Book Review: Heloise, by Mandy Hager

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_heloise.jpgThis is a big book. Not big in size at a reasonable 381 pages, but big in scope and ideas. It’s a book that you want to take time and care with, so that you can appreciate it as it deserves.

Lots of people may know the names of Heloise and Abelard, even if like me, they don’t really know the details. Abelard was widely celebrated as one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century; Heloise was among the most lauded of his students, made more notable because of her gender in a time when women were most definitely meant to be barely seen and certainly not heard.

Mandy Hager tells the story from Heloise’s perspective, filling in the historical gaps with seamless narrative. She starts with Heloise’s childhood, about which next to nothing is known, and traces her life through to her teenage years and adulthood, and her fateful meeting with Peter Abelard. The story is well paced and rich, with excerpts from Abelard and Heloise’s own writing, and many references to other great thinkers including Ovid, Seneca, Aristotle and Socrates. With a lot of the story taking place within a religious setting, Sts Augustine and Jerome also get regular look-ins. The content is quite dense – not in a negative way, but in the way that a lets you know you’re reading a book that’s been really well thought-through, researched and edited.

A reader with modern sensibilities will rage against the unfairness with which Heloise is treated, where even Abelard, who professes to love and respect her, treats her as a chattel without feelings and ambition of her own. Abelard eventually comes across as a fairly unsympathetic character, even though Heloise’s love and forgiveness of his behaviour wins out time and again. I found myself snarling at some of the male characters in the story quite regularly … the perils of being a modern reader of historical fiction, I suppose!

Heloise reminds me of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, dealing in depth as it does with a historical figure who has name recognition, even if the reader doesn’t know much more. It’s substantial in the same way, and immerses you in a world that may be 800 years gone, but still echoes now in the 21st century. It’s not a light holiday read, but perfect for when you have time and space to read something substantial. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Heloise
by Mandy Hager
Published by Penguin NZ
ISBN 9780143770992

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Book Review: The Book that Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_book_that_made_meThis is an ideal book to leave around any home containing a book-lover, for idle moments while eating breakfast, while the kids are peacefully bickering about what to watch on the tablet, or falling asleep, or…

In this book, 32 authors tell their stories, in whatever form they see fit, about their love of reading and how their chosen book/s have made them who they are. When I began the introduction and realised it could have been written by me – I don’t remember when I couldn’t read, and I was well and truly into chapter books by age 6, this was a shoo-in for my reviewing pile!

My highlights were NZ writers’ Rachael Craw and Mandy Hager’s stories, not only because of their parallels with my own experiences – As a child I actually spent more years in Australia than in New Zealand – but because they each chose one book (a series in the case of Craw) and concentrated on its effect. Trixie Belden was a friend on sodden West Coast summer days for me as well as for Craw, and I remember the Sweet Valley books well, though Sweet Valley High was a bit racy for me!  And Hager’s pick, 1984, came along when I needed it, late in my high school years, changing my view of the world.

Shaun Tan’s illustrations throughout the book were ideal brief breaks between individual works, showing all creatures great and small reading, as acts of challenge, expansion, and everything in between.

Most of the authors meditate at some point on the link between reading and writing, but Simon French I think says it best. “As an adult writer, I came to understand how much the unfolding skills as an author had been indelibly fashioned by encountering so much in the way of quality reading; that reading and writing are so eloquently knotted together and dependent on one another.”

This book has seen me add  20 more books that I’d never even heard of to my reading list. It expanded  my understanding of the works of those authors I had read, and my awareness of those I might be interested in reading. And in a nice double-up effect, it made me aware of more brilliant books that are waiting out there for me to be transformed by.

