Tag Archives: Young Adult fiction

Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman talks about Noble Conflict

Years after a violent war destroyed much of the world, Kaspar has grown up in a society based on peace and harmony. But beyond the city walls, a vicious band of rebels are plotting to tear this peace apart. It is up to the Guardians – an elite peacekeeping force – to protect the city, without ever resorting to the brutal methods of their enemy.

When Kaspar joins the Guardians, he has a chance encounter with a rebel – a beautiful girl named Rhea. Haunted from that moment on by strange visions and memories – memories that could only belong to Rhea – he realises he hasn’t been told the truth about what the rebels really want, and what he’s really fighting for.

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My Most Anticipated March New Releases

A Necklace of Souls by R.L. Stedman (NZ)

In the Kingdom of the Rose only the power of the Guardian’s necklace can keep the people safe from the forces threatening to destroy it. In a hidden kingdom a mysterious Guardian protects her people with the help of a magical necklace. But evil forces are also seeking the power of the necklace, and as the Guardian grows weaker these forces threaten to destroy the kingdom. With the help of her best friend, Will, and the enigmatic N’tombe, Dana, the rightful heir, must claim the power of the necklace and save her people. But the necklace takes a terrible toll on whoever wears it – a toll that Dana may not be prepared to face. A NECKLACE OF SOULS was the winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Award for unpublished young adult fiction in 2012.

Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises

The day after twelve-year-old Jack McKinley is told he has six months to live, he awakens on a mysterious island, where a secret organization promises to save his life – but with one condition. With his three friends, Jack must lead a mission to retrieve seven lost magical orbs, which, only when combined together, can save their lives. The challenge: the orbs have been missing for a thousand years, lost among the ruins and relics of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. With no one else to turn to and no escape in sight, the four friends have no choice but to undertake the quest. First stop: The Colossus of Rhodes … where they realise that there’s way more at stake than just their lives.

The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison

Heaven has lost the most important object in existence and getting it back is gonna be Hell … The second hilarious book in Barry’s AFTERWORLDS sequence – comic fantasy perfect for fans of Pratchett and Douglas Adams. There’s panic up in Heaven. They have mislaid the BOOK OF DOOM – the most important object in existence. Oopsy. They think Satan might have stolen it, the sneaky little devil, so to save the world – plus, you know, quite a lot of embarrassment, fifteen year old Adam and his angelic guide Angelo are sent to retrieve it. Sadly directions aren’t Angelo’s strong point and they soon find themselves just as lost as the book, wandering through Afterworlds such as Valhalla and Hades and encountering some colourful characters along the way… Can the hapless pair make it to Hell and back?

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure – the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large
polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile – Timmy’s mom’s Segway – and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won’t have to stress out about the bills anymore.

Fearless by Cornelia Funke

After saving his brother, Jacob Reckless faces death from the fairy’s curse burning in his heart. In search of a cure he returns to the Mirrorworld, where he is reunited with Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting girl. He has one more chance: a golden crossbow, with the power to both save and destroy life, buried in a dead king’s tomb beneath an invisible palace. Jacob must cross continents, face monsters and men – including a dangerous rival – and learn what it means to stay alive.

A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik (NZ)

Taken from their home, forced to leave their country, put to work in labour camps, frozen and starved, Adam and his family doubt that they will ever make it out alive. Even if they were to get away, they might freeze to death, or starve, or the bears might get them. For the Polish refugees, the whole of the USSR becomes a prison from which there is seemingly no escape.

Zom-B City by Darren Shan

How many survived the zombie apocalypse?
Where do the living hide in a city of the dead?
Who controls the streets of London?
B Smith is setting out to explore…


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My Top 10 Young Adult Fiction of 2012

I’ve read so many amazing young adult novels this year!  Out of all the books I read throughout the year, young adult novels dominated, and it was so difficult to choose just 10 favourites for this list.  Here is my Top 10 Young Adult Fiction of 2012.  You can read my reviews of each book here on the blog.


