Tag Archives: high school

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach


We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach, paperback novel, 370 pages, published by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd in 2015.

An asteroid appears in the sky, threatening the earth and all of its occupants. The scientists predict that the asteroid will collide with earth in two months. With its imminent arrival, people feel free to leave who they were behind, become someone new, do something different, really live for the first time in their lives. For four high school acquaintances, the end of the world brings changes they couldn’t have predicted, and allows them to escape their labels and the perceptions that go along with them.

Told from the perspectives of four high school students, We All Looked Up is a poignant tale of letting go, finding oneself, love and friendship under adversity. The asteroid’s threat allows these characters to shed their preconceived ideas, their protective shells and all the conventions that come with them. They no longer have to be the jock, the overachiever, the druggie slacker and the outcast “slut”, they can just be Peter, Anita, Andy and Eliza. And they can be friends, or even lovers, without the condemnation of their peers. The end of the world gives them a freedom they would never have experienced otherwise.

I loved We All Looked Up! It was a wonderful commentary of what life could be without judgement and without restrictions. It was well written, emotive and thought provoking. The apocalyptic nature of the story puts life into perspective. It got me thinking about how I would react in that situation, how my family and friends would cope, how society would break down; it’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time. I also spent many hours analysing the decisions of characters, and speculating about their future. It really got under my skin; always a sign of a great read!

We All Looked Up is suitable for middle and upper high school students. It does contain some violence, drug use, sex, and strong language.







Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson


Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson, paperback novel, 279 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

Astrid is everything that Hiro is not. Astrid is bubbly, popular and successful, some might say that she doesn’t know how to fail. She has a passion for the environment and is trying to save the world at every corner. Hiro, on the other hand, is sullen, resentful and disaffected. He is smart, but has no interest in school, and he doesn’t show much enthusiasm for anything, except maybe comics. When they first meet, Astrid is dressed as a lobster, so Hiro doesn’t recognise one of the most popular girls in school, and Astrid doesn’t tell him who she really is.

This contemporary YA romance started with one of the main characters dressed as a lobster. This certainly caught my attention! Astrid is really dedicated to environmental activism, and she puts her whole heart into each project, which is why she finds herself at the shopping centre on a Saturday in her lobster suit.

That lobster outfit allowed Hiro to get to know Astrid a little without the judgement that comes with preconceived perceptions. I think this is an important issue, especially during high school, when everyone seems to have a label. It is hard to step beyond one’s own social circle when so many eyes are watching, and judging. It is sad that Astrid and Hiro felt that they needed to hide their burgeoning relationship, but it is also understandable; teenagers are not known for their compassion and empathy when faced with something or someone that is different. Green Valentine is not just a romance, but a social commentary on the high school experience.

I liked the way this tory was told; the writing was great. I loved all the little footnotes in Astrid’s story. Some of them were quite funny, though I also appreciated the environmental facts. I blew through Green Valentine very quickly and really enjoyed the story. It described and explored high school culture and stereotypes, along with some of the common issues that develop during that time very well. While gardening is a slightly unusual way for teenagers to date, I thought it worked wonderfully and was so sweet. Definitely unique!

Green Valentine is suitable for high school students. While the story does revolve around a romance, it is pretty clean. I’m looking forward to reading more of Lili Wilkinson’s books soon.



The Protected by Claire Zorn


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.

Dangerous Reflections by Shay West


Dangerous Reflections CoverDangerous Reflections by Shay West, e-book, 212 pages, first published in 2011, this edition published by Booktrope in 2014.

Alexis and her mum have been forced to move into her aunt’s guesthouse after her father left them penniless. Now Alex has to begin her freshman year of high school at a new school. Being new, her obsession with history and her old clothes already make her a target for bullies, but she also quickly manages to make an enemy of one of the most popular girls, Catelyn. To complicate her life even further, when Alex looks into the mirror, her reflection shifts to that of another. She finds herself traveling through the mirror into the past to prevent an evil time traveler from changing some important events.

