You Were Made For Me

You Were Made For Me
Written by Jenna Guillaume
Contemporary, Friendship, Romance
Publishing August 11th 2020
336 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley
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★★★★★
The day I created a boy started out like any other.

Katie didn't mean to create a boy. A boy like a long lost Hemsworth brother. Six foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer's day, whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie.

He was meant to be perfect.

But he was never meant to exist.
Let's summarise. Single Katie wants a dreamboat boyfriend for her very first kiss. So what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night with six feet of solid, yet alluringly strange boy hunk in your bed? Freak the hell out.

A dash of handsomeness, a pinch of blonde dreamy locks, a sprinkle of smoking hot body and generous amounts of kindness and you too can create your very own Guy. Of course there's more to the recipe and lots of sciencey goodness but now Katie has a very real and very much naked Guy in her room, staring at her adoringly and content to live under her bed until she knows what to do with him.

Girl, have at it.

Thankfully Katie can rely on her always dependable friend and next door neighbour Theo to have her back. If it weren't for Guy's weird and wide eyed wonder, no one would believe this tall, handsome hunk of a boy was only hours old. Kate is a natural storyteller and with input from best friend Libby when she starts rambling or using the word tongue far too often than necessary, Katie shares her story about creating the perfect boy.

Katie, Libby and Theo aren't part of the popular clique, in fact she and best friend Libby have been the target of the downright nasty and pretentious Mikayla. Even her maybe, sometimes boyfriend Declan Bell Jones is perfect, if only Katie could steal him from Mikayla's taloned clutches. Katie's had the hots for him as long as she can remember and all of Libby's eye rolling still isn't enough to douse those burning loins. Declan is no Guy and while he may seem nice, he's just another wanker with the need to feel adored. I believe he's also still looking for his spine.

You Were Made For Me is a feel great, laugh out loud romantic comedy, like a nineties teen film that'll have you swooning and peeing a little, regular toilet breaks are highly recommend. It's utterly delightful, a little bit batshit and hilariously funny. We could all use a hefty dose of fun and fluff and this is perfection.

We first meet Katie as she's pining away over the unobtainable boy, you know the type, he's usually popular, his girlfriend is a horrible bitch and he's typically a bit of a dimwit. On a girl's night in, Kate and bestie Libby are pretending to create the ideal guy, Libby ensuring she added a penis because no one deserves plastic genitals. Feeling better about her lack of boyfriend and kissing, Katie tucks her makeshift tiny boyfriend into bed. Sciencey and magical stuffs occur, which I believe is the technical term and that is how you end up with a hunk in your bed. Probably best not to try this at home kids, results may vary.

What ensues is a journey of learning, hard lessons and realising that there's no such thing as perfection, although Guy comes pretty close. A story of friendship, awesome friends, shitty friends and that guy you thought was hot? He's a massive wanker. You Were Made For Me also touches on grief, Theo having lost his mother to cancer. Infidelity, someone can't seem to keep their own tongue in their mouth and body shaming. Theo is often teased by his family and peers for his weight. 

I loved the diversity of characters. There is a discussion surrounding sexuality when a character identifies as asexual and aromantic and it was brilliant to see that spoken about on the page so positively. Libby is Filipina Australian, she's intelligent, witty and an incredibly loyal friend. She also experiences taunting and racism at the hands of Mikayla and her minions.

Jenna Guillaume has cemented herself as Australia's young adult romantic comedy author and my love her her knows no bounds. This was absolutely delightful, fun, fluffy and super cute. Also, a handy guide when faced with a large, ridiculously good looking man doll come to life in your bed while you're asleep.

The Map from Here to There

The Map from here to There
The Start of Me and You Book Two
Written by Emery Lord
Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Published March 31st 2020
400 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★☆
It's senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions.

