After the lights go out

Author – Lili Wilkinson

Age – 14+

Imagine it – suddenly, without warning or reason, there is no electricity. Anywhere. Modern cars are useless and even pacemakers fail.

The isolated Australian outback town of Jubilee begin to struggle with this after a few days, and even more so when their men don’t return from the mine where they work.

After she finds an old Holden to travel in, 17 yr-old Pru Palmer decides to go to the mine to look for her father. They have a secret. Her father Rick is a doomsday prepper and they have a bunker not far from their house packed with supplies to last years underground. Pru and her sisters have been trained to survive in almost any situation. But Pru is now in charge. She always thought her dad would be there too.

Along with a stranger in town (whose mother was facilitating a safety seminar at the mine), Pru finds disaster at the mine. They return to Jubilee to find her usually docile community beginning to attack eachother – just like her father said they would. But can she just walk away and leave them all to starve?

Her dad always said “Family first,” and Pru is torn between how she was raised and the people in town.

This story drew me in early and surprised me again and again. Pru is an authentic character, suddenly dealing with so much responsibility and guilt. She feels surrounded by anger, fear and even death and has to find solutions. But realistically, she doesn’t have to cope all on her own – until the unthinkable happens.

(Doomsday prepper, Apocalypse, Bunker, Romance, Siblings, Twins, Family, Courage, Australia, Outback, Secret)

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Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter

Author/Illustrator – Marcus Sedgwick

Age – 8+         Graphic Novel

Scarlett Hart was born to be a monster hunter, just like her dead parents. Now living with the family butler, Napolean and the housekeeper, she is carrying on the tradition of monster hunting.

Napolen is no ordinary butler and neither is the housekeeper, assisting Scarlett in killing monsters to claim the rewards posted for their demise. But Scarlett is officially too young to be a monster hunter, even if she could fence at 6, is clever and fearless. Count Stankovic is also a hunter, and will do anything for reward money. He is determined to catch and photograph Scarlett as she hunts, so she will be arrested and no longer any competition.

But that’s not all he’s up to. Why is there an increase in monsters lately? Has he teamed up with someone even worse than him, able to summon monsters from another realm?

This graphic novel is full of action from the first page! Scarlett is feisty, funny and brave, and The Count is a perfect nemesis. Loved it!

(Graphic Novel, Courage, Orphan, Monsters, Betrayal, Humour, Funny)

Fahrenheit 451

Author – Ray Bradbury

Age – 16+

It’s not until firefighter Guy Montag meets his new 17 yr old neighbour, Clarisse McLellan, that he begins to think about his life. She seems strange, taking pleasure out of simple things and asking personal questions. The toughest of these being, ‘Are you happy?’

This gets Guy thinking, and he realises he hasn’t just sat and thought for a long time. When he discovers his wife has tried to commit suicide, and doesn’t even remember doing it – just waking up and asking for another full wall TV screen (they are already trying to pay off the third they purchased only 2 months ago), Guy really starts to look at his life.

He is a firefighter – no, make that a firestarter. He works shifts at a firestation, responding to alarms that tell them someone, somewhere, has books that need to be disposed of – burnt, by him and his crew. They spray kerosine, not water, from their pipes, then throw a match.

It’s not until he witnesses a woman preferring to die amongst her books that he realises what he has become. Almost a robot. Just going through the motions of life, not thinking or asking questions. Will books help him make sense of his life. Will they wake him up?

He can’t talk to his wife. She’s only interested in the TV programs and radio broadcasts she is addicted to. Who will help him in his quest?

His firestation Captain seems to understand his confusion – at first. But soon Guy’s life tips upside down, and he can’t return to how life was before, even if he wanted to…..

This classic was written in 1953 and has been classed as Dystopian, Futuristic, and a story about Censorship. But the author said simply, it was about too much TV turning people into morons. This story fascinated me in the fact that the author seems to have looked into the future (our now), and seen our TV and screen addictions, and often ‘sameness’ culture.

Brilliant!

(Dystopian, Censorship, Friendship, Books, Book-burning, Future, Classic)

Girl Mans Up

Author – M-E Girard28217802

Age – 14+

Pen loves hanging out with her friends, gaming, wearing her brother’s clothes and just being herself.

She hates being called Penelope, people thinking she dresses and acts the way she does because she wants to be a boy, her mother wanting her to be a pink, sparkly, princess type of girl, and guys acting like douche bags.

