A month of great Australian YA reads
This month I've taken part in a fantastic online challenge run by Michael Earp - AKA @littleelfman on Twitter and Instagram. Michael runs these challenges occasionally, involving posting a book in a specific category that matches a set theme each day of a month, and this time that category was Australian young adult books.
Michael also took over as chairman of the #LoveOzYA committee this month, and will be a fantastic successor to Danielle Binks, who's done an amazing job as one of the driving forces behind the campaign to encourage Australians to read local books.
This was an inspiring challenge to do - there are so many talented Australian authors and titles, and seeing what everyone else posted - and chatting about their choices - was a great way to connect with other readers and increase my to-read list.
An added bonus was I rediscovered photography again. I used to take a lot of photos, but dropped off for various reasons over the past couple of years. But I think I've got my design eye back...
So here's my month of posts. I completed the challenge on Twitter, but many others did it on Instagram. If you want to see the full list, search #LoveOzYAChallenge on either platform.
Day 1: School's Back
On the Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta.
I included this book in my Masters research project. It's brilliant. Based around a school and an ongoing war between the students, army cadets and townies, the story has strong characters that draw you in. This book also explores the effect of trauma on characters as they grow older, and also across the generations. One of the best opening lines to a book EVER. Several characters have inspired their own spin-off titles. The photo background is my wallpaper.
Day 2: Coast to Coast
One Dead Seagull, Scot Gardner.
Stick a warning label on the cover and I'm in. But seriously, this book - Gardner's first - is a mix of humour, pain, stark reality and general teenage boydom. After reading Gardner's 'Burning Eddy', I stumbled across this copy in a second-hand bookstore. The photo was taken on my bookshelf.
Day 3: Indigenous Peoples
Lemons in the Chicken Wire, Alison Whittaker.
This book of poetry is extremely moving. The text examines the crossing of boundaries - from a remote Aboriginal community to the city; from childhood to adulthood; life to death; expectations of family to love and sexual experience. It's beautiful, evocative writing. Photo taken against the pot plant in my study. And, yes, the walls are that colour. It's Dulux Fluoro Green.
Day 4: Wide Open Sky
Friday Brown, Vicki Wakefield.
This book had me in tears when I first read it. The characters and power games within what is basically a community of runaway teenagers were incredible. Title character Friday is sure she'll die by drowning - as other members of her family had. I saw others had posted for the challenge that day with a wide, blue sky as the background already, and thought, why not?
Day 5: Country Towns
Clancy of the Undertow, Christopher Currie.
Clancy's father's done something that's turned the town against their family. She's trying to hold her family together, survive the stares and snark from the town's residents, and navigate her way through being in love with a girl from a distance. This book IS small towns - the good and the bad. After seeing what everyone else was doing in Instagram (which I'm not on), I thought I'd better up the pic stakes. It's taken on a metal sunflower in our garden.
Day 6: It’s a Classic
The Delinquents, Criena Rohan.
I actually haven't read this yet, but plan to. I do, however, have vivid memories of Kylie Minogue and Michael Hutchence at the movie's premier. This cover reflects the movie posters out at the time. Photo taken at The Wheeler Centre - which has awesome wallpaper - on a staircase.
Day 7: Wish it was a Movie
One True Thing, Nicole Hayes.
As a movie this would have an awesome soundtrack! Great characters, and a plot that examines the media, politics and the right to privacy. Read my review here. Photo taken in my DVD collection.
Day 8: A Hint of Romance
A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay.
There's a flicker of romance, but survival comes first. After I posted this I ended up having a conversation on Twitter with the author, who was interested to know where I saw this 'flicker'. And she's writing a sequel! Yay! It's a long ways off yet, but Meg's working on it. Photo taken on a huge rock in our yard.
Day 9: Sunburnt
A New Kind of Dreaming, Anthony Eaton.
Sunburnt country and sunburnt characters. The temperature was in the 40s (above 104 for my Fahrenheit friends), so an appropriate theme. Another one of my research project books. Set in an isolated area of far northern Western Australia. Photo taken on a different huge rock in our yard. The advantage of living on small acreage is we have lots of huge rocks.
Day 10: City Living
Frankie, Shivaun Plozza.
A tough kid in the hard inner suburbs. This was, hands down, one of my favourite reads from last year. Frankie's strong, smart, tough, but vulnerable. I connected strongly to one of the other characters. Photo taken at a skate park. There was blu-tack involved.
Day 11: Road Trip
Stay With Me, Maureen McCarthy. Tess and her daughter Nellie escape a seriously dangerous home life by bumming a lift and driving for days to get ‘home’. You may have noticed I'm into contemporary realism by now... Photo taken on location. Not pictured: the shot in which I was almost run over by a truck.
Day 12: Character Crush
Summer Skin, Kirsty Eagar. I LOVE Jess. I want to be her friend, or even better, be her. This book made me want to relive my years living on residence at uni. Summer Skin's been hailed as a breakthrough feminist novel fro young adults, but I hope that all young women have the strength and ability to take control of their sexual lives like Jess does. Photo taken in my washing machine. Read the book - it'll make sense.
