Thanks for making me a fighter

Fight Like A GirlFight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit up front that I have not always been a fan of Clementine Ford. It’s only in the last 18 months or so, as I have read more by and about her, that I realised how awesome she is – and how courageous. I guess I started taking more notice of her after trying to express dismay about rape culture while sitting around in front of the telly with my son and husband and being pretty much made to feel I should stay quiet. It wasn’t done maliciously, but it was done from a place of male privilege and they just didn’t get it. So I stopped talking about it.
I didn’t understand just how angry I was about how women are treated in our society until I read this book. It’s like it shone a light on all the darkest things I had ever thought and showed them in all their terrible, shining, truth. My favourite quote (amongst many, many amazing parts) comes right at the end :
“If you are a woman living in this world and you are not angry, you are not paying enough
That really hit home for me. This book articulates so much about how it FEELS to be a woman living in what is still a stifling patriarchy. As I read deeper and deeper into Ford’s call to arms (and make no mistake that is what this is), I found myself and my experiences in its pages. I think every woman, even the most “privileged” would find something they could identify from their own life in here.
Clementine Ford bravely gives us everything about herself – she is generous and unapologetic and I mentally fist-pumped a number of times as I read some of the things she has come through to be the woman she is today.
When you encounter a young woman who tells you she doesn’t need feminism or doesn’t see the point of it, just give her this book. Urge her to read it, as soon as possible.
Feminism, real feminism, has never been more important. It’s okay to be pissed off and it’s okay to articulate it. If people don’t want to listen, that’s their prerogative, but don’t let them silence you just because they close their ears. This is what I have taken away from this amazing book. Keep talking, keep listening, keep paying attention. And fight like a girl.

It wrecked me!

WreckWreck by Fleur Ferris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With Wreck, Fleur Ferris has firmly established herself as one of Australia’s great YA thriller writers. Risk and Black were a little creepier than this offering, but I think with Wreck, Ferris has stepped things up a notch. Tamara is a protagonist who comes into her own as the novel progresses. Her story arc sees her firstly quite timid and frightened, but by the end she is a take-no-prisoners badass. The same can be said of the other protagonist, William Chisel (great family name btw). Bullied by his older half-brother, and more or less ignored by his own parents, William has become a kind of “secret agent” by the time he and Tamara cross paths.
With the mystery of what happened in a boat accident five years ago as its imposing backdrop, Wreck takes the reader on a roller coaster ride with Tamara in the front seat. As the people she loves start being targeted by mysterious men in black, Tamara realises the note in the bottle she found on the beach is the key to the truth about Christian Chisel, the family member whose body was never recovered after that fateful night on the high seas.
I can’t say anymore without potentially spoiling, but this story keeps you in it’s vice-like grip right to the last few pages. I read the last 100 pages in one sitting – and made myself late for work.
It was totally worth it.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Sparrow in the wild

SparrowSparrow by Scot Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Regular readers of my reviews know that I am a Scot Gardner fan of many year’s standing. This latest offering, Sparrow, was highly anticipated by me and I was not disappointed. Scot has written a book that will appeal to a younger audience as well as his usual YA readers – especially those who love adventure stories featuring survival against the odds.
Sparrow is still a deeply introspective book, delving into the main character’s past and showing his soft underbelly, but it is equally a first-rate survival adventure story. Sparrow is tossed into the ocean off the coast of Darwin when a survival trip with his fellow juvenile detention inmates goes awry. He manages to make it to shore in one piece, but he is on his own. Avoiding sharks, dodging hungry crocodiles and coping with searing thirst, Sparrow must make his own way in the tropical wilderness.
Through a series of glances back into his past, we discover how Sparrow ended up in juvenile detention. His life on the streets, the network of support he drew around himself, how he managed to survive thanks to his engaging manner and drawing ability. It is clear Sparrow is first and foremost a gentle soul; rendered mute by the trauma of his past, and struggling in a world that has rejected him on a regular basis.
Gardner paints Sparrow convincingly and sympathetically, but never gets overly sentimental which is one of his writing strengths. The tropical north location for the novel is vivid and feels authentic, which makes the story a compelling one. And when Sparrow stumbles across another lone survivor in the wilderness, things just get more interesting. I can’t post any more than than, because I don’t believe in spoilers.
Recommended for ages 12 and up, this is a ripping read.

