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Thursday, February 11, 2016

'Summer Skin' by Kirsty Eagar

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.

The lesson: don't mess with Unity girls.

The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig - sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they're at their most vulnerable?

It's all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy's stuff. Just your typical love story.

‘Summer Skin’ is the new young adult novel from Australian author, Kirsty Eagar.

Fair warning: when I love something I like to talk about it and examine it from all angles. I really loved ‘Summer Skin’, so prepare for a long, loving review …

First I’m trying to think of how to describe this book and what happens, plot-wise, when I don’t actually want to give too much away. Also that there’s isn’t really much to give away that the blurb doesn’t already beautifully summarise, like with this pithy one-liner that I think is just pure fucking poetry: a neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig. Or how about feminist commentator Clementine Ford’s endorsement, that explains ‘Summer Skin’ is: a keen look at modern day intimacy in a hook-up culture. You already know all you need to entice you to pick up this smart, sexy YA read.

So instead I want to tell you about ‘Summer Skin’ by going back to 1975 – the year Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ was first published. I love this page about ‘Forever’ on Blume’s website, where she explains the kernel of an idea for what would become, without a doubt, one of the most important books in young adult history: My daughter Randy asked for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die. She had read several novels about teenagers in love. If they had sex the girl was always punished—an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion (illegal in the U.S. until the 1970's), sometimes even death. Lies. Secrets. At least one life ruined. Girls in these books had no sexual feelings and boys had no feelings other than sexual. Neither took responsibility for their actions. I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly.

Pretty radical notion, huh? Writing about two teenagers who have sex and don’t die. But that was radical back in 1975, when young adult literature (and especially American YA) had to have moralistic undertones – and when it came to sex that was meant to be abstinence is best.

Fast forward to 2016 and Kirsty Eagar’s ‘Summer Skin’ is adding new layers and nuances to a discussion Blume started 41 years ago. In this book, Eagar is talking about sex and sexuality, pleasure and politics in a way that’s taking Aussie YA literature into a new and daring stratosphere, and it’s absolutely worth celebrating.

‘Summer Skin’ runs quite the sexual gamut – exploring everything from young women who are sexually degraded by men, to sex being used as weapon or revenge, and the pressure women feel to have sex though it’s often divorced from feeling and pleasure … there’s even discussions in here about how pornography has impacted the way in which young people view sex today – as more performance than pleasure, and the impact of its dangerous unrealism;

If high school was all about whether or not you’d give it up, uni seemed to be about nothing but giving it up. Suddenly, inexplicably, the rules changed, and – bam – you were Adult-with-a-capital-A. There was no means to the end, there was just the end, just sex, and you pretended to keep up. Sometimes Jess had felt it, the flaring of her own appetite, but she’d rarely let herself go. Too busy performing.

This book is also built on discussions and dichotomies of sexism and feminism – not running just as an undercurrent, but an in-your-face refreshing statement not to be messed with or overlooked. Indeed, the book is about Unity Girls versus Knights Boys on college campus – and through them these discussions are made manifest. The Knights Boys in particular are beautifully portrayed in their truth and – it must be said – Neanderthal ways. And if you don’t believe me, know that ‘Summer Skin’ made me think all the way back to 2012 and a particularly disturbing story about a drinking scandal, near-death of a teenage girl and unearthed misogyny at St John's College at the University of Sydney. These boys Eagar is writing about, and the society they belong to, absolutely exist and she’s chilling in her scarily accurate depictions.

There’s also a perverse beauty to Eagar exploring these topics, because she is such a marvellous author for detail. I found myself marking so many pages in this book, just because her descriptions took my breath away for their vividness;  

… widening his stance as if experiencing a sudden and significant surge in ball size, speaking in the drawl used by guys who are fluent in Brah.
 
I also want to celebrate this book for its grey-areas and sexiness – because ‘Summer Skin’ is both sensuous and subversive, scathing and scintillating. And this, in itself, is making a statement in YA as big as Blume’s ‘Forever’ did – as Eagar’s protagonist Jess enters into something steamy with her antithesis, Knights Boy, rugby player, Blondie Brah – Mitch. And their relationship is hot – something which is still not as prevalent as it should be in YA. Honest depictions of sexual desire and pleasure (particularly emphasis on female pleasure and self-pleasure) – it’s still a radical thing to find in YA.

Blondie held the can there, just out from her breast, until she looked at him. And when she did, his eyes were so intense that she released his wrist. She gasped when he pressed the can to her nipples, first one and then the other, but then he replaced it with his mouth, sucking each nipple in turn, his hands supporting her, and Jess closed her eyes, her breath catching. She arched her back.
 
As someone who reads a lot of romance, I can tell you that ‘Summer Skin’ is up there with the best. But I do want to say that I still consider this book to be young adult – even for its college campus setting and abundant sex. I have no problems with people bandying the label ‘New Adult’ around – but I will say that I absolutely believe teenagers (boys and girls alike) should find their way to ‘Summer Skin’ and embrace its many messages, particularly around sex-positivity and politics.

Kirsty Eagar has long been one of Australia’s most daring and rebellious YA writers, dating back to her powerful debut ‘Raw Blue’. ‘Summer Skin’ is more brilliance and fearlessness from this Aussie favourite, and I absolutely applaud Eagar for elevating such conversations around modern romance in our young adult literature.  

5/5 

Friday, February 5, 2016

‘Mothers & Others' edited by Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, Miriam Sved and Maya Linden


From the BLURB:

'When are you having children?' 'Why didn't you have another child?' 'Well, I guess that's your choice, but...'

They are questions asked of women of a certain age all the time. Beneath them is the assumption that all women want to have children, and the judgment that if they don't, they'll be somehow incomplete. And that's only the beginning...

Being a mother, or not being a mother, has never been so complicated. The list of rights and wrongs gets longer daily, with guilt-ridden mothers struggling to keep on top of it all, and non-mothers battling a culture that defines women by their wombs.

In this collection of fiction and non-fiction stories, Australian women reflect on motherhood: how it should be and how it really is. Their stories tackle everything from the decision not to have children to the so-called war between working and stay-at-home mums. Including special contributions by Rosie Batty and Deborra-Lee Furness, the stories explore every topic from infertility and IVF, to step-parenting and adoption, to miscarriage and breastfeeding, child meltdowns and marriage breakdowns, as well as giving a much-needed voice to those who won't ever be called 'Mum'.

Mothers & Others: Australian writers on why not all women are mothers and not all mothers are the same’ is the 2015 anthology collection of stories from editors Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, Miriam Sved and Maya Linden. This is the same writers group – turned editorial team – who put out one of my favourite 2013 books: ‘Just Between Us’, an anthology all about female friendships.

