YA Standalones You Need In Your Life

While it feels like every YA book that comes out these days is part of a series…it’s not true! There ARE standalones out there! Series have fabulous perks of course, but sometimes it’s nice to eat a book and know it is a complete story. Beginning + middle = THE END GOODBYE AND DONE.

So I am here with an entirely fabulous list of Young Adult standalones you really ought to try. The best of the best, I tell you.

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9780316213073THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST [purchase]

If you’re looking for malicious creepy faeries, changelings, epic siblings and sword fights all set in a modern world with an uber creepy forest in the background? THIS IS YOUR BOOK. I’m such a wild fan of creepy so all the love to this one. 9781408853818 (1)

THERE WILL BE LIES [purchase]

This is a contemporary/thriller about a deaf girl who is on the run with her mother. But who is her mother? A famous criminal? Why are they running? It’s not fast paced but it’s very mysterious and SO MANY QUESTIONS.

BRUISER [purchase]9780061134104

This is nearly a contemporary. I say “nearly” because it’s about high school and first-love and mini golf aaaaand…it also happens to have this guy named Brewster who can absorb the pain of those he loves. So punch his best-friend? The punch ends up on Brewster. It’s an incredible story about friendship and, erm, bruises. Obviously. 9780060530921

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK [purchase]

Of course I need to wiggle a little bit of Neil Gaiman this list because he is the master. I absolutely adore this book because ghosts! And graveyards! And sneaky characters who do sneaky things! It’s kind of middle-grade, but Bod grows as the story goes. (I’m an epic poet. Appreciate that.)

ONLY EVER YOURS [purchase]9781848664159

This is a dystopian that is NOT a trilogy!! I mean, that’s cause to party by itself right?! (Noooo offence to the dystopic trilogies, it’s just: there are so many.) This one is about feminism and will probably knock you down with it’s thought-provoking message. 9780803734968Also likely to reduce you to a sobbing mess.

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN [purchase]

…it pretty much left me speechless. It’s so arty! The words on the very page are art. WOW. Just WOW. This one is about sibling (rivalry) and growing up and stabbing people with paint brushes. That sort of fun stuff. It’s the writing that’s absolutely vivid and unique.

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE [purchase]9780732299002

And while we’re listing contemporaries, how about a super sad one? This one is about suicide and siblings (!! love me some sibling books !!) and getting closure. And the main character is also into maths! MATHS! I never read about that, so it’s totally awesome.

ADRIFT [purchase]9781925240160

Oh this one is a thriller and a half! It’s about 5 teens stuck in a boat in the middle of the sea and BAD STUFF GOES DOWN. Only 3 teens come out at the end. Exciting? Exciting. Also it explores the more psychological side of being trapped/dying/starving. Total recommend, but I WARN YOU: you’ll probably read it in one-sitting. So stock up on popcorn and fishy snacks.

 

YA Fairy Tale Retellings: Where Do You Start?

YA is basically built on wild crazes that burn bright for a year or so — and than melt into a puddle. It used to be vampires, then hello dystopian, how we love you. And now? Fairy tale retellings! I find retellings particularly addictive because they rekindle childhood obsessions. And who can really grow out of Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood?! AM I RIGHT? (I am right.)

But where do you start? There are so many retellings out there now! SO I AM HERE TO HELP. I have made a list to help you navigate the magical world of retellings.

 

CINDERELLA

9780312641894 9780330426060 9780006755487

  • CINDER: NYT bestseller and part of a quartet, starring a cyborg and a sassy robot. MUST READ.
  • SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS: This is a contemporary! Also gender-swapped, if you wish to see Cinderella as an awkward teenage boy. (You totally do.)
  • ELLA ENCHANTED: Medieval fantasy where the main character is cursed to do everything she’s told? Go read this now. (Also, this was around before the retelling trend! It’s hipster.)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

9780061998669 9780062224743 9780399171611

  • BEASTLY: In a contemporary setting, a teenage boy gets his comeuppance for being a regular jerk. The romance is creepy in this book but…hey. The original tale is kind of creepy if you think about it.
  • CRUEL BEAUTY: How about the old classic tale with a spoonful of Greek Mythology? YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: Technically it’s an Arabian night retelling, buuuut…it has the famous beast/monster AND many mentions of roses. Also it’s downright brilliant.

 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

9781419704284 9781743565087 9781782396543

  • SPLINTERED: This one is like Tim Burton’s 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” movie — absolutely creeptastic and addictive.
  • ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND: Alice + zombies = a book you don’t want to miss.
  • LOOKING GLASS HOUSE: This is written by the great-granddaughter of the Alice who inspired the original tale. How cool is that?! It’s basically a prequel.

 

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

9780062224767 9781250007216 9781444900606

  • CRIMSON BOUND: I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s by the same author of Cruel Beauty (which I adored) so I’ve no doubts it’s spectacular. And just look at that cover! SO BEAUTIFUL.
  • SCARLET: This is the sequel to Cinder (mentioned above) and my favourite book in the series. Sci-fi! Human wolves! And Scarlet is French!
  • SISTERS RED: So forget about Little Red Riding Hood being an innocent sweetie…this one is about sisters who hunt and kill werewolves. They’re awesome.

 

LITTLE MERMAID

9780061255656 9781481401272 9781444915556

  • SEPTEMBER GIRLS: This one is about mysterious blonde girls and beaches and secrets.
  • THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS: I haven’t read this one yet but everyone I know swears by it’s brilliance. It features a mute girl!
  • FATHOMLESS: Another epic retelling from the Fairy Tale Queen, Jackson Pearce, and while this is actually a sequel, from the two other Pearce books I’ve read, I think you can tackle it on its own.

 

SNOW QUEEN

9780763648442 9781471403361 9781444921373

  • STORK: Apparently inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s original tale, and Norse folklore.
  • OPHELIA AND THE MARVELLOUS BOY: This is written by an Australian! It’s more middle-grade, but the story is still kind of creepy and entirely winning. It’s set in a museum, and, um, there is a magical marvellous boy involved.
  • COLD SPELL: This is the finale of Jackson Pearce’s quartet and it looks shiveringly delicious.

 

PETER PAN

9781250062987 9781408330449 9781417734429

  • SECOND STAR: This is a modernised Peter Pan story with SURFING. Surfing is awesome.
  • TIGER LILY: So whimsical and magical…set in a fantasy world and narrated by Tinkerbell.
  • PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS: I haven’t read this one yet, but it apparently is about pirates and adventures and evil kings, so what more could you want?

 

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These are a mere morsel to get you started! The publishing world is literally ripe with retellings. I only hope they start exploring ballets and classic literature and more history-turned-fantasy novels too. WE CAN HOPE.

Review: Four – A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

9780007584642The saddest thing in the world is when an excellent trilogy concludes. So HUZZAH for those brilliant authors who write extra stories for us hungry fans. Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy is mind-blowingly famous. And have you snabbled her short stories about Four, yet? Because you need to.

