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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

Nga Atua: Maori Gods by Robyn Kahukiwa

June 13, 2017 Comments off

maori GodsNga Atua: Maori Gods by Robyn Kahukiwa. Pub. Oratia Books, 2017.

I have been reading Robyn Kahukiwa’s books for more than 30 years and they have always impressed me.

This picture book is a simple introduction to some of the deities that are special, unique and awesome and are some of the supernatural beings of Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White cloud.

Tane is described first as the most powerful Atua who looks after the birds the trees and the people, he also gave light to the land by pushing Ranginui the sky away from Papatuanuke, the Earth.

Maui is in there of course and so is Ruaumoko who I am well acquainted with here in Christchurch because when Ruaumoko burps an earthquake is on the way. The stunner for me was Mahuika the Atua of fire. Each finger of her hand has a name and she hurls fire at her enemies.

The illustrations are superb and affirm the relevance of the Maori Gods today just as the Greek and Roman Gods are relevant and all the other cultural gods of Earth’s many peoples.

Like Nobody’s Watching by L.J. Ritchie.

June 8, 2017 Comments off

nobody watchingLike Nobody’s Watching by L.J. Ritchie. Pub. Escalator Press, 2016.

This first novel is a finalist in Young Adult section of this years New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It is also up for best first novel and the subject is surveillance culture.

When Oscar’s high school fits 36 cameras in the school grounds to curb vandalism it changes the culture of the school but not in the way it was intended.

Oscar and his friends are not high profile year 10’s but they have a sense of justice. When Oscar’s friend Bronwyn alerts him to boys bullying her brother Will, Oscar finds a way to hack into the school system and view the surveillance video, then uses the video secretly and without trace to shame the bullies and blackmail them into to ceasing the bullying.

At first it works a treat, then they use the same system to stop year 11’s bullying the year 9’s. This time however it is complicated so they use  a social media site to shame the bullies again to great success.

The Internet never forgets and while Oscar and his friends don’t feel they are doing anything wrong because all is anonymous and bullying is unlawful, will they slip up and get caught?

But viewing the surveillance videos could be used in a more sinister way such as stalking. The students rebel and set up a petition to remove the cameras. Read it and find out what happens.

The novel is narrated by an eye of god technique and is told in short sharp sentences which took me a while to get used to. Nonetheless it impressed me with it’s perceptive look at teen culture in this hi tech wired up world we live in.

 

 

My Life as A Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams

May 28, 2017 Comments off

hashtagMy Life as A Hashtag by Gabrielle Williams. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017.

I regard this novel as one of the most important novels for teens and young adults that I have read. Why?  Because it deals with the whole way that teenagers and the young communicate using social media and the serious problems that can occur when things go wrong.

Social media can be a vicious forum where people can say what they like and the word or concept “friend” is a misnomer like no other.

MC is an ordinary girl with good friends who go to school, party and text and communicate with each other all day every day. It is the social norm.

Misunderstandings over a boy between MC and her friend Anouk cause a ruckus on Tumblr that goes viral and shakes everyone concerned to the core. And the boy wasn’t worth it. After MC has been left out of a party at Anouk’s she uses an App that uses any face to deliver a message. MC picks celebrities including Justin Bieber and the Queen with a corgi on her lap, to humiliate Anouk, and it goes viral.

MC doesn’t realise that what she has done is bullying and her life falls apart. Can she recover and sets things right? Read this amazing story and find out.

Lots of amusing girl talk, some of it bitchy, and some laugh out loud moments. Dialogue between characters is particularly strong and there is a total scoundrel of a boy character.

The message from Gabrielle Williams is loud and clear. Cyber bullying is not ok. You cannot go back once you press that enter button. What you write is always there and can be very damaging to everyone.

It ends positively fortunately. There is a better way, it is just matter of finding it.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

May 21, 2017 Comments off

chemical heartsOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland. Pub. Hot Key Books, 2016.

