Tag Archives: Australian Teen Fiction

Good Oil – Laura Buzo
Book Reviews
August 3, 2010 posted by Christina

Good Oil – Laura Buzo

“From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost…head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he’s 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?”

The majority of books for teenagers are not written by teenagers. A funny thing happens to people once they leave their teens, the older they get the more they forget what it’s really truly like to be a teenager and this shows in a lot of authors’ writing. This is not the case in Laura Buzo’s Good Oil.

Amelia Hayes has just gotten a job at the supermarket and it doesn’t take long before she gets a crush on her charming (and much older than her) staff trainer, Chris Harvey. While Amelia is trying to find her identity and place in life, Chris is struggling to find the meaning in his life. The story switches perspective between the two as we watch their friendship grow and as Chris changes his view of Amelia from a protégé/little sister type to someone he could consider as a potential girlfriend.

Amelia is in the 10th grade and to her, boys are the brainless creatures who push her around on the school bus and who are otherwise only after one thing. Chris is in his final year at university and battling the girlfriend drought while he still licks his wounds over his previous relationship one year prior. For her the supermarket job is a way of gaining independence, for him though, it’s a dead end.

Amelia is unlike any girl Chris knows and is always amazed at how her mind works, she makes him question his own thoughts and the way he thinks. They exchange letters of things that they hate, while Amelia thinks her mum has been screwed over by feminism, Chris hates the injustice of people getting everything in life while he struggles at the bottom.

It’s not hard to relate to either of these characters, not because it’s written in the first person or because they’re similar to you in age, but because at some point, you were them. It’s what makes this story feel so incredibly real because  you were (or still are) Amelia, you were friends with an Amelia, you were Chris or you were in love with a Chris, these characters are so real they might as well be people you already know who just happen to be in a book.

It goes without saying that this is a well written book. The story is engaging and the dual narration adds depth to the storyline and has so many subtle details that come together to create this image of what being a young adult is really like, not what people think it’s like. Also, it’s the kind of book that makes you feel just a bit smarter for having read it, it really gets you thinking. It contrasts the different lifestyles of families, friends and social classes as well as making you consider the issue of feminism, without making you feel like you’re reading a textbook.

This isn’t your typical love story; it’s honest, bittersweet and insightful with the characters lending you their lives to let you look into your own.

Pages: 283
Publication Date: August 2010
Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “Penny has suggested to me a few times that I might like to get a grip on reality. You know, accept that getting together with Chris is unlikely in the extreme and stop torturing myself. I wish I could. It would make sense.”

Grace – Morris Gleitzman
Book Reviews
August 11, 2009 posted by Nikki

Grace – Morris Gleitzman

In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And talk about happy families, we were bountiful . But it came to pass. And then I started doing sins. And lo, that’s when all our problems began.

I know I’m stating the obvious here, but this is the new book by Morris Gleitzman. Although Morris isn’t technically Australian, he emigrated here when he was young, so I think its safe for us to claim him as our own now, and at the moment I’m feeling kind of proud to do so. For those of you that don’t know who Morris is, I feel the need to ask what kind of rock you’ve been living under for the last, oh, I don’t know, forever? (Especially if you’re Australian). I used to read him when I was young and I’m incredibly happy that I decided to read his new book, Grace. Although I’d argue it’s targeted at an audience that is slightly younger than we usually cater for, I reckon this is the kind of book that all readers will be able to get into.

Meet Grace: daughter, sister, inquisitive student, and completely devoted to God. So devoted to God it’s not even funny. After being inside her head for just a few pages, I realised that this story was going to be loaded with religious values/ideals/blah blah blah – and that is not something I really enjoy reading about. But thankfully, I persisted, and I learned a whole lot from Grace.

When Grace’s father is expelled from their cult/church (referred to by Grace herself as a “special” kind of Christianity) Grace thinks it’s her fault. I mean, she did get off the school bus to check and see if the people in the van they hit were okay, she did ask too many questions, and she did interrupt prayer at school. Maybe if she hadn’t done these things, he’d still be allowed to live with them. After setting out on a mission to find her dad and bring him home, Grace begins to realise that her father’s expulsion really wasn’t her fault. She starts to see that the men of her church, particularly her grandfather, might be manipulating the situation more than she first understood.

Will Grace be able to show her mother the truth, prove her father’s innocence and save her family? Sounds like a helluva burden for such a small kid to carry, but everyone knows that sometimes, adults can be total morons and only the genius of the child mind can save a the day.

