Gazing at the Stars by Eva Slonim
Eva Slonim tells a less well known story – a child survivor of the Holocaust from Bratislava, Slovakia. Despite being sent into hiding by her parents she and her sister Marta are unable to escape capture and are eventually sent to Auschwitz where survival is a capricious thing, especially for young children who don’t have the support of their adults. Despite the horrors, the degradations and illnesses, the girls are able to survive, luckily together, and miraculously find that their whole family has survived. Eventually they make a new life in Australia.
This story is told with great simplicity with the help of Oscar Scwartz and is suitable for both adults and young adults. The simplicity does not resile from the horrors but in fact assists in painting vivid word pictures of Eva’s experiences which Eva enhances in her work giving public talks about her experiences.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Five year old chatterbox Rosemary is suddenly left at her Grandparents house for a few weeks, she thinks she's done something wrong and is being cast from the family, however, when she returns home her energetic and beloved “twin” sister Fern has vanished, her mother becomes chronically depressed and soon afterwards her teenage brother runs away for good.
Jump forward and Rosemary is now at university, she's near silent, has trouble socialising and her relationship with her parents is strained. Only now does she really face up to the mystery of her absent siblings.
There is a twist to this book, revealed about a third of the way through and it's better if I don't tell you, but it suffices to say, it makes everything more complicated and fascinating.
This is an intelligent, funny and heartbreaking story about love and family. Highly recommended.
Delicious! By Ruth Reichl
Let me start by saying I love books about food. Great food writing creates an insatiable desire to put down the book and go and make the food represented. A case in point, one of my earliest reading, and food, memories was the overwhelming desire for jam and cream buns, as this is what one of my favourite literary characters, Paddington Bear, had for elevenses.
Consequently, the idea of a piece of fiction written by the great food writer, memoirist and critic Ruth Reichl was very appealing. The result is an interesting recipe of ingredients. She’s taken a dash of Candice Bushnell, half a cup of Jodi Picoult and a good dollop of Maeve Binchy to create a story that is light as the soufflés that feature in the pages.
Delicious! tells the story of Billie Breslin, a woman with a complicated past, who moves from California to New York to work at Delicious! the preeminent culinary magazine. What starts out feeling very formulaic moves into a new, more interesting historical direction, but many of the hallmarks of “chick-lit” remain; such as the obligatory make over, the cast of quirky yet lovable friends, and the handsome but difficult stranger who fascinates our heroine.
The book is best, unsurprisingly, when evoking the streets and eats of New York and talking about food in all its forms, and if you prefer references to famous chefs and the New York culinary scene to those of fashion designers and “it girls“ then this might be the right recipe for you.
In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen who died recently at the age of 85 is most famously known for the much admired The Snow Leopard, a metaphysical journey through Nepal, the Himalayas and his interior mind. He wrote mainly non-fiction and this novel is a most unusual departure from that form. Matthiessen gathers a disparate group of 100 people at Auschwitz-Birkenau where over a million Jews were murdered during WW2. These pilgrims (many non-Jews) from around the world commit themselves to “homage, prayer, and silent meditation in the memory of this camp’s million and more victims.”
The group sleeps and eats in the former Nazi officers’ quarters and during their week they meditate, discuss, weep and argue about the events the camp witnessed. The central character, Clements Olin, is an American academic of Polish descent who begins to question his own motivation in being a Holocaust scholar. But the participants are face with their own demons as well as the horrors of what happened, their own political and cultural stances and these are revealed in many moving, sometimes angry, confrontations as each reveal their true selves.
This novel is occasionally disquieting, sometimes puzzling, often lyrical and raises profoundly disturbing questions about our own humanity. An interesting end to a brilliant literary career.
The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
An already troubled relationship is about to spiral into horror, and it's not giving anything away to say someone is going to be killed, it's the series of events which get us there on which The Silent Wife focuses.
Todd is a shameless cheater and Jodi knows it, but turns a blind eye so long as his indiscretions are controlled, but when Todd remorselessly takes his betrayal to new heights, Jodi is tipped over the edge.
Told from each characters perspective and with a similar plot set up as Gone Girl, there will undoubtedly be comparisons drawn, however I found the Silent Wife more subtle, sophisticated and ultimately more believable, and you might find your empathy falling in surprising directions.