Feeling the weight of the rest of her life Paige starts to panic. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be, how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to life after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord's signature storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life's most important questions. There will be break ups, make ups, a road trip, and even a wedding. Through it all, can Paige figure out what happens in the after part of happily ever after?
Paige Hancock's world fell apart after her boyfriend Aaron drowned in a tragic accident, her steadfast friends were there to support her through the trauma and anxiety, including Max, Paige's friend and now boyfriend. Paige and Max have just spent the last few months apart, Paige exploring New York City and her dream of one day becoming a screen writer, while Max has been holidaying in Italy. Reuniting before embarking on their final year of school and together with their group of friends, their final year before scattering across the country for collage.

Paige is a planner, she likes to know where she's going before she begins her journey, to schedule her time and organise her life in an orderly manner, so collage applications are especially stressful, the fear of the unknown. Beneath Paige's anxiety is a brave and fiercely determined young woman wanting to pursue her dreams of becoming a screenwriter, although lately she isn't so sure. The eldest daughter of her journalist father and mother, her parents understand the pressure Paige places upon herself and remind her of the importance of caring for herself, even if Paige herself doesn't quite realise how debilitating her anxiety is becoming. Her parents are in a precarious situation, separated but continue to date one another, her mother placing stability and the emotional welfare of Paige and her younger sister before her own needs. Their family unit might be a little unconventional but it works, the Hancock girls giving their blessing for their parents to remarry again.

In her final year, Paige is determined to shake things up, on the cusp of adulthood, deciding on colleges, careers and finding her feet as Paige, not as Max and Paige. Throwing away her planner to become carefree and spontaneous, creating a final year bucket list of all the cheesy and typical teen experiences before college. Paige is a wonderful character as an individual but she seemingly lost her sense of identity within her relationship with Max. Although Max is supportive, Paige needed to be challenged and trusted, Max all but accusing Paige of being unfaithful for spending time with the delightful Hunter Chan, workmate and friend. A double standard considering how often Max speaks to Tessa, Paige's best friend. I didn't dislike Max, I just didn't like who Paige was in her relationship with him.

Although I enjoyed The Map from Here to There, it wasn't nearly as enchanting as The Start of Me and You which was fun, lighthearted and a feel great read. Paige and Max seemed entirely too serious for two teens on the cusp of adulthood. I appreciated that Paige wanted to spread her wings and shake up her routine, Many young adults will relate to the pressure she places upon herself and the daily struggle of balancing her education, life, family, friendships and also working part time.

There's something just so incredibly lovely and gentle about an Emery Lord novel and although I didn't love it as much as The Start of Me and You, still a wonderful, feel great read.

The Highland Falcon Thief

The Highland Falcon Thief
Adventures on Trains Book One
Written by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Middle Grade, Adventure, Friendship, Mystery
Published January 31st 2020
256 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★
Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel writer Uncle Nate for the last journey of the royal train, The Highland Falcon. But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting. As suspicions and accusations run high among the passengers, Harrison begins to investigate and uncovers a few surprises along the way. Can he solve the mystery of the jewel thief and catch the culprit before they reach the end of the line?

Hear whispers in the dining car, find notes in the library, and unknown passengers among the luggage as you help Harrison to solve the mystery aboard one of the world's grandest trains. Fast paced and packed with illustrations and clues, Adventures on Trains is a stop you won't want to miss!
Eleven year old Harrison Beck is spending four days with his eccentric uncle and author Nathaniel Bradshaw, journeying across the British countryside upon The Highland Falcon, his mother heavily pregnant with her second child. bringing a new sibling for Harrison into the world. Harrison reluctantly boards The Highland Falcon, a steam powered locomotive on her final journey before decommissioned into retirement. Harrison isn't a train enthusiast like his uncle, documenting her final journey but adventure awaits onboard the locomotive for the wealthy and infamous passengers, a stowaway and the British Prince and Princess as a jewel thief journeys among them.

Harrison is a lovely young man, courteous and reluctantly boards The Highland Falcon, the only child on the journey from Crewe to Scotland until Harrison discovers a young stowaway. Marlene Singh is a railroad enthusiast and befriends Harrison as they begin their adventure across Britain.

