Tag Archives: Young Adult Novels

Special Guest Author Interview: Melina Marchetta
Author Interviews
March 9, 2010 posted by Katie

Special Guest Author Interview: Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta is the author of Australian young adult titles Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellico Road and Finnikin of the Rock. March celebrates the release of Melina’s new book, The Piper’s Son. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Melina on the phone during her Australian tour, and Melina answered a few of our questions about The Piper’s Son and writing in general. Just a warning, there may be a few spoilery type moments throughout the interview. Enjoy!

Congratulations on the release of The Piper’s Son on Monday. It was an excellent book, and I enjoyed it immensely.

For readers that haven’t read Saving Francesca, I was impressed by the fact that you could read The Piper’s Son, without feeling lost in all the characters. Was this something important for you during the writing of the book?

MM: Defiantly. I didn’t want– in actual fact, I like the idea of people reading The Piper’s Son and then going ‘oh I’d like to go back and see what they were like when they were young’. The thing that probably was the hardest was making sure I wasn’t writing The Piper’s Son without the Francesca readers in my head and that meant sometimes what I was trying to do was maybe spend a bit more time on, say the Will/Francesca relationship. I had to really make sure that didn’t dominate, so that’s why I kind of sent Will overseas, because I had to remind myself not everyone will have an emotional investment in that relationship. So I think that if people have read it will be great to see what they were like five years later but I certainly didn’t want it [Saving Francesca] to be a pre-requisite.

Tom seems to go through some major changes and developments in this books, starting off from a bad place and moving into one that ultimately seems him thrive with new life. Was it difficult to get this development of the character down or did Tom’s progression come naturally?

MM: It came slowly, but naturally. Like I didn’t put– I suppose to have a really basic understanding of where it’s going to go, as the writer you kind of know he’s going to be okay so you just have to work out how to get him to that point and I let it come naturally. I knew that it was going to be once he was in these two locations, one being Georgie’s house and the other being the Union pub and I knew it was going to be through his correspondence with Tara Finke but I had to make sure that that was paced really nicely rather than rushing into it. What worries me sometimes, and I know I was worried about this in the re-writes, was at what point things were happenings sometimes I thought ‘oh god, Tara doesn’t really come into it properly until after page 100, I wonder if people are going to hang out that long’, things like that. But it was kind of the pace of it was really quite important that I let it come as naturally as I could.

To me, Georgie was almost as an important character in the novel as Tom was. Was Georgie always going to have an important role, or did that develop over the course of writing?

MM: I think so; I can’t remember it being any other way in my head that they were going to get a chapter kind of each. I didn’t want it to be a he said, she said, where you kind of get a different perspective of the same incident so I knew it was just going to be his story one chapter, hers the next but somewhere probably a quarter or three quarters into the novel a lot of the times they were together with all their worlds in the same chapters. She was very important to me as a character. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that when I was writing her she was my age and I felt that probably as someone over forty I had probably something to say about relationships and life in general. I love her as much as I love Tom and I love their relationship as prickly as it is. Sometimes what worries me, especially you could tell me this as a reader closer to Tom’s age, I was worried that when people were in Georgie’s chapter they would want to be in Tom’s chapter. Or else people were in Tom’s chapter they wanted to be in Georgie’s chapter. So did you feel that you had a yearning to be in Tom’s chapters when he wasn’t quite on the scene?

Occasionally, but I also really enjoyed reading inside Georgie’s mind and seeing where she was going. I thought she was quite a highlight of the book. I thought there was quite a good balance there.

MM: Because I think that sometimes people– a friend of mine was telling me that, she was actually my age which was surprising, she said I kept on jumping ahead and going to everyone of the letters between Tara and Tom. But then it made me worried. I thought ‘oh god I hope people don’t push Georgie’s story aside’ because to me, what’s taking place in Georgie’s life is very similar to what’s taking place in Tom’s life. They’re both stuffing up relationships, and they’re both grief stricken and they both don’t know how to get out of a particular rut. But they are 20-so years apart, and sometimes there’s no big difference between people, except when you’re older, there are probably bigger ramifications, than when you’re younger.

The London bombings shocked the world on a global scale. What I found interesting was how you decided to show how the aftermath of these attacks can change a family for better and worse. What influenced your decision to use the London attacks as the background to losing Uncle Jim?

