Archive for the ‘YA Fiction’ Category

Ah yes, the CBCA gongs have sounded for another year, and let me say that this year’s choices all resonated with me.

Winner of the Book of the Year for Older Readers is Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know, a gritty, yet sensitive tale about a troubled boy apprenticed to a kindly undertaker. A celebration of life in the face of death.

Honour books include two of my favourite reads for the year: Bill Condon’s poignant and funny story of first love, first job, A Straight Line to My Heartand Robert Newton’s moving story of two brothers marching off to the Great War, When We Were Two.

Book of the Year for Younger Readers was Kate Constable’s time-slip novel exploring black-white relations, Crow Country, with Jackie French’s excellent Nanberry: Black Brother White and Susan Green’s The Truth about Verity Sparks taking out Honour Books.

Early Childhood Book of the Year goes to Nicholas Bland and Freya Blackwood’s The Runaway Hug, and Picture Book of the Year to Bob Graham’s A BUS CALLED HEAVEN.

For a complete list of all Winning and Honour Books, please click here and congratulations to all Book of the Year, Honour Book, and Short-listed authors. :)

So, I’m at the beach playing Masters and Slaves with my kids. We’re having fun (as we like to remind ourselves, there’s no winners and losers in this family…..just losers).

But eventually I need a break from loserdom and check facebook … and nearly topple off my perch. Egad, it’s today!

The day that has every YA and children’s writer and illustrator in this country on tenderhooks, stabbing at the refresh button, waiting for the announcement of this year’s Shortlisted and Notable Books on the CBCA website.

Well, every YA and children’s writer and illustrator, that is, except me. Because after two nail-biting Aprils in a row, I don’t have a book in the running this year. And funnily enough, it’s a bit of a relief.

I can scour the list with wild abandon and leap with joy when I see favourite books pop up in the shortlists. (Yes, Michael Gerard Bauer, Bill Condon and Katherine Battersby, I’m talking about yours :)).

You can check out the full list here. Congratulations to all those who made it, and commiserations to those that didn’t – anyone who manages to get a book written and published in this country deserves a medal and a hug. You’re all winners in my book.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to take the beagle stand-up-paddling.

If I don’t speak to you before, Happy Easter to you all.

Finally, here it is – my 2012 Clayton’s Shortlist for Older Readers.

No doubt my Six Pick will be different to the CBCA judges’ Shortlist (out on 3  April), and, no doubt, different to yours – and so it should be.

We all clasp books to our hearts for different reasons – what speaks to me might fall on deaf ears elsewhere. And that’s the beauty of reading.

We are all Clayton’s judges of what we read. As Kate Grenville once wrote: ‘Each of us brings our own experiences, memories and prejudices to a work of art and looks at it through that unique lens. We all read the same words…but we all see different things.’

I’ve enjoyed being a Clayton’s Judge for CBCA Qld. I hope you enjoy what you see in my shortlist and that you’ll take the time to rummage through My Clayton’s Notable Books for 2012 for a shortlist of your own. :)
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock was a fine fantasy novel in its own right, but its sequel Froi of the Exiles proves that Melina Marchetta just keeps getting better.

After making her name in contemporary realistic fiction with award-winning books like Looking for Alibrandi and The Piper’s Son, she is now really hitting her straps in the richly imagined world of fantasy.

Froi of the Exiles is superb storytelling –  gripping, complex, and intense, with characters that will steal your heart.

The little thief from Finnikin is now eighteen years old and trained by the Royal Guard to protect Lumatere’s royal family with his life. When he is ordered to infiltrate the enemy kingdom of Charyn and assassinate the cruel despot who rules it, his fierce loyalties are tested. He discovers unexpected bonds of kinship with Charyn’s damaged people, and an unlikely love with the land’s abused and half-mad Princess, Quintana.

Like all the best fantasy, Froi of the Exiles canvasses great themes, challenging the reader to view the harsh realities of war through the microcosm of those who endure it. By showing the heart of the enemy, the hardships of refugees, and the call of blood to blood, it challenges us to examine our own prejudices, our own contemporary failures.

At almost six hundred pages, and charged with sexual tension, this is a novel for mature readers, fifteen plus.

I wept at the end, for Froi, for Quintana, but most of all for myself. The final in the series, Quintana of Charyn cannot come out quickly enough for me – or for the legion fans Froi of the Exiles will inevitably attract.

