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10 Awesome YA novels from Down Under! Part I

Guardian of the Dead – Karen Healey (New Zealand)

This is a uniquely New Zealand urban fantasy with a kick ass main character and plenty of spooky atmosphere. Healey spins an exciting story about Ellie, a boarding school student in Christchurch who discovers that a sinister supernatural creature is after her best friend. While there’s a lot there for a kiwi reader to recognise, Healey’s portrait of New Zealand is very accessible. It's a great introduction to both us crazy kiwi folk and some of our mythology, if you’re looking for one.

This is Shyness – Leanne Hall (Australia)

This is Shyness is fairly genre defiant, but it falls somewhere between urban fantasy and magical realism. Amongst all the regular suburbs, there's a shadowy one called Shyness, a place where the sun set one night only to never rise again. The chapters alternate between two points of view: there's the girl who calls herself Wildgirl, who desperately needs an escape from her everyday life, and goes looking for it in the Diabetic Hotel, where she meets Wolfboy, the other narrator. Wolfboy is a long term resident of Shyness, and he becomes Wildgirl's guide over one long, intense night. This story unfolds like a dream, full of both the familiar and the strange.

The 10pm Question – Kate de Goldi (New Zealand)

12 year old Frankie Parsons is a bird lover and a chronic worrier. Every night at 10pm, he shares his worst worries with Ma, the only person who truly listens. There’s the batteries in the smoke alarm (which could be flat), and the spot on his chest (which could be cancer), and many, many other things too.  But there’s also a worry Frankie can never bring himself to talk to Ma about – Ma herself. The 10pm Question is full of subtle humour, has a gentle but moving plot, and some of my favourite characters in New Zealand fiction to date. 

On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta (Australia)

My god, it was unbelievably difficult to choose just one novel by Melina Marchetta. But after a lot of deliberation - a lot of deliberation - I’m making my final top recommendation On the Jellicoe Road. Even among Marchetta’s books, it’s unique. It’s realism – sort of – but the fierce traditions of the boundary wars between the Jellicoe School boarders, the Townies, and the Cadets make it kind of fantastical at the same time. Taylor is the leader of the boarders. She’s trying to keep on top of the territory wars. She's also trying to deal with the disappearance of her beloved guardian Hannah, who has left only a manuscript to give Taylor clues as to where she has vanished to. And then there’s Jonah Griggs, leader of the Cadets, who also happens to be someone Taylor shares a history with. This is quite possibly the most beautifully written novel in the world. Go read it, if you haven't already!

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (Australia)

And this is quite possibly the other most beautifully written novel in the world. I’m not going to tell you too much about it. It’s narrated by Death, and it follows Liesel, a girl living in Germany during World War II in the height of Nazi book burnings and the persecution of the Jews. But seriously, this isn’t just another World War II story. This is something magical. And yeah. It will probably make you cry.
Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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  1. Oh, The Book Thief! You make me cry and laugh and love life. Awesome!

  2. all of the books sound great--ive only read the book thief, but darn, it blew my mind!
    and ive been wanting to read marchetta forever. hopefully one day ill get a copy of one of her books--im sure shell be just as awesome as people say she is.
    also, guardian of the dead is a novel im dying to read. i mean, it takes place in NEW ZEALAND, and has maori folklore! im sold.

  3. I've only read Jellicoe Road and The Book Thief but, man, those are great. Beautifully written and once you're done reading they're stuck in your brain for a long time.

  4. So much love for The Book Thief!!!

    Hadn't heard of the others, but they sound good, especially The 10 p.m. Question - adding that one to my to-read list!

    Quitting My Day Job

  5. I just got back from Sydney a couple of weeks ago. I brought back a chick lit book by Zoe Foster -- Playing the Field. Also picked up The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda. I haven't read them yet, though.

  6. Jellicoe Road is one of the BEST BOOKS you will ever read.

    Melina Marchetta is brilliant. If I'd made this list I'd probably have included all of her books because they're all so different yet wonderful.

  7. Great post, Leila! I need to read the first three. Thanks for the recs!

    Also, I haven't seen that cover of Jellicoe. It's beautiful. (Though I don't think the ruffled pink skirt is something Taylor would wear...)

  8. Ooooh, I've been meaning to read Jellicoe Road. I think I definitely need to push it up higher on my list!

  9. Great list! I need to get hold of the first three for sure.

  10. I was thinking when I opened this post: Jellicoe and Book Thief have to be on there. If they're not...I'll actually be shocked.
    I wasn't surprised. :P

  11. Definitely adding some of these to my TBR list, and love that 10pm Question cover!

  12. I love the covers for a lot of those.

    JELLICOE ROAD is one of my favorite books of all time. SO PRETTY. Guh. Words fail me.

    Now I must read THE BOOK THIEF.

  13. I love Melina Marchetta, but I haven't read JELLICOE ROAD yet. I will remedy this soon. The others novels sound fascinating as well. Thanks for updating me (a yank) with these down under literary goodies!

  14. It's so great to see some Aussie and NZ books highlighted; thank you so much! I love Melina Marchetta's books, she's a fantastic writer. And Guardian of the Dead sounds amazing.

  15. The Book Thief is one of my top reads of all time, and I just got a copy of This is Shyness. I can't wait to read it! Love this post - huge fan of Aussie YA - hope to see more of it published here in the States!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha


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Item Reviewed: 10 Awesome YA novels from Down Under! Part I Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin