Queen Of Ruin

Contains spoilers for book one. See my review for Grace & Fury
Queen of Ruin
Grace and Fury Book Two
Written by Tracey Banghart
Published July 9th 2019
340 Pages
Thanks to Hachette Australia
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★★★★☆
Nomi and Malachi find themselves powerless and headed towards their all but certain deaths. Now that Asa sits on the throne, he will stop at nothing to make sure Malachi never sets foot in the palace again.

Nomi's sister Serina, is far away on the prison island of Mount Ruin but it is in the grip of revolution and Serina leads. The women there have their sights set on revenge beyond the confines of their island prison. They will stop at nothing to gain freedom for the entire kingdom. But first they'll have to get rid of Asa, and only Nomi knows how.

Separated once again, this time by choice, Nomi and Serina must forge their own paths as they aim to tear down the world they know, to build something better in its place.
The women of Mount Ruin have revolutionised the brutal island prison, their oppressors imprisoned although continue to threaten the now united female community with violent consequences of their insolence. In protecting her sister, Serina Tessaro was sentenced and ostracised from the Kingdom of Viridia, a disgraced Grace accused of literacy in a society in which women are denied an education. Although Serina pleads her innocence, sister Nomi is a rebellious young woman refusing to adhere to the male patriarchal society and with the knowledge of the slain Superior and Prince Malachi, is sentenced to Mount Ruin.

Although Serina and Nomi are contrasting siblings, they care and support one another profoundly. As children, Serina often believed that Nomi holding her rebellious morals were little more than dissent towards her role as handmaiden, her furtive education culminating in the Tessaro sisters both convicted and sentenced to the island mountain so Prince Asa can rule unopposed. The abhorrent Asa clearly underestimating the power of women, an island where women have been forced to fight to the death is revolting against the male dominated society and with Nomi's newfound knowledge of Viridia's history, the sisters are determined to take back what is rightfully theirs. Freedom, respect and power.

Serina and Nomi are formidable characters who have undergone an incredible amount of growth since arriving in the Viridia capital. Serina was a Grace who's beauty and poise is ingrained within her from an early age while Nomi rebelled against the oppression women faced. Now reunited, the sisters are about to part ways again, this time Serina will commandeer the prison transport vessel and guide the women of Mount Ruin to safety while Nomi will accompany Prince Malachi back to the mainland, in the hopes of finding her brother, parents and ending Asa's rein.

The duology challenges stereotypes with its subtle themes of feminism within the patriarchal society. That women are homemakers, concubines and uneducated simply because men fear them and what women are capable of. Seeing the women of Mount Ruin rise as one to fight back against their oppressors was inspirational and ignites conversations about women and women's rights, our bodies and our right to the same freedoms that men overwhelmingly enjoy.

The romance throughout is incredibly subtle with the focus on friendships and female empowerment. The male love interests barely rate a mention, they're simply supporting characters who both support the equality of women. Women are the main focus and drive the narrative through their fierceness and determination, I loved each and every moment.

Although Grace and Fury is a duology, the ending left me wanting more. What happens to a society where males now become displaced? Their power stripped and women given equal rights? There's so much more of the story to tell and I hope Tracey Banghart will revisit this amazing world she's created again sometime soon. 

I live for books like the Grace and Fury duology, it's why I read young adult novels. Strong female characters within an oppressive world isn't too far from reality for so many teen girls, denied an education, denied the rights to their own bodies and denied the freedom that so many of us take for granted. It portrays women as fighters, the quiet rebellion of reading or a warriors call to arms to fight against the patriarchy, every female voice is important. It's entertaining, inspiration and just an incredible read. It's for every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet... And who stood up anyway.

Toffee

Toffee
Written by Sarah Crossan
Verse, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published June 17th 2019
400 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★☆
I am not who I say I am.
Marla isn't who she thinks she is.
I am a girl trying to forget.
Marla is a woman trying to remember.

Allison has run away from home and with nowhere to live finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn't empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee.

Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be.

But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself, where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?
Allison Daniels is searching for a place to stay, discovering what she believes is a vacant outbuilding on an abandoned property to rest her weary body. Compelled to find her former stepmother and the only person who understands the abusive and adverse environment inflicted upon Allison, her meagre possessions are stolen and determined not to return to her abusive father, seeks shelter on the dilapidated property.

