Archive for the ‘young adult’ Category

Wise, tough, heart-breaking, funny, this compulsive love story is about facing your demons.

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party, but that’s when things really fall apart.

I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Especially since I was the new girl in town. Who would want to believe me?

Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall.

‘You’re funny, Becs,’ Cory said.
‘You have no idea,’ I said, and clearly he didn’t, but I was smiling anyway.
And after that, he was all I could think about.

Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again . . .

*this book contains adult themes and is suitable for readers aged 16+*

Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Trying to fit in to a new town, Rebecca goes to a party, gets drunk and goes for a walk on the beach to clear her head, when she is raped.  She doesn’t tell anyone as she fears being labelled a slut.  Her new cute neighbour likes her but he is friends with her rapist.  He can’t understand why she doesn’t want to go to places with him where she might run into his friends and thinks it is him that is the problem.

This was a tough book to read but but very well written and not graphic.  It covers the hard-to-talk-about topics of rape, self harm, and suicide in a natural way.  The main character got on my nerves after a while with the way she constantly put herself down, she annoyed me and I didn’t really like her.  But then again I’m not this book’s target audience and can’t relate to a lot of the aspects (thankfully).  I really enjoyed the ending – it as a plot twist I didn’t see coming.  I love endings like that!

This is a beautifully written book that deals with some serious issues New Zealand doesn’t really talk about.  It is well worth reading and I’m recommending it to my cousin’s daughters.  The contact numbers at the back for agencies that offer support for the issues raised was a caring touch.

Zeus has punished his son Apollo–god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more–by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo/Lester do anything about them without his powers? After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships–with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

It’s all about Apollo. Apollo is still banished from Olympus, still in the body of a pimply teen called Lester Papadopoulos and still on his quest to find the oracle that may have the answers to help him get back into Zeus’ good books. It’s all about Apollo. Accompanied by his friends he is traveling the mid-west, keeping an eye out for and battling monsters sent to destroy them all. It’s all about Apollo but not everyone loves the coolest of gods, ok, former god, and wants to help him as a matter of course because… he’s Apollo. It’s all about Apollo, however he may be beginning to just slightly be aware, that demi-gods and humans are not as, well, disposable, as he has thought up till now. It’s all about Apollo but in fact he is getting quite fond of these beings who are brave and loyal. It’s all about Apollo, but maybe getting in a big bowl of popcorn and slamming a few cold ones down as you watch a battle, where armies are tearing each other up in your name, from the comfort of Olympus, may not have been…..cool.

It’s all about Apollo but maybe it can be about others too?

 

Before they became the most famous Ranger in the land and the hard-working Ranger Commandant, Halt and Crowley were young friends determined to change the world.

The scheming Baron Morgarath is drawing other power-hungry knights and barons to his banner. King Oswald is wasting away and, if gossip can be believed, Prince Duncan is causing havoc in the north.

Halt and Crowley set out to find the prince, uncover the truth, and re-form the weakened Ranger Corps. Once-loyal Rangers are scattered across the country, and it will take determination, skill, and leadership if they’re to come together as one. Can the Rangers regain the trust of the Kingdom, or will the cunning Morgarath outwit them at every turn?

the-tournament-at-gorlan

Random House

supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

Flanagan continues to mine his “Rangers” world; only now he’s digging into prequel territory.

The flaws in his world-building are still evident – coffee ought to be a rare luxury in any pseudo-medieval world unless the setting is very close to its point of origin (or there are improbable amounts of magic messing around with transport and economics).

I keep wishing he’d chuck out this background and start again doing a proper job of it, because he’s otherwise not a bad writer.

The Tournament at Gorlan fairly rollicks along, and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. The story is that the young Prince has be taken captive, and an imposter is stirring up trouble in his name, while the old King is being slowly poisoned in mind as well as body. Our rangers make it their business to get together and put things to rights.

Which they do, culminating in the events of the titular tournament (which I must admit felt more like a modern re-enactment than the real thing, but that’s Flanagan).

The reality is that the majority of his young readers will not even notice the mistakes that annoy me, and this is probably the best of his work that I’ve read so far. Which is as close to a recommendation that you’re going to get.