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Win a signed copy of Runelight by Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris was one of the amazing authors who spoke at the Christchurch Writer’s Festival over the weekend.  I’m a huge fan of her books, particularly her books for younger readers, Runemarks and Runelight.

I have a signed copy of Runelight, the sequel to Runemarks, to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 7 September (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

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Guest Post: Catherine Bruton on Pop! Part 2

It’s my pleasure today to host Catherine Bruton, author of Young Adult novels We Can Be Heroes and, her latest book, Pop!  Catherine has written a couple of fantastic posts for me about how Suzanne Collins pipped her at the post and how Pop! came to be.  Thanks Catherine!


I guess ‘Pop!’ is a bit like my previous book ‘We Can be Heroes’ in that it’s silly and madcap and bonkers but underneath all that it’s actually dealing with some pretty serious  issues. The whole reason my main characters enter ‘Pop to the Top’ is  because  it’s the only solution they can think of to the rubbish stuff that’s going on in their lives – or maybe a way to help them forget all that. A strike is dividing the community; Elfie’s mum has run out on the family (again); her dad is on the verge of bankruptcy; and if that happens he’ll lose custody of Elfie and her baby brother too. Winning the prize money  is Elfie’s last chance to save her family.

But she needs Agnes if she’s going to do it. If Elfie is the brains behind the operation, Agnes is the talent. The only problem is that the  girls’ families are on opposite sides of the strikers/scab divide. Agnes’s family are under attack and ostracized by the whole community so going along with Elfie’s crazy plan is  the only way any one will actually talk to her  (not in public mind you – like Elfie said, this is strictly business and totally top secret!)

Then there’s Jimmy. Sweet, long-suffering Jimmy who’s been in love with Agnes since they were eight years old. Jimmy’s got his own problems: his dad wants him to be an Olympic swimmer. He reckons everyone should have a dream and this is Jimmy’s apparently. Only sometimes it feels like he’s only doing it to keep his dad happy – and now his dad talking about crossing the picket line to  pay for Jimmy’s training and Jimmy has to stop him.

Jimmy  gets dragged  into Elfie’s ‘Pop to the Top!’ plan because – well, basically because he does whatever Elfie tells him to do – it’s just easier that way.  Even if it does mean posing as the teen father of her lovechild and pretending to be in  love triangle with Agnes and Elfie – which he sort of is anyway  ( not that he is EVER going to admit that to anyone – especially not Elfie!)

Of course I had to watch my step writing  about Talent TV.  My original judging panel line up  for ‘Pop to the Top!’ would have got me sued by Mr Cowell and Co! And  the minute I changed my lead judge to a North West Pop Legend who’d headed up a Uber-famous boy band in the 90s  what goes and happens? Gary Barlow  only gets the top spot at the X Factor. So, can I do that disclaimer bit you always see on films: ‘Any similarity to real event and people is purely coincidence etc etc!’ Cos I love Gary, me! Despite how it might seem when you read the book!

It was a character from George Orwell’s novel who spawned ‘Big Brother’ – the first ever Reality TV show. And now  Reality TV is feeding right back into fiction and shaping the way contemporary authors are writing.  From ‘The Hunger Games’ and the  ‘The Running Man’ to novels like ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece’ ,‘The Money, Stan, Big Lauren and Me’, ‘L. A. Candy’ ‘Strictly Shimmer’ – and loads more – see my list below – Reality TV is such an integral part of our culture that it’s hardly surprising that it should be a topic of interest to contemporary novelists.

And I might be a Talent TV addict, but  that doesn’t mean I don’ t think it needs to be mocked  a little – OK, more than a little! Or maybe the’ ‘Rules of Talent TV’ that head up every chapter of ‘Pop!’ really are  a fool-proof recipe for Talent TV success – perhaps someone should  follow them all and see! Only it won’t be me cos I really, really, really can’t sing! And I don’t have any talent really – oh, except writing, obviously (I think  I’m meant to say that aren’t I or no one will read my books!)