When We Were Two by Robert Newton

A beautiful, funny and deeply moving book set at the beginning of the Great War that  suggests an answer to the eternal question: Why would anyone want to go to war?

Sixteen year old Dan is running away from home, his violent father, and the responsibility and guilt of caring for his brain-damaged younger brother, Eddie.

Dan steals away in the dead of night, determined to track down their missing mother. The only clue to her whereabouts, a postcard from Port Macquarie, more than two hundred miles away across the plains and mountain ranges of central NSW.

Eddie refuses to be left behind, and tags along with his billy cart and old dog, Bess, believing Dan’s story that they are off to fight a group of Huns who are causing trouble in Port Macquarie. They set out together on foot. And then they were Two.

The frustration, guilt and love that Dan feels for his special younger brother is at the heart of this inspiring rite of passage novel. The complexity and depth of the brother’s relationship is beautifully depicted as the boys encounter hardships and danger during their trek from Gunnedah to the ocean.

This is a story about how boys become men and deals deftly with the best, and the worst, that men can teach boys.

Together the boys conquer mountains, prejudice and the pain of their shared past. Then Dan loses everything, and alone, he must make a decision about his future based on all he has learned along the road.

When We Were Two is a journey worth taking. Highly recommended for just about anyone over the age of twelve.

Shift by Em Bailey

This is the first YA offering from Aussie children’s writer, Meredith Badger (author of the Go Girl books and Tweenie Genie series) and it’s a cracker.

Copies have been walking off the bookstore shelves thanks to the mega-cool cover, and genre-busting, tightly-plotted psychological thriller contained in its pages.

Olive Corbet is a dark, salty, intense little thing. She’s been taking her meds like a good girl. Taking baby steps. Trying to make it up to her little brother for their Dad leaving. Avoiding her old toxic friendships and trying to adjust to life since The Incident that changed her from popular insider to self-styled outsider.

Olive is doing OK, she’s holding it together – just…

Then the new girl Miranda Vale arrives at her school. A blurry, ill-defined creature that on first sighting seems to slip out of focus. Like someone who moves just before the photo is taken.

Only Olive seems to notice Miranda’s mirrored eyes. Her parasitic ways. The way she cannibalizes other people’s lives….

The tension between Miranda and Olive grabs the reader from the first page and doesn’t let up.

Did Miranda kill her own parents? Is she sucking the life out of Katie, Olive’s former best friend? Will Olive be next? Or is it all in Olive’s head?

Nobody trusts Olive’s judgement any more. Not even Olive.

This hard-to-put-down story is a riveting gallop of a read that examines toxic friendships through a more sinister lens.  Definitely on this year’s Must-Read list for teenaged girls.

Pig Boy by J.C. Burke

A powerful and confronting story about bullying and prejudice.

Damon Styles is not a likeable protagonist – obese, belligerent, and arrogant about his own intelligence. The other kids at school cruelly call him Damoink and his mother, the sow.

On the morning of his 18th birthday Damon witnesses something so dreadful that it dictates all his subsequent behavior. We don’t know what he’s seen, but we do know that he’s unpopular at school, that he plays violent video games and is given to angry outbursts. Like others in the small town of Strathven where he’s grown up, we are quick to believe the worst of him.

Damon is all too easily cast as the boy most likely to commit a Columbine-style massacre. He keeps lists of people who have let him down…He is obsessed with the idea of learning how to shoot.

He teams up with the town’s other outsider –Miro, the Serbian pig shooter known as the Pig Man. Miro too has secrets. He has survived the horrors of the Bosnian conflict. He understands what it is like to be hunted.

He takes Damon under his wing, teaches him to shoot and an unlikely friendship develops. The town watches uneasily, sensing evil afoot. When it is finally unleashed, it comes from a most unexpected quarter.

Pig Boy is a compelling story that will confound your expectations. It peels back the layers of a small country town, revealing the unreliability of perceptions and the prejudices they lead to.

The Wake in Fright elements mask author JC Brennan’s real and more subtle intentions. This is truly impressive story telling for mature readers and would make a good class novel for high schoolers.

A Straight Line To My Heart by Bill Condon

Bill Condon could not have chosen a more telling title for this funny, poignant coming-of-age story.

Everything is so beautifully observed. From the deceptively simple cover, and the wry voice of its protagonist, to the irresistible banter of characters who brim with a laconic but unconditional love for each other and the world they inhabit.