There is a Japanese art form called Kintsukuroi in which you take a bowl or plate or a pot break it into pieces and stick it back together again so that it becomes more beautiful for having been broken.

This really is a metaphor for the relationship that develops between Henry Page who narrates the novel and Grace Town a beautiful, mysterious, damaged and thoroughly weird girl. Henry wonders what it will be like to fall in love and when he first sees Grace he knows he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

Henry struggles to get anything going with Grace, they text each other, work together on the school newspaper but one day she is hot the next cold. Then he finds out about a deep sadness that Grace is carrying around. Henry wants to care for Grace and for her to recognise that they are an item but Grace slips into the abyss and forgets the world exists. Grace tells Henry that “stories with happy endings are stories that haven’t finished yet”.

Henry finds out that this is true. The novel also asks the question do men feel romance?. Do they crush on girls and go through the same heartbreak as girls do over boys?

Brilliantly written in a style that draws on film, book and music trivia with bold dialogue and great depth on what it is like to be growing up and seeking love. I read this in two sittings I couldn’t put it down. Thank you Linley for recommending it to me.

For teenagers and young adults who like the novels of John Green and grew up with Harry Potter, The Twilight series and the music of the Strokes and the Pixies.

Don’t miss this one you will kick yourself if you do.

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom.

April 22, 2017 Comments off

crueltyThe Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

Abandoning their own when an operation turns bad is what the CIA is known for. So sayeth one of the characters in this book, but is it the whole truth.

Seventeen year old Gwendolyn is an ordinary American girl. She is told by her father that he works for the Government and as a result they have lived in many countries especially Russia and Italy making her adept at several languages.

When her father goes missing in France on what he said was a routine operation, Gwendolyn’s life changes. The CIA call round asking questions. A neighbour upstairs tells Gwendolyn that all is not as it seems and gives her a book that her father said was for her eyes only. What she discovers takes her to Paris and the company of a taut bodied former Mossad agent, Yael ,who describes her job as 90% waiting around and 10% terror.

Gwendolyn toughens up under Yael’s guidance and after a gun battle Gwendolyn takes off for Berlin and later Prague. She assumes the identity of a 22 year old Russian stripper called Sofia and becomes involved with a gun running, drug dealing, young girl smuggling multi millionaire Bohden Kladivo. He tells her “a woman who seeks to rise in the World must be crueler than men”. As the plot evolves Gwendolyn/Sofia finds the cruelty rising within her.

An excellent action/thriller/spy story that makes for tense reading. One of the best of this type of novel that I have read and the good news is the story is not over. There must be a sequel. The plot is tight and believable and the style is clever, menacing and witty – “trains creep slowly along the tracks like snakes in a moat”

Teens and Young Adults will love it.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

April 15, 2017 Comments off

hate u giveThe 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.

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts. Ten Tales from the Deep Dark Woods by Craig Phillips

April 12, 2017 Comments off

giants trollsGiants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts. Ten Tales from the Deep Dark Woods by Craig Phillips. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.

The telling of stories of myths and legends was the reason the storyteller had the best seat by the fire. Here are ten myths legends and fairy tales from nine different cultures that talk about all the mythical creatures mentioned in the title.

Most of the stories you will know already although there was one I hadn’t heard of and it is a beauty. From Sweden is The Boy Who Was Never Afraid. He goes looking for his cow that was stolen by a an old Troll. Who hasn’t? he can’t afford to be afraid and after confronting bravely some formidable opponents he gets his cow back and becomes a hero at the same time. Brilliant.

You get Irish giant Finn  McCool, Russian with Baba Yaga and Momotaro the peach boy plus others. You can’t beat that.

What makes these tales more accessible than they were before is the fact they are written in wide screen comic book illustrations that bring life to the tales. Visual readers will really get into these and so they should.

Less than 30 bucks will get you this impressive book that will appeal to reluctant readers and good readers alike. High boy appeal.