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.

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Legacy

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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.

Bugs

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I feel a little bit ashamed to admit that it took me two tries to get through this very, very good novel, and only returned to it because one of my students is having to write on it for an exam. (In my defense, the first time round I had about 45 other books on my bedside table!)  This is an insightful kiwi novel about a Maori teenager who goes by the nickname Bugs. It almost spoils it to reveal that Bugs is a girl – I was surprised to realise this about 30 pages in – but it’s going to be hard to write this without giving it away!  At any rate, Bugs was born to a solo mum in her teens, who has gone on to carve a good career and income for herself and Bugs. She raised Bugs with the support of her wider family, and as a result, Bugs is pretty grounded and is able to stay on the right path in life, feeling loved and supported, even when she makes bad choices. Her two best friends, on the other hand, aren’t so lucky, and the book serves as an illustration of how money really can’t buy you happiness.

What I Lost

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How good is the cover of this book, it gave me total chocolate cravings!  Which is ironic, cause it’s a book about anorexia.   The main character, Elizabeth, has gone from a very normal size down to about 100 pounds in the space of 8 months, so her parents forced her to check into an eating disorder clinic. Well, her doctor and her dad thought it would be a good idea, her mum seemed to prefer Elizabeth at her new size…. The book itself isn’t perfectly written – in places you can feel the author trying to say the right thing and give you the appropriate insight – but overall it manages to paint a pretty grim picture. It definitely gets you into the head space of an anorexic teen, which at times is quite frightening.  Definitely worth a read, although I do worry about the risk of spreading risky eating habits with a book like this; it’s not glamourising, but I reckon there’s a risk it could put ideas into readers’ heads.

Ghost

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This is an absolutely delicious, quick and easy read, perfect for any 10-13 year old boys who might have flirted with trouble in their time! Ghost is the nickname Castle Cranshaw chooses for himself when he accidentally makes the cut for an after school track team.  He hasn’t had the easiest life thus far, and everything seems stacked against him ever getting out of Glass Manor, the impoverished corner of town where he lives with his ‘moms’.   All that seems like it might change the day Ghost meets Coach on the track – but the question is whether he can keep himself out of the principal’s office long enough to actually compete in any races!

My Brother’s Name is Jessica

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I just had a bumper weekend of reading books by the fire in Ohakune, and all three of them were amazing! This story is from the point of view of a 13-year old boy whose soccer-star older brother comes out to the family as transgender. In the middle of the mother’s sneaky campaign to take over as Prime Minister of England.  It’s weirdly hilarious but also devastatingly sad in parts – it reads a bit like if David Walliams rewrote Mr Stink to take on a more serious message. I just loved it and think the author absolutely nailed the family’s denial and rejection of Jason/Jennifer’s desire to transition. We all like to imagine we’d have the right response if our child brought us this type of news, but this book does give you pause to think what might happen if you got it completely wrong!  And how even the most ambitious parents might find a way to try and make it right again…