Allison is a family violence survivor, her father a neglectful and abusive man since the passing of his wife moments after delivering Allison. As a child, Allison learnt to become independent from a young age and through parental neglect, begun caring for her father and the household. In a series of revolving partners, it was Kelly Anne who befriended Allison while dating her father, soon becoming a companion and confidant for Allison. Unable to withstand the abuse and manipulation, Kelly Anne abandons the family home and Allison, who now endures the constant anger of her father. Her experience is profoundly resonating and I empathised with Allison and the anguish family violence inflicts upon victims.

Marla is an elderly woman with dementia and owns the neglected property. Lonely and confused, she mistakes Allison for her childhood friend Toffee and despite Allison insisting otherwise, she understands the fragility of Marla's condition and allows her to believe she's the childhood companion Marla desperately needs. Marla is representative of our elderly communities, the forgotten and often neglected members of society. Marla is a dementia patient and although she experiences moments of clarity, she regresses to a simpler time, reminiscent of her years as a sprightly young woman. I can imagine Marla as a confident and flirtatious young woman and in her moments of clarity, she's incredibly joyous and endearing. As the narrative progresses, we're introduced to her carer who is seemingly only interested in performing a elemental service, her son is abusive, degrading Marla and creating an environment where Marla is agitated and frightened.

Throughout the narrative, Allison and Marla become friends and although at times Marla is bewildered at the new living arrangements, they begin to care and cherish one another's company. My heart ached for Marla and I could sympathise with Allison's decision to allow Marla to believe she was her once childhood friend. Marla seemingly felt more at ease and it allowed her to become the spirited and adventurous young woman she once was. Toffee also encourages the discussion of themes rarely referenced in young adult literature, dementia, the negligent attitude towards the senior members of our communities, abuse, abandonment and impoverishment. 

Poignant, compelling and achingly beautiful, Toffee is a delicate and tender verse narrative of compassion and companionship. Essential reading.

Lizard's Tale

Lizard's Tale
Written by Weng Wai Chan
Historical, Adventure, Middle Grade
Published July 2nd 2019
320 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
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★★★★
A thief. A spy. A mysterious codebook. And a whole lot of trouble.

It’s 1940 and World War II is being fought in faraway Europe. Lizard doesn’t know much about that. He lives in Singapore’s Chinatown, surviving on odd jobs and petty theft.

When Boss Man Beng asks him to steal a teak box from a suite in the glamorous Raffles Hotel, Lizard knows the job is important. But can he know just how dangerous it is?

A sinister man appears in the shadows, and Lizard’s best friend, Lili, shows up with unexpected fighting skills and her eye on what’s in the box.

And Lizard finds himself on an exciting, action packed adventure in a world of coded secrets, Japanese invasion plans and undercover spies.
Sebastian Whitford Jones checked into the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, within his room a code book hidden from the Japanese military. The British Empire now occupy Singapore, the colonisation of a country affluent in tradition but for twelve year old Lizard, he's just looking to survive.

Since his Uncle Archie left for the city two years ago and never returned, Lizard has been living in a small cubicle above the local tailors store in little Chinatown, owned by the family of best friend Lili. With his English and Chinese ancestry and ability to speak and write in English, Lizard earns his meagre wages from letter writing, illegal should he be caught. Working for Boss Man is proving more lucrative when Lizard is promised a large payment to steal a secret teak box from the Raffles Hotel, what Lizard didn't count on was Georgina Whitford Jones being in the hotel suite and catching him red handed. Suddenly Lizard is stuck with the stolen box, a girl who threatens to expose his thievery and a best friend living a secret life as an operative in training for the British Empire.

Lizard's Tale is a delightfully entertaining, historical story set within Singapore shortly before WWII. The narrative follows twelve year old biracial Lizard, living alone without a guardian since his uncle disappeared two years ago. With his blue eyes and British accent, Lizard is seen as a lowly caste among the Chinese population and unable to associate with his best friend Lili, seen as being beneath her. Although his money is good enough for Lili's family, Lizard renting a small makeshift cubicle above the family's tailor store in Chinatown, along with several other renters sharing the partitioned space. What begun as a faceless crime to secure his short term future turns deadly, the teak box Lizard steals from the hotel is at the centre of the conflict between the British and Japanese and their fight to occupy Singapore, in the wrong hands could spell disaster.