\

When of hundreds of Japanese captives arrive at Featherston POW camp, the tiny town is divided. Tensions run high and then, on 25 February 1943, disaster strikes. Three boys are there at the moment the storm breaks – and terrible, unforgettable events unfold before their eyes.

enemy-camp

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

It’s 1942, and the tiny farming town of Featherston has a prisoner-of-war camp that can house hundreds of Japanese soldiers in it. Ewen, whose dad is a guard there, can’t stop wondering about the enemy just down the road. Some say the captives are evil and cruel and should be treated harshly – or shot. But when Ewen and his friends ride out to the camp to peep through the barbed wire, the POWs just seem like . . . well, people.

Written as a journal Ewen keeps, this tells the events of the NZ POW camp through the eyes of a typical kiwi kid. Ewen and his best friend Barry ride out to the camp to see what the Japanese are like.   They take along Barry’s little brother Clarry in a carrier attached to one of their bikes, as he had polio and his legs are weak.

The boys are given Japanese lessons from an English speaking Japanese officer called Ito. From him they learn that for the Japanese in the camp “for us to be prisoner is to be dead person”.

They realise people aren’t all good or bad and everyone is a fellow human being, regardless of race or religion.  An important message to learn, especially in this turbulent time.

I was really interested in this story as my Poppa was one of the guards – I found out after he died as he was ashamed of the Featherston massacre.

Aimed at 9-14 yr olds, this is an addictive read for all ages.  David Hill has written another enjoyable, fascinating book based on true events in NZ’s history.

the-severed-land

Puffin

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Fliss, an escaped slave, pulls Kirt, whom she thinks is a drummer boy, though the Wall. But he is not as she thinks, and Fliss is sent back through the Wall with Kirt by the Old One on a mission. They must rely on Fliss’s street smarts to survive the journey south deep into enemy territory to rescue Kirt’s sister Lorna and return with her to the Old One. This will not be easy as not only is Lorna hunchbacked and blind, but she is the prisoner of an enemy faction.

This is Gee’s first children’s book for almost ten years, but his skills haven’t faded. The story rattles along quickly with no unnecessary padding. The characters are believable, and the situation, an oligarchic plantation society bent on dominating an entire continent, is credible. Gee is not afraid to present the ugly fact of challenging such authority and failing: execution.

I enjoyed this book. The story was a page turner, it was neither too long, nor too short – the multifarious side plots in adult fiction had been omitted and the barebones of the story told. A good read.

 

To Right, Boy is a classic New Zealand road trip story. Old Harry hasn’t enjoyed the best of reputations; a former foreign correspondent with a love of whisky and gambling, he sets out to redeem himself by taking his grandson, Brad, on a road trip while Brad’s parents are on an enforced leave of absence. He attempts to take good care of the boy, while imparting some much needed character training. Despite Harry’s best intentions, the road trip only confirms the parents’ worst fears. But in the end, a lesson lived is a lesson learned, and the road trip goes a long way to exorcising familiar demons.

too-right-boy

SHIH Village Books

Supplied by SHIH Village Books

Reviewed by Lee

Who doesn’t love a road trip?  From New Zealand’s iconic 1981 film Goodbye Pork Pie (with its remake due out next month), to this summer’s Air New Zealand safety video, road trips are all about fun, discovery, and that unexpected edge of danger. So, when Too Right, Boy, a book about a man and his grandson taking a road trip through New Zealand came across my desk, I was eager to read it. On that score, Too Right, Boy doesn’t disappoint with Chamberlain capturing the essence of the New Zealand’s landscape, with sharp too-real imagery that every Kiwi can identify: the “woof woof” of the bellbird’s wings as it explodes from high up in a tree, “the mile-long queue of cars” backed up in the Karangahake Gorge, and “plastic bales of hay stacked in the paddocks like lime-green Oddfellows”.

Where else but New Zealand can you see a pig snorting and fuming in the car boot (trunk), while being carried to the butcher on the motorway? Where else can you ride brumbies on the beach, and put up your tent above the dunes?