MM: Because I think for me, I didn’t want this novel to be about terrorism at all. I didn’t want it to be, I can’t say I didn’t want it to be political, because I think it is a pretty political novel at times. I didn’t want it to be about terrorism but I needed something, sadly I needed something where there wouldn’t be a body, a possibility where there wouldn’t be a body and I suppose a bombing is a classic example of that. Unless someone goes missing, and if someone goes missing then the readership would have thought then ‘oh were going to find him, Joe at the end’. I kind of needed it to be certain, in the same way with Tom Finch. There was a certainty that these men were dead that they couldn’t bury them. I choose London because, I taught for ten years, most of my closest friends have taught in London so it’s such a normal thing for Australian’s to go over to London and teach. I could have based it on the Madrid bombing or September 11, but I just thought there was a bigger chance that Australian people would be affected by something happening in London. I actually remember when it happened, thankfully people didn’t die. But again my cousins, a girl that went to school with my cousin, was on the bus, her fiancé when it happened. This is someone from our suburb so there’s always this idea when something happens overseas, was there an Australian involved, most times Australian’s are somehow involved because we are such big travellers.

The relationship between Tara and Tom takes an interesting climb through the novel. What would your advice to teenagers in similar situations be?

MM: What kind of similar situations? The fact that they are estranged from each other?

I guess the distance and being apart, yet from what we gather from throughout the novel and learn that their parting wasn’t on the best of terms.

MM: I think that, to me it’s a story about forgiveness. Some people say to me that they would never forgive Tom for what he did. Other people say ‘well he was grief stricken’. But I still think that the way he acted was awful. There was a trust thing that happened there and especially coming from a character like Tara Finke, he’s not really a player and she’s not really a confidant person on so many different levels. But I think for me there was just, ultimately I know what he did was wrong but there was such a respect between them as people and I like the fact that he had to actually work instead of trying. Like I think in the past he had found it so easy to charm people but at this particular case because he didn’t have her there in front of him, he actually had to work at wooing her back. And I think he succeeds. And there are so many times when people around him don’t think he is going to succeed at that, there’s no way that she will forgive him and I like the fact that she does, and it’s not because she’s a pushover it’s because Tom has really worked at it that he has opened himself to her in the same that that she kind of opened herself to him. I suppose it’s about trust between people in the end. I would never know what kind of advice to give anyone, whether they were young or older or my age. I think relationships are so, so tricky and they’re so not black and white, there are blurry moments. The same could be said about Georgie and Sam. A lot of people have said to be there’s no way that Georgie should have ever forgiven Sam. I think well there are a lot of blurry moments in that relationship and I had to kind of give it the conclusion that I felt really worked for the story.

What authors influenced you growing up and in your writing?

MM: When I was growing up I really loved the Anne of Green Gables novels. The one thing that I, I’ve said it so many times, but I feel as if– have you read Anne of Green Gables?

No, I haven’t.

MM: There’s a moment in it where Anne Shirley, great character, where she hits, she’s in the same classroom as Gilbert Blythe and she hit’s him over the head with a slate, which is their kind of writing tool, and I always say, that moment for me, was just, I was just absolutely mesmerised. I thought it was so romantic thought she hated his guts. I would always say that in every one of my novels there is a moment where my character’s metaphorically hit their potential love interests over the head with a slate. It could be that winning an argument or getting the upper hand, an example in say The Piper’s Son could be here’s Tom thinking it will be easy, text messaging Tara saying ‘How’s it going, babe’ and her response, that for me is the hitting someone over the head with a slate. It happens in Saving Francesca when she kind of meets Will and Will’s such a bastard to her. So they’re moments I kind of adopted and I loved that particular one, so I would say she was a major influence.

Any quirky writing rituals or habits?

MM: They’re just not quirky, they’re just rituals. I always, what do I always do? I mean I do write in bed. I love laptops. The best thing about a laptop is writing in bed and I actually think I do my best writing late at night in bed. I always do like a coffee, but I have to have, if I have a coffee while I’m writing I always, always, always have to have a biscuit with it. There’s no such thing as having coffee on its own. Its comfort stuff. To me writing, I have to stop making it feel like work, and it is work at the end of the day. I quite like the cosy-ness of it. And I have to say that in summer that I love a glass of wine while I’m writing.

The Piper’s Son was released in Australia on March 1, 2010.

The Piper’s Son – Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews
March 3, 2010 posted by Katie

The Piper’s Son – Melina Marchetta

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favorite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pup with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he walked away from Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death.