With plenty of twists and betrayals as the characters hurtle toward disaster, this is an unsettling but captivating and entertaining psychological thriller. Recommended.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Thirteen year old Theo Decker's life is torn apart by a huge New York museum explosion, his devoted mother is killed and he stumbles from the crumbling scene protectively clutching his mother's favourite painting, the gorgeous and priceless Goldfinch. While at first his motives are innocent, Theo's grief and sorrow prevent him from returning the painting, a choice which will shape the rest of his life.
Finding himself isolated with his untrustworthy father in the desert of Las Vegas, we meet Boris, an intelligent and reckless Polish boy of Theo's age, already smoking and drinking heavily, he is a refreshing and entertaining counterpoint to Theo's dark and sombre character.
Despite jumping between New York, Las Vegas and Amsterdam, there are only a few characters and places in the book, and they are all exquisitely crafted, I particularly adored the scenes in dusty antique shops, and the descriptions of sublime artworks and time worn furniture.
There is too much to cover in this tiny review, but I will give a warning: this is not a page-turner, it is a shamelessly slow book. If you do like your books big, atmospheric, emotional and meditative then The Goldfinch is heartily recommended.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The 'Interestings' are a self-titled group of friends drawn together by Spirit-in-the-Woods, an exclusive arts summer camp. Each friend is unique and talented in their own way, and the story follows their friendship and it's evolution, tragedies and triumphs from youth to middle age.
While one friend achieves monumental success - creating a Simpsons-esque TV show - other's ambitions are broken, or fade as the hardships of life and the unlikelihood of being extraordinary overrun them.
The Interestings covers difficult moral ground with topics of envy, abuse, betrayal, corruption and loyalty, and thankfully Wolitzer does not preach values, but rather challenges us with circumstantial questions.
This is a nuanced novel about friendship which delicately balances melancholy, tragedy and humour to deliver an entertaining read. Recommended.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Darrow, youngest helldiver in memory, is a pioneer mining the depths of Mars for the highly coveted helium-3 used for terraforming the harsh surface. As a Red (the lowest caste in this society) he is tasked with preparing the planet for colonization, a life of hardship but also of great love for his wife and family. A stolen moment of pleasure leads to a horrifying punishment and sets Darrow on a bloody path for revenge.
There have been a few comparisons to The Hunger Games series and while there are similarities, Red Rising truly stands on its own. Where the Hunger Games skirts around some deeper and darker possibilities, Red Rising dives straight in with brutal and heartbreaking outcomes.
I could not put this down, it has all the adrenaline of dystopian YA fiction but with an extra level of maturity.
Red Rising is a dark and gritty journey into a society built on the backs of a slave race and a fantastic start to a hugely promising series.
The Circle by Dave Eggers
The Circle is the hottest company in the world, having absorbed or run out of business all social networks, online searches, online shopping, payment systems etc, it has made itself an indispensable part of everyday life.
Mae Holland has just landed a dream job at the Circle, and the rumours about it being the best place to work in the world are completely true., but the price to work at the Circle is you must be uber-social and privacy is frowned upon, if you're not sharing constantly, then something is seriously wrong with you. Their utopian world vision is for global transparency, that every human should be in the Circle, and that secrets will be a thing of the past. Just don't speak out against them.
The detail with which Eggers explores such an overwhelmingly interconnected world and it's detrimental effects on privacy and individualism is truly impressive. As someone who stops functioning unless I've allotted some regular alone time, Egger's non-stop social world is completely terrifying.
Would we allow such a world to develop? I hope not, regardless, Eggers' The Circle is an aptly timed, clever and entertaining commentary on our rapidly evolving interconnected lives.
Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson's stories make for compulsive reading, after devouring his last book The Psychopath Test, I quickly moved onto this, a compilation of his best stories/adventures, and was not disappointed.
Some of his adventures include befriending real-life super heroes - finding himself in a showdown with hardened gangbangers, visiting a UFO convention with the paranormal obsessed Robbie Williams and investigating a girl's mysterious disappearance at sea upon a bizarre Disney themed cruise ship
He has a true gift for seeking out a weird story, and infiltrating the lives and minds of the world's most extraordinary people. He is hilarious, intelligent, unpretentious and a huge nerd, a unstoppably adventurous nerd.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
KIDS & TEENS
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Secrets. Murder. Love. Lies.
Zoe Collins has a terrible secret. So horrific and dangerous that she dare confess to no one. Until she hears of a criminal on death row in Texas. Stuart is dark and twisted, a murderer and in this way they are similar. Desperate to tell the truth Zoe begins to write letters, filled with her secrets, her betrayals and her dark hopes. Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins.
