Book sales have continued to grow despite, or perhaps because of, the pandemic, with a renewed demand for compelling fiction. As much as ever, kids need a good book to curl up with, so we’ve found a few worth putting under their noses.
Elsewhere Girls, Nova Weetman and Emily Gale (Text Publishing)
This is the story, told in alternating chapters, of two girls – Fanny from 1908 and Cat in contemporary Sydney – who, one day while swimming in Wylie’s Baths in Coogee, switch places. Fanny, based on Australian swimmer Fanny Durack, has Olympic dreams; Cat has the pressure of a sports scholarship. One girl has the gendered low expectations of her era, while the other has the intense pressure that comes from elite programs, but they both love to swim. Their new situations mean new challenges, struggles and opportunities. Elsewhere Girls is what happens when two bestselling authors work at the top of their game, and the result is more than the sum of its parts. With appeal for all fans of the time-slip genre, this is crammed with history, humour, feminism and adventure. For ages 10+.
The Orchard Underground, Mat Larkin (Hardie Grant)
Things are afoot in the town of Dunn’s Orchard, where Pri and new friend Attica decide to go about finding out why a town with the word “orchard” in its name appears to have no orchard anywhere to be found. They head out on a fast-paced mystery, and the reader’s fun is in trying to keep up with what, exactly, is going on. Mat Larkin’s debut is funny and fresh, and one of the highlights is the richly drawn characters – not just the two main characters, but also the bit players we meet along the way. It is a quirky and at times strange book, full of surprises, with enormous appeal for readers aged 9+.
The End of the World is Bigger than Love, Davina Bell (Text Publishing)
When identical twins Winter and Summer, living alone on an island, meet mysterious stranger Edward and find out more about him and why he has arrived, things start to come undone. This is a suspenseful, eerie adventure tale full of the bonds of siblinghood, with some unusual and idiosyncratic supporting characters – not least of which is a talking whale! As one enthusiastic young Goodreads reviewer says: An exquisite, mesmerising, timely and brilliantly conceived ode to literature and humanity… A young-adult version of Station Eleven meets After the Lights Go Out meets Z for Zachariah meets something completely indescribable. Set in a future destroyed by cyber-terrorism and global warming, incorporating speculative fiction, dystopia, magic realism and romance, and with strong themes of grief and love, this is for older readers aged 16+.
Invisible Boys, Holden Sheppard (Fremantle Press)
Another for older YA readers, Invisible Boys provides valuable insight into the vulnerabilities, joys and complications of the lives of three young gay men. Set in Geraldton, WA, we follow Zeke, Hammer and Charlie on their coming out journeys. Beginning with a Grindr hook-up and Charlie being outed, the book eschews stereotypes and instead shows how life in a small country town really is for young adults today. This is a raw and at times challenging story that never shies away from the complexities of life as a young adult.
Verona Comics, Jennifer Dugan (Penguin)
While at first it might seem like a straightforward boy-meets-girl love story, Verona Comics embraces queerdom, putting lesbian parents and bisexuality front and centre. Jubilee and Ridley appear to have little in common but after meeting at a comic convention prom they quickly fall in love. But their parents are feuding – Ridley’s parents own a large comic-store chain and Jubilee’s step-mum runs an indie equivalent – and this makes their relationship difficult. Covering issues around mental health and romance, this is for those readers who are open to something more dialogue-based than plot-driven. Suitable for YA aged 12 and up.
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Jessica Townsend (Hachette)
This is the first in this magical adventure series that currently sits at three books, with the fourth slated for release next year and already eagerly anticipated by many fans. Morrigan might be a Cursed Child, but she is also the best kind of hero: full of fun and humour, curious, brave and strong-minded. All of this makes her easy company as she has adventures the likes of which, along with the ingenious plotting, have drawn comparisons with Harry Potter. Jupiter North offers her the chance to join the secret organisation he belongs to, the Wundrous Society, but first she needs to compete in order to secure a place, and she’s up against hundreds of talented children. This wondrous series is for ages 10+.