November 21, 2017

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YA Tales from Down Under | SLJ Spotlight

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Australian authors and books set “Down Under” continue to wow U.S. readers with complex and pitch-perfect YA titles. From a nuanced look at abuse to a fun read about a teen who communicates with ghosts, these latest works by set in Australia are sure to garner the same acclaim as books by Fiona Wood, Melina Marchetta, and Justine Larbalestier.

redstarHartnett, Sonya. Golden Boys. 256p. ebook available. Candlewick. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763679491. Hartnett, Sonya. Golden Boys

Gr 10 Up –There is something unsavory about Colt’s father, and readers will feel that right away. Teenage Colt is one of two principal interior narrators and the new kid on the block. His father, Rex, is a dentist and flaunts his wealth by buying a pool and cool toys for the neighborhood boys. Through Colt’s eyes, readers see revulsion and awareness of his father’s ploys but not much concrete evidence of his father’s guilt. The work is written in a timeless gothic tone with rich symbolism and figurative language. The other narrator, Freya, the eldest of six children of an alcoholic printer, is losing faith in God and looking for a hero. Freya’s father is a wife beater, and she and Declan, the oldest boy, take the brunt of the responsibility, as does Colt, when Rex proves that he is not the hero she imagines. What is remarkable about this novel is the way in which every character is developed through shifting points of view, such as through the neighborhood bully, Garrick, and neglected waif Avery. The book is a portrait of a working-class neighborhood. Readers will muse over all the relationships in order to ascertain why violence is so often misdirected with the worst offenders remaining unscathed. ­VERDICT An absorbing read for mature teens, ready to face the ugly truth of scapegoating to maintain social cohesion, however broken.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

Lim, Rebecca. Afterlight. 240p. ebook available. Text. Apr. 2016. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781925240498.YA-SP-Lim-Afterlight

Gr 9 Up –Shortly after Sophie Teague’s parents are killed in a motorcycle accident, a ghost visits her in the night. Eve, a beautiful ghost dressed in black, returns nightly seeking Sophie’s help. It starts with visions that send Sophie off around Melbourne to find a school, a car, and a boy. She ends up saving the boy from being kidnapped. Eve continues to visit Sophie at night and impart images to her that help Sophie find and tie up loose ends. The only other person who can see Eve is “the most seriously beautiful guy in year 12,” Jordan Haig. The novel is told from the first-person point of view of Sophie, a self-deprecating, insecure teenage girl with a sarcastic sense of humor. This is a story of grief, as well as a mystery thriller with supernatural aspects and some romance. Due to some profanity, this book would be best for mature teens. The ending leaves readers wanting more, but it is unclear if there will be a sequel or if this is a stand-alone. Fans of Meg Cabot’s “The Mediator” series (HarperCollins) will enjoy the similar story line of a teen girl who is a liaison between the living and the dead. VERDICT This quick read will have teens rooting for Sophie to save the day, help Eve, and make them believe ghosts exist.–­Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

Royer, Ashley. Remember to Forget. 304p. ebook available. Blink. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780310751717. YA-SP-Royer-Remember to Forget

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Australian high school dropout Levi Harrison is anxious, depressed, and plagued by mood swings. His mom has no choice but to send Levi to Maine to live with the father he has not seen in three years, leaving behind best friend Caleb and all that Levi ever knew. The protagonist’s destructive behavior continues until he meets Delilah, an employee at his new therapist’s office, and Aiden, a kid from the neighborhood. Through the painstaking patience and kindness of his friends, the love and support of his parents, and the medication Levi has finally decided to consistently take, the teen gradually awakens to life again and overcomes the guilt that has held him captive since losing his girlfriend Delia six months prior in a car accident; she was texting him while driving. The author’s use of italicized flashbacks and first-person narrative draws readers deeper into the protagonist’s innermost thoughts. Strong secondary characters add to the work. References to Disney’s Frozen and the Say Yes to the Dress TV show could date the book, but they are well worth the risk. ­VERDICT A heartrending story of heartbreak, grief, compassion, resilience, and love. Highly recommended.–Susan Harris, Ridgeway High School, TN

These reviews were published in the School Library Journal March 2016 issue.

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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