Posts Tagged ‘YA Fiction’

Book Club Pick: October 2019

I am Change

Title: I Am Change

Author: Suzy Zail

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Black Dog Books

First Published: 2019

Pages: 352

Publisher Description:

Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is.

In Lilian’s village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

Inspired by the true accounts of young Uganda women, I Am Change is the tragic but empowering story of how a girl finds her voice and the strength to fight for change.

Review:

I am Change follows Lilian, a young woman from a rural village in Uganda, who dreams of writing stories and has ambitions of becoming a teacher.

Unfortunately for Lilian in her village young women are often pressured into marriages arranged by their parents. It is expected that the young woman’s focus will be producing sons and caring for her husband’s needs. Many young women do not complete their education as these arranged marriages will occur when they are a teenager.

I understand the importance of Own Voices literature so I had my reservations reading a novel about a young impoverished Uganda woman written by a white Australian former solicitor.

It is not my place to say whether it is Zail’s place to tell this story. It is clear that she has done her research and treats the subject matter with respect.

In 2015, Zail met Nakamya Lilian, a 29-year-old woman from Uganda, who was visiting Australia. She told Zail her story of growing up in an improvised rural village and her ambitions and struggles to get an education.

Zail flew to Uganda and interviewed thirty young girls, and their stories are the basis for the novel. One of those young women Namukasa Nusula Sarah read each draft and wrote the foreword for the book.

The novel tackles some strong issues around women’s rights, such as a patriarchal education system, female circumcision, arranged marriages, prostitution, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Although I am Change is confronting and challenging at times it is optimistic and hopeful, and inspires and advocates for change.

 

Links:

Suzy Zail Official Website

Suzy Zail on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

 

 

Book Club Pick: September 2019

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Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: Direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzar & Bray

First Published: 2018

Pages: 368

Publisher Description:

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat – but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends she’s bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friendship group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high, and its hard for Leah when the people she loves are fighting – especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended…

Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.

Review:

We were first introduced to Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

In this novel Simon takes a back seat as his best friend Leah narrates her senior year. Leah is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist. She can be very abrasive and judgemental. I actually found it refreshing to have a voice that is vulnerable and flawed – she is still figuring things out.

Leah identifies as bisexual, but she is only out to her mom – has been since middle school.

The story follows Leah as she develops a crush on one of her friends, as well as dealing with the usual pressures of senior year – prom, preparing for college, graduation and saying farewell to your high school friends.

It is positive to see a young bisexual woman who is comfortable with her own body and diverse POC representation.

There have been some criticisms of the novel. One criticism is that there were no hints to Leah’s sexuality in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as a result some readers have felt that the novel is more of a fan fiction of Albertalli’s earlier work. Some readers have also been critical Leah policed another character’s identity when she came out as ‘low key bi’, and did not apologise for this judgement.

Leah on the Offbeat is not as good as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I don’t think it had a chance to live up to Simon vs. I think it would have worked better as its own story with a new set of characters – that being said it was nice to see Simon and Bram again.

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Click here to read my review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Click here to read my review of the film Love, Simon

Links:

Becky Albertalli Official Website

Becky Albertalli on Facebook

Becky Albertalli on Twitter

Becky Albertalli on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: July 2019

MoreThanHappyNot

Title: More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Soho Teen

First Published: 2015

Pages: 300 pages

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend, Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future. As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threatens to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Review:

16-year-old Puerto Rican Aaron Soto is living in a one-bedroom Bronx apartment with this mother and older brother Eric.

Aaron’s father has committed suicide in the family’s bathtub, and Aaron has attempted suicide himself. Not only is he wracked with guilt over his father’s death, but he is also struggling with an attraction to other boys.

This is where the Leteo Institute comes in, a private medical centre where clients can pay to have their painful and traumatic memories erased. Can the Leteo Institute make him straight?

More Happy Than Not is a science-fiction story that explores issues of memory, race, class and sexual identity.

