A monthly update from our Teen Advisory Board

It was great to get back into the swing of things with the Teen Advisory Board this month.

First up, the teens chatted about their impressions of the debut YA fantasy novel Four Dead Queens. Most of our members enjoyed the mystery and fantasy aspects of the story – they praised the captivating writing and the intriguing way the narrative would shift between different points of view – but felt a little dissatisfied with the ending. However, they’re excited about this fantasy debut by a local author and are hoping to attend the launch on 28 March at the Carlton store.

The teens also shared what types of stories and elements they wanted to see more of in YA, which ranged from more complex characters to more stand-alones. You can read some of their individual responses below.

In the 50th year of Readings, it seemed appropriate to ask our Managing Director, Mark Rubbo, to speak to the teens about his journey as a bookseller. We learnt how he cobbled together the money to buy Readings with friends and family back in 1976. At that time there were very few Australian authors and it was a personal mission of Mark’s to support and champion local talent. Alongside publishers such as McPhee Gribble, who first published Helen Garner and Tim Winton, Mark’s work came at a formative time for the Australian publishing industry, with many exciting new publishing houses and emerging local authors.

Mark slowly expanded the empire; he had some wins and some defeats. The Port Melbourne and South Yarra stores sadly didn’t survive, but stores in Hawthorn, St Kilda and Malvern have all been a great success, as have the newest stores in the State Library, Doncaster and the specialist Kids shop in Carlton.

Mark told our members that when Readings first began it was a Golden Age for bookselling, but he has had to fight off many challengers in the years since. When Borders opened a bookshop across the road from Readings Carlton, Mark was prepared for the fight of his life. By providing great customer service, hard-to-find titles, amazing author events and knowledgeable staff, Readings was able to rally against the American giant, which left its Australian operation in 2008.


Readings and other independent booksellers have also fought off threats from e-books, internet shopping and price cutting from international suppliers. Mark said he feels the future is strong for books and bookselling. People still love the touch and feel of a physical book, and they love to support their local community and buy books where they get good recommendations and feel respected.

Asked how he has achieved so much over the years when so many other booksellers have not survived, Mark with customary humbleness said ‘I work really hard, I love what I do, and I’ve been fortunate. Carlton is one of the best places to sell books in Australia!’

What does our Teen Advisory Board want to see more of in YA?

‘I’d like more communicative and bold characters who aren’t necessarily “introverted” or “extroverted” or “brave” in a traditional sense, as well as more interesting friend characters. Basically, I want more interesting and complex characters full stop! I would also like to see more heroes who turn into villains and more villains who become the protagonists – not necessarily the heroes. That kind of twist in motivation is really interesting to me as a reader,’ – Luci

‘I would like to see more fantasy and bildungsroman novels that depict more realistic and accurate scenarios in life.’ – Jessica

‘Definitely more diversity – of race, sexuality and ability – and more books led by feminists, female or otherwise. I’d also like to see more books led by villains or 'evil’ characters, who need more acknowledgement! It’s interesting to read books from another point of view.‘ – Ngaire

'I would like to see more extroverted main characters and non-archetypal romance.’ – Grace

‘I’d like to read more stories of characters who feel like real teenagers with real emotions, even in fantasy and sci-fi settings.’ – Marley

‘I’d like more experimental genres: fantasy x horror; sci-fi x drama; fantasy x contemporary (ie. everyday life in a fantasy world).’ – Zach

‘I want to see more interesting and in-depth characters that differ from what we’ve seen before, especially in fantasy and sci-fi! More gritty fast-paced stand-alones over drawn-out and lengthy trilogies would be also be great.’ – Xiao-Xiao

‘I want books to have fewer cliches, and perhaps more stories that bridge the gap between YA and adult fiction.’ – Lil

‘I’d like more female-driven historical fiction and non-romantic relationships.’ – Laura

‘Originality. I can’t stress this enough. So many YA books follow the same formula and themes, which can get tiring. (See: dystopias after The Hunger Games.) Diversity is obviously still an issue in YA, and it would be nice to see more relatable characters who aren’t necessarily the best or the most beautiful or the most skilled. And less forced romance. Please.’ – Uly

Four Dead Queens

Four Dead Queens

Astrid Scholte

$19.99Buy now

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