Tag Archives: young adult fiction

A cracking thriller for teenage girls

The Industry

by Rose Foster

Harper Collins, 2012

Sixteen year old Kirra Hayward is extremely bright – so bright that she is accelerated into the higher maths classes at school. As a consequence of her perceived ‘bookishness’ and acceleration, she is very lonely.

Completing her homework in the school library one day, she stumbles across an internet site which invites her to crack a code. Kirra does so easily, enters her answer and thinks no more about the ‘crack a code’ website, unaware that she has just changed her whole existence.  For we learn that Kirra is one of very few people in the world who have the ability to decipher the code she unwittingly cracked. She is kidnapped by an organisation called “The Industry” and so begins an exciting  and fast-paced adventure thriller. Kirra initially resists The Industry and refuses to help the evil organisation but is manipulated, tortured and outwitted at every turn. The arrival of another code-breaker, Milo, creates an interesting tension and further complicates the plot.

Rose Foster is an Australian author, and it is refreshing to read about an Australian heroine in a young adult adventure thriller. Whilst the action begins in suburban Australia, it quickly becomes international in flavour adding an air of sophistication and authenticity to the criminal activity.

What I found disappointing is that this is the first book in a three-part series. For me, The Industry could have been a tight, action-packed one book story, however it seems these days publishers are keen to jump on the franchise bandwagon, especially with young adult fiction. It will be interesting to see what Foster can achieve in books two and three. Teenage girls especially will enjoy this book and appreciate seeing a tough, intelligent female protagonist in a gritty thriller.

Recommended for ages 13+



Filed under Girls fiction, Reviews, Young adult

Crikey! A fun and quirky adventure for young teens.


by Carl Hiaasen

Orion Books 2012


This is a quirky, fun read by the very witty Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen always provides books full of adventure interspersed with dry humour, and Chomp is no exception.

Wahoo Cray is our protagonist. He lives among a menagerie of exotic animals because his father Mickey is an animal wrangler by trade. The story begins with a rather unfortunate incident in which Mickey is hit on the head by a dead iguana, making him rather unstable for a while. Wahoo and Mickey’s world is then turned upside down by the arrival of the Expedition Survival reality television show, hosted by the very strange Derek Badger.

Derek Badger (not his real name) has fashioned himself on the late Steve Irwin, complete with mock Australian accent. That is where the comparison ends! Mickey and Wahoo are hired to wrangle the animals on Derek’s latest television adventure, and in typical Derek fashion all hell breaks loose. With clever back stories and an interesting plot that moves at a rapid pace, this is an entertaining read for teens and adults alike.

Recommended for ages 12 +

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Top 10 movie adaptations from children’s books

With the current hype about The Hunger Games movie, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the best movies made from books. As such, I’ve compiled this list of my Top 10 movie adaptations from children’s books. I’ve used very unspecific criteria such as entertainment factor, quality of story-telling, and overall translation from the printed page to the big screen.

Here are my Top 10 movie adaptations from children’s books:

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939 film) based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

This is a standout as far as I’m concerned, though Hollywood’s translation of the flying monkeys terrified me as a child.


2. The Harry Potter movies based on the books by J. K Rowling.

Unlike others, I cannot separate or rank the movies. The casting for the Harry Potter movies remain their greatest strength; I can no longer re-read a Harry Potter book without seeing Daniel Radcliff roaming the halls of Hogwarts.


3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 film) based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

The original movie captures the essence of Dahl’s work, however, no-one can deny the brilliance of Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation.


4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 film) based on the book of the same name by Harper Lee.

I debated whether to include this in the Top 10 children’s list. However, as so many secondary students study Mockingbird as a text and Scout and Jem are children, I believe this adaptation belongs on this list.


5. The Jungle Book (1967 animated film) based on the 1894 book by Rudyard Kipling.

This animation may not be as true to the book as many would like, but Disney films have a way of making great stories accessible to children and that is the genius of the Jungle Book. And who doesn’t love “The Bare Necessities”?


6. Charlotte’s Web (1973 animated film) based on the book by E.B. White.

Whilst I really enjoyed the 2006 film, the original adaptation remains my favourite.


7. Mary Poppins (1964 film) based on the the book series of the same name by P. L. Travers.

Disney knows how to make children’s movies and how to adapt a book to the big screen. This film remains a firm favourite in my house and is trans-generational in its appeal.


8. Bambi (1942 animated film) based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten.

A beautiful animation, with one of the saddest cinematic scenes ever.


9. Oliver Twist (1948 film) based on the novel by Charles Dickens.

The original and the best, with Sir Alec Guinness as Fagin. Classic Dickens, classic movie making.


10. James and the Giant Peach (1996 film) based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl.

Tim Burton’s film-making genius shines in this excellent adaptation.


With nods to: Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and, of course, The Hunger Games.

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Faultless beauty and sorrow in this YA novel

The Fault in our Stars

John Green

Penguin, 2012


There have been many poignant novels written about death, many of which involve a child or a parent with cancer. In The Fault in our Stars, well-known YA author John Green provides us with two teenagers with cancer, amidst a cast of grieving relatives and friends.

Hazel Grace is sixteen and has Stage IV cancer which has metastasised into her lungs. She breathes with the aid of an oxygen tank on wheels, which she has named “Philip”. She has been sent to a support group of other cancer sufferers to deal with her depression, which is where she meets cancer survivor Augustus Waters. He is good-looking and charismatic, and the two make an immediate connection.

