Fleur Beale ONZM talks about the honour of a New Year’s Honour

pp_fleur_beale_10Fleur Beale ONZM is one of New Zealand’s top teen fiction writers, having published more than 40 books in New Zealand, with some also being published in the UK and USA. Fleur writes for teens across a wide range of reading ability and sub-genre − from motorsports to romance, dystopia to cults, she has covered teenage drama in most settings you can imagine, and some you never thought to. She has also written a good number of junior fiction titles. A short reading list of some of her top titles is below.

I am delighted to see her honoured for her work in literature in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list, and I thought I’d ask her a few questions about how it felt to have this recognition.

1. What was your first reaction when you received news of the honour?
The letter came in an official government house envelope with the crest and I thought it was an invitation to a posh book launch. When I read the letter it was quite a surprise but once it sank in I was thrilled.

2cv_slide_the_corner. What do you count as your biggest success in your writing career?
I started writing because I couldn’t find books that would engage the kids I was teaching. So, when I meet a kid who says he (it’s usually but not always a boy) has read one of my books and it’s the first book he’s ever finished, that feels like success.

3. What do you aim for with your writing for teenagers?
My first aim is to write something they’ll want to read and that will engage them. I think a book is powerful when it speaks to the reader about their own world and their own experience.

4. What is the best thing a teenager has ever said to you about your work?
Cool book, miss. I finished it.

Reading list: 

  • Slide the Corner (1992), Scholastic cv_I_am_not_esther
  • I am not Esther (1998) and I am Rebecca (2014), Random House
  • Juno of Taris (2008), Fierce September (2010) and The Heart of Danger (2012), Random House
  • The Transformation of Minna Hargreaves (2007), Random House
  • Speed Freak (2013), Random House

Fleur’s biography on the New Zealand Book Council website
– Fleur’s biography on the Random House website


Book Review: Speed Freak, by Fleur Beale

Speed Freak is a finalist in the Young Adults category of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

speed_freakArchie Barrington is fifteen years old, and is preparing for the biggest race tournament of his life. He has been a kart driver since the age of six, and has always loved the thrill of speeding down the track, the roar of the kart and the tension of the race itself. Archie has often dreamed of competing against the best of the best, on the finest racecourses – and this could be his chance.

The Challenge series is about to begin, and the prize is a race in Europe. Archie will be racing against old friends, new enemies, and everyone in between. Craig is desperate to win, and will do anything to beat the other teens. Silver has just returned to racing after a family tragedy, and is infuriating everyone with her wild driving and constant silence.

As the competition ensues, Archie must deal with pressure at home as well – his dad’s girlfriend and her seven-year-old son Felix are moving in. Felix is instantly fascinated by Archie’s karting tournament, and wants to learn to drive too…but his mother isn’t impressed by this at all, and she blames Archie for her son’s dangerous new interest.

While trying to keep an eye on Felix, Archie must push the limits of himself and his kart to beat Craig and come out on top. But when the rules are manipulated, will Archie be able to cope with the pressure on him? One thing is for certain, though – this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity won’t wait for him…Archie is going to have to chase after it at full speed.

Speed Freak is a Young Adult Finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for 2014, and it is exactly the sort of book you might expect from award-winning author Fleur Beale; captivating, honest, and completely unique. This book will be one that I will constantly reread, and Beale certainly has my vote for the Book Awards this year.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

Speed Freak
by Fleur Beale
Published by Random House NZ
ISBN 9781775534709