HomeIDIOM #52. n2 reviewsFiction

Beck

Beck smallAuthors: Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff
Publisher: Walker Books (2016), 267 pages
RRP: $24.99

Beck is the final novel of the acclaimed young adult writer Mal Peet. After a short battle with cancer, he passed in early 2015, leaving the manuscript to be completed by fellow author and friend, Meg Rosoff. Having recently attended a session with Meg Rosoff as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, I was drawn to this collaboration of two award-winning writers. Beck, set in the early 1900s, is the harrowing tale of an orphaned mixed race boy, who finds himself transported from Liverpool to Canada for a ‘new life’.

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Dreaming the Enemy

Dreaming the Enemy smallAuthor: David Metzenthen
Publisher: Allen and Unwin (2016), 304 pages
RRP: $19.99

Dreaming the Enemy, a fiction novel by David Metzenthen, explores the experiences of a Vietnam veteran: Johnny Shoebridge in the immediate aftermath of the war. Johnny, who clearly suffers from PTSD from his experiences during the Vietnam war and the loss of two friends, Baz and Lex, struggles to deal with the return to normalcy back in Australia. His experiences at home, although softened by some supportive characters along the way, are also heightened by the negative and confrontational attitude of others who clearly protested against the war. His nature as a ‘conscript’ and these first person experiences ensures the easy emotional connection, leading the readers to sympathise with his emotional and inarticulate distress, in the otherwise potentially controversial issue of the Vietnam war. The conflicting perspectives experienced in war are explored within the novel by the movement between Johnny’s life and that of Khan, a Vietcong soldier, after the war has ended physically but continues within their own lives.

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The Boundless Sublime

Boundless Sublime smallAuthor: Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2016), 352 pages
RRP: $19.99

Reading is the passport to another world – it allows you to see a situation from the other side whilst safely ensconcing you in the comfort of your chair. And that is exactly where you should be when you are reading Lili Wilkinson’s latest novel The Boundless Sublime. For once you are involved with Ruby and Fox, you will never want to leave your chair again.

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The Family with Two Front Doors

Family with Two Front Doors smallAuthor: Anna Ciddor
Publisher: Allen and Unwin (2016), 208 pages
RRP: $14.99

Ciddor’s The Family with Two Front Doors is an informative, gentle read about the lifestyle of Polish Jewish family set between the two World Wars. Written in the third person, the adventures of the Rabinovitch family are portrayed in an engaging and innocent style.

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The Haters

The Haters smallAuthor: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Allen and Unwin (2016), 325 pages
RRP: $19.99

I loved The Haters from beginning to end (in fact the dedication preceding and the acknowledgements following are also wonderful…). If you also end up loving The Haters, then I would be happy to spend a few hours with you, sharing all the ideas and lines and references that we found hilarious and clever and irreverent and insightful and relevant and sharp and decisive and witty and heartfelt. This is my favourite part (although I have many more equally favourite parts:) – ‘The Beatles: You can’t really be a fan of them so much as a historian or palaeontologist.’

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The Last Beginning

The Last Beginning smallAuthor: Lauren James
Publisher: Walker Books (2016), 344 pages
RRP: $16.99

The Last Beginning is the second book in Lauren James’ The Next Together series. Being unfamiliar with the first novel, I was concerned that there would be several gaps needing to be filled as I read, but this wasn’t the case. Readers can easily jump into this book and pick up threads of the story. The premise of the first novel is that two lovers, Katherine and Matthew, play key roles in significant historical events before being tragically parted. Their story repeats in different eras as they are reborn, over and over, through the centuries.

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The Way We Roll

The Way We RollAuthor: Scott Gardner
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, 2016, 197 pages
RRP: $19.99

The idea that ‘reading novels will make you a better person’ is a justification for reading often cited by teachers longing to inspire a love of reading in their most reluctant and recalcitrant readers. You know the ones. It remains a challenging task to find novels that might to appeal to young people like these whilst retaining a strong enough moral compass to meet our ethical responsibilities as teachers and parents.

Knowing of Scott Gardner’s interest in, and insight into, the problems faced by ‘high-risk teenagers’, it is no surprise to find that this novel deals with so many of the challenges faced by apparently disaffected young men; physical violence, teen sex, homelessness, crime, drug use, alcohol use, gender identity, racial tension, family breakdown. Nevertheless the idea that ‘there are decent people out there’ is established early on and the novel continues to explore and reinforce the fundamental importance of honesty and loyalty in relationships both romantic and familial.

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Waer

Waer smallAuthor: Meg Caddy
Publisher: Text Publishing (2016), 307 pages
RRP: $19.99

Waer, a fantasy novel by Meg Caddy, explores a world in which werewolves known as waer are attacked and mistreated for their nature, described as ‘unclean’ and ‘dogs’ by the antagonist Daemon Leldh, a ruler from an ancient long-lived nation with a desire for vengeance and control. Daemon, with his pet enforcers Cooper and Kaebha, lives only to torture and kill those that he cannot control or who fit into his murderous need for genocide. Lowell Sencha, a waer raised to be a shepherd and farmer, and Lycaea, a mysterious girl who has been turned waer against her will, are the only ones who see the true danger that Daemon Leldh presents, not only to the cities he rules, but also to the wider kingdoms of Luthan and beyond.

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