Tag Archives: contemporary

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: After by Sue Lawson

I love it when I strike it lucky at the library. I wasn’t even going to browse the YA shelves. I was picking up some books on the Philippines, and letting my kids choose some books, when I happened to stroll past and spot this one.

All I saw was the spine but the title, After, made me wonder: after what?

It’s clear from the blurb on the back that something has happened, and we’re going to find out the aftermath. I didn’t even bother reading the first page. I just grabbed it and rushed after the kids. 🙂

afterWhat is it?

After by Sue Lawson

First published 2009

A contemporary, young adult, dealing-with-stuff novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

What happens when you’re not the cool kid at school any more?

CJ has been banished to the country to live with his grandparents. No one asks him if he wants to be there. It seems like no one really cares. And no matter how hard he tries to outrun it, trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes.

Why should I read it?

Because when bad things happen they take a toll, and you can’t always run away from them.

The story is told mostly in the present as CJ (Callum) deals with living with his grandparents and starting a new school. But spread throughout are a series of flashback chapters (titled Before…)* that slowly reveal the incident that caused Callum to end up where he is.

It’s fairly straight forward, there are few sub-plots, but we get to see Callum battling his self-hatred. And I’m a big fan of emotional turmoil, so I enjoyed it.

Find out more about Sue at www.suelawson.com.au

* I was super excited about this. One of my current WIPs starts in the middle of the story, and then fills in the background with a series of flashback chapters. Now I know I’m not completely crazy and it can be done.