The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.
It is Spring break in America and while all of 16 year old Starr’s friends are talking about going to Taipei, the Bahamas and Harry Potter World she watches a cop kill her childhood friend and has his blood spill all over her.
Yes this is a tough book but it is essential that stories like this are told and the dangers of racism are seen for what they are. The story clearly grew out of events in USA that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement and it is difficult to see a more powerful novel about this topic come out anywhere in the World this year. It will stun you.
Khalil is also 16 years old he runs with the gangs because he has to. His mother is a Meth freak. He sees no other alternative, she needs help. Starr was his childhood friend and he takes her to a party where shots are fired, some boy is killed and on the car ride away from the party they are pulled over by the cop who kills Khalil.
Starr’s father has experienced the gang life, served jail time and now runs a store and taken his family away from that life. Starr goes to an essentially white school where if the white boys talk street slang they are cool but if the black girl does she is “hood”.
Starr also has a white boyfriend.
This powerful novel looks at the killing and asks questions about justice and racism. It also looks at the families of those living in the “hood” and their options in life. It is easier for them to find crack than it is to find a good school.
The way this story is spun by the different sides seems typical of Trump’s America where false news dominates and spin is more important than truth. As an Australian mate of mine said “this is a flamin’ good story”.
Senior fiction and Young Adult. It is simply written with the dialogue between characters superb. The phrase “stank Eye” really tickled me. If you don’t know it I bet you feel the same. The title comes from a rap by Tupac Shakur, put the first letter of each word of the title together and you get THUG. You will kick yourself if you miss this one.
Too Right Boy by M.O. Chamberlain. Pub. SHIHvillage publications. raewyn@247PR.co.nz. 2016
A self published novel about a road trip by grandfather Harry aged 80’s and his grandson Brad aged 12 years. A road trip that is life changing for both grandfather and grandson.
Harry is a retired journalist with plenty of life experience, a risk taker and a man who deeply loved his deceased wife. He misses her and still talks to her but he kept a secret from her and the road trip is going to out this secret and others.
Brad has a bit of baggage too. His mother is over protective and considers Harry to be irresponsible and an earlier day trip on horseback just strengthened her beliefs.
Harry decides on a road trip in a camper van and Brad is forbidden to go, but he stows away when granddad leaves and circumstances at home ensure that Brad remains with his granddad for the trip at least.
On the trip many subjects are discussed between the two from sex to God and drugs. Brad is a surfer and this stimulates his writing as Harry encourages him to write the events of each day down. There is also a Harley Davidson and a violent confrontation to surprise readers. Rule nothing out on this trip.Things get testy on the road as Harry relives his life and Brad soaks up the experience.
Well told in journalistic style with plenty to interest boy readers in a sort of Barry Crump way. It is positive in spite of the family demons that need to be worked through. I found it very easy to relate to Harry.
A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom. Imprint HarperCollins, 2017.
This is a senior Young Adult novel from a brilliant writer who knows how to unlock and discuss serious emotional and mental conditions in young people. It is positive.
When Mel was thirteen her older brother who lit up her life died. The family shifted house, the parents separated and Mel never told any of her friends that she had had a brother.
Mel had a breakdown and now takes a whole lot of drugs including ritalin to level her out. Now she is sixteen in a new school with new friends and working in an old peoples home called Silver Sands.
Every chapter is headed by the same four headings of animals beginning with H. Hamster describes her head condition, Hummingbird her heart, Hammerhead her physical condition and Hannigananimal whether she is up or down.
Mel sees herself as an antisocial underachiever, but she is not. Her manner at the Silver Sands retirement home is outstanding. She is caring and perceptive and she is going to get better.
Mel narrates the story of her life at school and with her friends and family and between these chapters there are chapters written in italics that tell about her brother and her arguements with friends that get to the heart of her mental state.
Battles are never won. Only survived. The dialogue between characters and the relationships between teenagers and adults are excellently handled.
Beautifully written in short sharp chapters that will keep you in the book. I couldn’t put it down. Eric Lindstrom also has Not If I See You First reviewed on this blog.
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. Pub. Katherine Tegen Books, imprint HarperCollins, 2017.
One of the most powerfully written novels for Senior students and young adults that I have ever read. It is an emotional roller coaster ride concerning events that people just don’t want to believe or face. It addresses the question of justice. Can there ever be true justice for those who are helpless to defend themselves?
Mary B. Addison was 9 years old when the 6 month old baby, Alyssa, whom her mother was babysitting, was killed violently by Mary – allegedly. Too horrific to think that a child could kill another child. That’s what the justice system, the media and the populace at large thought. Get it over with, put her inside and forget about her? Throw away the key.
Mary spends years in baby prison as she calls it and now on the eve of her 16th birthday she is put in a group home with other girls who are also deeply disturbed. Mary has been abused to the level where she says nothing, beaten black and blue and has no hope for herself in this world. She is lead to believe by her mother that the devil is inside her and there is no hope for her. But Mary loved Alyssa and not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of her.
Then several things happen at the new Group home. Mary meets Ted a 19 year old boy who works at the old peoples home where Mary is allowed to work. Mary becomes pregnant with a child she calls Bean. Ted is good for her and opens her up. Then a new girl comes to the home and shows Mary computer access to the World and introduces Mary to a lawyer Ms. Cora who interviews Mary and decides to make an appeal to have her case reopened.
I can tell you no more. It is a compelling read and if you don’t get emotionally involved with this story then you are heartless. You will be full of hope and gutted at the same time.
This is a special book. Read it, savour it, ask questions. Mary loves a mother who doesn’t deserve her love. The ending thankfully is hopeful.
Trouble Tomorrow by Terry Whitebeach & Sarafino Enadio. Pub.Allen&Unwin, 2017.
This is the harrowing story of 15 year old Obulejo and his 5 year journey from his homeland in South Sudan to Australia. It is based on a true story and will give the reader an understanding of the hardship, violence and mistreatment that many refugees go through to arrive in the safety of our country.
Obulejo is a beautiful person whose name means Trouble Tomorrow the title of this book but I think he has had his fair share of trouble already and deserves better. If you met Obulejo in the circumstances in which he finds himself in, then you would be a lucky person indeed.
Born in a South Sudan village that had English as it’s educational language and christianity as it’s belief. The South had rich agricultural land and oil. This was desired by the largely Muslim North with it’s Sharia Law and war broke out. There were two wars the first ended in 1972 when I traveled south from Egypt to Juba and Malakal into Zaire. The people were lovely and it surprised me that the second war from 1983 to 2005 was such a brutal barbaric affair. It’s still going on.
Obulejo’s flight in the face of rebel advancement mirrors 100’s of thousands of others who did not survive. The wars cost over 2 million lives with thousands more in refugee camps. Life in a refugee camp is also a feature of this book.
For high school students and young adults but prepare for some harrowing brutality and some numbing humanity. The treatment of children will make you weep.
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.