Tag Archives: young adult

Retro Review: How to Ditch Your Fairy (2009)

Audio Book

Justine Larbalestier – read by Kate Atkinson

Bolinda Audio (complete and unabridged – 6 hours and 58 minutes)

ISBN: 9781742333892

I read the How to Ditch Your Fairy paperback in early 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive the audio book for review. I listened to it over the course of a few weeks in the car, and was amazed by what a different experience it was, and by how much I had missed in my first reading of the novel.

To begin, the wonderful narration of Kate Atkinson lends a depth and enjoyment to the story. She captures the nature of the story beautifully, and reads with passion and verve. It’s a delight to listen to. Continue reading

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New Review: My Sister Rosa (2016)

Justine Larbalestier

Allen & Unwin, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-76011-222-6

All Che wants to do is get a girlfriend, move up from training to sparring in boxing, go home to Australia and…keep his little sister Rosa under control. Not the usual list a 17 year old boy might have. But Che’s sister Rosa is not the usual type of girl. Che’s convinced she is a psychopath (or more properly, has antisocial personality disorder), and has been studying her since she was very small – nothing he has witnessed has made him think otherwise, from the way she manipulates people around her to the outright awfulness of having her best friend kill her own guinea pig. But it seems being ten excuses a lot of strange behaviour, in the eyes of his parents at least, and most other people only see the charm in Rosa’s cleverness, taking her cute smile and precocious behaviour at face value. Can Che manage to keep her in check while struggling with everything else going on in his life, when no one else seems to think there is a problem?

Given Larbalestier’s previous form in work such as Liar, I fully expected to both devour this book and come out at the end with perhaps more questions than I had going in, and I wasn’t disappointed on either count. I felt constantly off-kilter while reading, always waiting for the other shoe to fall, wondering if what I was seeing, filtered through the lens of Che’s narration, was accurate, consistent, realistic, and this was a masterstroke by the author. You really never knew just where you stood in terms of the events of the book, even though Che proved again and again to be a reliable recounter of events, because at the back of your mind there was always a seed of concern, which Larbalestier carefully nurtured with drops of information about Che, his family, and past events, until uncertainty bloomed through the suspense of the story.

There’s a genuine darkness to this book that reminded me of Kaaron Warren’s Slights, albeit being aimed at a younger audience. The true terror comes from the normality of the story – this could be a real person (and let’s face it, the research suggests there are actually plenty of people like Rosa out there). It’s eerie and the ongoing dread of waiting for Rosa, or possibly other characters, to do something awful is quite real. I will be very surprised if this book doesn’t show up on a few Awards shortlists next year.

 

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New Review: Double Down (2016)

Gwenda Bond

Switch Press (2016)

ISBN: 9781630790387

Lois Lane #2

Teen Lois Lane is settling into school, her baby-journalist job, and a new, somewhat unexpected friendship group, all of which is a bit new for her. But Lois wouldn’t be Lois if she didn’t have a nose for disorder, and between that and her loyalty to those she cares about, the scene is set for mystery, adventure and imminent danger. When her friend Maddy’s twin sister starts experiencing odd turns, Lois is drawn into investigating the source of the problem. Uncovering some weird science and a link to their other friend James’s father’s past disgrace, the situation quickly escalates. On top of everything else, Lois’s online confidant, who she knows only as SmallvilleGuy, has concerns too – and what concerns him, naturally concerns her. It’s a recipe for trouble, and Lois is in the thick of it, where she likes it best.

My favourite part of this book is the sweet unfolding relationship between Lois and SmallvilleGuy (who, duh, is clearly Clark/Superman) – I like the way Lois approaches the friendship and her maturity in discussing it with him. It’s nice that they look out for and support each other, even if it’s isn’t in the real world, as such. I also enjoyed Lois’s friendship with her sister, which is far more believable than the one she has with her parents…

Believability is my biggest issue with this book, and indeed, the series so far. Possibly it’s because I’m not really the target audience. This is definitely a young adult novel – it’s written that way and it hits the beats for it. YA is usually my thing but these ones don’t have the usual appeal – I’m hoping it isn’t because I’m ageing out of the field, because YA is where most of the interesting stuff is! I think that more likely, it’s to do with the medium. What can work in a graphic form, in comics, doesn’t always translate into fiction. While these are written as original novels, the source material is comics. Teenage heroes (be they super or otherwise) are generally unlikely, in any shape. The way Lois interacts with the adult authority figures in her life is bordering on bizarre. She is sixteen but thinks nothing of the way she wrangles her parents, her boss (Perry White), her principal, and in this book, the mayor and plenty of others. It strains my credulity too far, and just doesn’t work. And I don’t think the worldbuilding of the book quite supports the extent of the suspension of disbelief we need – the “science” of this story, while feeling quite natural in the comics, doesn’t quite gel for me within the context of the otherwise fairly realistic setting of the story.

Having said that, the mechanics of the story are fine, although I think it perhaps takes a little long to get to the point. There’s lovely character development among Lois’s merry band of teen journos, and enough action to keep things going. While I didn’t love it, I’m on board to find out where Bond takes Lois and SmallvilleGuy in this iteration, and I’ll happily pick up the next book.

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Retro Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth series

Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Gollancz (2009)

ISBN: 9780575090859

Mary lives in an isolated world where fear is constant, and danger ever present. Her village is locked away from whatever else may be out there in the world, forever sequestered by the threat of the plague of “undead” that surround them outside the fences. The society Mary lives in is harsh, confining … and facing extinction.

Within a few chapters, Mary’s already fragile world is turned upside down – her mother dead, her village destroyed, and Mary on the run with her betrothed, beloved (they aren’t the same person), brother, and pregnant sister-in-law, fleeing into the unknown only because the threat behind them is more dire. Mary’s young life has been filled with pain and death, but at least she had always had the sanctuary of the village, and the “known”. Continue reading

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Retro Review: Shatter Me (2011)

Tahereh Mafi

Allen and Unwin (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-820-6

Shatter Me is an impressive debut novel from Tahereh Mafi, employing an unusual structural style to tell a not-quite-linear narrative following characters you come to love and loathe. While not marketed as such, it is apparently book one of a trilogy, but don’t let that deter you – this book stands alone quite well, and comes to a satisfying conclusion while leaving you wanting more. Continue reading

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