Our Reviews: Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (Writing for Young Adults)

Next Tuesday, the winners of the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards will be announced, in five categories: fiction, poetry, non-fiction, writing for young adults and drama.

Each day this week, we’ll focus on one category, sharing excerpts of our reviewers' responses to the shortlisted titles.

Today, it’s writing for young adults.

Friday Brown, Vikki Wakefield

Reviewed by Billie Tumarkin

If there is one inescapable truth high school teaches you, it’s that, for the most part, books aimed at teenagers aren’t good books. YA literature is flooded with cliches, dodgy grammar, blatant emotional manipulation and an unhealthy dose of fantasy-oriented smut. Vikki Wakefield’s Friday Brown is a reminder that this genre – a genre so fatally aimed at people who have read little other than a textbook all year – can be so much more.

Filled with detailed, delicate prose, Friday Brown explores a community of teenagers who have fled from their home lives and are trying to forge a new home with each other. But there is always a cost to running away.

Read the review in full.

Wildlife, Fiona Wood

Reviewed by Penni Russon

Australians (and New Zealanders) write the best Young Adult fiction and have done so for years. America can keep its Hunger Games. We’ve got a proud tradition of realist YA literature that seers with authenticity and isn’t afraid of plain language around still bizarrely taboo subjects like teen sex and masturbation.

From the moment I started reading Wildlife I knew Wood was carrying on this proud tradition. The story switches between two narrative perspectives. There’s ‘ugly duckling’ long, lanky Sibylla who may or may not be ugly/beautiful, but who has just emerged into public interest after appearing on a billboard in a perfume ad. Interspersed in Sibylla’s first person narrative are journal entries written by a recently bereaved Lou, a character whose backstory follows on from Wood’s previous novel Six Impossible Things, though Wildlife is not strictly a sequel and stands alone.

Read the review in full.

My Life as an Alphabet, Barry Jonsberg

Reviewed by Thuy On

As part of her school assignment, 12-year-old Candice Phee is requested to write a paragraph about herself using each letter of the alphabet, only she’s decided to write several paragraphs – well – entire chapters really, on her life, which together form the structure of this charming YA book.

… As a narrator, Candice is matter-of-fact, engaging and funny – even when she doesn’t mean to be. She is in some ways an earnest, precocious child and yet still naive when it comes to understanding the strange ways of adults, given to talking indirectly in metaphors and allusions instead of the simple truth. Her unpitying, selfless regard and helpful generosity towards others is refreshing as well. Unlike a lot of neurotic characters in YA books who are obsessed with gazing at their own navels, Candice does not wallow in angsty, melodramatic dramas. Her imagination and her quirky lines of thought are endearing; her consideration for others admirable.

Read the review in full.

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