Hello Darling Readers!
Wow! I received a great response to my 'Choose Aussie YA' post, so I've decided to do another one - and, actually, this might become a semi-regular thing.
For this Aussie-readalikes post, I'm riffing off the New York Times young adult bestseller list (for July 5, 2015). I don't really think that Australian readers/teachers/librarians are overly swayed by the NYT-bestseller list, but I needed a launching-off point and even though some of the books listed by the NYT aren't even sold in Australia (don't have territorial rights) thanks to Book Depository and Amazon and globalisation generally, I'm gonna say it's safe to assume that Aussie readers know about and are even reading those books that aren't stocked at their local library or bookshop.
I've only included one John Green book - because I provided readalikes for his Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines in my original post.
And - hey! - if you'd like to throw up a favourite US or UK title that you'd like an Aussie readalike to, feel free to reach out to me in the comments section here, or by twitter.
So, let's dive in and see these great Aussie-YA reading companions to American books!
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella →
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and
Chasing Charlie Duskin by Cath Crowley
Finding Audrey is a teen romance with a twist, as the protagonist suffers from an anxiety disorder. So in choosing readalikes, I was trying to think of books that hang teen romance on bigger issues around mental health, intersected with coming-of-age narrative.
Saving Francesca is kind of the ultimate book for Melina Marchetta's open and honest portrayal of a young girl coping with all the dramas of a new school and a potential crush, along with her crumbling home life as her mother falls deeper and deeper into depression. This book is funny, tender and claws at the hard stuff too - if I could, I would gift it to every teen reader because it's one of the most confronting and complex portrayals of depression that I've ever read. Also: Will Trombal is the nerd-crush of my dreams.
Chasing Charlie Duskin by Cath Crowley is another book that I wouldn't say the romance is the most important aspect of the story, but it being there adds a lightness and tenderness to otherwise harrowing subject matters. It's narrated by two teenage girls - one who is still dealing with the fallout of her mother's sudden death, and the other who is trying to find a way to break out of her small town. I chose this one because, like Audrey, I see Charlie Duskin as a character who needs to overcome in order to be happy - there are no quick fixes to what she's dealing with, but rather small cataclysmic revelations about what she needs to do in her life.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han →
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and
Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
I loved Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before, so I'm really glad that I got to think up some readalikes for this fantastic teen romance!
I think Crowley's Graffiti Moon fits as a readalike because, much like Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky in Han's novel, Lucy and Ed in Graffiti Moon have a rocky history - and both couplings start out antagonistic, but evolve into friendship and then something more. Graffiti Moon is an especially great romance because it's condensed into one night of adventure - there's graffiti artwork and lovelorn poetry, and Cath Crowley's gorgeous prose will illuminate your heart;
I guess love's kind of like a marshmallow in a microwave on high. After it explodes it's still a marshmallow. But, you know, now it's a complicated marshmallow.
Beatle Meets Destiny I chose because it's another truly great teen romance, and there are wonderful vignettes in the novel featuring couples recounting their romantic history (which reminded me of Lara Jean's writing letters to all her past crushes). Williams is another one with heart-stopping, delectable prose;
And she leant forward and kissed him. Right there, in the middle of the bar. Right there, in the middle of his lips.
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han →
Good Oil by Laura Buzo and
Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub
P.S. I Still Love You is of course the second book in Han's duology, but you can take all four books I mention as a readalike to her series.
Good Oil totally hits the mark for exploring a teen girl's first crush - and it's pitch-perfectly Aussie that her crush is on an older guy she works with at Woolworths. I loved Laura Buzo's debut, particularly because it's told from both young girl Amelia's perspective, and the guy she has a crush on - Chris.
There's a big diversity aspect in Jenny Han's series, because Lara Jean is half-Korean and a bit of the book is dedicated to the casual racism she encounters, and how she's trying to fit herself into two different cultures. I like Sarah Ayoub's book as a readalike for this reason, as protagonist Sophie is reconciling her Lebanese heritage with her growing independence. There's also a great romance in here with a half-Lebanese boy.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews →
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil
I suspect it's only a matter of time before Jesse Andrews' 2012 debut makes its way onto Aussie bestseller lists again, as the book has just been adapted into a pretty kick-butt looking film.
For this readalike, I was honing in on the pop-culture/fandom aspects of Andrews' book, with male-perspective and "token female" character (who actually works to subvert a lot of male posturing!). Enter - Melissa Keil's Life in Outer Space. This is a seriously funny and beautiful book about a geek guy whose life is infiltrated by a spitfire of a girl who decides she's going to be part of his world!
Paper Towns by John Green →
Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield,
The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty and Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
By now you've probably seen the Paper Towns movie trailer and vaguely know what the book is about. In choosing these readalikes I was trying to nail down the mystery/enigmatic girl fantasy/teen adventure aspects.
Friday Brown I think is a good readalike for including a band of teenagers who go on a sort-of road-trip to get away from it all. Admittedly, in Wakefield's book they're a band of homeless and runaway teens. Green's characters are searching for paper towns, but Wakefield's are camping out in abandoned ones. I can't help but feel there's even a little bit of Arden in Margo Roth Spiegelman ...
The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie is a chosen readalike for the mystery aspect - and because I think this is a good book for slightly younger readers who maybe haven't yet gotten to the point of reading John Green's YA books.
Notes from the Teenage Underground I love because it's like all Howell's characters are cooler than Green's coolest Margo Roth Spiegelman (trust me on this!). Paper Towns is about teens breaking away from what is expected of them, and coming-of-age involves questioning the lives before them ... Howell asks similar questions, but with a more enigmatic cast.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs →
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Gah! I thought this was going to be so hard to find a readalike to Ransom Riggs' series that's pretty much in a genre of its own ... but okay, if you want mind-bending, thought-provoking books that defy classification, then you can't really go past the genius of Shaun Tan.