It’s not all fun and good humour, though. On Harry and Brad’s journey there are corrugated iron projectiles to avoid, flooded rivers to ford, and some tense altercations with roadsters. I loved that the road trip takes the pair to coastal towns like Waihi, Katikati, Tauranga…places I’m familiar with and can readily visualise. Not only that, the book is chock-full of delicious road trip ‘food porn’ with oysters shucked from their shells, fish filets rubbed in butter and flour and sizzled over a fire, fish and chips eaten on the beach, roast dinners enjoyed in roadside pubs, and scones reheated and smeared with cream and jam in a Waihi carpark.

But there is a deeper story to this road trip. Twelve-year-old Brad, molly-coddled to the nth degree by his understandably overprotective mother, is desperate to break out and find a bit of independence, so he stows away on his grandfather’s campervan, strapping his surfboard to the undercarriage of the vehicle. Brad’s mother, Sheryl, will never allow it, but a timely accident means she can’t protest, so Brad and Harry get the go-ahead to carry on with their character-building trip. Author, MO Chamberlain, has nailed the voice of the adolescent, imbuing Brad with all the anxiety and exuberance you would expect in a boy of his age. Brad is smart too, smart enough to know to keep quiet when a question might get him into trouble, and how to secretly download porn to his iPad.

However, the story’s key protagonist, Brad’s grandfather Harry, is somewhat of a paradox and for most of the book, I really had to struggle to like him. At 84, former journalist Harry, is both irreverent and religious. While I loved his Kiwi can-do approach to life, his raw appreciation for New Zealand’s wild places, and his need to right certain wrongs, some of Harry’s attitudes are not only out-dated, they’re strongly bigoted. “What happens if we run into some wild Maori along the coast? How are we gunna make a run for it?” he says, before they pair set out on one excursion, as if the local people are to be feared. His views about women are not any better. Every female Harry encounters is either an aggressive sexual fatale to be avoided ‒ this includes free-spirited 14-year-olds right up to well-meaning 80-year-old Vera, who bakes them cookies and drives all night to rescue them ‒ or, if they’re “good girls” they’re probably nagging and oppressive, like Brad’s mother Sheryl. Even Harry’s beloved wife Mary, three years dead, doesn’t escape his criticism:

“Mary would never have allowed that.”

“Harry could feel Mary was there, sitting across from him, and he knew she didn’t approve.”

“…the woman was still here goading him”.

Ultimately though, where his grandson is concerned, Harry’s heart is in the right place, and the pair establish a deep bond, the quintessential element of any good road trip story. With comradery, hairy moments and some deeper reflection, Chamberlain’s Too Right, Boy is exactly what readers expect from a road trip story. An engaging Kiwi read.

lee-cover-1

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor. A six time-winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror, she holds an Australian Shadows Award (with Dan Rabarts) for Best Edited Work for the charity flash fiction horror collection, Baby Teeth.

the-sword-of-summer

I must confess that I haven’t actually read any of Riordan’s work before, although I had seen the movie adaptation of Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief. Which hadn’t really impressed me, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this novel. But I soon discovered otherwise. What didn’t come through in the movie is the sheer exuberance of Riordan’s prose, and his truly wicked sense of humour. This book was fun!

There were a few things that didn’t sit well with me – the convoluted logic it took to get a Muslim girl to become a Valkyrie for example (just because Muslim heroines are fashionable doesn’t mean that every story has to have one). And I think that the choice of Boston as the centre of Yggdrasil and the connection to the other worlds was yet another case of “everything must happen in America even if it doesn’t make much sense”. Personally, I would have found Iceland a bit more interesting. Or even Norsewood.

But Riordan is good enough that this reader can ignore such matters and enjoy the story. It does begin in Boston where Magnus encounters a bridge, a sword, and a fire giant. And dies. And the story continues in Hotel Valhalla. Much of the humour devolves from the collision between Norse myth and the modern world, and it worked for me. Much better than other takes on modernising Norse myth that I’ve encountered, and Riordan’s version is much truer to the actual mythology than, for example, the Marvel version.

The main criticism others have made is that Magnus is too much like Percy and Jason. I didn’t have that issue, because I hadn’t read the other books. However, I would suggest that if Riordan is to silence his critics, he might be advised to try something totally different after finishing this series – something that doesn’t involve mythology, and has a markedly dissimilar lead character. Maybe a science fiction series with a female protagonist. As for me, I got a lot of enjoyment from this book, and I’m sure many teens would enjoy it too.

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui