Showing posts with label Barry Jonsberg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barry Jonsberg. Show all posts

Friday, 17 August 2018

A Song Only I Can Hear

A Song Only I Can Hear by Barry Jonsberg (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781760630836

Reviewed by Khloe Mills

There is a lot to admire and like about A Song Only I Can Hear. The first thing that appealed to me was the cleverness of Barry Jonsberg’s writing. The story is about 13-year-old Rob Fitzgerald, who for the most part seems similar in tone to Adrian Mole. His witty observations certainly are on par with those of Adrian. Here’s Rob on the first page talking about his father: ‘His head is bald, and he has more chins than standard. I sometimes get the urge to put my fingers up his nostrils, such is the resemblance to a bowling ball, although I have resisted this, for obvious reasons’.

I also liked the short punchy chapters which make this ideal for the target audience of younger children. Reluctant readers of any age will also be a fan. The 275 pages aren’t so daunting to tackle when a reader can just nibble a small and tasty piece and read at their own pace.

Very soon into the book Rob falls in love with the new girl at school, Destry Camberwick. Alas, he has some steep hurdles to overcome if he is ever going to have his love reciprocated. To quote from the back cover blurb: He’s a super-shy kid who is prone to panic attacks that include vomiting, difficulty breathing and genuine terror that can last all day.
With some astute life coaching from his wise-cracking and very funny Pop, Rob embarks on a series of challenges that not only make Destry notice him, but which also help him believe in himself.

There is a major twist that explains a lot of things in the book that were hinted at but were not immediately clear. It would be giving away too much of the plot to say more and it would be a disservice to Jonsberg who has crafted the story so that the twist comes near the end.

My only negative comment is that after a while the humour seemed a little artificial. I felt that I was reading Barry Jonsberg’s lines – an award-winning writer at the top of his game - not the genuine lines of a 13-year boy. However, this is a minor issue that may not be a problem for other readers. Even if it is, I don’t think it will stop anyone from enjoying this book.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Game Theory

Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781760290153

Australian Barry Jonsberg has won a swag of literary awards for his numerous books for children so one comes to his latest YA book, sub-titled I Have Your Sister with high hopes of a great read. Notwithstanding Jonsberg’s credits, I was somewhat disappointed but I do give him credit for his storytelling prowess and ability to write.

The book’s protagonist Jamie Delaware is a mathematically-gifted sixteen year old high school student with an obsession with Game Theory – the strategy for prediction based on any given facts. When his older sister Summerlee asks him for numbers to use in Lotto, he gives a random set, not expecting any positive result. The numbers in fact result in Summer winning first prize – of over seven million dollars. Wild and unpredictable, Summer divorces herself from the family and goes on a drug and alcohol-fuelled spree. Sometime later Jamie’s beloved younger sister Phoebe is kidnapped. It is here the story really begins.

The kidnapper makes contact with Jamie via his mobile phone, not just once but numerous times, his/her voice distorted. The police are called in. For me this is where I almost gave up on the book. Jamie is constantly self-analytical; everything has to be pondered and dissected. He gives full descriptions of everything he sees and experiences, including his thoughts on Game Theory. Nothing is left for the reader’s imagination. At one stage Jamie says, ‘You think I’m full of shit... Over-complicating.’ Der, yes. The reason I continued reading is to find out if Phoebe is rescued. And to a lesser extent to find out who the kidnapper is, for Jamie is determined he knows who it is, thanks to Game Theory.

There are readers who like to be told everything, and others who prefer to fill in gaps in the story. For those who like the detailed picture, this is, as the back cover says, ‘a brilliant, page-turning novel from a superb storyteller.’ For the others, be warned. This book is suitable for readers 13+ years.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Pandora Jones: Deception

Pandora Jones: Deception by Barry Jonsberg (Allen &Unwin)
PB RRP$17.99
ISBN 9781743318126
Reviewed by Yvonne Mes

Deception is the second novel in a three part series. In the first novel Admission we learn that a virus has wiped out most of the world's population.  Pandora wakes up disorientated in the grounds of The School where teenage survivors from around the world have been brought together.

Every teenager is encouraged to develop a skill or ability in order to contribute to the new world and everyone is trained in survival skills. Pandora's special skill is rather unique, a kind of sixth sense, which allows her to find lost items but as the novels progresses this develops into something stronger.

Pandora tries to adjust to life within the isolated grounds of The School but  discovers there are many secrets kept from the group of teens by the few surviving adults.

While in Admission Pandora gets close to her team mate Nate, hinting at a developing romance, in Deception the focus shifts to Pandora and her tough ass-kicking team mate Jen. The girls who are opposites in many respects, and without much affection for each other, grudgingly learn to rely on and earn each other's trust with Jen finally sharing some of her personal story. 

As in the previous novel a lot of attention focusses on escape attempts from The School. When they finally do escape, it is certainly a worthy thrill ride, needing perhaps a little suspension of disbelief from the reader.

 Though the first two novels raise plenty of questions that need to be answered,  the novels are a satisfying read. Deception's twist at the end is even bigger than the first novel making it long wait to the final in the series due out in May 2015.

 If you love your dystopian YA combined with strong female characters, and a world where teenagers have to fend for themselves battling their wits and strength against uncertainty and possibly evil adults, you won't be disappointed. This is an easy read that keeps you guessing while staying engaged with the story line and the main characters.

If you read this book recovering from a bad flu, as I did, and with cases of Ebola rising, the start of Admission with its violently dying population and frequent gruesome flashbacks to the pandemic in Deception, the novels can be a little confronting.

Jonsberg is not new to the YA novel and I was glad to see his My Life As An Alphabet receive multiple awards.

Yvonne Mes is a children's writer and illustrator. Her first picture book, Meet Sidney Nolan (Random House) is scheduled for release in October 2015.