A summer reading guide to OzYA books of 2015

If your teen is looking for some reading material for the summer holidays, here’s a guide to some of the best YA fiction written by Australian authors this past year.

Sci-fi and fantasy

  • Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01, from talented Melbourne duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, is the YA book that everyone is talking about right now. Set in the distant future (and space), the story is very cleverly told through a series of documents as opposed to a straight narrative. It’s wildly addictive and Brad Pitt’s production company has set plans in motion to adapt it for the screen.
  • Zeroes is the first book in a brand new superhero trilogy from Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. It’s fast-paced, high-stakes storytelling with a cast of wonderfully flawed ‘heroes’.
  • For younger teens with a love for traditional fantasy, the Zarkora series from siblings Alison and Nicholas Lochel is a great pick. The Lost Kingdom came out this year and is the second book in the series. You can find the first book here.
  • Isobelle Carmody has just released the final chapter of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, which she began writing at 14! The Red Queen brings Elspeth’s story to its heart-shattering conclusion.
  • Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Tribe series also comes to its conclusion with the release of The Foretelling of Georgie Spider. This is compelling fantasy that draws from the spiritual beliefs and cultural heritage of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Australia. You can find the first book here.

Thrillers and crime

  • Kathryn Barker’s In the Skin of a Monster has a dark premise. Three years ago, Alice’s identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven kids; now Alice has to live with the face of a monster. Just as she thinks things can’t get worse, she finds herself in a nightmarish dreamscape and encounters her sister on a deserted highway.
  • Fleur Ferris is a former police officer and paramedic, and her novel, Risk, is inspired by true stories of online predators. The story is gripping, terrifying and all too believable.
  • Ellie Marney’s Sherlock-inspired teen detective series, which concludes with Every Move, are page-turners with a vengeance. You can find the first book here.
  • Drawing comparisons with Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, James Moloney’s The Beauty is in the Walking has an off-beat protagonist at its heart. When a shocking crime sends his small country town reeling, Jacob’s convinced that the police have accused the wrong guy and he’s determined to prove it.
  • In 1986 the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria. Gabrielle Williams uses this notorious incident as the premise for The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and His Ex and gives readers a very funny and twisty adventure caper.


  • Daniel Herborn’s funny and sweet You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About (especially if they love music as well) will appeal to any music-obsessed teen who’s considered making a mixtape for their crush.
  • Garth Nix ventures into regency fiction with Newt’s Emerald, the story of Lady Truthful Newington who has to track down a magical heirloom in order to save her family.
  • Erin Gough’s The Flywheel is a terrific debut! The book is complex without being overwrought, and heart-warming without being sentimental, and the seventeen-year-old Delilah is a delight to spend time with.
  • Gabrielle Tozer won the Gold Inky Award for The Intern, which transports readers inside the supposed glamour of the magazine industry. Faking It is her equally fresh and funny follow-up from this year.
  • Green Valentine is a romantic comedy with guerilla gardening, high school politics and a lobster suit… Lili Wilkinson is already a favourite with our customers (and staff too) and her new book reminds us why.
  • In Afterlight, Rebecca Lim has crafted a tense and eerie tale, complete with a demanding ghostly apparition and a stirring romance.

Gritty, true-to-life

  • Vikki Wakefield writes stories that will break your heart. Inbetween Days is about 18-year-old Jack (Jacklin) Bates, who’s dropped out of school, moved in with her runaway sister and is in secret, obsessive love with a boy who doesn’t love her back.
  • Christopher Currie’s Clancy of the Undertow is another starkly realist depiction of life for teenagers who feel at odds with the small towns in which they live. Clancy’s biting sense of humour will have readers laughing despite some heavy themes.
  • Trinity Doyle’s Pieces of Sky also tackles some big issues. When swimming-obsessed Lucy’s brother dies in a night surfing accident, she’s unable to return to the pool. Set adrift from the familiar world of the swim team, she develops a new obsession: finding out whether her brother’s death was an accident or intentional.
  • Nicole Hayes won the Children’s Peace Literature Award 2015 for her novel One True Thing. The story of a politician’s daughter whose mother is in the middle of a major election, the story powerfully demonstrates how the personal is political.

Family and friendship

  • Becoming Kirrali Lewis chronicles the journey of a young Aboriginal teenager as she leaves her home town in rural Victoria to take on a law degree in Melbourne in 1985. Adopted at birth by a white family, Kirrali doesn’t question her cultural roots until a series of life-changing events force her to face up to her true identify.
  • In Fiona Wood’s Cloudwish, 16-year-old scholarship student Vân U’oc Phan is all work and no play – until star athlete Billy Gardiner develops a sudden and (in Vân U’oc’s opinion) irrational interest in her. This is a wonderful coming-of-age story about romance, friendship and learning to understand your parents.
  • The story of two best friends who fall in love with the same boy, Nova Weetman’s Frankie and Joely is a generous and thoughtful examination of an intense friendship between two teen girls that feels extraordinarily true to life.
  • In Kathryn Lomer’s Talk Under Water, two teenagers – Will and Summer – strike up a friendship online. When they do meet in person Will learns that Summer is deaf and he becomes determined to bridge this newly discovered communication divide.

Inspired by true stories

  • In Sister Heart, Sally Morgan writes from the perspective of a young Aboriginal girl who’s taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the distant south. Morgan’s writing is beautiful and restrained, allowing space for the reader to absorb the story fully.
  • This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 Freedom Rides – a series of protests by University of Sydney students that highlighted racism in regional Australian towns. Sue Lawson unpacks this defining moment in Australia’s history with her novel, Freedom Ride.
  • Prince of Afghanistan is about a young soldier and dog who get stranded together when a rescue mission in Afghanistan goes wrong. Louis Nowra packs a big emotional punch in this action-packed story.
  • Rosanne Hawke was inspired to write The Truth About Peacock Blue after living in Pakistan for seven years under Sharia law. She said, “I wrote the novel to give a voice to young people like Aster whose human rights have not been recognised.”

Something a bit unusual

  • For someone who likes books that sit outside of usual genres, Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean is a collection of writing and comics showcasing 20 writers and artists from India and Australia.
  • Complete with an endorsement from Amnesty International, The River and the Book is a beautiful and moving tale that looks at the exploitation of indigenous people by the First World.
  • A Single Stone is a lyrical work of speculative fiction. Meg McKinlay explores questions of gender and power in this story about a village’s mysterious (and chilling) tradition for their girls.
  • Julie Hunt and Dale Newman’s graphic novel, KidGlovz, is a magical fable with a wonderful friendship at its centre and and richly-detailed artwork reminiscent of Brian Selznick.
Cover image for Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01

Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01

Amie Kaufman,Jay Kristoff

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