July 27

Moving on – but sisters forever

protectedAlmost 12 months after her sister’s accident, and with a court case looming, Hannah is still struggling. But she is not alone – her mother drifts aimlessly about much of the time and her father has also lost his spark, sustaining both physical and emotional injuries. This is much as you might expect when a family loses a sister/daughter.

Hannah, however, must continue her journey as a school student, facing the many trials and tribulations of adolescence.

Strangely, in some ways, life is easier at school without her sister. Before the accident, Hannah was bullied at school, with little help from her older sister, Katie. In fact, Katie’s presence often made things worse, as Hannah failed to develop the same standing at school, and Katie failed to lend any sisterly support. (Should Hannah feel guilty about this?)

The enjoyable part of Claire Zorn’s writing is how she captures place and time. Set in the Blue Mountains, the school and social situations in the Protected ring true. As with the Sky So Heavy, her characters are authentic, move about in real places in the community, and some act as thoughtlessly as egocentric teenagers sometimes do.

However, Hannah doesn’t have to struggle alone all through the book, and there are ultimately different degrees of healing for the family. Quirky little inserts (lists, goals, likes and dislikes) hint at the sisters’ relationship, differences between them and add the flavour of sibling intimacy. Thus, some of the situations will make you squirm, while others will have you cheering on the efforts of those who aim to help.zorn2

So, the story probably isn’t new (reflect back to the Incredible Here and Now, a male perspective), but the way in which it unfolds is real and believeable. Since people react to loss in many different ways, it is valuable for us as readers to take the time to step into someone else’s shoes; which indeed we can do as we read the Protected.

Congratulations to Claire; just like the Sky So Heavy in 2014, the Protected has been shortlisted for the Older Readers CBCA awards in 2015. (For a little insight to the author, you can read: Claire Zorn, author of The Protected, answers Ten Terrifying Questions)

 

November 12

Oh, my darling – Divine Clementine

Clementine has had a fabulous relationship with her aunt, Stella – who is only 10 years older. But one fateful day she sees her groovy aunt smashed by an oncoming bus, right in front of her.

For some, funerals are a place to farewell a loved one – for Clementine, Stella’s funeral launches her into a rage against life. Nothing seems to make sense anymore, and she dives into great depths of depression. She no longer sees the need to  conform to any of the world’s standards, or connect in any way to her school, friends or family.

After the funeral, Clementine joins her mother and grandmother at Stella’s, collecting and sorting though Stella’s things for memorable items. A crazy quilt, a favourite jacket and some of Stella’s diaries are among the items collected by Clementine. Unfortunately, the diaries reveal a lot of things that Clementine doesn’t know about her aunt – and many things her mother had protected her from.

As a result, Clementine dives even further into herself and fails to consider why her mother made the choices she did regarding her aunt. Within herself, Clementine has a lot to deal with – the betrayal of those close to her, her own great sorrow with the loss of her aunt, and the goodhearted but clumsy attempts of her friends, as they try to pull her out of the depression which follows.

‘Divine Clementine’ is a debut novel for Hayley S. Kirk. She deals realistically with problems that many teens could face, as illness and death challenge the solidity of families, and the voices in the story are genuine. What do you think?

 

July 16

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Once upon a time, Jamie had twin sisters – but that was before the bombing. Since then, the fairytale has changed, and his family has become disjointed.

Now, his mum lives in London; while he and his sister (Rose’s twin) live with their alcoholic father – with Rose’s cremation urn on their mantelpiece.

‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ is told from the perspective of 10 year old Jamie, as he struggles to settle into a new school; dealing with bullying issues and the impacts of the family’s horrendous past. Clearly, Dad still struggles with the loss of a child; and Rose’s twin, Jasmine, reveals her own issues along the way.

Jamie is ever-hopeful that his mum will return,  and take family life back to normal. In the meantime, one of his only friends at school is Sunya – a girl with Muslim heritage.  It is hard for Jamie, in his childhood innocence, to understand why this might be a problem for his father to deal with.

So Jamie hatches a plan – one which will bring Mum back to the family, even though she already seems to have missed some of the most important family events in the last year. Jasmine is reluctant to get on board with his plans, but may be convinced to help out. And what about Sunya – will she understand that Jamie is not like his father? and would her parents also forgive Jamie for his father’s intolerances?

Lots of issues are reflected in this tale – told without driving to a fairy tale ending. It’s a well written debut novel for Annabel Pitcher – I’m just not sure about any of the cover images I’ve seen yet. Will they grab the audience they need?

Engaging, sad, reflective. What do you think?