Author – Jess Butterworth
Age – 9+
Ruby knows there is something wrong as soon as she gets home one night. But she never imagined the changes that are about to happen in her life.
Within hours she is escaping Australia and travelling to India with her father, grandmother, family dog and a smuggled baby kangaroo.
How can they do this to her? She is angry at her father for making this choice for her, but soon learns to love the mountain they are to live on. She makes a friend, photographs the wildlife and helps refurbish a run-down hotel with her family.
But strange things are happening on the mountain, and the local townspeople claim that it is haunted by an angry goddess. Will anyone ever want to work in their hotel, let alone guests come to stay?
Ruby becomes protective of the mountain, particularly the leopards that prowl the undergrowth. When she sees men behaving suspiciously she wants to know what’s going on.
Much of this story was written based on the author’s own experiences as a child in India. Ruby is a well-drawn character still dealing with the loss of her mother in a car accident, which has triggered other fears she must overcome. Her friend Praveen gives a young, girl-boy friendship and an environmental theme builds around the endangered leopards.
(Leopards, Endangered animals, India, Grief, Friendship, Courage, Family, Poaching)
Author – Denis Wright KIWI!
Age – 13+
Lucy (Lucinda) and her friend have noticed the creepy guy following them and the strange lady’s ramblings at the bus stop, but being kidnapped from the school play is the last thing Lucy expected. She wakes in a small room to be told she is the chosen one. She is to marry their leader and have his child who will be the next Jesus for the world.
She fights for her freedom, thinking about how her father and grandfather will be coping – not knowing how or where she disappeared to. She has seen glimpses of newspapers where she fills the front pages.
The weeks pass and although she doesn’t admit it to herself at first, she is relaxing within the group of people who took her. She is beginning to believe what they say. Life seems so much easier with others making the decisions. But as her wedding looms nearer she has to make a choice. Stay or escape?
Lucy is already dealing with the way she looks, drawing attention from guys at school and men her father knows. Girls are jealous of her looks and she is a caretaker for her alcoholic dad and aging Poppa, so the calm of the cult soothes her, finally making her a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. A believable character within a NZ setting and a religious cult.
(New Zealand, Cult, Kiwi, Stockholm Syndrome, Kidnap, Family)
Author – Cory Doctorow
Illustrator – Jen Wang
Age – 12+
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.
But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer – a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.
I took the blurb from the publisher for this review as it is so clear. I loved the illustration style and variety of design throughout this graphic novel which is such a current topic both in game worlds and real life. Gamers, young and old are becoming different people via their avatars (digital alter egos) online. But it’s just a game right? What is often forgotten by the players is that the characters in the game you are shooting, chasing, trapping or scheming with, are actual people in the next street, town, country or continent. Real people. And sometimes these people’s needs are as simple as food or shelter and if selling things to affluent players achieves this, this is what they must do.
(Gaming, Computer Game, Avatars, Game, Poverty)
Author – Geoffrey Girard
Age – 14+
Katie Wallace’s dad isn’t much of a dad these days. As she has grown she has watched him get high, drunk and unconscious. When official looking people arrive on her doorstep she’s not surprised.
But it’s not what she expected. Her dad has been hospitalised for random threats against the vice president and he’s telling lies about the government. She is swept quickly into foster care.
When she finally gets to see her dad he is heavily drugged in a guarded hospital room. But he fights through his haze to tell her something. Something she never expected and cannot ignore. This is where her fight to free her father begins.
This novel has received some negative feedback because of its main topic – 9/11 conspiracy theories. The people who believe these theories and/or others call themselves Truthers. I for one, much enjoyed the story and the way it was written. Although in third person I was reading other character’s point of view without knowing who they were yet. Very intriguing! The author specifically states he means no disrespect to anyone with this novel and I appreciated that. I liked the characters who drew me in and had me wondering who telling the truth. Great read.
(Twin Towers, Conspiracy, 9/11, Lies, Truth, Mental Illness, PTSD, Soldier, Government, Mystery, Murder, Family, Trust)
Author – Jason Reynolds
Illustrator – Chris Priestley
Age – 13+
When Will’s big brother Shawn is gunned down in front of him, Will remembers what Shawn has taught him.
No crying. No Snitching. Get Revenge.
Will knows he has to follow through with these rules – no matter what. But on the elevator ride down his building, people from his past step inside from each floor. They all have something to say, something to share, something to tell him about the past.
Will he go through with it?
Shocking. Heartbreaking. Stunning.
Told in verse format, Will’s story is about the terrible waste and toll on lives and families through gang warfare. Winner of the US National Book Award 2017. Just read it.
(Honor, Family, Guns, Gang, Grief, Ghost, Crime, Murder, Shooting)
Author – Ella West
Age – 12+
Annie lives in a small town called Westport (west coast, Sth Island, NZ). Westport has endless rain, struggling coal mines and small town gossip. When Annie’s neighbour’s house is surrounded by armed defenders, it is the most exciting thing that’s happened for a while.
Annie doesn’t believe her neighbour Pete did any of the things they say he did. He’s always been friendly and quiet. But he’s gone missing and the longer he’s gone, the more suspicious he looks.
A police detective from the city arrives from Christchurch for the case, and his son Jack has come with him. Jack loves horses as much as Annie, and they meet by chance on the beach in the rain. More horse rides on the deserted beach build something between them. But surely it’s just for fun?
Annie’s comfortable life is turning on its head. There’s Jack and his smile, the local coalmine upsetting whole families by laying off staff, and Pete still on the run. Will things ever be back to normal?
I felt I was right there in Westport with the rain and the worries Annie and her family faced. I learnt about the dwindling coal mining industry and the upheaval it caused, and also a little about the mining disasters that have occurred there over the years. Rich with horse lore, animal lovers will enjoy this story. The mystery woven throughout the narrative will keep you guessing.
(Coalmine, Mystery, Romance, Fugitive, West Coast, Horses, Murder)
Author – Scot Gardner
Age – 12+
Sparrow is kind, respectful, brave and friendly. He’s also resourceful and street savvy. He has to be – sleeping on a block of toilets at night, avoiding his brother and his paint sniffing gang of teens, and helping cafe owners with their chairs night and morning in payment for food.
Sparrow is a selective mute after a troubled childhood, and this story begins on a boat full of kids from juvie. A fire forces them into the croc and shark filled waters, and 16 year old Sparrow swims for his life to the far north Australian coastline. With determination and courage learnt on the streets of Darwin, he learns how to survive in the bush and mangroves.
This tale of survival is interspersed with chapters of his earlier life, people that have helped him, the reason for his mutism, and why he’s called Sparrow.
But he’s not alone on the coastline. Someone else escaped the burning boat. Someone who needs saving even more than him.
Sparrow is yet another compelling teen novel from this accomplished Australian author. This book is not only about survival. It’s about loss, courage, love and hope for a future that seemed impossible to imagine.
(Street kid, Survival, Love, Determination, Self sufficient, Fishing, Hunting, Australia, Love, Courage)