Recommended YA books & news for June
This month in YA books we have a groundbreaking thriller centred on a Native American teen, sweet and magical romances, gripping Australian history, a unique and moody illustrated novel, and a verse novel from an Australian award-winner.
Find our June picks for kids books here.
YA BOOK OF THE MONTH
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Eighteen-year-old Daunis’s mixed heritage has always made her feel like an outsider, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. When she witnesses a shocking murder, she reluctantly agrees to be part of a covert FBI operation into a series of drug-related deaths. In secret, she pursues her own investigation using her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the criminals. However, the deceptions and deaths keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Our reviewer Xiao-Xiao loved this thriller that depicts the rich culture and traditions of the Ojibwe tribe, as well as the fraught history, racism, disadvantage and exclusion faced by the Native American community. She said: ‘Angeline Boulley has done an admirable job weaving a multilayered coming-of-age narrative with a powerful message.’
You can read her full review here.
SIX YA BOOKS TO READ THIS MONTH
The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk
Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg - and her dreams of a ballet career along with it. She must trade her dance classes at the acclaimed Kira Dobrow Ballet School for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the musical. Rehearsals are nothing compared to Alina’s past life. But the stage does offer more than she expected - namely her annoyingly attractive castmate Jude. However, finding a new normal means making peace with her past and acknowledging the racism Japanese-American Alina faced in the very traditional ballet world.
Our reviewer Claire had high praises for this novel: ‘An emotionally driven novel about healing and the fragility of perfectionism and ambition, The Other Side of Perfect explores themes of identity and learning to speak your truth.’
You can read her full review here.
We Were Wolves by Jason Cockcroft
Boy lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer. But dark forces are circling - like the dangerous man in the Range Rover, who is looking for his stolen money. And then there are the ancient forces that have lain asleep in the woods for an age… This unique and atmospheric illustrated novel by accomplished British-Kiwi artist Jason Cockcroft explores the father-son relationship and the mythic animal energies that surround them.
You can read her full review here.
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
Evie is disillusioned about love ever since her dad left her mum. When she’s given a copy of a book called Instructions for Dancing, and follows a note inside to a dilapidated dance studio, she discovers she has a strange and unwelcome gift. When a couple kisses in front of her, she can see their whole relationship play out - from the first flush of love to their break-up. For Evie, it confirms that love doesn’t last. But at the dance studio she meets X - tall, dreadlocked, fascinating - and they start to learn to dance, together. Can he change Evie’s mind about love?
Nicola Yoon is well-known for her bestselling novels that thoughtfully blend romance with contemporary social issues (The Sun is also a Star, Everything, Everything) and in this case, there’s a delightful dose of fabulism too.
Echo in the Memory by Cameron Nunn
When fifteen-year-old Will is sent away to stay with his grandparents in rural New South Wales, he finds the isolated farm strangely familiar; except the memories he’s channelling are not his own. And why does his grandfather share the same haunting link? In 1829 we meet another fifteen-year-old boy on the streets of London, struggling to survive - and he’s about to undergo an unfortunate series of events that see him on a convict ship, headed for Australia.
As two stories unfold, nearly 200 years apart, two boys exiled to what feels like the end of the earth struggle to find their identities and voices in the face of abandonment and tragedy. Echo in the Memory is a meticulously researched and vivid blend of contemporary and historical stories.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to NYC is supposed to prove her right: that the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables, moving in with too many roommates, or her boring subway commute could possibly change that. But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train. Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious Jane. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane is a time traveler from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her.
Casey McQuiston (of Red, White & Royal Blue fame) has written a magical, big-hearted romance full of oddball characters and witty dialogue, that also highlights the importance of found family and queer history.
once, at the edge of the sea by Sue Saliba
Alice has always been devoted to the natural world. But one day she inadvertently betrays what matters most to her and so she leaves her island home, planning to begin again, to be the person she thinks she should be. Clinging to a mysterious wooden box, Alice begins a new life in Melbourne where she meets Esmeralda. As their friendship deepens, Alice has to choose between living a comforting lie or accepting a more difficult truth.
once, at the edge of the sea is a beautifully written novel about friendship and creativity, losing what you treasure, and then finding it again in the most unexpected way. Award-winning Australian author Sue Saliba continues her focus on nature, friendship, belonging and the possibilities of the poetic form.
THE READINGS YOUNG ADULT BOOK PRIZE
We were delighted to recently announce the shortlist for the 2021 Readings Young Adult Book Prize!
The Readings Young Adult Book Prize was established in 2016 and recognises exciting emerging voices in Australian young adult literature.
The six shortlisted books are:
- The F Team by Rawah Arja
- Future Girl by Asphyxia
- The End of the World Is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell
- The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough
- Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore
- Where We Begin by Christie Nieman
You can read the judge’s comments on each book here.
We will be announcing the winner of the Readings YA Prize with a celebration on Thursday 15 July, 6:30pm at the State Library of Victoria (we have all our fingers crossed!) This event is free to attend but bookings are essential.
NEWS, EVENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Everyone in the Australian YA community is beyond ecstatic to see that Sydney author Wai Chim has been cast in the new season of reality TV show Survivor Australia! We’re pretty sure YA authors are excellent tacticians and have a steely resolve, so we’re looking forward to seeing how Wai fares.
Do you love Alice Oseman’s novels? Or have you always wanted to read this award-winning author? Our staff member and Oseman fan Lucie prepared a nifty beginner’s guide to Alice Oseman to help you with your future reading decisions.
It was sad to see that Willy Lit Fest had to be cancelled this year due to Victoria’s lockdown and restrictions. The YA-focussed session, Under the Milky Way Tonight, promised to be a wonderful discussion with authors Matt Davies, Amie Kaufman, Holden Sheppard and Lili Wilkinson. Click on their names and consider buying the latest YA books from these local authors!
The interviews on the LoveOzYA website are always a delight, and this conversation with debut novelist Clayton Zane Comber about his recent release 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze is no exception!
Congratulations to Patrice Lawrence, the recent winner of Britain’s 2021 Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize for her novel Eight Pieces of Silva! The Prize celebrates books by BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) writers.