– Kelly Yang –
Katherine Tegan Books
Published 31 May 2022
Faced with the utter upheaval of her world, Serene must support her mother during a terminal diagnosis and continue to steer and fight for the fashion design company her mother built. Serene faces racism, sexism and must fight against men who think they know better as they try to silence her and her mother. But Serene is smart and determined and won’t go down without a fight.
No Filter and Other Lies
– Crystal Maldonado –
Published 8 February 2022
Social media is such a massive part of our young readers’ lives and yet its reach and impact is so often left out of YA fiction. No Filter and Other Lies addresses the addiction of social media, it’s dangers and its benefits head on. It also addresses the inherent racism and sizeism of social media and the challenges teens face in navigating this online world.
Kat is a photographer, friend, granddaughter and dog lover. She’s also pretty good at lying. For years, she’s been lying to everyone but her best friends about where she lives. Most people think she lives with her parents, as evidenced by the perfect family photos her mother shares on Facebook. But Kat actually lives with her grandparents. So, when the opportunity arises to share her work as a photographer on Instagram to a much wider audience, Kat takes it. It’s only a small lie and what’s that in the scheme of her life? Yes, she has to borrow her friend’s (perfectly gorgeous, white, thin) face after she expressly said she didn’t want to go back on social media. But, Kat will also use the account to share about the dogs at the shelter she works at, so there will be some good come from the whole thing. But when Kat starts to fall for a girl she chats with online, things get complicated. Especially when that girl thinks Kat is a 21-year-old college girl called Max.
Anything But Fine
– Tobias Madden –
Penguin Random House Australia
Published 31 August 2021
Ballet is everything for Luca. It’s his future, his time, all his effort and his friendships. So when he falls down the stairs at his ballet studio and breaks his leg, it changes everything. When the doctors say he will never dance again, Luca isn’t sure what that means for his future. Who is he without ballet. When he loses his scholarship and has to move school and he shuts out his friends, the only bright side is seeing Jordan at OT. Jordan is the school captain and rowing champion at Luca’s new school. Luca thinks there might be something between them but Jordan is apparently straight. And has a girlfriend.
Anything But Fine is authentically Australia, from the Ballarat setting, to the slang and high school culture. #LoveOzYA
One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was Luca’s friendship with Amina. Amina is nerdy, talks a lot and isn’t who Luca thought he would be spending time with. She’s also as different from his old friends as possible. Amina is Indonesian-Australian and Muslim. She is absolutely fantastic and just what Luca needs. Luca also learns to be a better friend to Amina and more deserving of her. He makes some pretty lousy mistakes in this book, both towards Amina and his old friends, as well as to his dad and other adults who have been there for him. But Luca isn’t afraid to own up to these mistakes and learn from them.
Ace of Spades – Faridah Abike-Iyimide – Feiwel Friends – Published 1 June 2021
When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.
Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.
As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?
Ace of Spades is heartbreakingly devastatingly yet as I was reading I knew that this is the reality for so many people and young people. It is thrilling, twisty and kept me guess right up until the last page. My main concern was how on earth the author could give me a satisfactory ending that was still realistic and boy, did Faridah deliver. Absolutely superb.
I was on the edge of my seat while reading this and often had my head in my hands and heart in my mouth. All the emotions and all the feels. Honestly, it wasn’t an easy book to read but oh my gosh it is such a powerful and reflective book of our current political and social landscapes.
Ace of Spades is a thriller, a mystery and realistic novel all in one. It’s #Diverse #OwnVoices #ReadWoke and every other on trend hashtag you could want. It’s gut punching and shows just how much resilience and strength it requires for people to survive in a society that seeks to destroy them. Ace of Spades is a debut novel and my gosh it is impressive.
Where We Begin – Christie Nieman – Pan Australia – 25 August 2020
Seventeen-year-old Anna is running into the night. Fleeing her boyfriend, her mother, and everything she has known.
She is travelling into the country, to the land and the grandparents she has never met, looking for answers to questions that have never been asked.
For every family has secrets.
But some secrets – once laid bare – can never be forgiven.
Where We Begin is a beautiful story about belonging.
Everything is a bit of a mystery when you start reading Where We Begin. The blurb on the back of the book is vague and the start of the story places our main character alone on bus, we don’t know where she is going or why. We don’t know where she has come from. We don’t know why she left or what she is going to. We don’t even know her name. It’s hard to write a review without revealing these mysteries, so if you want the authentic experience, go, read the book and then come back.
Where We Begin weaves into its story powerful truths about the history of Australia, racism, teenage relationships, family and domestic violence, alcoholism and its effects, and storytelling. The title makes so much sense to so many aspects of the story once you’ve read the book. Honestly, there is so much to love about this book, from our studious and determined main character who is thrown into a spin over her new circumstances, the trauma she has experienced throughout her childhood and the new pain she experiences as she learns the truth about her family and past.
