Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mini-reviews - The 2014 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards Finalists

We got our reviewing groove on and here, for your reading pleasure, are our thoughts on all five finalists in the Best Young Adult Fiction category of the 2014 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

Have you got a favourite among the finalists? Tell us! 

Title: Bugs 
Author: Whiti Hereaka
Reserve yourself a copy here.
Growing up in small-town Taupo, Bugs is trying to figure out who she is and where she’s going, trying to hold onto her best mate and work out where the new girl in town fits into the mix. Some days she feels like she’s living in a dystopia where everybody’s out to make her conform and give up her power to teachers, parents, authorities. The great, believable characters are at the heart of this awesome story. I really cared about what happened to them, and the story kept me reading to find out. It really put me in the shoes of someone who was not sure of the kind of future she was facing, with friends spiraling off in all directions and things ready to fall apart at any minute. Well worth a read.


Title: Speed freak  
Author: Fleur Beale
Go here to get yourself on the hold list.
Archie lives to drives karts. He’s a brilliant racer with a real chance of winning a national title and a spot in Europe, but he’s had to work hard for everything and his team (Archie, his dad and granddad) are working on a shoestring budget. Every race counts. Plus his dad’s girlfriend (who hates racing) and her too quiet young son are moving in and his family is changing. All of the drama in this story comes from the racetrack; while there are problems with cheating rivals and dangerous driving from opponents, the story itself is pretty much free of angst and personal trauma, so if you’re looking for a tense, exciting story that doesn’t delve too deeply into teen drama, Speed freak is a great read.

Title: When we wake 
Author: Karen Healey
Want to read this book? Reserve it here.
Without wanting to give too many spoilers, Tegan has a great life ahead of her when she winds up in cryogenic suspension and is woken in an Australia set 100 years in our future. Climate change has caused shortages to many of the world’s resources, most people are vegetarian, there are increasing tensions about immigration, and just what are the Government up to with the secret project that has defrosted Tegan? To be honest, I found Tegan an annoying lead character; there was something a little too perfect about her good looks, physical skills and musical talents. The world described here was intriguing, though, and Tegan’s classmates were much more human and interesting. Trying to imagine being so cut off from everything familiar, especially family and friends, was chilling.

Title: Mortal fire 
Author: Elizabeth Knox
Put your name on the reserve list.
Mortal fire was the first book I read by Elizabeth Knox, and it made me run to request her Dreamhunter series, also set in the same fantastical/historical New Zealand. These are wonderful books, full of a mixture of familiar places and people, and a really imaginative take on magic. Canny, the heroine of Mortal fire, takes a road trip with her brother and his girlfriend that ends up in the Zarene Valley, where she starts to make sense of abilities she’s had for years. It’s a love story, and a horror story, and a mystery, all rolled up together. It reminded me a bit of a Margaret Mahy favourite of mine, Tricksters, where the magic and mystery is backed by good, solid, ever-so-slightly-dysfunctional family drama. Highly recommended.

Title: A necklace of souls 
Author: R L Stedman
Go here to join the hold list.
Wonderful to see not one but two fantasy novels in the finalists this year! A necklace of souls is set in a mysterious, magically hidden kingdom connected to a more recognisable piece of historical Earth, and while Mortal fire feels very ‘New Zealand’, this story has more of a medieval European feel to it. Will has escaped from a childhood of plague and unhappiness, and is equal parts baker and martial artist. Dana is the heir to the hidden kingdom and is grappling with some pretty scary family secrets. This is a romantic, traditional fantasy that I’d recommend to fans of Tamora Pierce and Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. 


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