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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They Saw Too Much

Author – Alan Gibbons38318466

Age – 14+

John is on the beach with a girl called Ceri James from school. They have been teamed up to do a photography project together. John is enjoying using the school’s expensive camera and is aiming at everything around him, getting the feel of it.

A car pulls up near them and John is instantly on alert. Things in his past have made him aware of anything looking a little shifty, and the two guys inside the car ring alarm bells.

He watches them in the camera viewfinder and uses the zoom on them when they follow a man out onto the beach. What he sees next sends him and Ceri on a pell-mell, dash from place to place – trying to find somewhere to hide. The men saw them with a camera and will do anything to stop them from taking any pictures taken, to the police.

Not sure who to trust, realising his own father is connected somehow, and trying to protect Ceri who has her own secrets and past swirling just under her skin; John is angry, confused, and scared. They are running for their lives.

(Murder, Crime, Trust, Hostage, Gangster, Witness, Family, Foster, Action)

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)

The Mulberry Tree

Author – Allison Rushbyxthe-mulberry-tree.jpg.pagespeed.ic.lS1n_Kk90Y

Age – 10+

Immy has moved from Sydney Australia, to a small village in the UK. It’s a new start for them after something happened at her father’s work.

After seeing a few houses with a rental agent, they choose a cute little cottage with a large tree in the back lawn. But this isn’t just any tree.

The agent tells them of the tree’s history. A history where two girls who lived in the cottage mysteriously vanished on the eve of their 11th birthday. The entire village blames the tree. But that’s ridiculous – isn’t it?

Immy tries to make friends but the tree’s history affects everyone around her – even Jean, the kind old lady who lives next door. She says her best friend Elizabeth was one of the girls who disappeared many years before.

Immy has been hearing a creepy rhyme being sung – even when there is no-one nearby. Could there be some truth in the legend? While she keeps her fears to herself, she is also dealing with her dad’s depression, and the feeling that the tree is watching her and mirroring her feelings. She is determined to learn the truth – which means staying home on the eve of her 11th birthday…..

I loved this story! It was sad and beautiful, and intriguing and creepy.  I couldn’t read the last few pages fast enough. I closed the book with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. Fans of Emma Carroll will love it too.

(Mystery, School, Magic, Secrets, Friends, Depression, Nature)

 

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)

The Boy who Grew Dragons

Author – Andy Shepherd39355816

Illustrator – Sara Ogilvie

Age – 7+

Have you ever wanted your very own dragon? Maybe you’ve dreamed about flying on one high above your town or city? Tomas can tell you all about that and what to do if you ever find one – just like he did.

It all began while he was helping his Grandad in his new vegie garden. Suddenly he is dealing with a tiny bundle of sparks and exploding poos, all the while trying to keep it all a secret from his parents, friends, grandparents and especially a kid called Liam from school.

But it’s all just too exciting to keep to himself, and he’s dying to tell someone!

The first in a series, this was a fun read and guide on how to keep a dragon and where you might find one. Looking forward to The Boy who Lived with Dragons.

(Funny, Dragons, Grandfather, Humour, Bully, School, Friends, Secret, Younger Sibling)