I adored ‘Just Between Us’, not only for the calibre of female authors assembled – but more for the honest explorations into dynamics, which are so often misconstrued and misunderstood or just missing from all forms of fiction and storytelling – the female friendship. I mean; there’s a reason the Disney musical ‘Frozen’ was seen as groundbreaking for being a film in which the sister’s friendship takes precedence above all else, and is the true heart of the story. For much the same reason, ‘Mothers & Others’ is a groundbreaking and heart-warming tribute to the many facets of motherhood, which – upon reading the offerings from 28 marvellous writers – you quickly realise, is often lazily presented elsewhere as nuclear, one-dimensional and untrue. This anthology absolutely delivers on its promise, as it; ‘holds a mirror up to the most romanticised, demonised and complex roles women play: those of mother or non-mother, and daughter.’

There’s a quote from a Jodi Picoult book called ‘Vanishing Acts’ that has stayed with me, and I don’t know why; “There is a reason the word belonging has a synonym for want at its centre; it is the human condition.” But it revibrated with me while reading certain non-fiction stories from particular writers in this anthology, those especially who have long and illustrious careers writing about the topics of family, relationships and belonging. What fascinated me was their non-fiction writing about their changed circumstances, and how this has impacted on their writing or will inform their future stories, no doubt.

The book opens, for instance, with a non-fiction story from Alice Pung – an incredible Australian author known for her memoir writing, who has explored topics around her family’s fleeing the killing fields of Cambodia to settle in Australia in ‘Unpolished Gem’ and the heartstrings of family versus her need for independence in ‘Her Father's Daughter’. Her short story ‘The New Grandparents’ explores both familiar and new terrain as she moves into a new phase of her life as a first-time mother, suddenly bringing a sharper understanding perhaps, to all that she has written about in her memoirs;

Almost three and a half decades later, their firstborn – a child they named after the girl in Lewis Carroll’s book, because they thought Australia was a Wonderland – is having her firstborn. They didn’t know whether they would survive the war, let alone get to this lucky point in life. 
   The New Grandparents’ by Alice Pung

New York Times Bestselling author Liane Moriarty has been very open about the reasons so many of her female characters have tackled fertility issues and the crushing blows of miscarriage, IVF-treatment or faced the possibility of never having children. ‘Three Wishes’, ‘What Alice Forgot’, and ‘The Last Anniversary’ have all featured characters struggling to get pregnant, or worrying that it’s too late for them. 'The Hypnotist's Love Story' also featured an especially intriguing female character who had to come to terms with being dumped by her partner, and consequently losing the connection she had established with his young son, whom she’d helped raise for a time. Moriarty has spoken about how her own real-life struggles with these topics influenced her writing, and most recently I was listening to a Sydney Writers’ Festival podcast of her 2015 appearance, in which she talked about the many female readers who reach out to her with thanks or anger for hitting so close to home on these topics. In her non-fiction story ‘The Childless Side of the Room’, Moriarty reflects on a gym class in which a guileless female instructor (and new mum) asks her class to split the room according to parents and non-parents (to highlight how well the parents – battling busy schedules – still find time to fit in fitness, apparently). Moriarty, though now a mother of two, finds herself reflecting on how her past-self would have taken to such battle-line instruction when she was at her lowest point of infertility and struggles to conceive. It’s a gut-wrenching, open-bruise sort of short story – a confessional and an olive branch to any woman going through what Moriarty came out the other side of. And it’s a refined understanding of how these topics can still lay so close to her heart that they’re recurring themes and explorations in so many of her books, even years after she gave birth to her two children;

My main memory of that time is the way I always had to hold myself: stiffly, carefully, as if I were a tall glass of messy emotions that might break or spill at any moment. And still, the shame, the everlasting shame, because all this was my fault: because I was so old; because I’d taken too long to start trying; because I’d messed it up, buttercup.  
   The Childless Side of the Room’ by Liane Moriarty

Melina Marchetta returns to ‘Mothers & Others’, having contributed the brilliant fictional short story ‘The Centre’ to the first anthology – but this time Marchetta is offering up a non-fiction and very personal slice, in a story titled ‘Of a Lesser God’. Here, Marchetta writes a letter to her child – ‘B’ – whom she has recently adopted, as she details the first year of their lives together. Given that Marchetta has built a career writing groundbreaking YA books about identity and displacement – a recurring theme from her contemporary ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ to high fantasy and ‘Finnikin of the Rock’ – there’s something incredibly touching here, to read her sharp insights and understanding translating so preciously to this new life she’s building for herself and B.   

Although I’m a bit greedy and want you all to myself, I also don’t want you to spend your life wondering where you came from, whether your birth parents loved you, who you look like. I understand the importance of identity. I’ve been writing about it most my life. 
   Of a Lesser God’ by Melina Marchetta
Deborra-Lee Furness – actress and ‘Adopt Change’ ambassador – also has a more academic and insightful non-fiction story in here about her path to motherhood. She cites the Convention of the Rights of the Child, United National treaty and the fact that 157 million children are without family (according to UNICEF) – in explaining why she’s campaigning so hard to make adoption easier in Australia and the rest of the world, for all families.

It’s important to note that these stories are not all non-fiction – five are fiction, and one in particular from Maxine Beneba Clarke titled ‘Paint’, will have you racing to pick up her phenomenal short story collection ‘Foreign Soil’ if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it already. And not all these stories are about the mother-side of motherhood. Estelle Tang’s non-fiction piece ‘Motherland’ is about her being a child far away from home, having moved to New York – specifically examining ‘migrants mothers and children in the work of Colm Tóibín, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Roxane Gay.’
… the distance I put between us by moving overseas has shown me that we are not one entity, but two distinct individuals. Does that seem obvious to most people? It wasn’t to me, not for a long time. And now that I’m looking back at how in thrall I was to her, I’m surprised that I don’t feel more lost or damaged now that out relationship is attenuated. Many of my thoughts – casual or radical or laboured – are what my mother taught me. 
   Motherland’ by Estelle Tang

Coming into ‘Mothers & Others’ I’m one of the “others” (and that title is so tongue-in-cheek, I think, reflecting and perhaps criticising the way women who don’t fall neatly into the first are so often “othered” as a consequence) – regardless, I related hard to every single story within its pages.  Sometimes rather viscerally – as YA author Simmone Howell writes about turning to books to discover “what kind of writer-mother would I be?” in her short story ‘Writing Gully’ (an allusion to her wonderful YA book ‘Girl Defective’, which features the memorable and sensitive young child character called Gully). In this, Howell was investigating the balancing of writing and motherhood. But it got me thinking of the ways books have educated me on the intricacies of this side to life, I’d only ever had experience with as a daughter.

I became a novelist because I had a child. 
   The Mother Lode’ by Geraldine Brooks
    
I find that I’m not so strange to think that it’s through art and books that my understanding of mothering and motherhood has also been shaped – and I find it so fitting that Geraldine Brooks is in here too, offering a non-fiction story called ‘The Mother Lode’ (like Howell, exploring the connection of art and motherhood). I had just shared Brooks’ ‘The Year of Wonders’ as my #StellaSpark, you see, and in particular I remember being a teenager reading that book and being made to feel such a visceral connection to Anna Frith grieving for her children. This line from the book still haunts me; “My Tom died as babies do, gently and without complaint.”