Four: A Divergent Collection was just perfection. I couldn’t be any more happy with this little skydive back into the Divergent world. There’s a collection of four (duh) short stories and the whole book comes to around 300-pages. It’s like a little snack. I’m nearly disappointed that some stories were so so short. But that’s just me in denial that the series is now officially over.

So let’s break it down and talk about EACH story, shall we?

** WARNING: May contain spoilers for the first book, Divergent, BUT NOT for Insurgent or Allegiant!**

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STORY #1: THE TRANSFER
I loved this one the most! It really showed Four when he was just little Tobias…basically a kicked puppy. OH HE WAS SO LITTLE AND SCARED. He longed for a better life but just was just absolutely resigned to being beaten by Marcus. This story was the most powerful. My only critique is…exactly HOW did Marcus make everyone basically forget he had a son? I mean, Four would’ve had to go to school…and it said people just ignored him. But seriously? No one took an interest in him??? Even Tris, curious little Tris, never knew much about him and definitely didn’t recognise his face when Divergent kicks off. So weird.

STORY #2: THE INITIATE
This is when Tobias turns into Four. It’s awesome. I love getting to know a younger Shauna and Zeke too. Back in the good ol’ days when the training made sense and wasn’t run by Eric. Okay, though, I have to admit, Eric wasn’t scary an intimidating enough. I thought he’d have more of a rivalry going with Four, but Eric is basically in the background.

STORY #3: THE SON
Four has an angry dark side. He’s getting all tall and strong now. Bashing people up. Being a big meanie. Training to be a leader. It definitely fleshes out his character and we see so much from his point-of-view. This one is fills in some backstory about Jeanine Matthews, the Erudite Leader.

STORY #4: THE TRAITOR
This one is actually WHEN Divergent’s happening. It includes a lot of scenes we already know from Tris’ POV. I have to admit this is my least favourite. I’ve already read it! I was just seeing it from Four’s moody persepctive. I love Four, don’t get me wrong, but his thoughts didn’t seem radically different to Tris’ in Divergent, so the double-up made me squint occasionally. I do feel like I understand Four’s feelings for Tris better. He was crushing on her soooo early and she never knew it. Adorable. And also we get a sneak peek into Four’s dating life, pre-Tris. His date with a Dauntless girl lasted 5 minutes and I laughed and laughed and laughed. POOR DEAR.

All in all? This is incredible and a must-read for any Veronica Roth fans. It’s best read AFTER Divergent, but you could read it before Insurgent and Allegiant if you wished it. I wanted to give it 4-stars because…well, HIS NAME IS FOUR. But it needs 5-stars, without a doubt. I hope Veronica Roth keeps writing!

[PURCHASE HERE]

Why You Should Be Reading YA Author, Derek Landy’s, Books

If you haven’t read any books by YA author, Derek Landy, then you’re missing out. He’s written a whole conglomeration of books centred around a living skeleton (it’s awesome, trust me) and now his latest book Demon Road is releasing in August. Which is exciting. Are you excited? I AM EXCITED.

But in case you’re staring at this blog post and mumbling, “But who the heck is Derek Landy?” then I have an epic list of reasons you need to acquaint yourself with his writing. ASAP.

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REASONS YOU SHOULD BE READING DEREK LANDY’S BOOKS

1. He’s the inventor of Skulduggery Pleasant. Skulduggery is a sassy skeleton detective, bent on saving the world from evil magic. He stars in a 9-book series, which brings me to…

2. Derek Landy writes A LOT. You know that awkward moment when you find a newly beloved author and run about the streets shrieking their greatness? And then you find they only wrote one book, omg, no no no?! Derek Landy will NOT let you down like that. Along with the 9-book Skulduggery Pleasant collection, there is a hoard of novellas (some over 200 pgs as well, so they’re basically books in themselves)  and also his new American-set series to look forward to.

3. Did I mention he’s Irish? WELL. HE’S IRISH. Magical, dark fantasy, set in Ireland is just plain terrific.

4. His humour is perfectly dry and witty. Sarcastic wit is my favourite. Skulduggery and his apprentice, Stephanie Edgley, have an almost Sherlock/Watson relationship. They banter. They look out for each other. Their quips are the kind you’ll want to frame on your wall.

“I’m not going to just stand by and do nothing,” she said through gritted teeth.
“You can, as I said, cheer my name, if you want.” ~ Death Bringer, book 6

5. Derek Landy is awesome in interviews. In this interview he answers the question of “where do you get your ideas from” with “from my brain”.

6. Derek Landy is ridiculous funny on twitter. You know how some authors just tweet links and news about their books? Well, Derek Landy tweets about his writing process and, just so you know, authors who’ve published copious books still find themselves staring at blank screens.

7. His newest book, Demon Road, has an epic first sentence. He just released it on his blog.

“Twelve hours before Amber Lamont’s parents tried to kill her, she was sitting between them in the principal’s office, her hands in her lap, stifling all the things she wanted to say.”

97800081412338. Demon Road is about a road trip. Which seems kind of obvious given the title, I know I know. But how many books have you read where the main character is forced on a road trip because demons, killer cars, vampires, and undead serial killers are chasing her?

9. The names of his characters are THE BEST. You will find very few Sue and Bobs, here. The characters in Skulduggery Pleasant (I mean, that name alone is awesome!) sport names like: China Sorrows, Tanith Low, Valkyrie Cain, Nefarian Serpine, and Kenspeckle Grouse.

10. Derek Landy’s books are always full of action and adventure. I’ve only read 6 of the Skulduggery Pleasant books so far (hey! I’m working on this!) but there’s always an epic mix of magic and danger and wit. No lagging plots. No boring monologues. His writing is golden. Seriously, how does he do this?

 

Look out for Demon Road‘s August 27th release!

Review: Every Breath by Ellie Marney

9781743316429I absolutely loved and adored Every Breath by Ellie Marney. I DID! I put off reading it for a few stupid reasons and yes I am ashamed. But I was nervous to try it because:

  • I totally adore Sherlock Holmes and I didn’t want to read a bad retelling,
  • The cover is not pretty. I’m shallow, but HEY. At least I’m honest.
  • The title does nothing for me. It doesn’t even hint that the book is a crime/thriller/mystery.

But I should never have hesitated because Every Breath was pure PERFECTION. Plus it’s by an Australian author. What is not to love?!

 
It was a perfect YA Sherlock Holmes adaption. Mostly because it was really realistic. It wasn’t about two kids who go snooping for crimes like a revamped Nancy Drew. These two Aussie teens kind of trip into the murder of a homeless guy that they knew and they can’t let it go until it’s SOLVED. Plus they defer and reference the actual Sherlock Holmes, which I adored because it wasn’t a “take over”, it was more honorary. These two kids just happened to be named James Mycroft and  Rachel Watts. Mycroft is a forensic genius and Rachel has a knack for medicine. I loved the gender bending of John Watson/Rachel Watts, too!

And it’s so so very Australian. Which just fills me with immense joy. I felt like dancing around the house singing, “It speaks my language!” (You can tell I read a lot of American books, can’t you?) They use “arvo” and “bikkie” and “cuppa”. They call Rachel “Rache” for short (such an Aussie thing toEvery Breath do) and sarcasm and “she’ll be right mate” attitudes come easier than cuddly emotion. I just love how Australian it is, okay?!