In a year when everything’s broken, Tom realizes that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Thomas Mackee feels as if he has nothing left to live for. His family is split apart; he no longer communicates with his closes friends and almost lost everything if not for the compassion of those friends he cut off. For as much as Tom seems to hate the world, the further we go along and find that Tom is struggling with hating himself. After an event that leaves him in hospital, Tom ends up pleading with his Aunt Georgie to let him stay. A decision that eventually puts Tom on the path to who he really wants to be.

Georgie is pregnant. To the man she broke up with for seven years. Who has a son from another relationship. Georgie and Sam have a careful relationship. What it is neither can really decide or talk about. For Georgie and Sam, silence is normal. Until Tom appears and unintentionally creates a channel for communication, and Georgie and Sam might have a chance to finally work out exactly what they mean to each other.

Francesca and Justine work at the Union pub, the pub where Tom’s flatmates stole $2000 from while they were working there. Tom decides that it is up to him to repay the debt. Francesca and Justine knew Tom through high school, and were cast aside when Tom lost his uncle, yet they never stopped caring. Slowly, Francesca and Justine find that they are getting their Tom back, and will do everything they can to help Tom return to who he used to be.

But Tom doesn’t only have his own life to worry about. His father is a former alcoholic whose drinking problem forced Tom’s mum and sister to relocate to Brisbane. His father abandoned Tom to fend for himself, and never once looked back. His favourite uncle was killed in a terrorist bombing attack, the one person Tom relied on for good, true, honest advice. His sort-of ex-girlfriend that he is still in love with is in Same and has moved on, refusing to communicate in any form.

In a life where everything seems so tangled, will Tom be able to work out, what it is he truly wants before it is too late?

The Piper’s Son is the fifth novel from Australian author Melina Marchetta, and is set five years after the events of Saving Francesca. Yet, it is not necessary to have read Saving Francesca to understand the story, as believe it or not, this is the first Marchetta novel that I have read. That may come as a surprise to some who knows Marchetta’s work, but I now know why Marchetta is regarded as one of the best young adult authors in Australia.

The Piper’s Son was one of the most captivating and engaging books I have read this year. I could not get the characters out of my head, constantly wanting to pick up the book and find out what happens next. Through the perspective of Tom and occasional flashes into the mind of Georgie, I’ve discovered two characters that I care about. Tom is troubled and flawed, needing love and acceptance, even if sometimes he shrugs it off and pretends like nothing can tough him. Georgie is that aunt that you wish you have – caring enough to let you stay when you have nowhere else to go and perceptive enough to know that something is wrong, even if you don’t want to talk about it. From the beginning of the novel where nothing goes right for either Tom or Georgie, to the end where you find that maybe, just maybe they can make their lives work in a positive way; you are there with them, each step and failure along the way. Failure that reminds you that they are just a human as anyone else.

Set in a modern day Sydney with references and mentions to recent events from everything to the Lord of the Rings to the London terrorist attacks, Marchetta has created a world that is gritty and instantly believable and recognisable as a world that we belong to.

I highly recommend this to everyone, no matter the style of novel you like to read.

Publication date: March 2010

Pages: 328

Rating:: ★★★★★

Teaser quote: He went to the sent box praying that somehow the email got rejected. No such luck. Twenty seconds earlier anabelsbrother sent taramarie a message, now with the words cheers, or see ya, or whenever. But signing off with the word, love.

David Inside Out – Lee Bantle
Book Reviews
July 29, 2009 posted by Nikki

David Inside Out – Lee Bantle

My mom can be confusing without even trying. If I tell her I have to something because everyone is doing it, she says, just be yourself. She says people respect that. But what if you send fan mail to romance writers? And get teary-eyes at chick flicks? What if you still get spooked during thunderstorms? These are not things that you want to share with others. Being yourself might make people reject you. People you desperately care about. Being yourself only works if you’re basically cool. Which I’m not.

There’s another problem with mom’s advice. How can you be yourself if you don’t know who that is?

David is pretty sure he’s gay. At least he knows that much about himself. He thinks about guys in sexual ways and he can’t help but perve on his team mates in the showers after practice. But David doesn’t think he should be thinking these things, so he snaps a rubber band around his wrist to snap at every time he has an ‘inappropriate’ thought about a guy.

But then Sean, the guys he’s been crushing on, sort of outs himself to David. Although its clear that Sean has no intention of outing himself to anyone else, David does pretty much anything Sean wants him to – even when its clear that Sean is not going to reciprocate.