That is, I realise, the gift of ‘Mothers & Others’ too. True, everyone could come to ‘Just Between Us’ and see facets of themselves and their lives – after all, we’ve all had and been friends, surely? Men and women alike? But some may think ‘Mothers & Others’ is less accessible – again, I think of that room being split in Moriarty’s story, of parents and not. But it’s not the case, and not just because these writers are so accomplished and poetic, to have opened a vein and bled (as Ernest Hemingway would have applauded.) There is universality here – yes, partly because even if you’re not a parent you are somebody’s child – but it’s deeper than that. These stories delve into instinct and love, mistakes and do-over’s, fractured lines, family ties and a loss so awful but does not lessen love or title. There’s more universe here than you may think.

5/5  

Monday, February 1, 2016

'Three Wishes' by Liane Moriarty


From the BLURB:

Three sisters, one birthday, one little problem ...

It happens sometimes that you accidentally star in a little public performance, your very own comedy, tragedy or melodrama.

The three Kettle sisters have been accidentally starring in public performances all their lives, affecting their audiences in more ways than they'll ever know. This time, however, they give a particularly spectacular show when a raucous, champagne-soaked birthday dinner ends in a violent argument and an emergency dash to the hospital.

So who started it this time? Was it Cat: full of angry, hurt passion dating back to the 'Night of the Spaghetti'? Was it Lynn: serenely successful, at least on the outside? Or was it Gemma: quirky, dreamy and unable to keep a secret, except for the most important one of all?

Whoever the culprit, their lives will have all changed dramatically before the next inevitable clash of shared genes and shared childhoods.

‘Three Wishes’ was bestselling Australian author Liane Moriarty’s very first novel, published in 2004.

So, I just learned the other day that the title of Moriarty’s new book (coming July 2016) is ‘Truly Madly Guilty’ and I am just ridiculously excited for it. I am a very big fan of Liane Moriarty’s books, which I first started reading in 2011 – I’d read four of her six published books, keeping two of her backlist in my ‘rationing reading’ pile. But upon learning the news of her forthcoming seventh book, I found myself craving her words so pulled out one of those books I was rationing.

‘Three Wishes’ was Moriarty’s first ever published book, but it absolutely stands against all her others, including her most recent New York Times-Bestselling titles. Moriarty definitely sticks to themes that clearly fascinate her – revolving around families and secrets – what’s sort of amazing though, is that in each book I read she finds new cracks and crannies, and wonderful ways to break these themes wide open.

‘Three Wishes’ is about triplets Lyn, Cat and Gemma – and a year in their lives when each one goes off the rails in big and little ways. Cat’s learning that her happy marriage to the perfect guy is anything but, Lyn’s need to be a Highly Effective Person is making her panic, and a previous relationship has made Gemma scared to put down roots and commit to a life-plan. Readers are introduced to the three sisters on the night everything implodes – at their birthday celebration at a restaurant, which leads to a very public meltdown – then backtracks to the beginning of the year when everything first started fraying.

So – fair warning – I have cried while reading every Liane Moriarty book, but I cried the most while reading ‘Three Wishes’. Just something about this one really got to me – particularly the character of Cat, who is just put through the wringer again and again and again in this one, and reading her many, many lows left me feeling like a giant, exposed bruise – tender to the touch. I’ve never actually wished for a sequel for any of Moriarty’s books before, but I find myself wishing for a wee sequel (or even guest-appearance in another book?!) of Cat – just to make sure she’s okay, to check in and see how she’s going.

Cat didn’t need to see her mother’s face to know the lemony expression of distaste that would be pulling at her mouth as she said the word “counselling.” Counselling was something other people did.
Cat took the cushion off her face and sat up. “People get pregnant from having sex, Mum. Not from a perfect marriage. You ought to know that.”

That being said, I also loved this book because – as with the other earlier books of Moriarty’s I’ve read – I could read the kernels of an idea in ‘Three Wishes’ that was later expanded in ‘Big Little Lies’. Gemma’s story is really only half-told in this book, partly because she’s kept this a secret from her family for so many years – but I could see Gemma’s story, in many ways, picked up and carried through to completion in ‘Big Little Lies’ which was quite cathartic for such a harrowing aspect.

I especially loved ‘Three Wishes’ because it is about sisters – and the really interesting role we each play in our families, where we tend to stick to our personality traits that were assigned to us as children. The good child, the problem child, the goofy child. Moriarty has also explored this in ‘What Alice Forgot’, exploring the fractured relationship of sisters Alice and Elisabeth – and Moriarty being one of five sisters, it’s no wonder she explores such family dynamics with nuance and cutting accuracy, and I simply adore her take on these familial lines. I also loved that ‘Three Wishes’ explores women’s infertility and craving for baby, something else the book has in common with ‘What Alice Forgot’ – it’s just a very modern problem that is fascinating to read how it causes such hairline fractures in various relationships.

I simply adored ‘Three Wishes’. When I said I was reading this one, a few people told me it’s their personal Liane Moriarty favourite and the one they go back to re-read the most. I’m not so sure my heart could handle revisiting this book (at least for a while), mostly for Cat’s collapsing year that just resonated and stung me the most. But I can see why it’s ranked so high on people’s lists, and as is always the case after reading a Moriarty book, I feel a little wrung out and invigorated now that it’s all over.

5/5 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

'Australia to Z' by Armin Greder

Received from the Publisher 

From the BLURB:

Juxtaposing words and images, the multi-award-winning author of The Island shines an uncompromising light on what it is to be Australian.



I don't normally review picture books - not because I don't read them and love them (I do, I really do!) but because I think to do them justice I'd have to dedicate an entire blog to the reviewing of them (Hey! There's an idea...) and I personally love the book blogs in which actual children review picture books (and I'll admit, their opinions hold more weight than mine!) 

But I simply have to rave about Armin Greder's 2016 picture-alphabet book, 'Australia to Z'. 

Look, all picture books are art books as far as I'm concerned. But Greder's especially feels sharp and subversive - and a perfect example of how children's picture books especially, can say so much with so little. 

In Greder's alphabet book, A is for 'Aborigine', 'Boat People' is for 'Rupert Murdoch' stands for R and 'Meat Pies' comes before 'Nationalist' (with a drawing of a man wearing an Australia flag cape ...)



Author Libby Gleeson perfectly summarises what this Alphabet Book is really all about, and how it's for everyone: "... Armin Greder has cast his critical eye on us and our symbols." Indeed he has - the good, the bad and the downright ugly (aforementioned 'Nationalist' and 'Rupert') 

This book says a lot with so little - flipping through the pages and acknowledging the chosen alphabet symbols is sometimes uncomfortable for Greder's scathing accuracy - P is for Pokies - but there's beauty alongside the brutal, and Greder's underlying message is a powerful one worthy of applause. 


'Australia to Z' is probably going to be my favourite picture book of 2016. I expect to see it winning awards in the coming months, as a celebrated picture book for the young and old - indeed, an important book for all of us to read and listen to its powerful message. 

5/5

Monday, January 4, 2016

Writers on Wednesdays – my 'Reading for Writers' session!


Hello Darling Readers!

