In the Dark Spaces
Hardie Grant Egmont
At first, Cally Black’s debut novel In the Dark Spaces seems just like any YA sci-fi/dystopian novel; in a universe where resources are scarce, 14-year-old Tamara barely manages to survive as a stowaway on the Starweaver Layla, the spaceship where her aunt works. Tamara spends her days looking after her toddler cousin, Tamiki, and occasionally, in true sci-fi style, creeping through the vents to steal extra food. But, despite the stereotypical opening, Black’s imagination soon transports the reader on a thrilling journey through space. Beautifully written, Black’s rich description, combined with her creativity, puts In the Dark Spaces into a league of its own. Read more
The Traitor and the Thief
“It appeared no one in this new world he inhabited was quite who they seemed.” This is a quote from the steampunk adventure novel The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward. I was inspired to read this book after meeting the author, also known as The Great Wardini, at Booktown in Featherston, and being his assistant while he performed magic tricks. The Traitor and the Thief is a great book with complex characters, exciting twists and many themes.
When 14-year-old orphan Sin is abducted off the streets, he finds a new life in Covert Operations Group (COG), composed of a group of teens training to stop a war. Read more
Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Helen Vivienne Fletcher’s self-published thriller Broken Silence is bursting with promise – unfortunately, it fails to hit the spot.
Set in present-day Wellington, Broken Silence introduces us into the world of 17-year-old Kelsey, a protagonist with a heavy weight on her shoulders. Trying to deal with a terminally ill mother, an absent father, and her abusive boyfriend Mike, Kelsey’s chaotic life conveys what it feels like to be a lost and confused teenager. The mayhem escalates when a mysterious caller gives Kelsey a hand out of her violent situation with Mike – by putting him into a coma. Read more
The Traitor and the Thief
The Traitor and the Thief is a young adult fiction book by Gareth Ward, published by Walker Books Australia in August 2017, which won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award. The book is about a 14-year-old boy called Sin who steals on the streets of a steampunk Britannia. Sin is caught stealing and is offered a place in Covert Operation Group (COG) to train and become a spy. But Sin soon discovers that there is a spy in COG and must catch them before they can cause chaos.
The world that Ward has written is set in an alternate version of our world with a steampunk, James Bond twist. Read more
Moon Boy, by Kathy Sutcliffe, explores a coastal New Zealand town through the eyes of 16-year-old wannabe-receptionist Kat Bell. I’m guessing this novel has a time-span of about a year (start to finish), and in that year Kat experiences bullying, family changes, loneliness and more.
I truly had no idea what this book was about when I chose it. I had never even heard of the novel before. I picked it up and proceeded to read this blurb: “Kat and Eru are new in town and trying to find their way. Not easy when her mum’s in a relationship with his mum, and he’s not your usual sort of guy: Māori with the palest skin and blonde dreads and – strangest of all – no ears. Read more
J L Pawley
Recommended to me as a sci-fi thriller in which the author “actually knows how birds work,” J L Pawley’s debut novel, Air Born, is sure to be a high-flier in New Zealand YA fiction.
Air Born was originally self-published by the author under the title First Flight. It quickly became a Wattpad sensation, attracting over 1.5 million reads. After working with Pawley, it was published by Steam Press in late 2017. Since then, the book has been sold internationally and was recently released in Russian. It’s easy to see why the book took flight. Read more
Oxygen by William Trubridge is a breath-taking story about one man’s quest to push his body and mind to the absolute limits. Trubridge is a professional New Zealand freediver, and Oxygen tells the story of his early days, his discovery of freediving, his ride to success, and his quest to dive 100 metres below the surface of the ocean, equipped with nothing but a single breath (and a really tight wetsuit).
Born on the 24th of May 1980 in Northumberland, England, Trubridge’s family chose to sail across the Atlantic Ocean when Trubridge was 18 months old. Read more
1984 (republished 2017)
I have to be honest here – I read this book because I saw the film trailer. The trailer was very intriguing. First, Carmody Braque (the villain of The Changeover) is played by none other than the actor Peter Pettigrew. Even in 2 minutes, it was surreal to see a Harry Potter actor in a New Zealand film. And that’s it – very few books by New Zealand authors have been made into films. Judging by how well-known The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are, The Changeover may very well be the next big thing. Read more
Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong
Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong by Erin Donohue starts off really normally. There is a drifty, relaxed vibe as Caleb enters year 13 in a Wellington school. Things kick up a notch as Caleb struggles to keep up with school work, fit in with friends, and understand family. In this dark gloom, Caleb makes a friend called Casey. She is the one bright spot in his life. However, there are many secrets lurking in the dark and things are certainly not as they seem. Read more
Pieces of You
Penguin Random House
Pieces of You is the typical YA coming-of-age novel that surprisingly offers more than a cliche. Not least, it is uniquely set in a familiar setting of Auckland. Eileen Merriman creates genuine teenage characters – one aspect within the YA genre that often feels lacking or underdeveloped, and so is much appreciated when done right.
The story revolves around 15-turning-16-year-old Rebecca McQuilten, who has recently moved up to Auckland from Dunedin with her parents. However, a warning: the very first line can be triggering. Although it’s refreshing that Merriman does not dwell much on Rebecca’s backstory, the point at which she chooses entry into the plot can be quite confronting. Read more