Breaking free from the circling wolves – ‘Jenna’s Truth’

jennastruthcoverPicture the scene. It’s 2.47pm on a Wednesday. I have to leave to pick my daughter up from kindy in three minutes, except I’m awash with hot silent tears. I’ve been reading a great book again…

Sometimes there are stories that talk to me, change me, teach me. ‘Jenna’s Truth’ by Nadia L King is one of them. It takes the tough issues of bullying and teen suicide, and fights for a positive outcome.

Never relax around the popular kids; they lure you in like wolves circling their prey – I just hadn’t realised yet that I was the prey. (p30)

King was inspired to write this book by the moving story of Amanda Todd. Straight after I finished reading ‘Jenna’s Truth’ I googled Amanda’s You Tube video. Cue more tears on a Wednesday afternoon. Because Amanda didn’t deserve the treatment she got. Jenna doesn’t either. The difference between these two is that Jenna is saved.

‘Jenna’s Truth’ aims to save many more. Continue reading

Alcohol and social media and the desire to conform: ‘Saving Jazz’

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Mate, after reading this I’m glad I’ve finished High School. Compelling and chest-huggingly confronting. Sickening actions with terrible repercussions. This book isn’t shy. It’s on a mission. But fear not – it also has the poise to end positively without a whiff of cheddar or colby. And it absorbed me.

‘Saving Jazz’ by Kate McCaffrey tells the tale of a drunken party gone wrong and its painful aftermath. It has a level of clarity that only comes from a combo of great writing and clever and careful editing – bravo Fremantle Press. The part of me that’s a mum was rocking in the corner muttering, ‘Home-schooling, home-schooling.’ The part of me that’s planning to be a Science teacher was setting her jaw, more determined to take the path already chosen, but also a little terrified.

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Ten things I fist-pumpingly love about ‘Ten things I hate about me’

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‘Ten things I hate about me’ by Randa Abdel-Fattah is a fab and supremely recommended read. I couldn’t resist making a list of ten things I loved about it!

So here goes…

1. This book is all about believing in yourself and being true to who you are.

2. It’s dealing with race relations in the wake of the Cronulla riots in 2005, but the message is (sadly) still very relevant today. The Main Character, Jamilah or Jamie, is a Lebanese Muslim. That’s a fist-pump for diversity!

3. The email chat between Jamilah and ‘John’ is funny and caring and a great way to show the other side of Jamilah just bursting to come out. Continue reading

How Fornasier Saved the Cat: the beautiful ‘The Things I Didn’t Say’

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If I was Kylie Fornasier, and this was my book, I would be so damn proud. ‘The Things I Didn’t Say‘ had me completely absorbed into the very heart of the narrator. When I put the book down I’d often feel like I couldn’t talk.

Just like Piper.

How did Fornasier do it? Sure, it’s written in first person present, which is a good start. I’ve been known to take a break from a book and be all jittery because somewhere out there Cato and half a dozen other tributes are lurking and all they want to do is knock my bow-and-arrow wielding self into oblivion. So, yes, first person present POV is a great way of immersing a reader.

But there’s more here. I was so taken by this thoughtful and clever book, once I finished and blew my nose a few more times, I analysed the innards out of it to try and pinpoint what made it work for me. Turns out Fornasier Saved the Cat. Don’t know if it was intentional, but it worked.

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Finding what you’re not looking for

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What sort of book gets named a ‘Notable Book’ by the Children’s Book Council of Australia in their Book of the Year Awards? Well, the awesome ‘Cloudwish’ for one. And here’s another – ‘A Small Madness’ by Dianne Touchell.

So, what does Touchell offer that makes this book so notable? Here’s what I found out. And if you haven’t read the book, be warned. Because I’m here to discover why and how a book worked, and little spoilers escape everywhere when I put my thoughts down.

The Basics – write well about things people want to read about

This book is beautifully written, simply written, intricately written. It involves themes that are important to Young Adults, indeed all society. Sure, having the main two characters going all the way on Page 1 is one heck of an engaging start. Most people agree your first page has to jump out and grab the reader… but you still need to deliver.

And this book does.

It hauls you in because from the very start you dread what you fear you think you know will happen. And then it turns out worse. Continue reading

I wish for… WAYRBA, with a side of coriander

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I love West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award time! I simply waltz into my local library, look at their WAYRBA display and pick a few. I’m never disappointed. This year I’m off to a great start because my fingers closed around a stunner – ‘Cloudwish‘ by Fiona Wood.

This book for older readers has multiple subplots that kept me hooked. Thank goodness for a stormy day that meant the garden wasn’t calling me outside! Vân Ước Phan is an addictive main character, intricate and strong. I loved her growth through the novel, her intelligence and spirit. Hiding away inside, waiting for life to start after school, disconnected from family and school friends, she is an amazingly complex character who had me cheering her journey. Continue reading