One : Sarah Crossan

OneOne by Sarah Crossan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admire books like this. No, I think, I admire writers and writing like this. I admire writing that is so resolutely of itself, so careful and crisps and precise and acute and heartfelt with every step it takes. I admire writing like this because it is so conscious of the space in between the words – the pauses – the breaths. Poetry is about breathing, really, at its heart (and what a pounding, emotional, life-filled heart this book holds) and this book is so very full of heart.

‘One’ is a book about love. It is a book about being both one and other; the story of conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. Friends. Sisters. A part of each other, a whole split into two and one and two and one. And Tippi and Grace must go to school.

Crossan’s style (and for those of who you haven’t experienced her work before, do look at ‘Apple and Rain’ and ‘The Weight of Water’) is such an effortless thing. I’m sure it’s not though. I’m sure that words like this, so fine and careful and clear and sharp as glass, take time to find and I applaud the skill of doing so. The chapters are, as a whole, short and intensely reader-friendly as a result. They also remind me of a question I was asked a long time ago at my university: “When you read a book, do you read the black ink or the white space around the ink?”. I’ve thought about that a lot since. It has, in a way, informed everything I think on literature and how I write personally. It is a quote with a curious applicability to this novel. You read ‘One’ and it is a book about the space in between the words and around them, as much as it is about them. Crossan is so very good at what she’s doing here. So good.

One is due out on 27th August 2015. Save the date. Read her others beforehand. Have I mentioned recently about how good we have children’s / young adult literature right now?

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Unrest : Michelle Harrison

UnrestUnrest by Michelle Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Elliott doesn’t sleep well. He doesn’t really sleep at all. He has out of body experiences and suffers from intermittent sleep paralysis. For Elliott, the things that go bump in the night really do go bump in the night. He sees ghosts, figures and things that are genuinely terrifying.

He gets a job at a local haunted museum. It’s one of those historical re-enactment places where the staff dress up in period costume. Whilst working there Elliott decides to discover the truth about his experiences. Is he really part of the spirit world now or is it all in his head?

Unrest is a genuinely unnerving novel. Harrison really ratchets up the unease and discomfort and produces a book which is full of chills. The whole ‘ghost’ angle is powerfully presented and it’s one of those books which you really shouldn’t read in the middle of the night with the wind howling outside. ‘Cause, trust me, you’ll get freaked.

Where this book suffers is with regards to structure. I felt it was hugely unbalanced and almost felt like a composite book at some points. There were a few too many moments where I felt invested in a plot point or development which was then dropped in a fairly rapid fashion. It felt as if there were points when Unrest became a little lost and didn’t quite know whether it wanted to be romance, horror, paranormal or angst. The last few chapters, whilst intensely thrilling and disturbing in equal measure, felt almost as if they were from another book.

Despite these structural issues, Unrest remains a distinctly unnerving and spooky book. The last few chapters are stunning and scary and disturbing and a tour de force in paranomal horror.

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Secrets, Lies and Locker 62 : Lil Chase

I picked up a proof of this at a conference I attended and I really didn’t know what to expect. Lil Chase didn’t ring a bell with me, but I decided to take a punt. And Oh My God, I’m so glad that I did.

Maya, new girl at Mount Selwyn High, is assigned Locker 62. It’s the locker of secrets. Unused for years, it’s become the repository of anything unsayable at school and everything in that locker is dynamite. And now, following a decision by the school to give her that locker, all of this is in Maya’s hands.



Secrets, Lies & Locker 62 is Clueless meets Mean Girls meets Harriet The Spy. It’s so good. I just utterly devoured this.

Chase writes with  a perceptive, funny edge and gets right to the depth of her characters. Maya’s brilliantly realistic and when she decides to Do That Spoilery Thing she does, it’s scarily accurate. This is what people do. Sometimes people behave like idiots. Maya also ends up facing big things in this story and her reaction to this is very beautifully judged. I had a total wibble at the end.