If you've never picked up one of Tan's books before then I envy you - because you're about to go on a journey, and you'll never see the world the same way again. Have fun!
He is an Australian treasure.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart →
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta and
Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty
I loved We Were Liars (I love E. Lockhart in general, FYI!) and these two readalikes came very easily when I tried to think about books with ghosts and mysteries at their heart ...
On the Jellicoe Road is just gorgeous - it's a heartbreaking book told in forwards-backwards narrative that the reader gets to piece together along with protagonist Taylor Markham - in much the same way readers have to figure out Cadence ‘Cady’ Sinclair Eastman's tragic story with truth/fiction, memory and fantasy. But Marchetta has Lockhart beat when it comes to the romance stakes - few teen characters can compete against Jonah Griggs.
FYI: this book is being adapted into a movie, so read it now to know what all the buzz is going to be about!
Dreaming of Amelia is a likewise beautiful novel in which readers will have to sort out fact from fiction. And where Lockhart presents the prestigious and moneyed Sinclair family, Moriarty writes about the moneyed Ashbury school kids - great explorations into wealth and status in both books.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie →
Us Mob Walawurru by David Spillman & Lisa Wilyuka,
Calypso Summer by Jared Thomas and
Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson
Sherman Alexie is brilliant, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is genius. None of the readalikes I came up with have the illustrations similar to Alexie's book, but I wanted to instead focus on feelings of not fitting into one's culture and of course, wider themes of racism and diversity.
Us Mob Walawurru is set in the 1960s, and takes place on a cattle station and ‘silver bullet' school - I can see parallels between these settings, and The Rez where Alexie's book is set.
Calypso Summer is at once funny and heartfelt, looking at a young Nukunu man who takes on a Rastafarian identity, because he doesn't really know his own heritage. There's similar push-pull explorations of culture and identity in this book as in Sherman Alexie's, and Thomas's Calypso is an equally great character to follow as he tries to figure out what it means to be a man.
I don't want to say that Grace Beside Me is the "girl version" of anything, but certainly Sue McPherson throws up questions of growing up a young woman without a mother, in her award-winning YA debut that's set during the year of Kevin Rudd's National Apology.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell →
Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell,
and Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson
I'm not the biggest fan of Eleanor and Park (*shock-horror!* I know, I know - I just prefer Fangirl and Attachments so much more) but I can appreciate that Rowell wrote a darn good "boy meets girl" spin of a story. For that reason, I've chosen on readalikes that concentrate on dynamic duos.
Everything Beautiful is superb - Riley Rose is our protagonist, and like Eleanor she's a plus-sized girl. Her co-conspirator is a wheelchair-bound boy called Dylan, and together they're taking on a Jesus Camp. This novel broke my heart and put it back together again so many times, I can't recommend it enough - for telling a truly beautiful story of a unique friendship, and featuring two very different and fantastic protagonists in Riley and Dylan.
Joel & Cat Set the Story Straight is laugh-out-loud awesome, and I love it for the antagonistic relationship that evolves over the course of this hilarious novel. The same way Eleanor and Park meet because they're kind of forced to share a bus-seat, Joel and Cat are forced to sit side-by-side in English class, which is how their rollercoaster ride gets started ...
Ok, so Lili Wilkinson's Green Valentine isn't out until August but I'm so desperate for it (THAT COVER!), and I couldn't get it out of my head as an Eleanor and Park readalike. I like the opposites-attract chemistry and book promises; "Astrid Katy Smythe is beautiful, smart and popular. She's a straight-A student and a committed environmental activist. She's basically perfect. Hiro is the opposite of perfect. He's slouchy, rude and resentful. Despite his brains, he doesn't see the point of school."
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard →
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta and
The Sending by Isobelle Carmody
Confession (again!) I didn't like Red Queen - I got about 20 pages in and had to give up. It's just not my cup of tea. You know what is my cup of High Fantasy tea? - Melina Marchetta's Lumatere Chronicles series, and Isobelle Carmody's The Obernewtyn Chronicles.
If you want incredible and incredibly complex female characters, adventure, violence and deeper-meanings to the fantasy then you can't go past these two incredible Aussie series. Marchetta's is a now completed trilogy (Quintana being the final book), but Carmody's is still going, with book number seven - called (get ready for this!) The Red Queen - due out later this year.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher →
Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle,
The Protected by Claire Zorn and
Cracked Clare Strahan
So Jay Asher's 2007 book is still a NYT bestseller. Ooooookay. I didn't like it that much anyway - but in finding readalikes I was looking for books about kids dealing with the death of someone close to them, and raising mental health awareness.
Trinity Doyle's Pieces of Sky is about protagonist Lucy, who is coming to grips with her brother's recent death. There's a small mystery in there because Lucy and her family are not sure if Cam's death was accident or suicide, and like the tapes left behind in Jay Asher's book, Lucy follows a trail of mysterious text messages to illuminate Cam's past ...
Claire Zorn's The Protected is about Hannah accepting her sister's sudden and tragic death - but to do so Hannah, and readers, have to go back to see how complicated their sibling relationship was. There's a mystery in this book too that's a slow burn and speaks to wider issues around bullying. So powerful, highly recommend.
And Cracked by Clare Strahan is a really stunning debut novel, examining a fifteen-year-old girl's increasing troubles with her school and home life, until she gets to a point where she's just "cracked into a pile of shards, beyond repair."
With all three of these books there are explorations into grief, guilt and mental health - and I prefer all three of these Australian books to Jay Asher's, for giving more autonomy to the teen characters who are then able to take control of their lives in the wake of tragedy.