Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy

Moth Girls from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

Moth Girls is a page-turning mystery. Three 12 year-old girls are best friends. Two enter a dilapidated house and are never seen again. Five years on, the third friend, Mandy, is still haunted by their disappearance. She decides to find out what really happened.

Told in flashbacks and through multiple perspectives Moth Girls is compelling right to the last page. Classic YA mystery.

Age recommendation: 13+

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

 

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

Illuminae is a thrilling page-turner. A Biotech company attacks the planet of Kerenza resulting in a mass evacuation of civilians. Kady and Ezra, who have just broken up, are among those fleeing in the rescuing ships. As the ships are pursued Kady begins to realise that they are not being told the complete truth. What ensues is a thrilling adventure.

What sets Illuminae apart from other action/ adventure novels is the format of the story with the plot pieced together through email, surveillance reports, messaging transcripts etc. This makes it a little more difficult to read but also more rewarding. This is the first of a series and yet it did not disappoint with completion and a good set up for the next instalment.

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

Age recommendation: 13+
 

Freedom Ride by Sue Lawson

Freedom Ride from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

Set in 1965 rural Australia, Freedom Ride tells the story of Robbie, a fifteen-year-old boy. Robbie has always accepted what was told to him about Aboriginals. For the summer he takes a job at the caravan park working alongside an Aborigine and he begins to question what he believed to be true.

Freedom Ride is an evocative piece of historical fiction detailing the plight of Aborigines in the 1960s. It also explores themes related to the personal cost of silence and the public cost of speaking out.

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

Age recommendation: 12+

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

A Single Stone from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

Meg McKinlay creates a stunning and original world in A Single Stone. Jena is the leader of a group of girls who must harvest mica from deep in the mountain. Mica is pivotal to their survival. Jena discovers information that makes her question the authorities. and the very way they live their lives. A Single Stone is compelling, original and fun. I felt it floundered just a little at the end, or maybe I just wanted it to keep going.

Age recommendation: 12+

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

 

One by Sarah Crossan

One from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

Written in verse One tells the story of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi. As finances get tight Grace and Tippi are forced to attend school for the first time. This opens them up to not only staring, looks of disgust and awkward questions but also to opportunities of friendship.

One is written from Grace’s perspective and dialogue is limited, restricting the points of view that we are privy to. As it’s written in verse each word seems to take on extra gravity and is able to be savoured. Students shouldn’t be intimidated by the verse as it is quite easy to read and follow what is happening.

Age recommendation: 12+

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

My Sister Rosa from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

My Sister Rosa is a psychological thriller. It is both compelling and disturbing. Seventeen-year-old Che just wants a normal life, instead he has a sister, Rosa. Che knows Rosa isn’t normal and he feels the responsibility to protect others from her psychopathic tendencies. This novel raises ethical questions about what makes us who we are, what responsibilities are ours to own, and what lengths we should go to to protect others at the expense of our family.

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

Age recommendation: 14+

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Cloudwish from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

V’an U’oc is a first generation Vietnamese-Australian determined to skate through school without attracting any attention. She makes a wish that Billy Gardiner will notice her and her life begins to change. What raises Cloudwish above typical YA romance novels is the depiction of life as a Vietnamese- Australian teenager. V’an U’oc is living with the pressure of having to succeed, living with parents who don’t understand either English or the culture they find themselves in, and living with a much lower family income than her peers at the elite school that she has a scholarship to. The discussion of these issues are the standout moments of the book.

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

Age recommendation: 12+

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Anna and the Swallow Man from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

Anna and the Swallow Man is a fairytale, in the Grimms style, set in Poland during WWII. Anna’s father attends a meeting and never returns home. Seven-year-old Anna then turns to a man she meets, whom she calls the Swallow Man. Together they traverse the country. The Swallow Man teaches her how to survive and she in turn teaches him about compassion.

The writing in this is poignant and the age recommendation is based not on sex or violence but for the maturity needed to suck the marrow out of this one.

Age recommendation: 15+

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield

Inbetween Days from Michelle McRae on Vimeo.

There is a lethargy in Inbetween Days that’s hard to get past. Jack is seventeen years old. She has quit school, is working at a roadhouse, is living with her sister and having sex with a boy she loves who doesn’t love her. Slowly things change as a neighbour comes back to town. The highlights of the book are the evocative depictions of place and the quirky characters. The plot, however, lagged. All up though I found it fairly depressing and the hope presented at the end was too little too late.

Age recommendation: 14+

Cognitive Challenge
Enjoyability
Overall
Average