Friday, January 7, 2011

Teen Reading for Summer

Fierce September by Fleur Beale, Random House NZ
This is the eagerly-awaited sequel to the futuristic Juno of Taris. It’s not strictly necessary to have read the first book, but I would recommend reading Juno first to provide necessary background information and characterisation. Juno and the 500 inhabitants of Taris (an isolated island protected by a dome) are rescued by a ship after Juno’s friend Vima sent out a radio message for help. The ship takes the group to Wellington where they are set up in a refugee centre. It is immediately obvious that there is strong opposition among some Outside people to the support being given to the Taris group. A fatal artificial virus is introduced to Wellington, and a malicious media and internet campaign blames the Taris people. In the midst of this hate campaign, Juno and her friends and family struggle to adapt to a whole new lifestyle.
In an interesting initiative, this book uses a cross-media technique to add depth and interest to the story. At the end of each chapter readers are referred to online blogs featuring additional conversations and commentary on the unfolding events of the plot. This technique offers some interesting learning opportunities for innovative teachers, as well as extending the general reading experience.
Fierce September is an excellent and very satisfying study of the power of modern communication technology – heartily recommended for teens.
ISBN 978 1 86979 328 9 RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Journey to Tangiwai by David Hill, Scholastic NZ
It’s a bit of a surprise to see this story, originally published in Scholastic’s My Story series in 2003, being re-designed and re-issued. Even the series seems to have undergone a change - it’s now called My New Zealand Story. Still, given that the Tangiwai train disaster happened on Christmas Eve 1953, Scholastic’s timing is not surprising. It’s not a new edition, just a new design with a more striking cover and more up-to-date fonts. It’s still one of the best My Story titles, with its descriptions of a boy’s life in 1953 and its inexorable climb towards the train crash climax. It must surely have long-term appeal to boy readers. Intermediate and secondary school libraries that don’t have it should buy a copy, and other libraries could take the opportunity to replace their (probably) worn-out copies.
ISBN 978 1 77543 006 3 RRP $19
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Should I Kiss Tommy Aitken? by Dawn McMillan, Penguin NZ
In the old days a book like this was called a Twist-A-Plot book. Penguin are being a bit coy about the format – on the back cover they simply say that the reader makes the choices. Basically the story starts with a few pages of plot (13-year-old Georgia is having an icecream with a boy and gets an urge to kiss him) and then imposes a choice – if she kisses him, turn to page 20. If she doesn’t, read on. Several choices later the reader can reach one of several endings – but there is only one path that takes the reader right to the last page of the book. The book is more of a game than anything else – traditionalists who want to read a proper story will find it frustrating. However it provides a light-hearted look at the intricacies of early teenage dating, and it may be a suitable present for a girl of 11 or 12 who simply doesn’t want to read a book from cover to cover.
ISBN 978 0 14 330571 2 RRP $17.99

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