The characters (and development) are probably just the. best. ever. It’s narrated in first person by Rachel, who is epic. She’s a bit of an open book, and gets smothered in disbelief and righteousness and rules. But at the end of the day, she’s a ripper of a friend. Since her family just  moved from the country to the city, she’s dealing with a lot of “I don’t fit in” and homesickness, which was uber relatable.

Then there was the adorable, eccentric Mycroft. He’s not as narcissistic as the original Sherlock, which was actually refreshing. He claims to be a social moron, BUT, he makes friends with just about anyone and everyone. Literally every second person he’s like, “Oh, hallo, Bob, how’s the wife and kids” and it always stumps Rachel how he just KNOWS everyone. Mycroft has a tragic past and he forgets to eat, and he notices everything, and he has scars, and he pretends his life is fine, but he huuurts. The tortured little darling hurts. omg. Plus he and Rachel have one of the most fantastic friendships of EVER. It was refreshing to read about a friendship so strong as theirs too, although it hinted that it might move off platonic in later books.

The only things I didn’t like?

  • The book starts with this confusing after-the-school-yard-brawl scene. It was confusing and jarring. I like books to start with action, BUT STILL. To this day, I’m not even exactly sure what that first chapter was about.
  • I still don’t know HOW Rachel and Mycroft met. Did the book not say? Did I miss it? Was it brushed over because it didn’t matter? I’m curious and hope this, too, gets explained in later books!

But otherwise? I’m a billion percent in love with this book. I need the rest of the trilogy ASAP. I loved the mystery, I loved the deductions, I loved how it was all so realistic and very Australian, and I loved the character exuberant amounts.

[PURCHASE HERE]

Review: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

9781408334379I am quite pleased with Ally Carter‘s latest book All Fall Down. I had high expectations since her NYT bestselling series, Gallagher Girls, is such an excellently hilarious series, but All Fall Down definitely stands on it’s own! It features Grace, snarky and bitter, and granddaughter of a powerful ambassador. Oh and she’s looking for her mother’s killer.

I admit! I was dubious at the beginning! The first 100-pages didn’t grab me and I was trembling in my fuzzy socks that the book would plummet into an untouchable basket. THEN IT WOWED ME.

Unlike Gallagher Girls, this new series is not about spies or espionage. It’s set in a made up country (like Genova from The Princess Diaries!) where there’s an entire street of embassy houses. So Israel, Brazil, Russia, USA, etc. are all door-to-door. Technically when you visit a house, you’re “in Russia”. Grace pretty  much has PTSD after witnessing her mother’s death. She’s convinced her mother was murdered by a scarred man. Basically she spends the entire book getting into raucous trouble, making bad decisions, snarking left-right-and-centre, and chasing after an elusive killer that no one (but her) believes is guilty.

Grace was a very dynamic character. But kind of hard to swallow at times because she was such a brat. The rudeness did make my eyeball twitch once or twice.
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And the secondary characters?! Let us take a moment to hug their wonderfulness:

  • Noah: who is half Israeli and half Brazilian…He elects himself Grace’s Best Friend. It’s adorable. HE’S HILARIOUS.
  • Alexei: He’s Russian and was Grace’s older brother’s friend in the past (phewf that’s not complicated). He enters the book as Grace’s overbearing surrogate brother and he was kind of awful and domineering.
  • Megan: She’s like a computer genius.
  • Rosie: She’s a really smart 12 year old who knows everything, apparently, and is like a ninja when she sneaks after people.

The writing was fast and light and easy to read.  The tone could’ve been middle-grade even, if the characters had been 12+. (They acted that way…ahem.) But instead they’re 16 and dubiously immature at times. STILL. This is definitely a book younger teens will enjoy. Literally no swearing or heavy romance.

I did have a few quibbles. Not too many, though.

  • Grace is pretty rude and dismissive.
  • None of the female characters seemed as fleshed out or interesting as the boys.
  • Repetition. Eh, there was just a lot of repeating dialogue (like every third sentence is “ARE YOU OKAY, GRACE?” when obviously she’s not, or Grace saying “I’M NOT CRAZY” when maybe she is, just a little).

I enjoyed All Fall Down. The plot wasn’t fast-paced, but it was engaging and the cliffhanger was torture. I ADORE shocking endings and I sat there with my mouth impersonating a cod-fish. I have a lot of questions and I’m desperately hopeful the sequel will answer them.

“The obvious,” Noah goes on, a little out of breath, “being that he is probably some super secret assassin or something. And I’m not as tough as I look.”
“That’s OK,” I tell him. “I’m way tougher than you look.”

 

[PURCHASE ALL FALL DOWN HERE]

The Best of Australian YA

I’m an avid chewer of books but, surprisingly, I don’t read a lot of literature from my own country. Oh horror! Gasp with me! It’s an abominable shame. The reason for this is, a) I read mostly YA, b) most famous YA books are by American authors, and c) it seems much easier to get one’s clammy paws on American books than Australian ones.

But I do love some good local literature. So if, like me, you are always hungry to find more Aussie authors — I’ve got you covered.

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Bowe_GirlSavesBoy81. STEPH BOWE16111373

Steph Bowe is rather an authorly hero of mine, considering she published two (!) books while still a teen. Plus they’re heartwarmingly fantastic reads. While I loved Girl Saves Boy, I’m particularly fond of All This Could End because it features a family of bank robbers. The family that robs together, stays together. How wonderful.

 

Life in Outer Space

2. MELISSA KEIL19403811

I absolutely fell in love with Melissa Keil’s works after I swallowed Life in Outer Space. Awkward teenager who dreams of being a writer?! SIGN ME UP. I didn’t think things could get better until I met The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl. On the verge of leaving high school? Life collapsing? The apocolypse coming? So many delicious cupcakes? This book shot up to my favourites shelf in a matter of seconds.

Disruption
3. JESSICA SHIRVINGTON 9781492601777

Although she’s a prolific writer of wonderful sounding books, I’ve only read Disruption and Corruption so far. I admit! I was dubious of the premises (everyone has technology that allows them to find true love easily? Bah) but it’s so much more than a love story. It has fighting, adventure, espionage, martial arts, guns, and a really greasy burrito.

 

97819218889534. DIANNEE TOUCHELLA Small Madness | FRONT COVER (10 September 2014)

Even though A Small Madness is only a few months old (published in just February, 2015) it’s entirely sad and beautifully written. It’s a gritty, realistic look at teenage pregnancy with heartbreaking outcomes. I haven’t read Creepy and Maud yet, but with a title like that, it’s on my to-do list.

 

97819221472575. A.J. BETTS9431702

And we can’t forget the tear-jerker of Zac and Mia. I hesitate to pitch it as the “Australian The Fault in Our Stars!” but…it kind of is. The characters may be a little more bitter in this one, but still entirely managed to win my heart with their struggles with cancer. You won’t find any prettiness here, though, I WARN YOU. Only sadness, swollen faces, ice cream, and sheep. I haven’t read Wavelengths yet, mostly because I didn’t know it existed until now. SO! I will read it one day!

