Tag Archives: Claire Zorn

The Protected by Claire Zorn

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protectedcoverThe Protected by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 254 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2014.

Life for Hannah is far from normal. It’s only been a year since her sister died, her father was crippled and her mother disappeared into herself. Life was crap for Hannah even before Katie died. She was being severely bullied by the kids at school, harassed, assaulted, cyber-bullied. Having a dead sister has stopped the bullying, but her wounds will take a long time to heal. Her life is screwed up as she paddles the deep waters of grief and guilt and pain. Though her days are dark, some hope seeps into her life when new boy, Josh, takes an interest in her, and she begins to build a rapport with the school counsellor.

I loved Claire Zorn’s previous book, The Sky So Heavy, but I love The Protected even more. It was a heart-rending tale of loss and survival, of guilt and hope. Tears may have been spilt whilst reading… but there were hopeful smiles too. The plot was compelling and very realistic. I read it quickly and thought about it for quite a while after I’d finished.

After the accident, Hannah’s parents were broken. Her father was physically crippled from his injuries, and her mother fell into her grief and forgot to keep living. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but they still had Hannah, and she needed them more than ever. They failed her. I can’t help thinking that Katie was their mother’s favourite, and because she couldn’t move forward, she almost lost both her daughters. What incredibly engulfing pain she must have been in to let Hannah down like this. I feel sad just thinking about it. This was a realistic insight into what the loss of a child can do to the family unit.

Hannah got under my skin, she kept me awake at night, she made me feel her pain, her guilt, her grief, her burden, her loneliness. And then from the depths she made me feel hope. I felt compassion for Hannah, but I also liked her. She was quiet and studious, but she was also full of strength. She was rather distrustful of Josh at first, but I liked the way that he persisted in getting to know her for her, irrespective of what the other kids thought.

I didn’t really like Katie. She seemed superficial, egotistical and selfish, but she probably would have grown past that had she survived her teenage years. Her relationship with Hannah might have had a chance to improve beyond high school, but during their teen years, Katie was pretty mean to Hannah. She was more concerned with her image than with how her sister was coping with school, with the fact that she had no friends, with the intense bullying. How does a sister watch that and not try to help? Hannah always lived in her sister’s shadow, and even in death Katie lingered over her.

The Protected is an incredible book that should be read by all Australian high school students. I thoroughly recommend it. I am excited to see what Claire Zorn produces next!

* The Protected was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.

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The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

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IMG_1572The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 296 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2013.

Life is normal and reasonably predictable in the Blue Mountains region of Australia, where Fin is a fairly typical teenage boy. He rushes to school, hangs out with his mates, tries to impress the girl he likes, argues with his brother and is disappointed by his parents’ divorce. Such worries quickly become trivial when a nuclear winter descends upon Australia after nuclear missiles are launched between nations in the northern hemisphere. Fin and his little brother, Max, find themselves alone in a world turned upside-down overnight. The landscape is frozen and bleak, the situation grim with little cause for hope. Supplies of food and drinking water are limited and there is no electricity, no running water, and no help to be found.

What a stunning debut novel for Claire Zorn. The Sky So Heavy is an apocalyptic novel for young adults, suitable for high school students and up. I enjoy the genre of apocalyptic novels, and this book did not disappoint, though it was tamer than many of the adult novels I have read, making it much more suitable for younger readers. I highly recommend this book for high school students.

The situation in which Fin and Max find themselves is a terrifyingly realistic scenario, so well written, I could almost feel the desolation, the desperation and the fear. Life could progress just like this if nuclear war were to happen, and that makes this read particularly scary. Reading The Sky So Heavy made me want to go out and stock up on canned food and bottled water!

The characters are well developed, allowing the reader to know them, and conjure them in our imaginations. I liked all the characters, though Max was a little whiney, but what twelve year old brother isn’t! And given that all the parental figures in his life are gone and possibly dead, his reaction to his circumstances seems natural. Fin, Noll and Lucy are older than Max, but still they are faced with the same fears, apprehensions, worries, frustrations and uncertainties. Fin has the added burden of being responsible for Max. In a world that adults would struggle to navigate, this group of teenagers show bravery and compassion that would escape many, but also a strong desire to survive. These feelings are well expressed throughout the book, creating a realistic and compelling experience for the reader.

I will be eagerly watching for future novels by Claire Zorn. I think there will be more brilliance to come from this new author to the field of young adult fiction in Australia.

 

* The Sky So Heavy was an honour book for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.