Just popping in during my January blog-break to say that I'm very excited to be hosting a Writers Victoria 'Writers on Wednesdays' session on January 27, all about 'Reading for Writers' (ummmm, yes, I might know a thing or two about this topic). 

Here's my tutor profile, and a little Q&A I did about reading and writing and my background.

If this sounds like something you'd been keen to partake in, I'd love for you to come along!  

The pertinent details of the session
  • Date: Wednesday 27 January 2016 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
  • Where: Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne 
  • Cost: $35 (member) $30 (concession member) $50 (non-member)
  • Rating: All 


You will learn:
  •  How writers can take positives from two maligned but successful readerships: romance and youth literature 
  • About the dangers of only reading within your own genre, and how to avoid pale imitations 
  • How to harness the power of purposeful reading 
  • How to make a career out of reading through reviewing books and freelance writing 
  • About readerships, community and the social side to reading in the digital age


Monday, December 21, 2015

Why Dystopia is not a Trend


My second piece for the Stella Prize Schools Blog is up!


But thinking about dystopian fiction in the same way we think of the adult colouring book craze – as simply a fad – pays disservice to a wonderfully diverse and subversive genre. It suggests a disposability that’s insulting; particularly when dystopian fiction is one of the most poignant genres we have for exploring the experiences of marginalised and disenfranchised groups. As with stories about vampires and zombies, the long history of dystopian fiction defies ‘trend’ talk.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Most Anticipated Books of 2016



The ‘Most Anticipated Books’ post is always a hard one for me. 
Places like Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram etc make it so much harder … sometimes the authors I follow on these various networks will give up slivers of information of their upcoming books, but for various reasons (normally of practicality and embargo) they can’t give away more. 
This year I again attended the Centre for Youth Literatue’s ‘The Year Ahead in Youth Literature’, getting a sneak-peak or heads-up about some titles both international and #LoveOzYA. Some of those titles are listed below, and in some cases there’s very little synopsis to report on but I’ve listed it because I trust in the author, or I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s one to look out for. 
I’ve no doubt missed lots of books – it’s always the case that after I put this post up another five titles suddenly spring up on Goodreads and I feel the need to keep editing, editing, editing (and that goes for changing release dates too!) … but that’s a never-ending job, and at this point I’m just going to let it stand as a small sampler of what’s got me sitting up and taking notice for 2016, fully aware that the list will be frustratingly incomplete (and in some cases slightly incorrect as release-dates change - so if you're in doubt, please do go to the publisher's website!). 
I hope you enjoy, regardless. 
And as a little P.S. – I just wanted to say that I’ll be taking a mini blog break after this post because I have some fun writing to work on! So it’ll be radio-silence throughout January, and then I’ll return to the regularly scheduled blogging.

JANUARY
Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall
Let’s kick 2016 off with a favourite LoveOzYA author in Leanne Hall – one of the most beautifully original voices in youth literature, hands down. She’s the author of two of my most favourite titles ‘This is Shyness’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ – and, quite frankly, I’d be excited for her grocery list if she was so inclined to publish it.

Her new book, ‘Iris and the Tiger’ is about twelve-year-old Iris, who has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents.

Hall promises the book is about friendship, art, and family with touches of magical realism, and I am ridiculously excited! (the book is for slightly younger-YA, but age is just a number or metadata, right?)

Also: that *beautiful* cover, featuring art by Australian Sandra Eterovic!

Who's Afraid? by Maria Lewis
So I’ve actually-kinda-sorta already ready this (NetGalley high-fives, amiright?!) and it’s AMAZING. It’s paranormal romance from the awesome Maria Lewis – who is a pop-culture film guru and writes for the likes of Buzzfeed, Empire Magazine, New York Post and loads of other cool places … and she’s part of the fantastic ‘Eff Yeah Film & Feminism’ podcast and is just generally totally rad. Who’s Afraid? does not disappoint, and if I can just share three words to get you salivating, – New Zealand Werewolves.

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
Two things – the first line of the blurb is: “Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them.” *high-five*!
Secondly: the name of this young adult fantasy series is ‘Library Jumpers’. Say no more. I am so there.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club Lady Helen #1 by Alison Goodman
This one is actually out in Australia now very soon!– but not in the rest of the world until early next year, so it makes the list. I have read this because I was kindly sent an advance copy and, … it’s AMAZING! (review forthcoming) I’ve heard it described as Buffy meets Jane Austen, and that is absolutely accurate.

Coasting by Ben Karwan
Time to get excited for some emerging #LoveOzYA talent! Karwan won the Australian Sony Young Movellist of the Year Award with this manuscript … I believe this is an ebook-only release, which is good news for international fans of Aussie YA!

Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali (Translated by Penny Hueston)
This book actually came out in Germany in 2012, but 2016 is its English-language debut. I’m kind of amazed at how on-point this book may well be; given the 2015 hubbub around the ethics of “Baby Hitler” … so with that in mind, read this mind-bendingly peculiar blurb; ‘Meet Max—it’s 1936, Bavaria, and he’s still a foetus inside his blonde, blue-eyed mother. Utterly indoctrinated in the Nazi ideology, he will address you, tell you his story until 1945—his destiny as an exceptional being, the prototype of the ‘Lebensborn’ (Fountains of Youth) program, designed to produce perfect specimens of the Aryan race to regenerate the Reich. When Max meets Lukas, a young Polish boy who resembles him but who rebels against the Nazi system, cracks starts to appear in Max’s convictions…’


Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

So, I have not read Ellen and Ivison's debut Lobsters, but I have it on good authority that it's kind of amazing. And when I read the blurb for their second book, I just had to smile; 'Kicked out of ballet academy, Mouse is hating the school ski trip. Jack was sure it’d be filled with danger and girls, but hasn’t a clue about either. That’s until French teen sensation Roland arrives in the resort – and Jack’s a dead ringer for him.' It sounds adorable. 

The Grass is Greener by Loretta Hill
I’ll read anything by Hill because she’s great, and this sounds like more excellence from one of my favourites; ‘a captivating novel about best friends, family and fighting for what you want, against all odds.’

The River House by Janita Cunnington
An Australian family saga, that follows one; ‘family's story through the decades, The River House is a richly nostalgic novel about love and betrayal, personal tragedy and thwarted ambition, illusion and remorse. Above all it is about change, and the slow but relentless march of time.’

Summers With Juliette by Emily Madden
Ok, this has a total Beaches vibe and I am totally semi-prepared for the potential crushing emotions …

Red Carpet Arrangement by Vicki Essex
So, I just discovered Ms Essex this year when I read her brilliant romance ‘Back to the Good Fortune Diner’ and now I’m just going to automatic-buy her. This 2016 release has the tagline “From celebrity bachelor to ... doting dad?” and I am just so there.

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
YA mystery-thriller. Count me in and curious: ‘When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn't come back. Neither Imogene's stepmother nor the police know where he could've gone, but Imogene is convinced he's looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she's gleaned from a lifetime of her father's books to track down a woman she's never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she's carried with her for her entire life.’

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Just when I thought I was over all those end-of-the-world quirky Dystopian books, this one comes along; ‘A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.’ The emphasis on fantasy/magic over science-fiction with this plot has me intrigued.

Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo
I have actually already read this (thank you, NetGalley!) and I loved it! I loved it from the opening line, which goes; ‘The thing about Antarctica that surprises me most? The condoms. They’re absolutely everywhere.’ And then it just gets weirder and more wonderful from there … this book is about ballet and Antarctica, family legacies and learning to fail spectacularly. Accurate when the publisher says it’s; ‘Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, John Corey Whaley, and Libba Bray,’ (which I think is a kind way of saying it’s slightly left-of-centre and wholly original/fabulous!)

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Darn these marketing people who know all my weaknesses! Time-travel and any hint of Clear Eyes, Full Hearts! ‘Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.’

NEW EDITION  
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
I need this in my life … one of my all-time favourite books (I’m not kidding, it’s desert island Top 5 for sure!) my current (signed!) copy is battered and much loved, so I need a pretty new one to keep pristine … and I’ll need to make sure I attend at least one Marchetta event in 2016 to get it signed, naturally :)

FEBRUARY
 
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Larbalestier’s books are all so complex and subversive, and I find that back-cover blurbs can rarely contain the breadth of her stories … but they’ve done pretty well with this one for the chill-factor; ‘What if the most terrifying person you'd ever met was your ten-year old sister? A spine-chilling psychological thriller from one of Australia's finest YA authors.’

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
New book from Kirsty Eagar! New book from Kirsty Eagar! New book from Kirsty Eagar! I have been anticipating this one for a while, and I would share the blurb with you … but this endorsement quote is just too good not to include; "Taking a keen look at modern day intimacy in a hook-up culture, Summer Skin expertly shatters notions of slut shaming and the pull of sexual desire. Realistic, modern and moving, the story of Jess and Mitch is as smart as it is hot. Kirsty Eagar has written the feminist love story that girls have been waiting for." —Clementine Ford

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
Not to give the guy a big head or anything, but a new YA book from Aussie YA superstar Will Kostakis is kinda destined for greatness … I mean, I started weeping just from reading the damn blurb! ‘Isaac, Ryan, Harley and Miles aren't four best friends, they're three guys with the same best friend. When Isaac dies, they have to learn to fill the space he's left in each other's lives. And after so many years of being sidekicks, it's harder being stars than they ever anticipated.’

Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard
Glenda Millard is a literary treasure and news of this book is worth serious celebration … because it’s Glenda Millard writing YA. And this synopsis sounds lyrical and brutal and I want it now, now, now! ‘Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can't say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town. Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.’

Bro by Helen Chebatte
Another #LoveOzYA debut I’m seriously looking forward to, from a really interesting author! ‘Romeo knows the rules. Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates, or even your enemies. But even unwritten rules are made for breaking. Fight Clubs, first loves and family ties are pushed to their limit in Helen Chebatte’s explosive debut novel.’

Yellow by Megan Jacobson
I love a little surrealism in my YA, and this #LoveOzYA debut has it in spades; ‘If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now then it doesn't bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth.’

 
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
This title – so much yes. And then the blurb absolutely hooked me. It’s a contemporary YA set in 1970s Alaska, about a group of teens growing up in “America’s Last Frontier”. It sounds incredible … so much so that I’m willing to make a big call and say this is the international YA book I a MOST excited for in 2016.

First Person Shooter by Cameron Raynes
This is an Aussie YA title from the fabulous and independent, MidnightSun Publishing. Here’s the blurb, and it should be pretty self-explanatory why I’m definitely keen to read this thriller; ‘Jayden lives with his father on the edge of the great Australian ugliness of small towns. He stutters and is addicted to playing video games as a first person shooter. His best friend is Shannon, the girl next door, who knows how to handle a rifle. When Shannon’s mother returns home from a six- year prison sentence, the town waits to see whether her sociopathic stepson will exact revenge for the manslaughter of his father. Will it be left to Jayden to stop him?’


Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
So, this UK-YA book has me intrigued because it's about podcasting - which hasn't really been touched on a lot in YA, even as it's really blown up in the last few years. Here's the blurb; 'Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.'

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
 ‘In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform.’ SO. MUCH. YES!

Away We Go by Emil Ostrovski
KIRKUS - "Intellectual boys' boarding school story meets near-future dystopia in this end-times tale...the imminent apocalypse serves primarily to accelerate the claustrophobic immediacy of boarding school angst. Noah and his friends form loving, believably complex relationships, caroming from suicidal ideation to conspiracy theory to a quest for the sacred in mundane death. Lovers of self-consciously witty nihilist profundities will be thrilled..."

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
I know I say that one of my most-hated forms of book marketing is ‘If you like X and Y, then you’ll love book Z!’ … but then it goes and works on me and I don’t have a leg to stand on. This book has been marketed as; ‘Jane Austen meets X-Men in this gripping and adventure-filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.’

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
Give me YA books about female friendships any day – this one is about Caddy and Rosie, and Caddy’s realisation that ‘downward spirals have a momentum of their own.’

Saving Wonder by Mary Knight
‘Having lost most of his family to coal-mining accidents as a little boy, Curley Hines lives with his grandfather in the Appalachian Mountains of Wonder Gap, Kentucky. Ever since Curley can remember, Papaw has been giving him a word each week to learn and live. Papaw says words are Curley's way out of the holler, even though Curley has no intention of ever leaving.’

MARCH

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza
A lot of buzz about this one in Australia (AHEM. Yes –that’s Melina Marchetta providing an endorsement quote on the cover), and it sounds like for very good reason; ‘Frankie Vega is angry. Just ask the guy whose nose she broke. Or the cop investigating the burglary she witnessed, or her cheating ex-boyfriend or her aunt who's tired of giving second chances... When a kid shows up claiming to be Frankie's half brother, it opens the door to a past she doesn't want to remember. And when that kid goes missing, the only person willing to help is a boy with stupidly blue eyes … and secrets of his own. Frankie's search for the truth might change her life, or cost her everything.’

Yassmin's Story by Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Yassmin Abdel-Magied is one of Australia’s finest minds; she’s a mechanical engineer who has worked on oil rigs, she’s a social activist who has been named Young Australian Muslim of the Year, Young Queenslander of the Year and Young Leader of the Year. She is many things that don’t fit neatly into people’s perceptions of women, let alone young Muslim women, and I’m ridiculously excited to read her memoir and have a chance to better know this ridiculously impressive person.

Lemons in the Chicken Wire by Alison Whittaker
Alison Whittaker is an author to watch. She was named National Indigenous Law Student of the Year by the Federal Government in 2015, and was also awarded an Indigenous Writing Fellowship called Black&write, the latter being one of the best Fellowships for discovering new writing that we have in Australia.  ‘Lemons in the Chicken Wire’ is described as a collection of poems about family, displacement, and love. I have serious trust in Black&Write unearthing spectacular new talent, especially because as someone who is not a huge poetry fan, I count one of their past winners – Ali Cobby Eckermann’s poetry book 'Ruby Moonlight' – as one of my all time favourites!