The jewel heist has begun. Someone had been thieving from wealthy socialites and society members and when a brooch, earrings and and absurdly, the Atlas Diamond necklace as worn under security by the royal Princess herself disappears onboard, Harrison and Marlene are determined to unravel the mystery and find the culprit.

The Highland Falcon Thief is unequivocally delightful. A mystery adventure on the railway, surprising and wonderfully engaging. Throughout the narrative, learning about the romance of the railways was lovely, the almost obsolete steam powered locomotives and the journey onboard, an adventure itself. As Harrison sketches various scenes of interest, the illustrations are recreated throughout, enchanting and delighting middle grade readers. Simply brilliant.

Please Don't Hug Me

Please Don't Hug Me
Written by Kay Kerr
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Australia
288 Pages
Published April 28th 2020
Thank you to Text Publishing
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★★★★★
A funny serious own voices story about what happens when you stop trying to be the person other people expect you to be and give yourself a go.

Erin is looking forward to schoolies, at least she thinks she is. But things are not going to plan. Life is getting messy, and for Erin, who is autistic, that’s a big problem. She’s lost her job at Surf Zone after an incident that clearly was not her fault. Her driving test went badly even though she followed the instructions perfectly. Her boyfriend is not turning out to be the romantic type. And she’s missing her brother, Rudy, who left almost a year ago.

But now that she’s writing letters to him, some things are beginning to make just a tiny bit of sense.
Please Don't Hug Me is compulsory reading. Narrated from the perspective of seventeen year old Erin as she shares her thoughts in a series of letters to her brother Rudy. Rudy was a popular young man and after a disagreement with his parents, escaped the confines of the family home and the expectations of his parents. Five year old Oliver barely remembers his brother, their mother is consumed by keeping her family together while their father searches for understanding at the local tavern, drowning his sorrows in alcohol.

Erin is an intelligent and incredible young woman, navigating a neurotypical environment from the perspective of a person on the spectrum and sharing her intimate, analytical, and often tumultuous thoughts on life, love, friends, family and autism. Erin begins her correspondence as she prepares to look for casual employment, leaving her previous position feeling misunderstood and underappreciated, resulting in an outburst. For Erin, feeling emotional and overwhelmed are two instances in which her psychologist encourages her to practice being present in the moment, while Erin keeps a secret list of her indiscretions each day to release her tension and as she enters her final year of school, Rudy is missing her important milestones.

Beyond her family, Erin has only confided in two friends of her diagnosis, her best friend since childhood Dee and her boyfriend, the disappointing Mitch. Dee is friendly, created from sunshine and laughter and understands when Erin is feeling overwhelmed, arming herself with doughnuts and waiting on her doorstep. Dee is charming, lighthearted and a young woman also finding her place in the world but her friendship with Erin wasn't always a positive influence on Erin's mental health. Especially at school, allowing her friends to make Erin feel uncomfortable. Her friendship is important to Erin but also restricted her personal growth as she transitioned into adulthood.

As Erin begins in her new position at a clothing store predominantly for seniors, she develops a friendship with Agnus, an Indigenous, Quandamooka young woman, musician and activist who endures depression. Aggie is a wonderful influence on Erin, allowing her to guide their friendship so she feels comfortable, offering support and understanding. In comparison to her friendship with Dee, their friendship signified a new and exciting chapter of life for Erin.

Throughout her letters, we see Erin grow in confidence, learning to care for herself and others and coping mechanisms. Please Don't Hug Me encourages awareness of those on the spectrum, empathy and the mentality from neurotypical society. Observing our environment through the thoughts of Erin was remarkable and profoundly intimate, navigating social situations, employment, her education and friendships and relationships. It was beautiful, poignant and an incredibly important read, as neurological conditions are rarely discussed in young adult literature.

Sincere, unflinching and achingly beautiful, Please Don't Hug Me is an exceptional and remarkable debut.