Then David gets brave and tells Kick – the girl he’s kind of been seeing. She doesn’t flip out, like he thought he would, but she doesn’t keep the information to herself, like she said she would. Then Sean’s parents ban him from seeing David, and everything goes a little haywire.

Eventually, David grows a pair and takes a stand against Sean’s manipulative, selfish behaviour. He fixes things with Kick, and his other friends, too. While the ending is kind of nice, I wouldn’t go so far to say that this is a feel good novel. Sean – whom I absolutely loathe, by the way – doesn’t really grow at all and appears to learn no lessons whatsoever. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m not of the opinion that the characters need to grow morally in a story to make it good. I’m just saying that Sean was the same frustrating ass at both the beginning and the end of the novel.

By the end, I was convinced that Sean’s simply one of those people that’s going to live a long, lonely and frustrating life. Being gay is something that he’ll never be comfortable with and he’ll continue to manipulate people like David forever. Something deep inside me says I should feel sorry for him, but I disliked him so much that I just couldn’t bring myself to do so.

David, however, is a much more likable character. Although he’s a bit of a pushover for most of the novel, and his naivety and inability to see his relationship with Sean for what it is, is kind of annoying, he grew a pair just at the right place in the story and he restored all my faith in him once more. Like with so many other novels I’ve read lately, I thanked my lucky stars that the novel was narrated through David’s point of view, and not Sean’s. Had it been the other way around, I may not have been able to finish.

I just have one question, for anyone that might have read this novel. Why oh why did David sleep with Kick? I mean, it fits the story I suppose, but I just don’t understand. He didn’t want to. He didn’t even have to. She knew he was gay. WHYYYYYYYY? I was angry with David for following through on this… I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on this scene.

The story flows well, and it’s pretty easy to read. I reckon lots of you out there might like this one.

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Win a Julie Anne Peters Prize Pack!
June 9, 2009 posted by Nikki

Win a Julie Anne Peters Prize Pack!

In celebration of Gay Pride Month, we’re giving yaReaders the chance to win one of two ‘Julie Anne Peters Prize Packs’. Each pack contains an autographed paperback copy of Keeping You A Secret and a hardback copy of Luna.

This contest is open to yaReaders from all around the world. All you have to do is reply to this contest at the bottom and tell us why you think you deserve the prize.

Contest open until June 23, 2009. Happy posting!

Dull Boy – Sarah Cross
Book Reviews
June 8, 2009 posted by Nikki

Dull Boy – Sarah Cross

Superpowers are awesome – unless you actually have them, as Avery does. There’s only so much he can pass off as “adrenaline” before people start to get suspicious. Probably it’s best to lie low so guys in white lab coats don’t come and carry him away, to find out what makes his freakish body tick. Who wants to be vivisected? But flying under the radar is a whole lot harder when you can actually fly. It’s dangerous to be different, so for now he’ll pretend to be normal, unremarkable Avery – a dull boy – anything to keep his secret safe.

It’s not every day you wake up and realise that you can fly, wake up and realise that you’re actually a whole lot more ‘special’ than you first thought you were. Avery isn’t stupid; he knows that he has to hide his powers from the world. Hiding his true self is something Avery becomes an expert at and soon learns that constantly having to cover for yourself can be the most isolating thing in the world.

Enter Cherchette. She’s the keeper of secrets – everyone’s secrets. She knows about Avery, and she wants to help. Suddenly Avery finds himself surrounded by people like him, people who are miraculously gifted in ways similar to his own talents. Suddenly, being special doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. But can Avery trust Cherchette? And what about his new friends? He’s not stupid, he’s seen the superhero movies a thousand times over: revealing one’s secret identity always lands the hero in trouble. Always.

This is one of those novels where I feel like I can’t say too much, or I’ll give the whole thing away. What I can tell you, though, is that Dull Boy has all the elements of a good superhero tale.

A nerdy kid turned superpro? Check!
Superpower? Check!
Secret Identity? Check!
Crazy costume? Check (sort of!)
A secret mission or desire to save the world? Check!

Avery displays all the qualities audiences expect of hero tales. He’s kind and passionate, just like Clark Kent. He harbours a thirst for justice, just like Batman. And deep down he’s just your average, run of the mill American kid, just like Peter Parker. I’m almost certain that readers will be able to relate to Avery on many levels, and I’m even more certain that you’ll become invested in his story. I mean, if someone like Avery can be ‘super’, why can’t someone like you?

A true superhero tale in all its glory! A must read for ‘super’ fans everywhere.

Rating:: ★★★★☆