I recommend this book to every bookseller, and book-lovers everywhere. It would make a particularly brilliant gift for a teenage reader. And a range of the books suggested, and those by the authors that suggested them would make a wonderful window for NZ Bookshop Day!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Book that Made Me
edited by Judith Ridge
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922244888

WORD: No Sex Please, We’re teenagers. Mandy Hager with Ted Dawe, Karen Healey and Frances Young

This session took a good look at what is okay to represent, sex-wise, in literature for teenagers. On stage were YA authors Mandy Hager, Ted Dawe and Karen Healey, and psychologist and sex therapist Frances Young. It was a discussion worth having, and it was interesting to have the point of view from Frances as somebody who deals with the results of dangerous cultural norms being created.

The first question was about whether it is in fact okay to have sex in YA fiction: and is there a personal line you wouldn’t cross? Each of the panel says yes absolutely, and Karen made the essential point early on that positive promiscuity is a good thing in YA fiction. As a teacher, she wouldn’t write explicit erotica under her own name. She’s not worried about other students, but about their parents. And while she wouldn’t write a rape scene, she would write about the aftermath.

Ted Dawe felt compelled by his publisher to hold back with his language in Thunder Road, to allow the book to go into school libraries. However, when he wrote Into the River, he answered to the call of his narrative. “Sex is realistic when talking about teenage males.” His depiction of Devon’s “unglamorous beginning sex” wasn’t to meet a theme he wanted to tackle – he was just writing what Devon would do. He didn’t see the outrage coming: it took the gloss off the book winning the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award.

Frances is very keen on any way to get more moral, ethical information out there about real sex, to support people to be more emotionally available to themselves – so they can actually have the tools to decide whether they are “on” or “off.” She is also keen to have more sex in comics to make it more accessible – not everybody is going to delve into a novel.

The next question Mandy asked her panellists to discuss was their pet hates about the way books talk about sex. Karen Healey is very passionate about removing the shame attached to sex in people’s lives, and removing the shame and disgust for the human body. She notes this is especially important when talking to teenagers. Frances added to this later on by noting that most teens have an awareness of their sexual self by their mid-teens: making it even more important that this positivity is there.

Ted talked a little about the “Harry Potter effect”: the pushing away of realism, in favour of fantasy. He sees his book was tricky because it was a “warts and all depiction of young men.” I don’t think he’s read Karen Healey’s books, so I was very happy an audience member highlighted this later in question time. For Karen, the advantage of fantasy is that it allows her to literalise sex through metaphor. To her, a fraught relationship is even more interesting if one can set fires with their mind. She always strives for emotional realism.

This is where we got into the theme of porn: Frances’ pet hate is porn. “88% of pornography scenes are verbally or physically violent towards women. This is distorting young people’s view of what a sexual relationship should look like.” Frances says parents need to be able to support kids navigate the highways they are seeking out. This part of the talk, her descriptions of porn and the way it is affecting sexual relationships, made me want to remove all the screens in the house as soon as my boys got to age 12.

It got very interesting when we began talking a bit more about consent – the ‘dubious consent’ Ted alluded to. When you put this type of thing in a novel, are you compelled to put a counter-argument? Ted thinks if you do this, you are no longer being an author. Karen disagrees, she will introduce counter-arguments. They agreed that if writers weren’t all different, there would be nothing to talk about!

The role of schools
Educating teens about sex is a full community project, says Frances. You need buy-in, from the principal right down to the teens themselves, and of course their parents. At the moment we are in a public health crisis: she makes the note if you want to know how to talk to your teens about sex, go to Into the Picture. This is being brought into schools in New Zealand through the Public Health service.

As an English teacher, Karen Healey sees the important thing to be teaching research skills, and how to discern bias. It’s important for them to be able to read to learn, if they don’t think they can talk to parents. Karen stresses when talking about film that it is manipulative, she teaches close viewing skills – though she notes that she can’t dissect a sex scene without being fired. Ted similarly tried to impose cultural change through the curriculum, with an attempt to teach Deliverance (the book). His HOD blocked it, and incinerated all 40 copies he’d bought of the book.