The Near Witch

The Near Witch
Written by V. E. Schwab
Fantasy, Witches, Romance, Paranormal
320 Pages
Published January 2020
Thank you to New South Books
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★★★★
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
In the quaint town of Near, the Near Witch sings the hills to slumber each night from her resting place on the moors, the children sing as they play throughout the village. Sixteen year old Lexi Harris remembers the stories her father told her as a child, of the Near Witch and village children who we welcomed to play in her garden, a centuries old fable told by generations of Near, until a boy was found in her garden and the witch was banished to the moor.

Since her father passed away, Lexi lives with her younger sister Wren and her mother on the fringe of Near, the witch whispering on the winds that swept through the moor each night as a stranger arrives in town and Near is awash with speculation. Whispers on the wind are waking children from their slumber, lured into the forest in their nightgowns and disappearing and the town suspects the stranger is stealing their children.

Centuries past, the Near Witch lived on the Near fringe, her cottage garden captivating the village children on the moor. The children of Near sing the fable of the fated witch who sings the hills to sleep at night. If you listen carefully, you can hear her calling on the winds that swept through the moors.

Near is a grudging, prejudice community, thriving on restlessness and governed with a firm hand by three archaic council members, while a vigilante group gathers to restore order. Lexi and sister Wren lost their father three years prior, their father a wonderful man who believed in the folklore of Near and taught his children consideration, independence and to appreciate the Near folklore, including Magda and Dreska Thorn.

Fear is a strange thing, he used to say. It has the power to make people close their eyes, turn away. Nothing good grows out of fear.
Magda and Dreska are the eldest residents of Near, living on the fringe of town on the moors, as the Near Witch once lived. As a young girl, Lexi and her father would visit the sisters who have been ostracised by the village community. The witch siblings are providing the stranger with refuge as the children begin to disappear during the night. Lexi suspects the Near Witch, the villagers accusing the stranger of abducting their children. Lexi is intrigued by the newcomer, his secrets and his story, the young man with the dark fathomless eyes and ashen skin. He is nameless, homeless and Lexi is determined to prove his innocence.

The villagers are positively dreadful, dishonest and vengeful, incredibly chauvinistic. At sixteen, the girls within the village and allowed to legally marry and often betrothed. Women are bakers, seamstresses or homemakers, Lexi consistently reprimanded for wearing the workboots and knife of her father who taught his daughter independence. The men of the village refusing to listen to the resolute young woman who begins skulking around the village at night in the hope to discover where the children have gone.

The trees all whisper, leaves gossiping. The stones are heavy thinkers, the sullen silent types. He used to make up stories for everything in nature, giving it all voices, lives. If the moor wind ever sings, you mustn’t listen, not with all of your ears. Use only the edges. Listen the way you’d look out the corners of your eyes. The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company.

The Near Witch is enigmatic and enchanting, immersed in mesmerising folklore of a small village community. The lyrical prose is unequivocally captivating.

Deep Water

Deep water
Written by Sarah Epstein
Mystery, Contemporary, Australian
400 Pages
Published March 2020
$19.99
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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A gripping mystery about a missing boy and a group of teenagers, one of whom knows something but isn't telling, from the award winning author of Small Spaces.

Henry Weaver is missing.

Three months ago, thirteen year old Henry disappeared from The Shallows during a violent storm, leaving behind his muddy mountain bike at the train station.

Mason Weaver is trapped.

While Mason doesn't know who he is or what he's capable of, he knows the one thing binding him to this suffocating small town is his younger brother, Henry.

Chloe Baxter wants answers.

Why would Henry run away without telling her? One of Chloe's friends knows something and she's determined to find out the truth.

As Chloe wades into dangerous waters and mason's past emerges, a chilling question ripples to the surface. How far would you go to keep a secret?
In the small town of The Shallows, the community has endured bushfire that ravaged the land and a torrential storm on the night that thirteen year old Henry Weaver disappeared, three months ago. Chloe Baxter has returned to The Shallows from Sydney, her parents separating when her mother was desperate to escape the small, working class town. Chloe's father manages a small roadside motel once popular with tourists and those passing through The Shallows, now small businesses barely keeping their heads above water since the local economy survived on the tourist trade.

