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10 Awesome YA novels from Down Under! Part II

Originally these were all going to be in one big post, but I had way too much to say about Australian and New Zealand YA for it to all fit in one post. (Part one is over here!)

Raw Blue – Kirsty Eagar (Australia)

Raw Blue is contemporary YA, and it’s both beautiful and unabashedly Australian. Carly would do anything to forget a traumatic event that happened two years ago. She’s dropped out of university to spend her days doing the one thing she loves enough that it takes the pain away – surfing. Then she meets Ryan, a fellow surfer, and finds herself gradually opening up to him. But it’s been a while, and Carly isn’t sure whether she can ever let Ryan, or anyone, into her life again. I’m no surfer, but the way Eagar writes about surfing is so vivid you can practically taste the ocean. Carly’s journey is raw, believable and moving as she finds a way to finally move on from the events which hurt her so badly.

Sugar Sugar – Carole Wilkinson (Australia)

It’s 1972, and 17 year old Jackie has already left Australia behind to pursue her dreams of being a world class fashion designer in London. Not that she’s gotten very far yet. One weekend, she packs her portfolio and heads for Paris to convince her favourite designer to mentor her. At least, that’s the plan. What she doesn’t count on is ending up on an adventure which takes her all the way across Europe and into the Middle East. There’s romance! And self discovery! And fascinating foreign settings! If you want to explore Europe but can’t afford a plane ticket at the moment, this book is easily the next best thing. (Also, if Sugar, Sugar sounds like your sort of book, there happens to be this other really fantastic YA travel story you should look out for. It’s coming out in 2012.)

Feeling Sorry for Celia – Jaclyn Moriarty (Australia)

Feeling Sorry for Celia is a novel written entirely in letters*. Elizabeth’s English teacher insists on her class rekindling “the joy of the envelope” by setting up a pen pal project between Elizabeth’s class and an English class at a nearby high school. Elizabeth is not particularly impressed by this idea, but as the letters fly back and forth between Elizabeth and her pen pal Christina, she slowly changes her mind. Elizabeth and Christina’s letters aren’t the only ones in the book either. There are postcards from Elizabeth’s best friend Celia, who has run away from home (again), and notes from Elizabeth’s wacky mother, who has an addiction to capital letters. There’s also The Association of Teenagers, who keep writing to Elizabeth to point out her many failings as a teenager, and The Society of High School Runners Who Aren’t Very Good at Long Distance Running but Would Be if they Just Trained, and many, many others. Oh, and there’s a guy who leaves notes for Elizabeth as well, a guy who seems to have a bit of a crush on her, even if he won’t tell her his identity. Basically, this book is great fun. If you need something quirky and playful that will make you laugh out loud, you should absolutely try it.

The Dreamhunter Duet – Elizabeth Knox (New Zealand)

Um, yeah. I’m cheating, because this is technically two novels. The Dreamhunter Duet is set during the turn of the century in a fantastical version of New Zealand. A border marks the line between the world everyone knows and another world, known as the Place. In the Place, dreamhunters (those who are able to cross the border), can travel and collect dreams. When they return, they can make their fortunes by playing the dreams back to audiences. Cousins Rose and Laura are fifteen, and about to find out whether they qualify as dreamhunters. But when Laura’s famous dreamhunter father disappears, Rose and Laura start to discover many secrets about the Place and dreamhunting, some of which are very dark indeed. If you know New Zealand well, you’ll notice a whole bunch of references to New Zealand places, and even a few famous New Zealand figures. If you don’t know New Zealand well, Knox’s fantasy world is dreamlike and compelling, and it’ll draw you in anyway.

The Changeover – Margaret Mahy (New Zealand)

You knew there had to be at least one nostalgic book in here, right? I seriously think that The Changeover is the reason I ended up writing YA fiction. I first read The Changeover when I was 11 or 12, and I was both terrified and entranced. Laura’s beloved little brother falls victim to a strange supernatural creature who is trying to suck his life away, and the only way Laura can think of to save him is to ask the town witches for help. But saving Jacko turns out to be a far more complicated task than Laura had anticipated, a task that requires Laura’s own magical transformation. I love the way Mahy writes about magic, her beautifully crafted sentences, and her vivid, memorable characters: practical but complex Laura, the thoroughly sinister Carmody Braque, and Sorry Carlisle, who combines supernatural powers with an enigmatic creepiness that Edward Cullen could only dream of.

I had no idea how hard it would be to come up with a list of just ten. Seriously, the wonderful novels I had to leave out are haunting me! If you have a favourite Australian or New Zealand YA read which isn’t on the list, please share!

*If you want the fancy English major word for this, it’s epistolary! You should totally try and throw it into a conversation some time.
Leila Austin

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

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  1. YES YES YES on Raw Blue!!! I cannot say enough good things about this book and feel so lucky to have read it! It's absolutely amazing, and I've made it my personal mission to get as much exposure as possible for it here in the States! It need published everywhere! Thanks so much for highlighting it!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  2. Seconding FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA, and raising you its semi-follow up FINDING CASSIE CRAZY. Jaclyn Moriarty nails the teen voice. And, as a sucker for evocative sensory depiction, you've made me desperate to read RAW BLUE. On the hunt!

  3. I absolutely ADORE Feeling Sorry for Celia! I found it randomly on a library shelf when I was seventeen and I loved it so much that I went out and bought it. Great book! It made me want to go to Australia, haha. :)

  4. Love these posts, Leila. Just added several of these to my TBR list. :)

  5. Thank you so much for putting together this list! I'm been a bit obsessed with Aussie lit lately!

  6. Oooh the Dreamhunter Duet! I read the first one and never managed to find the second one. I need to get on that...

  7. I also loved Feeling Sorry for Celia. I love Jaclyn Moriarty's books. So, thanks for having her on the list. I also recommend Cath Crowley's book A LITTLE WANTING SONG if you haven't yet read it. She's from Australia. It's so beautifully written. I heard about it through the Persnickety Snark blog.

  8. Leila, these posts are GREAT. I'm heading over to Amazon to see what I can download! Thanks!

  9. I'm so in love with Feeling Sorry for Celia. It's perfect. Definitely want to read some more books on this list, especially Raw Blue as I keep hearing wonderful things about it :)

  10. Loving this link-a-poluzza. Thank you.

  11. Feeling Sorry for Celia was the first book I read by Jaclyn Moriarty. I read it years ago and I loved it. Especially the notes from her mom. They were so much fun to read. It was also the first time I'd seen a novel done in a different way. She's a great writer, I like other books of hers, too.


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