Stone Girl

Contains sensitive themes for mature young adult readers
Stone Girl
Written by Eleni Hale
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOZYA
368 Pages
Published April 30th 2018
Thank you to Penguin Books Australia
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★★★★★
An unspeakable event changes everything for twelve year old Sophie. No more Mum, school or bed of her own. She’s made a ward of the state and grows up in a volatile world where kids make their own rules, adults don’t count and the only constant is change.

Until one day she meets Gwen, Matty and Spiral. Spiral is the most furious, beautiful boy Sophie has ever known. And as their bond tightens she finally begins to confront what happened in her past.

I’m at the police station. There’s blood splattered across my face and clothes. In this tiny room with walls the colour of winter sky I hug a black backpack full of treasures. Only one thing is certain... No one can ever forgive me for what I’ve done.
There are currently over forty five thousand children within the foster care system within Australia. These are children without a primary caregiver, children who are casualties of family violence, substance abuse or children without a nurturing environment. Her story is harrowing and confrontational and although Sophie Soukaris is a fictional character, her narrative is indicative of many adolescents placed within the system.

Sophie Soukaris has been placed within temporary care after her mother passed away, child protection authorities attempting to contact her estranged father in Greece. As a young woman with a child, her mother returned to Australia after a dissolution of marriage, raising Sophie as a single parent and substance abuser, known to child protection authorities.

The quivering in my chest feels like frantic butterflies under my skin. They want to get out but can't, their colourful wings trapped in darkness.

Awaiting a permanent position with a foster family and accommodated with adolescents, Sophie begins to assimilate to her environment, susceptible to substance abuse, addiction, manipulation, sexual assault and misdemeanours as a minor. As her environment becomes increasingly treacherous, Family Assistance Services provides Sophie with a sequence of temporary housing, a vulnerable and perceptive young girl a consequence of her environment. Sophie is coerced, abducted and imprisoned by a paedophile. Attempted suicide, narcotics abuse, alcoholism, gender violence and engaging in destructive although consensual relationships.

The narrative is confrontational and controversial. Adolescents abandoned by protection services, ostracised by society without a sense of belonging. Debut author Eleni Hale has created a remarkable, captivating and courageous narrative. Imperative reading. 

We Three Heroes

Contains spoilers for the Medoran Chronicles
We Three Heroes
The Medoran Chronicles Novella Series
Written by Lynette Noni
Fantasy, Adventure, #LoveOZYA
367 Pages
Published August 27th 2018
Thank you to Pantera Press
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★★★★★
Alexandra Jennings might be the hero of The Medoran Chronicles, but she would be lost without her three closest friends. They are her heroes, and like all heroes, they each have their own story.

Meet the real D.C. in Crowns and Curses and discover how she becomes the princess Alex once despised but now adores.

Follow Jordan on his healing journey in Scars and Silence as he struggles in the wake of being rescued from his living nightmare.

Walk beside Bear in Hearts and Headstones as he faces an unspeakable trauma while helping his world prepare for the coming war.

Jordan, Bear and D.C. are the heroes of their own stories.

It is time for their stories to be told.
Crowns And Curses is narrated by Princess Delucia Cavelle, heir to the Medoran Kingdom. As a young girl, D.C was well acquainted with the expectations of representing the Medoran crown, the increasing loneliness as she was sheltered from public life and educated within the palatial residence. D.C yearns for companionship, believing she has found a friend in Maxton, the young son of the High Court Judge but Maxton is deceptive and determined to humiliate the young princess.

As her prophetic ability manifests, Delucia receives an invitation to Akarnae Academy. A new beginning and a chance to connect with her peers. At Akarnae, D.C is without her Princess title but with years of isolation and protecting her emotions, she becomes estranged from her fellow students before being introduced to Alexandra Jennings.

Scars And Silence accompanies Jordan Sparker throughout his journey of empowerment after which his life was claimed and manipulated by Aven Dalmarta. Jordan is experiencing a crisis of identity, betrayal and consumed by his affliction. Through compassion and understanding, Jordan begins to acknowledge his anxiety and is encouraged by Delucia and Hunter, two positive influences within his life.