Anyway,  I guess I’m OK with not writing ‘The Hunger Games’.  I mean, thank goodness Suzanne Collins did cos they totally rock (I read all three in four days and barely ate, slept or spoke to my children whilst doing so).  But  I’m so indecisive I’d never have decided between Pet and Gale  and I’m so squeamish no one would actually have ever died in the arena. And  most importantly,   what would I have worn to all those film  premieres? I just don’t have the shoes! So perhaps I’m glad I wrote ‘Pop!’ instead. Which is not to say I would mind if any lovely film buff came knocking on my door … in fact, I think it’d make a cracking film you know … call me anytime, Mr Spielberg!

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Broken by Elizabeth Pulford

When I first read about Elizabeth Pulford’s new book, Broken,  I thought it was an intriguing idea: the story of a girl trapped in a coma, interspersed with comic-style panels.  After some initial confusion about what was happening, I became wrapped up in the three strands of the story and got drawn in to Zara’s mind.

Critically injured in a motorbike accident, Zara Wilson lies in a coma. She is caught between many worlds: the world of her hospital room and anxious family, and that of her memories and a dream-like fantasy where she searches for her brother Jem. Jem proves elusive but Zara s adventures in her subconscious unlock dark secrets of a troubled childhood. Zara must face up to her past in order to accept her future.

Broken is unlike anything I’ve read before.  It’s a mystery, a family drama, and a touch of fantasy woven together to make a dark, slightly unsettling story.  There are three strands of the story that Elizabeth weaves together: the hospital room where Zara’s physical body is lying, Zara’s memories of her family and the thing that happened to her when she was seven, and Zara’s search for her brother inside his favourite comic.  This sounds slightly confusing (and it is to start with) but once you get used to the story jumping between these strands you get caught up in it.  Angus Gomes has created the comic-style illustrations that are sprinkled throughout the book.  These illustrations help to tell the part of the story that is set in Zara’s brother’s comic.  Zara enters this comic world to try and find her brother, and she meets the heroes and villains of the comic who both help and hinder her search.  It’s while she is trapped in her subconscious that Zara is able to come to terms with what happened to her when she was seven and reveal the truth of what has happened to her brother.  

If you’re looking for a Young Adult novel that stands out from the crowd then try Broken by Elizabeth Pulford.

4 out of 5 stars

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Who are your picks for the 2012 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medal?

The winners of the 2012 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal are announced this Friday (NZ time).  Who do you want to win?  It’s so hard to pick but mine are My Name is Mina by David Almond (Carnegie) and A Monster Calls illustrated by Jim Kay (Kate Greenaway).

Carnegie Medal




Kate Greenaway Medal




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My Most Anticipated June New Releases

The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker (Children’s Fiction – NZ)

Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man’s fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand. But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte. Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur’s Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she’ll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father’s friend, Tama. She knows she can do it – she has to – but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest? Charlie is in for the ride of her life – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Red Rocks by Rachael King (Children’s Fiction – NZ)

While holidaying at his father’s house, Jake explores Wellington’s wild south coast, with its high cliffs, biting winds, and its fierce seals. When he stumbles upon a perfectly preserved sealskin, hidden in a crevice at Red Rocks, he’s compelled to take it home and hide it under his bed, setting off a chain of events that threatens to destroy his family. Red Rocks takes the Celtic myth of the selkies, or seal people, and transplants it into the New Zealand landscape, throwing an ordinary boy into an adventure tinged with magic

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Young Adult Fiction)

The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. Tucker begins to suspect that the discs of shimmering air he keeps seeing – one right on top of the roof – hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time – twisting journey. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.

The Tribe: The Interrogation of Ashla Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Young Adult Fiction)

“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below … And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.” Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe – the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.

Broken by Elizabeth Pulford (Young Adult Fiction)

Critically injured in a motorbike accident, Zara Wilson lies in a coma. She is caught between many worlds: the world of her hospital room and anxious family, and that of her memories and a dream-like fantasy where she searches for her brother Jem. Jem proves elusive but Zara s adventures in her subconscious unlock dark secrets of a troubled childhood. Zara must face up to her past in order to accept her future.

