Archive

Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James.

August 16, 2017 Comments off

loneliest girlThe Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

This sci/fi, futurist, adventure romance for high school students and young adults is without doubt one of the books of the year. I was spellbound from beginning to end and you will be too.

Romy is 16 years old and is alone on a space ship called Infinity taking a 50 year journey at a tenth of the speed of light, to colonise a planet in another galaxy called Earth 2.

Romy was born on the space ship against NASA instructions. The Infinity is filled with thousands of frozen embryos and astronauts in a stasis condition until the journey is over. Things have not gone well on the Infinity and Romy now runs the whole ship on her own with communication back to Earth to a person called Molly. Messages take 2 years to reach Earth and back to Infinity.

Then Romy is told that a faster ship called The Eternity captained by J a 22 year old boy with the two ships programmed to dock in a year. They correspond and a relationship develops between them that provides the romance to the story. Then J tells Romy that war on Earth has destroyed NASA and a new government called UPR is in control and that all future communications are to go through him on the Eternity.

Is this all true? Is J who he says he is? has Earth really had a war? Why is Romy all alone?

Things become rivetting as Eternity catches up to Infinity. The ending is stunning and will keep you on the edge of your seat. You will not forget this novel in a hurry.

Beautifully written, totally believable and some of the cleverest plot lines I have ever read. If you miss this one you will kick yourself.

The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward

August 1, 2017 Comments off

traitor thiefThe Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

Many words could be used to describe this novel for readers of a wide age range from 12-18 years. Steam punk should be a couple of them but also ingenious, thrilling and enormously clever would be others.

The central character is teenager Sin who was left at an orphanage with a teddy bear, grew up tough and ended up working the streets as a thief for Fixer, a Fagan like character. He learns that rules mean nothing when you have money, power and privilege. The poor have no chance. Some things never change.

He is caught by the mysterious Eldritch Moons and pressured to join a COVERT OPERATIONS GROUP (COG) and train to be a spy. His fellow trainees include the ruthless Velvet, the delicious Zonda and a host of villainous reprobates but his talents as a liar, a cheat and thief are just the talents needed.

COG is headed by a genius inventor named Nimrod whose inventions form the steam punk part of the novel and he has the moral high ground by using his organisation to prevent war. Nimrod makes many enemies and COG has more leaks and conflicts than the West Wing of the White House.

Will Sin survive? and who are his parents? Is there a link between his abandonment at birth and COG? Read it and enjoy this thriller as much as I did. The ending will have you gasping for breath.

The plot bears a close similarity to the military, industrial and political rivalry that precipitated World war 1, and the city of Coxford where the novel is set, is remarkably like London.

Winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Award. Splendidly paced and written. Great cover.

Sparrow by Scot Gardner

July 25, 2017 Comments off

sparrowSparrow by Scot Gardner. Pub Allen & Unwin, 2017.

Every day I see people scrambling for life and survival on the streets. Every city in the World has them and we walk on by trying hard not to notice. We never ask where do they sleep? how come they are there? what do they do all day? are they in good health? even when they are children.

This is the story of Sparrow a ten year old boy living on the streets of Darwin and making a good fist of it in spite of a horrible background. Sparrow has lost the power of speech because of the treatment meted out to him by family and others. He has a shock of hair a dashing smile and helps wherever he can for food and company.

Sparrow is looked after by an old man called Sharky who teaches him how to swim, a skill that will save his life. Every day Sparrow avoids the “ghost boys” who haunt the streets, taking drugs and booze and whatever else they can get hold of. One of them is Sparrow’s brother.

Leap forward five years and Sparrow is in Juvie and on a survival trip in shark and croc infested waters. An accident and Sparrow is out in the bush trying to survive in hostile country but at least he is free and he knows it.

The novel is superbly structured as the two strands of Sparrow’s life are told in consecutive chapters,coming together near the end of the book. Scot Gardner’s descriptions of the wilderness with it’s snakes, lizards, insects, crocs, sharks and physical beauty, are stunning. His understanding of the underdog, the sick, the mentally ill, the human condition and how to survive, are praiseworthy indeed.

Simple to read it is accessible to the most reluctant of readers of reading ages 14-18 years. The hopeful ending will bring joy to your heart.

Don’t miss this one. A potential award winner. Superb cover because you are always waiting for the croc to show up.

I Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman.

July 3, 2017 Comments off

brian wilsonI Am Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman. Pub. 2016 Coronet.

George Martin called Brian Wilson a musical genius whose album with the Beach Boys titled Pet Sounds had a big influence on the Beatles classic Sergeant Pepper. God only Knows was Paul McCartney’s favourite song but for me it was Do It Again and the classic Crystals song Then I kissed Her.

Brian Wilson was a major influence in my musical life and in the history of rock music. You would never know that he was deaf in his right ear and that after taking LSD when he was 22 years old he started to hear voices that told him he was worthless, that he should give up and that they would kill him. He tried everything to get rid of them including therapy, drugs and alcohol all documented in this book.

Fortunately he heard other voices that created harmony and harmony was what Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were all about. That Brian was able to manage his life is miraculous as he lost his two brothers Carl and Dennis, came under the influence of Doctor Landy who almost wrecked him and finally found his second wife Melinda who managed his moods and gave his life meaning.

Lots of music and songs in this book but do not expect an ordered chronological sequence of events. Brian can take you from 1963 to 1997 in the space of a sentence but it is all part of the man and for me it was riveting reading.

There is more to the book than this but you cannot help liking the man and it is all good vibrations in a little deuce coupe.

My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke.

June 26, 2017 Comments off

lovely frankieMy Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017.

When 15 year old Tom told his parents he wanted to go to St Finbar’s seminary to train as a priest his father smashed his fist into the wall and his mother sobbed in the kitchen “You will never have a normal life and a family” his father pleaded but Tom said “I have you”.

This stunning opening begins one of the most riveting novels I have read for seniors and young adults, but it will not be everyone’s taste.

Tom tells this 1950’s story looking back as an old man and reflecting with his cousin Miri.  Tom wants to know what happened to Frankie and you will want to know too.

Frankie is of course the star and when Tom meets him after 4 days in St Finbar’s an electric shock surges through his body which he doesn’t understand. Tom is naive about attraction and love and only later discovers how he feels.

This novel is about love in whatever shape or form it takes from parental love to the love of God and the sexual love of another person. Frankie knows where he stands, he loves kindness, caring and of course girls. Frankie is open with Tom about his feelings for girls and treasures their friendship but Tom has deeper feelings and wonders why he resents how Frankie feels towards girls. Will Frankie ever find out?

The novel is littered with some stunning characters like the teachers and the Rector of St Finbar’s  and the head prefect Etta who turn the school into a ministry of fear. When told he must change for God, Frankie ponders why he should change when God created man in his own image already?

One of my best books for this year it is beautifully written and perfectly paced. I dare you to read it. The conclusion is stunning.

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.