My three favourite Australian young adult books make the list for very different reasons. They each elicit powerful emotions from readers, as they present diverse and authentic portrayals of teenagers grappling with personal demons and public concerns as best as they can. Each book is a tiny glimpse into life in 2016, and represent the best examples of Australian YA authors. There are other favs that made other lists (One would think the Deep; A Tangle of Gold; Bro; The Road to Winter; Here’s the Thing; Our Chemical Hearts; The Ocean of the Dead; and mentioned like When Michael Met Mina, My Best Friend is a Goddess, Breathing Under Water, and The Yearbook Committee), so here I would like to acknowledge two more excellent novels, Everything is Changed by Nova Weetman and The Special Ones by Em Bailey. It’s been a stellar year for Australian young adult novels.
The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis (February 2016)
I read about four versions of this book prior to release. I love how complicated it is, and how much we have to work to understand and appreciate the character of Harley. It’s easy to love and sympathise with closeted Ryan and sidelined Miles, and of course Isaac is present through the story, and remembered with a sharpness of regret. I also value the nuances in the adult characters, who could have so easily been one dimensional. It’s a personal, yet universal narrative, and Kostakis deserves all the accolades.
Another Night in Mullet Town by Steven Herrick (May 2016)
Returning to verse, Herrick touches on several timely issues in his usual style, which offers healthy and positive depictions of straight, Australian teenage boys. His ability to create likable larrikins is often under-acknowledged. The themes of development versus community, and privilege are reflected in both the adults and the young men. Best of all is Herrick’s smart, concise story telling ability. He doesn’t waste a word. We are left hopeful for the future of Turon (Mullet town), and for the boys who make it their home.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (September 2016)
Such anticipation for this story, and it did not disappoint. Full of tropes (grieving sibling, fractured families, and lost friends), but is balanced so beautifully by lyrical prose, bittersweet resolutions, and a love story for the ages. Also, books, reading, letters, bookstores, transmigration, and a love of words. It’s rich with literary and pop cultural references, snarky dialogue, and flawed, authentic characters. Will require several re-reads, and should scoop many awards.
Next Monday, come back and read about my top books dealing with mental health issues.