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Archive for the ‘Senior Fiction’ Category

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

September 29, 2020 Comments off

Avery Kylie Grambs is 17 years old, she lives in her car, her mother is dead, she has nothing to do with her father and she has a sister who is in a dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend. She is positive in her attitude to life but the future doesn’t look hopeful.

Then she is visited by a lawyer who tells her she is a beneficiary in a will left by an eccentric billionaire Tobias Hawthorne who has four sons of similar age to Avery. When the will is read Avery has inherited $46 billion and the rest of the Hawthorne family are left scraps. Why?

The terms of the will are iron tight and if the family challenge it, they get nothing. Avery is taken by the family lawyers to Hawthorne Mansion, a fabulous house with a theatre, bowling ally and a thousand rooms, plus staff. Avery is advised by a lawyer and has a bodyguard who was same for Tobias Hawthorne.

The family are hostile and the terms of the will mean she has to stay in the house for a year in order to inherit what has been left her. She fears for her life and rightly so.

The paparazzi are all over the place and everybody wants to know who this Avery is. She has to relate to the four sons two of which she is attracted to.

The old man Hawthorne was a game player. He liked mysteries and promoted competition and games amongst his sons. The biggest mystery is Why Avery? She doesn’t know herself. The rest of the novel is spent working out the mysteries that the Old Man has set.

This novel is written in 91 short chapters that will keep you in the book long after you want to stop reading. It is compelling and very clever. I loved it you will too.

Loveless by Alice Oseman.

August 27, 2020 Comments off

lovelessLoveless by Alice Oseman. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

This 430 page novel for high school students and young adults is about sexuality and romance. How do we know who we are attracted too? What is the spark that turns attraction into love? How important is sex and romance in peoples lives? Does everybody have erotic dreams? What happens if you don’t feel attracted to anybody? What if you don’t feel attracted to boys, girls,  both or neither?

Georgia is 18 years old and has just finished High school. She has never kissed anyone and is still a virgin. She doesn’t know if she is gay or straight because she feels revulsion at any sexual contact at all and she is worried that she will never have a partner and love a normal life.

She has two friends – Pip who is an attractive Latino girl who knows she is a lesbian and makes no bones about it, and Jason a shy boy who is attracted to Georgia but she doesn’t know it. All three are off to Durham University and all three are into acting and drama especially Shakespeare. Georgia hopes that the questions about her sexuality will be answered at university.

While at University she is paired with a girl named Rooney in a flat. Rooney is totally out there. She goes clubbing, mixes well, has sex because she likes it and is everything that Georgia wants to be. All four characters form a Shakespeare club and plan to put on scenes from Shakespeare’s plays that are key scenes. But the sexuality question gets well and truly in the way. Read it and find out how.

I read this book in small chunks but it was compelling reading and I was sorry when it was finished. It is really addressing  asexuality or aromanticism. Some scenes are hilarious some down right embarrassing but always right on the nail. Everybody is interested in the subjects discussed here and to do so with a good story is brilliant.

The Shakespeare scenes are superb. My YA book of the year.

Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards.

August 16, 2020 Comments off

thandi2Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards. Pub.Green Room House 2020.

Thandi is a baby rhinoceros that accompanied Jabu, a teenage orphan who left his shanty in Soweto for Durban. They were unwittingly in the same truck together and neither forgot the experience.

Now Jabu is a famous surfer and runs a Trust for young black surfers particularly Alexia a teenage surfing sensation. Surf and rhinos come together in

the private game reserve Umfolozi which is part of the Kruger National park on the Mozambique border.

Alexia is to have a photo shoot with the baby rhinos at Umfolosi but her and her friend Billie and Jabu get involved with a battle against poachers that extends from the game parks to the Mozambique coast.

Also entering the fray is Ice, a boy who became crippled while train surfing and now has lost his job and any hope again. He is a friend of Jabu and he is to learn that there is always hope.

Excellent adventure both at sea and on the game reserve.

Very well written  with spaces between paragraphs for the reluctant reader to pause while reading. The descriptive writing is also a feature and the characters worth knowing. The sequel to Train Surfer also reviewed on this blog

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile.

July 19, 2020 Comments off

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile. Pub. Anderson Press, 2020.

This is the most powerful graphic novel  for high school students that I have ever read and it deservedly won the Newbery Medal. It is about basketball and it is about families and all the characters in this novel are black.

JB and Jordan are twins, they are 13 years old and a very gifted basketball players. They live and breathe basketball and they are fans of rap music. Their father was a pro baller and won a championship ring as “da man”, but he is not a well man. Their mother is Principal of the High School the boys attend and both parents are highly involved with boys lives.

The boys compete, the father coaches them and the mother ensures that the boys education takes priority. Then a girl comes on the scene. She is beautiful, wears pink gym shoes and she makes a play for Jordan and they become an item. This upsets JB and the closeness the brothers once had starts to deteriorate to the point that it erupts into a violent act in the middle of a basketball game.

