A coming-of-age reading guide
Saltwater Boy by Bradley Christmas
Walker Books Australia
When Dad goes to jail, Matthew and his mum move to the coast, so mum – an artist – thinks she can renovate her late father’s old place to sell it to get them back on their feet. Matthew strikes up a friendship with Old Bill, an Indigenous man who becomes a father figure to him, and teaches him how to find and eat pippis, fish (and to make a few dollars from it). Dad gets out on parole and moves back in with the family, but his anger fractures the newfound peace and everything is once again at stake, and in peril.
The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews
Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.
But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.
The Gaps by Leanne Hall
When sixteen-year-old Yin Mitchell is abducted, the news reverberates through the whole Year Ten class at Balmoral Ladies College. As the hours tick by, the girls know the chance of Yin being found alive is becoming smaller and smaller.
Everyone is affected by Yin’s disappearance—even scholarship student Chloe, who usually stays out of Balmoral dramas, is drawn into the maelstrom. And when she begins to form an uneasy alliance with Natalia, the queen of Year Ten, things get even more complicated.
Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood
Eighteen-year-old Brooke is the kind of friend who not only remembers everyone’s birthdays, but also organises the group present, pays for it, and politely chases others for their share. She’s the helper, the doer, the guarder-of-drinks, the minder-of-bags, the maker-of-spreadsheets. She’s the responsible one who always follows the rules—and she plans to keep it that way during her first year of university.
Her new share house is rules-lite. But ‘no unnecessary drama’ means no fights, tension, or romance between housemates. When one of her housemates turns out to be Jesse, her high-school nemesis, Brooke is nervously confident she can handle it. They’ll simply silently endure living together and stay out of each other’s way. But it turns out Jesse isn’t so easy to ignore…
Social Queue by Kay Kerr
Zoe Kelly is starting a new phase of her life. High school was a mess of bullying and autistic masking that left her burnt out and shut down. Now, with an internship at an online media company—the first step on the road to her dream writing career—she is ready to reinvent herself. But she didn’t count on returning to her awkward and all-too-recent high-school experiences for her first writing assignment.
When her piece, about her non-existent dating life, goes viral, eighteen-year-old Zoe is overwhelmed and more than a little surprised by the response. But, with a deadline and a list of romantic contenders from the past to reconnect with for her piece on dating, she is hoping one of her old sparks will turn into a new flame.
The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough
Allen & Unwin
It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret – a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.
Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell by Tobias Madden
Noah is in love with his online best friend. Which is a huge problem, for the following reasons:
1. His crush has no idea.
2. Noah only knows him as his gaming avatar.
3. There’s zero chance they’ll ever meet in real life.
So, when Noah sees an opportunity to secretly meet his crush, he takes it. Even though he’ll have to join the cast of a local production of Chicago with his self-obsessed mother. Even though he’ll need to lie to his best (and only) friend. And even though he’ll have to sing and dance in front of actual people.
Because love is worth the risk. And, really, what could possibly go wrong?
If Not Us by Mark Smith
Hesse lives a small coastal town, where a coalmine and power station are a part of the scenery, and a part of the ever-growing problem of climate change. His mum is a member of a local environmental group campaigning to close the mine and shut down the power station. It’s a no-brainer, of course, but Hesse is more interested in surfing—and in Fenna, the new exchange student from the Netherlands.
But when someone seems to be trying to derail the campaign, and his friends’ families face losing their jobs, Hesse begins to realise that things are complex.
Even though he’s reluctant to step into the spotlight, with Fenna’s encouragement he decides it’s time to make a stand. Because some things are too important to leave to everyone else. And even one small, nervous voice can make a difference.
When Hesse agrees to speak at a protest meeting he has no idea of the storm he is about to unleash.
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whatley
Allen & Unwin
Peta Lyre is far from typical. The world she lives in isn’t designed for the way her mind works, but when she follows her therapist’s rules for ‘normal’ behaviour, she can almost fit in without attracting attention. When a new girl, Sam, starts at school, Peta’s carefully structured routines start to crack. But on the school ski trip, with romance blooming and a newfound confidence, she starts to wonder if maybe she can have a normal life after all.
When things fall apart, Peta must decide whether all the old rules still matter. Does she want a life less ordinary, or should she keep her rating normal?
Where You Left Us by Rhiannon Wilde
Cinnamon Prince is angry. She’s living at home with her rockstar father after his latest breakdown, and she’s stuck in a town where people have whispered that the Princes aren’t quite right ever since her Great Aunt Sadie vanished without a trace. Not that Cinnamon cares about anyone else’s opinion. Except, she might be really starting to care what her gorgeous co-worker Daisy Leung thinks.
Scarlett Prince is anxious. Most of the time, and also about spending the summer with her sister and barely there dad. She’s holding it together. Just. But when sister’s ex-boyfriend-now-best-friend Will starts helping her search for the truth about Sadie, things get all-the-ways complicated.
Can finding the truth fix their broken family?
Want to hear some fresh coming-of-age stories? On Friday 2 June, six storytellers take to the stage to share fictional works inspired by the everyday realities of growing up in Reality Bites, the next instalment of the Wheeler Centre’s Telling Tales series.
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