HomeIDIOM #52. n3 reviewsFiction

Freedom Swimmer

Freedom swimmer swimmerAuthor: Wai Chim
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2016), 247 pages
RRP: $16.99

Inspired by her father’s desperate escape from Communist China in the 1970s, Wai Chim’s Freedom Swimmer explores the circumstances that led thousands of young Chinese to make the perilous swim across the Dapeng Peninsula to the sanctuary offered by the British colony of Hong Kong. The novel opens in the Winter of 1962 where Ming’s village has been devastated by the famine that has been the result of the disastrous Great Leap Forward. Ming’s mother has died from starvation and his father, having died under suspicious circumstances, has been labelled a counter-revolutionist, leaving Ming with the struggle to survive on his own.


Gemina: The Illuminae Files_02

Gemina smallerAuthor: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2016), 659 pages
RRP: $22.99

Gemina is the second novel in the Illuminae Files trilogy, co-written by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. While this novel is set in a new location with new characters, it does continue the storyline of the first novel, so I would advise readers to start with reading the multiple award-winning Illuminae.


It Looks Like This

it looks like this.medAuthor: Rafi Mittlefehldt
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2016), 327 pages
RRP: $19.99

It Looks Like This details a year in the life of Mike Matthis, a 14-year-old in his freshman year at school. It is the year he moves house; changes schools; falls in love; encounters tragedy.

From its somewhat melancholy, nostalgic first chapter, the novel sets a sombre tone and triggers questions that the reader can’t help but forebode tragic answers. The first-person narration is presented in a slow, detached, introspective writing style that is sustained for the novel’s entirety. This serves as an insight to the introverted and observant qualities of the narrator, Mike.


Nothing Tastes as Good

nothing tastes as good smallerAuthor: Claire Hennessey
Publisher: Hot Key Books (2016), 327 pages
RRP: $19.99

It was very easy to become absorbed in this novel, which explores challenging themes of the afterlife, self-esteem, body image and acceptance. Narrated from the perspective of Annabel, it explores her struggle to act as a ‘spirit guide’ to a former classmate who is desperately in need of help. Annabel has recently passed away and her only chance of sending one final message to her family is to earn the opportunity by helping Julia to sort out her life.


Promising Azra

Azra smallerAuthor: Helen Thurloe
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2016), 355 pages
RRP: $19.99

The best part of reading is being able to experience something that still manages to keep you safe. The worst part of reading is knowing that every story has one foot in truth. Promising Azra easily fits into both categories.

Sixteen year old Azra is very smart, very determined and very much not in control of her own life. Born in Pakistan but living in Australia, she must face the challenges presented to her by the culture of her family, with a patriarch who still believes in the old ways and to the opportunities presented to her by a nation that does things differently.


Swarm (Zeroes 2)

Swarm smallerAuthor: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2016), 388 pages
RRP: $19.99

Swarm, the product of a collaboration by Westerfeld, Lanagan and Biancotti, is the sequel to Zeroes and looks set to become a series spanning several books. It continues the story of six teenagers from Cambria, California, all born in the year 2000 (hence their group name Zeroes), and with unique powers. Ethan has the ability to summon from inside himself an all-knowing and often scathing voice to get him out of tricky situations; Chizara can manipulate electronic devices; sight-impaired Flicker can use the eyes of others to see; Kelsie can influence the mood of a crowd; Nate can inspire others to follow him; and Thibault is so easily forgotten that even his own mother struggles to remember he exists.


The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

Secret Horses smallerAuthor: Megan Shepherd; illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Publisher: Walker Books (2016), 236 pages
RRP: $19.99

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is a bewitching blend of prose and illustration, and while directed at younger readers it is also sure to appeal to older readers. The novel is set in England during the Second World War in the Briar Hill hospital, a facility for young people suffering from tuberculosis. The protagonist is Emmaline, who has the ability to see winged horses in the mirrors around the facility, something that she has learnt to keep to herself in the face of incredulity from the nuns who care for the children and the mocking of her fellow patients.