Their story becomes a heart-wrenching young love affair, full of poignancy and heartbreak. There is a great deal of dying and cancer-related humour provided by both characters. Written by any other voice, this humour could be classified as distasteful, but coming from Hazel and Augustus the witty comments about cancer and death are funny in an inoffensive yet profound way.

The book is beautifully written, with Green depicting all the pain and suffering of various characters with simple elegance. The Fault in our Stars made me laugh, it made me think and it certainly made me cry. Green has captured the essence of pain, numbness and spirit which accompanies a diagnosis of cancer with insightful clarity; as a cancer survivor, I can attest to this. And any parent’s heart will repeatedly break in the scenes involving Hazel and her parents. Green’s understanding of the pain and perplexity of the cancer sufferer is sublime, which is why there is no fault in this superb novel.

Recommended for ages 14+



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Top 10 books borrowed by boys

We are well past the half-way point of Term 1 and it’s time to look at what the boys are borrowing in the library:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

No surprises here. The imminent movie release has increased interest in this exciting read. I have multiple copies in the collection and still cannot meet the demand. Lots of boys have a reservation on this one too.


2. Once by Morris Gleitzman

This is driven by Year 7 interest. The younger boys have really taken to Gleitzman’s trilogy, and it’s not hard to see why – Felix is such an appealing character which softens the content matter.


3. Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney

The latest in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, these books are always popular.


4. Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden.

I don’t think this book is ever out of the Top 10.


5. The Death Cure by James Dashner

The very brilliant final instalment in the Maze Runner trilogy.


6. Department 19 by Will Hill

This book has been hugely popular since its introduction into the collection last year. Jamie Carpenter’s story has huge appeal for teenage boys, no doubt helped by the inclusion of Frankenstein. (Read my review of Department 19 here).The interest in this franchise will only increase with the release of the next instalment The Rising.

7. The Sleepwalker by Robert Muchamore

Part of the ever popular Cherub series. Cherub needs no promotion – it sells itself through word-of-mouth advertising amongst the boys.


8. Then by Morris Gleitzman

The sequel to Once and possibly the saddest book I’ve ever read.


9. The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

The first book in the Maximum Ride franchise. This series has always been strong and continues to entice new readers. The eighth book, Nevermore, is due out in August. The boys also like the Graphic Novel adaptation of this series.


10. Artemis Fowl: the Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

The fourth book in the Artemis Fowl franchise. This series is eternally popular with the boys and it’s no wonder. Artemis Fowl is a brilliant character: intelligent, witty and calculating. It’s a pity he’s a criminal mastermind.


This list has few surprises, but in some ways I find it a little disappointing. I love the fact that the boys are reading and embracing the wonderful series that exist in the world of Young Adult fiction, however I wish there were more new titles on the list. The Maze Runner and Department 19 were the big hits of 2011 so I can only hope that there will be some equally exciting new releases in 2012.


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A gripping historical tale


by H.M.Castor

Published by Penguin, 2011

VIII is the story of Henry VIII, the Tudor king best known for having six wives and separating from the Roman Catholic Church to create the Church of England.
There have been many books written about the life of this famous monarch, but VIII stands out for a few reasons. Firstly, it is written for young adults. As such, much of the story deals with the life of Henry when he was a young boy, Hal the Duke of York. This insight into Hal the boy and his upbringing teaches us a great deal about the reasons Henry became such a monstrous ruler.
Written in the first person, VIII deliberately provides insight into the mind and thought processes of Henry VIII.Much of the plot revolves around a prophecy Hal hears as a boy, and his lifelong quest to prove the veracity of this prophecy. The novel thus evolves into a tale of mystery and suspense, leaving the reader guessing until the very end.
For history buffs, VIII provides a scintillating journey back to Tudor times with powerful portraits of the main players of the era. Meticulously researched by the author, the reader can have confidence in the historical accuracy of this tale. The tournaments described by Castor actually took place, the objects mentioned are historically correct and many of the conversations worked into the dialogue have come from historical documents.
I still not sure how much I like the adult Henry, but I really adored young Hal, his spirit and bravado. It is clear that Hal’s childhood experiences created the insecure, irrational and power hungry man who became King Henry VIII.
Recommended for ages 13+

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A world without Facebook

The Future of Us

by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Published by Simon and Schuster, 2012

The Future of Us begins in a world without social networking. Set in 1996, teenagers Josh and Emma live in a time when, according to the title page, “less than half of all American high school students had ever even used the Internet”, and of course, Facebook was yet to be invented.

Despite this, they stumble across a glimpse of the future when Emma installs AOL on her new home computer. They mysteriously come across a website called Facebook which provides them with profiles of themselves and their lives in fifteen years’ time.

Not necessarily happy with what they see, Emma and Josh are also perplexed as to why anyone would share both intimate and mundane aspects of their daily lives with the world at large. They soon realise that their slightest action or decision in the present will change their future lives as this is reflected on their Facebook profiles. Their daily teenage lives then become inexorably linked with their future adult lives, and not always successfully.

Of course, much of their future online existence deals with relationships and the intricate web of their high school romances impacts on their future Facebook profiles. Teenage girls in particular will enjoy this real life drama with its romantic web of teen angst woven into a contemporary social network fabric.

Recommended for ages 15+

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