1.4 by Mike Lancaster (Young Adult Fiction)

In the far future, people no longer know what to believe… Did Kyle Straker ever exist? Or were his prophecies of human upgrades nothing more than a hoax?

Peter Vincent is nearly 16, and has never thought about the things that Strakerites believe. His father – David Vincent, creator of the artificial bees that saved the world’s crops – made sure of that.  When the Strakerites pronounce that another upgrade is imminent, Peter starts to uncover a conspiracy amongst the leaders of the establishment, a conspiracy that puts him into direct conflict with his father.  But it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with someone who controls all the artificial bees in the world.

Unrest by Michelle Harrison

Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for six months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Now he is afraid to go to sleep. Sometimes he wakes to find himself paralysed, unable to move a muscle, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around, while his body lies asleep on the bed. According to his doctor, sleep paralysis and out of body experiences are harmless – but to Elliot they’re terrifying. Convinced that his brush with death has opened up connections with the spirit world, Elliott secures a live-in job at one of England’s most haunted locations, determined to find out the truth. There he finds Sebastian, the ghost of a long-dead servant boy hanged for stealing bread. He also meets the living, breathing Ophelia, a girl with secrets of her own. She and Elliott grow closer, but things take a terrifying turn when Elliott discovers Sebastian is occupying his body when he leaves it. And the more time Sebastian spends inhabiting a living body, the more resistant he becomes to giving it back. Worse, he seems to have an unhealthy interest in Ophelia. Unless Elliott can lay Sebastian’s spirit to rest, he risks being possessed by him for ever, and losing the girl of his dreams…

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Adult Fiction)

The third in a series of novels that began with The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind. The Prisoner of Heaven returns to the world of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop.

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from The Shadow of the Wind have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel’s father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him.

Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.

Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris (Adult Fiction)

It isn’t often you receive a letter from the dead. When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Vianne is completely unprepared for what she finds there. Women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the square little tower of the church of Saint-Jerome like a piece on a chessboard – slender, bone-white and crowned with a silver crescent moon – a minaret. Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought big changes to the community. Father Reynaud, Vianne’s erstwhile adversary, is now disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him?

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Night School by C.J. Daugherty – review and giveaway

There’s nothing better than discovering a new author whose first book hooks you in.  You know that you’ve got more to look forward to and you can’t wait to see how their writing develops.  When I got asked if I wanted to be a part of C. J. Daugherty’s blog tour for her first Young Adult book, Night School, I jumped at the chance.  Night School is the first in an exciting new Young Adult series full of mystery and suspense.

When Allie Sheridan gets arrested for the third time, her parents have had enough.  They decide they can’t handle her anymore so they send her to Cimmeria Academy, a boarding school for problem teenagers.  But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school.  Computers and cell phones aren’t allowed so she’s cut off from her old friends and the students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged.  Then there are the top students who are part of the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden to watch.  Allie soon makes both friends and enemies, and catches the attention of the most popular guy at Cimmeria, Sylvain and the loner Carter.  When Allie is attacked one night the school begins to seem like a dangerous place.  Allie knows that the adults who run the school, and maybe even some of her classmates, are hiding a secret.  She must learn who she can trust.  And what’s really going on at Cimmeria Academy.

Night School took me a few chapters to get into, but the more I found out about the characters and Cimmeria Academy, I found it really difficult to put it down.  Cimmeria Academy at first seems like a new beginning for Allie.  She feels like she could get used to it and she’s actually happy for the first time in ages, but the more she finds out about the school and the secrets it hides, the more dangerous it becomes for her.

