Thursday, February 4, 2010

the looking for alibrandi syndrome

as far as ailments go, this is absolutely the best one to have. there are a number of YA books that i diagnose as having the LFAS and it does not mean that these books are any less important, any less well-written or deserving of praise. all i mean is that if you liked looking for alibrandi by melina marchetta, you'll like these two books i read recently:

finding freia lockhart
by aimee said

freia is your average sort of girl - lives with her fairly strict parents and her slightly annoying little brother, has a best friend in kate and wants to be popular and to do well at school. but freia doesn't take to the Bs (that's belinda, bethanee and brianna) easily - 'how much fake tan, lip gloss and boy talk can (she) stand?' freia is pushed into being involved in the school play first by the girls and then - surprisingly - by her parents. but because she can't sing, her role is relegated to lighting, where she's stuck with the kind of freaky daniel (rumours are he's a druggie). i loved the way that the things freia thought her parents expected of her wasn't necessarily what they had intended, showing the common miscommunications between parent and child. said has created some nice characters, they felt very human. there was good dialogue and some funny, as well as some more heartfelt, scenes. and while i knew where the story was going from pretty much the start, i really enjoyed the tale.

dancing in the dark by robyn bavati

i was immediately fascinated by this book - i am drawn to stories of young people brought up in extreme religious sects (though am not sure what this says about me) and this is the first i've read about haredi judaism. ditty (full name: yehudit) is twelve and her family are part of the tight-knit, ultra-orthodox jewish community in melbourne. she is not allowed to watch television, read secular newspapers or attend a secular (or even modern orthodox) school. one afternoon sara, ditty's best friend, reveals that her mother has a secret television hidden in her bedroom. curious, the girls watch. it becomes a guilty pleasure and one day they catch a preview for a ballet. entranced, ditty begins to dream of being a dancer; and although her parents fiercely disapprove, she begins to take lessons, paying for them with babysitting money and some help from her freewheeling cousin linda. and she is very good. and as she disobeys her family more and more, ditty begins to question their way of life. i won't go any further at the risk of giving the plot away. bavati did a great job at maintaining the suspense - i couldn't see how ditty would get away with it. she also managed to explore this young girl's quavering faith without being heavy-handed or didactic. exceeds expectations - don't judge this book by its cover.


  1. I was so interested to read this because in last couple of weeks three different people have directly recommended Looking For Alibrandi to me. I'm definitely going to get hold of a copy, and if I like it as much as the three recommenders expect, I'll look into these two as well.

    Re: books about young people in extreme religious sects, have you ever read People Might Hear You by Robin Klein? Great book.

  2. yes! i love 'people might hear you', one of my all-time faves. in fact i run a bookclub for teenage girls and we just read this - i'd been dying to get them to read it. so glad you like it too.

    you must also watch the film of looking for alibrandi - of course different from the book and they made changes, but it's a top movie. ace soundtrack.

  3. I had no idea Looking For Alibrandi was a film too. I'll definitely save it for after I've read the book: that's the reader's law, right?

  4. ooh and 'The Book of Fred' is great for that creepy religious sect type thing as well.
    kate i love the idea of the lfas and i definately have it very badly! altho i think i have a sub species of the syndrome, moriarty mange.well maybe not mange... madness?
    ps. the new Marchetta, the Piper's Son, is amazing!

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