This novel is gripping and heart-wrenching. It contrasts the innocence of Zoe at the beginning to the horror of her later crimes to build a climax filled with absolute intensity. Oh how the heart can betray you. This book so realistically portrays how small simple actions, feelings can turn and change into something uncontrollable, and dangerous. It is beautifully written from the perspective of a teenager, displaying their raw emotion. And the ending is shocking, heartbreaking and very true.
Rating; 9 ½ / 10
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Similar to Rowell’s other masterpiece of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl wonderfully portrays the excitement, nerves and thrills of a first love. This novel is adorable, sweet, touching and utterly real.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. It’s who she is. Cath and Wren are identical twins who bonded through the fandom, the fanfiction ever since they were kids, it got them through their mother leaving and their father becoming fragile. But now things are different. They’re going to college and Wren wants her own room. Wants her own life. Without Simon Snow. Without Cath. For the first time Cath’s on her own. Except for her new surly roommate with a charming boyfriend, an I-hate-fandom writing professor and a handsome classmate who only wants to write. And then there’s her dad, who’s probably lost now that he’s alone.
Cath wants to want to move on. But can she? And at what cost?
Fangirl takes a new and refreshing spin on the idea of growing up as a part of a fandom. It's writing is a sweet and relaxing ride, filled with angst, joy, love and a fabulous appreciation for what it really means to be a Fangirl.
Filled with SO TRUE moments for all fangirls out there.
Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail
Suzy Zail has followed up her previous young adult Holocaust novel “The Wrong Boy” with new YA story, this time centred on a 14 year old boy from the Czech countryside who has been sent to Auschwitz. Alexander cuts himself off from human contact thinking that the only way to survive is to stay strong, alone, and not depend on anyone else. But he doesn’t expect to change this approach through the selfless help of a fellow inmate Isidor. Even more importantly he is allocated a job – a job he was empowered to do through his background growing up on a farm and learning and loving horses. His new job is to look after the SS horses, a relatively easy task until he comes across Midnight, a glorious stallion who has been emotionally damaged Alexander’s job is to tame him sufficiently to become the Commandant’s horse.
Throughout this story, Alexander slowly learns that humans can be altruistically kind and that survival, above all the losses, hunger and pain, is supreme. This novel is based on a real life character, Fred Steiner, who guides at the Holocaust Centre in Melbourne. Suzy Zail manages to achieve just the right level of complexity for her targeted audience without sugar coating the harsh realities of life in concentration camps.
How They Met by David Levithan
How They Met is wonderful story about love and about all kinds of love. Levithan has created eighteen separate but equally varied and magical tales that may not overlap by characters or places but intertwine amazingly together. There’s everything from the completely infatuating adoration of a first love, to the utter terror and paralyzing fear that comes from the transition of friend to lover, or to the struggle to stand up for your yourself and for the ones you love, eloquently and beautifully captured in this incredible novel. With this marvelous and original story collection Levithan shows that love is a varied, complicated, addictive, challenging and a wonderful thing. This novel is light and lovely so reading it was pure pleasure.
Age: 12+ Rating: 9/10
Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts
Zac and Mia, follows the journey of two teenage cancer patients as they struggle with the challenges both in and out of a cancer ward. Written from both children’s’ perspective it is an engaging, unbelievably realistic read with such raw, genuine protagonists. Zac is calm and kind while Mia is perpetually angry and feisty, in the outside world they would never be friends. But in hospital there are different rules – especially when everyone else there is your grandparent’s age. Set in and out of the hospital Zac and Mia is a powerful (not too depressing) novel, perfect for fans of John Green’s the Fault in Our Stars. The base of the novel is friendship- often tentative, ignored and depended upon. Unlike in many novels things don't ‘magically’ fall into place at every turn, both of the characters are humanely flawed and this makes their friendship both believable and enthralling.
The novel isn’t really about cancer. Cancer is how they meet and the battle they face but it isn’t the focus or the point of it. Zac and Mia is about friendship, love, struggle and finding ones strength in others. Beautifully written, it is easily one of the best books that I have read this year.
