Jackie French explores the impact of World War I on both the home- and battlefronts in her extensively researched and earnestly written A Rose for the ANZAC Boys (Harper-Collins), which finds three young girls ditching the irrelevant deportment classes of an English boarding school to start a canteen in France for wounded soldiers. Barry Jonsberg’s Ironbark (Allen & Unwin), an uplifting read about facing inner demons and family, sees a sixteen-year-old city boy with Intermittent Explosive Disorder sentenced to a place worse than prison: his grandfather’s shack in rural Tasmania. On the ‘make-things-go-boom’ action side of the young adult spectrum, Jack Heath’s Money Run (Pan Macmillan), with its perfect mix of humour, suspense and attention to character, proves Heath’s expertise defies his age.
Set in Lismore, Joanne Horniman’s My Candlelight Novel (Allen & Unwin) is the fictional autobiography of a young single mother that presents authentic reflections on maternity and sisterhood through evocative lyrical prose. Horniman’s elegant literary style, refreshingly, does not condescend to young readers. Internationally, All in the Family: Stories That Hit Home (A&C Black), edited by Tony Bradman, anthologises the world’s pre-eminent children’s authors. Like Horniman’s novel, this specially commissioned collection is an uplifting exploration of contemporary family life in all its multiplicities. Trust Me (Ford Street Publishing), edited by Paul Collins, is another notable compilation. This teaser traces diverse genres, from thriller to romance, showcasing top Australian writers such as Meme McDonald and Justin D’Ath, in a format perfect for the short attention span of early teens.