Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

 

I have to tell you, I personally spent a huge chunk of lock down lamenting the library closure, desperately trying to access something decent online. It was truly dire. After a number of false starts I managed to get a copy of this one, and from the first page I knew I was onto a winner! It follows the story of two women, Emira and Alix; Emira is Alix’s daughter’s babysitter. She is also black. The first scene of the book has Alix calling Emira for emergency babysitting duties in the middle of the night – we don’t know why – and Emira takes her tiny charge off to the supermarket to look at nuts, a treasured activity.  Insanity of the American variety ensues, as other (white) customers begin accusing Emira of kidnapping. It’s an extraordinarily well pulled together story, which satisfied my desire for not only excellent literature, but also some gold, old fashioned comeuppance!  Absolutely worth a read, especially with all that’s going on in the world right now…  And while it’s not necessarily YA, I think it would be a great read for year 13 students.

Red, White and Royal Blue

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

God I loved this book! I thought it was going to be total trash – the cover is quite bad – but I’d seen it on so many lists for the best royal stories (I have a total thing for those!) that I thought I’d give it a try. I mean really, I’m on lock down, what do I have to lose? As it turns out, I have only to gain because it was glorious!  It’s about the 22 year old son of the first female president of the US, Alex, and the 23 year old third grandson of the Queen of England, Henry.  They start the book as arch enemies but slowly… yeah, you know the drill. But it’s so well delivered it’s very hard to put it down. Be warned, there is also A LOT of sex in it though. I mean, a lot. Not for the faint hearted this one! It’s worth mentioning that in the final acknowledgements, the author said that she wrote it after the 2016 election, as a kind of personal antidote to the US elections. I have to tell you, it was a very effective move.

Hazel and the Snails

Hazel and the Snails | Massey University Press

I picked up this delightful little Kiwi story from Loco Books in Featherston, an equally delightful institution that I highly recommend visiting if you’re in the Wairarapa (they even gave my children free treats!).  They had a big table covered in NZ fiction, and this one caught my attention, as Hazel is one of my favourite names. The story is about a six year old girl struggling to come to grips with her father’s illness and ultimate death (sorry, spoiler alert, but you want to know before you give it to your kids!).  Instead, she does what six year olds do, and focuses intently on the life and death of her collection of snails. It’s beautifully written and has gorgeous, simple illustrations, including a little picture of a snail down the bottom of each page, so you can flip the pages and watch it move.   Given the main character is six, the story is vaguely pitched at that level, but it’s quite emotionally sophisticated, and I don’t think many six year olds would be able to handle either the content or the writing independently.  My daughter, who was nearly 8 at the time, loved it, but there was much to be gained from a second read together, and all the discussion that came with it.

We Used to Be Friends

We Used To Be Friends by Amy Spalding

This is a pretty lovely story told in a slightly confusing way – but it works, once your brain remembers that all the passages are out of order! It follows the “break up” of Kat and James, two (girl) best friends who have fallen out. Well, more like they’ve drifted out, and neither can quite put their finger on why.  It’s quite refreshing to read a book centred on the failing of a platonic relationship, as opposed to a romantic one, and the reasoning behind it all felt pretty real.  I did find Kat a touch tiresome though, but I suppose that was the point!   Overall it was a good read, but not one I’d necessarily peddle to the masses.

Tell Me

Tell Me: What Children Really Want To Know About Bodies, Sex And Emotions

This book is brilliant! Emily Writes posted it on Instagram as she’s writing a review, so of course I quickly ordered a copy… It’s fantastic. I think it’s translated from a European author (it’s published by Gecko Press in English), which perhaps explains how frank and no-nonsense it is.  Having said that, it’s also incredibly funny and totally age-appropriate for a book about sex and puberty aimed at children! Every page has a hand written picture below an entertaining cartoon illustrating the issue, then the reverse page has the answer.  It’s open, honest and non-judgmental, without ever being unnecessarily graphic; totally worth having around the house for kids to find out answers to life’s burning (and mortifying) questions!

Violence 101

Image result for violence 101"I read this one a month or two ago at the encouragement of one of my NCEA students, and I can totally see how it would appeal to a teenage boy! It follows a 14 year old called Hamish, whose life of crime has led him to a juvenile detention centre, where he quickly establishes himself as king pin.  Unlike most books about troubled teens, Hamish doesn’t have any underlying trauma that has led to his offending – unlike the other kids at the centre – and basically he’s just too clever for his own good (and fancies himself as too badass).  Ultimately he is able to face up to his past behaviour and start to reflect on how he can turn his life around, but not before putting everyone around him through hell first!

Mrs Battleship

Image result for mrs battleship"

What a spectacular, tiny little book. Tim Tipene is a kiwi author who survived a childhood of devastating abuse at the hands of his parents. As the result of some truly exceptional teachers, he came to understand what love and kindness look like, and was able to make the choice as an adult to live a completely different life to the one he was born into. This short, incredibly easy to read novel delivers what could in another context be called horror stories, in a humourous, touching way.  It’s so easy to read my daughter, who is 7, polished it off in one sitting; her takeaway was that life is hard, but it’s also funny, and you can overcome anything if you have kind people to show you how.  Not a bad message…

Orbiting Jupiter

 

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Oh what a heartbreaking, page-turning, perfectly formed little book! I couldn’t put it down and now I think I need some ice-cream to right the world… This tiny gem of a novel is told from the point of view of 12 year old Jack, whose 13 year old foster brother, Joseph, changes his life completely. Joseph clearly comes from terrible trauma, and has had a hideous time in the juvenile detention system, but his heart remains 100% focused on finding the daughter he’s never had a chance to meet, Jupiter.  The story of how the two boys come to love and trust each other is so perfectly told, and every fiber of my being just ached for Joseph…. A fantastic novel, really easy to read – beautifully paced, written like it could have been told by a 12 year old, nicely spaced out lines – and just unputdownable.

Legacy

Image result for legacy whiti hereaka

This was kind of amazing but also quite confusing and maybe a little hard to get into… And I’m still not 100% sure what happened in the end. It’s essentially about a teenage boy who falls into his great-grandfather’s story during WWI, after being hit by a bus in the present day.  It didn’t really grab me from the outset, and even once I got into it I was still largely reading to find out how he was going to get back to the present day – let’s just say that it didn’t end how I thought it would! I think I’d recommend this, but it’s definitely complex and you’d want to give it to young people who are interested in war, because they do have to work for it, it’s not an easy read.   Weird. But good. But Weird.