Hive, the most recent young adult book by award-winning author, A.J. Betts (author of Zac and Mia) was the most reviewed young adult book in this issue of YA reviews. Hive falls under speculative fiction, dystopian, and horror genres, and is the first book in a two-part series.
Hive is set in a world where ours no longer exists. It is a closed world with no memory of the world before and is centred around bee-keeper, Hayley who discovers her world is not utopia.
Hive is an alternate-world story that was actually not what I expected. This is a young adult title that I think is probably well suited to the mid-range of the demographic. There is quite a lovely naivety and innocence about the characters that would fit well with the younger end of the scale but some of the themes may still be a little too much. Having said that I think older audiences will still enjoy the story, I know I certainly did.
There are some serious issues underlying the story in Hive and it poses many questions for contemplation. I highly recommend this novel to readers of all ages. I was so impressed with this story, from the world building through to the characterisation, the engrossing plot and the unique premise. It’s a chilling little read, make no mistake, a cautionary tale of an alternate future. I’m really looking forward to Rogue, book two, and hope I don’t have to wait a whole year for it!
I am thankful to the latest novel by A.J. Betts, Hive, for pushing me way out of my comfort zone with this alternative world and unsettling offering. Reach for Hive if you appreciate young adult and visionary based works of fiction.
Other sci-fi/fantasy books reviewed include Cassandra, Lifespan of Starlight, and The Beast’s Heart.
Angharad reviewed Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow. Cassandra is Gossow’s debut novel and was a finalist in the Aurealis Awards for Best Fantasy Novel in 2017. Cassandra is set in rural Australia and challenges the premise that the future is set in stone.
This is a very thought-provoking book that explores a range of issues including adolescence, agrarianism and even immigration. After I finished it, I felt almost as haunted as Cassie.
Calzean reviewed sci-fi book, Lifespan of Starlight by Thalia Kalkipsakis, the first of a trilogy where a group of teenagers discover the secret to time travel:
An entertaining yarn of the not so distant future – people are tagged and depending on their usefulness to society they are provided with the approved level of credits which buy food, water and if you can afford it niceties. A group of teenagers find out how to jump into the future – just small jumps cos you turn up that much older and embarrassingly naked.
Kate Forsyth and Anna Greenwood reviewed The Beast’s Heart by debut Australian author Leife Shallcross. The Beast’s Heart is a retelling of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fairytale but this time told from the beast’s perspective.
Leife Shallcross writes beautifully, and there is a great deal of charm in the depiction of the Beast and his longing for friendship and love. The Beauty of the tale is also brought to life with depth and complexity…There has been a fashion in recent years for depicting fairy-tales as dark, violent, and sexually charged fantasies, but I prefer this more lyrical and romantic style. The action of the plot unfolds slowly and sensitively, and time is taken to bring the magical world vividly to life…A compelling and surprising retelling of ‘Beauty & the Beast’, this debut offering from an Australian author is filled with peril, darkness, romance and beauty. Utterly enchanting!
General fiction in YA was also popular this month. A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drew has a strong theme of abuse and was reviewed by Cassandra Page who says it’s a quick read that will break your heart.
Part of me can’t even comprehend a world where a boy could be so thoroughly abused and no adults would step in to help, and that’s why it’s so important for me to read a story like this one, even though parts of it made me feel kind of queasy.
I Had Such Friends by Meg Gatland-Veness is another which deals with heavy themes of abuse, grief, and coming-of-age issues. I Had Such Friends was reviewed by Jennifer Cameron-Smith and A Keyboard and an Open Mind. Jennifer said she found much of the novel sad but not without hope.
Eleni Hale’s debut novel, Stone Girl has been much celebrated within the #LoveOzYA community. Stone Girl is the story of Sophie who is a made a ward of the state after a traumatic incident and was reviewed by Kate Murdoch:
Stone Girl isn’t just about Sophie, but is a compassionate exploration of young people who fall through the cracks, who feel worthless and act out in an attempt to feel powerful in the face of helplessness and apathy. It is harrowing and gritty but with so much heart. For me, it opened my eyes to the process of disconnection and social isolation, and I’m sure it will do the same for many readers.
P is for Pearl by Henry Eliza-Jones was reviewed by Michelle from Beauty and Lace.
P is for Pearl is an insightful and sensitive look at grief, of the way in which it hits in waves that ripple through the years and sometimes when you least expect it the tide will crest and the wave that hits is much larger than expected, a wave that brings back all you have closed yourself off from and opens doors to memories you didn’t know you had forgotten.
The story touches on so many aspects of adolescent life from schoolyard issues, blended families, love, loss, crushes, friendship and the intricate minefield of sibling relationships – both blood and by marriage.
P is for Pearl is a story that I really enjoyed, and I think it is definitely worth a read for younger audiences. The Harper website says from 14 years…
The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot is a verse novel exploring love and death, grief and beauty, and the ways we try to make sense of it all. The Art of Taxidermy was reviewed by Marianne:
It’s a story that touches on death and grieving and funerals and the internment of Germans during World War Two and the stolen generation, and she wraps it all in evocative descriptive verse. But it’s not all doom and gloom; there’s much beauty and even a bit of humour…
I reviewed Cracked by Clare Strahan:
In Cracked, Strahan has perfectly captured the angst of teen life—the battle to fit in versus the fight to find and follow your own mind. The pain at finding out that life is far more complicated than you thought, and that adults can be the biggest pains in the neck.
Strahan draws on art, mental health challenges, and environmental sustainability to flesh out Clover’s world.
Cracked is a cracking good read. It’s thoughtful and thought-provoking, and quiet and loud all at once.
Cracked is a book full of heart and hope.
Another book I enjoyed this month was Lisa Walker’s Paris Syndrome:
Paris Syndrome is a touching coming-of-age story and although it deals with some difficult issues at times, Walker deftly keeps the tone light. Paris Syndrome is Walker’s first young adult book and I hope to read more teen fiction from her in the future. Highly recommended for those who enjoy references to Paris and want an easy to read book with delightful characters.
Finally, Wendy Orr’s historical fiction novel, Swallow’s Dance was reviewed by Ashleigh from the Book Muse :
Using the archaeological evidence and any other information available written in Greek, and translated or by historians who have excavated Thera and Crete, as well as the well-preserved frescoes of the Minoans, Wendy Orr has recreated the disaster that decimated Thera and that began the decline and end of the thriving Minoan civilisation on Crete.
Set in a time that is sometimes forgotten, and whose recorded history is uncertain because the language has not been translated yet, Swallow’s Dance is about a lost civilsation and its refugees seeking help, and being treated as slaves, sneered at and made to feel unwelcome, even though they are fleeing something that nobody could ever have predicted or prevented. It is perhaps even more interesting to read given the way refugees can and sometimes are treated in the world today still, illustrating that nothing has really changed…
That wraps up another month of reviews of young adult fiction. Please keep linking your reviews to the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Every review helps facilitate discussion about the fabulous books written by Australian women writers. You can sign up here for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge.
N.L.King was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. 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. ‘Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying…[and is] a deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.’ — Kirkus Reviews. 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. Nadia enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction and short fiction and lives in Western Australia with her family.