The one constant in Lizard's life is best friend Lili, she cares for Lizard despite her family's prejudice towards those who are biracial but as close as Lili and Lizard are, Lili hides a secret that may endanger them both. In a Singapore where women are underestimated by society and simply blend into their surroundings, the British Empire train young women in espionage. I love narratives with young women thriving in what are considered make dominated positions and Lili is a wonderful character.

It was incredibly atmospheric, the oppressive humidity of Singapore, the heavenly scent of Chinese and Indian inspired cooking throughout the alleyways, the British accented dialogue drifting from the doorways of international hotels.

Adventurous and enchanting, exploring colonisation, wartime and the changing multiculturalism of Singapore during the forties, Lizard's Tale is spirited and utterly delightful.

Songbird

Songbird
Written by Ingrid Laguna
Contemporary, Diverse, #LoveOZMG
Published May 7th 2019
176 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
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★★★★★
Jamila has left her friends, her school and her home in Iraq, and now she has a new home. It’s safe in Australia, but Jamila is finding it hard to settle in. She misses her best friend and worries for her dad’s safety back in Iraq. It’s hard to speak and write in English all day. And Jamila has a secret she wants to keep hidden.

When she joins the choir, Jamila begins to feel happy. Singing helps take her worries away. And singing will help her find her place in her new life, a place where she can shine.

Songbird is a tender story about belonging, about the importance of friendship and asking for help, and about the parts of our lives we keep concealed.
Jamila has migrated to Australia from Baghdad Iraq, a country ravaged by conflict. In their quiet and humble Melbourne home, Jamila and her mother await the arrival of their father and husband from Baghdad, an investigative journalist taking shelter from the authorities. Feeling displaced and missing her homeland, Jamila attends school, translates English for her mother and helps care for her brother, often at the expense of attending school.

Jamila is gentle soul, her character is representative of Australia's diverse multiculturalism and the overwhelming feeling of being displaced. She wears a hijab, a traditional head covering that attracts questions from her peers and unfortunately, incidents of casual racism. Her heart aches for a real friend, someone she can talk to and share her fears about her father without judgement but attending a school that's predominately caucasian and born in Australia, she longs for her best friend Mina who she left behind in Iraq. Jamila seeks solace in the power of song, reminding her of her time in Iraq where she was affectionately known as the songbird. It's through her love of music where Jamila meets her first friend and new student Eva.

While Eva eases the ache of being in a new, unfamiliar country, Jamila still fears for her father and with no word on his arrival, fears the worst. I adored the friendship between Jamila and Eve, Eve is an Australian girl from Sydney who lives with her Aunt while her father works and befriends Jamila through their love of song. She's supportive and ensures Jamila feels comfortable and encourages her to share her experiences as a young girl in a new country. Although on a lesser scale, Eva understands Jamila's feelings of trying to fit in and with a predominant birthmark on her face, knows all too well the cruelty of other children.

Songbird is a beautiful narrative and exploration of the refugee experience through the eyes of a young girl aching to belong. In a country that preaches acceptance but rarely accepts migrants or those who are different, Jamila's mother felt this very deeply. With a small amount of English, she needed help navigating tasks like supermarket shopping and speaking to government departments, often calling the school during the day to pick Jamila up to assist her. I was so relieved for both her mother and Jamila when the Migrant Resource Centre reached out and she was able to connect to a support officer who not only understood but was also originally from Iraq. These services are so incredibly important to help refugees settle within Australia, a sector that needs more government funding to support our multicultural communities.

Songbird is absolutely lovely, a gentle narrative about acceptance, friendship and family. Achingly beautiful.

Call It What You Want

Contains mentions of abortion and suicide which may distress some readers
Call It What You Want
Written by Brigid Kemmerer
Contemporary, Friendship, Realistic Fiction
Published July 1st 2019
384 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★☆
When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship.