Day 13: Life’s a Beach
Raw Blue, Kirsty Eagar. This story about moving on and the healing properties of the ocean has stayed with me. Strong, vulnerable characters, realistic situations and a damn good story. Photo taken at the closest location to the beach I have - our sandpit.
Day 14: Book Friends
Graffiti Moon, Cath Crowley and The Sidekicks, Will Kostakis. Ed from Graffiti Moon and Harley from The Sidekicks strike me as the type of brooding, laid-back, damaged blokes that would either be best mates or have it out with each other, then become best mates. Both books are told from varying points of view - Graffiti Moon's changes consistently, and The Sidekicks is in three parts. Picture taken on my desk chair.
Day 15: We’re so Many Immigrants
Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta.
Josie seeks her place in her Italian immigrant family and the wider community, while trying to complete her final year of high school and meeting - and developing a relationship with - her father. An Aussie classic. Photo taken in my kitchen. The props were delicious.
Day 16: 2016 Release
Road to Winter, Mark Smith.
Love the cover, love the blurb. This book is high on my TBR pile. The photo was taken on our property, making use of the fact that our ride-on mower's broken down.
Day 17: Neighbours
The Every series, Ellie Marney. When teenaged neighbours become good friends, then more, while solving crime. This is an Aussie YA version of Sherlock Holmes. Picture taken on our front gate. The lion is there for a reason. I know sabertooths aren't around any more, but it was the best I had.
Day 18: Flights of Fancy
Illuminae and Gemina, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. On my TBR pile! Unique design and writing. These books seem to create polarising opinions in readers, and they're a real 'flight of fancy' for me outside my preferred genre. Photo taken in a dark room using the camera flash as the only light, aiming for a spacey feel.
Day 19: Bookstack of Favourites
From the top: You Don't Even Know by Sue Lawson; Marlee Jane Ward's Welcome to Orphancorp; The First Third, Will Kostakis; The Boy's Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew by Eli Glasman; Shivaun Plozza's Frankie; and Kirsty Eagar's Summer Skin.Photo outside in the veg garden.
Day 20: Lazy Holidays
Words in Deep Blue, Cath Crowley. Perfect to read on a lazy holiday, but not a lazy holiday for the characters - in fact, it's set in the summer after high school finishes. Beautiful descriptive writing. Have tissues handy. Photo taken in our lounge room. Image on screen because I've lent my copy to someone and can't remember who!!
Day 21: In the Bush
Black, Fleur Ferris. Not a 'pleasant afternoon hike' bush - more a 'run while you can' bush. As a setting, the bush plays a major role. As a photo location, this tree was smothered with bees and I was covered by ants within a few seconds. If you look closely, there's a couple on the book too!
Day 22: Cover Love
Risk, Fleur Ferris. A beautiful cover design sums up the book perfectly. The story itself is heartwrenching, and as a parent makes me want to ban all children from the internet. Photo on my laptop, AKA where the magic happens.
Day 23: Action Packed
Two Wolves, Tristan Bancks. Fear, danger, movement – lots of action in a handful of settings. Based on the concept that every person has two wolves inside - one good, one bad - and who we are depends on which one we feed. Photo taken on an old cypress stump. There were several to choose from.
Day 24: Queer it up
Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward. THIS is how to write diverse sexualities. This spec fic title is set in a world in which orphaned children are sent to what are effectively industrial era-style workhouses, where the resulting mix produces more orphans to staff the workhouses. Photo taken in our brazier.
Day 25: In Your Backyard
The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew, Eli Glasman. Okay. I admit it. This one's cheating a bit. Photo at my computer, explanation in pic, because the title doesn't leave much room on Twitter. This is one of my favourites in recent years - Yossi is a reserved, quiet but engaging protagonist, and I found the portrayal of the Jewish community fascinating.
Day 26: All Colourful Like
Yellow, Megan Jacobson. I interpreted this literally. But it's a gorgeous, colourful cover. Photo props ours. Yes, we really do own a bright yellow gnome. His name is Gnomey. He lives in my child's room and is the primary suspect behind the constant disappearance of underpants and school shorts.
Day 27: It’s All in the Past
Playing Beatie Bow, Ruth Park. This has double meaning. It was one of my first favourites - it started as a class text in year 7 but no-one else liked it so the teacher stopped reading it, but I loved it. It's also a time shift story, with the protagonist slipping back to the early settlement in Sydney's Rocks area. Picture on a old cast iron chair with oldey worldy timey wimey photo treatment.
Day 28: Next on TBR Pile
Cooper Bartholomew is Dead, Rebecca James. Let's face it - it could've been any of several books, including a few mentioned above. This is one I've been meaning to get onto for a while, so now it's in print, I'll have to! Photo taken in front of other TBRs.