Frankly in Love – David Yoon – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Published 10 September 2019
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
Dramatic writing and a strong and humorous narrator drive this coming-of-age story about acceptance and belonging, falling in love and growing up.
Frank has two names. His American name and his Korean name. He has two sides – perpetually separated. When his parents strongly encourage a relationship with a fellow Korean-American family friend, Joy, and Frank finds himself falling in love with a definitely-not-parental-approved White girl, he and Joy concoct a plan to secretly date to give each other the freedom to be who (and date whomever) they want to be.
Daughters of Northern Shores – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 March 2019
Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.
Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.
Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.
It was such a pleasure to return to the Norgaard family in Daughters of Northern Shores, the second book of the Sons of Blackbird Mountain series. I fell in love with Thor, Haakon and Jorgan, their close friends and the women they love in that first book. My heart had also broken a little with the tearing of both friendship, trust and brotherly bonds, so it was with relief that I could continue this wonderful story, return to this little group – some now married, others with children and more on the way – and all with healing, justice and a future to live out.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 July 2018
When Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to serve as housekeeper to her late husband’s cousins in Appalachia, she expects lads in need of care, not three grown men—each in need of a wife and bound by a powerful brotherhood. As the men carve out a living by brewing artisan liquor, young Haakon’s pursuit tempts Aven’s lonely spirit . . . but it is his deaf brother, Thor, whose silent strength shows her the depths of real love.
Unable to speak to any woman, Thor Norgaard never anticipates Aven will befriend him, let alone treat him as her safe harbor. Though hard cider is their livelihood and his greatest talent, he fights his way to sobriety with Haakon’s help, defying the bottle for Aven’s hand—only to face a battle of the heart that tests even the strongest bonds of brotherhood.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is an utterly charming and beautiful historical novel. Set in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, it combines the complexity of brotherly relationships and finding a place to belong, with the sweet joy of finding a true love connection, despite many challenges.
Aven Norgaard has faced many challenges in her short life. Having escaped from the workhouse, her husband then died. Travelling from Norway across the oceans to Appalachia, America, Aven hopes to find a home with her late husband’s relatives. Upon arriving, Aven is surprised to discover that her cousins-in-law are not the boys she expected but grown men – each with their own demons and attractions. Thor Norgaard has loved Aven from a distance for years, but having her in his house is a new and unsettling feeling. Deaf, Thor is touched that Aven seems to truly hear him, yet his relationship with his brother Haakon -already strained – is stretched further and Thor’s own battle with alcohol addiction is a challenge he must overcome if he wants to court Aven.
All That I Can Fix – Crystal Chan – Simon Pulse – Published 12 June 2018
In Makersville, Indiana, people know all about Ronney—he’s from that mixed-race family with the dad who tried to kill himself, the pill-popping mom, and the genius kid sister. If having a family like that wasn’t bad enough, the local eccentric at the edge of town decided one night to open up all the cages of his exotic zoo—lions, cheetahs, tigers—and then shoot himself dead. Go figure. Even more proof that you can’t trust adults to do the right thing.
Overnight, news crews, gun control supporters, and gun rights advocates descend on Makersville, bringing around-the-clock news coverage, rallies, and anti-rallies with them. With his parents checked out, Ronney is left tending to his sister’s mounting fears of roaming lions, stopping his best friend from going on a suburban safari, and shaking loose a lonely boy who follows Ronney wherever he goes. Can Ronney figure out a way to hold it together as all his worlds fall apart?
What to say about a book that is one part humorous, two parts ridiculous, and the rest a bundle of important messages, from mental health, stigma, and racism, to gun control and animal cruelty? All That I Can Fix is a novel that faces difficult topics straight on, with an abruptness that is both disconcerting and refreshing.
When the local exotic zoo owner shoots himself and lets loose his animals, Ronney isn’t fazed. What’s a camel on the loose compared to a father who might be continually physically present but never mentally, a mother who doesn’t know how to cope anymore, a sister on the verge of a meltdown, and a list of things he must do to keep the whole family from falling apart?
Hooper – Geoff Herbach – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 20 February 2018
For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.
But life is more complicated off the court. When an incident with the police threatens to break apart the bonds Adam’s finally formed after a lifetime of struggle, he must make an impossible choice between his new family and the sport that’s given him everything.
It is going to be hard to put the magic of this book into words. What at first seems to be a simple tale about a boy who plays basketball is actually a richly detailed and poignant story of family, belonging, racial injustice, finding home, and settling into the person you were meant to be. Hooper, with a style all of its own, captures these timely themes in an original and approachable way.
“Basketball will be your passport.” Adam doesn’t exactly understand what that means. After all, he already has a passport from when Renata adopted him and brought him from Poland to his new home in the USA. But he does love basketball. Loves the freedom he finds only on the court. Loves the way it silences the anger and painful memories. As his basketball skills start to give him new opportunities on the court, Adam must balance these with the challenges he faces off the court. And maybe, through it all, he will discover a home, family, and friends, and finally a place where he belongs.