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Monday, July 27, 2015

Choose Aussie YA - #LoveOzYA readalikes part FOUR

Hello Darling Readers!

Yes! It’s that time when I do another ‘readalikes’ post – yay! (or are you sick of them by now? … Who cares?! I’m having fun!)

This readalikes has a “nonfiction” theme, because YA-nonfiction is having a bit of a moment in Australia and I, for one, am thrilled about it! I was inspired to this topic, partly because Clare Wright got me thinking about it when she gave a talk about women erased from Australian history at Reading Matters, and because I just finished reading Abdi Aden’s memoir ‘Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man’ and my first thought was “this should be required reading in all high-schools!”

So, onwards – !

Wonder by R J Palacio 
Ugly (younger readers) by Robert Hoge

Robert Hoge’s 2013 ‘Ugly: My Memoir’ is being released for a younger audience and I think this is a smashing idea and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! I’ve been following Hoge’s career for a while now, and I just love his writing and particularly his commentary around physical-diversity and how important it is to embrace “ugly” in this beauty-obsessed world of ours. Here are two pieces of his that I highly recommend you read: one from The Drum and his Australian story

I also think it’s very clever marketing that his book is orientated to riff off of RJ Palacio’s ‘Wonder’ – which has been a runaway bestseller, and while not technically YA, I know all age-groups have embraced this book (you know you’ve written across generations when they bring out an “adult” cover version). I really hope that an Australian Writers Festival cottons onto the idea to bring RJ Palacio our here and have her and Robert Hoge in a Q&A together – because both their books are sparking much-needed conversations around outward/inner beauty … and because I kinda love that while Palacio just wrote about it, Robert Hoge has lived it and I think their insights into how readers have embraced their messages would be fascinating.

And I’m also a little bit thrilled that Robert Hoge will be at ‘Write Around The Murray’ in September, because I’m also on the schools program, and I am definitely going to sneak into a few of his sessions!

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 

Abdi Aden’s book blew me away. I read it over the weekend and was just alternating between snot-nosed crying and fist-pumping joy for this man’s journey. It’s about how; ‘Abdi's world fell apart when he was only fifteen and Somalia's vicious civil war hit Mogadishu.’ It tells of his time spent in a refugee camp in Kenya, and then his decision to go back to Mogadishu in a desperate search for his family … all the way through to his arriving in Australia and the even more incredible journey of resettlement that followed. I read this and my overwhelming wish was to put this book in the hands of every Australian high school student by making it required-reading in schools (and, - hey! If you want to join me in appealing to VCAA, here’s the link!)

I think NoViolet Bulawayo’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted book is a fitting readalike (even though it’s fiction) because both she and Aden deal so beautifully and heart-breakingly with the pain of leaving your life behind. And because both books are focused on the coming-of-age aspects of resettlement, in many ways (a majority of ‘Shining’ deals with Aden’s life from ages 15 to 17).

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue by Susan Casey  

Like I mentioned before, I heard Clare Wright speaking at Readings Matters this year and was really excited to read her YA-version of her Stella Prize-winning nonfiction book ‘The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka’. Her book is quite radical, because it’s butting-up against long-held assumptions about women’s roles in a major Australian historical event – the Eureka Stockade. And, actually, when you put this book in kids’ hands and start them thinking about the wrong history of Eureka, it’s going to send them down the rabbit-hole to think more critically about how women are wrongly portrayed throughout history, and beyond … isn’t that exciting?

So I think Susan Casey’s ‘Women Heroes of the American Revolution’ is an interesting readalike for obvious reasons – because she’s likewise taken an iconic historic event and is asking people to think beyond the oft-studied heroes and landmarks. The difference perhaps being that the women Casey is writing about are somewhat known in American history, just not as well as they should be – whereas Wright’s book is unearthing history that has never been studied, let alone in Australian schools.

Binge by Tyler Oakley 

This one’s a bit of a cheat because both books aren’t out yet, so I can only speculate wildly on their readalike-ness (?)

I have heard David Burton speak though, and read a chapter-sampler of his forthcoming ‘How To Be Happy’ (releasing August 26) and I was so impressed that I booked to attend several of his sessions at Brisbane Writers Festival – which I’m super excited about! Because Burton’s memoir is just what Aussie YA needs right now – a candid exploration into ‘Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion’. There’s been a Guardian article floating around lately ‘Falling Out of Love with YA’ in which the young author has totally legitimate concerns about how so many YA books feel same-same and not too challenging … which, I think, doesn’t translate to YA turning sub-par but rather readers craving more complex stories that aren’t currently being pushed to the forefront of the readership. I think David Burton’s memoir is going to be the book that hits that spot this year.

I like YouTube-star-turned-author Tyler Oakley’s ‘Binge’ as a readalike (releasing October 2015) because he’s one of the (alarmingly) few diverse voices coming out of the vlogging world at the moment – and he is an LGBT+ advocate, so I can only hope that his book will touch on some issues around love, sex and confusion too.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen 
Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford

I am so far behind in my book reviews this year – suffice to say, I have read ‘Bad Behaviour’, I loved ‘Bad Behaviour’ and I’m very excited that ‘Bad Behaviour’ has been optioned for TV!

So Kaysen’s ‘Girl, Interrupted’ (which was famously adapted into an amazing film of the same name with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie) might seem like a pretty out-there readalike. After all, ‘Bad Behaviour’ is a memoir about Starford’s teen years at an elite country boarding school with a strong focus on the bullying that occurred there, and ‘Girl, Interrupted’ is a memoir about Kaysen’s life from age 18 living with a bunch of fellow teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s. I’m not suggesting that Starford’s boarding school was exactly like a psychiatric ward … but, actually, kinda yeah.

I also like these as readalikes for the observations around all-female company, and how that can sometimes devolve into anarchy. Neither book may be strictly YA – but I think teens should definitely make their way to them.


  1. Love Bad Behaviour as a read alike for Girl, Interrupted. Definitely these should be read by YA, examples of where the line blurs for fiction in this area. Thanks for your lists, as usual, inspirational.

    1. Have you heard that 'Bad Behaviour' is coming as an ABC adaptation? Should be fantastic :)

      Thank you, I'm glad you like the list!


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