Young Adult Fiction

Few traits typify the mythology of the Aussie bloke quite as strongly as a love of water and a laid-back attitude. Increasingly acknowledged is the role violence plays in shaping our laconic beach-lovers. Three Young Adult novels tackle this sinister undercurrent of male identity, but in different ways and to different effects. In Kate Hendrick’s Fish Out of Water (Text Publishing, $19.99 pb, 288 pp), swimmer Finn aspires to be a ‘top bloke’ like his father, but does he really? Philip Gwynne’s Taj just wants to surf, but he must deal with a foreign government intent on executing his father in The Break (Penguin Books, $19.99 pb, 384 pp). In If Not Us (Text Publishing, $19.99 pb, 272 pp), by Mark Smith, surfer Hesse is trying to save the environment but soon discovers that taking a public stand on a controversial issue can have dangerous consequences.

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Dystopias, apocalypses, and postapocalypses have been part of Young Adult literature long before ecological disaster became the prevalent social narrative. They give writers a chance to indulge the youthful desire to upset the table and start over, rather than partake in the tedious and often fruitless work of actual progress. Blowing stuff up is far more exciting than endless meetings or political discussions. Asphyxia’s Future Girl, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s The Other Side of the Sky, and Charlie Archbold’s Indigo Owl each deal with the end of the world and how young people navigate it.

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These three Young Adult novels differ wildly in tone, execution – even their grasp on reality. Georgina Young’s début novel, Loner (Text Publishing, $24.99 pb, 256 pp), won the Text Prize for an unpublished Young Adult manuscript in 2019, and was a deserving winner. Text has decided to market it as adult fiction, but it works well as a crossover novel. Her protagonist, twenty-year-old Lona (does not sound like loner!).

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A whistleblower’s child hides from a drug ring in the Blue Mountains. A sixteen-year-old rolls through life like an armadillo. A Melbourne high-school graduate wrestles with her insecurities. The daughter of a Chinese restaurateur juggles her responsibility to care for her siblings as her mother’s health deteriorates.

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Friendship can be a powerful force for change in a young adult’s life. These four new books explore the full gamut of the unlikely, advantageous, and destructive consequences of relationships. ... (read more)

Summer Skin (Allen & Unwin, $19.99 pb, 347 pp, 978192526-6924) by Kirsty Eagar, a raunchy romance for older readers, is set in the halls of residence ...

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Set during the lead-up to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, The Burning Elephant is coloured by political eruptions. Through the eyes of young Govinda, a story unfolds about discord within a marriage, sectarian violence, and the anticipation of a family preparing to emigrate to Australia.

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Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

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March 2013, no. 349

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?

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The second in the Ship Kings series has a cinematic feel and shares the first-rate quality of the first book. Set in a fantasy world where island folk live in unsettled peace under the ruling mariner class, it continues the tale of Dow Amber as he sets off on a sailing adventure aboard the battleship Chloe. He and the unusual scapegoat girl Ignella are the only outsiders aboard the Ship Kings’ vessel as it embarks on a voyage into the northern icy seas, seeking the lost son of the Sea Lord.

 

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‘I don’t mind all the broken things – sometimes I shift a chair outside when I think the house is overflowing, or when I can’t get to the kitchen cupboard or something – it’s the people that bother me. My dad collects broken people too.’

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