Friday, April 27, 2018

Recent YA novels…

Lyla by Fleur Beale, Allen & Unwin

This book is published in a series called Through My Eyes: Natural Disaster Zones. Because it’s published by a leading Australian publisher, it will reach an international audience and sell many copies. However I did feel a wee twinge of sadness – because it is very much a New Zealand story and I’d like to have seen it published in this country.

It’s the 22nd of February 2011. Just a typical school day for Lyla, who is in her second year at Avonside Girls’ High School. After school Lyla and her friends go to town. But their world is suddenly torn to pieces when a violent 6.3 aftershock hits Christchurch. Surrounded by smashed buildings and injured people who need help, it’s a long time before Lyla can walk home and try to establish contact with her family.

The story follows Lyla, her family, her neighbours and her friends as they struggle through the next few days battling problems with electricity, water, food, sewage, liquefaction and missing people. Slowly, slowly, things come right, but Lyla’s bravery and concern for other people take a huge toll on her, and the last section of the story focuses on Lyla as she tries to cope with post-traumatic stress.

This story is vivid and horrifying, sad and heart-warming, and I believe it truly captures the Christchurch earthquake experience suffered by so many. Recommended as an absorbing and important read for young people of about twelve to fifteen.

ISBN 978 1 76011 378 0 RRP $18.99 Pb

Rain Fall by Ella West, Allen & Unwin
It rains a lot in Westport, on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. In fact, it doesn’t really stop raining for the whole timespan of this exciting thriller. The constant downpour adds a vivid element to the setting of the story – you can just about feel the rain on your scalp and taste the dampness on your tongue. 

Fifteen-year-old Ellie finds herself caught up in a possible murder mystery when she sees her neighbour’s house explode. Turns out that some explosive has been stolen from one of the nearby coal mines, and the police are everywhere trying to find out what’s going on. Ellie thinks she knows where the elusive neighbour is, but she gets distracted when she meets an interesting boy and his horse on the beach (Ellie is also on her horse, Blue).

Events unfold rapidly and lead towards a dangerous confrontation with murderous criminals in the bush (it’s raining, of course). This is a suspenseful story with an authentic setting. The closure of the local coal mines is an important background theme, and I appreciated the fact the loss of local jobs issues versus the environmental issues are handled in a low key fashion. A great read for young people in their early teens.

ISBN 978 1 76029 6834 RRP $18.99 Pb

Time Twins by Sally Astridge and Arne Norlin, Makaro Press

One author lives in New Zealand and the other lives in Sweden. This factor heavily influences the plot, which focuses on Tamati in New Zealand and Astrid in Sweden. These youngsters are both eleven – in fact they were born at the same time, and this gives them a magical psychic connection. They are able to “travel” to each other’s environment.

Astrid is confronting a bullying situation – a girl in her class is being bullied. Tamati also has hassles – he’s avoiding the gang-member father of a bully at his school, and he’s trying to cope with the high expectations of his grandfather, who wants Tamati to become a Maori leader.

I did have trouble suspending my disbelief enough to accept several of the plot elements. For instance, Tamati, having time-travelled to Sweden, is introduced to Astrid’s father who apparently happily accepts the magical appearance of a boy in his daughter’s bedroom. I also had a problem with the two main characters being only eleven. To me, they act, talk and think like teenagers.

But I am a picky adult reader, not the target audience, so children of about eleven or twelve (probably mostly girls) may read it quite happily.

ISBN 9780473406325 $25 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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