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question. Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?
Maegan Day is an intelligent and articulate young woman, overwhelmed by the immense expectations she places upon herself. The daughter of a police officer, Maegan understands the need for rules and regulations which is why nobody expected her to cheat on her standardised school testing causing countless students to resit their tests after being deemed invalid. Her older sister Sam is the golden child, a star lacrosse player on a scholarship, beautiful, academically gifted and an elite sportswoman. Over the years the Day siblings have shared a competitive relationship, not always seeing eye to eye but now Sam has returned home, fickle and pregnant, disappointing her parents while she's contemplating what to do about her pregnancy.

I loved their sibling relationship and seeing it morph into a genuine and caring friendship. Although Maegan has always been proud of Sam's achievements, it's not without resentment. Sam is their father's golden child and Maegan has always felt the weight of expectations which drove her to cheat. Unlike Rob, Maegan has the support of her long time best friend Rachel, pity about her boyfriend Drew who continuously makes snide comments about Maegan's mistake which Rachel never pulls him up about, allowing Drew to kick her best friend while she's down.

Rob Lachlan was popular, a champion lacrosse player and a hit with the ladies until his father, a financial adviser, mismanaged and stole funds from even the most vulnerable members of the community, leaving Rob a social pariah and accused of being a part of his father's con. He's lost his friends, the respect of his peers and now he's been saddled with the girl who cheated on the SAT exam for a school project.

High school can be so unforgiving and Rob is an example of being guilty merely by association. His father stealing investment funds from friends, family and the parents of Rob's school peers. Abandoned by his best friend Connor, who's father alerted the authorities, Rob is tormented and bullied, branded a liar and criminal. Rob's story is harrowing. He remembers the man who attended his lacrosse games, who taught him humility and to treasure each moment, he was an excellent father and a stark contrast to the criminal and villain of the wider community. Rob cannot escape. When it became too much for his father, Rob senior tried to take his own life which has left him unable to care for himself, brain damaged and immobile. Once living an opulent lifestyle, Rob's family now barely makes ends meet, his mother working long shifts to provide for their family while Rob cares for his father. 

The only aspect Maegan and Rob have in common is that they're both social pariahs but working together on their project allows them to connect with someone in a similar situation without the fear of being judged. Their tentative friendship isn't easy, Rob finds it difficult to trust after he's been abandoned by his peers but slowly he begins to explore their connection and finds solace in their quiet moments of peace and understanding. Rob also develops a friendship with Owen, a young man who's mother was also a victim of his fathers dealings. My heart ached for Owen as he sits alone each day with his school issued cheese sandwich, breaking it into pieces to fend off his growing hunger. He was still able to put aside his anger and befriend Rob, understanding that Rob isn't his father and shouldn't be treated as such. Owen deserves his own story and I hope Brigid Kemmerer revisits his character soon.

Touching on sensitive issues such as poverty, teen pregnancy, abortion and suicide, written with compassion, Call It What You Want is an honest and genuine portrayal of the pressure and complications of those adolescent years. Often you hear adults telling teens, to treasure those years in their life before adulthood as though being a teen was a simpler time. With kids forced to grow up too soon and the expectations adults place upon teens, often parents living vicariously through their teens, it's one of the hardest periods we go through. It's an aspect that Brigid Kemmerer captures so wonderfully and even if you've never cheated on an exam or heaven forbid your father has never stolen money from his investors, I think most teens will find both Rob and Maegan's journey relatable and find comfort in how fickle these years can be, especially when it comes to our peers and being judged. 

Beautifully written, edgy with authentic and flawed characters, Call It What You Want is Brigid Kemmerer's best contemporary to date. Thoroughly enjoyed it. 

All The Invisible Things

All The Invisible Things
Written by Orlagh Collins
Contemporary, LGBT, Mental Health
Published March 7th 2019
320 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★☆
Vetty's family is moving back to London, and all she can think about is seeing Pez again. They were inseparable when they were small, roaming the city in the long summers, sharing everything. But everyone's telling her it'll be different now. After all, a boy and a girl can't really be friends without feelings getting in the way, can they?

Vetty thinks differently until Pez tells her she's not like other girls. But what does that even mean? Is it a good thing or not? Suddenly she's wondering whether she wants him to see her like the others, like the ultra glamorous March, who's worked some sort of spell on Pez, or the girls in the videos that Pez has hidden on his laptop.