Returning to town, Chloe is determined to find Henry once again, placing missing posters around Sydney provided no information to the whereabouts of her friend and upon return home, plans to begin the search once more. What happened to Henry? Why didn't he tell Chloe he was leaving and why is his older brother Mason so hellbent on destroying his life?

Deep Water begins with the story of the Weaver family, Henry, older brother Mason and their mother, a woman surviving on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. Growing up in the Weaver household, the boys are being abused by their mother, Mason's father has always been absent and Henry's father left for the big smoke, no longer able to withstand the physical and mental abuse. Mason has always tried to protect Henry from their mother's rage, bearing the brunt of her abuse and neglect as Mason begins to spiral downwards, desperate to escape The Shallows. Mason is an incredibly multilayered character, he's sensitive and hides his feelings in a bottle of alcohol, destructive behaviour and a notorious reputation.

Chloe is an interesting character, she's relatable but often unlikable and still carrying the grief of losing Henry, determined to find her friend and the brother she always wanted. On the night Henry disappeared, Chloe was meeting Raf, her best friends brother. Together they huddled in the small, ramshackle hut in the surrounding bush as Henry braced the storm and never returned home. Chloe and Raf kept their liaison a secret, to their friends and even the local authorities investigating Henry's disappearance, the local police officer once involved in an affair with Chloe's mother before she left The Shallows.

The most striking aspect of Deep Water is the writing, a masterclass in how to write multiple, multilayered characters while creating an exhilarating storyline. Australian young adult book of the year, without a doubt. The reader is introduced to each character as a dual narration from both Chloe and Mason, with sporadic chapters from Henry talking to a new friend he made online, Chloe's privileged life, although not perfect and Mason as he struggles to survive. Their characters are contrasting and once friends, as Henry was adopted into their ragtag group of friends, Mason begun to isolate, feeling left out of his friendship circle as Henry became more embedded. It's an issue that Mason resents Chloe for, choosing Henry's friendship and not reaching out to him. It's messy and realistic and written so beautifully, the delicate threads between friends becoming severed and mended in time.

Besides Chloe and Mason, I enjoyed the sibling relationship between Sabeen, Chloe's best friend and her brother Raf, Chloe's crush. Sabeen and Raf are wonderful, Sabeen a loyal and compassionate young woman and Raf, a quiet young man who has adored Chloe from a distance for the past few years. Sabeen's father is from Pakistan, a sperm donor Sabeen proudly announced when she and Chloe met at the tender age of only six years old, her mother's both own and run the local pizzeria, feeding the small brood of friends. Tom was an interesting character. Also part of their friendship circle since they were children, Tom's father is in prison while he was raised by his grandparents, his grandfather owning the local oddities store come makeshift pawnshop. Tom escaped The Shallows, studying at university while maintaining his friendship with Chloe and although unaware of his intentions, Tom is keen on Chloe despite her feelings for Raf.

Deep Water raises the discussion of several important issues throughout our communities. Poverty and low socioeconomical conditions, family violence, parent infidelity, alcoholism, violence, toxic masculinity and grief. Wonderfully diverse characters and stories threaded together with care and compassion.

It's magnificent.

The Year the Maps Changed

The Year the Maps Changed
Written by Danielle Binks
Middle Grade, Family, Friendship
304 Pages
Published April 28th 2020
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★★★
I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that's another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.

Sorrento, Victoria. 1999.

