Looking for a young adult book to read? Look no further as we bring you the latest reviews of YA books written by Australian women writers.
The striking cover image of Rachel Nightingale’s book, COLUMBINE’S TALE is seen above. The book was reviewed by author, Isobel Blackthorn:
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Harlequin’s Riddle, the first in the Tales of Tayra series by debut author, Rachel Nightingale, it was with much anticipation that I opened the second, Columbine’s Tale.
Nightingale’s characterisation is impeccable, and with the fewest words she conjures a convincing three-dimensional cast. Descriptions are detailed and evocative, providing the reader with a powerful sense of place. Nightingale makes not only her imaginary Italy alive in the mind of the reader, but also her etheric realm, Tarya, in all of its layers and complexity. The prose is gentle, soft and acts on the psyche like balm. Tales of Tarya is a series to sink into and savour.
Ultimately, Columbine’s Tale is about creativity and healing, of good versus evil, of the use and misuse of magical powers – the power to create and to destroy – and the all-important moral message underpinning the series, that creativity should be life-giving, not life-taking. In all a delightful and insightful read.
Fantasy books often seem to be a popular choice with YA readers and Katya De Bercerra’s WHAT THE WOODS KEEP was reviewed by star reviewer, Ashleigh Meikle.
In a dark fantasy, filled with hints of mythology, science fiction, mystery and magical realism, this is a dark and creepy story for young adults and older readers who enjoy unusual stories.
Keeping with reviews of fantasy books, another of our star reviewers, Brenda reviewed RHEIA by Cassandra Page:
Rheia by Aussie author Cassandra Page is a stunning, breath-taking and tissue-inducing fantasy/steampunk/young adult novel which was unputdownable! Absolutely brilliant in my opinion. Filled with tension, the characters were extremely well crafted. I loved the three main caregivers–Dora, Erika and Yalee –and the reasons for their positions. Also, Rheia’s grandmother, Charis. The plot was exceptionally well done; flowing smoothly and well written. I thoroughly enjoyed Rheia and highly recommend it.
Moving from fantasy to Sci-Fi thriller, Cally Black’s first YA novel, IN THE DARK SPACES, is about a girl living on the fringes of one society, who is kidnapped and forced to learn to survive in a completely alien society. HM Waugh’s review is guaranteed to make you want to track down a copy:
If you want world-building of awesome and relatable characters and a super voice, then ‘In the Dark Spaces’ by Cally Black is for you. It’s Sci-Fi with added ethical conundrums and a dash of Stockholm syndrome. Prepare to cry. And grin. And be absorbed.
UNEARTHED #1 by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner was marketed as “Indiana Jones in space” which Emily Wrayburn says gave her expectations which weren’t met:
So while I enjoyed it for what it was, I was disappointed it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Emily Wrayburn seemed to have gone on an Ellie Marney binge (aren’t book binges the best?) as she reviewed three of Marney’s books.
One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve started reading Ellie Marney’s books this year is that she has the ability to really capture the Australian experience of being a young adult. These aren’t just teenagers that could be lifted out of her book and transplanted somewhere else. These are very definitely Australian teenagers. This is an Australian small town. There’s just something about the descriptions and the way the characters speak that wouldn’t work anywhere else.
WHITE NIGHT by Ellie Marney ‘By the last fifty pages, I couldn’t have put the book down even if I had wanted to.’
ALL THE LITTLE BONES (CIRCUS HEARTS #1) by Ellie Marney
The descriptions of the various routines and the costumes, and the set-up were all wonderful. I’m no full-time circus performer but I do perform in amateur musical theatre in my spare time, and there was so much that rang completely true to me.
I really enjoyed the diverse cast of circus cast and crew, though Ren was a particular favourite. She is Indonesian and there is lots of Indonesian language in the text.
The pace is fast and I was always eager to see what happened next. I can’t wait to see what happens in Book 2!