I also really loved how Chase handles friendship. Teen Girl Friendship is terrifyingly complicated and the whole Best Friend thing just adds a new level of complicated. Dealing with all that is hard; there’s the subtle social nuances of relationships and an accidental diss or a bitchy comment can just add a spark to an already combustible situation. And then, sometimes, when you’re the New Girl, it’s even harder. The dynamic between Maya and her friends is perfectly judged and again, scarily perceptive.

Go. Pick this up. You’ll get a fast, funny and freakishly real story that finishes (can I stuff this sentence with any more words beginning with f?) on a fabulously feel-good  (looks like I can!!)  note.

Another Life : Keren David

I was lucky enough to pick up a proof of this at a conference I attended a few months ago and am so very pleased to report that Keren David remains ace. She’s got a peculiar brilliance at writing “lads”; lads bordering on the edge of adulthood, shifting from ferocious raw masculinity through to nervous, emotional children. It’s a rare skill and one that is most definitely David’s forte.

Another Life is the final of the trilogy of Ty Lewis books and is due out in September 2012. I reviewed it’s predecessor Almost True here. I have a lot of love for this series. It’s always a good sign when a book slides into you, hours pass, and you’re still hiding under the quilt because you’re trying to figure out how this ends.

Quite boldly Another Life has a dual focus on Archie, Ty’s cousin, and Ty himself. It took me a while to grasp a handle on this shift in narration but it becomes easier as the voices become more divergent and unique very swiftly. David does “lads” well, as I mentioned in earlier, and the story is fleshed out with a lot of perhaps incidental detail but detail that, you slowly realise, solidifies this world to the extent it almost feels like reportage.

If you’ve read the other two books, I think you’ve got to read this. There’s a tension to the story of Ty, a genuine edginess throughout all the three books, that needs resolution both for him and the nerve-shredded reader. If you’ve not read the other two books, I would reccommend that you do. There’s a lot of story here that deserves being read and you’ll be missing out on some brilliant books if you dive straight into the nervy, spikey finale Another Life provides.

Summertime of the Dead : Gregory Hughes

Summertime of the Dead

Gregory Hughes, writer of the astoundingly good Unhooking The Moon, is back with a Kill Bill-esque tale full of darkness, revenge and love. Summertime Of The Dead, set in the streets of Tokyo, is a blinding book. It’s the story of one summer in the life of Yukio and it’s the summer where his world went wrong. His two best friends are dead following a spiral of events involving the Japanese mafia. And Yukio loved them. He loved them so much, he decides to avenge their deaths.

Because Yukio is also a master at kendo.

If there’s one thing (and there’s not, there’s several) that Hughes does really well, it’s tales where teenagers suddenly become adults. He writes those moments superbly (and incredibly sympathetically). The moments when Yukio takes his first nervous, terrified, angry, furious steps into the adult world and starts to avenge his friends, are moments which are superbly written.

Where this book gets particularly interesting is with the introduction of The Lump. This character has a lot of parallel with The Rat from Unhooking The Moon and if it were poorly done, I’d be picking Hughes up on it. But it’s not. The Lump is Yukio’s cousin and she acts sort of as his moral barometer, even when he’s lost down so very low in his darkness. She’s fascinating. And sort of utterly lovely.

Summertime Of The Dead isn’t for the squeamish. There’s a fair few explicit scenes of death and murder and a couple of graphic situations at the end and it’s got a heck of an ending that doesn’t pull any punches (no pun intended). But where I think this book shines is in the relationships between characters, and that curious awareness that people may damn you but some people can also save you.

It’s a book that is somehow full of both death and life all at once.

The Tomorrow Series : John Marsden

I’m putting two reviews in one here, because I think it’s important to acknowledge that starting to read a new series requires a bit of faith. The first one might be amazing but the second one might be hideous and that’s the sort of stuff you need to know before going off and either spending a load of cash on them at either the bookshop or ordering them in via the library. I’ve deliberately kept the second review as spoiler-free as I can.

