Tag Archives: teenage fiction

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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IMG_2509The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, paperback novel, 313 pages, published by the Penguin Group in 2012.

Since Hazel was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she has withdrawn from school, her friends and from the world in general. Her parents fuss over her and encourage her along to the Cancer Kids Support Group at a nearby church hall. The group is constantly changing as some of the kids have treatment or pass on. Regular support group goer, Isaac, brings along his friend Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor, for support one evening, and Hazel’s life changes dramatically.

The Fault is Our Stars is a poignant tale of love, death and life. Hazel and Augustus are living with death just over the horizon, and they try to live well, for themselves, each other and their families, though they face many more challenges than the average teenager.

Augustus and Hazel are not average teenagers, and I found them to be more sophisticated in their life views and speech. The obstacles that they have encountered have matured and changed them despite their youth. I liked them. I enjoyed their banter, and the way they were together. I liked Augustus’ terrible driving and his sense of humour, I liked Hazel’s intelligence and composure, her tenacity and her laughter. And I completely understand Hazel’s obsession with the book she has re-read dozens of times, and her intense desire to know what happened after the story ended so abruptly. The characters had taken on life for her, as so many characters do for me. Hazel and Augustus came out of the book as I read, making their journey part of my life too.

Beautifully written, insightful and real, this emotional story will stay will me forever. I laughed and I cried and cried, and had to put the book down for a couple of days before I felt like I could finish it. And all the while I was thinking about Augustus and Hazel, and how I wanted them to grow old together, to laugh and love and be together into a future where I know they can not venture. They did not waste the time they did have together, and this is a reminder to live our days to the full and not to let opportunity slip by.

I think the themes in The Fault in Our Stars may be too overwhelming for most primary school students, so this is a book best left to read in high school or beyond. It is a book that will touch you, that will remind you that life is precious, and that will make you want to hug your kids tight and never let go. Read it and let Hazel and Augustus into your heart.

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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IMG_1710The Maze Runner by James Dashner, paperback novel, 371 pages, first published by Delacorte Press in 2010, this edition published by The Chicken House in 2011.

All that Thomas can remember is his first name. There are brief images from his past life, but no details, no faces, no context. He quickly discovers he is not the only boy to enter the Glade with his memories curiously removed. The Glade is situated in the middle of a vast and complicated stone maze, trapping the boys there, with no idea who sent them and why, or how to escape. The Maze crawls with horrible and deadly creatures, called grievers, by night, and sometimes during the day, preying on the boys, making it even harder to find the solution. They can’t give up though, there must be a way to escape their imprisonment, a way to make it home, even if they can’t remember where or what home is anymore. Things in the Glade have been the same day in, day out for two years, but after Thomas arrives, things begin to change. Is Thomas the cause or is he there to help them? Even Thomas doesn’t have an answer to that yet, but he will give it his all to find out.

James Dashner has created a whole new and terrifying world in The Maze Runner. It is an excellent read most suitable for upper primary and high school students, though adults are sure to enjoy it as well. I found it to be an exciting page-turner that I stayed up late to finish reading, something I don’t do much any more with three young children, but I just couldn’t put it down until I discovered what became of Thomas and the Gladers.

The world of the Gladers developed around me as I read, with the different parts of the Glade becoming clear, and the characters so life-like. The characters were easily envisioned, with Chuck’s constant chatter, Alby’s temper,  Newt’s determination, and Minho’s hope. Thomas is a little different to the other boys, but very likeable, I really wanted him to find the truth and be the one that lead the boys to victory. Theresa, the only girl in the story is a bit of an enigma, but I thought her roughness and pluck were perfectly suited to her role in the story. A wonderful cast of characters, in a truly well told tale of adventure, mystery, danger and excitement.

I bought this book thinking it was a stand-alone novel, so I was very excited to discover that it is just the first book in a series! I will be getting my hands on the sequel as soon as possible 🙂

 

 

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.