The family is wracked with problems, the boys become enemies and then tragedy. The ending is stunning.

There is lots of basketball talk most of it in rap verse. The book is divided into four quarters and there is a competition going on.

Easy to read with the illustrations superb. I read the book in about an hour and got emotionally involved with what was happening, you will too.

Reluctant boy readers and readers who like sports stories particularly basketball will love this novel. The rap prose is inspiring to as is the relationship between Jordan and the girl. Black Lives matter is also a strong theme of this novel.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman.

June 13, 2020 Comments off

length stringThe Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman. Pub. Puffin Books, 2020.

This novel for middle and senior school students is one of the most moving, emotional and compelling novels I have ever read.

Anna is 12 years old when the Germans invaded Luxembourg in 1941 and started identifying all the Jews with the yellow star and stripping them of any human dignity. In August 1941 it was still possible for Jewish people to escape Luxembourg to Portugal and get a ship to America but it was dangerous and expensive.

Anna leaves her twin sister Belle, plus the the rest of the family, at the insistence of her parents and goes to live with Hannah and Max in Brooklyn New York. Anna keeps a diary of her feelings addressed to her twin sister Belle and writes letters to her family. She gets no reply but remains positive about life and seeing them again.

In today’s World, Imani is 12 years old and facing her Bat Mitzvah. She is a black girl who has been adopted by Nordic parents in New York and has been brought up Jewish along with her also adopted brother Jaime. Imani wants to know who her parents were but finds it difficult to bring this fact up with her adoptive parents who have been loving and caring all her life.

When Anna dies she leaves her books to her grandchildren and Imani finds the diary Anna wrote in 1941 and reads it as part of her presentation for her Bat Mitzvah. What she and her friend Madeleine read brings out all the emotion and reality of the Holocaust.

Beautifully written with Anna’s diary entries and Imani’s life in the modern World. It will have you in tears.  It is also current as Imani tries to find her own identity as a black girl living in today’s world.

If you miss this you will kick yourself. Wow! What an ending.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins.

June 4, 2020 Comments off

songbirdsThe Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins. Pub Scholastic, 2020.

When I talked about the Hunger Games trilogy in schools when it first came out, the kids were riveted but their teachers were appalled that it involved children killing children. This sequel  addresses that concern and the rest of the inhumane treatment  that is meted out to the children and inhabitants of the 12 Districts by the rulers of Panem in the Capitol.

The civil war that resulted from the Hunger Games is over and the rebels from the Districts were defeated but not eliminated. Cassus Snow the Capitol leader is killed and there is a new guard, but Capitol has inflicted severe and more inhuman control over the Districts. The  10th Hunger Games are to take place and one of the most vile and sadistic characters I have read in children’s literature, a woman named Dr Gaul, is in charge of presenting the games. She is a Dr Mengle type who experiments on animals and humans.

A boy and girl from each of the 12 Districts are to take part in the games they are called tributes, but this time they each have a Mentor from Capitol to guide them. Coriolanus Snow son of Cassus Snow is to mentor Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 where Katniss came from. The relationship between Coriolanus and Lucy is at the heart of this novel but it is not the only one of importance.

The relationship between Sejanus Plinth, the son of a wealthy family and Coriolanus is of equal importance as Sejanus is also a mentor of a competitor in the Hunger games. It is Sejanus that heads the argument against the inhumane and barbaric treatment of the Districts and in particular the tributes in the games supported by Coriolanus in his relationship with Lucy. Can they change the way Capitol regards the District people?

As the games start inside an arena, not in an outdoor environment as with the first series, and the killing starts, all hell breaks loose.

If you are a new reader of this series do not worry you will not be all at sea, but if you have read the first series you will be totally absorbed in the new circumstances and at the more severe inhumane and barbaric treatment of the tributes in the Games

No characters from the earlier Trilogy are in this novel.

Stunningly written but not for the faint hearted. From Intermediate to YA in appeal. Over 500 pages long.

The Divorce Diaries by Sarah Quigley

May 30, 2020 Comments off

divorceThe Divorce Diaries by Sarah Quigley. Pub. Vintage imprint PenguinRandom House, 2020.

I bought this book for my wife after reading an article in the Sunday Times and decided to read it myself. I am very glad I did. It is beautifully written, full of feeling and emotion and best of all it is a profile of life in one of the great cities of the World, Berlin.

Leaving a relationship is a process and this six part book goes through the process from love is blind, marriage and all that it promises, through to separation, learning to live alone, becoming open to other relationships and finally contentment and acceptance.

It is compelling reading and the beauty of it is, you never know the husband’s name nor the identity of any of Sarah’s other relationships. You know her women friends first names and some of them are brilliant, but she spills the beans on no-one although in Berlin she runs into many famous people.

Divorce is always messy and it’s always different. The emotion attached to divorce according to Sarah is disappointment first, with anger a close second. It builds up in her like lava in a volcano but she gets through it.