Karen and Ted have both been published in NZ and in the USA – Karen has had to dial back sex in YA for the US market (so she can get into book fairs), while allowing the violence in Guardian of the Dead to stay. Ted has had no reaction other than positive reviews with the publication of Into the River in the USA – to his surprise. Frances agreed that there are differences in the way NZ and Australia approach sex in books to how the USA does. She also noted that the correlation of sex and violence together is perpetuating a culture of sexual aggression – the Roastbusters case being a good example of this.

Roastbusters was described recently by the Chief Censor as an ‘example of societal moral decay.’ However, Ted doesn’t think this culture is new at all, but social media has put it on steroids. We explored the concept of ‘differing degrees of rape.’ Karen pointed out that we have so many people walking around not knowing that they’re rapists, thinking because they were drunk, or the girl was, it didn’t count.

David Hill asked a question about teen reviewers: do the writers on the panel find them as judgemental as parents? Karen and Ted saw this differently – Karen says yes, but Ted has never had any complaints. I wonder if this is a gender thing, young women may be more confident in complaining about this type of thing – guys don’t think it is ‘masculine’ enough to be worried about bad language.

As with all sessions in this festival, this has once again left me with food for thought. And that is what a literary festival is for.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

No sex please: We’re teenagers
WORD CHristchurch, 26 August

Karen Healey also appears in:
The Nerd Degree,Sun 28 Aug, 5pm

 

The Kids are All Right: Cornelia Funke, Sally Gardner, Ted Dawe, Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager was the best chair I have seen in action this Writer’s Week. She introduced Cornelia Funke, Ted Dawe, Sally Gardner as award-winning writers that “write the sort of books that you put down and think about for hours afterwards.” I could not agree more.

The first pitched question was about the very concept of writing for children and YA. Each of the authors came from uniquely intelligent perspectives, they all allowed each other to hold opinions and were respectful of these.

Funke doesn’t agree with the concept of YA – she loves to write for children, the stories will be heard where they may. Ted Dawe has been put into a YA box because of the type of novels he writes, and he is at peace with this. Meanwhile, Sally Gardner said it best: “The Y is Why? And the A is the attempted answer. Many adult novels only answer. And I’d rather read books with the Y? Wouldn’t you?”

As this panel included Ted Dawe, there was a discussion about the banning of Into the River. Though I am familiar with the stoush, I was interested in Ted’s perspective:

“There were two interesting things that came out: One was the role of librarians as guardian angels, the second was how staunchly the judging panel believed in their decision. They were told by the sponsor, to go back and rethink their decision. They said ‘this was the book that deserved the prize.’” But it was Auckland libraries that led the call for review, which despite seeing the book banned temporarily, was ultimately successful in getting the restriction removed.

The other writers hadn’t had their books banned, but they agreed that publishers have a tendency to require a certain amount of censorship. Gardner had to place Maggot Moon with a different publisher because her usual one told her to bury it. It has a teacher brutality scene that ends in the death of a student, and a boys-kissing scene. She did allow the kissing to be removed for the United Arab Emirates, reluctantly. Maggot Moon won both the Carnegie Medal and the Costa. But Gardner’s favourite prize was the French prize for imagination.

Funke moved the conversation on to publishers and how things can change once you are a bestselling author. “If you are a best-selling author, you are put in the box marked ‘money.’” While a reader may draw the conclusion that that would lead to more freedom, but actually at that point you are assumed to only write things that sell, in trends. Sally Gardner agreed, calling it the “Versace effect”. The minute you write to a trend though, she says, you stop following your heart. Publishers also, added Funke, seem to dream that you are always writing for a movie deal. “They try to put books in tidy boxes.”

The discussion turned then to morality in books, with Ted Dawe asserting “I didn’t realise it to start with, but I am a social awareness writer.” He sees Into the River as being about the consequences of bad decision-making, not morality per se. Gardner finds it horrendous that parents will jump on books that have the F-word in them, yet not realise what their TV being on is doing to their children. She said of novelists, “We are the guardians.” Funke pointed out that perhaps the reason that people have picked up the theme of bullying because they are themselves guilty of this behaviour – not something Dawe had considered.