Her best friend (since age about 9) is Coby. He’s popular, good looking, shares her love of gaming (even though she can thrash him at it), but he can be a douche bag to girls.

Coby is always talking about loyalty, so when Pen learns about a girl he has treated badly and tries to help, he calls her out on it. Pen is torn at first. She’s already angry at people who just won’t let her be herself, always trying to stick a  label on her. Bi, Trans, Lesbian, Gay. Pen just wants to be Pen – it’s that simple.

Her parents are always talking about respect, but the only person in her family Pen has respect for is her brother Johnny who has come to her rescue multiple times. She feels she can look after herself, but their bond is what keeps her sane.

Dealing with family pressures, toxic friendships and new relationships, Pen finally finds her own identity, her own tribe (without Coby), and a deeper understanding of the people who share her life – at home and high school.

I loved Pen. She was strong, brave and determined. She loves her parents but has to come to terms with the fact they may never understand who she really is. The friendships were real, the banter convincing and the relationships (both toxic and supportive) were intense. I wanted to climb into the book and slap some of the characters. You’ll have to read it and find out who!

(Diversity, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, School, Friendships, Secret, Relationships, High School, Family, Portuguese)

White Rabbit, Red Wolf

Author – Tom Pollock

Age – 14+

Pete has terrible anxiety. He has mechanisms to help him deal with it, taught to him by his scientist mum. One of these is using maths, numbers, probability, etc to help determine the likelihood of something happening and find some level of calm.

But he’s still anxious about an upcoming award ceremony recognising his mother’s work. There will be so many people and just about anything triggers his crushing panic attacks.

Bel is Pete’s twin sister – older ‘but only by eight minutes’ reminds Pete constantly. Bel is his comforter, protector and pusher of boundaries – trying to help him overcome normal everyday things that terrify him.

Just before their mother’s ceremony, hell breaks loose. He is in the custody of armed, professionals, Bel is missing and their mum has been stabbed and is being raced to hospital – or is she?

This story is a lie – that’s the premise – and the reason I was torn this way and that throughout the story. It tipped me forward and back, through time, thoughts and an endless stream of lies to the last page. Who is telling the truth? Who can Pete trust? Each betrayal shocked me as Pete discovered them. A densely packed read. A page turner from the very first page. Brilliant!

(Twins, Science, Maths, Fears, Anxiety, Panic attacks, Action, Betrayal, Trust, Lies)

The Invasion (The Call 2)

Author – Peadar O’Guilan38592818

Age – 13+

Nessa may have returned from ‘The Grey Land’, but her battle isn’t over yet. She is instantly under suspicion. How could she survive with her bent and twisted legs? How could someone so weak return unscarred when bigger, stronger, better trained children and teens do not?

She is labelled a traitor – someone who has made a deal with the S’dhe in order to survive. There are now government agents searching for such traitors, and they will find them at any cost.

Something terrible is happening to Ireland. More terrible than The Call itself, with nothing to stop it.

Told in different viewpoints of Nessa, Anto, and others from the survival school Nessa attended, there is action at every turn, choices to make or believe and survival an even thinner thread than before.

Be careful what you promise, and who you promise to, as they are assembling out there, and coming for you….

(Fantasy, Violence, Fairy Folk, Legends, Myths, Ireland, Love, Friendship, Courage, Trust)

The List of Real Things

Author – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald36562488

Age – 10+

Grace and her little sister Bee became orphans 5 years ago, losing their mother to an illness and their father two days later. Their sun-loving, travelling Uncle Freddy returned immediately to become their guardian. Soon after their grandfather moved in too.

Five years on and they’ve done ok. Uncle Freddy forgets to pay the bills sometimes and housework isn’t his top priority, but the girls feel loved and cared for. If only they could talk about the not-to-be-mentioned subject. The loss of their parents and in turn, their grief.

Now Grace is older, she’s become embarrassed by her little sister’s quirkyness and insistence on imaginary things being real. According to Bee, their parents are still around, their dog talks to her, and there is a magical hotel at the top of tall cliffs nearby.

When Grace wants to be part of the ‘top group’ at school, she fears Bee will spoil it for her, and she does everything she can to prevent that – with terrible consequences.

Another wonderful story by this author. This is a tale of a blended family all dealing with a great loss all in their own way, and a special little girl who sees things differently. Beautiful.

(School, Popularity, Blended Family, Family, Grief, Love)