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Links:

Adam Silvera Official Website

Adam Silvera on Twitter

Adam Silvera on Tumblr

Adam Silvera on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: June 2019

Ten-things-i-hate-about-me

Title: Ten things I hate about me

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Pan by Pan Macmillan

First Published: 2006

Pages: 278 pages

Publisher Description:

There are a lot of things Jamie hates about her life: her dark hair, her dad’s Stone Age Charter of Curfew Rights, her real name – Jamilah Towfeek.

For the past three years Jamie has hidden her Lebanese background from everyone at school. It’s only with her email friend John that she can really be herself. But now life is getting more complicated. The most popular boy in school is interested in her, but there’s no way he would be if he knew the truth. Then there’s Timothy, the school loner, who for some reason Jamie just can’t stop thinking about. As for John, he seems to have a pretty big secret of his own…

To top it all off, Jamie’s school formal is coming up. The only way she’ll be allowed to attend is by revealing her true identity. But who is she…Jamie or Jamilah?

Review:

The novel follows sixteen-year-old Australian-Lebanese-Muslim high school student Jamilah Towfeek living in the western suburbs of Sydney. Jamiliah for the past three years has hidden her Lebanese-Muslim identity from her high school peers by dying her hair blonde, wearing blue contact lenses, and going by the name Jamie.

Unfortunately at her school bullying and ethnic discrimination exists. So it is understandable why Jamilah is hiding her identity.

At home Jamilah feels oppressed by her overly protective father’s strict rules. He is the breadwinner and disciplinarian after her mother’s passing. Jamilah is frustrated by her older brother Bilal’s freedom, he doesn’t have the same rules and can go out to parties and date because he is a boy. She is also embarrassed by sister Shereen’s Muslim activism.

Jamilah hasn’t completely denied her Lebanese-Muslim heritage she enjoys attending madrasa, an Arabic school, where she plays the drums in a band.

There are also three boys in Jamilah’s life.

At school Jamie attracts the attention of Peter, one of the most popular boys in school, but also one of the school bullies.

Jamie is also partnered on class assignment with Timothy, a loner in school who is comfortable in his own skin and isn’t bothered by what his classmates think of him.

Then there is John, a boy who she communicates with via email (her email is Ten_Things_I_hate_About_Me@hotmail.com). John is the only person she can be herself with because they have never met.

As one will expect the novel explores Jamilah’s struggles to accept her true identity.

In 2017 I attended All Day YA at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, where Randa Abdel-Fattah was on a panel about diversity in YA Fiction. 

Links:

Randa Abdel-Fattah Official Website

Randa Abdel-Fattah on Twitter

Randa Abdel-Fattah on Facebook

 

Source: I purchased this book second hand.

Book Club Pick: May 2019

we-were-liars-lockhart

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delacorte Press

First Published: 2014

Pages: 227 pages

Publisher Description:

A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends – the Liars –
whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Review:

The novel is narrated by Cadence Sinclair Eastman, the eldest grandchild of wealthy patriarch Harris Sinclair, who owns a private island Beechwood, near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

The Sinclair family spends their summers on the island. Harris has three daughters Carrie, Penny and Bess.

Carrie has two children – Jonathan (Johnny) and Will. Johnny is three weeks younger than Cadence and is the second eldest grandchild.

Harris’ youngest daughter Bess has four children Mirren, Liberty, Bonnie, and Taft.

There is also Gatwick ‘Gat’ Matthew Patil, who is the nephew of Carrie’s partner Ed, an outsider to the family, who joins them every summer.

Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Gat are known as ‘The Liars’

There is a Sinclair family tree provided at the front of the book, and also a map of Beechwood Island.

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At age 15 Cadence has a romance with Gat. At the end of the summer she has an accident, but she cannot remember the details of what happened. What happened in the summer of her 15th year as Cadence refers to it is the mystery of the novel.

It is two summers later when Cadence returns to the island with migraines and on medication. In a fractured and disjointed narrative Cadence attempts to reconstruct what happened – unreliable narrator anyone?