Some of the early events in the book threw me and had me thinking there might have been a supernatural element to the story, but the real twist is very clever.  I loved the truth behind Cimmeria Academy and it will be interesting to see where C.J. takes the story from here.  I’m not a huge fan of romance and love triangles in YA fiction, but I felt the relationships in Night School didn’t weigh down the story too much and the conflict between the love interests was needed to direct the story.  Night School is a great super-natural-free YA story, full of mystery and suspense and characters that will stick with you.

4 out of 5 stars


If you would like to win a copy of Night School, leave a comment on this post telling me what you think is more important in a good Young Adult book, a gripping plot or strong characters?  Please leave your name and email address so I can contact you if you win.  Competition closes Wednesday 18 January 2012.  Open to New Zealand and Australia.

Join me tomorrow when I host a Q & A with C.J. Daugherty and a giveaway of Night School.


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Guest Post: New Zealand author Deborah Burnside

Deborah Burnside

The question was; Do you want to write a guest blog?

I said, YES…

I say yes to a lot of things because it makes life interesting and gives you things to write about.

Yes, I’d like to learn to belly dance and derby skate, yes I’d like to see the pilots flying the plane, yes I’d like to buy a ticket, yes I’ll get up extra early to take the special Colosseum tour (even though I am NOT a morning person).

You can see a theme here I hope?

That writers are spontaneous, curious and explorative people who may or may not write about all of the things they do, see or experience, but will likely always be doing interesting things that they could write about.

Although sometimes it’s the thing a writer hasn’t been able to do that turns up in their stories.

I live on a large rural block with my lovely husband, Malamute Blaze, three sons, their assorted friends, some sheep and cattle, various migratory birds, pesky rabbits and a wild, white cat with no ears.  A long time ago I said I wanted to turn our paddock into a maize maze – at the time we were leasing the land to a cropper who had planted maize and our son got lost in the maize.  While that was a terrifying experience, it made me think it would have been a whole lot easier to find him if there were paths through the maize.

“Then the cropper wouldn’t make any money, Deb.”  Said the lovely man.

“I know, but you could charge money to walk through the maize maze instead, before you harvested,” I said.

“Nobody would pay to do that.”  Said the lovely man.

“I think they would, I think we should do it here.”

The lovely man didn’t agree, “You are raising kids, singing, dancing, acting in Les Miserables, building a house and running a waste and recycling company…I think you are too busy to grow and operate a maize maze.”

Well, put like that I had to agree, because what the lovely man didn’t know was that I was also harbouring a secret desire to write books.

It was that seed of truth, that personal desire to grow a maize maze that made me give that thing to Marty in YES.

I love that YES, my new young adult book, is titled YES, because so many great things have happened in my life simply by saying YES.  It’s also an acronym for the Young Enterprise Scheme, something the characters in the book take part in and which is something I wish had been in High Schools when I was at school, as I cold started a business when I was 21.  I encourage anyone given the chance to participate in YES at their school to give it a go.

And all those other things I mentioned… well since 9/11 you can no longer visit pilots in cockpits.  The Colosseum  closed the lower levels in October this year indefinitely and they’d not been opened since the 1930s.  Learning to Belly Dance was fun, I met great people, got to perform at lots of public events and it gave me an idea for a scene in, On A Good Day.  Buying the wrong bus ticket in Turkey led me on an amazing (sometimes slightly hair-raising) adventure and personal tour of Istanbul by a local, which may yet end up in a book.  And Roller Derby has me loving bruises, blisters, grazes and speed and leaves me with the conundrum of what to call my skating alter ego.  I wanted Princess Slayer (Princess Leia – star wars) because my Mum used to put my hair in two buns when I was little, but thanks to the movie, Whip It that name is taken.

I’ll take some time thinking about my Derby name the same as I do when I name characters in stories… because I like names and words that mean more than one thing and I like my characters to be true to their names.

The newest character I am writing about is Cartograph, he takes a while to get his name, I’m not quite sure exactly what is happening in his story,  I know where it is and when it is and who is in it, but the rest is just a fabulous rollercoaster ride as I sit at the computer and say YES – today I’m writing.  How lucky am I?

Deborah Burnside

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