How can she measure up to them? And who says that's what a girl is supposed to be like anyway?
Helvetica has never quite felt herself since her mother passed away after her cancer diagnosis and her father relocated his young family from London to Somerset, exchanging the vibrant city for a cottage retreat. Living in Somerset, the family are now returning to London to resume their lives, including seeing Peregrine once more. Helvetica and Peregrine were childhood friends, neighbours and adventurers but have since lost contact.

Since the loss of her mother, Helvetica has adapted into a mothering role for younger sister Arial, both sibling names a tribute to their mother's love of fonts. Their father now widowed, moving his young family to the country with his sister and her partner while he continued to work from their small cottage on the family property. Grieving and overwhelmed, Helvetica begun to reinvent herself to assimilate and suppress her sexuality.

Throughout the narrative, Helvetica identifies with an attraction towards males and females, realising she's bisexual and feeling a sense of ownership and belonging. It's a defining moment of her sexual identity and within young adult literature. Our adolescent years is when we are exploring our sense of identity which often includes our sexuality and experiencing Helvetica's feelings of confusion is palpable. Another aspect of Helvetica's sexuality is when she discusses her feelings with her Aunt who identifies as lesbian. When describing her attraction towards females on the eve of their same gender wedding, her Aunt assumes Helvetica is also a lesbian in which she later apologises. It would have been wonderful to have experienced her unconditional support for Helvetica during their conversation, rather than have an adult place labels upon her sexual identity. Although it's presumed to be a moment of compassion and understanding, even camaraderie could be interpreted as bisexual or pansexual erasure which some may find distressing.

Peregrine is an interesting character but incredibly abrasive and narcissistic. After Helvetica moved to Somerset, the phone calls became less frequent, messages left unanswered. A young girl grieving, navigating life without her mother and caring for a younger sibling, when returning to London and her small apartment across from the lavish home he shares with his parents, Peregrine was irritable, resentful and seemingly refusing to accept responsibility for his behaviour. Including his addiction to pornography. Peregrine describes his compulsion as an inadequacy and that he's unable to have a sexual relationship because he feels desensitised, impotent and defective. It's important to emphasise that relationships exist beyond a physical relationship, potentially insensitive to those who identify as asexual.

It was wonderful that female masturbation is explored and as a positive experience. Younger sister Arial is also approaching adolescence and is curious about her body and sexuality and with her father emotionally absent, Helvetica helps Arial to understand about body changes, her period and sexuality. It was a gentle and genuine moment between siblings. The friendship Helvetica and March share is beautiful. March is Peregrine's girlfriend, although he also treats her with an incredible amount of disdain. March confides in Helvetica about her relationship with Peregrine and it was lovely to see their friendship existing independently of Peregrine.

I thoroughly enjoyed Helvetica's journey but felt the narrative was sacrificed for Peregrine's issues that seemingly took precedence. All The Invisible Things is an entertaining and arresting contemporary novel and wonderful coming of age. 

All That Impossible Space

All That Impossible Space
Written by Anna Morgan
Contemporary, Mystery, #LoveOZYA
Published June 25th 2019
278 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★★☆
Fifteen year old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She's Ashley's best friend, she's Hannah's sister, she's never just Lara.

When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment, investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60 year old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all.

Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, All That Impossible Space is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.
Lara Laylor has always been an afterthought, living in the shadow of her popular and enigmatic sister Hannah or best friend Ash, an aspiring Broadway actress. With Hannah travelling through Europe trying to find herself, Ash convinces Lara to join the annual Saint Margaret's College musical in conjunction with the local boys school. Lara's real passion is athletics, the freedom of running her own race in the crisp morning air and to perform in the school's production of Cinderella, she'll put her own needs aside for Ash. Again.

Ash and Lara have been friends since primary school, Ash coming to her rescue while Lara was having an asthma attack. Over the years, their friendship has bloomed but now becoming increasingly toxic. Ash is often fuelled by jealousy which results in her abrasive behaviour towards teachers, Lara and new student Kate, who has befriended Lara. Ash will often make decisions for both herself and Lara and lacking in confidence, Lara continuously looks to Ash for validation and approval.