This novel combines fantasy elements with the contemporary struggles of a high school student. For a lot of the story we are faced with Alex’s everyday issues, such as making new friends, having a crush, coping with how she feels about her dad leaving, school, all the things that consume the average teenager. Then Alex gets to travel through the mirror, becoming someone from the past and living as them as they avert a disaster that would alter the course of history.

I enjoyed the dips into history, they were well written and exciting. The time travel sections felt realistic and plausible, though perhaps not entirely historically accurate. I don’t know that Hernan Cortes had an older sister for instance. I’m also curious as to what happened to the people whose body Alex borrowed during these times. Since Alex’s body was cold and still during each trip, they probably didn’t take up residence there, so what happened to them? And what happened upon their return, would they remember what had happened in their absence? These trivial curiosities don’t affect the quality of the story, I’m just naturally inquisitive and like to think outside of the story.

Overall I liked Alex and her friends. However, Alex was a rather whiny and ungrateful character at times. Angry at her mum for selling all their stuff, and moving them to Grand Junction away from her friends, Alex shows little to no understanding of how hard it must be for her mother. Alex wants the right clothes, the latest fashion items and technology, and blames her mother for their lack of funds, which is quite unfair. Alex does grow through the story, and begins to understand her mother’s position a little better by the end. The trips through the mirror help her to mature and become more empathetic to those around her, but she is still a rather egotistical teenager, making her a pretty realistic character! I think teens will be able to relate to her, and to her friends.  Why she would moon over that idiot Beau is beyond me though, he was obviously a self-absorbed prat!

An engaging read, Dangerous Reflections is suitable for upper primary school and high school students. This is the first book in The Adventures of Alexis Davenport trilogy, which is followed by Twisted Reflections and Desperate Reflections.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Live Again by Brittney Mulliner


liveagainebookLive Again by Brittney Mulliner, e-book, 184 pages, published in 2015.

Live Again picks up Aubrey Tate’s story shortly after Begin Again ends. After the terrible fright she had on the night of the winter formal, Aubrey’s life has continued on with increased protection and supervision from her friends and family. Mike is spending a good deal of time worrying about her, as is Carter, while Luke has run a million miles. Aubrey is hurt by Luke’s withdrawal, confused by Carter’s behaviour and overwhelmed with Mike’s constant presence and assertion that she is now his. She is still spending time with Gage, and she even has an evening or two with Tucker, who’s mostly a jerk. Aubrey must deal with her boy issues, and face that she now has a new stalker that wants to hurt her. She is also coping with increased frequency and intensity of dance practices as she will be representing the Dance Academy in competition soon.

Just like the first book in the series, Live Again is well written, detailed and engaging. There is plenty of drama, especially of the boy kind, and some mystery too. It was tantalising wondering who the stalker was, but I was kept guessing right to the end. The ending was much more satisfying than in the first book, this one wrapped up nicely, resolving everything. I thought it was unnecessary to have this story across two books, when it could have easily been one longer book. I was glad that I had Live Again to start reading straight away, otherwise I would have been frustrated at the end of Begin Again, waiting to find out what happens.

I liked the majority of the characters, and thought they were easy to relate to. Through the story the reader gets to know Aubrey quite well, as she is the antagonist of the story, but we learn a little about many of the other characters as well. I liked Aubrey and McKayla, they were pretty decent kids despite their privileged upbringing. I also liked Brandon and Carter, trying to act like responsible adults to protect Aubrey, yet not long out of their teens themselves, and prone to silliness, such as eating competitions. Talia and Alexis sort of blurred together for me, as they were so similar. So did their boyfriends. That didn’t detract from the story, I just had a much better sense of McKayla and Mike. I had mixed feelings about Mike, since he seemed a bit controlling to me, but he played an important role in Aubrey’s life and in the story. One character that I really did want to know more about was Gage, he was rather enigmatic!