Tiff is an orphan whose mum died when she was just a baby. She was taken in by friends of the family, Reggie and Nell, and Nell’s 22 year old son, Bull, from an early ‘bad’ marriage. Nell dies a few years later, leaving Tiff to be brought up by a pair of boofy blokes.

My the time Tiff finishes school, Bull is forty and his step-dad Reggie is older than God’s dog. Reggie still has some hair, but most of it is poking out of his ears and nose. He’s given up the smokes, diagnosed himself as cactus and is quite adamant about how he wants his funeral to play out.

But Tiff’s all grown up, and it’s time to leave Gungee Creek for the big wide world:

Gungee is an ancient word that means: This place is a hole… There’s not much to do there. Gungee Creek doesn’t even have a creek.

All they have is the football team, the Gunners, which under Bull’s obstinate captaincy has notched up twenty straight losses.

Then Tiff gets a dream job (well work experience, but it could definitely lead somewhere) on the local paper, the Menindah Eagle, an hour’s bus ride away. She meets a boy, her world opens up … then Reggie starts coughing up blood.

This book will make you laugh and cry. A lovely story from one of Australia’s finest and most understated writers for young people.

The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan

Andrew McGahan’s adult fiction has won a swag of awards including the Vogel and Miles Franklin literary awards, a Ned Kelly for crime fiction and an Aurealis for Science Fiction.

His first foray into children’s fiction comes laden with expectations and in my opinion, it does not disappoint.

The Coming of the Whirlpool brims with adventure, heroism and secrets and has all the hallmarks of a swash-buckling classic.

This,the first book in The Ship Kings series, sets the scene for an engrossing historical fantasy on the high seas.

Young Dow Amber is the son of a wood cutter, brought up in the high country of New Island. But from his first glimpse of the distant ocean, he is driven by a strange and unsettling yearning for the sea.

His mother has long feared this awakening in his blood. It is not drowning that she fears: “What she truly dreads is that if you go to sea then you will come to the attention of the Ship Kings. And that if they discover who you are, they will kill you.”

Despite the grim warning, Dow makes his way down from the high country to a cursed fishing village where he is apprenticed to the embittered and grieving Nathaniel, who has lost both son and grandson to the Maelstrom.

The locals live in dread – not only of the mysterious Ship Kings, but of the ocean as well. The old ways, the secrets of navigation, have been lost. No-one dares to venture out past the heads: it is forbidden by order of the Ship Kings.

When they sale into port in their tall ships to collect the annual ‘tribute’ that keeps New Island impoverished, Dow’s forbidden longing only grows.

Then the whirlpool rises, precipitating events that end with Dow Amber sailing out through the Heads, a prisoner of the dreaded Ship Kings.

You’ve been given Fair Warning, the elements are gathering for the next thrilling installment in the Ship Kings saga!

And that’s my Clayton’s YA Six Pick for 2012. Feel free to post your own shortlist below. :)
So, I’ve done it again. Agreed to be a Clayton’s judge for Qld in the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

I’ve gorged on books: eighty-odd were entered in the Older Readers category this year.  The REAL CBCA Shortlist and Notables will be announced nationally on 3 April.

My Clayton’s Notable Books for Older Readers for 2012 is being announced right here, right now (Shortlist to follow… well, shortly).

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel by Michael Gerard Bauer

Hilarious third and final book in the Ishmael series where our cast of lovable larrikins finish Year 12 at St Daniels. A must for every kid’s library.

Votive (Curse of the Bond Rider #2) by Karen Brooks

Compulsively readable second installment in Karen Brooks’s fantasy trilogy. The gentle candlemaker Tallow has been suborned by the corrupt Maleovellis and transformed into courtesan and assassin Tarlo. The machiavellian intrigues of this beautifully realised world will have you on tenderhooks for the final installment. Bring on Illumination!

Silvermay by James Moloney

The first in James Moloney’s brlliant new fantasy series where a young village girl battles the Wyrdborn, a race of corrupt wizards, to save a baby prophesied to lay waste to the world.

The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner

Gritty yet sensitive tale of a troubled boy apprenticed to a kindly undertaker. A celebration of life in the face of death.

All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

A difficult-to-put-down, warm and gritty novel about a girl from a rough neighbourhood who is desperate to escape her small-time crim roots. The engaging storyline and characters, fluid narrative and evocative writing make for a fantastic debut novel.

