 hours to do so. The countdown is on, the psychopathic Thorn is after them, and the jungle has terrors of its own. Not only that, Ash has developed heightened senses and can see, hear and smell things miles away. He is also stronger, heals quickly and can move like a vampire.
Read the rest and find out what happens. It is thrilling.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Pub. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016.
This excellent novel for intermediate and junior secondary students is one that will evoke every emotion that you have. You will by happy, sad, joyful, angry, frustrated, disbelieving and everything else.
Set in London and the countryside between 1939 and 1940 during the phoney war in which not much happened, until the retreat from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain.
Ada is 10 years old although she doesn’t know this. She has a clubfoot which has never been treated and gives her enormous pain. She cannot walk and gets around on her backside and her knees. Her mother is a horrible woman who says she is cursed by the devil and that she is too disgusting to mix with other people. She is not.
Ada has a brother Jamie who is about six and goes to school. Ada looks after him although she can never leave the house. Both children are physically and emotionally beaten and are traumatised by their poverty and treatment from their mother.
When the children of London are evacuated to the country by Government decree Ada and Jamie are allocated to a wonderful woman called Susan who has to deal with their trauma. She educates them and heals the wounds in this stunning story that will eat into your soul. Not unlike Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr Tom.
Easy to read with short chapters and you can’t help but be with the children all the way. This book was recommended to me by Elizabeth Cross from St Margaret’s College and everything she told me about this book was true. Thank you Elizabeth.
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. Pub. Penguin Books, 2016.
This superb young adult novel about awakening is one that you will never forget.
The novel begins with a letter to Flora from her mother. It tells Flora she is 17 years old and that when she was ten she had a tumour taken from her brain and with it the memory of everything that has happened since. It also says she has a friend Paige and that she (Flora) will always live with her parents who will care for her and keep her safe.
Is this true?
At a party everything that Flora has known is dramatically changed when Paige’s boyfriend Drake, a total scoundrel, kisses her in a way that she remembers and can never forget. Like Sleeping Beauty she awakens to a confused life she never knew and with a memory that gives her hope and life.
Flora lives from day to day by writing important things on her arms and in a book, but this is sorely tested when her parents leave for Paris to look after an older brother that Flora never knew existed.
Flora comes off her medication and embarks on a journey to the North Pole to find the boy who kissed her, in the hope that he will spark further memories. The adventure is stunning and Flora meets some wonderful people during the journey while discovering everything she has been told is not as it seems. Be Brave Flora.
The best novel I have read this year. Superbly structured in three parts and narrated by Flora in a manner that reflects her medical condition.
The ending is hopeful and tells much about the human condition. Unforgettable and believable. Due for release 3 January 2017