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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Compulsory New Year's Eve Post: My Year In YA Books

I started the year with a binge of Aurealis Awards books, but it's hard to remember how many I read in 2015 and how many I actually read last year. I did keep a "shelf" on Goodreads, but as my Goodreads Year In Books only shows eleven(I've read lots more than that!) I have to assume I read most of the fifty-odd entries in the children's section last year. Anyway, there were some good ones. I'm going to stick to those I remember enjoying most.

I read two of John Fanagan's Brotherband novels, Scorpion Mountain and Slaves Of Socorro, both very entertaining. These are set in the universe of Ranger's Apprentice, of course, in which Skandia, the Viking equivalent, has changed from raiding to the much more profitable and much less messy guarding of various countries they used to raid. The heroes are a bunch of kids who were picked last for teams in the annual Brotherband boot camp and are led by Hal Mikkelsen, that technological genius.

The winner of this year's AA children's section was Carole Wilkinson's wonderful Shadow Sister, the latest in her Dragonkeeper fantasy series set in early China. To read that properly I had to go back and read the others in the series, as I'd only read the first(we have them in my school library). A series well worth reading!

There were Laurinda by Alice Pung and Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, which I mention together because they had similar themes: Asian girl from working class family in Melbourne gets a scholarship to an exclusive private school and encounters a group of snobby girls. But they diverged from each other in other aspects. Laurinda is mostly about the heroine's experiences at the school and how she feels about the nasty girls. Cloudwish is about the heroine's romance with a fellow student and her concern for her mother, who suffers PTSD from her truly horrible voyage to Australia as a refugee. It's also a love letter to Melbourne. And it has plenty of gentle humour among the serious stuff. Both books are great, read them!

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Sean Williams' Twinmaker trilogy. It's breathtaking non-stop action and it's true science fiction. And it handles the implications of certain technologies which many SF novels and films just use casually as background. The books are Jump, Crash and Fall. 

Rebecca Lim's The Astrologer's Daughter was a delightful mixture of suspense, mystery and fantasy, just a bit, as the heroine tries to find out what has happened to her mother and solve a cold-case murder using her knowledge of astrology. (This is despite the irritating title, which is one of a huge number of books entitled The (fill in occupation)'s Daughter.)

Moving outside of Australia for the moment, I read a number of books by American author Laurie Halse Anderson, whom I had heard speak at Reading Matters conference. 

Two were historical fiction, Chains and Forge, set during the American Revolution and seen from the viewpoint of slaves, who had no special reason to care who won the war. It wasn't only the South that had slaves in those days. If you google "American Presidents who had slaves" as I did, you'll find only four out of the first eleven who didn't. The author also spoke of her disappointment at discovering that Benjamin Franklin, whom she "would totally have dated!" was a slave owner.

She also writes wonderful contemporary fiction. Speak is about a girl who was raped last summer and has to deal with the fact that she is the one whom her schoolmates are snubbing this year. In flashbacks, we gradually learn what happened. 

Wintergirls is about anorexia and bulimia, with a touch of fantasy. Oh, dear! And it's so very believable.

The Impossible Knife Of Memory is set in the small town where the heroine's war-damaged soldier father grew up, and how she works at helping him to recover, with the help of the local cute boy who has his own troubles. 

Laurie Halse Anderson is a prolific writer, so if you decide you like her work, there's plenty more where that came from.

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is more or less about what it might be like to be the "Muggle", the non Scooby Gang member, in general the non Chosen One in a town not unlike Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Sunnydale, and even has a cheeky reference to the high school burning down AGAIN as a result of supernatural goings-on(see Buffy if you haven't).

Back to Australia, we have Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson, a deliciously funny romantic comedy about a girl, a boy, a lobster costume and guerrilla gardening. Read it! End - or begin - your year with this funny, funny book.

There's more but these ones came to mind. I've finished them all, but am reading plenty of others, which I will share with you in the New Year.

Today the forecast is 39'C, so I may spend the day sorting books and cleaning with my fan going, and thus evening it's off to the Astor Theate for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I will see with some family members. Rocky Horror has become my tradition since Dad died soon before New Year's Eve six years ago and I decided that I just didn't care about midnight and champagne any more. 

See you in 2016! 


Lan said...

Happy New Year Sue! Sorry it's not a happy time for you. You've managed to read quite a few books this year. I don't know where 2015 went but I didn't read nearly so many or most of the ones you mentioned. I did read The Astrologer's Daughter and loved it though! Rebecca Lim just writes so beautifully.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Lan! Oh, I've read more than those; when you're a teacher librarian you do want stuff to recommend to the kids. And if course, it's a job you take BECAUSE you love YA. ;-) Yes, Rebecca Lim is a fabulous writer, whose Mercy series of novels about a female angel who did something stupid during the war in heaven and is having to sort out problems for mortals while in hiding, are very popular in my library.( I have to keep replacing individual novels when they go missing!) And she's a Melbournian, which is nice. :-)

Very kind of you to note my sadness at this time of year. It's okay, but I just don't do midnight any more and I've found something enjoyable to do in place of parties and family members who enjoy doing the same. And I'm looking forward to meeting the Astor's new cat, Duke, who is a rescue cat.

Pamela said...

The Twinmaker triliogy is on my list--very excited to read those! And I'll have to hunt down that Lili Wilkinson book, by hook or by crook!

Also: 39C??? Good heavens! Stay cool!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Pamela, and welcome finally to my blog! The Lili Wilkinson book may or may not be available in the U.S. yet; Allen and Unwin, the publishers, used to have a lot of stuff published in North America by Annick Press, not sure if they still do, but I'd be surprised if there was no U.S. edition sooner or later. It might be worth asking your library's bookseller, he or she is likely to know. Today is a bit cooler than yesterday, only 28'C. Happy New Year!

Pamela said...

Good to know regarding the publishers. I may try and track down a copy for myself on Abe Books. :)