The discussion turned on to the power of books, with Mandy saying “The fantastic thing about the book ban was that nobody argued that books weren’t these powerful things.” Gardner added, “The power of words is just fantastic. The power words have to get you to dream and define your situation.” Dawe added that this was why he started writing for boys and why he became an evangelist for boys reading novels, “Otherwise they are trapped like birds in a cage.”

I will be honest, I was blown away by the things these authors were saying, the power behind their words. I have always read fantasy, as escapism – not guiltily, but with an awareness that perhaps it wasn’t the best way to enrich my mind. Funke gave me the perfect reason, as did Hager: “Sometimes you see better through the other side of the mirror.”

Hager moved on to concerns about children today. The biggest concern for Gardner is social media bullying. “I am alarmed that young children are allowed these tools. The potential for torture is too real.” She says, “We live life looking into a machine. What happens when they go blank? What happens when all the pictures are gone?”

Funke doesn’t dislike social media, as it has connected her with fans in Japan, in Norway, in Argentina – and all of these fans start talking together. Note to readers of Funke – if you send her a tweet, she will respond to it. She only has book people following her, so she sees it as a “community of nerds.” Her biggest concern isn’t that children don’t read – she worries that they don’t live. Schoool eats up their whole lives. She would finish school at 1pm, and send the kids to work on the environment – a real concern. But, Funke says, “Society can’t get much worse, I’m optimistic about the future.”

I will relate one more story from this session, because I teared up. Cornelia Funke has a lot of fanmail – she has had some from abused children, from soldiers, from those that were dying. They say to her “You gave me shelter with your words.” Now this is true power. She added, “We can change things, even if we just give comfort. Sometimes we don’t have to do more.”

I will give the final word to Cornelia Funke: “How did I get to have this job? It’s fantastic!”

You will have a chance to see the tremendous Cornelia Funke at The Embassy for Cornelia Funke: Reckless, Fearless, Heartless tomorrow at 2pm. Sally Gardner is also at the Embassy at 11am for Sally Gardner: Maggot Moon.

Attended and reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Kids are All Right
The Embassy, 2pm, Saturday 12 March
NZ Festival Writers Week

Books:
Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardner
Hot Key Books
ISBN 9781471400445

Do you love international YA literature? Kiwis do it just as well!

Since Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, people have become more aware of the quality of our local fiction. Which is amazing. But did you know that our YA fiction is of the same quality as much that is produced overseas? No? Well let me educate you about a few of our top YA novelists writing right now.

Trilogies and series’
First of all – trilogies and series’. Internationally, trends have driven our teens through magical boarding schools (Harry Potter), paranormal and vampires (Twilight), dystopias (The Hunger Games), and extreme political situations (Divergent). Note that not only did these trilogies sell incredibly high volumes, they have also become films.

cv_juno_of_tarisLet me begin with one of my favourites. Fleur Beale wrote an incredible trilogy from 2008, beginning with Juno of Taris, about the life of a girl who was born into an isolated island community. This community is under a bubble, to protect them from the environment which they are led to believe by their ruling elders has been polluted to unliveable standards. The book questions the accepted, it has a gutsy heroine, and it has just a glimmer of magic to boot. The three books are Juno of Taris, Fierce September, and Heart of Darkness (all published by Random House).

cv_dreamhunterIf you want magical realism (think Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Margaret Mahy), you cannot go past Dreamhunter / Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox. The world of Southland draws you in, and makes you feel like anything is possible. I remember reading this for the first time, and wishing so much that I was reading it aged 13 or 14, simply to be closer to what I was like then, ready to believe that dreams were catchable, that magic was real. This has more recently been supplemented with Mortal Fire (Gecko Press), which is itself due a sequel one day!

cv_the_crossing_tnMandy Hager writes trilogies and stand-alone books with equal aplomb. The trilogy that comes to mind as an excellent dystopia based on an extreme political situation, is ‘The Blood of the Lamb’ series. Composed of The Crossing, Into the Wilderness, and Resurrection, the trilogy is prefaced on a ‘last survivor’ cult that operates from a ship in the Pacific Ocean. The storyline covers racial inequality, political persecution, and other broad dystopian themes. It is hard-hitting, and wonderfully written.

