I’m feeling a bit blergh about my boy book quest, partially because so many of the recommended books are dystopian fiction and it’s not my favourite genre. I did quite enjoy this one though, and for the most part its fast paced and really well thought out. The writing is beautiful and the character’s are well-drawn. It centres on a kid called Nailer, who works in the dark hollows of abandoned ships to pick out precious metals and other materials, for resale to the new version of these boats, ‘clippers’. After a “city killer” storm, a clipper washes ashore and onboard Nailer and his best friend Pima find a young woman who is barely clinging to life. They choose to save her instead of chopping off her fingers for the gold she’s wearing, and things take a scary turn from there. Nailer’s own father is a drug addict and alcoholic, who has no hesitation in taking his own son prisoner if he has to, to claim the money that comes from the find. The story follows Nailer’s escape with the girl, Nita, into a scary and unknown world, on the slim hope that she might be able to find her people and they can both be saved. I suspect some of the boys I teach might be quite into it, so this is definitely a book I’m going to field test before I write it off!
Ummm…. this book was super weird. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s just that I don’t think I’d give it to any of my students for fear they simply wouldn’t get it. Each chapter opens with a short blurb about the “real action”, as it were, in a town that seems to be regularly overrun by vampires, zombies, aliens, etc. But the only people ever involved in those events are the “indie kids”, which I guess is just a bit of a mockery of most vampire stories. So the blurbs at the start of each chapter cover the weird invasion by immortals that’s happening in the town, and the actual chapters of the book focus on the rest of the kids who, as the title says, just live there. But these characters are also unusual – one is an actual demi-god worshipped by cats – and there are many battles with mental illness and vicious parents. I didn’t struggle to get through the book, but I did at times wonder if there was a point to any of it…
Finally, a book I want to add to the library! I have been doing heaps of research and borrowing from the library over the past few months, trying to find something decent to add to our collection, but it’s been really slim pickings. I’ve been especially interested in finding a gripping novel about domestic violence, and this is the first one I’ve come across that really held my attention. It’s about a girl called Hadley whose dad is a total tyrant. He controls everything she does, obsessively monitoring what she eats and forcing her to run at 5am every day, as well as insisting she play lacrosse and learn to fly planes. We learn early on that she’s the only survivor of a plane crash, and it’s pretty clear she was on the plane with her family – we don’t know, though, if she was flying or what caused the crash. The book tracks back to work out what really happened on the day of the crash, by uncovering all the deep, dark secrets of Hadley’s awful, violent family life. Definitely worth picking up.
A student was asking for more stories about survivors of rape last week and this was on a best book list in the last couple of years; I can see why, it’s an intense and darkly drawn story. At the beginning I was confused by what was happening to who and when, but once I realised I had misread the first two pages, the whole thing clicked – and it was amazing! The story opens with the town outcast, Romy, remembering the night a year earlier when she got totally hammered and was raped by a guy she’d had a crush on; no one believed her because he was the town golden boy (the sheriff’s son) and so she lost all her friends as a result. That first page then flicks to the present (which is how I got confused), where Romy once again finds herself broken and beaten, hungover as hell, on the side of a road. We then go back two weeks to see what was going on in the lead up to Romy ending up in that state. We also meet the town sweetheart, Penny, who it turns out has gone missing the same night Romy was abandoned on the road side. The book is a gut wrenching, emotional tale of small town power and politics, and how dangerous these can be for vulnerable young women. Definitely worth a read.
I believe this book is winning lots of awards at the moment and I can only say that this is very, very much deserved. ‘Far From the Tree’ is a beautifully told story of three half siblings, all separated from their mother (and each other) at a very young age. The story opens from the point of view of Grace, who at 16 has just given birth to her first child and put her up for adoption. This prompts her to start the search for her own birth mother and half-siblings. She quickly finds her sister, Maya, who has been adopted to a wealthy family that is falling apart, and her brother, Joaquin, who was less lucky, living a life bounced between different foster families. The characters are so intricately drawn in this book, you get such a strong sense of the way life has shaped them. They have certain things in common that are clearly genetic, but many other parts of their personalities have been formed by the choices that were made for them, and the lives they therefore lived. I suspect this will be a popular read amongst our students, I can’t wait for our own copy to arrive!
This must be the most highly recommended title when you are searching for YA books, especially if you say you want something that is about brown girls with real problems! (Although this one is about a brown boy…) It’s definitely a great book, so the recommendations are justified, and I’ve had loads of reluctant readers pick this up and just love it. Equally though, lots of my students pick it up and just kinda go, “Meh”, and put it back down again. It’s about a boy, which perhaps is why it sometimes lacks appeal? Not sure. The story about a community broken by racism and alcoholism is powerful though, and one I’m sure many young people can relate to. It’s not a dense read, combining gorgeous illustrations with engaging text.