Book Review: Lonesome When You Go, by Saradha Koirala

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_lonesome_when_you_goSaradha Koirala was born and raised in New Zealand. She is a teacher of English literature and creative writing at high schools and universities. Her third book Lonesome When You Go takes us to a town in New Zealand, and into the world of rock and classical music.

Lonesome When You Go follows the story of a teenage girl named Paige as she faces all sorts of challenges with her bandmates, friends and family. Over the course of the novel Paige discovers that she can’t always control everything in her life. This novel is filled with lots of fun, quirky unique characters, who help Paige discover that she’s never alone even when it seems like no one is there.

I very much enjoyed Lonesome When You Go and it’s dramatic twists and turns and they way that the characters beliefs grew over the course of the novel. I would highly recommend this novel to any high school student or music fanatic.

Reviewed by Isabelle Ralston (14)

Lonesome When You Go
by Saradha Koirala
Published by Makaro Press
ISBN 9780994123749

Book Review: Shield, by Rachael Craw

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_shieldShield is the third and final book in Rachael Craw’s young adult science thriller. It brings with it tension, revelation, and brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. If you have not picked up its predecessors: Spark and Stray, then I would highly recommend you do. Whilst aimed at the teenage market, they display a level of complexity and maturity that clearly demonstrates how much care the author has taken in weaving her world and her words. It is one I would recommend for the older teens, and potentially the “new adult” market.

In Spark, Evie discovered that she was a Shield, a genetically-altered being designed to protect the vulnerable Sparks. These Sparks, generally gifted and bright individuals, are in turn being hunted by Strays – people that remain seemingly ordinary, until they come into contact with the Sparks, then they become struck with the savage, all-encompassing, desire to kill the Spark. Evie’s best friend, Kitty is the Spark, and a Stray has found her…

In Stray, Kitty teams with Evie in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, as they try and prove that Strays can be cured. Unfortunately, the project that created her, Affinity, is not open to fresh ideas and wants her back under their control. Meanwhile, there are numerous family revelations, tragedies, heart-break and non-stop action.

Shield felt slower moving than its predecessors. It delved more heavily into the politics and inner workings of Affinity, as Evie finally found herself, inescapably, in their clutches. The action really did not take off until the second half of the book – and then it was a helter-skelter, rollercoaster of a ride. Instead, it dealt more with emotions. This perhaps weakened it a bit in my mind: I’m somewhat less interested in teenager jealousy, miscommunication and blind assumptions than I once was. However, it was true to the characters and there was more than enough action to keep me hooked. There were also a few steamier moments – but nothing too overboard for a teen novel – and several surprise revelations.

Definitely worth a read, and I highly recommend the trilogy to those that love suspense, romance, and genetically-altered heroes.

Book reviewed by Angela Oliver

by Rachael Craw
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922179647

Book Review: Coming Home to Roost, by Mary-Anne Scott

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_coming_home_to_roostThere has been an ongoing discussion in New Zealand bookish circles about YA books for boys; stirred up, in part, due to the controversial banning of Ted Dawe’s Into the River last year. It’s a discussion that has thrown up some interesting questions. What kind of content is suitable and/or unsuitable for younger readers? What control do we (and should we) have over the content young people consume? And perhaps most importantly; How do we get (and keep) boys reading?

It’s an important conversation, and one that should involve less ‘talking at’ or ‘talking around’ and more ‘talking with’ real teenagers. Let’s face it, we all have opinions. And those opinions are mostly based on our own experiences or values rather than on anything concrete.

I’ve never been a teenage boy, and so in that regard I feel quite underqualified to review Coming Home to Roost. But while saying that, there were times when I was reading this that I felt the author didn’t nail the teenage voice. I’ve never heard a teenager (even a musical one) describe watching an orchestral performance as a high similar to smoking drugs, and I felt that the Peter Pan/Elliot ‘boy who never grows up’ analogy was an insult to Elliot’s development in the tradition of the bildungsroman (Holden Caulfield would never have described himself as a whiner).

While there is a glimpse of on-the-nose social realism here, which explores some very real and engaging issues – I’m told that Coming Home to Roost is the first NZ novel to cover teenage pregnancy from the male protagonist’s point of view – I couldn’t help but feel like this story has been sterilized in terms of characterization, content and morality.

To me, the beauty in social realism is struggling with decisions alongside characters. It’s that gut-churney feeling of realising that real lives and real decisions are varied and complex and double-edged and just plain hard. Too often while reading this I felt like I was being fed a moral agenda, like the ‘right’ decision was there all along, and I just had to wait for Elliot to ‘grow up’; to ‘be a man’. And I couldn’t help but ask myself, is that really what our boys want to read?

I am not a teenage boy; and I’m sure many New Zealand teenagers will read and enjoy this book. There is a solid story here. And despite my griping, I still believe it’s a story we need more of.

Reviewed by Emma Bryson

Coming Home to Roost
by Mary-Anne Scott
Published by Longacre
ISBN 9781775538592