Wednesday, 30 December 2009

FIVE Challenge: Great Aussie YA Titles

FIVE Great Aussie YA Titles

I was initially going to post about all the titles that miraculously saved the fantasy genre in my eyes. However, fantasy novels have graced my lists quite a lot this past week so it's time to shine the spotlight on books coming from my beloved homeland.

The titles that I am listing are my favourite few, the only rule was that I had to have read it this year. This is my third attempt and it burgeoned out to 14 titles which was ridiculous so I am back to five. A reminder that my favourite debut efforts by Australian YA authors is here and augments this list.

PINK - Lili Wilkinson

Ava Simpson is trying on a whole new image. Stripping the black dye from her hair, she heads off to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, leaving her uber-cool girlfriend, Chloe, behind.

Ava is quickly taken under the wing of perky, popular Alexis who insists that: a) she's a perfect match for handsome Ethan; and b) she absolutely must audition for the school musical.

But while she's busy trying to fit in - with Chloe, with Alexis and her Pastel friends, even with the misfits in the stage crew - Ava fails to notice that her shiny reinvented life is far more fragile than she imagined.

Due to be released in the American market in the Fall of 2010 (via HarperCollins), Pink is a smashing read about coming to grips with one's identity and all that entails - interests, family, wardrobe and sexuality. It's witty, it's smart and most of all, it's Australian. Convention is tossed out the window and individuality is embraced. Even better, there's musical theatre! Memorable characters, issues that aren't presented as such and a unique voice make this a title you should get your hands on quickly.

My review.


Riley Rose, atheist and bad girl, has been tricked into attending Spirit Ranch, a Christian camp. There she meets Dylan Kier, alumni camper and recent paraplegic, who arrives with a chip on his shoulder and a determination to perfect all of his bad habits. United in their personal suffering and in their irritation at their fellow campers, they turn the camp inside out as they question the meaning of belief systems, test their faith in each other, and ultimately settle a debate of the heart.

Riley is the equivalent of cellophane - she's loud, she crackles and she's hard to ignore. Simmone Howell has taken what on face value sounds like a novel about a) preaching or b) bible bashing and ends up doing neither. I particularly enjoy that the teen suffering in this novel is so vocal. Less stewing, more lashing out but it's written with a sense of heart and humour that worms into your consciousness before you've realised you care. Unconventional in the best sense...realistic, emotionally resonant and with wonderfully snappy dialogue that will have laughter bubbling out of you in torrents. Everything Beautiful is already available in the USA.

My review.


In the beginning it seems so simple. A poem in the mail. A weekend invitation to the coast. But when Sun says yes to a midnight walk, her life becomes suddenly complicated. Saltwater Moons tells the story of Sun Langley during her final months of Year Twelve. There's the intensity of her first relationship, complicated by the fact she continues to exchange poems with her boyfriend's best mate. It's a story about love and betrayal, about constantly longing for the things we can't have.

Imagine you're caught in one emotion fuelled bad decision that keeps on keeping on. The ripples from this one decision keep expanding and affecting every facet of your life until it's no longer a place you recognise? Even worse, your stuck in a relationship with the guy you didn't want. A whole new look at a girl stuck between two boys. Gittus has presented a realistic protagonist who lacks the strength to course correct but infuses her with character and art and love. Beautiful.

My review.

BOOFHEADS - Mo Johnson

Ed, Steve and Tom are lifelong mates but for the first time since pre-school, the ‘three amigos’ are drifting apart. Ed’s high hopes for his football career with the Bombers’ Youth Squad have come crashing down to earth and Steve has become totally self-obsessed. Tom has become an agony aunt for a teen-girl magazine to prove a point to (and maybe even impress) the hottest and most hated girl in school but what will happen to their once strong friendship?

The only title on this list to feature a male protagonist, does this reflect poorly on me? Regardless this is a fantastic depiction of how guys can grow apart as they seek out new directions. Boofheads features the best mother/son relationship that I have read, it's one that is rarely explored in YA and this makes me wish vehemently that it was. Even better, the language and subject matter of the boy's speech isn't filtered - it sounds like real boys and what they say to one another in the safety of one another's company. A hilarious and moving exploration of teen boys on the cusp of becoming men.

My review.


Pink-haired Hilda and endearing punk Benji, each seventeen, have an obsessive hobby - they haunt the places where Hollywood celebrities have died.

In rundown Echo Park, once the hub of the movie business, they find the squalid apartment where a second-rate silent movie star stabbed himself to death with nail scissors. Its current tenant is Hank, an old man with a mysterious past.

While Benji dives deeper into the cult of celebrity death, Hank and Hilda make an unlikely pair. Then Jake the screenwriter turns up.

What's his story?

So I really, really suck...I completely forgot this amazing title when I created my Fave Aussie YA Debut list earlier in the week. It's a cracking great read filled with grit, grief and grime. It would felt right at home sitting between Cecil Castellucci's Beige and Stephenie Kuehnert's I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone as they share the same muddied worlds of intriguing, layered characters, self discovery and a certain amount of discomfort. Captivating and compelling. It also introduced me to the notion of death hags and my sneaking suspicion that I may be one them! MTV Books will be publishing this book in the US in the summer of 2010.

My review.

Further explanation of the FIVE Challenge here.

Tomorrow... FIVE Greatest YA Titles of 2009


kate.o.d said...

yes yes and yes!
and can i add some of my own??
- the visconti house, elsbeth edgar (young YA)
- swerve, philip gwynne
- halfway to good, kirsty murray
- lovind richard feynman, penny tangey

hmmm. i think i can keep going. might do it over in my own space.
am really enjoying your top 5s!

Khy said...

Everything Beautiful was so good! I am so proud I found it, haha. Yay OZYA!

I'm dying to read Pink and Hollywood Ending! 2010 needs to hurry up

Dani. said...

I love seeing how the styles of Aussie writers differ from that of US writers.

Hollywood Ending looks really good, I watched some of the author's videos on it awhile back and they left me wanting more! :)

Marg said...

The only one of these I have read is Everything Beautiful, and that was excellent.

Jen said...

My absolute favourite is Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein. It's not new but it's gut-achingly funny.