Booklist: From a Land Down Under
Current Mood: silly
Current Song: What Kind of Girl by Girlfriend
I have always loved stories set in Australia. Welcome to my booklist filled with stories from a land down under.
Australian authors, fantastic fantasies:
Magic or Madness Trilogy by Justine Larbalestier
Step through a door in Australia, arrive in New York.
- Magic or Madness
- Magic Lessons
- Magic's Child
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier (a comedy!)
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Guardians of Time by Marianne Curley
Time travel, history, immortality, and chaos.
- The Named
- The Dark
- The Key
I have yet to read Old Magic, Marianne Curley's stand-alone fantasy novel.
The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix
Over the course of seven days, one boy must outsmart seven powerful rulers and collect all seven keys to protect a darkly magical kingdom unlike any you've ever read about before.
- Mister Monday
- Grim Tuesday
- Drowned Wednesday
- Sir Thursday
- Lady Friday
- Superior Saturday
- Lord Sunday
I have not read any of Nix's other books (I know, I know, I have to read the Sabriel novels aka The Old Kingdom sequence) but The Keys to the Kingdom are imaginative, and each new installment is just as good if not better than its predecessor. Read my review of The Keys to the Kingdom series.
Australian authors, dramatic stories:
Just a Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
One summer, two girls who have known of each other for years finally truly get to know each other. Told in dual narrative, switching viewpoints every chapter. Superb storytelling - and I really want to hear those songs. Highly recommended.
Various titles by John Marsden
There was a line in Checkers by John Marsden that shocked me so deeply, I had to read it three times before moving on to the next sentence.
I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Any attempt to summarize these two splendid titles will be insufficient, but I'll try:
I am the Messenger tells the story of a reluctant hero who begins to receive playing cards in the mail, one at a time, with scribbled dates, addresses, and times upon them. This is about taking situations into your own hands, about the sense of right and wrong, about helping (or hurting) others.
The Book Thief follows a young girl after she is adopted by a new family. She learns to read, to write, to love, to run, to fight, to strive, to believe.
Before you think this is Anne of Green Gables (which I also love), let me tell you two important, heavy things: The Book Thief takes place during World War II, and it is narrated by Death.
This book is phenomenal. When I completed it, I knew two things: I wanted to turn back to page 1 and re-read the entire book cover-to-cover again, all 550 glorious pages, and I had a new title to add to my favorite books of all time list, a list which rarely gets an addition.
Australian authors, realistic reads:
Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman
Walking Naked by Alyssa Brugman
Being Bindy by Alyssa Brugman
Finding Grace really struck me. I recommend both Finding Grace and Walking Naked for high schoolers, while Being Bindy is for middle schoolers. Learn more in my Best Read With Vegemite post.
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (also published as On the Jellicoe Road)
I highly recommend all three of these books. They are positively excellent.
Looking for Alibrandi is about a girl's search for self - and for her absentee father. It packs a punch and will inspire readers to consider the concept of cultural identity.
I desperately need to see the film version of Looking for Alibrandi. Not only did the book impress me, but the film features Anthony LaPaglia - a fact I discovered after reading the book and picturing him as the father the entire time I was reading it. I kid you not. Sadly, the film is not available in the USA. Why? WHY?!
At first, Saving Francesca seems to be about a girl who goes to a new school - previously all-boys, now turning co-ed - but it is so much more than that. So much more. There are problems at home, problems she tells no one about.
Jellicoe Road weaves together the past and the present as a teenager tries to put together the puzzle of her family's story.
I look forward to reading Melina Marchetta's book Finnikin of the Rock, which is her first fantasy novel.
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Both of these novels consider cultural heritage and traditions through the eyes of teenage girls trying to find a balance between doing what their parents say and being modern young women. These books are powerful, thoughtful, and ought to be shared and discussed.
Does My Head Look Big in This? is an absolutely fantastic, completely believable book about a girl who decides to wear the hijab full-time in honor of her faith and culture. I simply adored her character, as well as her schoolmates, friends, relatives, and neighbors, each of which was unique in his or her own way.
