A monthly update from our Teen Advisory Board

This month we were fortunate to be visited by Bec Kavanagh; writer, reviewer, young adult fiction specialist at Readings Kids and former schools manager with the Stella Prize.

As befitting her diverse range of capabilities, Bec shared with the Teen Advisory Board members her remarkable career. She touched on starting the A Thousand Words festival in 2009, which celebrated and encouraged the reading and writing of young adult fiction, as well as her work with speakers agency Booked Out, and her time with the Stella Prize.

It was during her time with Stella that she started having deeper discussions about concepts of language, gender and power, and it caused her to realise the potential for literature to foster those discussions among teenagers. Though her role originally encompassed creating teacher’s notes for books associated with the prize, she realised that notes wouldn’t be enough to help engage teenage readers with those ideas. As a result, she spearheaded the Stella Girls Write Up Program, an all-day festival for teens to teach empowerment through writing and sharing stories. The teens were interested to hear how Bec coordinated and grew the program over three years and eager to share their own ideas of their dream writing programs.

The conversation naturally turned to what the teens enjoyed about literary events (and some of the things they didn’t like). Our members were enthusiastic about the opportunities to meet with their favourite authors, to have their books signed and to be social with friends or other like-minded readers in a comfortable common space.

However, several members said that with school commitments, they were almost always too busy on the weekdays to attend any events. The scarcity of their own free time also meant weekends are precious, so dedicating a full day to travel to an event was sometimes untenable, no matter how interested they were.

The members also brought up the question of access, while others expressed some frustration at having been unable to attend a panel in the past because it was a schools-only event. Many members agreed that often, accessing these talks relied on a supportive librarian, teacher or school.

Bec also discussed with us her doctoral thesis about the depiction of bodies in young adult literature, which prompted a discussion among the teens about gender dynamics, bad depictions of romance and the dream of fantasy versus the awkwardness of reality. The teens pointed out how rarely teenagers are depicted in genuinely awkward interactions, and how unrealistic – in their estimation – the love-hate romance dynamic is. As one member put it, ‘Sometimes you just want to have an opinion that someone is awful and leave it at that.’

Teen reviews of Shauna’s Great Expectations by Kathleen Loughnan

This month, we also asked the teens what they thought about the new Australian YA novel Shauna’s Great Expectations by Kathleen Loughnan. You can read their responses below.

Shauna’s Great Expectations is a heart-warming story about the love between family and friends. It’s a story about learning to believe in yourself, and to follow your dreams and your heart.’ – Marley

Shauna’s Great Expectations is a thought-provoking read, taking the tone of a high school drama that explores racial discrimination in society while following the journey of its young protagonist. This book is definitely worth a read!’ – Liliana

‘Shauna’s relatability draws you into the novel as you travel with her through the social conflicts of teen pregnancy, racism, and the struggles of expectation and judgement from both yourself and others. While this novel explores some harsh realities, it is written from a lively and fresh perspective, engaging the reader’s empathy for Shauna, and educating them on the struggles faced by Indigenous Australians and young mothers.’ – Jess

‘I really enjoyed Shauna’s Great Expectations and how it addresses and explores a lot of key Australian issues relevant today. It was great reading from the perspective of an Indigenous Australian protagonist with such a distinctive and amusing voice.’ – Xiao-Xiao

Sadly, we are heading into our final meetings with the 2018–2019 Teen Advisory board members. Applications for the 2019–2020 Teen Advisory Board are open now and details about the application process are available here. If you have a bookish teenager in your life, or know of one, please encourage them to apply.

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Shauna's Great Expectations

Shauna’s Great Expectations

Kathleen Loughnan

$19.99Buy now

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