A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson

Deliciously fun geek-girl detective story set in a museum with bonus gross-out natural history trivia wrapped up in a treasury of mystery genre references. Something to nurture your inner nerd. Highly recommended.

The Extinction Gambit (The Extraordinaires, #1) by Michael Pryor

Entertaining romp through a richly re-imagined 1908 London, where magic flourishes, an enclave of Neanderthals survives in hiding, and a wolfish young man and a beautiful albino are all that stand between a trio of Immortal magicians and their plans for world domination. Wry and witty, for those who love their steam punk.

Being Here by Barry Jonsberg

Beautifully told story about the power of imagination. An unlikely friendship develops when an elderly woman relates the grim story of her childhood to a teenage girl for a school assignment. Keep tissues handy for the ending when the ghosts of the past come to claim their own.

Black Painted Fingernails by Steven Herrick

Life and happiness can turn on the toss of a coin. A lovely, affirming story by a writer who keeps coming up with the goods. If you liked Herrick’s last YA novel “Slice”, you’ll love this.

Crow Country by Kate Constable

A time-slip novel exploring black/white relations over three generations in rural Victoria. Deftly weaves Aboriginal spirituality into a magical realist framework. Highly recommended as a class novel for early high school.

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

Exquisitely written story about the mysterious disappearance of a teacher from a 1960s girls’ school in Sydney. Haunting and lyrical, with shades of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan

All the hallmarks of a swash-buckling classic from Miles Franklin award-winning author Andrew McGahan. The first instalment in the Ship Kings series brims with adventure, heroism and secrets.

When We Were Two by Robert Newton

Beautiful, funny and deeply moving story set at the start of World War One about runaway brothers marching towards their future. Deftly deals with the best and worst that men can teach boys as they conquer mountains, prejudice and the pain of their shared past.

The Shadow Girl by John Larkin

Thoughtful and edgy story about teenage homelessness. Recommended for upper secondary due to mature themes.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon

Claire’s world is commonplace and familiar; Clara’s, post-apocalyptic and dangerous. A music box provides the key to their worlds colliding in a shared dreamscape. Fascinating and adventurous in its writing, “Only Ever Always” is for those who love reading to be both challenging and mesmerising.

Shift by Em Bailey

Is the new girl at school a parasite or something far worse? Is she imitating other girls or cannibalizing their lives? A genre-busting, riveting gallop of a read that examines toxic friendship through a more sinister lens.

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2) by Melina Marchetta

In this mesmerising sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, loyalties are tested and dark bonds of kinship revealed as Lumatere strikes back at the heart of its enemy. Richly imagined, powerful story telling, with characters that will steal your heart.

Pig Boy by J.C. Burke

A confronting and compelling read that confounds expectations. An unlikeable outsider teams up with a Bosnian pig shooter so that he can learn to shoot. But the Wake in Fright elements mask author JC Brennan’s real and more subtle intentions. Impressive story telling.

A Straight Line To My Heart by Bill Condon

“Gungee is an ancient word meaning: this place is a hole.” Join Tiff from Gungee Creek in her funny, poignant and heartfelt tussles with life, death, first love, first job. From one of Australia’s finest writers for young people.

Eona (Eon, #2) by Alison Goodman

Stunning conclusion to the Dragoneye fantasy duology that started with Eon (also published as The Two Pearls of Wisdom). Eastern fantasy with spirit. Highly recommended.

Dangerously Placed by Nansi Kunze

Alex’s dream work experience placement becomes a nightmare when a co-worker is murdered and Alex becomes the prime suspect. A virtual reality thriller for high schoolers.

Just a Girl by Jane Caro

Atmospheric first person account of the young Elizabeth I on the eve of her coronation. A compelling fictionalisation and fascinating glimpse into the life of a great queen when she was just a girl.

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

A fascinating story of a teenager who becomes profoundly deaf after contracting meningitis. Her attempts to reconcile her hearing and non-hearing worlds make for riveting reading.

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

Lanagan’s latest short story collection is beautifully written, mesmerisingly strange, yet oddly familiar. She tilts the world on its axis, we lose our balance and topple into the bizarre. An original and unique voice in Australian literature.

Lately I’ve been feeling like a one-armed woman in a phone booth with a swarm of bees. Too many things coming at me at once.