Ten Things I Hate About Me relates Jamie's frustrations at school, where her classmates don't know her true heritage, and at home, where her strict father's double standards really get on her nerves. Read my review of Ten Things I Hate About Me.
I look forward to reading Randa's other novels:
Where The Streets Had a Name
The Friendship Matchmaker
Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
The author summed up the book perfectly: "Notes is a YA book about underground films, outsider girls, dodgy boys, art happenings and friendship freakouts." Gem sets out to make an underground movie and ends up seeing new sides of her friends, her family members, and herself. The book focuses on the personal side of the filmmaking process rather than the technical side. This is about the girl, not the brand of camera she uses. This book is realistic and comfortable without ever feeling dated or overwrought. It would have felt contemporary ten or fifteen years ago, and it will probably still feel comfortable five or ten years from now.
Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
Riley's father (really, her stepmother) sends her off to a spiritual camp to set her straight. During her seven-day stint at camp, Riley winks, kicks, and screams. Every step of the way, she challenges others to call her on what she's done - and she challenges herself.
Leaving Jetty Road by Rebecca Burton
Three best friends experience the trials and tribulations of Year 12. Nat gets her first job and first serious boyfriend while Lise struggles with painful secrets and personal issues. The third buddy, Sofe, is more Nat's friend than Lise's, but Lise has learned to tolerate her for Nat's sake.
The story is told from two points of view, with Nat and Lise alternating chapters. Sofe's POV is never presented, and while her wild ways never quite force the other two girls apart, they do serve as a means to reveal their different personalities.
Though the girls' tribulations are vastly different, with one having boy troubles and the other having body issues, the core of the story relies on their friendship and tests of loyalty. Over the course of a year, Nat and Lise grow up and grow apart, but ultimately realize what has happened and try to come back together.
The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It (originally titled My Big Birkett) by Lisa Shanahan
With humor akin to Susan Juby's Alice series and characters that stick with you like those from Sarah Dessen's novels, this book is truly glorious. Shanahan balanced funny and serious plotlines very believably, reminding us that life can be sweet one moment and terrible the next - and then sweet again.
Pirouette by Robyn Bavati
This book is The Parent Trap with twin Australian ballerinas! Read my full-length review of the book.
Also check out Dancing in the Dark, Robyn Bavati's first YA novel, in which a young girl secretly attends ballet classes even though she knows her strict, religious parents wouldn't approve.
Black Taxi by James Moloney
This is a fast and funny mystery about a teenager who inherits a choice car from her grandfather upon his incarceration. After a lifetime of petty crimes, he is found guilty of stealing parkas and must go to jail for a while. Rosie gets not only his black Mercedes but also his cell phone. Someone calls her repeatedly, demanding the return of an expensive ring. Rosie doesn't have the jewelry, but she quickly gets caught up in the mystery. Thanks to Tanita for the recommendation!
The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow
When popular Nick needs a place to stay, Rachel's parents volunteer their home - without giving Rachel very much warning and utterly no say in the matter. This story is set in 1989, during Rachel's senior year of high school. Sparrow's novel The Girl Most Likely shows Rachel ten years later, as an adult.
The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Layla, Queen of Hearts by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Patrice Barton
These two precious stories are for younger readers - independent readers 7 and up - as well as families. The short chapters, thoughtful storylines, and cute black-and-white illustrations make the books great for family read-alouds.
In the first book, The Naming of Tishkin Silk, a family deals with the loss of a child. Layla, the best friend of Griffin Silk, has her own story: Layla, Queen of Hearts is a companion piece, rather than a direct sequel.
American authors, Australian ties:
The Steps by Rachel Cohn
I've included this book and its sequel, Two Steps Forward, on many booklists. They are such fun.
I also have to mention my favorite quasi-Aussie author, Scott Westerfeld. Though none of his books to date have been set in Australia, Scott is married to the lovely Justine Larbalestier, and they are happily bi-continental.
Related Post: One-Shot World Tour: Australia: Best Read With Vegemite