Check out this list of varied, challenging and quality novels suitable for Years 9 and 10.
Eighteen-year-old Rachel tells this poignant, reflective story of her life caring for Grace, a victim of acquired brain injury. Rachel is feisty with an irrepressible, astringent humour that takes no prisoners and yet is compassionately sensitive to Grace’s position. The meaning of the title is gradually revealed as Rachel explores Grace’s life before her accident and more importantly discovers the individual that is still there in Grace’s apparently unresponsive body. In so doing it is a journey of personal growth and self-knowledge for Rachel. Other characters are vividly drawn and there is a realistic approach to the outcome for people with acquired brain injury. This is an impressive first novel. Children’s Book Council of Australia, short-listed for Book of the Year: Older Readers, 2002.
Green Monkey Dreams
A powerful and haunting collection of short stories – not all of them new – which shows glimpses of life on the borderland of myth, this book is full of mystery. The characters are so vividly portrayed that they will keep returning to your thoughts. The cover has a stunning, subtle, soft fantasy feel about it. The writing is even and beautifully crafted. A thoughtful, provocative reading is required. (See also The Farseekers, The Gathering.)
Journey Through Horror
Edited by Richard Baines Oxford
This selection of horror and ghost stories provides a valuable introduction to genre and presents an opportunity to undertake aspects of the Stage 5 section of the syllabus and to prepare students for genre study in the Stage 6 English syllabus. The selection is suitably chilling, owing much to the influence of Edgar Allen Poe. Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote and Andrew Horowitz are among the authors represented. Students can consider a range of different perspectives and contexts for horror as the anthology contains some real life horror stories. The Journey through… series includes other genres such as crime and fantasy. In this particular anthology, the human desire to be frightened is fulfilled. As the introduction warns us, ‘be afraid’.
Merryll of the Stones
Brian Caswell’s first novel, Merryll of the Stones, is evocative of time and place. The shift in location from suburban Sydney to rural Wales, as well as movement backwards and forwards through time allow Caswell to convey his powerful sense of atmosphere and history. Megan Ellison, the central character, learns that she has the power to initiate time shifts and it is through her experiences that the novel explores the importance of finding the balance. A novel that combines adventure, romance, science fiction and history, that is rich in linguistic complexity and builds to a dramatic climax. (See also A Cage of Butterflies.)
Wolf on the Fold
In literature the wolf is used as a powerful symbol, and in this title the wolf represents real or imagined danger and how the characters, who are linked by family, deal with it. There are six stories that travel through time from Kenny in 1935 to James in 2002. They describe the dangers faced by the family members ranging from violence, privilege, war trauma, racism and exile to the powerlessness of a fear of everything. This beautifully crafted book, celebrating ordinary life, is deceptively simple and gentle but it provides powerful, thought-provoking and rewarding reading. Wolf on the Fold won the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award for Older Readers in 2001.
Rough with the Smooth: Stories of Australian Men
Edited by B R Coffey
Well-known Australian writers and personalities, including A B Facey, Bruce Beresford, Glyn Parry and Elizabeth Jolley, explore the complexities of masculinity in Australian culture in this collection of short stories and extracts. The men in these tales include larrikin farming fathers, real estate salesmen and migrant workers. The strength of these stories of friendship, compassion, leadership, love and weaknesses, rely equally on the women and children in the men’s lives, making this collection a true snapshot of Australian social relationships.
The Divine Wind
Hart, son of a pearling master, falls in love with Mitsy, daughter of a Japanese diver. Their story is set in Broome and the outbreak of war is about to affect everyone in the town. There is much tension and, as racial intolerance builds, old friendships cannot always survive the strains. Disher’s economic literary style convincingly portrays the effects of the war on this remote multiracial town, and in particular on Hart and his world as a near-fatal accident abruptly changes his expectations.
A thirteen-year-old girl called Eva is involved in a horrifying car accident. When Eva wakes up in hospital after an eight-month coma she discovers that she has been given a totally new kind of life. Her brain has been transferred unchanged into the body of a chimpanzee. This novel delves into the ethics of such experiments, the wider issue of what it is to be human and the future of the human race. The conclusion to the powerful novel is a challenging one for students to explore.
48 Shades of Brown
Love, lust and pesto! This is an extremely witty account of the transition from living at home to living in a shared household. Dan learns, through a comedy of errors that pretending to be who you’re not in the hope of impressing someone rarely works. Dialogue and interior monologue, combined with clever imagery, make this a thought-provoking but hilarious novel. 48 Shades of Brown won the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award: Older Readers in 2000.
Callisto wryly classifies herself as a moon, destined to palely reflect the light of others. The poignant sense of dread and alienation in the novel is subtly offset by Cal’s self-deprecating humour and the warm, loving relationship she has with her young brother. This is an outstanding work that examines the complex nature of responsibility, including to oneself, in a very positive manner. Feinberg’s lyrical language and sustained celestial analogies, reminiscent of the work of Margaret Mahy, contribute to the inspiring nature of the book. Borrowed Light was an Honour Book in the Young Adult’s Book Council Awards in 2000.