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub
Ayoub’s brilliant YA debut Hate is Such a Strong Word pretty much guaranteed I’d read anything from this author … her new book sounds like a fairly brilliant Aussie YA slice, about; ‘Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.’ It’s reminding me a little of The Breakfast Club crossed with Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles and I am sooooooooo signing up for that! (also: this cover is one of my favourite of 2016) 

Waer by Meg Caddy
You guys – it’s a debut Aussie YA speculative fiction title from Text Publishing. It’s going to be awesome. ‘When Lowell Sencha finds the strange girl lying as if dead on the riverbank, he is startled to find that she is like them: waer. Human, but able to assume the form of a wolf. The Sencha family’s small community has kept itself sequestered and unnoticed, free from persecution. The arrival of a fellow traveller, and a hunted one at that, threatens their very survival.’

Dreaming the Enemy by David Metzenthen
2016 is the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, so Metzenthen’s new book about Johnny Shoebridge who returns from the fighting in the jungles of Vietnam is a timely one. ‘Pursued by a Viet Cong ghost-fighter called Khan, Johnny makes one last stand - knowing that if he cannot lay this spectre to rest, he will remain a prisoner of war for ever.’ This sounds like a mix of A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, and 2011 Gus Van Sant film ‘Restless’.

Fire Touched Mercy Thompson #9 by Patricia Briggs
The last Mercy Thompson book came out in 2014, which is far too long a wait for one of the best urban fantasy series still going. This new instalment continues to explore tensions between fae and humans, with werewolves all but stuck in the middle – and in ‘Fire Touched’, Mercy and her mate Adam find themselves defying the most powerful werewolf in the country to protect an innocent ….

This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang
From the author of much-talked about 2014 book Falling into Place, this new YA features nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, to uncover the circumstances around a teenager’s disappearance.

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
This debut young adult contemporary deals with mental illness – ‘It’s been two-and-a-half years since her mother dumped Cassie in a mental institution against her will for something Cassie claims she didn't do. Now, at eighteen, Cassie enrolls in college, ready to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.’ Which, just reading that blurb gave me chills and made me think of it as a sort of sequel to Susanna Kaysen’s brilliant Girl, Interrupted.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Quite possibly best title, cover and mash-up reference of 2016? ‘Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare…’ This is the story of a star cheerleader who is raped and falls pregnant, the closing line of the blurb gave me goosebumps; ‘The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.’

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
A new book from Kathi Appelt is always a truly wonderful thing, decribed as; ‘a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.’

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
I adore Federle’s ‘Better Nate Than Ever’ middle-grade series, so I am over the moon excited for his foray into YA. ‘Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.’

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
I’m guaranteed to read a Corinne Duyvis book anyway, but Post Apocalyptic Dystopian sounds especially epic. Just the opening line of the blurb: ‘January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one.’

Marked in Flesh The Others #4 by Anne Bishop
Anne Bishop is one of my favourite urban fantasy writers, hands down. I love this series, I love this author – if I ever get the chance to meet her I will fall down at her feet and then pester her for spoilers.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
This sounds great (‘What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots’) but not gonna lie, a big selling-point of this for me is just the bees in the title … I have a thing about bee-books. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell? Fantastic books … I also like anything with ‘wolves’ in the title (St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Tell the Wolves I’m Home). If anyone wants to come up with a catchy bee/wolves title, I AM SO THERE.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
First off – great typography on the cover. Secondly, this protagonist; ‘… the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes,’ Colour me intrigued!

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
‘A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet …’ I hate Hamlet. He’s a whiny do-nothing, cry-baby, pain-in-the-ass of every high-school student who has to sit through his egotistical soliloquies and witness his walking all over Ophelia who should have just left his ass in the opening act. So I think a retelling is sorely needed to improve upon the something rotten. (P.S. – Macbeth 4 Eva!)

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
The protagonist of this new series is sixteen-year-old Jamie Watson – writer and great-great-grandson of the John Watson (of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ fame). Not gonna lie, I’m mostly reading this to see if it’s as awesome as Ellie Marney’s Every trilogy.

My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter
This middle-grade novel sounds harrowing and spectacular, exploring the religious world of cults through the eyes of a young girl who is rescued from one; ‘Behind the white-washed walls of the compound, life was simple. Follow the rules, “live in the Light,” and all would be well. Zylynn was excited to turn thirteen and begin the work of bringing others into the light, to save them from the liars and the darkness of the outside world. But when she is taken away by a man who claims to be her father, Zylynn is confused and desperate to return to her home.’

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
Medina wrote the brilliant 2013 book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, so I’m definitely looking forward to her next foray into YA. This new one is set during New York’s summer of 1977, when the infamous ‘Son of Sam’ serial killer is on the loose and seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez’s family life is spiralling out of control.

The Way We Roll by Scot Gardner
Happy-dance because: NEW SCOT GARDNER! ‘Will Rushton owns a genuine Rolex but pushes shopping carts for a living. His workmates are Westies, rough and tough boys who won't be messed with. But Julian is curious about Will and his secrets, especially when he finds that Will has dropped out of prestigious St Alfie's to live beneath a bowling alley. An unlikely mateship forms, and when Will's past finally catches up with him, he realises how much he's had to learn about friendship, solidarity, and the true value of family.’

APRIL
 
The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier
‘I hate the label Selective Mutism - as if I choose not to speak, like a child who refuses to eat broccoli. I've used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I'm starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.’ – oh wow, I want this so much!

Special by Georgia Blain
Yet another #LoveOzYA book I keep hearing about … futuristic setting, with this tagline excerpt; ‘I am not Delia Greene. I should not be here. Why haven't they come for me?’

The Special Ones by Em Bailey
I love Em Bailey, and floating-head-cover aside I am really, really looking forward to this book; ‘Esther is one of the Special Ones – four teens who live under his protection in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, but why would they want to? Here, they are safe from toxic modern life, safe from a meaningless existence, safe in their endless work. He watches them every moment of every day, ready to punish them if they forget who they are – all while broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside. Esther knows he will renew her if she stops being Special. And yet she also knows she's a fake. She has no ancient wisdom, no genuine advice to offer her followers. But like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance if she wants to survive long enough to escape.’

The Murder of Mary Russell Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #14 by Laurie R. King
I adore this series, it’s hands-down one of my favourites and just keeps getting better with each new instalment. If you haven’t read any of these books yet, then I suggest you get on it!

Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and E. Eero Johnson
Kirstin Cronn-Mills is the author of The Sky Always Hears Me: And the Hills Don't Mind, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children … which is the main reason I’m going to give this graphic novel (I think?) for younger readers a go.

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
‘When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school.’ Fan-fic? I’m there.

Dirty Dive Bar #1 by Kylie Scott
The spin-off from her brilliant Stage Dive series, about the flipside – about the have-not’s of rock n’ roll. I am so excited for this series, not least because Kylie Scott should be on every romance reader’s automatic-buy list.

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart
Beth Kephart is one of my favourite YA authors, and I’m so excited to have new words from her. This one is about a superstorm that upends Mira Banul’s life and family, it’s described as being ‘about the beauty of nature and the power of family, about finding hope in the wake of tragedy and recovery in the face of overwhelming loss.’