As in Begin Again, a few things seemed odd to me, though I have put that down to never having been a rich, beautiful teenager in California! Money, cars, shopping… And a group of teenagers travelling to an island by themselves for the weekend, and all the parents being okay with this? Not to mention Brandon agreeing for Aubrey to go while her stalker is still out there. Yeah, that seems like more freedom than the average teenager might have, but still, it was a nice way to give Aubrey time to get to know some of the other students.

I enjoyed reading this teen drama. Live Again is suitable for middle to upper high school students, and should be read directly after the first book in the series, Begin Again. A third book in this series is due out later this year. I will be looking forward to seeing what trouble Aubrey find herself in next.


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Begin Again by Brittney Mulliner


2-1Begin Again by Brittney Mulliner, e-book, 192 pages, published in 2014.

Aubrey Tate is the new girl in school. She has moved in with her brother on the Californian coast after a traumatic incident in her Chicago home. Her mother packs her off quickly, hoping that starting over will allow her to move on from the past. Aubrey falls on her feet, finding a safe haven with her brother, easy transition to school with her cousin, McKayla, and a new dance studio to attend. Though she is trying to leave some boy troubles behind, she quickly finds herself the object of attention for numerous boys at school.

Begin Again is a teen drama. The story follows Aubrey’s new start living with her brother, Brandon, and how she adjusts to her new school, making friends, meeting boys. The plot is simple, but well written. The setting and characters are described in detail allowing the reader to get to know them. The Page’s house sounds divine, and the view from Brandon’s condo is very refreshing (wish I had a view like that!) And, wow, there are a lot of good looking kids at Aubrey’s school! Everyone is so hot, beautiful, gorgeous, tanned…. do people like this really exist in such numbers? And money, money, everywhere. These kids have way too much money for their ages, especially considering not many of them seem to have a job. There are swanky cars and endless wardrobes, huge parties and intimate dates. I was amused by the complex plans the girls put into action to ask the boys to the winter formal, so much effort, but sweet too. Maybe we do things differently in country Australia, but I don’t remember high school quite like that!

Despite being rich and beautiful, both Aubrey and Mckayla seem somewhat oblivious to their assets, and they don’t use what they have to better themselves. They have insecurities and doubts, and spend too much time at the mall, like many teenagers. Aubrey and McKayla are fairly average teenagers, just with plenty of dough to splash about. I liked them both. Their best friends, Alexis and Talia, were also likable, though I felt like I didn’t get to know them as well. For the most popular girls in school they are far nicer and down to earth than expected. On the other hand, Sydney is pretty mean and catty, mostly out of jealousy and spite. She isn’t a nice person, she is just kind of pathetic. So is Aubrey’s mum. She really lacks parenting skills, and is far more concerned about her own image than she is about her daughter. She only wants reflected glory from Aubrey, no hassles or hiccups. This isn’t fair to Aubrey.

As for the boys in Aubrey’s life, there are enough to make life interesting and complicated. Mike is the protector, always defending Aubrey, Luke is the hottest guy in school, but he’s also obsessed by his surfing, and Gage is the mysterious bad boy that everyone warns Aubrey away from. And then there’s Brandon’s best friend, Carter, the older and off-limits man, who may think of Aubrey as just a little sister. They are very diverse, apart from their attractiveness. I’m intrigued by their histories, especially Gage’s. I would have liked a little more background, though their histories may yet be revealed in the next book. I liked them all in different ways, and there were things about all of them that I disliked too, such as Mike’s control issues, or Luke’s instability.

Cliffhanger, anyone? The book ended rather abruptly in the middle of the story! Nothing was resolved, or completed, it just ended. What??? Okay, so there is a sequel, and I started reading the sequel immediately upon completion of Begin Again, but still, I felt a little cheated at the end. There was a nice dramatic twist, but I wanted more, no, I needed more. I now have to find out what happens in Aubrey’s life, what happens with all the boys, her friends, her brother, and her past. The story really drew me in.

This engaging book is best for middle to upper high school students, especially those keen on realistic teen drama. When you get Begin Again, make sure you have the sequel, Live Again, waiting in the wings, you’ll want it straight away!


*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.