ALL FALL DOWN (CIRCUS HEARTS #2) by Ellie Marney
I really appreciate how much research Ellie Marney puts into her stories. I ended up going and googling another circus after a mention of a disaster that took place there in the 50s. And even just how much detail there is in the general circus atmosphere. It’s pretty great.
Cassandra Page reviewed KA Last’s trilogy of books: SOMETHING, NOTHING and EVERYTHING:
This trilogy is one of those stories that reminded me of how awful it is to be an introverted teenager at the bottom of the social pecking order
If you want to read a story about a teen girl learning to trust and finding her feet in the world, one that is an easy read and comes in digestable chunks, then this is the story for you.
ZEROES (ZEROES #1) is the first in an action-packed young adult trilogy by Scott Westerfield, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancottie. Nicole says the writing was seamless in its transitions between characters and characters, making it feel as if it is the story of one author.
It all begins with a getaway car, a bag full of money and a bank robbery… this is great read for those who are tired of the usual super hero genre and are looking for something different.
Each story and its inevitable conclusion are like a punch to the guts, reminding us that we are human, as are the characters we love, and that I will come back to again and again. This is the series that got me blogging seriously as a reviewer – I now have lots to catch up on and get many books now – so thank you to Pantera Press and Lynette Noni for getting me into my blog on a bigger scale. This series will always be special to me for that reason. I look forward to the release of Vardaesia next year.
Another of our star reviewers, Brenda reviewed SANGUINE (THE SENTINELS OF EDEN) by Carolyn Denman:
Sanguine is the 2nd in the Sentinels of Eden series by Aussie author Carolyn Denman, and I loved it! I thoroughly enjoyed Songlines, the first in the series, and Sanguine doesn’t disappoint. It’s an electric mix of paranormal, mystery and Indigenous heritage which is written for a YA audience, and highly palatable for those of us who haven’t been YA for some time! I’m looking forward to #3 now, and highly recommend the series.
After reading Brona’s Books review of JUST FLESH AND BLOOD, I am keen to read Jane Caro’s trilogy about Queen Elizabeth I. Just Flesh & Blood is the highly anticipated conclusion in the popular trilogy.
Her Elizabeth is based on facts and known history, but she imagines what it must have been like to be this lone woman, in power, surrounded my men trying to manipulate her and use her for their own purpose. Caro explores the life-long impact on Elizabeth to have lost her mother at so young an age and in such horrific circumstances, at the wishes of her father. The ultimate act of domestic violence in fact.
Caro paints a very human queen, full of desires, impulses and incredible strength of will. A monarch who had to know her own mind in public, but was full of doubts and questions in private.
Just Flesh and Blood brings us to the end of Elizabeth’s reign and life. She spends the book reflecting on the important, defining moments of her childhood as well as many pivotal events from her long and glorious reign. I found her voice, in all three books to be authentic and believable.
It’s not often a lyrical verse novel pops up but THE ART OF TAXIDERMY by Sharon Kernot is getting consistent reviews. Shortlisted for the 2017 Text Prize, this novel explores love and grief and the strange and wonderful art of taxidermy. Thank you to Louise for this review:
Besides the more obvious themes of grief and death, there are themes of friendship, loneliness, glimpses of Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal relations with white Australia, and the history of German immigrants to South Australia. The book is also full of appreciation for our Australian wildlife and in particular our wonderful birds.
Moving onto Sarah Epstein’s debut novel, SMALL SPACES which seems to be taking the world by storm, this psychological thriller is getting lots of positive reviews. This one by our very own Claire Holderness :
Wow! I don’t read psychological thrillers all that often but this one was great, it was very intense and kept me up well past my bedtime. I was on edge through a lot of this, my empathy with Tash was strong and I wondered as did she, what was the truth? At times I wanted to skip to the end and find out without going through the agony of the journey, but then what would be the point of that. This book had me guessing right up until the truth and horror of the situation was revealed. I definitely recommend this book.
Sanch Writes also found Small Spaces unputdownable!
If you’re looking for a novel steeped in sports, B.R. Kyle read CS Pascat’s graphic novel, FENCE – VOL 1:
All in all, a humorous contemporary with a focus on a sport that I actually enjoyed, Happy to recommend.