The Incident on the Bridge by Laura McNeal
McNeal’s 2010 YA book Dark Water is fantastic, and pretty much guaranteed that I’d read anything else from the author. This new one is described thus; ‘When Thisbe Locke is last seen standing on the edge of the Coronado Bridge, it looks like there is only one thing to call it. But her sister Ted is not convinced. Despite the witnesses and the police reports and the divers and the fact that she was heartbroken about the way things ended with Clay, Thisbe isn’t the type of person to act so impulsively.’

The Haters by Jesse Andrews
New book from the author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl? I’ll be there, with bells on.  

The Glittering Court The Glittering Court #1 by Richelle Mead
Okay, so I’m more of a vintage Richelle Mead fan. Obsessed with Vampire Academy, adored Georgina Kincaid, and probably one of the few true Dark Swan fans … her more recent stuff though, hasn’t gone over well with me. I’m so far behind Bloodlines because I kept being disappointed. And I heard from people I trust that Age of X wasn’t worth bothering with. Ditto the pretty lack-lustre reviews I’ve read of Soundless. But I will forever hold out hope that the next Richelle Mead book I delve into will be the one that clicks and brings me back into the fanclub fold. The Glittering Court could be that book, the first in ‘a dazzling new fantasy series set in a mix of Elizabethan and frontier worlds.’ Please, please, please let this be the book that gets me back into the Mead fold – because I have missed loving her work.

MAY
One Would Think Deep by Claire Zorn
I’ll read anything Claire Zorn writes, but all I can tell you about her third book is the barest hint of storyline given at CYL’s ‘The Year Ahead’: “It’s 1997 and seventeen-year-old Sam is mourning the sudden loss of his mum …” That’s it. But, honestly? That’s all I need to know this is going to be great.

Nevernight The Nevernight Chronicle #1 by Jay Kristoff
Jay Kristoff has been hitting it out of the park, pretty much from the moment he released his first book in the Lotus War trilogy. In 2015 he and Amie Kaufman had a hit on their hands with Illuminae (which also has a second instalment coming in 2016!!!) and now this new solo series from Kristoff. Are you ready to get excited? BEHOLD: 'In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.' It kinda sounds like The Magnificent Seven meets sci-fi! 

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
This has a little Bridge to Terabithia vibe that I’m totally digging; ‘Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.’

Time Catcher by Cheree Peters
Australian YA is getting quite a bit of fantasy in 2016 – and this from Ford Street sounded fantastic when presented at CYL’s Year Ahead!

Mayday by Karen Harrington
I have a real soft spot for Karen Harrington – having enjoyed her previous middle-grade books, Sure Signs of Crazy and Courage for Beginners. She always explores really quite brutal and big stories with real tenderness and humour, and this new one sounds no different; ‘Wayne Kovok lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice.’

Night Shift Midnight, Texas #3 by Charlaine Harris
I’m not going to get my hopes up too high for this one, after I was so disappointed with Day Shift. I’ll go in hoping that my two favourite characters – Fiji and Bobo – get more page-time, and that Harris just generally focuses more on the relationships of the already established main players, rather than piling so-so secondary characters atop odd mysteries (though I see from this blurb that the vampire Lemuel seems to be the centre of this third book, more’s the pity).

Invisible Fault Lines by Kristen-Paige Madonia
Kristen-Paige Madonia was the author of brilliant 2012 YA novel, Fingerprints of You, so it’s a guarantee I’ll read her new YA novel – especially with an opening line like this; "My father disappeared on a Tuesday that should’ve been like any Tuesday, but eventually became the Tuesday my father disappeared.”

Double Down Lois Lane #2 by Gwenda Bond
I loved, loved, loved the first book in this series – with the second instalment, I’m looking forward to Lois’s online friendship with SmallvilleGuy growing, and her investigative skills revealing more about the seedy underbelly of Metropolis.

JUNE
The Road To Winter by Mark Smith
This is kind of remarkable. Smith’s unsolicited manuscript was picked up from the Text slush pile and within a few weeks, the entire office had read it – and loved it enough to sign Smith up for a three-book deal! This interview on the Margaret River Press blog goes into more detail, but when I read his description of the first book in this series, I got goosebumps; ‘The Road To Winter tells the story of Finn Morrison, a sixteen year old boy surviving alone in a quarantined coastal town after a massive pandemic has wiped out most of the population. All law and order has broken down and wilders, bands of outlaws, roam the countryside. When Rose, an escaped siley – the name given to asylum seekers who have been sold off at public slave auctions – is chased into town by wilders, Finn leads her to safety and they form a wary alliance.’

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale
Did you know that Emily Gale is one of the greatest? Because, FYI – she is. Very little known about this one, other than it is kinda like a love story and the cover is adorable and it’s Emily Gale so we should all be excited. Mmkay?

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
No-brainer when two YA heavy-weights partner up … especially when it’s a Levithan partnership, which has seen the likes of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist produced from his joint-ventures. Yah. This is going to be HUGE!

Forgetting Foster by Dianne Touchell
I’ll follow Touchell anywhere her books take me, and I’m not in the least bit surprised to discover that her new title sounds like an important heart-wrencher: “The powerful story of a young boy whose father develops Alzheimer's disease...” (and I know I’m going to need the tissues, because I absolutely bawled when I watched the Louis Theroux documentary Extreme Love: Dementia last year).

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
I really enjoyed the first instalment of this YA anthology series, My True Love Gave To Me – which was themed around Christmas romances. This new anthology with all new contributing YA writers (but again edited by Perkins) is summer romances – and the likes of Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray and Leigh Bardugo are just some of the authors coming onboard for this second collection. Excited yet? I am!

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence
Something about this just sounds like Paul Zindel to me; ‘Not cool enough, not clever enough, not street enough for anyone to notice me. I was the kid people looked straight through. NOT ANY MORE. NOT SINCE MR ORANGE. Sixteen-year-old Marlon has made his mum a promise - he'll never follow his big brother, Andre, down the wrong path. So far, it's been easy, but when a date ends in tragedy, Marlon finds himself hunted. They're after the mysterious Mr Orange, and they're going to use Marlon to get to him. Marlon's out of choices - can he become the person he never wanted to be, to protect everyone he loves?’

This Savage Song Monsters of Verity #1 by Victoria Schwab
The fantasy world build-up in the blurb for this kinda made my head spin, but it was the closing tagline that made me think there was something in it for me: ‘A unique, fast-paced adventure that looks at the monsters we face every day—including the monster within.

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt
Reinhardt is one of the greatest, so I’ll read anything she writes. Especially this; ‘Described as a "whimsical modern-day comedy of manners” set in LA, in which a teenage boy attempts to deal with life after splitting up with his girlfriend.’


Didn’t I Warn You? A Bad for You Novel #1 by Amber A. Bardan
A lotta buzz about this book from Australian romance author Amber A. Bardan - a lot of buzz in the romance world! With the intriguing tagline "Not everything dangerous is bad" - sign me up! 

