The Last Days of Archie Maxwell

Author – Annabel Pitcher36170364

Age – 16+

Archie is reeling after a family announcement. His father is leaving. His mother doesn’t even seem mad about it, and his big sister knows more than she’s letting on. When Archie learns the whole truth, his whole world implodes.

What if his the guys at school find out? His life won’t be worth living. They will show no mercy. And that’s when Archie begins to think about that guy who ended it all on the train tracks behind his house.

Archie likes a girl at school – who just happens to be the sister of the guy on the tracks. She blames herself and is trying to understand why her brother did it. When Archie offers her some relief from her guilt, they become a little closer. But she has her own secrets too. Is Archie strong enough to resist a final solution for himself and protect her from the same?

This is an easy read/novella for not only dyslexic teens, but those who may find larger texts daunting or unappealing. It was gritty, true to life, showing the no-filter language of teen boys amongst themselves and about girls. Fantastic read.

(Dyslexic, Homophobia, Suicide, Bullying, Mental Health, School, Family)

 

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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)

A Song Only I Can Hear

Author – Barry Jonsberg40012192

Age – 12+

Rob Fitzgerald has a huge crush on Destry Camberwick. The problem with that is that Rob suffers from panic attacks, and is incredibly shy – only talking with his friend Andrew, his parents and his best friend – his grandfather.

Pop is funny, straight to the point and loves to swear. Rob sees him almost daily and can talk to Pop about anything. How will he get Destry’s attention? Rob’s mate Andrew has some suggestions, one being to impress Destry as a football goalie in the next inter-school game.

When Rob begins receiving strange text messages with more suggestions, he is intrigued about who they are from. Mum? Dad? What about Pop? No. He hates technology.

But Rob takes the text advice seriously and is soon in trouble again and again trying to make a good impression for Destry. And just as it seems to be working, things go terribly wrong.

It was so refreshing to read a teen novel that was true-to-life but had me bursting out laughing throughout the novel. Pop is the funniest character I have read in ages. This book made me laugh, cry and gasp in surprise. It’s about identity and believing in who you really are. Beautiful, funny, clever – pure Barry Jonsberg.
(Note: any swearing is replaced by the word blankety in the novel, which made some scenes even funnier.)

(Identity, Crush, Family, Grandfather, Grandparent, Anxiety, Counselor, Grief, LGBT, Funny)

Dear Martin

Author – Nic Stone24974996

Age – 14+

Justyce is 17. He is the top of his class, an excellent debater and is aiming for Yale. All is good in his life until one night when he is helping his drunk ex get into her car. The police arrive, see a young black male with a drunk girl and assume the worst. He is immediately put in cuffs and read his rights.

Although released (hours later), Justyce has now experienced the racial profiling he’s heard and read about. He’s shocked when he realises he could have easily been just another police shooting accident involving a young African American man.

Justyce has been working on a personal project, studying the speeches and teachings of Martin Luther King. He has been writing letters to him in a journal – trying to work out the world around him.

His new awareness of the racial profiling around him makes him angry. Even his friends and classmates’ comments are getting under his skin. But it’s cruising around with his best friend one morning when the unthinkable happens. Bang! Bang! Bang!

This is a powerful story about prejudice, blatant racism in schools, courts, businesses and homes, and a young man trying to come to terms with it all. Gritty and gripping.

(School, Racism, Prejudice, Friendship, Family, Grief, Crime, Gang)

Frindle

Author – Andrew Clements439173

Age – 8+

Nick has a reputation in school for making class interesting. He uses stalling tactics, or time-wasting questions to trick teachers into not setting homework, or to avoid more work in class.

But Mrs Granger is different. She is a 5th grade (Year 6 in NZ and UK) teacher, and at first his intended trick backfires. But something she says in class triggers an idea. Mrs Granger loves her dictionary and insists they all have their own personal copies for their homework. Nick decides he’d like to change a word and begins calling a pen a Frindle.

His friends follow his example. Mrs Granger isn’t happy. The school principal isn’t happy. But is it against school rules? Is it offensive? Is it really such a big deal?

Nick’s word soon becomes a HUGE deal, with run-away results.

I learnt about this book in the Kid’s Lit Quiz (An International Reading Competition run by Wayne Mills NZOM). I can see why it is a favourite of so many people, young and old. It would make a great read-aloud to 7-8 yr olds.

(School, Words, Dictionary, Language, Humour, Teaching, Teacher, Self-belief)

 

 

Not if I save you first

Author – Ally Carter35238072

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)

Changing Gear

Author – Scot Gardner39858219

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)