When young history teacher David Grant begins at Saint Margaret's with his fondness for rule breaking and exchanges of ideas as equals, Lara feels she may have found a kindred spirit and throws herself into the group assignment, the mystery of the Somerton Man. The case of the Somerton Man has captivated Australia since the late forties, a deceased man found on the beach in South Australia. No identification. No possessions. A cigarette hanging out of his mouth and the labels removed from his clothing. His cause of death was undetermined and the mystery deepens as they found a small piece of paper in his pocket torn from a Persian novel, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The case still remains unsolved.

While Lara is navigating new friendships, a new crush and a demanding best friend, her new history teacher suddenly becomes his own mystery and disappears. The school refuses to provide Lara with any information. Frustrated and seeking answers, Lara begins to delve deeper into the Somerton Man mystery, believing the Somerton Man case may be why David Grant disappeared. Naturally Lara wants to know what happened to the new teacher despite those around her unable to understand the connection she felt towards David Grant. It wasn't a romantic relationship by any means but rather made Lara feel valued as an individual and not as Hannah's sister or Ash's friend. 

The writing is spectacular, blending a contemporary narrative of friendship and finding your individuality with a decades old unsolved mystery entwined. It's incredibly genuine. I think we've all known an Ash growing up and experienced the varying levels of a toxic and codependent friendship, from backhanded compliments to outright hostility. I really enjoyed Lara's budding romance Jos, both Jos and Kate were wonderful supporting characters and I appreciated that they were able to become friends and that friendship existed independently from their friendships with Lara. It was a lovely touch. The writing itself was captivating and honest, it held an authenticity that Australian authors create so incredibly, without needing to dramatise the teen experience.

I absolutely loved it and now obsessed with the Somerton Man myself. Tamám Shud.

Check out Wikipedia to learn more about the Somerton Man mystery.

Extraordinary Birds

Extraordinary Birds
Written by Sandy Stark McGinnis
Middle Grade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published June 3rd 2019
224 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★★
Eleven year old December knows everything about birds and everything about getting kicked out of foster homes. All she has of her biological mum is the book she left behind, The Complete Guide to Birds, Volume One and a photo with a message, in flight is where you'll find me. December knows she's truly a bird, just waiting for the day she transforms and flies away to reunite with her mum. The scar on her back must be where her wings have started to blossom, she just needs to practise and to find the right tree. She has no choice, it's the only story that makes sense.

When she's placed with Eleanor, a new foster mum who runs a taxidermy business and volunteers at a wildlife rescue, December begins to see herself and what home means in a new light. But the story she tells herself about her past is what's kept December going this long, and she doesn't know if she can let go of it. Even if changing her story might mean that she can finally find a place where she belongs.
Someday December will spread her wings and take flight, feeling the aching scar between her shoulder blades where her wings will bloom as she escapes her human life. Vaguely remembering her biological mother, December is reminded of  her abandonment by a kindergarten photograph of her mother inscribed with in flight is where you'll find me and a reference guide to birds. December endures the ache of being displaced within the foster system until she can learn to fly, searching on her journey to find an old and gnarled tree where she will launch her maiden flight.

My heart ached for young December. Abandoned by her biological mother with a photograph and reference guide, December finds solace in her feathered friends, believing one day she will transform into a bird. Placed in a foster home with Eleanor Thomas, she's just biding her time until she transforms. Eleanor is a wildlife rescuer, taxidermist and shares December's love of birds and although finding common ground, December knows the only person she can rely upon is herself.

On her journey, December has never experienced a sense of belonging, manifesting as a compulsion that she will transform and escape. December is a gentle young lady, compassionate and emphatic especially towards her feathered friends. She's intelligent and wonderfully knowledgeable about birds. December is representative of children displaced by the loss of a parent and placed within the system, weary and detached. Eleanor patiently allows December to interact with her environment, introducing her to responsibility by caring for an injured Red Tailed Hawk as December coerces Henrietta to rehabilitate and take to the skies once more.

Cheryllynn is a wonderful inclusion, charismatic and inclusive as she befriends December. As a young transgirl, Cheryllynn endures abusive behaviour which may distress readers. Her resilience and confidence is inspirational, I'm exactly who I'm supposed to be. She is instrumental in anchoring December as their tentative friendship blossomed.

Extraordinary Birds is achingly beautiful, wonderfully diverse and a remarkable debut novel.
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