The Eyre Affair
Imagine a Great Britain where time travel is routine, where the Crimean War still rages and where literature is taken so very seriously that thieves target great works of fiction instead of cash or jewels. Acheron Hades, the third most wanted man in the world, steals the original manuscript of Jane Eyre and takes Jane from its pages, aiming by her death to make her disappear from every volume of the novel ever printed! But Thursday Next, renowned literary detective, is on his trail! Jasper Fforde’s alternative universe is full of jokes and humour, allusions and wordplay and is fast and furiously paced. It is a marvellous mockery of genre fiction, a literary feast for the reader and an engaging text with which to explore intertexuality.
Making the Most of It
Lisa Forrest is a former Olympic swimmer and her first novel has autobiographical overtones. Fourteen-year-old Nina Hallet is an unknown schoolgirl who becomes a national sporting hero. But there is little to prepare her for her role as an international celebrity. Her success becomes a nightmare of difficulties and despair. This realistic and ultimately optimistic novel provides opportunities for students to consider advantages and costs of fame and fortune. (See also Dj Max.)
This engrossing story of an Italian migrant family explores the frustrations and anxieties of living with an elderly relative. Paul, fourteen and missing his father, finds his ageing Nonno increasingly embarrassing and exasperating. How can he concentrate on his homework, girls and fast cars when he constantly has to deal with this forgetful, annoying old man? The relationship between Paul and Nonno gradually grows stronger as Paul listens to his grandfather’s stories of his past and begins to appreciate both him and his Italian heritage. Moving scenes of family life combine with a wry, adolescent humour to make this a memorable story of one teenager’s steps along the path to maturity.
A powerful, thought-provoking novel about Blacky, a white teenage boy growing up in a small country town who befriends Dumby Red, an Aboriginal boy on his football team. Told in the very realistic, humorous and laconic voice of Blacky, this is a story about growing up and coming of age as well as an insightful and non-sentimental look at race relations. This book explores the issue of personal moral courage against a backdrop of family conflicts, warm friendships and a firmly established setting. Winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia 1999 Book of the Year: Older Readers.
The Blue Dress
Libby Hathorn (editor)
This collection of short stories is unified by the blue dress on the cover. Authors were asked to compose a story around the painting placed on the postage stamp. Stories range from the chilling horror of First Dance to the joys and disappointments of first love.
Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf
This novel ultimately is one of purpose, hope and overcoming adversity. The story is centred on a young man dealing with his life as a member of a troubled family. The language is evocative and, at times, poetic. Readers’ emotions are stirred by Hartnett’s compassionate depiction of people living on the edge. By using the image of the supposedly extinct thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) Hartnett cleverly draws parallels with a dying community and characters in need of sanctuary.
This is a post-nuclear war adventure story set in Sydney. Ben is a teenage survivor with a special power: a voice in his mind speaks in such a way that it can be heard by animals and this is referred to as the Calling. At Taronga Zoo Ben meets an Aboriginal girl, Ellie, a member of a gang run by the powerful leader, Molly. The rule of the jungle that preceded and produced the nuclear catastrophe has once again determined human behaviour. It is the mission of Ben and Ellie to quell this violence, both inside and outside the group, and to build Taronga into an oasis that could herald a new beginning. The book poses many questions about the struggle between coercion and cooperation in the human psyche. (See also The Red Heart, The Ivory Trail.)
Came Back to Show You I Could Fly
Robin Klein has written a warm and compassionate book about the power of friendship to comfort and heal, and to widen personal experience. Seymour and Angie are an unlikely pair of friends, but their accidental meeting leads to escape from loneliness and despair. Seymour faces a summer holiday confined in the house of his mother’s friend in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, while Angie has exhausted the patience of her family with her drug addiction. A narrative feature of the novel is the inclusion of Angie’s notes and diary entries. Outside their respective families, Seymour and Angie develop their inner resources and eventually find confidence in themselves.
This is a fantasy working at several levels. The story directly concerns the rescue of Laura Chant’s younger brother, Jacko, from a possessive spell cast on him by a knick-knack shop owner called Carmody Braque. Laura has to call on the help of Sorenson Carlisle, who is just a few years older than she is. In the process she discovers the mysterious world of love. This is a thrilling story that will appeal to the mid-teens. The Changeover is a Carnegie Medal winner.
Tomorrow When the War Began
This suspenseful adventure story is the first of a seven-novel series about the response of a group of adolescents to the invasion of their country. Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the bush to find their families taken prisoner and their country overrun. From evading their enemies they turn to attacking them and in the process undergo significant changes. The descriptions of place and incident are compelling. This novel and its sequels provide an excellent opportunity for an author study. (See also Winter, So Much to Tell You.)