Jordan continues to blame himself for the death of his brother, adding to his anguish. 

Jordan's narrative is confrontational and distressing. Jordan discovered his brother moments before he had taken his own life, watching in horror but rendered helpless. Jordan shares with D.C the circumstances surrounding Luka's suicide which may distress readers. Luka identified as gay and although in a wonderful relationship with a male partner, their volatile father dismissed Luka's sexuality, going as far to force Luka into an arranged marriage. Luka, feeling as though he had no other option, took his own life. 

Hearts And Headstones is narrated by Barnold Ronnigan, affectionately known as Bear and surrounds the journey to Graevale as diplomatic emissaries, ending in anguish for the Ronnigan family. Bear finds solace within his tentative friendship and potential relationship with Declan. Amidst the devastation, the apprehensive smiles of the potential romance is beautiful.

We Three Heroes offers readers an insight into the significant moments that shape each character throughout the series, from each characters point of view. The brave, tentative and vulnerable moments that add depth and humanity to characters we typically see as indestructible.

The Medoran Chronicles is a phenomenal series, adventurous, imaginative and superbly written. Lynette Noni is a prolific author, creating atmospheric worlds and vibrant characters. I've fallen in love with reading all over again. 

What If It's Us

What If It's Us
Written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
448 Pages
Published October 2018
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia
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★★★
Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his former boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated. Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date? Or a second first date or a third? What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?
Although I've never read anything by Becky Albertalli, I'm a great admirer of Adam Silvera. He creates diverse, profound characters that are beautifully complex. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with What If It's Us. As individuals, Arthur is a gentle and sensitive young man, his inexperience is incredibly endearing. Ben is a pensive character, enduring the melancholy of his relationship dissolving, proceeding the loss of mutual friendships. Through serendipity, the two young men meet, are separated, then attempt to reconnect by searching New York for one another.

Representation
The character representation was a wonderful aspect. Ben is Puerto Rican and identifies as gay. He often feels ostracised due to his light skin, low socioeconomic status and unable to speak Spanish fluently. Arthur is Jewish, gay and originally from Georgia, yet residing in New York over the summer with his parents. Arthur manages his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through medication, as does secondary character and Ben's best friend Dylan, to manage his heart condition.

You've Got A Friend In Me
The secondary characters are a fundamental element of the storyline, in particular Dylan. Ben and Dylan share a wonderful relationship, unabashed and companionable. Dylan has a wonderfully flirtatious personality which creates lighthearted moments within the narrative. Ben often referenced Dylan as abandoning their friendship to accommodate a series of unsuccessful relationships. Dylan compassionate and consistently reassured Ben of his companionship. Jessie and Ethan are expendable unfortunately, although allegedly Ethan is a person of contention. Arthur believes Ethan is uncomfortable with his sexuality, creating an excessive intensity within the narrative. 

The Creepy Edward Cullen Guide To Dating
The whirlwind romance was rather an infatuation with one another. Although the scenes of intimacy were beautifully portrayed, Ben reassuring Arthur and placing the emphasis on consent, their relationship was overdramatised and inauthentic regardless of character sexuality. In the beginning of the narration, Arthur begins to pursue Ben obsessively. He learns of Ben's former boyfriend and through encroaching on his social media accounts, discovers an image of Ben and proceeds to create posters to ambush him. I found Arthur's behaviour incredibly intrusive.

Ben, a young gay man of colour in a large city could have been endangered by Arthur's actions. Rather than being addressed, his actions were romanticised. 

Potentially Triggering
One incident may be distressing to readers. Ben and Arthur are sitting with one another on public transport when approached by a man and his young child. The man proceeds to use threatening, homophobic and distressing language. Throughout the exchange, Arthur is incredibly distraught, Ben challenges the homophobic patron and another passenger intervenes.