Our own John Greens
In terms of stand-alone, issues-based novels, there are few hotter right now than John Green. With his abilities on social media, and his hard-hitting topics, he is a hard one to beat. But I would say that there are several of our very own authors who come close.

cv_see_ya_simonFor instance, David Hill. One of David Hill’s first massive publishing successes (in 1992) was See Ya, Simon, in which the narrator’s best friend is a boy with muscular dystrophy, who doesn’t have long to live. This book was picked up around the world, and has been translated into many languages. David has written around 30 YA titles, all with strong believable characters, dealing with recognisable teenage emotions and dramas. (Others I would recommend are Duet, and My Brother’s War).

cv_the_nature_of_ashMandy Hager also comes to mind when thinking about health issues, with books like The Nature of Ash, which sees a teenage boy struggling with caring for his Downs Syndrome-suffering brother, while navigating the apocalypse. More recently, Dear Vincent, deals head-on with death of a sibling; as does Anna Mackenzie’s The Shadow of the Mountain.

Let me also mention Kate De Goldi, with her crossover award-winner The 10pm Question. Also Penelope Todd, with the trilogy Watermark (still available in e-book format), which itself is faintly reminiscent of something more otherworldly, classic children’s trilogy The Halfmen of O, by Maurice Gee. While on the topic of Gee, let me just recommend the Salt Trilogy – it is rather wonderful.

Can you tell how much I love kiwi dystopian YA trilogies?

The Children and Young Adults’ Book Awards
WhenWeWake_CVR_128x198x21.5_FA.inddThe YA section of the New Zealand Children’s and Young Adults’ Book awards is always strong, and I always wonder how the judges can possibly choose a winner. This year, Karen Healey was one of the contenders. Healey is somebody you cannot fail to mention while discussing and recommending current kiwi YA fiction. Author of four books, two of which are part of the When We Wake trilogy, she is one to watch for her very real teenage voices. Pick it up.

If you like your YA set in the past, Tania Roxborogh and Anna Mackenzie are both ones to watch. Each have written broadly about teen themes, so they aren’t one-trick ponies, but I would recommend Banquo’s Son and the others incv_cattras_legacy Roxborogh’s trilogy for those who like their teenage problems with a 12th-century dramatic twist; while Mackenzie has two titles in the Cattra’s Legacy trilogy out so far, set in medieval times.

For action along the lines of Robert Muchamore’s CHERUB series, but keeping it kiwi, you can’t go far wrong with Brian Falkner. He has been publishing great action books for teens for many years now, and is currently in the midst of a series called Recon Team Angel. One stand-alone that I must recommend, from a few years ago, is Brain Jack. I seem to remember reading it over a few hours when I got my hands on it. Another author to check out both current and past titles of along these lines is Ken Catran – he writes stand-alone books packed with drama and excitement.

The wonderful thing about writers of YA in New Zealand is that I haven’t met one I didn’t like. They are humble and generous, while writing these incredible books that transport teenagers all over New Zealand into different worlds. Let’s hope that the melding of Random House and Penguin doesn’t interrupt this incredible industry. Or perhaps it will prompt the creation of a new company: does anybody fancy starting a new publishing house dedicated to good-quality kiwi YA?

By Sarah Forster

People I haven’t mentioned, who are also worth looking up (i.e. I think this piece is long enough): Bernard Beckett, Barbara Else, R.L Steadman, David Hair, V. M Jones, Jack Lasenby, Ted Dawe, Joy Cowley, Adele Broadbent, Melinda Szymanik, Alison Robertson, Maryanne Scott, Sherryl Jordan (I loved her writing as a kid), and newcomer Rachael Craw. If there are more I have missed, please add your recommendations in the comments!