97807022501946. CLAIRE ZORN9780702249761

I only discovered Zorn’s books this year — and proceeded to eat two in rapid succession. The Protected is a heartbreaking contemporary about a girl coming to terms with the death of her older sister — but the HOWS and WHYS are mysterious and I kept flipping pages long into the night to get answers. The Sky So Heavy is an apocalyptic story. Mostly snow and unwashed bodies. I’d easily call it “The Next Tomorrow When The War Began”. (Dare I say it’s better?!) You need both these books in your life, ASAP.

 

[All links take you to find more information and prices of these fantastic books! Click! Click, I say!]

Review: When You Leave by Monica Ropal

22928890Okay, wow, this book took me by surprise. It did look delicious, of course (I’m notorious for picking up books based on extreme cover love) and the promise of muuuurder (I’m normal, I swear) added an extra hook. But the first 30% was so much teen angst, cheating relationships, lying, and general meanness all round that I was about to throw up my hands and run away. I’m SO glad I didn’t. When You Leave by Monica Ropal developed into a mind whirling whodunnit mystery.

I’m definitely a fan of murder mysteries. And this book’s ending is EXTRAORDINARY.

It’s narrated by Cass. She’s a snarky skater and goes to a private school where she doesn’t really “belong”. She’s built walls to stop herself being hurt because her BFF, Mattie, nearly died of throat cancer when they were kids. She still has her tight-knit group of skater friends, but is an absolute snob to the rich kids at her school. Cass was pretty unlikeable, but she’s supposed to be that way. This is a story of her growing. I really liked the end result and her character development was well written.

SO. MURDER? Someone kills a kid, Cooper, at Cass’ school. BUT WHO DID IT?! I couldn’t figure it out! I suspected EVERYONE. One of Cass’ skater friends is the police’s suspect, but what if it was one of Cooper’s jock friends? WHAT IF IT WAS MATTIE?!! I loved Mattie. He was a sweetie, and also mute, but as he and Cass grew apart through the stress in the story…I worried about him being a suspect too. I literally couldn’t put the book down after 60%!

There is romance, since Cooper (pre-death; there are no zombies in this book unfortunately) and Cass were a secret couple. But it really isn’t the focus, which is refreshing in YA since everything usually seems so romance focused. Mattie and Cass have an awesome friendship that was purely platonic. I found it quite refreshing!

I have  a few negatives, mainly that:

  • The beginning was a bit sleepy. Still intriguing though! Just make sure you push past that to get to the scary, juicy parts.
  • I worried about Mattie, who is mute, having zero forms of communication!! (This isn’t really a negative on the storytelling, though.) The book says he speaks solely through his “eyes”, but how is that logical? Let me snort. No one can go through life communicating JUST like that, yet, even in his final years of high school he didn’t appear to be learning sign language. So I questioned the realism, but that’s really only a tiny issue.

I definitely enjoyed this one! The mystery was so well done and literally EVERYONE was a liar at some point and it was so so suspicious. I loved Cass by the end and totally recommend this to fans of contemporaries and mysteries and lovers of books like We Were Liars.

“I’m afraid…that when the next person leaves with a piece of my heart..there won’t be anything left.” ~ When You Leave

 

[PURCHASE WHEN YOU LEAVE]

Review: Me And Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

12700353I’m the kind of bookworm that subscribes to “READ THE BOOK FIRST” when it comes to movie adaptions. Do I love movie adaptions? Oh definitely yes. But the original is first priority. So I had to read Me And Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews before the movie hit cinemas (which, actually, was just yesterday).

The thing you most need to know is: THIS BOOK IS EPICALLY HILARIOUSI couldn’t stop laughing. This is the close-your-eyes-because-you’re-giggling-so-hard kind of read. Although the humour does nosedive into crude jokes very often, so do be aware of that.

From watching the trailer though, I have a feeling it’s going to deviate from the storyline a lot. Which is hilarious and ironic because Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is about a kid who makes horrific homemade films in the back yard. AND, there’s this golden quote in the book:

When you convert a good book to a film, stupid things happen.

Let’s just laugh, shall we? And sincerely hope the movie does the book justice! (The author did the screenplay, which is comforting!) You can check out the trailer here.

 

 

REASONS THIS BOOK IS SIMPLY AWESOME.

  •  Like I said: HILARIOUS. I’m just so amazed that I was snickering so much. Greg is really self-deprecating, but brutally honest. He has the funniest way of summing things up and he has such an odd little brain.
  • It breaks the 4th wall spectacularly. A lot of books do this these days…just popping out of narration to talk directly to the reader. But this? This does it perfectly. The entire book is filled with quips and jokes and instructions directly to the reader. It’s like a diary, with lists and bullet points and scripts. Greg is also so mortally ashamed of his stupidity at times he makes a lot of comments like this:

If after reading this book you come to my home and brutally murder me, I do not blame you.

Let me laugh, Greg. You’re adorable.

  • Also, yes, Greg is incredibly realistic. And relatable! He’s the most average of averagest guys. He describes himself as “chubby” and totally lets his mouth get away on him. He’s not stupid, but he doesn’t particularly apply himself in school. He doesn’t have friends, but he’s friendly to everyone. He appears to have Anxiety. I say “appears” because the book doesn’t delve into the topic (I feel like it’s brushed over as “just being a teen”) but his reactions to a lot of circumstances actually make me think he has anxiety. But I digress! I loved Greg for his realism even though he often acts like an idiot. But come now. He is a teenage boy.
  • It’s about cancer, but it’s not. It’s about GREG. So, yes it’s a “cancer book”, but I wouldn’t say it’s an average one. (Definitely not comparable to The Fault In Our Stars.) Greg says right up front that it’s not an inspiring book about “finding peace through trials”. He spoke truth. This is the story of a boy’s senior year in high school, about friendship and growing up and moving on and facing difficult truths.

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There were a few things I’m not the world’s biggest fan of. Like the fact that Rachel, the “Dying Girl” part of the title, didn’t have a very vibrant personality. Also Greg’s apathy bothered me, but that could be his coping mechanism. The humour does also get sexist sometimes, which I do not stand for!

But ultimately? I had a great time reading this! It’s definitely one I recommend (come now! You need to read it before the movie comes out!) for any age. You don’t need to be a teen to be cracking up over this. The voice is just so good and the whole thing is wonderfully quotable. I couldn’t put it down!

 

[PURCHASE HERE]

Around The World With YA Books

One of my favourite things about reading is that you can literally see the world…and yet not move from your comfy reading nook. Well, okay, it doesn’t replace the “real thing”, but if one doesn’t have the ability to jet over the world trying Hungarian Goulash and Sushi, then reading books is a good replacement.

 

If you’re suppressing a secret wanderlust, like me, and want to read books that’ll take you to different countries? BE CALM. I have a list of books for you.

