Friday, November 20

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, November 20, 2009 No comments
Occasionally my library runs will open up some fantastic new world, or in this case, a new continent. My penchant for titles with religious resonances (in the off chance I’ll find someone publishing work like mine) led me to works by some fabulous YA writers from Down Under. The colorful slang alone will make you love the Aussies.

I’ve included for review two Aussie YA books from my library. If you’ve come across other quality Aussie YA that’s now available in the US, please drop me a note in the comments.

Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman

College freshman Rachel takes a job as a live-in caregiver for a brain-injured woman, Grace, with an elegant home, weirdo neighbors and greedy sisters. Rachel uncovers a box of Grace’s belongings that hints at unfinished business. She soon finds herself drawn into the mystery of this strange, silent woman she bathes, dresses and feeds like a doll.

Interspersed are Rachel’s escapades interacting with Grace’s family and neighbors, and trying to fit in and find love on campus. It’s an engaging and enjoyable read, LOL funny at places, touching at others. Brugman creates a sparkling narrative voice that I found delightful. She definitely piqued my interest in reading other Aussie authors.

I was a little disappointed that a few of the subplots were simply dropped at the end, but knowing the austere word-count limits of YA publishing, I wonder if the author was forced to cut.

The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It
by Lisa Shanahan

This novel’s wordy title, bubble-gum cover photo and weird back-cover blurb with unfamiliar slang like “chucking a birkett” has probably scared off many an American reader. Had I not been on the prowl for Aussie YA, I might have taken a pass on what proved to be one of very my favorite reads of 2009.

This story of a shy teen, Gemma, who finds her voice in theater is both hilarious and deeply touching. Amidst the moments of zany comedy (really far-out farce at times), there are some beautifully lyrical scenes. The romantic subplot with the boy from “the wrong side of the tracks” was exceptionally well done—subtle and thought-provoking. Through Gemma’s interactions with Raven, one of the notorious, thuggish DeHead boys, Shanahan explores the socio-economic divide and exposes how community prejudice makes it exceptionally hard for a kid from a "bad" family to rise above his upbringing.


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