Book Review: Singing Home the Whale, by Mandy Hager

Available now in bookstores nationwide. 

Another wonderfully lyrical tale from one of New Zealand’s most skilled and under-rated cv_singing_home_the_whaleYoung Adult authors.

Last year, Mandy Hager captured my emotions with the powerful story of a teenage girl battling grief and depression, with the outstanding Dear Vincent. This year, she brings us this beautiful tale of a friendship between two different species, courage, loyalty and determination.

Will Jackson does not feel he fits in to the tiny community in the Marlborough Sounds. He is a city youth, hiding out from a brutal attack and the public humiliation of a YouTube video gone viral. Things change for him when a juvenile orca makes his way into the Sounds. Drawn to Will’s fine singing voice, he and the young dolphin strike up a friendship unlike any other, a friendship that transcends the borders of species. But not all are as thrilled by the prospect. The local salmon farmer, a cruel and vindictive man, resents the intrusion and will do anything to protect his captive stock.

The chapters are skillfully interwoven between two narrators − Will and the orca, named Min. Min’s voice is lyrical, melodious, rich in evocative language and charming use of wordplay and prose. Each chapter is heralded with a page of absolutely gorgeous lineart. Will’s story is a little more straightforward in prose, a young man with a strong heart that has been, if not broken, then badly dented. Hager captures the voice of the youth superbly as she takes him on this journey of friendship, dedication and personal growth.

This is definitely one of the stand-out novels I have read this year, for both its beautiful, rich language and the deep emotional − but never sentimental − power behind the adversity, the tragedy and the triumph.

Very few books have struck a chord in my heart like this one has.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Singing Home the Whale
by Mandy Hager
Published by Random House NZ
ISBN 9781775536574

Mandy Hager and our very healthy Teen Fiction publishing tradition

A few weeks ago, Mandy Hager pp_mandy_hagerbecame just the second children’s writer (after Tessa Duder) to win the prestigious Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship.

Children’s Bookshop owner John McIntyre says, this decision ‘has been fantastic validation of our great Young Adult writers who generally fly under the radar when it comes to public profile.’

Hager’s achievement, is thanks to her ‘ability to capture the emotion, the angst and the confusion that teenagers feel’ McIntyre says and then ‘find the plot, character and the voice to portray (it) back to them in a story they feel connected to’.

Hager says ‘I’m thrilled on behalf of all children’s/YA writers. We often get treated like the poor cousins of ‘adult’ fiction writers…- this has buoyed us all.’

Speaking on Radio NZ on 15 November, soon after the announcement about the cv_smashedFellowship, John McIntyre carried on to talk about what makes great YA fiction, and how difficult it can be to nail it. Check out the podcast of his interview with Kathryn Ryan here.

YA fiction can often end up appealing to a cross-over market. How does Hager target her audience when she begins writing her stories? Does the reader’s age come hand in hand with the issues she is tackling? Hager has grappled with everything from teen suicide in her most recent Dear Vincent, to post-apocalyptic cults in her Blood of the Lamb trilogy, to the issue of teenage rape in Smashed. Hager says:

‘I generally work on the theory that I’m writing it for anyone from the age of about 13 up. I try to layer several themes through the story, so it can be read on a number of levels, to accommodate different age groups and levels of understanding. My first reader (chapter by chapter) is my 25 year old daughter Rose (who, incidentally, is doing some illustrations for my next book – very exciting!) – and she seems like a good medium age to aim at!’