** Note: I won’t list every country here! Because that’d be mildly ridiculous. So some countries I’ll go into more detail, and others just have a brief overview. **

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FRANCE

  

  • ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS: Boarding school in Paris? YES PLEASE. I totally love this one! [PURCHASE]
  • JUST ONE DAY: A gallivant around Europe after high school ends. [PURCHASE]
  • DIE FOR ME: This is apparently about death and Paris. [PURCHASE]

UNITED KINGDOM

  9781408853061 9781447222521

  • HEIST SOCIETY: They totally traipse all over Europe in this one, but the main heist is in London. [PURCHASE]
  • MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN: Grab your raincoat, we’re heading to Wales. [PURCHASE]
  • APPLE AND RAIN: Features wet and foggy London. Also copious amounts of hot chips. [PURCHASE]
  • BEFORE THE FIRE: I’m not this book’s biggest fan, but it’s set in 2011 about the London fire and riots. [PURCHASE]

 

IRELAND

  

  • SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT: One of the best urban fantasy series ever, also Irish. I mean, what is not to love? [PURCHASE]
  • SHIVER THE WHOLE NIGHT THROUGH: It’s a mildly lousy story, but at least it’s set in Ireland and all the names are gorgeous and unpronounceable. [PURCHASE]
  • CARRIER OF THE MARK: An American moves to Ireland. I assume she gets caught up in blue smoke. [PURCHASE]

 

CZECH REPUBLIC

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  • AS WHITE AS SNOW: This is only a whippet of a teeny tiny book, but it’s set in summer in Prague. Apparently it’s hot there. [PURCHASE]
  • DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE: And for a little variety, this is winter in Prague. Apparently it’s freaking freezing. [PURCHASE]

 

ITALY

    

  • WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN: I haven’t read this one but I get a strong vibe it is, in fact, Italian. [PURCHASE]
  • FLIRTING IN ITALIAN: Apparently scooters are popular in Italy? [PURCHASE]
  • ARE WE THERE YET: The famous author, David Leviathan, takes us on a brotherly Italian roadtrip. [PURCHASE]
  • LOVE LUCY: Omg, what is it with the moped/scooters?!! Anyway. American teen, holidaying in Italy, you know the drill. [PURCHASE]

 

SPAIN

 

  • NOBODY’S GIRL: I think her father is French, but she ends up in Spain because WHY NOT? [PURCHASE]
  • SMALL DAMAGES: I believe she got shipped off to Spain after getting pregnant. It’s also possible that oranges feature as a healthy snack. [PURCHASE]

 

GERMANY

  22929574

  • ROSE UNDER FIRE: This is one of the most feels-destroying books in the history of the universe. Set in WWII in a Nazi concentration camp. [PURCHASE]
  • I AM DAVID: I love this book! (The movie is also wonderful.) And he runs around all over Europe, so I don’t even know, peoples. I’ll stick him in Germany but I think it’s Denmark or Poland? [PURCHASE]
  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME: This is a book about letters from two boys, o ne in America and one in Germany! [PRE-ORDER]

 

RUSSIA

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  • SEKRET: I haven’t read this one, but it promises spies and Communist Russia. [PURCHASE]
  • EGG AND SPOON: Tsarist Russia, with a sprinkling of witches and talking cats. [PURCHASE]
  • THE ENDLESS STEPPE: It’s set in Siberia, in WWII. It’s awesome. [PURCHASE]
  • ANGEL ON THE SQUARE: Set in the early 1900s, where the main character is a friend of Princess Anastasia, until, you know, SHE TRAGICALLY DIES. Not a spoiler: This is history we’re talking about! [PURCHASE]

 

AUSTRALIA

  9781742839660

  • EVERY BREATH: This has all the Australian slang of the ‘burbs, peoples. Also it’s perfect. [PURCHASE]
  •  STOLEN: Desert life? We gotcha covered. [PURCHASE]
  • THIRST: Two foster kids? Alone in the Aussie desert? Living off bush tucker and skewering lizards? What could possibly go wrong? [PURCHASE]

 

MIDDLE EAST

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  • THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER: I believe it’s partially set in an “unidentified” Middle Eastern country. Or else I have a sucky memory. Either is possible. [PURCHASE]
  • BROKEN BRIDGE: This book is amazing and also set in Israel and gives a bit insight to culture. [PURCHASE]
  • THE ALEX CROW: This book is partially set in the middle east and then merges into America. [PURCHASE]

 

ASIA

9780141304878 9781402292187 9780440407591

  • CHINESE CINDERELLA: This is a heartbreaking memoir of what it was like to be an unwanted daughter in China. Totally will puncture your feels. [PURCHASE]
  • THE GIRL FROM THE WELL: While it starts off in America, they merge into Japan and ghosts eat them. Well KIND OF. It’s excellent and creepy, though. [PURCHASE]
  • THE YEAR OF IMPOSSIBLE GOODBYES: This is a heartbreaking historical-fiction set in Korea. Be prepared for tears. [PURCHASE]

 

AFRICA

9781405271363 9780007263509

  • BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN: Bestselling author, Elizabeth Wein, can basically do no wrong. [PURCHASE]
  • JOURNEY TO JO’BURG: A pretty heart moving (and teeny tiny) book set in South Africa. Totally appropriate for younger audiences too. [PURCHASE]

 

Have fun travelling, bookworms!

 

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

paper-towns-john-greenWith the infamous John Green’s Paper Towns movie releasing so soon (July 16th! So close! Cue ecstatic excitement!), how about we take a small peek at the book?! I read The Fault in Our Stars first and fell completely in love with the way John Green mashes humour and angst together. Relatable? I think yes. And, pfft, you don’t even need to be a teen to enjoy his Young Adult books.

One of my favourite things about John Green’s books is how he always write about intelligent characters. One of my gargantuan pet peeves is when characters call each other “shallow”. Especially in highschool books. If the book is by the POV of the “nerd” or “freak” or whatnot, they always refer to the bullies and Queen Bee’s as “shallow”. PEOPLE ARE NEVER SHALLOW. No one has one defining characteristic! No one has a complete void in their skull!  ALL people are all complex humanoids with wants and wishes and secrets. Everyone in Paper Towns was refreshingly dimensional and that’s what I loved about it most of all. Let’s crush some stereotypes!

I did cast a slightly suspicious eye on Margo and Quentin, however. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their quirks and weirdness and eccentricities…buuut, I felt like I’d read them before. They felt like reprints of Alaska and Miles in Looking for Alaska. The recycling had my eyeball twitching just a little. But if this is your first John Green feast then that won’t worry you at all. Apart from this, though, as characters, Margo and Quentin (well, Q is how he’s known) were amazingly written! They felt so fantastically real, you know? Sure they get to run around having adventures and thinking huge thoughts and having mini existential crises, but they also have to get their homework done, and communicate (loose interpretation of the word) with their parents, and also hang around and chill. They do normal teen stuff. But don’t worry! It’s not boring, not even for a second, because it’s written so quirkily and interestingly.

