Best YA Novels for 2015 and looking into 2016

a single stoneAustralian YA writing is powerful, fresh and imaginative, creating spaces for thought and wonder. The finest novels from 2015’s field in my view are Meg McKinlay’s A Single Stone, an exquisitely written dystopia about lean girls who tunnel through stone. Younger readers in upper primary school can also read it and I hope that it finds a niche as a contemporary classic.

Lili Wilkinson’s Green Valentine is a hilarious tale about popular girl Astrid and how she and Hiro transform their ugly suburb through guerilla gardening. Humour is difficult to write and Wilkinson shines in this, as well as inspiring readers to beautify their surroundings with nature.

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams is another urban caper loosely based on the real-life theft of a Picasso painting. Books about the arts often rank highly with me, as do books with an interesting structure.

Fiona Wood’s Cloudwish centres on Vietnamese-Australian scholarship girl Vân Uoc Phan who adores Jane Eyre. The story becomes magically surreal when she wishes that she “fascinates” Billy Gardiner.

Truth about Peacock BlueRosanne Hawke (interviewed here) writes hard-hitting yet compassionate stories based on young people in dire situations, often in Pakistan. Her latest, The Truth About Peacock Blue follows Christian girl, Aster who is accused of blasphemy by her Muslim teacher. Her life is at risk. A number of topical issues are raised with sensitivity and balance.

Trinity Doyle’s Pieces of Sky is an exciting debut. Doyle is part of a group of female Australians who debuted with a splash in 2015. (I’ve interviewed many Australian authors on the blog.)

My international picks are award-winner Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which follows the kids who aren’t in the cool group.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead is about Bridget whose friends seem to be growing up faster than she is. Stead always does something to surprise and parts of this novel are told in 2nd person. It’s clever and intriguing.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is a (mostly) feel-good story about a big girl who enters a beauty pageant.

Cat with the coloured tailHighlights for younger readers are Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray, The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears, illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera, and Star of Deltora by living “imaginarium” Emily Rodda.

I can’t wait to read novels coming for young people in 2016, including Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall, A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, A Tangle of Gold by the luminous Jaclyn Moriarty and James Roy’s new YA novel.

Australian YA: Meet Trinity Doyle and Pieces of Sky

 

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Trinity.

My pleasure!

Pieces of SkyPieces of Sky (Allen & Unwin) is your first published YA novel. How did you get published an agent or through the slush pile?

I got my deal through my agent.

What is the significance of your title, Pieces of Sky?

In the novel the idea of sky represents something to reach for out of the grief and the story is a somewhat fractured look at that.

The characters seem very real as if based on experience or young adults you know or have observed. How did you give your characters this verisimilitude?Trinity Doyle - credit Farrah Allan

Thank you. I tried to instil them with as much truth as I could—whether it was my truth or someone else’s. If I could work out what each of them wanted—small or big—it helped them become more alive for me.

Who do you hope reads your book?

Everybody haha. People who are searching and feel stretched thin by the world, those who want beauty and an escape. Those who are up at 3am developing obsessions for things most people have never considered. Photo of Trinity Doyle (credit Farrah Allen)

One of the characters writes snatches of poetry. Do you write poetry or song lyrics?

SextonI’ve tried my hand at song lyrics. I was in a band once and did some writing—not much of a singer though so I just spoke gruffly into the microphone haha. I had an intense period of journalling when I was 19 and that was mostly poetry. I tried to be all Anne Sexton over my lack of boyfriend 😉

 

You included some really interesting bands in the novel? Why did you pick these?

Some, like The Jezebels, had a lot of impact for me in the early writing of the book while others became important to me later. I tried to make each mention count, it had to have the appropriate feel for the scene and also be someone I thought the character would’ve actually listened to. I had a lot of fun with Evan’s more obscure taste.

Why did you choose Pennant Hills in Sydney as the place Evan grew up?

haha! Because I wanted him to come from somewhere a bit well off but not too much. It’s also outside the city, which I liked, I like him being an outsider. Truthfully though it’s just what came to mind. I had some friends who grew up there.