The Conclusion
What If It's Us shares a similar narrative of a character origin story and although the lighthearted and tender moments were wonderfully written, it lacked substance. Two young men, a chance meeting and falling in love under the bright lights of New York City should have been the romance we've all been waiting for. I'm still waiting unfortunately.

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds
Jane Doe Chronicles Book One
Written by Jeremy Lachlan
Fantasy, Adventure, #LoveOZYA
432 Pages
Published August 1st 2018
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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★★★★★
When a fierce quake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven, and her father disappears, Jane Doe is thrown headfirst into an epic quest to bring him home.

But this ain’t no ordinary rescue mission. Her father is lost in a place between worlds, a dangerous labyrinth of shifting rooms, infernal booby traps and secret gateways. And Jane has to find him fast, because someone else is searching for him, too. A man who knows her father’s secrets. A man who has an army.

With a pyromaniac named Violet and a trickster named Hickory by her side, Jane is about to discover that this adventure is even bigger on the inside than it looks...

This is the blockbuster adventure the worlds have been waiting for.
The island nation of Bluehaven is a picturesque community, a village permeated by earthquakes and immersed in mythology. For thousands of years, the residents of Bluehaven have apotheosised the remnants of the entrance to another world, a decrepit, monument representing adventure and heroism. The entrance dormant since John and infant daughter Jane Doe arrived on the cusp of destruction, the Night of All Catastrophes.

The Cursed Ones
Fifteen year old Jane Doe and her father are undesirables, contaminating the community of Bluehaven. Reluctantly imprisoned within the basement of Beatrice and Bertram Hollow where Jane cares for her father, incapacitated since his unexpected arrival on the island. Each tremor brings accusations of an abomination, Bluehaven remonstrating against John and Jane Doe until the annual Night of All Catastrophes celebration. During the commotion, John Doe is consumed by the labyrinth.

With gallantry and tenacity, Jane embarks on a adventure to recapture her father and return to Bluehaven. Accompanied by whispered words from the peculiar Winifred Robin and a mysterious brass key, Jane evades the vigilante community and enters the labyrinth. Alone. Abandoning Violet Hollow, her friend and coconspirator. 

The Sidekicks
Jane must navigate through wintery wonderlands and arid, desolate conditions as each landscape challenges courageous, accomplished adventurers. Hickory Dawes continues to journey through the decrepit remnants, unable to escape. Hickory understands the extraordinary ecosystem of the labyrinths, entrances infringing upon the otherworld. Jane and Hickory agree on a tentative alliance, reluctantly, Jane still uncertain of his intentions and authenticity.

Violet Hollow is an incredible heroine. Although Jane has journeyed several days, Violet is now sixteen years old and no longer a pyromaniac child seeking adventure. When Jane disappeared, Violet immersed herself within the history of the Otherworld and beneath the instruction of Winifred Robin, will reunite with Jane to salvage the catacombs. Bringing her friend and companion home.

Violet has endured the antagonism and resentment of Bluehaven as she was ostracised by her parents, now residing within the library under the supervision of Winifred. Her journey is miraculous and incredible heroic, creating an inspirational character of determination and perseverance.

The Villian. Dun. Dun. Dun
Roth is man withered by disease, a decomposing illness throughout his decrepit world now infecting the labyrinths. Roth is determined to conquer each world, his artillery composing of soldiers bound in leather and enslaved humans. To escape the Otherworld, Roth must capture Jane and the brass key.

It's Just A Little Crush
Throughout literature written for the middle grade and young adolescent audience, friendships are at the forefront of the narrative. The friendship was beautifully compassionate but beneath the companionship, a wonderful attraction is flourishing. Jane is attracted to Violet, exploring unfamiliar feelings of her first infatuation. A wonderfully tender and delightful inclusion.

Absolutely Phenomenal 
Incredibly atmospheric and intricately engineered. A phenomenal blend of fantastical and dystopian landscapes, meticulously illustrated and beautifully cinematic. 

Jeremy Lachlan is a wonderfully imaginative and ingenious voice in Australian young adult literature. Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds is breathtaking and delightfully captivating until the final page. 
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