This is a groundbreaking novel, which explores issues of identity, friendship and the roles society assigns to gender. In his final year at school Xavier McLachlan discovers that relationships are of equal or greater importance than his coveted place in the school’s first XV rugby team. The game of rugby becomes something of a metaphor for life as his friendship with the unconventional and confronting Nuala develops. In the search for an identity uniquely theirs, both characters question the expectation of their peers and the society in which they belong. Characterisation is skilful and the exploration of relationships is particularly thought-provoking. (See also A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove.)
Donna Jo Napoli
Donna Jo Napoli expands the tale of Beauty and the Beast in this glittering novel set in ancient Persia. Prince Orasmyn is cursed to lion shape until the love of a woman releases him. He travels across Asia to France in his lion shape until he finds refuge in an abandoned chateau where he plants a rose garden. The story then follows its traditional path embellished with references to rose horticulture, Persian literature and the beliefs of Islam. The novel invites comparisons with the original tale and other retellings such as Robin McKinley’s Beauty. A glossary of Persian and Arabic words is provided.
Sabriel is a very dark and at times quite disturbing fantasy. The heroine is a young girl who inherits magical powers from her necromancer father. Her father’s sudden disappearance thrusts her into a world of danger in which she learns to use her talents effectively through bitter and often painful experience. A battle between good and evil rages throughout the book and is described with intensity quite unlike most children’s fantasies of this genre. Not for the faint-hearted, Sabriel is a complex and often violent book which rewards the reader with the creation of a vivid and challenging fantasy world.
The Wind Singer
In the city of Aramanth people are divided according to their occupation. If they work hard they can move through the system. However the Hath family cherish ideas and dreams and their daughter Kestel finds it difficult to fit the order and regulation and conformity of the city. Guided by an old map she sets out with her brother Bowman and their friend Mumpo on an adventure that takes them through the city sewers into the desert beyond. They know that if they can find the voice of the Wind Singer, an ancient and mysterious instrument that stands in the centre of Aramanth, they can save their people from a deadening lethargy. Tolerance and the importance of individuality are explored in the wonderful fantasy, the first book of a planned trilogy. (See also Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong.)
The Sterkarm Handshake
Not just another time travel fantasy, The Sterkarm Handshake offers an insight into modern society and its values. When a 21st century scientific corporation invests in a time travel machine which makes the 16th century available as a holiday destination, the attitudes of the time travellers (scientists, entrepreneurs, anthropologists) to the society of the past deliver a revealing commentary on the society of the present. Parallels are drawn between the exploitation of the past society for tourist dollars and the imperialist exploitation of indigenous peoples in countries such as USA. An unusual love story holds the plot together and adds depth to the author’s exploration of human motivation. The Sterkarm Handshakewon the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction in 1999.
Northern Lights is the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman has created a parallel universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely linked. Lyra Belacqua is an orphan growing up in a parallel Oxford where people have a personal daemon, the manifestation of their souls in animal form. When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are determined to find him. Their quest leads them to the north of the country where horrible experiments are taking place on children. This complex and compelling fantasy with its links to the poetry of John Milton and its depiction of multiple worlds will reward close study. The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the trilogy, won the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction in 2001.
Anne Provoost (translated by John Nieuwenhuizen)
For Lucas, a young man on holidays, the long, hot summer proves to hold menace and temptation. After his grandfather’s death Lucas’ return to the old house places him next door to the enigmatic Caitlin and brings him into contact with some extreme nationalists. This deep and disturbing novel about racism and complex moral choices will prove very relevant to Australians. Falling was first published in Belgium; it has been translated into several languages and won five major literary awards.
Civilisation as we know it ends with a blackout. Through the first person narration of two well-developed characters, Holly and Tony, Pryor has created an effective scenario of the ensuing chaos and social breakdown. The lunatic New Order rises rapidly to power, blaming the old regime for the failure. Meanwhile, the scientists and supporters of the old regime are struggling to rebuild their world. The book climaxes with the inevitable clash between new and old.
The Baboon King
Anton Quintana (translated by John Nieuwenhuizen)
Morengaru, a young African hunter, is alone in the wilderness. He has been exiled by his father’s people, the Masai and by his mother’s people, the Kikuyu. Faced with surviving without the support of a community he finds himself living among the baboons. His attempts to cling to his humanity are honestly and realistically portrayed by Quintana. This confronting novel compels readers to consider what it means to be human.
In this novel homeless adolescents are vanishing and no one notices or cares about their disappearance. Luke has become a derelict in London and only survives because of the friendship of Ginger, another street kid. When Ginger disappears Gail provides Luke with hope but Shelter, a soldier out of work, who is killing the homeless kids, is targeting more victims. The role of the media and the plight of the homeless are both explored in this chilling novel. Stone Cold won the 1993 Carnegie Medal.