Where are you based and how involved in the Australian book world are you?

I’m based in Newcastle, NSW. I think I’m somewhat involved in our book world—I think it’s the best book world going. I’m a part of our local CBCA group, the Australian Society of Authors and the brilliant #LoveOzYA campaign.Night Beach

 

How else do you spend your time?

I work as a graphic designer, hang out with my 4yo daughter and hubby, cook—I love food and am passionate about health. I garden a bit though I tend to lose interest when things die or are overcome by weeds. One day I’d like to have a tiny farm—gotta get better at keeping the backyard alive first though.

What have you enjoyed reading?

Graffiti Moon

So many books! Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar is my absolute fave, closely followed by Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and Maggie Stiefveter’s Raven Cycle books.

All the best with your new book, its a stunner and I reviewed it in the Weekend Australian here. Thanks very much, Trinity.

Thank you!

Risk, Meet Fleur Ferris

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books Blog, Fleur.

Thanks you for having me on the blog Joy.

RiskYour new YA novel, Risk (Random House Australia) is creating a buzz in Australian YA circles. I believe that it has a very important message, told as an engaging story. Is it your first published work? Have you met any other YA authors?

Risk is my first novel to be published. I’ve met a few YA writers in person, and many more online. It is great to be a part of the Australian YA community, everyone is very friendly and supportive. I hope to catch up with a few YA authors (in person) at the Bendigo Writers’ Festival in August.

Why did you write Risk?

A number of incidents involving predators meeting and grooming girls online and then luring them away occurred in my local area. I’m a family friend to one of the girls and was shocked that she was almost a victim to this type of predator. This girl (then 14 years old) is a smart, well-adjusted girl who doesn’t go looking for trouble. It frightened me that trouble found her. I started looking into cases and researching how predators use social media to find victims. I found out that anyone can use a proxy box to hide their identity, even from the police. During the process an idea for a book came to me.

Your character Taylor comments that the guy she meets online doesn’t seem like a stalker. What does an online stalker seem like?

Great question! I wish I had a great answer. Taylor, the fifteen-year-old character in Risk, thought that an online stalker would be outwardly creepy, or have other obvious, indicative traits. But once Taylor got chatting to one particular guy online she didn’t question him because he was so nice. It is impossible to know if people you meet online really are as they seem.Fleur Ferris

Apart from encouraging young people to read Risk how can we protect them?

I believe education is the key. Discussing online dangers and possible strategies to adopt will help people (of any age) avoid falling victim to online predators. Increasing awareness of online dangers will hopefully lead to a person making better, and more cautious, decisions about information they give out as well as meeting online friends in the real world. As long as there are online places to meet people, online predators will exist and education about this needs to start early.

Who have you modelled the two protagonists, Taylor and Sierra on?

Initially, Taylor and Sierra were modelled on my nieces who were fifteen and sixteen years of age at the time Risk was written.

Sierra likes Taylor Swift. Do you like her too or have you featured her for another reason?

I do like Taylor Swift and her music. Over the years I have enjoyed learning about her journey to stardom and I admire her. She is strong, intelligent, funny and artistic. Taylor (and her music) inspires me.

Pieces of SkyWhat have you enjoyed reading recently or in the past?

The neighbour by Julie Proudfoot is incredible. The pause by John Larkin, Cooper Bartholomew is dead by Rebecca James, Pieces of sky by Trinity Doyle and All the bright places (audiobook) by Jennifer Niven are all brilliant YA books. I’m also reading Jacqueline Harvey’s Clementine Rose Series with my kids and I am enjoying these books as much as my kids are.

Are you writing something else at the moment? If so, could you tell us about it?

I have just signed a contract with Random House for my next YA novel. The title is unconfirmed at this stage, but I can say it is another contemporary stand-alone and sits well alongside Risk. It will be out mid next year.

Neighbour

That’s fantastic news. All the very best with it, Fleur.