Tag Archives: coming of age

Book Reviews Reading

Review: Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

So stoked I get to add something else with a retro read tag. This was another fabulous library find. A book I’d heard of but never read.

What is it?

Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

First published 1992

A contemporary, young adult, coming-of-age novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

Josephine Alibrandi is seventeen, and in her final year of school. Dealing with her mum and the ways of her Nonna are daunting enough as she prepares for her exams. But Josie is about to discover real life gets in the way of her carefully-made plans. She suddenly has to deal with having her father around for the first time in her life, falling in love and uncovering her family’s secret background.

Despite all the turmoil, this is the year Josie discovers that emancipation doesn’t mean escaping from your past. Sometimes you need to face up to who you are in order to set yourself free…

Why should I read it?

The story is fairly straight-forward and follows Josie through her last year of school. But on the way she deals with her sense of identity, her place in the world, love, and family secrets.

Josie is a great narrator, and I enjoyed her chatty style. The book also has a level of reflection about it (which relates nicely to my last post) so though we live those moments with her, I also had the feeling she survived them and realised their importance. She’s also a bit of an unreliable narrator but it’s easy to get sucked in. The choices and actions she makes seem to make perfect sense at the time, but when she reflects on them with the wisdom of hindsight, we can see she was kidding herself.

Looking For Alibrandi is a good, solid read. Well written and engaging. It’s also aged well. I can’t believe it was published 22 years ago. Apart from the lack of cell phones and unusual slang words (which could be a cultureshock rather than a futureshock thing), the book could easily be from 2012 instead of 1992. Teenagers deal with the same stuff in the same ways.

It’s well worth tracking down a copy. And now I want to watch the movie.

Find out more about Melina at melinamarchetta.wordpress.com

Book Reviews Reading

Review: Taking Flight by Sheena Wilkinson

Last week, on a whim, I decided to check out my library’s ebook lending service. I’m so glad I did because I stumbled across an absolute gem of a book. Wait, make that two.

taking_flightThere are only a couple of hundred YA ebooks available, so I just browsed through them all, waiting for something to jump out at me. The first one that did was Grounded. Check out the cover.  Moody and dark, gorgeous orange tones, an unhappy-looking guy in a hoodie. What more could I want? When I clicked for more info, the first line said, “The sequel to Sheena Wilkinson’s multi award-winning Taking Flight.” I was interested enough to go back and look for the first one. When I found it, I realised why I’d missed it before. The top half of the cover is a silhouette of a horse. It screamed “horsey book” until I glanced at the bottom half. Mysterious guy in a hoodie. Yes please. Borrowed it and fought against a buggy ereader to read it. So glad I did. Got the sequel the next day.

What are they?

Taking Flight and Grounded by Sheena Wilkinson

First published 2010 (Taking Flight) and 2012 (Grounded)

Gritty, contemporary, young adult novels.

The Blurbs

Taking Flight: ‘Beyond the fence everything is dark, but in here is our own lit-up world. Just me and Flight. Our breath snakes into the night like the aftermath of a firework.’ The only riding fifteen-year-old Declan has ever done is joyriding. When he’s forced to stay with his snobby cousin ‘Princess’ Vicky on the other side of Belfast, he’s shocked to find himself falling in love with horses. Vicky would do anything to keep Declan out of her already perfect life and away from her precious showjumper, Flight, no matter who gets hurt… Moving from a harsh Belfast housing estate to the glamour of the showjumping ring, Taking Flight is a fast-paced story full of conflict, jealousy and courage.

Grounded: Declan loves Seaneen, but his ambition to work at a top showjumping yard is stronger than anything he’s ever felt before. So when Declan is offered his dream job in Germany, he should be thrilled. There’s nothing for him at home but dark history he’d rather forget. But he’s terrified: leaving Seaneen’s harder than he expected; troubled hood Cian won’t leave him alone, and when he finds a traumatised horse in a derelict barn, he knows he has to help her. No matter how scared he is. Grounded is a gripping story of courage, fear, despair and joy; the sequel to the award-winning author of Taking Flight.

Why should I read them?

Because life is shit sometimes.

The stories deal with what it’s like to live without hope of anything better. And what happens when a little bit of hope arrives.

They are gritty, down-to-earth stories. Well written without a lot of flowery description. The horse stuff is intertwined with the every day stuff to make for an intense, emotional read. The characters leak out of the page and into your soul. Declan and Vicky (and all the supporting characters) may have acted a little out-there sometimes, but their behaviour was always grounded in their reality, and their actions and reactions never felt off.

They aren’t exactly happy stories, but I’m a fan of any book that can suck me in and make me cry. And they’ve lingered with me. I don’t want to let these characters go yet.

They also gave me hope because sometimes I wonder if anyone will be interested in my little New Zealand stories. Well, I was sure interested in these Irish ones.

And the good news is Sheena has a new book, Still Falling, coming out in February 2015.

Book Reviews Reading

Review: When I Was Joe by Keren David

What is it?

When I Was Joe by Keren David

When I Was JoeFirst published 2010

A contemporary, young adult, crime thriller, coming of age novel.

Why should I read it?

Because it’s a well-crafted story that blends a crime mystery with a gut-wrenching account of kids trying to fit in.

I picked When I Was Joe up at my local library because the blurb on the back sounded good and the first page backed it up. “It’s one thing watching someone get killed. It’s quite another talking about it.”

This is the story of Ty, who witnesses a murder and has to go into hiding. He becomes Joe, who is so much cooler than Ty ever was.

When I started reading it, I realised that Ty is only 14. I was worried the book would read a bit “young” and not live up to the gritty hype the blurb promised. I was happy to be wrong.

Keren David is a fantastic writer, and captures the character of Ty perfectly. He’s harbouring a secret, and trying to lay low at his new school, and struggling to cope with the fact the bad guys want him dead. And then he meets a girl, who has a secret of her own. But how can he even think about starting a relationship when she doesn’t even know his real name?

Then things go from bad to worse. Ty is left trying to hold it all together, and desperate to do the right thing before he has to leave town and change his name again.

When I Was Joe is a gripping story that touches on some very serious issues. The subject matter makes it more suited for teens 13 and over.

Keren David has written two more books in the same series, Almost True and Another Life. You can find out more about her, and what else she’s written, at kerendavid.com