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Category: NZ Post Book Awards

NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: YA Finalists!

Behold — the shortlist for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults has been announced and it is great. If you want to find out about the books that have been nominated for the children’s lit categories, check out our blog post on the matter, but on this blog we’re all about the YA, baby! Read on for our thoughts on this year’s Young Adult Fiction Award finalists, a slice of the book itself (where we can share it!), and for handy-dandy catalogue links so you can reserve them if you haven’t already read them!

Afakasi woman / Young, Lani Wendt
Our thoughts: Lani Wendt Young’s prose, as always, is searing, insightful, and thought-provoking. This collection of short stories puts a laser focus on the experiences and voices of Pasifika women, always sketched with the deftest of hands that combines a powerful evocation of place and voice with a keen sense for moral relativity throughout. Ultimately, the collection is a really freaking awesomely written exploration and discovery of the joys, trials, and day-to-day lives of women in the Pacific. Read it and discuss!

Aspiring / Wilkins, Damien
Our thoughts: We loved the verbosity and relatability of 15-year-old Ricky’s near-constant internal monologue throughout this book — it’s full of the kinds of observations about life in a small town that we recognise and empathise with. It’s exciting to see the author’s bold and unpretentious voice applied to young adult themes and characters for the first time in this book, and we’re hoping there’s more to come in this space in the future!

Pete’s was where I had an after-school job. There was no one at the restaurant called Pete. The owner’s name was Garth but he hadn’t got around to changing the name. He didn’t want to climb on a ladder and paint it up. ‘Besides,’ Garth said, ‘who’d want to come to a place called Garth’s? Sounds like someone clearing his throat.’

I wouldn’t have needed a ladder.

— Damien Wilkins, Aspiring, Massey University Press, 2020.

The History Speech / Sweet, Mark (coming soon to our libraries!)
Our thoughts: In this book Mark Sweet refuses to shy away from some pretty heavy themes — child abuse, drug use, suicide, sexuality, the works. It’s an engrossing tale set in 1960s New Zealand, only the cheery Kiwiana facade is starting to crumble, revealing the universal (and existential) angst beneath. Callum’s voice and unique perspective kept us turning the pages with alacrity, and his tale of self-discovery is not one we think you should miss.

Posh tea is kept in a tin and had with a slice of lemon and no milk. Regular is from the yellow Bell paper box and had with milk, poured before the tea, although his mother does it the other way round. She says people who pour their milk first don’t know any better. That way the milk is scalded, she says. His mother and his grandfather agree about heating the teapot first with hot water, but not about the milk. He doesn’t take sides when the subject comes up,although he was more impressed by his grandfather’s knowledge of the boiling point of milk than his mother’s explanation that that’s the way the do it in Scotland.

— Mark Sweet, The History Speech, Huia Press, 2019.

Ursa / Shaw, Tina
Our thoughts: It’s always exciting when a new dystopian novel comes out of New Zealand — especially from an author of the calibre of Tina Shaw. She brings her trademark attention to place — the granite cobblestones of the streets, the expressions of the statues on the building-tops — to bear on a compelling and convincing world where the iron fist of those with wealth and power is starting to be tested by those without. The intensely personal story of Leho and Emee, and their trials in seeking change, will resonate with you long after you put the book down.

Wynter’s thief / Jordan, Sherryl
Our thoughts: I have to admit to some bias here — Sherryl Jordan has long been one of my favourite New Zealand authors. Wynter’s Thief is another example of her rich use of language, both to conjure up accurate and engrossing historical referents, and to patiently build in elements of fantasy and magic. The pacing of this story is what really grabbed me — it grows in speed and import as you read. Definitely check this out, and while you’re at it, check out Jordan’s substantial back catalogue — you won’t regret it.

There is a wild danger, a dancing on the knife-edge between sacredness and devilry, when a witch works magic. It is like that today, with the maid. Around her, the burning air shimmers, prickly with suspense. She strides ahead, wand outstretched, bare feet swift on the scorched earth. We follow, feverish with excitement, and musicians march alongside, banging drums and playing pipes. Dust rises about us, bright like a holy cloud, leaving us breathless, dazzled in her wake.

— Sherryl Jordan, Wynter’s Thief, OneTree House, 2019.

NZ Post book awards – YA

It’s that time of year! The NZ Post book awards have posted their shortlist. Here the ones in our collection.

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe traitor and the thief, Gareth Ward

Discovered picking pockets at Coxford’s Corn Market, fourteen year old Sin is hunted across the city. Caught by the enigmatic Eldritch Moons, Sin is offered a way out of his life of crime: join the Covert Operations Group (COG) and train to become a spy. At Lenheim Palace, Sin learns spy craft while trying not to break the school’s Cast-Iron Rules. Befriended by eccentric Zonda Chubb, together they endeavour to unmask a traitor causing havoc within the palace. After an assassination attempt on the founder of COG, Sin realises that someone closest to him could be the traitor. With no other option, Sin is forced into an uneasy alliance with the school bully, Velvet Von Darque. But can he trust her? And will COG try to bury him with the secrets he discovers? (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsPieces of you, Eileen Merriman

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party, but that’s when things really fall apart. Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall. Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again…(Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsSticking with pigs, Mary-Anne Scott

Uncle Jeremy has been helping the family out for a while now, by dropping off meat he’s shot. The offer to go hunting sounds great to fourteen-year-old Wolf…a chance to get away from the family stress. But this hunting trip proves to be more than he bargained for. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsIn the dark spaces, Cally Black

A hostage drama about 14-year-old Tamara, who’s faced with an impossible choice when she falls for her kidnappers. Yet this is no ordinary kidnapping. Tamara has been living on a star freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crowpeople – the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No-one has ever survived a Crowpeople attack, until now – and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive. But survival always comes at a price, and there’s no handbook for this hostage crisis. As Tamara comes to know the Crowpeople’s way of life, and the threats they face from humanity’s exploration into deep space, she realises she has an impossible choice to make. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsCatch me when you fall, Eileen Merriman

A moving novel about learning to find happiness in the face of uncertainty and discovering a love that transcends the boundary between life and death. Seventeen-year-old Alex Byrd is about to have the worst day of her life, and the best. A routine blood test that will reveal her leukaemia has returned, but she also meets Jamie Orange. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsBecause everything is right but everything is wrong, Erin Donohue

Can you be lost and not know it? Can other people stop you from being lost? Seventeen-year-old Caleb¿s world is disintegrating, his walls are closing in, his sky is threatening to fall. He¿s barely holding on. To deadlines. To friends. To family. To mum. To Pat. But he has Casey. (Publisher summary)

Book cover courtesy of SyndeticsDawn Raid, Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith

Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofias main worries are how to get some groovy go-go boots, and how not to die of embarrassment giving a speech at school! But when her older brother Lenny starts talking about marches and protests and overstayers, and how Pacific Islanders are being bullied by the police for their passports and papers, a shadow is cast over Sofias sunny teenage days. Through her heartfelt diary entries, we witness the terror of being dawn-raided and gain an insight into the courageous and tireless work of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s as they encourage immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their rights. (Publisher summary)