Recommended YA books, news & resources for May

May serves up a glut of quality Australian YA fiction – the second book in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s blockbuster sci-fi series, and moving contemporary stories from no less than three exciting debut voices. There’s also new books from YA stars Patrick Ness and Suzanne Collins.

Find our May picks for kids books here.


SIX YA BOOKS TO READ THIS MONTH


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Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Squad 312 of the Aurora legion are back, to save the day, defeat an ancient evil, all with half the known galaxy on their tails. When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them – but time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV. The much-anticipated second book in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s The Aurora Cycle series promises shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits and epic firefights.


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When It Drops by Alex Dyson

16-year-old songwriter and social outsider Caleb Clifford fills his world with music, but – like most things – keeps his songs to himself. That is until his little brother leaks Caleb’s most personal track online; a track that’s quite obviously about his secret crush, and former best friend, Ella. Having his innermost feelings go viral is not Caleb’s idea of a good time, but it could be the beginning of something great… Former Triple J radio host Alex Dyson’s debut novel touches on grief, big dreams and family, and is funny, touching and, as you’d expect, full of pop music references.


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Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr

The end of Year 12 isn’t going too well for Erin. She’s lost her part-time job at Surf Zone, hasn’t saved enough money for Schoolies, and failed her driving license, through no fault of her own. Erin’s psychologist suggests she figure out her feelings by writing letters to her absent brother Rudy, and it’s through these letters that Erin begins to make sense of what’s been going on. This own-voices Australian debut about a young woman who is shaped – but not defined – by her autism, balances its funny and serious sides perfectly, and is a heartwarming read about self-acceptance and authenticity.


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Burn by Patrick Ness

On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron Gas Station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm. This dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye and Sarah can’t help but be curious about him. Kazimir knows something she doesn’t: he has arrived at the farm because of a prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents, and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself. Patrick Ness can always be relied upon to surprise and challenge, and Burn is a thrilling read. This is a unique blend of post-WWII and Cold War history, real-life prejudices, fantasy and multiverse, all wrapped up with an apocalyptic bow.


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Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

At 16-years-old, neurodivergent Brisbane student Peta Lyre is the success story of social training. When she follows her therapist’s rules for ‘normal’ behaviour, she can almost fit in without attracting attention. That is, until she finds herself on a school ski trip – and falling in love with the new girl, Sam. Peta starts to wonder if maybe she can have a normal life after all. When things fall apart, Peta must decide which rules to keep, and which rules to break… This own-voices Australian debut novel is joyful and honest, a rallying cry for staying true to yourself.


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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (released on 20th May 2020)

Suzanne Collins returns to Panem 12 years after the publication of the first, hugely successful The Hunger Games book. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel, set sixty-four years before the events of the first book, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. But the odds are against him when he’s given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low.


NEWS, RESOURCES & RECOMMENDATIONS


Congratulations to Australian author Malla Nunn, for winning the prestigious Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young literature with her book, When the Ground is Hard. You can read all about her book, and the story behind it in this fantastic interview.

Our Readings Teen Advisory Board member Claire went on a pre-pandemic trip to France, and wrote a personal reflection on the role of graphic novels over there.

Kay Kerr, author of Please Don’t Hug Me, gave us an open account of the real-life inspiration behind her debut novel.

There’s a whole slew of events coming up on Oz Authors Online – the grass roots, community-led digital platform that is helping keep the book launches and book buzz going in these socially distant times. They’ve got fabulous events coming up with Eliza Henry Jones, Anna Whately and Kay Kerr, and are constantly updating with new authors and dates.

Speaking of online events - we’re pleased to be hosting a special #LoveOzYA panel online featuring Sarah Epstein (Deep Water), Poppy Nwosu (Taking Down Evelyn Tait), Kay Kerr (Please Don’t Hug Me) and Anna Whateley (Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal). This is an online event and it’s free to attend. Find out more here.

I really love the suggestions for teenagers from US non-profit literacy organisation Words Alive on their QuaranTEENS activity page. The activities cover such a wide range of pandemic-appropriate themes: there’s writing prompts, breathing and mindfulness exercises, videos from well-known YA authors, and enquiries into ethics and news sources.

And finally… The Readings Young Adult Book Prize was established in 2016 and recognises exciting emerging voices in Australian young adult literature. Our staff judges have been reading avidly in private, and we’re almost ready to reveal the shortlist of six books. Keep your eyes peeled in late May for a very exciting announcement.


Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kids. She also writes books for children and young adults.

Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle 2)

Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle 2)

Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

$19.99Buy now

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