PaperTowns2009_6AYes, I’m basically just raving about it’s goodness. And Paper Towns totally deserves it! I don’t think it’s Green’s strongest novel (what with the character recycling) but it’s about mysteries and discovering who you are. That is an incredible message and never loses it’s poignancy. Margo has disappeared and Q (with his unrequited crush on her) is off to solve this mystery on a roadtrip in a mini van with an unlikely gaggle of teens and a whole lot of snacks. They might hit a cow or two along the way. What’s an adventure without nearly dying, right? And the result is so not what you think it’ll be (which I find thrilling! Bring on finale surprises!). I couldn’t put it down! People kept calling me to do menial things like socialise and cook dinner, which was super frustrating. I just wanted to know where Margo was. Everyone leave me alone.

The universe is never sugar-coated in John Green’s books. You don’t get rainbow cake and pretzels. A massive relief, I say. I don’t want fluff! I want substance! Paper Towns definitely kept my attention and I’m super excited to see how it transfers to the screen. Also, by this point, I’m pretty sure John Green needs to be on your auto-buy list. Can he do no wrong with his incredible books?!

 

PURCHASE PAPER TOWNS HERE

High School Reading List Wish List

The Hunger GamesI recently had a fairly robust mutual rant with a friend about how school reading lists desperately need an overhaul. As writers and editors, we’re huge readers. But most of our love for reading was formulated outside, and in spite, of the books we were forced to read at school.

Sure, there were some classics in there, and we’re glad to have read them somewhere along our book-devouring journey. But our point was—and is—school is a crucial time to introduce people to reading. Or turn them off it.

If you manage school reading lists manage the former, readers are going to find their way to all the slightly drier classics in their own time, driven by their voracious and inquisitiveness-piqued reading appetite. Isn’t it better to give them books that get them hooked in the first place?

Plus, those reading lists haven’t been revisited in decades. They’re long overdue for an update. We wouldn’t accept the status quo in other areas such as science if and when new, study-worthy information becomes available.

It’s uncanny timing then, that BuzzFeed came out with a list of 26 contemporary books people suggest should be taught in high school. (That or BuzzFeed is listening in on my conversations. Like Siri.)

Obvs, my friend and I took a keen interest in this list. Shaping up as the first book mentioned is The Book Thief, a book I’ll confess I read, but read late and only for product knowledge. I was working at Borders at the time and people who were largely non-readers seemed to be buying it by the truckload and raving about it vociferously.

Maybe I’m missing something, but though it’s beautifully written, I think it’s pretty slow. Especially at the start. It will remain an eternal mystery to me how non-voracious readers stuck with it long enough to see it through. And in such numbers. Any ideas? Still, the book’s a good suggestion, and a fantastic companion to/comparison text for something like The Diary of Anne Frank.

I Am MalalaNobel Peace Prize-winning Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala is on the list too. It’s an excellent choice because it’s timely and relevant to ongoing efforts to address some of the appalling and continuing efforts to prevent women from obtaining an education around the world.

It’s also an accessible, riveting, relatable read. Malala is both ordinary and extraordinary (as I’ve previously written here in my review). Better yet, it’s written in plain language and grapples with such issues as living overseas as a sort of outsider slash refugee. Much to unpack and relate to there.

The inclusion of The Handmaid’s Tale surprised and delighted me. It’s a dystopian book that I didn’t encounter until I read it as part of my writing course at university, but one that is arguably more relevant than even the time in which it was written. I’ve often thought about revisiting it if or when I have time, as I think there’s plenty I missed reading it the first time.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one I’d forgotten about, but am glad others remembered. I have a cousin and an uncle who have autism. This book enabled me and many others to understand them more than I/we ever had before. I’m almost certain it smoothed my relatives’ paths in the world ever so slightly, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

The Handmaid's TaleChimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s Half of a Yellow Sun makes an appearance on the list. I still—still!—haven’t gotten around to reading any of her work, although I perpetually plan to. This book’s going to be the first one off the rank just as soon as I get some time after uni’s over. In about a year. Watch this book-reviewing blog space.

The Hunger Games features at #21; Harry Potter at #26. I’d have bet they’d be jostling for #1. I mean, have you read anything YA as prescient and addictive in recent years?! And handily capturing people’s imagination and enhanced by blockbuster Hollywood films to compare with?! Not to mention the fact that once students are hooked, there’s more than one book for them to inhale, i.e. hook them on reading even more?!

The Secret Life of Bees sneaks on to the list too. I’ll not deny I’m a little puzzled. It’s a good book, with plenty in there about life and racism and nature and kindness, but not one I’d think to recommend to high school kids for reasons I can’t quite articulate. It certainly doesn’t do anything To Kill A Mockingbird does, but better.

Half of a Yellow SunI’m not sure what I’d recommend in its place, though. Or what list additions I’d suggest. I’m suffering from the classic blank-mindedness that comes from already being provided with a bunch of answers. Maybe The Fault in our Stars

Is there anything you can think of that the list’s missed?

Archimede Fusillo talks about Dead Dog In The Still Of The Night

Dead Dog In The Still Of The NightAward-winning Australian author, Archimede Fusillo delves deep into what it is to be a man in his latest coming-of-age novel for young adults, Dead Dog In The Still Of The Night. 

The story follows the journey of Primo as he attempts to navigate his way though his final year of school with an emotionally brittle mother, a father suffering from dementia, a troubled brother and a demanding older girlfriend. When Primo crashes his father’s prized Fiat Bambino he’s forced to make some difficult decisions. Without strong role models, his choices are dubious and ultimately lead to more trouble. Primo discovers that there’s more to being a man than just posturing as one.

JF: Congratulations on your new book, Dead Dog In The Still Of The Night, Archimede Fusillo. You have carved a niche in the YA market writing about boys seeking an identity. Can you explain the motivation for this?

AF: I have always thought that boys and young men were more than simply the sum of their adventures. It seems to me that too often males in general are portrayed by the mass media as being one dimensional, with little to draw upon apart from angst, self-destruction and a high tolerance for drink and mayhem.

All I ever set out to do was explore what I saw was the deeper more emotional, more humane side of the male gender. I was brought up surrounded by boys, young men and older men who were not carbon copies of one another.

What spoke to me was the breadth and depth of dignity, a sense of caring, and yes, even a degree of self-loathing that permeated the life of boys seeking to discover what it was that made them men, what the parameters and boundaries and expectations were and are that help define one’s sense of selfhood.

JF: There are some deeply flawed male characters in Dead Dog in the Still of the Night. Is this how you see society in general?

Archie Fusillo profile pic at TLC June 2014 croppedAF: Being flawed is a human not a “male” condition. Perhaps it’s just that with the male propensity to mask hurt and pain and sorrow and grief under masks of macho bravado, the flaws are more highlighted than might otherwise be the case.

I’m not a sociologist, or even an anthropologist. I don’t have answers to why some people – male and female, are flawed more obviously than others. All I know is that the machinations set in motion when people seek to hide their flaws, or cannot control them, make for powerful human stories.

In Dead Dog In The Still Of The Night, Primo’s mother is flawed too. Otherwise how to explain her inability (unwillingness?) for so many years to make a stand against all the emotional damage her husband brings to bear upon her family.

