What I have just finished reading, first: Meg Cabot's Avalon High. I've not read her Princess Diaries series, which are supposed to be her classics, but the girls at my school love them. This one I bought for my library because there wasn't much else by her on the bookshop shelves and this one at least had teenagers in it. It's a retelling of the story of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot in a high school setting and, as such, works oddly well. Ah, if only she had left out the fantasy element! And I say this as a lover of speculative fiction. It begins to get silly when people turn out to be reincarnations of others, and the "forces of darkness" mentioned never actually seem to make a physical appearance, you just hear of them from a schoolteacher who is a cross between Merlin and Giles from Buffy. Still, I found it an entertaining bit of froth, though I got a little irritated with the mention of Mordred as Arthur's half-brother. I can understand that Mordred as Arthur's son is impossible in a high school setting, but if you're going to introduce youngsters to the legend, you don't want characters who are supposed to be Arthurian scholars say this of the original story. I did like the fact that the heroine's likably goofy parents were not gotten rid of, but played some role in the story.
But this isn't what is about to happen here! Young Aussie writer Will Kostakis has just had another book published! I was the first to give a positive review(or maybe even the first review?) to his first novel, Loathing Lola, published when he was only nineteen. It was a delightful, funny and clever look at the cult of celebrity and especially celebrity of reality TV shows, in which the teenage heroine suddenly finds she has a lot of friends when she is chosen to be the star of a new reality show. Her idea is to be a role model for younger kids, but the producers have different plans. This was not only a wonderful novel in its own right, but impressive that a boy with no sisters could get into the mind of a young woman so well.
Now Will is back, with The First Third, a novel that I think is even better than the first. This one is closer to home for him, about a Greek boy and his family, and it's funny, sad, warm and charming, all at once, and says things about family. I received a copy at the Reading Matters conference and the author has kindly agreed to an interview, which I will prepare shortly. It's nicely appropriate, too, that the cover comment should be by Melina Marchetta, whose first novel, Looking For Alibrandi was also about multicultural family issues, but also, like Will, was an author whose second novel (Saving Francesca) came out several years after her first.
Stand by for good stuff and meanwhile, why not read Will Kostakis's books?