For ages 12+ (but enjoyable for all)
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
I love Leonard Peacock. Occasionally a character comes along that tugs at your heart so hard you wish you could physically, magically enter the pages of the book to rescue them. On the day of his 18th birthday Leonard plans to kill his former best friend and himself. First there are four important people he wishes to see and leave with a gift. The book charts the day that may be Leonard's final. Left to raise himself while his fashion designer mother lives the high life in New York, his closest confident is an elderly next door neighbour he watches old Hollywood movies with and most of their conversations are direct dialogue from Bogart movies. Being a teenager can be nightmarish, particularly if there are so few people around that love you. Leonard is a sensitive bright soul that exists in the heart of every teenager and if that hunger for love is not tended to the fear and sadness can overwhelm us. This book will be made into a movie, read the book and remember the good people at O&F told you about Leonard first. This book may be classified as Young Adult fiction but it's for readers of any age.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
WARNING: This book will break your heart. This novel is classified as Young Adult but a good story is a good story and an author of this calibre deserves to be read by all.
Though written by Patrick Ness, the original idea for this story is by Siobhan Dawd, who died before she could write this book. I almost feel like her grief is written among the words on every page of this novel. I sobbed with pain as if the characters were people I truly knew. This is 13 year old Connor's story and that of his terminally ill mother and his recurring nightmare. At 7 minutes pass Midnight the monster calls. The monster insists he can help Connor by the sharing of three stories. This novel is harrowing and beautiful and will be with me always.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Diviners is a gripping, sensational read that presents a completely new story, a historical fiction with about 1 000, 000, 000 twists and constant thrills. A young adult fiction unlike any other I’ve read! Awesome! Fabulous! Frightening!
Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City and she couldn’t be happier about it. New York is the city of shopping, fame, actress and movie palaces! Evie has found her place with the glamorous Ziegfield girls and loves the thrills of the rakish pickpockets. However she has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."
Although maybe Will isn’t as crazy as everyone thought, maybe just maybe he’s right. When a series of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. But Evie has a secret, a mysterious power that could save her if it doesn’t get her killed first.
A brilliant book of peril, romance, exploration, mystery and horror, that will keep you clued to the coach.
Recommended for 12+
- Katie McGregor
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
Hilarious. Romantic. Geeky. Moving. Beautiful. Life in Outer Space is utterly ravishing. This is geeky at its greatest. Keil has created a life so believable but incredibly captivating.
Sam Kinnison is an intelligent boy, an obsessive-war craft player, a fan of horror movies and generally a geek. However he is perfectly happy being so. He has his few fine friends, the computer room for lunchtime and a life free from the trouble of girls, well at least until Princess Lea turns up.
In comes the Camilla Carter. She is beautiful, popular, caring and for some absurd and unexplainable reason she wants to befriend him. Obviously this leaves Sam shell shocked and distracted, which was not part of his plan.
A fabulous novel about a movie geek and the dream girl he refuses to fall in love with.
For ages: 10+
Rated: 9 ½ / 10
- Katie McGregor
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S King
This dark, humorous, stunning novel shows the effects of bullying and a child’s way of dealing with the pain. A brave endeavor brilliantly pulled off. It is a jaw-dropping combination of both realism and imagination.
Lucky Linderman is sick of the pain, is sick of the torment, is sick of how no one notices or at least pretends not to, he is sick of his turtle mother and his non-existent father. If it weren’t for his secret he wouldn’t be here. Constantly under attack from Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying Lucky needs an escape. This is his secret… in his dreams he escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Lao with his Grandfather. Here Lucky is a hero, a brave warrior. But dreams don’t last forever and there comes a time when every person must face their demons.
This powerful novel about taking a stand will grip your heart and never let go.
Rating: 9/10 - Recommended: 10+
- Katie McGregor
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Part coming-of-age tale, part mystery, “Liar & Spy” takes place in contemporary Brooklyn and revolves around a seventh-grade loner and misfit named Georges. Georges and his family have to move from their home after his father loses his job as an architect and the family sells their house to make ends meet. His mother is working night shifts as a nurse and Georges finds himself living in a new apartment building with a cast of eccentric neighbours.
He is struggling at school as his best friend drops him in favour of the popular clique but he finds a new friend in the apartment building when he joins the Spy Club. This book is funny and heart warming and thought provoking.
Recommended for boys and girls 9-12 years.
Blue by Pat Grant
Pat Grant brings us a beautifully illustrated tale centred around localism and xenophobia. Set in the small beach side town of Bolton, Blue follows three kids who wag school to go surfing and check out a dead body. They're not a particularly nice gang of kids but Pat Grant gives just enough insight into their lives for the reader to see part of themselves. As the story develops we learn of the arrival of blue skinned aliens and their struggle to assimilate against the will of the unwelcoming locals.
