Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is an interesting book. There are three distinct voices telling the story, and we see events unfold from a number of perspectives that only enriches the experience. Clem, Ady and Kate are thrown together as part of a “wellness” program exercise and discover things about each other that ends up binding them together in deep, meaningful friendship. Each girl has her own baggage, and each commits herself to steadfast support of the other two.
Gender politics, sexual identity and finding one’s own path are the overriding themes here, with each girl having to make difficult and far-reaching choices about her life.
Not sure I personally would have given it CBCA Book of the Year (2018), but it certainly deserved a nomination, and it is a novel I would recommend highly for readers aged 13 and up.
There is power in this story, for everyone.
Americus by M.K. Reed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Americus is one of the best graphic novels I have read in recent years. I have been meaning to read it for nearly five years, so I am glad I finally managed to catch up with it today. Set in the ficticious town of Americus, the plot centres around a young guy, Neil, who has just started high school in the US (Year 9) and his life. Neil and his best friend, Danny, are ardent fans of a book series called The Adventures of Apathea Ravenchilde (a thinly veiled Harry Potter lookalike). Danny’s mum is, in the Australian vernacular, a God botherer. She takes it upon herself to “save” Danny from the satanic evils of witchcraft by tearing up the latest installment in the series in front of the local public librarian and then sends Danny to military school so he won’t risk being exposed to the wickedness Americus’ public library. Parents, town officials, school management and the kids square off against one another in various combinations as the fight for the right to read starts a battle for the ages. Neil is a perfectly pitched character – embarrassed by his own mum’s fussing, but grateful for her support when he needs it most; awkward around most people, but starting to find his tribe by the close of proceedings. I loved every page of this fantastic book. There is plenty to say here, and clearly the writer is firmly on the side of reading freedom, but there is room for discussion with young people around the issues this raises. Karma is handed out to all – and the ultimate irony of Danny’s banishment by his mother when he writes to Neil about what he is reading is sweet perfection.
An instant classic and suitable for ages 12 and up.
I Made Lattes for a Love God by Wendy Harmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wendy Harmer’s latest YA novel hits all the right notes. Her protagonist, Elly (Eleanor) is a girl who has few friends at school since the departure of her best mate, Carmelita, to the farming districts of Queensland. She lives at home with her parents – Mum, who is a strung out and struggling PR agent; Dad, who is a bit of an underdog always playing second fiddle to Mum, but clearly adores her and his children; and Tilly (Matilda), who is eighteen and spreading her wings (right in front of Elly’s face). The family relationships are well drawn and I found the interaction between them believable, particularly those between Dad and the girls and the two sisters.
Elly’s Mum has been given the biggest break of her PR career. The cast of Monster Squad are coming to the town of Britannia to film the third film in the series, imaginatively titled Monster Squad 3. A cross between Twilight and High School Musical, Monster Squad has a heart throb star, Jake Blake, whom Elly pines for. When it is revealed that Mum is handling all the publicity for the movie, Elly thinks she has it made and will be hanging out with Jake in no time. Of course, things do not go to plan. First, Elly manages to get her best friend a part in the movie whilst managing to miss out on one herself. Her Mum throws her a lifeline by making Elly her PA. After she manages to get herself thrown off the set on the first day of shooting, things do not look good for Elly. Eventually she ends up working in the catering van with Rosie Di Masi and her cheerful, hardworking parents. Rosie has been the object of derision in Elly’s circle and she is dreading working with her, but slowly Rosie reveals herself to be something Elly didn’t expect and this is probably my favourite aspect of this story. My only is she making new friends she has to contend with Bianca, the inevitable jealous “popular” girl who is a perpetual fly in Elly’s ointment. Team that with her sister who starts mooning over Jake Blake, Dad who might be having an affair with one of the movie stars and Carmelita who seems to be turning against her, and Elly learns a lot about everyone in her life, but especially about herself.
In keeping with my non-spoiler policy I will not reveal much more here, but I will say that things move towards a very satisfactory conclusion, with lots of loose ends tied up and a warm fuzzy feeling as you read the last page.
Suitable for ages 12 and up.