THE RELUCTANT JILLAROO by Kaz Delaney was also reviewed by Brenda:
The Reluctant Jillaroo is my first by Aussie author Kaz Delaney and I loved it! Laugh out loud entertainment, as well as some teary moments, plus the usual teenage angst – all set in the rural countryside of NSW around Scone, horse capital of Australia. And I had no idea who the culprit was until the reveal! A really enjoyable read, The Reluctant Jillaroo is one I highly recommend.
Claire Holderness said I HAD SUCH FRIENDS by Meg Gatland-Veness touched on some important issues, teen bullying, sexuality, grief, depression and suicide.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald reviewed THE INTERROGATION OF ASHALA WOLF BY Ambelin Kwaymullina:
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf was first published in 2012 and is an Own Voices story. Ashala is a young woman with Indigenous Australian heritage, and the treatment of race is both important to and decentred by the narrative. Kwaymullina has created a world in which racism is no longer an issue…The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a tense and engaging story, deeply embedded in an Australian context and made stronger for it. It does an excellent job of examining serious issues while maintaining hope. I highly recommend it as the start of a compelling series.
Sue Lawson’s FREEDOM RIDE was reviewed by Jonathan Shaw:
Its main character, fifteen-year-old Robbie Bowers, lives with his bank-employee father and his grandmother in the tiny fictional New South Wales town of Walgaree. Robbie’s a frequent target for the school bully and his cronies, and home is no refuge. His grandmother is prim, humourless and authoritarian, a terrible cook with nasty gossiping friends. His father is hardly any better, having come back to live with his mother after losing his wife when Robbie was a baby. The stage is set for a coming of age story, in which Robbie finds a way to independence of spirit, connection with some decent people, and perhaps even a little happiness.
The novel is about the 1965 Freedom Ride, in which a group of university students led by Charles Perkins hired a bus and travelled through rural New South Wales for two weeks, documenting the living conditions of Aboriginal people and staging protests at, among other things, RsL clubs that excluded Aboriginal veterans and swimming pools that banned Aboriginal an non-Aboriginal children from sharing the pool.
A historical note at the back lists the 37 participant in the Freedom ride, and links it to the 1967 referendum, the land rights campaign, the setting up of the Tent Embassy and the apology to the Stolen Generations. The book clearly aims to informs a new generation of readers of a significant moment in Australian history.
Another novel set in rural Australia is AFTER THE LIGHTS GO OUT by Lili Wilkinson. Thank you to Calzean for this review:
A remote mining town in Australia. The lights go out, nothing electronic works, most of the people are 400km away at the mine. No problems for 17 yo Pru and her twin sisters; their father is a prepper who has built a doomsday bunker full of survival gear and has trained the girls in amazing survival skills. But Dad is away, the small town lacks food, water and medical supplies and Pru faces a dilemma – who is right, good old Dad with his dire warnings or the remaining people who are trying to work together.
The dilemmas faced by Pru, the argument of whether people are good or bad, the impact of the lack of modern medical services, the resourcefulness needed to adapt and the nutty Dad all add to a better than average dystopian tale.
And we’ll finish this round-up with Marianne’s review of THE FINDER by Kate Hendrick:
The Finder is the second novel for young adults by Australian author, Kate Hendrick. The plot has a great twist and a realistic ending where not everything is tied up in neat bows, but concludes on a hopeful note. Hendrick’s second novel might just be even better than her first. Recommended!
Thank you to all those who reviewed books for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. Please consider signing up and adding your review. You can sign up here to join the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge at any time.
Nadia is an author, blogger, and presenter. Her debut book, Jenna’s Truth, is published by boutique small press, Serenity Press based in Western Australia. Nadia is passionate about using stories to reflect a diversity of realities in order to positively impact teen lives, and runs a teen book club for the Centre for stories. She also enjoys writing short fiction and lives in Western Australia with her family. You can read her blog, find out more about her and her writing at her website, or follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter or Instagram.