The illustrations are bold, filled with fluid lines and visual metaphors.
Inspired partly by the Cronulla riots Pat Grant explores Australian nationalism and immigration while weaving an adventurous story of adolescence.
Blue is a playful comic with a very serious core. Recommended reading and viewing!
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
What if you only had one day to live? Would you change something? Fix any regrets? Fall in love?
Samantha Kingston has it all and she knows it. So what if she has hurt a few people in her time, everybody does. So what if she is occasionally selfish, it’s that or be a loser. There is nothing else she could want and her future is bright. That was until she died. Forced to that one day for eternity, she realizes that maybe there was something she had been missing.
This heartbreaking debut novel will leave you speechless, soaking in its magnitude. Lauren Oliver is a god of young adult literature. Before I Fall will stay in your mind long after you read the final page. You will never forget.
Recommended for 10+
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
‘Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.’
The future world is one of prosperity, where you are safe from the deadly disease. Lena is thrilled in this new world, counting down the days to her immunity. She longs to be free from such evil, free from love.
In a world where love is despised, where children are no more than a responsibility and marriage is just a mutual agreement between two parities, everything is perfect. Really, is it? Lena is waiting for the day when she is cured, but then she does the unthinkable. She falls in love.
Delirium is an incredible dystopian fiction and a heart-wrenching love story.
Recommended for 9+
- Katie McGregor
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Becca knows what you’re thinking and until now she was using it against you. She is on the run from her abusive stepfather and she has taken sanctuary on Whidbey Island. Things were spacing out and she was finding her place, but when a boy was found next to dead heads begin to turn.
This action-packed novel will leave you thirsty for more. Although it takes a while to get into it, once you do you won’t look back. Wonderfully written and contains incredible description. The Edge of Nowhere is a mesmerizing novel!
Recommended for 12+
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kandare Blake
Dangerous. Breathtaking. Brutal. Merciless. Spectacular. This book is all that and more. Kendra has woven her characters into a magnificent, ghostly web. Her words so picturesque that they feel real.
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat, hunting for the dead.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into her deserted Victorian home. When Cas enters her home, she, spares his life.
The story is a gut-wrenching, gorgeous, heart-breaking, tortured love story. Basically it is just your average-boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story.
- Katie McGregor
Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale
BRILLIANT! This book is a roller-coaster ride! With so many ever-changing surprises and discoveries you are in for the ride of your life. This book only gets better as it goes along. If you aren’t immediately interested from reading the blurb, take my advice and read it anyway! You will be pleasantly surprised!
Rosie Kenning’s mother (Trudie) is dying, slowly losing contact to her daughter due to Huntington’s disease, leaving Rosie orphaned. Alone and lost, with the prospect of inheriting that fatal disease herself, Rosie is searching for answers on how to continue. When she discovers that Trudie wasn’t even her mother to begin with. Filled with the pain of losing her mother, but also finding a new one she begins to track down her biological mother, changing her life forever.
When faced the dilemma of finding a new home but destroying the lives of others or remaining alone, what will Rosie chose? Selfish and happy or selfless and alone? Only one thing is certain:
One Secret Can Change Everything!
- Katie McGregor
The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne
Another standout book for 2012 is marketed at children but I refuse to let them have all the fun, this book is stupendous and deserves to be read by a very wide audience. Barnaby is born into the very normal, very dull nondescript Brocket family. From the moment he is born it is obvious Barnaby is quite different. He defies the law of gravity, shoots out the birth canal and floats immediately to the hospital ceiling! His parents are mortified and ashamed and they attempt to keep him away from the prying eyes of the public as much as they can. One day Barnaby's mother decides the family would be better off without him and punctures a hole in his heavy backpack that allows him to float away. Barnaby has the most amazing adventure, meeting people just as unique as him on the way. Reminiscent of the great Roald Dahl this is a book to be treasured.
Silhouette by Thalia Kalkipsakis
This book is a whirlwind of dancing, passion, ambition, sex, drugs and celebrity. This is unlike any dancing book you have ever read. It’s shows the tough world behind the incredible performances you go to see at theatres. Scarlett Stirling has put every last drop of her energy into her training and is going to be the next dancing superstar. But then she begins to play a dark game.
