Recommendations by Young Adult Authors

Which young adult books do your favourite Australian YA authors love?

‘This year I read Nick Lake’s In Darkness, which won the Michael L. Printz Award (for Excellence in Young Adult Literature). It’s an intense, in-your-face book about Haiti, told through the mind of a boy trapped in the rubble of a hospital levelled by the recent earthquake and visited by the spirit of a rebel leader. Nick Lake pushes you into some experiences that are pretty hard to live through, but the vividness and importance of the events, and the masterful writing, keep you going.’ - Margo Lanagan, author of Sea Hearts

‘A grand paean to all things nerdburgery. An homage to the delights of geek love. Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil is gorgeous and compulsively readable, as we follow Sam’s attempts to work out life and what could very well be true Jedi love with Camilla, the cool new girl in school. Everyone’s favourite daggy 80’s movies – The Karate Kid, Say Anything – get a look-in, and the teenage characters sing (sometimes literally) with banter that is both witty and real. Such sweet skillful writing! – I totally rec Life In Outer Space to all my friends, and have vowed to watch Pretty in Pink every year in its honour.’ - Ellie Marney, author of Every Breath

‘Simmone Howell writes with a cool eye, a tender heart, wry humour and advanced word wizardry. Her characters are complex and persuasive, her worlds convincing. My recommendation is her latest title, the wonderful Girl Defective.’ - Fiona Wood, author of Wildlife

‘I’m going to recommend Jacqueline Woodson’s Beneath a Meth Moon (currently on order!- Ed), which came out last year, because it is not my kind of book and yet I loved it. I tend not to enjoy realism or what used to be called “problem novels”. As the title might lead you to expect Beneath a Meth Moon is about someone dealing with meth addiction but it’s so much more than that. Jacqueline Woodson is one of the finest writers in the USA right now. Every sentence, every phrase, every word sings.’ - Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar

‘In My Life As An Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg, 12-year-old Candice Phee sets out to ‘fix’ the problems of others in her life. I never fail to fall in love with Barry Jonsberg’s protagonists, and Candice – a little quirky, a little odd – is vivid. Given her age, I was worried the book might fall on the younger side of young adult, but the voice was so strong, and the story so delightful, that I was hooked until the end.’ - Will Kostakis, author of The First Third

‘I am really a sucker for novels set during school camps, possibly due to my own weird and hilarious camp experiences. I think the intensity and sleep-deprivation and isolation of camps make for excellent stories, and Wildlife by Fiona Wood is an exquisitely lovely example (but also, obviously, so much more than just a camp novel). I think what really struck me about Wildlife was how raw and unflinchingly honest it is - nothing is really shied away from. Just a perfect mix of humour and serious stuff, very easy to get swept up in because it’s so authentically written - heartfelt and teenaged in the best possible way.’ - Steph Bowe, author of All This Could End


‘The new Shaun Tan picture book, The Rules Of Summer, could be for any age group and is, once again, a masterpiece.’ - John Marsden, author of Tomorrow When The War Began

‘One of my favourite YA reads this year is Richard Yaxley’s Joyous & Moonbeam. I picked it up without knowing anything about it and 24-hours later was walking around with dizzy half-sad half-happy head. It’s about the friendship between a man who has a different slant on the world, and a teenage girl who is feeling the effects of a family trauma. Joyous’s language is odd and quite beautiful and even though it’s a slim book, the story – both poignant and life-affirming – feels big.’ - Simmone Howell, author of Girl Defective

Emily Gale is a Children’s & YA Specialist at Readings Carlton, and a Children’s & YA writer the rest of the time.