Asked and answered

Ask the PassengersAsk the Passengers by A.S. King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ask the Passengers is a really interesting novel. Another dip into magic realism for me, and I am beginning to see the attraction. A.S. King has a light touch, but still packs a punch and her characters are always engaging. Astrid Jones is a girl on the brink of many things: exploring her sexuality; finding her place in the world and her family; and she sends love, lots of love, to the passengers in the planes that regularly fly over her house. King allows us to see some of the passengers, and as Astrid’s love reaches them, their lives change. Not sure if she knows how to love the people she is with, or receive love from others, Astrid is in turmoil. All she wants is not to be categorised as one thing. She likes girls, but she’s not sure if the label lesbian fits her. She spends a lot of time hiding the truth about her doubts and fears from her friends and family, and eventually something has to give.
Astrid can be infuriating at times, but most of the time she is just trying really really hard not to hurt anyone. She doesn’t succeed. At all. And that is what makes this novel move along.
I would recommend this novel to teens aged 14 and up, but readers as young as 12 would enjoy this too.

To the outer limits

No LimitsNo Limits by Ellie Marney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harris Derwent is what my grandmother might have called “rough trade”. He’s had a hard life, but he is not hard. He pretends to be harder than he is – and that is why I fell in bookish love with him as I read this novel.
Ellie Marney has taken one of the most interesting characters from her “Every” series and given him the spotlight in No Limits. Harris is back in Ouyen following the climactic events in Every Move. He is hospital recovering from a gun shot wound when he meets Amie, a Certified Nursing Assistant he knew fleetingly in school. Amie and the rest of the nursing staff spend a lot of their time trying to stop Harris’s Dad, Dennis, from trying to get him out of bed and drag him home. Dennis is hands down one of the ugliest and base characters I have ever read. Abusive and drunk most of the time, Harris just wants to be free of him. When Dennis reveals he not only has cancer, but has racked up some huge debts, Harris knows he will be trapped until those debts are paid. Alongside all the fallout from being shot, Harris also has to work out how to get some cash. He is approached by some mates to be part of an ice distribution racket being run out of Mildura.
At first, he wants to say no, but after speaking to Amie’s dad Derrin Blunt, the local police sergeant, Harris is convinced to go undercover as an informant. This decision, and the decision by Blunt to use his daughter as the contact cover (for follow up hospital appointments to exchange information) are where the book really takes off.
Marney’s depiction of Mildura’s drug subculture feels disturbingly accurate. There are no punches pulled here. The language spoken and the scenes described are not for anyone who thinks YA writing should be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s not all dark, but the light shines through the cracks in the deep shadows of the methamphetamine-soaked recesses of the world Harris immerses himself in.
Along the way, Amie finds herself drawn to Harris: first as a concerned health worker, and later as a romantic interest. Harris, for his part, resists because he thinks Amie can do better, that he is bad news. Little by little we see the intimacy develop between them, and it is Marney’s precise writing skill that makes it feel authentic. No-one writes a first kiss like Ellie Marney. When Watts and Mycroft got together in the Every books, it sizzled, and in No Limits Marney doesn’t disappoint. Make no mistake, there is full-on teenage lust going on here, but also remarkable tenderness and emotion too. And when things start to go wrong and the drug boss looks for revenge, we really care about what happens to Harris and Amie.
I devoured this book very quickly. It is a fantastic, page-turning crime story; an insight into a subculture I have no personal knowledge of; a look inside an Indian/Australian family; and a breathless romance too. I hope we see more of Harris and Amie. Maybe “Outer Limits” for book 2?
For ages 14 and up (mainly because of language use, esp for school libraries).