Fred's family is a mess. Fred's mother died when she was six and she's been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca's girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred's just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it's spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia's safe havens on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
Down on the Mornington Peninsula, in the small township of Sorrento, the tides are about to change. It's 1999 and for eleven year old Winifred Owen Ricci, her life is experiencing a shift of seismic proportions. Since losing her mother a few years ago, it's been Fred and her stepfather and police officer Luca against the world, her small family unit including her grandfather, who grieved together and supported one another through the loss of their partner, their mother and their daughter. Luca officially adopted Fred at three years of age but when Anika and her son Sam move into her family home, Fred isn't quite sure where she fits in anymore. Luckily she has the neighbours and best friend Jed, short for Jedi and a nickname given to him by his parents that stuck. Jed has been a part of Fred's life forever, through losing her mum, through her roof climbing escapades and now through Anika and Sam moving into the home she once shared with her mother while her grandfather is in a rehabilitation facility after a fall.

It's a quiet part of the world but lately Fred has felt an ache in her chest, the news from overseas blasting in every home across the country, Kosovo Albanian refugees are driven from their homes by the Serbian army, their country left in ruins, destroyed lives and displaced families. The Australian government were adamant that Australia wouldn't help provide refuge but under public pressure, brought the Kosovo Albanian refugees to Australia under the cover of darkness and hid them away in inhumane detention centres. Fred has a beautiful sense of rightness instilled in her, she isn't sure why anyone in town would protest against helping these people flee their wartorn country, like Mister McMillan who owns the cafe on the main strip. For the most part, the people of the Mornington Peninsula are welcoming, including Fred, Anika, Sam and Luca, who is volunteering at the former army barracks now accommodation for the refugee community.

Being eleven is dreadful sometimes. Fred is in her final year of primary school, a new younger brother who's not really your brother and another on the way, Fred feeling increasingly isolated as Anika and Luca gently announce that their family is expanding. Fred's world is being turned upside down and she doesn't like it. One. Bit. The Trần family next door are wonderful, especially Jed's mother Vi, who has been a mother figure for Fred and an incredibly warm, maternal woman. Vi and her husband are both Vietnamese and met in Australia after fleeing their homeland. With so many diverse, non nuclear and blended families within our communities, it was wonderful to see Fred and Jed's families so beautifully written with compassion and care.

This is very much a coming of age story for Fred but where it differs from most middle grade, is that this isn't only Fred's journey, it's the journey of healing and growing for an entire community through the eyes of an intelligent and astute young woman. I see so much of myself in Fred at that age, learning about the many facets of  love, our place within the world and who we want to become. Fred has so many positive role models in her life, Luca and especially Anika. Anika is learning how to parent an almost teen girl and allowed Fred the space to grow and form her own opinions. Although it took a while for Fred to see Anika as someone loving and caring in her life, Anika loved Fred so dearly and is a beautiful example of step parenting written in a positive light.

The secondary characters are lovingly created such as Mr Khouri, their geography teacher who created a fun and inclusive learning environment and Nora, who is a heavily pregnant refugee Fred meets at a hospital visit during Anika's pregnancy. Although most of small town Sorrento and the wider community are welcoming, Fred's friend Aiden begins coming to school with the wildly racist opinions of his father, repeating what's being said at home. Seeing Aiden grow and form his own opinions was such an incredible moment and although he respected his father, he begun to see that he wasn't always right and Aiden didn't need to agree. It was a yes! moment that readers will enjoy.

This isn't a heavy read by any means, there's plenty of lighthearted moments of mischief and laughter but it also raises serious issues such as asylum seekers and how they're treated as less than, especially in Australia. Australia has a terrible history of colonisation and the treatment of First Nations people, we've learnt nothing about the treatment of people and basic human rights. Our current government is the same government who was in power in 1999, when The Year the Maps Changed takes place, same party with interchangeable white men with money. Heartless bastards, the politicians and those who voted for them. The Year the Maps Changed isn't political, instead it provides middle grade readers with the human side of seeking asylum, Nora and children Merjeme and Arta are the fictional faces of those who have been forced to leave their homeland, travel to a strange, new country and then locked up like petty criminals for seeking safety. It only highlights that we're no better than the governments that we vote for and we desperately need to bring about change for the people that Nora, Merjeme and Arta represent.

The Year the Maps Changed is heartachingly beautiful. Danielle Binks has created an exceptional debut novel of warmth, compassion and finding your place in our ever changing world.

