Author – Ally Carter
Age – 12+
Maddie and Logan were best friends. She is the daughter of the President’s top security agent, and he is the President’s son. But that friendship dies after a failed kidnapping and someone gets shot.
Now all Maddie has for Logan is anger. He never once replied to the weekly letters she sent him from Alaska where she now lives with her dad. How could he call her his best friend then cut her off like that?
Then suddenly after 6 years, he is in her house, taller, stronger and undeniably and infuriatingly more handsome. Maddie has become tough in her years in Alaska. And she will use all her strength to remain angry at him. Until his life is in danger. All her skills will be needed to help them escape their pursuers and survive in the wilderness.
Told in both viewpoints of Maddie and Logan, this is a thriller wrapped around a love story. It’s not mushy though, full of action, twists and turns right until the end. Great read.
(Action, Romance, Alaska, Thriller, Trust)
Author – Scot Gardner
Age – 15+
Merrick is 18 and there is only 2 weeks left before his final exams and the end of his school life. He has always been a good student, but lately his school is concerned that he’s ‘lost his mojo.’
Merrick is struggling with the loss of his grandfather to a sudden heart attack. Grandad taught him how to surf, and how to cope with both his parents remarrying and giving him several stepbrothers/sisters, all the while giving Merrick gems of wisdom along the way.
One morning Merrick makes a sudden decision to get on his beloved motorbike (he calls Brunnhilde) and just ride, leaving behind his friends, study and blended family. On his journey he meets Victor, an old, bearded, homeless man, a girl called Felicity, a dog with no name and…himself.
This is not just another ‘road-trip’ story. Merrick is grieving for his lost friend and mentor – his grandfather. He’s trying to figure out where he fits in his family, what the future might hold and how to deal with its expectations of him. He learns about relationships; no matter how long or fleeting, his habits that seemed entrenched and necessary but are not, and what’s important to him. The banter between Merrick and Victor is brilliant, the journey both inner and outer – superb.
(Road-trip, Relationships, Quest, Friendship, Grief, Motorbike, Australia)
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 – Geraldine McCaughrean
Age – 13+
Quilliam (Quill) is kissed goodbye by his mum, never knowing he will never see her again. He and 8 other boys and 3 men from his village are about to travel by boat and be dropped off on a group of tiny islands which are nothing more than rocks jutting out of the treacherous ocean around them.
These rocks are sanctuaries for gannets, puffins, storm petrels, fulmar and guillemot – birds that provide feathers for bedding and clothing, oil for medicine and fires, and meat for the approaching harsh winters. The boys and men work hard, scaling the rocks, slippery with bird droppings and seawater that relentlessly thrashes against them.
When the boat doesn’t arrive to pick them up, they aren’t worried. They carry on with their work, believing it will be out soon and they might as well make the most of the ‘harvesting’ of birdlife. But when it hasn’t arrived a week, a month, several months later, they begin to despair for their lives. The bird carcasses that they’ve collected for their family’s winter are soon dwindling and conflicts between them building. Have they been forgotten?
This story is based on a true story set on a cluster of islands and sea stacs called St Kilda. A group of men and boys were left to kill as many birds as possible to pay rents to their landlord and supply food and supplies for the coming winter in 1727. They were left there for 9 months only to be finally picked up and taken home to their village where something even worse had befallen their families. Despite the harsh setting, the author’s use of language makes this story almost beautiful.
(Historical, Courage, Friendship, Growing up, Religion, Insanity, Island, Sea Stac)
Author – Emily Conolan
Age – 9+
It is 1825. You are a young Irish girl who has lost her Ma to small pox and your father to English gaol. He was an Irish rebel and you fear you will never see him again. But now living on the harsh streets of London, you face life and death decisions every day.
You are given a secret treasure for helping a wealthy lady, but have to try and avoid gaol yourself. You make a dear friend but have to choose whether to leave her behind or escape.
But then there is months of travel on a thunderous ocean. Will you survive or die in the bowels of a ship with hundreds of others?
This is a Choose Your Own Destiny book like none other I’ve read. The 1st book of four in a new series, you live the life of a poor Irish girl in the early 19th Century, making decisions that will impact not only your life but others you meet on your journey. It reads just like a novel, but with choices to make that lead you further.
If you wish you can read more about the time in the Fact Files at the end of the book. eg. Smallpox, Prisons, Pickpockets, Child Labour and Tasmanian Aboriginals, before you make your decision. I perished a few times before I reached the end. Look out for other titles in this series. Loved it!
(Historical, 19th Century, Victorian, London, Pickpocket, Irish Rebel, Van Dieman’s Land, Convict, Choose Your Own Adventure, Choose your Own Destiny, Pick-a-path)
Author – Ele Fountain
Age – 10 +
Shif and his best friend Bini are smart. Smart enough to be put up a class in school. Bini wants to be a doctor and Shif an engineer. They enjoy maths and chess and trying to outdo each other in everything. Life is good.
But life around them is changing. Bini suddenly stops coming to school. Government soldiers are appearing more often in their town, looking for children avoiding compulsory military service. Shif’s mum tells him the truth about his father, who he always thought was dead. The unthinkable happens and Shif and Bini are arrested.
The friends soon see another side of life in their country. One of soldiers, cells, mistreatment and force. Will they ever achieve their mother’s dreams of escaping their corrupt country for England?
The cover does not do this book justice. Boy 87 is set in an un-named Middle Eastern Country, where many people are doing what they can just to survive, and/or planning their escape. They can’t trust anyone, always watching out for soldiers, slave traders or those who wish to trick them out of their hard-earned savings to enable fleeing from their homeland. A great read to kick off class discussion about the courageousness of refugees in our world.
(Refugee, Middle East, Courage, Conscription, Military Service, Family, Friendship)