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It's a widely known fact, at least in my living room, that I think Australians write the best slice of life stories in the young adult section. The only negative about them is that they are so hard to find over here. Two of the four pictured to the left I read on book tours, one I read from the library, and it is killing me softly that I don't own them yet. (The only one I own is Finding Cassie Crazy, so go ahead and buy me the other three, okay?) I feel like I've written so many odes to Australian YA authors because each one is better than the next. When Shirley Marr, Australian author of Fury and Preloved, did a guest post for us on her Preloved blog tour, she made mention of several other writers. I was familiar with many of them but others, not so much, and it's really only been in the past two or three years that I've noticed Aussie YA becoming more popular in the US. Do you know what this means? BACKLOG, people. There are hundreds of previously published Australian YA books that are just begging for me (us!) to read them. For example, after I read Bill Condon's A Straight Line to My Heart and Fiona Wood's Six Impossible Things, I became determined to read everything else those two authors have written. (have I done it yet? No, stop hassling me.) Both of those two novels had more realistic crushes/romances (no insta-love), and while they didn't have much in the way of plot, the books didn't need it. They take place in a small bubble and the characters hold the story together. This seems to be common in Aussie YA--concentration on character rather than action. Or perhaps I just gravitate towards that section of books. A perfect example of this is Stolen, by Lucy Christopher.
In Stolen, a teenage girl is kidnapped by a slightly older young man who keeps her hostage in the Australian outback. There are basically only two characters in the book and the tension comes from the girl's internal struggle and her relationship with her captor. (Listen to this audiobook. It's divine.) Another recommendation if you love character is A Little Wanting Song (or Chasing Charlie Duskin) by Cath Crowley. Both that and her later book Graffiti Moon are must-reads if you ask me. I'm still looking forward to plowing through her Gracie Faltrain series which is, according to Maggie from Young Adult Anonymous, just wonderful.
I've had a shelf dedicated to Aussie YA on Goodreads for a few years now, mostly due to a group whose members tour books to each other and also due to my own personal Aussie bookpusher, Nomes. (see her list of favorites here.) A while back, I became Goodreads friends with a self-published Aussie author, Andrea K. Höst, who writes YA fantasy and science fiction novels. I had so much fun reading her sci-fi novel Stray and I'm currently reading her post-apoc book, And All the Stars. (which she wrote after another reviewer and I commented that we'd love to see her tackle the genre. *takes a bow*) But it seems like every time I knock an Aussie book out, four more show up on my radar. For example, I need to read something and/or more by so many authors: Sonya Hartnett, Vikki Wakefield, Rebecca Sparrow, Craig Silvey, Gabrielle Williams, Steven Herrick, Randa Abdul-Fattah, Brigid Lowry, David Metzenthen, Penny Tangey, Justine Larbalestier and cue my brain exploding. The "worst" Aussie YA book I've ever read was a 3-3.5/5. Seriously, what's in the water down there?
*I feel that I must mention that my favorite Aussie YA books, The Piper's Son, Holier Than Thou and Raw Blue are left out of my section. However, if you have sense at all you will go read them immediately. That is all.
First things first – I don’t think any of us can write about this topic without first mentioning Melina Marchetta. Tatiana and I are hard at work* on a joint review for Quintana of Charyn which we will hopefully be posting sometime next week. For me, Melina Marchetta is the queen of Aussie YA and I have to agree with one fabulous audience member at the Books of Wonder event I recently attended who called her a “goddess.” Goddess indeed! You can read all about our love for her books here.
However, today I’d like to talk about some of the authors that I don’t mention quite as often as The Goddess. One of my absolute favorite Australian young adult authors right now is Laura Buzo. Each of her books – Good Oil (also releasing in the U.S. as Love and Other Perishable Items) and Holier Than Thou – has made me feel like I’m reading my own journal. Her stories are understated and subtle, but for me, they pack an intense emotional punch. She also writes a “Catie ending” (the kind of ending that’s not really an ending at all) like a BOSS.
I also have to mention Kirsty Eagar. I’ve only read two of her books – Raw Blue and Night Beach, and while I had some minor issues with both of them, I feel like she is an author to watch. It’s so evident to me that she pours her heart and soul into her writing. Everything that I’ve read from her feels emotionally bare and honest (raw, even – hee hee). Raw Blue and Night Beach are absolutely worth reading, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
Are we even legally allowed to post this without mentioning Markus Zusak? Well anyway – there, I just did. His Printz award winning novel The Book Thief should pretty much be required for any list featuring Australian YA. I am also a huge fan of Margo Lanagan, Allison Goodman, and Cath Crowley but I will let Tatiana and Flannery give them all the credit they deserve.
- Tatiana has been urging me to read Pink by Lili Wilkinson for a long time. I have it, I want to read it, and I have no idea what’s holding me back.
- I also just received Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield in the mail from a dear friend and I can’t wait to dive into that one.
- Every time I read a review of This is Shyness by Leanne Hall I become more and more intrigued. I am not sure if I'm going to love it or hate it (which is odd for me - after reading so many books I usually have pretty good guess).
- I have a million (give or take one or two) friends who love the Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden. I’ve read the first one and I liked it. I have no idea what’s preventing from reading the rest.
- I've never read any reviews for Michael Pryor's Blaze of Glory, but every time I see it on a list the cover hooks me right away. This one has been on my to-read list for almost two years!
*If by "hard at work" you mean speculating about possible sexy times between Lucian and Phaedra.
Alison Goodman. What I admire about Alison Goodman is not only her ability to write highly readable and entertaining books, but also her versatility as an author. Fantasy, science fiction, futuristic thrillers, now historical paranormal - it seems, she can do it all.
About Eon and Eona I've talked before. These books are by far my favorite Asian-inspired YA fantasies. (Stand back, Stormdancer, I am still bitter about the undeserved hype surrounding you.)
Singing the Dogstar Blues is just such a tremendously fun time-travel science fiction! I will forever lament the fact that this book never became a series. There is not nearly enough SF for teens (and adults as well) of such a great non-angsty, non-romance quality.
Killing the Rabbit is Goodman's only adult novel so far. Check it out if you are into gruesome and occasionally gross crime dramas.
Jaclyn Moriarty. Moriarty has one of the oddest writing styles I've ever come across. That's why it's often hard to recommend her books to other readers. What's just the right amount of weird for one person is unbearable for another. Same with humor. Moriarty's sense of humor and even her stories are most peculiar and, I'll be honest, I don't always "get" them. In that respect, her epistolary Ashbury/Brookfield books were a total win for me, whereas The Spell Book of Listen Taylor - a total bust. I hope her new A Corner of White will fall into the first category, because when Jaclyn's books are good, they are very good - deep and gut-wrenching. Once you get past and embrace all the oddness and bizarreness.
Margo Lanagan. Margo Lanagan is a literary heavy weight in my eyes, and objectively speaking, too - those Printz awards are not given for nothing.
I can't say Margo's works delight me or make me love them and reread them over and over again, swooning (like, let's say, Melina Marchetta's books do). But her stories reach very dark, deep, secret parts of my heart and mind, they challenge me. More often than not Lanagan's stories terrify me, gross me out, at the same time astonishing me with the technical finesse of their language and style. Lanagan's is the language all the darkest fairy tales, horror stories and myths should be written in.
I am glad I still have her Yellowcake and The Brides of Rollrock Island to read left. Margo Lanagan is definitely a special kind of writer.