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The Vanishing Deep

The Vanishing Deep
Written by Astrid Scholte
Fantasy, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
416 Pages
Published March 2020
R.R.P $19.99
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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★★★★★
Two sisters. One dangerous secret. Twenty-four hours to uncover the truth.

Seventeen year old Tempest was born into a world of water. The most skilled diver on the Equinox Reef, she searches drowned cities with her older sister Elysea, seeking out old world treasures to trade for Notes. After Elysea mysteriously drowns, Tempest scavenges the ruins alone, driven to collect enough Notes to buy her sister's life for 24 hours, and to finally learn the secret she had kept until her last breath.

However, once revived, Elysea convinces Tempest to break her out of the Palindromena research facility and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents' death. But they're pursued by two Palindromena employees desperate to find them before Elysea's time is up, and to prevent them from uncovering the secrets behind the revival process and the true cost of restored lives.

Dead or living, everyone must pay the price.
The Great Waves decimated the planet, creating underwater graves as the cities were submerged. Tempest lives in a towering building upon the waves, exploring the ruins below the water to survive. It's been five years since her parents passed away, shortly before her sister Elysea drowned, grieving for the loss of her family.

Those who have drowned upon the water are retrieved, their bodies placed in a cryogenic state until their loved ones pay handsomely for one last day. The dead are awoken for twenty four hours and then put to rest once more. Tempe plans to revive her sister, believing Elysea is responsible for the death of their parents. Palindromena promises the lasting memory of a reunion with your loved one, a final goodbye for those who have been left behind. While the communities of the Equinox Reef live in apartments above the waves, Palindromena monopolises the small island upon the reef and for Lor, the facility provides a sense of solace and isolation. Hiding among the tanks that hold the deceased until they are revived by their families or discarded, Lor retreats into his own thoughts, of the friend he once lost and the survivor guilt he endures each day.

Tempe and Lor are both wonderful characters and not too dissimilar, both share a strong moral compass and analytical view of their world. Lor resides within the substructure of the Palindromena facility, the basement his respite from the unethical procedure of restoring lives. Lor is a gentle character, emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve. His thoughts are consumed of the guilt of losing his friend in a rock climbing accident, Lor survived and the guilt has caused him to live his life hidden among the dead, isolated and secluded from the world.

Tempe and Elysea are contrasting characters and although Tempe is angry a deeply feels what she believes is her sister's betrayal, the two siblings care for one another. Elysea is spirited and carefree and despite her current circumstances, wants to spend her final day experiencing the yearly Equinox festival, dancing and enjoying what little of her life remains. Through Elysea's experience, Tempe realises that she wasn't living but simply surviving and although Lor provides an attractive distraction, Tempe continues to place her sister's well being first and foremost.

The Earth flooded in a historical disaster known as the Great Waves, land disappearing beneath the ocean and those who survived now live in salt laden highrise towers jutting from the sea. Relics from the Old World are now hidden below the waves, treasures looted by divers brave enough to endure the waves that decimated their world. The ocean has become a source to sustain communities, providing a livelihood for those living above the watery graveyards. The world building is eerily beautiful and one of my favourite aspects of The Vanishing Deep.

The world flooded and valuable land and resources disappearing beneath the sea. A frightfully prophetic world that raises discussion of environmental impact and global warming, issues rarely mentioned in young adult literature. At the centre of the narrative is the moral dilemma of life and playing God. Resurrection, only to spend the next twenty four hours isolated in a concrete room within the Palindromena facility. You can't leave and you need to lie your way through every conversation because they can't discover they've died. What isn't clear to the grieving loved ones, is how the process works. Without giving too much away, the how provided an intense urgency throughout the storyline which blended beautifully with the emotional impact of Tempe and Elysea's reunion, the secret surrounding the death of their parents and coming to terms with losing your sister all over again. 

Lovingly imagined, atmospheric and beautifully portrayed, The Vanishing Deep is exquisite. 
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