All American Boys
Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
This is an important book and very much needed. While this novel is set in modern day America, that doesn’t mean it lacks relevance for Australian readers. Systemic racism is part of our cultural and political landscape and this story certainly resonates with regards our own treatment of Indigenous Australians and minorities.
What ‘All American Boys’ does well is provide different perspectives on a deeply entrenched societal problem. Rashad is brutalised by a police officer and Quinn is a witness. The story is told from their point of view. They take it it turns to advance the plot, the chapters switching between the two. This is clever as it allows the issue to be explored from both the victim and perpetrators viewpoint.
This book doesn’t dance around the subject matter and for that it is to be applauded. It gets you thinking and I love how it points out that doing nothing is in fact picking a side.
I very much enjoyed this one. Frankie is our main character and she pulls a “Looking for Alibrandi” move, smashing a book into another students face. She gets suspended.
While off from school Frankie is forced to question her anger management issues and the future. The sudden appearance of a brother she never knew about, an ex-boyfriend and an annoying (and very gorgeous) thief only complicate things further. It’s hard to move forward when the past keeps knocking at the door.
Despite the heavy subject matter this made me laugh a lot. Shivaun Plozza obviously has a great sense of humour and is never condescending to her audience. The ending wasn’t what I was expecting and that is a very good thing. This is what happens in real life.
Everything is Changed
This books splits between Jake and Alex. They used to best friends but something big happened. We know it’s big because from the very first chapter we learn that the two have been arrested. So what happened?
Rather than learn this from the subsequent trial, Weetman decides to reveal the story by going back. Each chapter jumps backwards further in time. This is is unusual and you might be tempted to think of this as a gimmick, but don’t worry it’s not. The author handles it beautifully, turning the book into a little bit of a mystery, parts revealed and explained slowly as you go along.
So why were two best mates torn apart? Read the book to find out.
One True Thing
As someone with a keen love of politics, can I just say how fantastic it is to see a YA fiction book that includes this.
Frankie is a normal teenager, whose mum just happens to be running for Premier of Victoria. In the lead up to the election tensions increase. While Frankie is worried about school and her band and the cute new guy in her life, the media zeros in on her mum. What scandal do they keep hinting at?
Growing up and surviving High School is tough enough without the added pressure of having this happen in the media spotlight. Author Nicole Hayes handles this nicely as well as highlighting the intense scrutiny female politicians are under. Timely, given the firestorm surrounding the US Presidential elections right now.
The Things I Didn’t Say
Selective Mutism is an unusual topic for a book but Kylie Fornasier goes there. She does a great job too. The Things I didn’t Say tells the story of Piper Rhodes, a high-school student who falls out with her best friend and decides to change schools. While this situation might be relatable, Piper’s mutism isn’t. While she is able to talk to her family, Piper can’t talk in public. This may seem strange but the way it is described in the book really made sense. I have a much better understanding of the psychology behind how it effects a person and the difficulties in trying to overcome it. The impact on family and friends is also nicely described. Piper’s parents are desperate that she start talking and live a normal life, while West, Piper’s boyfriend, is hurt because Piper can talk to her family but not him.
This book covers normal final year school hassles: exams, dating, bullying and gossip. Piper has to negotiate all this plus deal with her inability to speak. The Things I didn’t Say marks Kylie Fornasier as a long term player in the Oz YA scene which is a good thing.
I love the main character in this. Willowdean Dickson is a nice contradiction of confidence and insecurity. Which, let’s face it, represents most of us. She is a curvy young woman who is basically happy, but after she hooks up with the new cute guy, Willow starts to question herself. What will other people think about such an unexpected couple?
I also love the setting in Dumplin’. I’ve read a lot of books set in America, but the town in this was boring and average and full of normal people. That is a good thing. It made a nice change from so many other books and I applaud the author for reflecting real people and daily life routines.
One thing I didn’t like was how the book ended for one of the characters. I can’t really go into it because *spoilers*, but they kinda disappeared abruptly. Of course, that could just be me feeling sorry for them and wishing they’d scored a happier ending.
This book nicely captures what it is to be in High School and how everyone views everyone else. It takes time to work out who you are and where you fit.
Jonsberg writes about a family not in a very good place. Jamie’s sister Summerlee is an absolute brat whose behavior is driving a wedge between his parents. After Summerlee wins big in Lotto, their younger sister Phoebe is kidnapped.
Jamie is a maths guru who believes in Game Theory – the study of human conflict and cooperation within a competitive situation. With Phoebe taken and a ransom required, he starts to think about applying its principles to try and get her back.The stress of dealing with the kidnapper and his messed up sister is constant. Will he be able to save Phoebe in time?
This is a thriller that races along at a good pace. I really loved how the author didn’t try to make everything sunshine and rainbows and tie everything up neatly at the end. Sometimes in life you don’t get a happy ending. Language and content make this more for older readers.