The CBCA short lists came out a few weeks ago and I am always interested to see what the judges have put on the short list. The interesting thing this year is the number of books by younger writers on the list. What a good thing for the Australian YA sector to have debut novels making it to the list.
As usual we did not have the full complement of listed books on our shelves but below is the list, with reviews, of the ones from the older readers list that we do have in our library.
OLDER READERS: (suitable for more mature readers able to cope with challenging themes and controversial characters)
- The way the story is told is interesting. The chapters are like a series of anecdotes/stories from the life of the main character, Michael. Set in the suburb of Parramatta, 15-year-old Michael narrates what he thinks, sees and understands the year he turns 15. His world alters more than he expects when he and his beloved brother Dom are involved in a car accident. Dom dies but the story does not dwell on grief. It is about Michael and his growth, from a child to a young man. He is resilient and pragmatic character who has to deal with a lot of things including his grief over the death of his brother and the family turmoil it brings. The world Michael inhabits is described vividly, the characters that are part of that world, his family and friends, are realistic. The reader can relate to their foibles and care about what happens to them in the novel. The writing style is simple and the language suits the character. The chapters short and the events documented are easy to relate to. This a story that most teenage boys could identify with and read with themselves in mind.
- Website with teaching resources here and reading notes here.
- An interview with the author here
- Sam Kinnison is happy to be classed as a “geek”. He is an “A” who loves horror movies, the World of Warcraft and all his friends are “nerds”. He is comfortable in his world and knows where he is going, although he is tormented by the jocks at school, his friends are always there for him. Then Camilla Carter arrives at his school. Camilla is more than “cool’. She can be part of whatever group she likes. Sam thinks he can ignore her but her arrival changes everything. People start behaving out of character and Camilla decides that Sam will be part of her life.
- A debut novel that is funny although there are some sad or difficult moments for Sam. It is a good coming-of-age story that teenagers can identify with.
- Other reviews: here and an interview with Melissa Keil here
- Only the second novel from the author this is both a funny and sad book about families and adolescence. The main character is 17 year old Billy Tsiolkas and he is part of a Greek-Australian family. He is the middle son, in a single-parent family and loves his idiosyncratic grandmother, Yiayia. She is a great character in the story and to roughly quote Yiayia’s outlook on life from the novel “Life is made of 3 parts: at first you are embarrassed by your family; in the second part you make your own family and thirdly you embarrass the family you’ve made.” Yiayia becomes ill and so she gives Billy her list of things to do, her bucket-list. It is a short list of three things but they basically they amount to Billy getting his family, which has drifted apart, back together again. This is a big task and Billy has to deal with all sorts of situations as he tries to follow Yiayia’s instructions. There are many situations and characters that readers would identify with as they read this realistic portrayal of adolescent life in Australia today. I like they way Billy’s character described the Melbourne’s laneways, when he and his friend “Sticks” make a flying visit, to an address supplied by Yiayia.
- Reviews from Insideadog
- Publisher’s website with teaching notes here.
- Melina Marchetta interviews Will Kostakis here.
- Teacher’s notes here
- Apocalyptic novel set at the beginning of a nuclear winter. There were elements that reminded me of books I read when at school or starting out in libraries, titles such as Z for Zachariah, Brother in the Land and Children of the Dust come to mind. It is not a simple copy of these stories however and the Australian setting along with many current issues underpin the story. Ideas explored here include the heavy reliance of the modern world on electricity and a lack of understanding about living with the natural world and the treatment of refugees, in this case due to an environmental disaster. Many other elements are there as well, survival, starvation, mental strength, bullying and racism.
It begins like any other day for Fin, a fairly normal Australian teenager. He is living in a small town in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. where everything and everyone is familiar. It it all goes downhill from here. Nuclear missiles detonated after a conflict between two unnamed countries on the other side of the world spell disaster for everyone in Australia. Plunged into a nuclear winter Fin and his younger brother, Max, separated from their parents, have to survive. They are alone with food and water becoming more scarce and cold and darkness setting in. The normal way of behaving changes as people become sick and desperate for food, medicine and fuel. There is nothing coming out from the authorities and any hope of some sort of rescue fades. Suspicion, paranoia and rancour become more and more evident throughout the once friendly neighbourhood. Fin and Max decide to head to Sydney, with some friends, to try find their mother. The journey to Sydney really brings home the enormity and finality of what has happened to Fin. The realisation that things will never go back to “before” hits home. He and Max are refugees in their own country on the wrong side of the barrier. As the story progresses Fin has many increasingly difficult choices to make and each one has consequences. He is not perfect and his character reacts in very understandable ways. This is a survival adventure story that appealed to a number of our boys. It is a good addition to the apocalyptic story genre.
- Teacher notes are available here
- Author interview here
It is interesting to compare the list to the INKY awards (Australian books chosen by young readers) Gold Inky Award long list (Australian books):
- Zac and Mia by AJ Betts
- All This Could End by Steph Bowe
- Steal My Sunshine by Emily Gale
- The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes
- These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
- The First Third by Will Kostakis
- Every Breath by Ellie Marney
- Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
- Run by Tim Sinclair
- The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn
Filed under: literature, Reading | Tagged: 2014, Australian authors, Australian_literature, book awards, CBCA Shortlist, children's book awards, Children's Book Council of Australia, children's literature, YA literature |