Her Swedish husband couldn’t handle alcohol and became violent. For 360 days a year he was fine but when he drank no woman should have to put up with what he meted out. Sarah loved him and probably still does and it hurt her deeply to have failed although she in my eyes never failed.

The process of getting her life back is compelling reading. Her first relationship after the Swede was on holiday in Greece “where self confident girls in sexy red bikinis stand thigh deep in turquoise water, tossing back their salt-spray manes and taking selfies“.

her second is with a 50 year old German she calls Ad Man who has the sexual stamina of a 20 year old and the investment portfolio of a wealthy octogenarian.

It is not easy and it takes her a while to appreciate aloneness without feeling acutely alone. Sarah gets there by the end of the book, it is riveting.

For anyone with relationship problems and decisions to make. How about this for perception “sometimes divorce rids you of friends who were never real friends in the first place”

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling, illus. Olivia Lomenech Gill.

May 4, 2020 Comments off

FantasticFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling, illus. Olivia Lomenech Gill. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

A magnificent piece of work this and a companion to the Harry Potter stories for primary secondary and young adult readers.

It is told by Newt Scamander a graduate of Hogwarts and close friend of Albus Dumbledore. He specialises in Fantastic magical beasts and developed policy to hide the beasts from muggles for the protection of both. he gives a brief history of this project then gets down to tell you about the magical beasts themselves.

Some of my favourites were The Demiguise a sort of orangatan with a white hairy coat from which invisibility cloaks are made. There are ten different dragons plus the Unicorn, the centaur, the Sphinx and my next favourite the Runespoor. This is a three headed snake – the left head is the planner, the middle head the dreamer and the right head the critic. In many cases the right head is missing, killed by the other two heads.

Star of the show are the illustrations. Absolutely superb. Each magical beast is drawn with a bio underneath. This is a book you can pick up and put down again, get engrossed in the beast then move to another once you have fantasised but the previous one.

A very classy publication.

Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg by Brian Falkner.

March 31, 2020 Comments off

katipoKatipo Joe: Blitzkrieg by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2020.

This action filled war story of World war 2 is a novel to rival the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. I make this comparison because it is totally world class writing from, in my opinion the best action writer in New Zealand.

Based on true events it is set in Berlin in 1938 as the Nazi machine was taunting the world with threats and it’s anti Jewish programe. Joe is 12 years old and his parents work as diplomats and also spy on the Nazis. Joe goes to school in Berlin and mixes with Martin Borman’s nephew Klaus. Joe is a blue eyed blond youth and speaks fluent German , a fact that makes him a target for espionage.

When his father is arrested by the gestapo, Joe and his mother escape from berlin in a thrilling piece of action.

The scene shifts to London during the Blitz with Joe living in the ruins of the city looking for his mother. he meets friends on the street and the tragedy of wartime Britain. He gets involved in a Nazi spy ring that involves his mother and when his mother is allegedly  killed in a Nazi bomb plot, Joe is seconded by MI6 special forces and trained to be a spy.

The scene then shifts to occupied Paris with Joe flown into France to infiltrate the Hitlerjugend or Hitler Youth movement to effect an assassination of a prominent Nazi general. The action is thrilling.

Splendidly written by Brian Falkner who is at the top of his game. The action is astonishing and tragic. War is like this. Don’t miss this one it is superb.

For readers between 12 years and 16 years. Adults will love it too. Photographs in the back plus a glossary giving all the aircraft, guns and Nazi terms. Easy to read and compelling.

Burn by Patrick Ness

March 24, 2020 Comments off

burnBurn by Patrick Ness. Pub. Walker Books, 2020.

RELEASED MAY 2020

This is a Young Adult novel out of the top draw. It is a novel of parallel worlds, of dragons, of the human condition, of action and ultimately a love story.

It is the year 1957 and the Cold War is heating up so to speak. The Russians are on the verge of putting a satellite into space and the Americans are worried about the spying implications of such a satellite.

This is real history but there is an additional element -DRAGONS. Yes dragons inhabit this planet living in the waste lands of Russia of Asia of Europe and the Americas. Humans and dragons rarely meet. They have lived a peaceful but uneasy existence for centuries but that is all about to change with the launch of the Russian satellite.

There is a prophecy that nuclear war will break out between men and rid the planet of humans thus allowing dragons who are immune from radiation to fly free. The satellite launch is going to be used to trigger the war.

Enter a religious cult of dragon worshipers called Believers in the person of Malcolm a ruthless 17 year old, gay killer whose job is to assassinate a teenage girl called Sarah Dewhurst as she is prophesised to stop the dragons.

The action and plot turns are staggering. Written in two parts the end of the first part seeming to be the end of the world. After a torrid conflict a claw of a dragon known as The Spur is used to transfer all the action into a parallel world where every character in the first part has a different life in the second world.

This is a brilliant transition but will the prophecy be true in this second world and is there hope for human kind and dragons?

Superbly told, totally compelling. If you miss this you will miss the best book of the year.