This week we’re bringing you the gems that haven’t gone out in a while, part two! You can see the reasoning behind this collection and the previous installment here.
Stitches in Time, Julie Ireland
When Elsie journeys all the way from Australia to Burgundy to visit her dead mother’s sister she finds herself in a disturbing world. Menancing and vivid glimpses of the past crowd in on her, and the truth about her mother, when it comes, is shattering.
My Life as a Dog, Reidar Jönsson
While his mother is dying of tuberculosis and his father is away at sea, thirteen-year-old Ingemar is farmed out to relatives, pseudo-relatives and the children’s home. He’s a sweetly eccentric boy with a creative sense of mischief that has a tendency to spiral out of control, often instigated by his equally unrestrained older brother. Ingemar may have a rough time, but not as bad as Laika – the Russian dog sent into space. During his summer away from home Ingemar meets various eccentric characters, giving him experiences that will affect him for the rest of his life. This is an adorably lovely novel about a young boy’s valiant attempts to manage life “in spite of it all” with both tragic and hilarious results.
Ophelia : a novel, Lisa M. Klein
I do so love a re-telling or twisting of a well known story. Lisa Klein doesn’t disappoint in this reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. This time, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia’s happiness is shattered. Ultimately, she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever … with one very dangerous secret.
Blue Plate Special, Michelle D. Kwasney
At 15, every girl believes her mother has always been middle-aged and clueless. But this compelling novel tells the other side of the story through the alternating voices of Madeline, Desiree, and Ariel. In alternating chapters, the lives of three teenage girls from three different generations are woven together as each girl learns about forgiveness, empathy, and self-respect. Michelle D. Kwansney reveals information at a perfect pace. She never gives too much away, yet never holds too much back. Though their circumstances are all different, and each girl is facing some seriously tough problems, I found them all deeply relatable. Each girl has a unique voice, the time periods are easily identified by pop cultural references, and the author skillfully draws you in with cliffhangers.
A Summer to Die, Lois Lowry
Number the Stars reverberated with me for years and this novel is as equally compelling because of Lois Lowry’s strength as a storyteller. A Summer to Die is a beautiful story about an extremely tough subject and the complexity of relationships between sisters. Thirteen-year-old Meg envies her sister Molly’s beauty and popularity. But Molly is very sick in a way Meg doesn’t quite understand. Lois Lowry takes in the subject of death with grace and elegance. The big information is told not through first-person dialogue (declaration, reaction) but by simple narrative statements, sometimes right in the middle of a chapter. The news itself is important and dramatic enough to make impact in a few sentences. Once it becomes clear that Molly is dying, her disease still isn’t named for a while because ultimately this isn’t a book about leukemia, it’s a book about Meg and Molly as sisters.
Something in the Air, Jan Mark
Peggy is a fifteen-year-old rather at odds with the world around her. Her older sister berates her constantly for being messy. Her teachers reprimand her for being unladylike. Her best friend has stopped talking to her, because she was so shocked when Peggy explained the facts of life to her. And now, she’s got the strangest sounds reverberating through her head. Could they really be voices from another world, as her auntie thinks? Or is there a simpler explanation at hand?
Winter, John Marsden
I remember I read all of John Marsden’s books in very quick succession and it was this one that stuck with me more than the others. Possibly because of the compelling mystery of Winter De Salis’ childhood, which will keep you guessing till the very end (hopefully). John Marsden really does excel at lulling readers, and writing sleight of hands that distract us from the monumental wallop we’re going to be dealt before the final page. For twelve years Winter has been haunted. Her past, her memories, her feelings, will not leave her alone. And now, at sixteen, the time has come for her to act. She must head back to her old home, where a pair of family tragedies forever altered her life. What she discovers is powerful and shocking – but must be dealt with in order for life to go on.
Lost Property, James Moloney
The premise of this book completely hooked me; a clue to a missing brother found in Lost Property. From the outside, Josh’s life looks pretty much perfect. He’s in a band, he has a gorgeous girlfriend and he does well at school. But Josh’s family has been slowly falling apart since his older brother disappeared two years before. Then Josh comes across a clue to Michael’s whereabouts in the Lost Property Office where he’s working for the holidays. Determined to put his family back together, and without a word to anyone, Josh too leaves Sydney in a desperate bid to bring his brother home.
Shooter, Walter Dean Myers
Not to be approached lightly, this is the story of a teenager who is often bullied by classmates who eventually loses it and opens fire in his school, killing his arch-enemy and himself. What I liked about it was the way in which Walter Dean Myers told the story. Using police reports and various interview transcripts for the main text the author creates a very realistic tone that adds to the clinical, almost sterile accounts of “the incident.” It also kind of makes the story a little creepier. Then there is Len’s diary. The author works very hard to give background and context to the shooting, to tell us what factors can possibly lead to such a desperate act.
If you like the slightly different writing style of Walter Dean Myers then check out A time to love : stories from the Old Testament which is a retelling of six stories from the Old Testament, which explore the complexity of love from the perspective of Ruth, Delilah, Reuben, Isaac, Gamiel, and Zillah.