The male characters in the novel are flawed, but not damaged beyond redemption –  at least not Primo. Their flaws are compounded, perhaps even brought about by, their inability to put others ahead of themselves. It takes a very strong sense of other, a willingness to look at the world through another’s eyes, and walk about in their shoes, to be able to identify clearly one’s own shortcomings. And perhaps this is the greatest flaw of all of the males in this novel – their inability to reflect upon another, let alone their own actions before those same actions bring about dire consequences.

JF: As with your other YA novels, family is at the centre of this story, rather than a peer group. Why do you focus on family?

The DonsAF: Family is the centre of the world I know and have grown up in. Italians see family as the core of who they are – as a race, as a nation. It is inbred in me to believe in the sanctity of family, and therefore in the power of family to both destroy and create, to love and to loath, to offer and to take. A peer group is by and large an artificial construct that exists outside of bloodlines and blood obligations. The most fascinating, the most powerful, the most engaging stories often begin with the individual caught within the web of the family-its expectations, its dramas, its demands, and its rewards.

With this in mind, why wouldn’t I focus on the pull and push of family life when I want to give my characters the motivation for questioning everything they have come to believe about themselves and the world around them.

JF: The novel’s main character, Primo, is forced to make choices without the benefit of strong male role models. What impact does this have on him and how do you see this playing out more generally in society?

AF: It is a natural aspect of growing up that we look to others for some signposting about where we are at any stage of our lives. Every civilization has rites and rituals where boys look up to their elders for guidance, and the role of the older male role model can’t be overestimated. Choices made without guidance can’t be measured until after the event, so role models can act as a sounding board, helping us avoid some of the pitfalls in life.

Primo’s choices are made according to his own still very limited view and understanding of the world and how it operates – so there is ample room for him to misread cues, not least of all those that require a maturity beyond his youthful years to fully appreciate. Of course he will make mistakes. How big those mistakes are, and how they will impact on him and his family is at the core of the novel’s plot.

JF: As a father, how do you handle the job of role model?

AF: All I can do, all I have ever tried to do is listen, try not to prejudge-and more significantly, try to remember what it was like to be a boy and then a young man.

JF: What’s next for you?

AF: I am working on a new YA novel about young love, poor decisions, and the comedy of being in a big, loud, unashamedly loving family-unsettled by the oddball, unsettling, blended family that moves in next door!

Oh – and Josie Montano and I have co-authored a YA novel titled Veiled Secrets which has been bought by the US publisher Solstice – due out in hard and electronic copy early 2015.

JF: Thanks for visiting, Archimede. Good luck with Dead Dog In the Still Of The Night and your upcoming books.

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults.

Third Time, Er, Lucky With The Trilogy

Dark and Hollow PlacesWere I the superstitious type, I’d say I wasn’t meant to read The Dark and Hollow Places, the third book in first-time and break-out author Carrie Ryan’s trilogy. I’d read the first two books, which were classed as ‘zombie romances’ and, having already invested significant time and energy and interest, I figured I should finish the reading journey.

I’ve blogged previously about these zombie-themed young adult books penned by someone afraid of zombies. I’ve confessed that I have an overactive imagination, am absolutely terrified of zombies, and have to run and jump into bed in the middle of the night lest I be bitten by the ones I for some reason think might be lurking about in my apartment. I reasoned, though, that it’s not like I can be any more scared of zombies than I am now, ergo reading book three would be easy.

But knowing the third book was coming out and getting my reading hands on it were two very different things. I emailed Ryan twice to request an interview. Tumbleweeds. I emailed the Australian distributors three times to request a review copy and perhaps an interview with Ryan. More tumbleweeds. I pre-ordered the book with my own moolah so it would be shipped to me as soon as it was released and tried to give Ryan and her publishers the benefit of the doubt—maybe my five emails got lost in the internet ether.

Forest of HandsThen I checked my mailbox daily (sometimes twice daily) once Boomerang Books had started the book on its merry way. No book. No book for 10 days. I followed up and confirmed that it had been delivered. Within two days of being shipped. I checked with the post office just in case they’d withheld the package as it may not have fitted in my mailbox (they know me well; I buy a lot of books; they hold a lot of my packages), but this time came up empty-handed.

I have a theory about what happened to The Dark and Hollow Places, but can’t prove it. Let’s just say I find it a little suspicious that my highly anticipated package went missing the same day as one of my other neighbours’. And that both packages’ non-arrivals coincided with the departure of our sketchy, sketchy neighbours who’d inflicted the whole apartment block to six months of unhappiness and who were finally, after much legal wrangling and served notices, being turfed out.

But regardless of my alleged, impossible-to-prove theory, I remained book-less. So I re-ordered The Dark and Hollow Places and waited for Boomerang Books to re-ship. They were quick as always, so I didn’t have to wait long, and the new package arrived without issue. I guess you could say it was a case of third time, er, lucky with the trilogy.

I offer this background simply because it kind of upped the expectation ante. Waiting so long for the book to be released and having to work so hard to get it into my hands once it was meant that I was always going to want it to rock my reading world. That and the fact that I’ve recently read some absolute page turners that cover similar themes. I’m talking, of course, about Vampire Academy and The Passage, both of which I’ve blogged about here before.

EragonI hadn’t encountered these books when I found the first Ryan book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and while I inhaled The Dark and Hollow Places—all 370-odd pages in a five-hour reading frenzy—when I stack it up next to these other books it doesn’t seem so amazing. It’s good and it’s compelling, but I can’t help but think it lacks a bit of the sophistication and downright cleverness of the others.

I also can’t shake the gnawing (no pun intended) feeling that there are only so many scenarios you can prop up with zombies—faceless, personality-less antagonists that are a dime a dozen and that stick to a formulaic script of moaning and shuffling and biting. It gets a bit tired (or maybe I have) by the third book and I found (without revealing any major plot devices and ruining the story for you) that Ryan was coming up with increasingly unbelievable scenarios to try to propel the story forward or get herself out of a dead end.

Specifically, I was confused by how everyone seemed to suddenly be scrambling over rooftops and then scurrying through pitch-black subways without any kind of light. I rolled my eyes at how one island could still be standing when the massive, unstoppable horde took what is, I think, meant to be New York City. And Ryan pretty much lost me when she had the characters building life-saving but insanely complex contraptions. None were particularly feasible and the characters seemed to be avoiding almost certain death by zombies like, er, the plague.

The PassageTo be fair, though, I did devour the book in one burning-the-midnight-oil sitting and I am pleased to have finally read the book after a very, very long wait (there’s a lot to be said for discovering a series only after they’ve all been written and released so you’re not waiting on tenterhooks for years in between).

It’s also worth noting that I foolishly didn’t refresh my knowledge of the trilogy with a quick re-read of the first two books and perhaps some of the nuances and interwoven plots were kind of lost on me. I know. All this time spent waiting and I could have been prepping with two re-reads. Shame on me.

So, the verdict is that The Dark and Hollow Places is worth a read, including after much difficulty in obtaining a copy. I think it’s the end of the trilogy—I was a little worried Ryan was going to pull a Christopher Paolini, who talked up his tale as a trilogy and then extended it beyond the doorstopper of a third instalment; the fourth and maybe/who knows final book has just been announced for release in November. At least, I hope it is the end. Ryan’s left it pretty open-ended, but while it’s been fun, I think even she is starting to realise there are only so many ways you can tackle zombies.