When the competition is everyone around you and temptation risks all you have, you must stick to the rulebook, but can you? But in a world when one mistake can destroy everything, how do you stay on top? This book is full of raw emotion and was an absolutely beautiful to read. It is wonderfully written and absolutely stunning for dancers and non-dancers alike.
Recommended for 13+
9 ½ /10
- Katie McGregor
Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks
By Ellie Phillips
Sadie Nathanson spends her life trying to survive the excruciating embarrassment of simply existing. It’s hard enough being a bit of a shrinking violet within a loud and outspoken extended family, but the unexpected card from ‘Dad’ on her 15th birthday is the last straw. As ‘Dad’ was an internet sperm-donor, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a bad joke, probably set up by her ex-best-friend Shonna. But it starts Sadie wondering – just who was her father? Is he the cause of her worry crinkle? What would happen if she tracked him down? So she decides to do just that. With help from her nerd cousin Billy, his friend Nodding Tony and a regular dose of ‘Haironomics’ (Sadie’s own hairstyle-related philosophy system), they uncover a lot more than they bargain for...
Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks is an insightful, hilarious and purely awesome novel. It is filled with action and is surprisingly gripping. Recommended for people ages 10+.
- Katie McGregor
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Why We Broke Up is a young adult book about the complicated nature of teenage relationships. With its quirky illustrations and thick glossy pages Daniel Handler's book is unconventional for many reasons. One is its telling by a male from a female's point of view, something done surprisingly well. In a letter from Min to Ed the book details why they broke up and all the complicated reasons that contributed. The characters of Why We Broke Up are unorthodox and for this reason the reader is drawn to both. Min and her mental rambling and movie references and Ed with his bravado and humour make for enticing reading. Their relationship and lives are filled with passion and flaws making this book very accessible to teenagers and anybody who has had to love and let go.
Age recommendation: 13+
When We Were Two by Robert Newton
When We Were Two is a heartwarming adventure about two children who search for their Mother. The journey they make and bravery of the oldest child in leading his brother though the unknown will create a sense of incredible awe. The pain and the weight of guilt the oldest child feels opens your heart and makes you wish you could comfort the boy. The innocence and simplicity of the youngest will make you cry and cry and fall in love. Journeys like these don’t come around every day! This book tells the dark side of the world from a child’s point of view and will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.
Rating: 8 ½ out of 10
- Katie McGregor
The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda
For those of you who love the Hunger Games and for those aliens out there who don’t this is the perfect book for you. Only a few of us humans remain, all of us surrounded by vampires longing to stick their teeth into our flesh and we are kept hidden in a glass dome, barley alive. But Gene, a human, has managed to survive capture, pretending to be one of them. Things start to go wrong when he is chosen to kill humans in a live hunt and then drink their blood. Action, drama, blood and a little romance make this a book you will devour, every last sentence, every last drop. Age: 11+ Rating: 9 ½ out of 10
- Katie McGregor
Changeling by Philippa Gregory
Magic, witchcraft, innocence, guilt, good and evil. In the year 1453 whispers are running wild about the end of the world. Lady Abbess is trapped in a nunnery when her sisters begin to have strange visions and bleeding wounds. She is believed to be responsible, a witch. When Luca comes to investigate, things start to get VERY interesting. This historical fiction is a whirlwind of adventure, injustice, magic and excitement.
- Katie Mcgregor
The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Written by a T.V personality from the well-known program, Glee, The Land of Stories is a twist on the fairy tales that we have all grown up reading. When Alex and Connor’s father passes away their life fills with sorrow, also as their mother has to increase her work hours to support her family. When their grandma visits for their birthday she gives them a spectacular present, a large book called ‘The Land Of Stories’ that contains the fairy tales that have been read out to the twins throughout their life. Discovering that the book acts as a portal, Alex and Connor find themselves in an alternate world where they encounter witches, wolves, princesses and evil queens. Wanting to come back home, the twins race against the clock to find the ingredients to the wishing spell, the spell that has the ability to return them to their home. As they uncover the secrets of this enchanting land they discover even more about themselves. The Land Of Stories is an enthralling book that keeps you wanting more. I recommend this book for children age 9+.
