At its greatest, literature offers us the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of someone else; at its most inviting, through a character whose experience could be our own; at its most powerful, through a view of existence that differs vastly, even frighteningly, from ours. The latter is explored in these two new works of Young Adult fiction that show us intensely ‘other’ ways of seeing.
In Negotiating with the Dead (2002), Margaret Atwood proposes that all writing ‘is motivated, deep down, by a fear of, and fascination with, mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead’. Certainly writers often use their craft both to preserve the memory of times, places, and people lost to them, and, consciously or unconsciously, to create a vivid, unique voice that will outlast their own earthly existence. Is this fixation with mortality also a reason for the frequent presence of ghosts in narratives? From Hamlet’s father through to Heathcliff’s Catherine, and on to the otherworldly characters in The One and Only Jack Chant and The Haunting of Lily Frost, many stories pose the question as to whether these eerie spectres are ghosts or imagination, as well as what the living can learn from them – and, as Lily Frost questions, ‘What do ghosts want?’
Authentically owning a character’s experience is one of the great challenges faced by fiction writers, especially when it is something as intensely felt as living with terminal illness. It is testimony to A.J. Betts’s talent that she does so in Zac & Mia without lapsing into melodrama, rather, maintaining a voice that is youthful, contemporary, ...
It’s the early 1980s in Melbourne. Shelley, aged fourteen, is obsessed with football. Discussions of the game are the one point of mutual interest that allows communication between Shelley and her father in the aftermath of the death of her mother.
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?
From the first sentence of Creepy & Maud, we know we are entering a volatile world. ‘My dad has trained our dog, Dobie Squires, to bite my mum,’ Creepy tells us. What follows is a vivid peek into suburban isolation and unease. Almost every character has an addiction or psychological disturbance, from alcoholism and untameable aggression to dyslexia and obsessive compulsions. This society is one where children prefer ‘being smacked to being touched’, intimacy is avoided, and voyeurism and exhibitionism emerge as the only ways to connect.
Sea Hearts takes place in an intensely wrought setting, both unnerving and thrilling – in propinquity to our world, yet enchantingly different. We journey, with a series of intriguing characters, through brutal landscapes where the wind is ‘swiping like a cat’s paw at a mousehole’.