Showing posts with label coming of age. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coming of age. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 October 2018

His Name was Walter

His Name was Walter by Emily Rodda (Angus and Robertson/Harper Collins) PB RRP $22.99 ISBN 978146071203

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This middle grade fiction book is about a group of kids in a haunted house — what could be better? The reader is led from a story into another story, which at first seems like a fairy tale, but as it goes on, seems more and more real. Emily Rodda, writer of more than fifty books, expertly crafts a tale that moves between the past and the future, and fantasy and reality. His Name was Walter is an adventure, a mystery and a coming of age story, all in one.

The story is from the point of view of Colin, who is new at his school and on an excursion. The bus breaks down in bad weather and four students (and their teacher Mrs Fiori) take shelter in an old mansion nearby. There are creepy stories about the house, but there's nowhere else to go. Colin discovers a book called His Name was Walter and Mrs Fiori encourages the children to read it.
The story of Walter describes an orphan boy who grows up in a beehive and his journey to a town far away where he meets a girl called Sparrow. Colin and the quiet Tara, who is aware of unseen things, are completely drawn in. Grace, a pretty, impatient girl, feels scared for unexplained reasons in certain rooms in the house. Cynical Lucas seems oblivious to it all. But as Walter's tale goes on, the spirits in the house seem to be trying to prevent it from being told.

There are moments of genuine scariness in this story. The power goes off. There's a mysterious locked room. But the scariest is the idea of a 'story' being real. The children realise there was a real town, a real mansion, and that is where they are this night. They must draw on the courage and work together to get through the story, right to the end.

This book is structured so well. I was initially confused as to why Walter would be surrounded by animals who act like people, but this is explained. The characters of the school children are believable without stereotypes and all develop in their own way.

My Name is Walter is a fast-paced and entertaining read for upper primary children.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

There Will Be Bears

There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 24.95
ISBN 9780763665210
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is a coming of age story that has many themes. It’s an exciting adventure filled with life lessons and the powerful bond between two generations of men. Filtering through are sub stories on friendships, relationships between siblings, between the old and young, all held together with strong threads on family unity and love.

The story focuses mainly on the relationship between teenager Tyson and his best friend, grandpa Gene, a war veteran. The setting is the rugged western Wyoming.

Tyson has been promised an elk hunt with roughneck Gene for his thirteenth birthday, and it’s time for the promise to be fulfilled. He will finally have something to post on his Facebook page, impress Karen who is an experienced hunter, and get his former best friend Bright back for betraying him to impress the popular group.

But kidney failure gets Gene moved into a retirement home to be cared for properly and things are postponed temporarily.

Tyson and Gene secretly scheme to realize their dream before it’s too late, regardless of the outcome. What sets out to be a life-changing trip turns into a fight for life when the two meet up with the bear Sandy, who has already killed several people.

There’s not one boring moment in this poignant and meaningful debut novel. The description of the natural world is like a reel of film playing before your eyes. The author is definitely writing about familiar and much-loved areas and experiences of his own, as everything is cleverly detailed and crystal clear to the reader.

A note of caution: there are scenes referring to the slaughter of animals that some readers might find confronting.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


Surfacing by Nora Raleigh Baskin (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406347937
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Maggie is different. She unwillingly attracts people who have secrets to tell. But they all withdraw from her after their confession. She also keeps a secret about what happened on the day her sister Leah drowned. Her parents have been at each other’s throats since their daughter’s death, and life at home is unbearable for the teenage Maggie.

Maggie has strange ways of dealing with her traumas although she has her competitive swimming to escape into. Her favourite escape is into lucid dreaming. This leads to the loss of true love and the further damaging of her teenage life. This last is greatly juxtaposed with the fact that her sister died while swimming.

Maggie must wade through all her guilt and surface to start life again. Can she find her way up?

This is a poignant and moving coming of age story about loss and facing life’s blows. It is told intermittently in the voice of Leah, but mainly in third person narrative. The prose, poetic and strong, moves up and down like water in a pool, then surfaces like the book’s title.

Monday, 14 May 2012

YA Review: Revived

RevivedRevived by Cat Patrick (Hardie Grant Egmont)
PB RRP $22.95
ISBN 978-192169063-1

This is the second book from author Cat Patrick. Her first was Forgotten, about a teenage girl who overnight forgets everything that happened that day. It is a fantastic premise and story.

Revived does not disappoint. Cat Patrick has a wonderful imagination. Once again she manages to build an intriguing medical world. In this story we follow Daisy, who is a medical trial participant for a drug called Revive. The drug brings healthy people back from death and it is imperative that it is kept a secret. Daisy has officially died on five separate occasions, with each death and revival she has to move state and reinvent herself. Each move proves to challenge all of her previous thoughts and assumptions about living, friendships, romance, trust and death.

This is a great coming of age story. The medical aspects of it make it a great read that takes the familiar teenage issues and sets them side by side with science, intrigue and action.

Cat Patrick has announced her third book on and I am looking forward to getting a hold of it. This is an author to follow.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones by Sue Whiting (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921529788
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Thirteen-year old Cooper Jones’ easy going way of life is changing. He’s arguing with his single mum and constantly thinking about a dad he’s never known. Add to that, the troubled but gorgeous Abbie has come to stay next door and Cooper goes through the first pangs of attraction and all the confusion that inevitably involves.

Sue Whiting writes in an engaging manner which draws the reader into the world of Wangaroo Bay. Get a Grip, Cooper Jones is set during a hot, dry summer in a ‘surfie’ town. Not that Cooper likes the beach. He fears it, preferring instead swimming training at the local pool. However, Cooper must confront his fear of the ocean when a bushfire sweeps through and he must swim to get help for Abbie who has been bitten by a brown snake.

Readers will relate easily to Cooper Jones and all his foibles. There is great humour and warmth in this book and it is one that upper primary and lower secondary school kids are bound to enjoy. 

Saturday, 28 August 2010


Submarine by Joe Dunthorne (Penguin)
PB RRP $27.50
ISBN: 978-0-141-03275-7
Reviewed by Kelli Bradicich

Submarine was inconveniently placed on the top shelf of Borders. I stared at its cover forever, walking away a couple of times before strategising a way to get it down without bothering anyone. As it turned out, I was taller than I thought and it was just within my reach. The cover looked like it had been drawn by a teenager for a teenager. The review on the front from The Independent compared it to The Catcher in the Rye. Before I read the first word, I had the sense that the author had mastered a strong, authentic voice. I was not disappointed.

The main character Oliver Tate is fifteen and everything about him feels real. The story starts with all the ways he plays with his parents' minds.

And it finishes with him sharing random facts with them just to impress.

In the pages between, he runs through life trying to make sense of his relationship and trying to help his parents make sense of theirs. Oliver's thoughts are random and unique, and match his solutions to life's dilemmas perfectly.

There are times you want to scream out and tell him to stop, but if he did the book would not have the spice it has. One thing that continues to stick with me is his idea to cure his father of depression. It involves a father son day at a local fair attraction and is far from being a hallmark moment.

It works. It's memorable and I've never read a solution to depression quite like it before.

Joe Dunthorne has written a coming of age story that is quirky and unique, with witty humour punctuating the sad realities of teenage struggles. It is worth a second read.