Rest assured, these books are really, really good.


Tomorrow, When the War Began (Tomorrow, #1)Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this in a day, and by a day, I literally mean a day. It went everywhere with me because I could not put it down. And then, when I finished it, I immediately picked up the second. These books redefine hooked.

So, ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ has both a beautiful title and a beautiful premise. Several teenage friends decide for one last blow-out before the end of the school holidays. They decide to go trekking up into the bush, to a place known locally as “Hell”. It’s a perfect trip, full of all those memories that will last a lifetime.

That is until one night where a load of planes pass overhead.

Disturbed, the kids return back to their hometown and discover that it’s deserted. And then, they discover, that they’ve been invaded.

Australia is at war.

OH MY GOD. This book is brilliant. It’s basically geurilla warfare in the middle of the Australian bush and it’s all so ridiculously real. You can feel this happening as Ellie (the central narrator) recounts it to you. It’s like an Australian version of Vietnam with the teenagers acting as a rural Aussie bush version of the Vietcong. It’s them sneaking out from the shadows and fighting for their homes and their families. It’s them stepping up and making a difference.

This book is so superbly good. There’s very few war stories out there in YA literature that work as well and I think one of the reasons why Tomorrow, When The War Began does work is that it’s ferociously real. It fairly spits with Australian colour and feel, and it feels like it could happen which is one of the scariest parts.

Read. This. Book.

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The Dead of Night (Tomorrow, #2)The Dead of Night by John Marsden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second in John Marsden’s ‘Tomorrow’ series, this is a story of growth for our geurilla teens. Ellie, still the central narrator, details their story and how they handle their increasing outlaw status. There’s a point in this book where they run into another ‘operation’, similar to their own but run by militarised adults. However not everything is as it seems, and soon Ellie and co. are forced to decide their own fate again.

The shift in pace in The Dead Of Night is palpable; it’s a book about settling in and making decisions for the long-haul. It’s less breakneck than Tomorrow When The War Began and allows us to explore a lot more psychologically. Certain characters even have discussions about life, love and whether unprotected sex at this point in their lives really is a good idea.

There’s also more of a focus placed on actions having consequences. The first book was more about the reaction following the invasion and how the characters had to make a choice. This book allows us to dwell on the ramifications of making that choice.

I think I may be addicted to this epic epic series. The central premise is simply so good and I love how coloured it is by the location. You can feel the bush closing in, the tension of stepping out into a darkness blacker than you’ve ever seen before, and you can almost see the land starting to reclaim its own.

I devoured this book and really want to know how it all ends. Like now.

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Loose Connections : Rosemary Hayes

Loose ConnectionsLoose Connections by Rosemary Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am reading a lot of good books at the moment and I’m pleased to say this is one of them. Poignant, sad and mysterious; Loose Connections deals with a world of real-life issues in a caring and gentle manner.

Jake is at home whilst both of his parents are away (his mother’s having a difficult pregnancy in hospital and his father’s abroad for work). Technically Jake is being looked after by his Gran but it’s turning out to be more like Jake looking after her. She’s starting to forget things, numbers, names, food in the oven, and it’s starting to get worse. Where things start to get a bit odd, is when Jake meets a strange girl called Verity…

It’s an emotional but quick read that perhaps doesn’t sink into as much depth as it could do but in a book of this size, there’s not that much time to do so. There’s also an incident that made me think of Tom’s Midnight Garden and I’d have loved it to have been explored further. The dynamic between Verity and Jake is very well done but I felt that it wasn’t quite pushed as much as it could have been.

This book covers a lot of issues ranging from dementia, strokes, miscarriages, disability and young carers. There is a lot going on. It would be a useful introductory point to these issues and one that would incite discussion but I would very much recommend it being read by the parent / caregiver beforehand. Also, due to the nature and style of the writing, it is probably much more appropriate for the younger YA reader.

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