The novel is also interspersed with many ‘Once upon a time’ fairy tales. In an interview with The Guardian Lockhart said she used fairy tales ‘to have Cadence tell truths about her family that she felt were unspeakable any other way. Lockhart added that ‘fairy tales get told and retold because they tap into truths about human beings.’

 

Links:

E. Lockhart Official Website

E. Lockhart on Twitter

E. Lockhart on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: April 2019

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Title: 1914: Riding into war

Author: Susan Brocker

Series: Kiwis at war series, book 1

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand

First Published: 2014

Pages: 215

Publisher Description:

Billy may have been fresh off the farm, but he was a good rider and an even better shot. When the world went to war in 1914, Kiwis rushed to enlist. For Billy and his best mate, Jack, joining the Mounted Rifles Regiment held the promise of adventure – little did they know that half the battle would lie in keeping their horses alive aboard the troopship as the journeyed halfway around the world.

Review:

Seventeen-year-old Billy Bowman, nicknamed Billy the Kid because of his youthful looks, is excited to enlist when war is declared in August 1914 and leave his farm job in small town New Zealand for an exciting adventure.

Billy lies about his age and he and his friend Jack Thompson and their two horses Tui and Spirit join the Mountain Rifles Regiment.

The story follows Billy and Jack’s training at Awapuni, their trip by sea to Egypt, and more training before they are sent to fight at Gallipoli without their horses.

The horses are also important characters and the boys’ relationships with their horses are an integral part of the story. Sadly we often overlook the number of horses that were killed in war.

Brocker is passionate about horses. She lives on a small farm with horses and many pets. She has written several books about horses, including Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses, a true story of Bess, one of only four horses to return from war.

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The book also features a map of the ‘Journey of the NZ Expeditionary Force, October-December 1914’; timeline, glossary and bibliography for readers to learn more.

This was the first in a five book series ‘Kiwis at War’ released to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The series was scheduled to be release one a year to coincide with the 100 years commemorations (2014 – 2018).

Characters will appear across several books to connect the stories. Although each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.

I have read the next three books in the series – 1915: Wounds of War by Diana Menefy, 1916: Dig for Victory by David Hair, and 1917: Machines of War by Brian Falkner. I’m still waiting to read 1918: Broken Poppies by Des Hunt.

Brocker portrays the reality of war realistically without the novel being too graphic in its depiction of the horrors of war.

Links:

Susan Brocker Official Website

Susan Brocker on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: March 2019

everythingeverything

Title: Everything, everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2015

Pages: 310

Publisher Description:

Live life is a bubble?
Or risk everything for live?

Maddy is allergic to the world.
She hasn’t left her house in seventeen years.

Olly is the boy next door.
He’s determined to find a way to reach her.

Everything, Everything is about the crazy risks we take for love.

Review:

The novel follows Madeline ‘Maddy’ Whittier, a biracial teenager (African-American and 3rd generation Japanese-American) who is being treated for rare disease called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SKID).

Maddy lives her life inside a sterile environment never leaving her house – hence why SKID is often referred to as ‘bubble disease’. Her only company is her doctor mother, her day nurse Carla, and the occasional tutor.

Shortly after her 18th birthday she watches from her window as the Bright family move in next door – mom, dad, son, and daughter. Maddy is drawn to the son: ‘tall, lean, and wearing all black: black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and black knit cap that covers his hair completely’. He practices parkour, is mysterious, and her bedroom looks directly into his.

The boy-next-door Olly befriends Maddy and the two first begin communicating by mime from their bedroom windows and later online, and eventually with the help of Carla are able to meet in person – behind her mother’s back.

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Maddy and Ollie communicate via email

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and instant messaging

Maddy knows that her and Olly will never be able to have a normal relationship, and the novel explores this dilemma.

The book features numerous illustrations throughout by Nicola’s husband David (his debut novel Frankly in Love is due out September 2019).

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Illustration by David Yoon

In 2007 a film adaptation was released with Amandla Stenberg as Maddy and Nick Robinson as Olly

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Links:

Nicola Yoon Official Website

Nicola Yoon on Facebook

Nicola Yoon on Twitter

Nicola Yoon on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.