Interview with Charlotte McConaghy (Part 1)

As I said a couple of posts back, Aussie girls are flying the flag for YA angel fiction. I was lucky enough to score an indepth chat with the brilliant (and incredibly youthful) Charlotte McConaghy recently, where she weighed in on her Strangers of Paragor series, and why wings are just so. darn. HOT.

Big fan of the Strangers of Paragor series, right here. But in 25 words or less, describe what the trilogy is really about, as if to someone who’s never heard of it before:

The series is about six teenagers from Earth who find a portal into a world called Paragor. There they find a world in crisis – a violent conqueror has taken over, and the people need help defeating him. The books are very romantic adventure epics with a whole host of characters – good and bad.

What made you decide to vary the perspectives of the six main characters, rather than simply have one main protagonist?

Varying the perspective allows us to have a much wider vision of Paragor on the whole. We meet more characters, go on more adventures and experience different aspects of the world and its inhabitants. I wanted each of the characters to have their own voice in order to enrich the story. I love having lots of characters and plot-lines to sink my teeth into. That way when they converge at the end it makes for a big finale!

So come on then, which character is you?

Honestly – none of them! I can’t write myself into any books, nor do I base characters on people I know. They’re all completely and totally made up – its the only way I can make them interesting enough. 😉

I totally know what you’re saying – all my friends are boring too (ha!). Anyways, the world of Paragor is quite intricate. What did you draw on as inspiration for your world-building?

Well first I started with my map. I drew it out and decided on how many countries I wanted to have, and the differences between them. Then I figured out how many characters I wanted, their names, and a few little traits for each. I knew I wanted the world to be medieval in style, so I based my guidelines around that. Then all the little bits and pieces just sort of happened when i started writing the story. To be honest I don’t spend a whole lot of time world-building – I like to just put in what the story needs, and then let the reader imagine the rest, otherwise it can be a bit of an information overload.

So, when you first had the idea for Arrival, did you expect it to branch out into a trilogy from the very beginning?

Actually, I always had in mind that it would be a trilogy, but now that I’ve finished writing the third book, I’ve realised that I can’t possibly fit it all into three, so I’m trying to convince my publishers to let me do four books… here’s hoping!

I’d love an extra book in the series! You can never have too much fantasy. What is it about the fantasy genre that appeals to your writing instinct?

Fantasy, for me, is the perfect canvas for expressing human emotions. You can create these wild situations that push the characters to feel and act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. And it allows us to escape into a world that’s completely different to our own, where anything can happen and there are no rules to what we can imagine.

Why, in your view, do you think angels are so interesting to a YA audience in particular?

A creature that is quintessentially perfect and good in every way becomes really captivating when it shows its flaws. That’s why a ‘dark angel’ is so interesting – there’s something exciting about the idea of power and conflict within an unearthly being. And when a creature like that is interested in a simple human, it’s even more exciting, because it raises the idea of love that is beyond what mortals can experience – love that goes against what they’re supposed to feel.

Put more simply – I reckon a person with wings is super sexy.

***

Charlotte, it’s like we’re twins. But I’m the less talented one.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my chat with Charlotte, where we focus on her second book, Descent, and she pretty much steals all my favourite movies for her own.

Angels in YA Literature (Part 2) – Closer to Godliness

An article in The Guardian, published April 2010, discusses Philip Pullman as a possible trendsetter for the current onslaught of angels in YA fiction. One of the voices of the article claims that “on the ladder that goes up from the mushroom to God, angels are one rung above us”– angels are seen as superior to vampires because they are superior to humans and thus, are “more fertile ground” for the inspired author and the greedy YA reader.

In the second book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman introduces a pair of supernatural lovers in the form of homosexual angels, who meet with the tween protagonists in one of the parallel worlds featuring prominently in the trilogy. Whilst the angels are not major characters in the series, their presence is significant not only for the connotations to Milton’s Paradise Lost (Pullman cites the story as one of his major inspirations), but also because their description is a massive departure from previous religion connotations of winged beings. The ‘nouveau angels’ from Pullman’s books in their own unusual manner and description express a need for companionship, and feelings of desire and love – previously human-only traits.

Angels in YA literature, as touched on in Part 1 have become like teen humans, hormones-a-racing and usually with something to prove. It should come as no surprise then, that teen protagonists in these supernatural novels are now being written by their contemporaries – teens themselves.

On the homefront, Alexandra Adornetto, at the tender age of 17 has three books to her name from when she signed a publishing deal with publishing giants HarperCollins, and is now embarking on an entirely different journey with Halo, due for release later this year. The twist lies in the way the angels in this book are portrayed – they’re not the tortured, dark supernaturals we’ve come to expect, but rather have their own more ‘heavenly’ reasons for investing themselves in earth’s affairs.

But Alexandra’s not the only teen Aussie on the brink of international angel fiction fame. When I first picked up Charlotte McConaghy’s Arrival (Book 1, Strangers of Paragor) mid-2009, I’ll admit it was total cover lust, and not much else. It was only when I’d finished reading, and completely fallen in love with the characters and the world-building of Paragor, that I discovered the author finished writing the book when she was 16! The heavily-anticipated second book in the series by Miss McConaghy, aptly titled Descent, has been released this month. While angels play a fairly small part in Arrival, there’s the promise of more angel action in the later books, portraying angels as the hero messengers – not so far from its original religious context as one would expect from a teen growing up in the age of Twilight, Hush,Hush and Fallen.

The overwhelming feeling one garners from these books is that new Australian YA angels in fiction don’t fit the Edward Cullen mould. They seem, strangely, to be moving away from the tortured and tragic Byronic teen love interest. With Aussie teens themselves weighing in on the heavenly side of the angel craze, the character of the angel in literature lends itself to a new interpretation – is the craving for angel fiction in YA circles not in fact a generation looking for the new vampire, but rather the evolving natural rebellion of a generation in need of a character closer to God?

Upcoming Author Interviews

Just a quick heads-up to say our first two exclusive Boomerang Books author interviews have been scheduled.

Later this week, I’ll be sitting down with Australia’s undisputed Queen of Fantasy, Kate Forsyth, to discuss her latest children’s release, The Puzzle Ring (which is part of our May Giveaway, so don’t forget to enter it HERE).

And this one’s for you, JayTay, a Twittexperiment of sorts. On Tuesday, May 12th, at 5p.m., I’ll be hopping onto Twitter and Twinterviewing (yes, I’m going to do that with all my Twitter-related words, the sooner you come to terms with that, the better) Simmone Howell, who, two books-deep, has proven herself to be a formidable force on the YA market. Her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Literature 2007, and was brill, and her latest, Everything Beautiful, was my favourite book of last year. How does a Twinterview work? Well, you log onto Twitter at 5p.m., make sure you’re following both Simmone (postteen) and I (boomerangbooks), and you can watch our interview as it happens… You can even hurl her a few questions yourself.

Any authors you want me to hunt down for an interview? Leave a comment, or email me: [email protected].