Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as Well makes us question why we read. Is it something we do to escape reality, or are we drawn to other realms that may contain deeply unsettling experiences very different from our own?
Two new young adult novels explore the complexities of family. While Maureen McCarthy’s Somebody’s Crying details a daughter’s painful loss of her mother, Alyssa Brugman’s Girl Next Door negotiates the hardships of teenage life while coming to terms with family bankruptcy.
For several years, I have bemoaned the dearth of substantial, challenging Australian novels for ‘middle years’ readers. During a recent stint working in a specialist children’s bookshop, I was frequently asked by parents of these readers – upper primary, lower secondary – for ‘books that will last longer than an afternoon’. I was hard-pressed to find many recent Australian titles that would fit the bill. Two new novels by first-time writers aiming both to entertain and challenge their audience with complex yet accessible stories, concepts and language go a small way towards filling this gap.