There’s a bumper crop of great reads for the teens and tweens of the family coming at you from Australian publishers right now. I have top notch romance, adventure, fantasy and even self-help texts for young readers on my review pile at the moment, so watch this space if you’re in the market for library and gift ideas to please kids roughly in the 8-16 year old bracket. Here are a few to get the ball rolling, for the younger end of the market.
Quincy Jordan by Jen Storer
Penguin Australia RRP $16.99
Recommended for 10yrs+
Quincy Jordan is the first in the Crystal Bay Girls series – ‘Think family, friends and fashion, romance, tears and laughter. That’s Crystal Bay.’ The books follow the lives of four girls (one takes centre stage in each text) in a fictional NSW coastal town that feels a bit like Byron Bay. Quincy is a private school girl from inner city Sydney, whose perfect life is shattered by the breakdown of her parents’ marriage and her mother’s decision to move to the coast and live with her sister. Quincy suddenly inherits a cousin she’s never met, a new school, new friends and very different lifestyle, which forces her out of her comfort zone and into that most terrifying of teen dilemmas – trying to fit in. Quincy is 14 – just the right age to be a role model for confident readers around 10/11 years old. Romance is handled sensitively and with all the requisite nerves and frustrations one would expect from the age group. Quincy’s family problems are challenging and her relationship with her parents is far from ideal, without moving into the ‘gritty realist’ territory so popular in YA fiction. The writing is lively and fast paced, with age appropriate language and relatable terminology (OMG!). I really liked the feel of this book and look forward to meeting the other girls from Crystal Bay. And how gorgeous is the cover?
That’s What I’m Talking About (Junior Edition) by Shane Crawford
Penguin Australia RRP: $16.99
Recommended for 8yrs+
Shane Crawford debuted with the Hawthorn AFL club in 1993 and went on to become a bit of a legend, both on the field and in the media. His 2010 autobiography gave the behind-the-scenes story of the kid from the tiny town of Finley, NSW, who had a dream to become a pro footy player. Like any high achieving athlete, his career had its highs and lows, but determination and a positive attitude kept him at the top of his game. He’s now released a Junior Edition of the autobiography, which functions as a motivational guide to achieving what you want out of life. His childhood stories and a great collection of photos are interspersed with pages where young readers can jot down their own life goals, and think about ways of achieving them.
The text makes its way through the biggest moments of Crawford’s life (getting drafted to the AFL, losing his father, winning the Brownlow medal) in conversational language. It is set out in short chapters with plenty of break out boxes for quotes, statistics or ‘top 5 tips’, making it an easy read that kids could dip in and out of if they’re not inclined to go cover to cover. Chapter titles like ‘Chasing your dreams’, ‘Loyalty and hard work’ and ‘Giving it my best shot’ are a fair indication of what to expect from this book, which has the potential to work real magic on tween boys (in particular) as they begin to make the decisions that will characterise their teen years.
The Floods (13) The Royal Family by Colin Thompson
Random House Australia RRP: $15.99
Recommended for 9yrs+
Well, what do you get when you mix The Addams Family, Monty Python and Lemony Snickett? A cooky, ooky, genuinely funny tale of an outlandish fantasy world run haphazardly by a dysfunctional family of wizards. I’ve come late to this series so I’m sure I overlooked many an in-joke by starting at the finale, but Book 13, which concludes the series, can be read as a stand alone tale. The quirky writing includes lots of references to the earlier texts and explains the seemingly inexplicable shenanigans of this madcap cast of characters as it goes.
Where to start? Well, The Royal Family sees King Nerlin of Transylvania Waters struggling with a succession plan; even though he has 7 kids to choose from, finding a reliable heir to the throne is proving difficult. Along comes a mysterious stranger with Ultimate Super-Wizard Powers (as opposed to your run-of-the-mill wizard powers) and it’s anyone’s guess who should rightfully rule. The writing swings from gross out humour to surreal, witty observation. You could turn to pretty much any page of this book and find a zinger of a one liner. What’s more, if you turn to the back, you’ll find a colourful collection of glossaries, ridiculous royal recipes and not too subtle suggestions that you might like to read the rest of the series. It’s all very reader-centric, packed with footnotes and asides that intrude on the action and blur the line between author, narrator and reader. The language itself is fairly simple, although the world Thompson creates with it is complicated in the extreme! I’d recommend this to any adult looking for some light reading laughs, but I’m also sure any kid who enjoys looking at the world slightly sideways will get hours of pleasure from this series.
With thanks to the publishers for my review copies.