During the Katherine Mansfield Mention220px-Heloise_World_Noted_Women Fellowship at the Villa Isola Bella, Hager will be researching a project that has been brewing for the past five years, about French nun, scholar and writer, Heloise d’Argenteuil. When she first began researching the story she was going to focus on Heloise and her lover Abelard, but she realised that ‘Heloise’s story stayed with me. Moved me. Called to me’. She contemplated giving it a contemporary twist, perhaps with Destiny Church taking on the role of the medieval Catholic Church, but went back to Heloise’s big questions. Why did she continue to love a man who ultimately spurned her in the favour of a ‘brutal misogynistic medieval God’?

‘I also came to realise that the only way I could do justice to the story was to go back to France and walk down the same corridors, feel the same touchstones, hear the same birds on a long hot French afternoon. This is the gift the Fellowship has given me – the chance to connect with Heloise on her own terms –and to meet and speak with those who can help me to colour her world.’

Mandy Hager is a big fan of Katherine Mansfield’s work, saying ‘she had a great capacity for honest reflection on human thought and behaviour – she really understood it. I like to tease people who are elitist about the place of YA fiction in the hierarchy by saying that she was a ‘cross-over’ writer (given how frequently her work is used in schools!) Always causes a good stir!’

Hager is known for her ability to point out wrongs, and elucidate why something is wrong with insight and eloquence. This was proven recently in her blog post about the ‘roast busters’ case. I mentioned that we would miss her if she had a social media holiday – to this she assured me ‘You’ll definitely hear from me! I will try to blog on a regular basis about what’s been going on over there and I’ll continue to Tweet, as I find the people I follow on Twitter give me a much broader understanding of what’s going on in the world than mainstream media.’

We look forward to seeing what comes of the Heloise project, and in the meantime, here is a run-down of Hager’s books of the past few years. Go to your local bookstore and buy a couple for the teenager in your life. They have a lot of emotional honesty to be imparted.

Dear Vincent (Random House, 2013), described by Johncv_dear_vincent McIntyre. ‘Dear Vincent is her new novel – a story that features 16 year old Tara discovering that her sister Vanessa didn’t die in a car crash as she had been told but had committed suicide aged 16 when she was estranged from her parents. The story is played out against a background of simmering tensions, brutal insults and escalating hatred- and Tara is trying to handle it. Her redemption is found in the art room at school, where she discovers and the work and letters of Vincent Van Gogh.’

The Nature of Ash (Random House, 2012) ‘Ash McCarthy thought he finally had it made: away from home and all its claustrophobic responsibilities, he’s revelling in the freedom of student hostel life. But life is about to take a devastating cv_the_nature_of_ashturn, when two police officers knock on his door. Their life-changing news forces him to return home to his Down Syndrome brother Mikey, and impels him into a shady world of political intrigue, corruption, terrorism and lies . . . so many lies.’

Resurrection (Random House, 2011) ‘Maryam is fighting for her life, freedom and love in this stunning finale to the Blood of the Lamb series.’

Into the Wilderness (Random House, 2010) ‘Maryam, Ruth and Joseph have fled Onewere, reluctantly taking Joseph’s troublesome cousin, Lazarus, as well. They arrive at their destination, Marawa Island, filled with hope for rescue and reprieve. But at first glance the island appears to be solely populated by birds . . . Perhaps the Apostle’s dire warnings about the fall-out of the Tribulation were true after all?’

The Crossing (Random House, 2009) ‘The people of Onewcv_the_crossing_tnere, a small island in the Pacific, know that they are special – chosen to survive the deadly event that consumed the Earth. Now, from the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea, the elite control the population – manipulating old texts to set themselves up as living ‘gods’. But what the people of Onewere don’t know is this: the leaders will stop at nothing to meet their own blood-thirsty needs… ‘

Smashed (Random House, 2007) ‘Smashed tells the story of three teenage friends, and how their friendship, loyalties and values are thrown into confusion when the main character’s younger sister is raped by one of his best friends. His reaction sets in motion a “ripple effect”, which culminates in a violent act of revenge upon the rapist.’

Article by Sarah Forster, with thanks to Mandy Hager and John McIntyre.