Wonder by R.J Palacio
August Pullman is an ordinary kid. The only problem is he does not have an ordinary face. Since he was born he had severe facial abnormalities and had been treated differently to normal kids. He has been subjected to numerous surgeries and has been home-schooled to avoid the cruelty of others. August has remained sheltered by his parents until they decide to make him do the hardest thing someone like him could do. Attend middle school. Even though his father says it will be “Like a lamb to the slaughter”, August finds friends in the unlikeliest of places. This book is amazingly written and is narrated by different characters with certain links to August. This book is solely about belonging and unfair judgment. I strongly recommend Wonder for children between the ages of 10-12.
Punchlines by Oliver Phommavanh
I strongly suggest that you read this book as soon as you can. It’s very good and very funny. Johnny Khamka is a seriously weird boy who discovers that he could be a VERY good comedian. But as Johnny draws closer to the State final his jokes get lame and unfunny. Will Johnny win the State final or will the other comedians overpower him? I liked the way Johnny narrates the story because he makes it so entertaining and uses funny language.
- Jager (aged 9)
Blood Brothers by Carole Wilkinson
This book is brilliant. Tao a monk of the Yinmi monastery finds himself confronted one night with a glowing green dragon. Tao reluctantly allows himself to be pulled with the green dragon Kai into the dangerous world of bloodthirsty barbarians, deadly dragons and sacred treasures. This book has made the Dragonkeeper series even more renowned for its cleverness, exciting adventures and its creative ideas. I think the author Carole Wilkinson has created a true masterpiece. You can enjoy this marvelous book even if you have not read the others.
- Eli (aged 11)
Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
A phenomenal dystopian series set in a world where human colonists have settled on a distant planet, Chaos Walking follows Todd's journey as his world starts to collapse and he learns everything he thought was true was a lie. Viola, his counterpart, is a newly arrived settler who discovers the atrocities first hand and must adjust to this incredibly harsh environment while navigating her relationship with Todd and the people of this world. Along their path Todd and Viola are faced with increasingly difficult choices and their decision will often come back to haunt them.
This is a wonderful set of books that deal with many philosophical questions of race, slavery, oppression and at its heart, good and evil. Ness deals with good and evil in a very mature way making it as confusing in the books as in real life. Often the heroes and villains will show traits of both while committing heinous atrocities or acts of compassion and this humanises each character in a remarkable way. As the story unfolds you begin to see how hatred and desire for power has warped each characters perception and how much the settlers have strayed from their original goals.
Chaos Walking is a powerful series that creates an overwhelming desire to page turn into the wee hours. If you haven't picked this up yet, do yourself a favour and buy all three at once!
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
The first thing that comes to mind about "Midwinterblood" is that reading it was a pleasant surprise. With a seemingly cardboard set up the author manages to innovate in strange and original ways, one being the use of a technological device called the ”OneDegree bumper”. This idea seriously impressed me even separated from the book. The main premise of "Midwinterblood" focuses on the boundaries of a love that lasts forever. It explores this through the main character of Eric Seven who has lived many lives and in each one has loved the same woman. In a twist of fate they are not always born as lovers but as mother and son or brother and sister. An original slant to the story line. Told in reverse from June 2073 until a “time unknown” slowly through the course of the novel you uncover the events that have plagued these two ‘immortal souls’. "Midwinterblood" is an eerie story, dark and full of sinister suspense. Brimming with tension this short novel devours you from the first page drawing you in with its unorthodox take on “love re-born”.
Recommended: ages 14 and up Rating: 8.2/10
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
It is always interesting to read a novel that has received so much hype and generated such wildly opposite responses. Readers fall into either the Lovers or Haters camp. After finishing "Imaginary Girls" I can safely place myself on the side of those who loved it. Fair warning, this book is not for everyone. It is confusing and riddled with many chilling and frightening elements. And while this might be a turn off for some people, Nova Ren Sum presents it in a way that mesmerizes and captures the audience all the way through. The intention of this book is not to tuck you in at night with a warm cup of milk bidding you sleep. It is to shock you and it is to scare you. Told from the perspective of Chloe the novel focuses on the relationship between her and her older enigmatic and wild sister Ruby. It starts off one dark night at a party where, after a dare from Ruby, Chloe swims across a reservoir of water and, in its murky depths, comes across the cold body of a dead classmate. After this Chloe is sent from her home town - to the unhappiness of Ruby who will do anything to get her sister back. And when she returns home two years later things are certainly not as they were, the truth, an illusive object, now shrouded in death. Dark and twisted "Imaginary Girls" is a revolutionary book about the complicated and dangerous bonds of sisterhood.