Talks, deadlines, workshops, Mum in hospital, hubba hubby overseas (on a Brokeback Mountain-biking week, no less  – better bring back some fish!), a crescendo of kids’ sporting commitments, an unfinished novel burning a hole in my desktop, a ker-ching of tilers, builders and electricians battering all the bent bits of my life into shape.

The only tradesman I haven’t been blessed with lately is the plumber, which must be why the fridge and bathroom tap have just started leaking….

At 8pm last night, I had a melt-down. Then I got to work. By 11pm, I’d made a big dent in my in-tray AND sent off my edits for my illustrated chapter book Dronges to Scholastic. (Very happy that Dan McGuiness, author of Pilot & Huxley, is doing the illustrations. Check out his cool website here.)

At 5.30 this morning, I hauled my grumpy bum out of bed to flip 300 pancakes for my daughter’s waterpolo breakfast at school. She rocked up, all smiles, at 8am with her gaggle of gfs. ‘Having fun, Mum? she asked.’

And you know what? I realised that I was.

The sun was shining, my co-workers were fun, and our pancakes were the bomb. I squirted maple syrup on a huge hotcake, stuffed it in my mouth and made a mental note to myself:

When there’s a lot on your plate, don’t forget to savour the good bits. 

Since I got home, I’ve been ticking off the jobs like a machine.

Next on my list is my Six-Pick for next week’s CBCA Qld Short List Night.  I’m a Clayton’s judge again this year for books for Older Readers and let me tell you, nominating a Top Two Dozen is fun, but narrowing down all those fabulous books to a Top Half Dozen is downright harrowing. Definitely not a job for sissies….  Click here if you’d like to come along and get the inside running on top kids’ books for 2012.

But right now, you will have to excuse me.

I have a talk to prepare, a workshop program to finalise for my Year of the YA Novel Course (starting 29 April at the Queensland Writers Centre), a novel to finish…And after all that, I think I’ll be ready for another pancake. ;)

You know that old cliche “Never in my wildest dreams”?

Well, I never say that.

Because as we all know, good writers avoid cliches like the plague…and in my wildest dreams, I’m usually fighting a one-woman guerrilla war against Columbian drug lords, or facing down a serial killer threatening a library full of school children or -

OK, so I  like my dreams to have exciting plot lines. But I like to keep them real too….

So never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would ever write the following words….

I just made a list with David Malouf!


No, honestly, I did. Truly. I’m not even lying.

You can click here if you don’t believe me. And here.

And here.

See, I told you!

Thanks to the good folks from Book Links (QLD) and their brilliant Big Read idea, everyone will get a chance over the next few months to vote on their favourite Queensland book for young people.

I’m still giddy with excitement. Who would have thunk Henry Hoey Hobson and Dust would both get a guernsey?

The only problem with making a list with David Malouf, Nick Earls, Michael Gerard Bauer, and all those other incredibly talented writers, is that you can bet your bottom dollar that just about everyone will be voting for one of them.

So Mum, if you’re reading this, there’s one little thing I need you to do for me….

Just click on this link here … and let your conscience be your guide.

No pressure.

lots of love from your only daughter ever

Chrissy xx

When I wrote my first novel I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

I had a head full of dreams and a driving need to capture evocative moments on paper.

I wrote scene after scene, but had no idea how to string them together into a meaningful work of fiction.

When I finally finished my first draft, it was 80,000 words long, and the kindest thing I could say was that it …. meandered.

Oh, it had its moments – enough for the dear folk in at Varuna to short-list it for a manuscript development award - but not enough to win, or to be seriously considered for publication.

After a brutal, but necessary, independent manuscript assessment (that made me cry at the time, and still makes me cringe), I did what I should have done in the first place.

I enrolled in Year of the Novel at the Queensland Writers Centre, and learned everything that I should have known, but didn’t, about writing a novel.

The following year, in 2008, I enrolled in QWC’s Year of the Edit … and halfway through the course had my entirely rewritten first novel Dust accepted for publication.

Three publishing contracts later, I remain a huge fan of QWC’s Year of the Writer courses.

And now young grasshopper, the student is to become the teacher.

This year, I’ll be the one out front teaching Year of the YA Novel at the Qld Writers Centre.

Across five Sunday workshops between April and December, I’ll be sharing everything you’ve always wanted to know about writing that YA novel.

So, if you have a burning ambition to get a novel for young people written this year, click here to learn more.

I’d love to see you there. :)

QWC | Year of the YA Novel | Queensland Writers Centre.