Wednesday, December 30, 2009

my favourite australian YA of 2009

i've been reading persnickety snark's top 5s of the year - she's put a number out over the last week or so. her most recent one i think i'm going to steal:

!top 5 aussie YA books of the year! (disclaimer: in my own opinionated opinion)

loving richard feynman by penny tangey (UQP)
catherine is 15 and she's got a mega crush. on a physicist who, in the 40s, helped to build atomic bombs. so yes, catherine is a bit different from the other people at her school. but she says: "i suppose i could be more popular if i tried harder. but i don't want to pretend to care about facile television shows, eyeliner and who in year ten is on the pill." i think catherine is a rad character, so clever and so so so funny (seriously, she could give georgia nicholson - from angus thongs - a run for her money!). this book takes the form of her letters to the scientist over the course of one year, during which she slowly reads feynman's autobiography surely you're joking, mr feynman! and during which her life starts to come apart at the seams. writing to feynman helps her cope with all the problems she faces. this book deserves a lot of attention. come and get it!

when the hipchicks went to war by pamela rushby (lothian/hachette)
i reviewed this one awhile ago here. i love historical fiction, especially ones written for teenagers and especially when they deal with different aspects of a history we know quite well, parts of a war we tend not to focus on - and when women get their stories told!

a small free kiss in the dark by glenda millard (A&U)
beautifully written, sad and moving story about skip, a young boy who runs away from his abusive foster family only to find himself a victim of war. though she doesn't specify, i get the feeling that millard has set her war in melbourne. skip and bill, the old homeless man he meets, find themselves caring for little max who was safe in the library when bombs started falling but who is still waiting for his mum to come and get him. the trio head out on foot along the tram line to an abandoned fun park where they meet the teenage mum tia and baby sixpence. glenda millard's characters are always spectacular and poignant and these are no exception. the way she approaches the war is so well done, so brutal but brilliant. and there's always hope in her voice.

beatle meets destiny by gabrielle williams (penguin)

when john "beatle" lennon meets destiny mccartney you could forgive him for thinking that it was fate...err...destiny maybe. and if it was fate then what's the harm in taking her for ice cream and for a beer. or two. and is it really so wrong to kiss her? and maybe going on a picnic together the next day? perhaps it is a bit wrong when you consider beatle's lovely and faithful girlfriend. this is a riotously fun book with a pair of very real, engaging and not always well-behaved characters and a brilliant support cast. there are twists and turns, laughs and tears, eccentric families and a great (read: bizarre) stalking storyline. it's very melbourne and all kinds of awesome.

swerve by philip gwynne (penguin)

from the author of deadly, unna and nukkin ya this is very different. hugh is a cello-playing private schoolboy from sydney with a secret obsession for muscle cars. an old hippie man with a long ponytail has been hanging out the front of his school, trying to talk to him. it turns out he's hugh's grandfather - long estranged from the family - and he's got a proposition. poppy wants hugh to drive them to uluru in his '69 monaro. hugh falls in love with the car instantly, plus he wants to get his hours up (he's still on his Ls) and not even the audition in a week's time at the conservatorium can stop him. hugh is totally out of his comfort zone with poppy and away from his posh sydney life. with poppy he has to mingle with rough types of people and is confronted by the girls he constantly refers to as 'skanks'. predictably, things don't go to plan on the road. there's the hitchhikers manifesto, which dictates they must pick up all hitchhikers: not always a great idea, there's the runaway and then the psycho... but they meet some great people at truck stops and they camp in swags off the beaten track (checking into the million star motel!) and they wrestle with the powerful car, which remains the main character in the book. this is a moving and funny novel.


  1. Nice list. Most of those are on my "been meaning to read but haven't yet" list... (one of them is sitting in a pile next to my bed) :)

  2. Very interesting list. I especially like the sound of Loving Richard Feynman, and have added it straight to the ol' wishlist!

  3. Yay Beatle was ace - so glad you put it in your top 5.

  4. Swerve has recently been short-listed for the prime minister's inaugural YA literature awards, so, I've just read it. The story sets a cracking pace (befitting a V8 car) and although it would appeal to boys, I think girls would get a lot from it, in large part, because of the likeable character Bella. I read it in five hours - I couldn't put it down. Un-ashamedly Australian and laugh out loud funny. Congratulations to those who short-listed it.

  5. glad you got around to reading it. i don't really remember loving bella all that much - though she was ballsy and funny. the shortlist is actually quite good!

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