Recommended: ages 15 and up - although depending on taste could be suitable for younger audiences.
Switched: BK.1- Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking
Switched is a magical, superb book. It features magic (obviously), magical creatures and trolls (which due to this book are coming into fashion, watch out vampires!). Switch will captivate you and ensure its pages keep turning. It’s a mystical novel of romance and lies. The main character, an awkward, strange female teenager (no, not all teenagers are like that), with a dark past, becomes an acquaintance of a mysterious, young adult who has a habit of appearing in her bedroom at night. Soon she’s off with him, traveling to find the truth of her past. Hurry up and read this book before everyone else does, because Switched has true awesomeness and is going to be big!
For ages 10+ Rating: 8/10
- Katie McGregor
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Romance, ladies or men for that matter, has arrived. When strong, protective, superhuman and plainly gorgeous Gale (sounds good already right) falls for Emma, who thinks she’s human, a forbidden romance unfolds and this time it isn’t because the boring human might be murdered, bitten by her vampire lover (thank god), no this is much more serious. Generations of people are relying on them not being together. If you’re ready (which you should be) to fall in love, cry and then fall in love some more then this book is perfect for you!
Suited for people aged, anything, okay fine, 10+ 9/10
- Katie McGregor
10 Futures by Michael Pryor
If you love a book with drama, action, comedy and suspense. A book that makes you think and ponder then this is the book for you. I was so engrossed that I stayed up many nights just thinking about some possible futures. The main two characters are kind, daring, interesting and very believable. This book points out some of the problems with today’s society and how it could change. 10 Futures is a book with just that, 10 possible futures in which two consistent characters remain. So how would you go if artificial intelligence ruled our lives, there was extreme rationing due to overpopulation or a massive plague that wipes out most of humanity? Read up to find out 10 Futures will leave you speechless!
- Katie McGregor
Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
This book is phenomenal; I was gobsmacked with not only the brilliance of the series but also how action-packed, thrilling and emotional this book in particular was. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, for real this time. The use of spies, humour, action, emotion, boy-drama (vital) and mind-blowingness blends together into the young adult girl fiction of the year (well so far). So if you are thinking (or even not thinking) about reading this book, well screw your head on, rush out to the store/library and have a mental fit until you have this book in your hands, because it really book changing. But make sure you have tissues right next to you and are NOT in a extremely public place, cause you will be crying, laughing, smiling, crying hysterically again and then really tired the next day, when you haven’t had any sleep from reading this book. Recommended for people (girls mainly) 8-100000000000 years old. Rating: 9.5/10
- Katie McGregor
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Is it too early to declare BOOK OF THE YEAR??? Don't look at this book as a young adult fiction title, this is simply a superb book. Having read two previous brilliant books by John Green I was giddy with excitement when I unpacked this book.
Hazel is a 16 year old cancer patient, frustrated that her mother insists she attends a cancer survivors group for teenagers. Hazel rarely communicates within the group but to herself she describes her initial diagnosis with thyroid cancer at 13 (three months after her first period) as like: Congratulations! You're a woman. Now die. At group she meets Augustus who has lost a leg to cancer, and they forge a strong friendship as he tries to convince her they are destined to be together. Yes, this is a funny bookabout cancer but it is in very safe hands with this author.
WARNING: somebody may die and you may sob uncontrollably and you may never be able to forget these characters. This is a book you will want to reread and you will insist everyone you know reads it. This is truly a book we will be talking about for a long time.
Mini Bonus Review:
I agree with Natalie, this book is excellent, and heartbreaking. The central characters are teenagers, but I would be reluctant to call it teen fiction, it's themes of life, love and loss are universal and beautifully portrayed.
Apothecary by Maile Meloy
The Apothecary is a fantastic book told about the period after the end of World War II. Janie comes from Hollywood to London because of the U.S government. Almost immediately she becomes friends with the Apothecary’s son, Benjamin. Then the Russian spies arrive taking the Apothecary and leaving Janie and Benjamin to find and recue Benjamin’s dad and guard the mysterious book, the pharmacopoeia. Along the way they use some of the book’s magic potions, escape from their Latin teacher Mr. Danby and travel on a boat all the way to the waters of Russia to contain an atomic bomb, all with the powers of the Pharmacopoeia. I would recommend this novel to anyone over the age of 10. You will find it is one of the most clever and exciting books you have ever read.
-Eli (aged 11)