If you’re into seriously fanatical religion, then I’d stay away from this book, especially if your breed of fanaticism dances in Christianity’s court. I think the only reason I was able to stomach all the religious fodder in this story was because it totally demonised it. Having said that, I think its safe to admit that I totally loved this book! Grace is an awesome character whose initiative, dedication, and inquisitive mind set her up as a noble heroine worthy of admiration by all. For someone who has spent her entire life in a brainwashed bubble of Christian poo, Grace accepts the truth about her circumstances with the maturity of someone much older than her years. If it were me, I’d be in all kinds of denial. But she was believable in every single way; I never once found myself thinking that her choices or her thoughts were unrealistic.

What really scared me about this story was just how impressionable the human mind can be. The community members that are part of Grace’s church are brainwashed beyond anything I can possibly comprehend. A scenario like that seems like total fiction to me, because I just can’t get my head around how someone (or a whole group of someone’s) can succumb to something like that without question. But the truth is, it’s not fiction. There are cults just like this one functioning in real life. I think a story like this is definitely appropriate for a pre-adolescent (or early adolescent) audience because it demonstrates that sometimes, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t necessarily make it a right, or a good thing. It’s good to ask questions, and knowledge is always, always power.

This is a very easy book to read and I knocked it over in two hours flat (including time allocated for a coffee and toilet break). Morris Gleitzman has totally outdone himself this time and this book (unexpectedly) knocked my freaking socks off! Two extremely enthusiastic yaReads thumbs up for Grace.

Rating:: ★★★★★

Book Reviews
August 2, 2009 posted by Nikki

Beatle Meets Destiny – Gabrielle Williams

There are lots of interesting things about Beatle. His name isn’t really Beatle, for one, but the name ‘Beatle’ is a pretty fitting nickname, since his real name is actually John Lennon – for real. Beatle’s eccentric, astrological crazed mother is a huge fan of the pop group, The Beatles, and I reckon that’s all I need to say about that!

Another interesting thing about Beatle is the fact that he’s a twin, but he’s no ordinary twin. Beatle’s sister, Winsome, was born 45 days after Beatle, making her birthday fall on a completely different day, in a completely different year to Beatle’s. How many twins can say that about themselves?

And then there’s Beatle’s limp. Beatle had a stroke a couple of years ago and his gimp walk is something that is a constant reminder of his ordeal. A stroke sounds like something only old people experience, but Beatle is living proof that old people’s health problems can plague the youthful, too. I reckon all these things together make Beatle one pretty interesting character.

Then, on freaky Friday the 13th, in a remarkable twist of fate, Beatle meets Destiny, and his story gets even more interesting…

Destiny McCartney can’t freaking believe that this Beatle guy’s name is really John Lennon. I mean, come on, how trippy is that? He she is, Destiny McCartney, just minding her own business at the bus stop after a disastrous Friday afternoon, and along comes John Lennon. Of course, he’s not the real John Lennon – the musical genius – but you have to admit, it’s pretty freaky all the same. The irony is certainly not wasted on her, or him, for that matter.

There are lots of interesting things about Destiny, too. She’s the second youngest sibling in a family of nine kids. Although most of her siblings are in their twenties and beyond, a lot of them still live at home. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a house full of so much chaos!

Another interesting thing about Destiny is that she’s always up for a bit of fun. In a bout of boredom one afternoon, Destiny and her friends answer a ‘Stalker Wanted’ advertisement in their local newspaper, thinking that the person who paid for the advertisement is the one who wants a stalker, but then a whole bunch of crazy things start happening to Destiny and her family and she realises that maybe, just maybe, she’s made a huge mistake. What kind of person answers a ‘Stalker Wanted’ advertisement anyway?

The most interesting thing about Beatle and Destiny, though, is not how much they like each other, but how much their lives are already so intertwined, and they have absolutely no idea. Beatle and Destiny’s freak meeting on that uneventful Friday afternoon proves that maybe fate has a little more control over our lives than we really care to admit. Some people are just meant to be.

Beatle Meets Destiny is a belly aching, hilarious read. Destiny and Beatle are such unique characters and their story is like a breath of very fresh air. Set in Melbourne, Australia, Beatle and Destiny’s story flows effortlessly off the page into what felt like was a real-life drama. This is one book that I think would make a rocking, Indie Australian film. I hope someone out there in film-land thinks the same one day.

This is Gabrielle Williams first novel for young adult and I sincerely hope that it is not her last. I’d recommend this book to anyone, of any age, gender, or nationality.

Rating:: ★★★★½