JULY
 
Another Night in Mullet Town by Steven Herrick
I love Herrick’s stuff, and the title of this alone is enough to get me onboard!


Black by Fleur Ferris 

So, I didn't read a lot of mystery/crime in 2015 (which you can probably tell by it mostly missing from my Favourites List, which is really not like me!). I can only say it's because I never felt in the right frame-of-mind for that genre in 2015. Which meant I didn't get around to reading an Aussie YA book that got SO MUCH BUZZ! Risk by Fleur Ferris is still on my TBR, and as you can tell from this Most Anticipated List I'm clearly back into craving crime/mysteries for 2016 ... which is a good thing when Ferris' new book Black sounds so deliciously intriguing. 

Also: at CYL's The Year Ahead I learnt that in another life, Ferris had careers as a police officer and a paramedic (!) which is also a little hint as to the deliciously dark subjects she explores in her works. 


Untitled Randa Abdel-Fattah book 
I seriously know nothing about this book, except that it's by one of Australia's best YA writers, Randa Abdel-Fattah. The woman who gave us Does My Head Look Big In This? and Noah's Law and that's enough to hook me. 

The Kept Woman (Will Trent #8) by Karin Slaughter
The most I could find about this instalment was in an Amazon interview with Slaughter, in which she cryptically hints at what we’ve all known was bound to happen; “It's called The Kept Woman and it's been a blast getting back into Will's head—though of course nothing comes easy for him, especially now that Angie is back in town. . .”
AHHHH!!!!

The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich
Sssssshhhhh. I don’t need to know much more about this YA thriller beyond that cover and title. I want to be surprised … and by surprised I mean scared ridiculous.

AUGUST
 
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Okay. Bit of background about this … I *think* this is actually Crowley’s The Howling Boy, but with a new title. And I think that because at CYL’s The Year Ahead her publisher, Pan Macmillan, mentioned that most of this novel takes place in bookstore that I can’t quite remember the exact name of, but has the word Howling in the title. I am not 100% about this though. A little more background can be found on Goodreads: ‘… about two teens who find their way back to each other while working in an old bookstore full of secrets and crushes, love letters and memories, grief and hope,’  but I do believe that 2017 date is for international readers, because according to Pan Mac this is out in Australia in August 2016.

Also, from CYL’s event I took these snapshots of slides showing some excerpts from the book, and the quote at the beginning … proceed to hyperventilate from sheer excitement.


Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall
Hearing about this new title from Black Inc gave me goosebumps; ‘On a remote Australian coast in 1887, a girl shoots her best friend in the hut of a local fisherman. Was it a terrible accident or something more sinister?’ It was based on a true story (with some creative imaginings thrown in to fill in the many gaps in the mystery?) – the author was inspired to investigate when she apparently slept near the grave of the little girl and read the inscription describing the sad incident … This kind of feels like it could be a cross between Gun Alley by Kevin Morgan, and maybe a little Burial Rites by Hannah Kent for the younger set?

SEPTEMBER
 
Promising Azra by Helen Thurloe
Another #LoveOzYA debut – this one pitched as ‘Arranged marriage in Sydney. The impact forced marriages have on both the young men and women.’

The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil
So, Keil is one of the best writing in YA at the moment – combining humour and honesty, far-out plots with grounded characters. Her third book sounds like more brilliance; ‘Meet Sophia: former child prodigy and 17-year-old maths mastermind. She's been having panic attacks ever since she realised that a) high school is almost over, and b) after high school, former child prodigies tend to either cure cancer - or go crazy.’ 

My First Lesson: Stories Inspired by Laurinda by Alice Pung
This sounds really, really special. Alice Pung and her publisher Black Inc have embarked on a literary education project, putting together an anthology of pieces from high school students (who entered their writing in a competition) from around the country reflecting on life lessons learned in high school, inspired by Pung’s YA book Laurinda.


NOVEMBER 


Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys
'Hope is sick of everyone treating her like she’s breakable. Sure, she has cystic fibrosis (basically really bad lungs), but she’s tired of being babied by her mom and her overprotective best friend, Ethan, not to mention worrying about paying for her expensive medication and how she’s going to afford college. And she’s bored with life in her run-down New Orleans suburb. When an invitation arrives from a mysterious group that calls itself the Society, Hope jumps at the chance for some excitement. This could be her ticket out. All she has to do is complete a few dares and she might win some real money.' 
Yes! We need more YA that explores the disabled experience, please! 

TBD release dates:
 
Shaming the Devil by Melina Marchetta
A new Melina Marchetta book is always a thing of pure joy – that this is Marchetta’s  first adult title is particularly exciting (*technically*, because I think ‘The Piper’s Son’ also counts).

Marchetta has blogged a bit about this book, which is a crime-thriller partly set in London and which sounds to me a little like an Eduardo Sacheri-style mystery (which would be *amazing*!). 

I am so excited for this – I think Marchetta’s razor-sharp dialogue, intensely complicated relationships and superb plotting will translate brilliantly to the crime-thriller genre.

Black Panther comic series, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates was rightly on everyone’s Favourite Books of 2015 list for his powerful Between the World and Me (which won the National Book Award, btw) – and right when that book was reaching fever-pitch popularity, Coates went ahead and announced that he (as a long-time comic book lover) would be penning a new Black Panther series. If you happen to still be in the ‘comic books are childish crap’ camp, then this news would have been a total slap in the face that made you re-evaluate everything you clearly don’t know about comics … but if you’ve been a comic fan for a while, you no doubt did like me and burst into tears at the sheer brilliance of this partnership.

Between Us by Clare Atkins
Very little known about this one, other than it’s a YA that centres on asylum seekers and is set in the Northern Territory. I am really excited to see that so many #LoveOzYA authors who had debut’s in 2014/15 are already following-up with their second books – Atkins is no exception, after the brilliance of Nona and Me.

Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford
Clementine Ford is one of the most important writers in Australia, and she should be one of our most celebrated but more often than not she’s blocking and reporting all the vitriol aimed at her by cowardly pond-scum. Because Clementine Ford writes about feminism – in a funny, brutal, honest, necessary, vital and brave way – she writes about feminism. And I am so excited for this non-fiction book – her description of it for Pedestrian TV gave me goosebumps: ‘The title, Fight Like A Girl, is really about the battleground women and girls are on. Part of that is being silenced, part of that is the assault on our bodies, part of that is rape culture. It’s really about what it means to be a woman in a world that is inherently pitted against you.’

The Unforgiven League of the Black Swan #2 by Alyssa Day
I’ve no idea what’s happening with this book. I spent the whole of 2015 waiting for it to be released, but now I think it’s looking to be pushed into 2016 release for clearly behind-the-scenes reasons. In any case, I LOVED the first book in this series – The Cursed – and I’m just kinda desperate to get back into it.

The Illuminae Files #2 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 
Pretty much from the moment I finished first book Illuminae, I wanted the second instalment. This series is one of the most subversive and innovative, and every day that I don't have the second book in my hands is a day too long. Yeah. I'm kinda deep into the obsession. Just a wee bit.