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Archive for the ‘Social Problems’ Category

Sometimes there are novels you read that are great, then there are others which grip you like a clamp, dragging you – body and soul – into the centre of time and place that is so graphic and so real that you are left shaken by what you have read, experienced, felt and learned.  I found myself shaking as I got to the last pages of this book, moaning to myself that no, it couldn’t end like this.

Set at the turn of the century, riddled with the dirt and dust of small Australian country towns and mixed with the desperate poverty that few today realize or knew was as harsh and unbearable as it really was,  a young girl is sold by her father for nine shillings and sixpence to a scrap man who offers them money to provide food for their other children.  The child he buys is just three years old.  Two other young children bought in previous years have lived with him for a while.  They are now aged around 20 and 12.  Their owner, the scrap man, controls their every movement.  Their fate was sealed the day they were bought.  As the youngest lives her squalid life in her new family, her constant companion is her thoughts about the day she would run away.

This story of abuse, brutality and survival is set against the historical background of country Victoria prior to and after WWI and through the hideous time of the ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic that hit Australia in 1919.   This was a difficult read.  Heartbreaking and very graphic it is suited to mature age readers.  Disher is truly one of Australia’s most outstanding authors.

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Historical Fiction, Social Issues
Suitable: Years 10-12+

 

 

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small-great-thingsWhen Ruth Jefferson, a labour and delivery nurse with more than twenty years’ experience working in a small U.S hospital is told she is no longer permitted to touch the new-born infant she had recently attended, her world is shattered.  Then, when three days later, the baby dies while momentarily left in her care, Ruth finds herself at the centre of a court case accused of negligent homicide.  With her world imploding, this single mother who has only ever tried to do what is right and good for her family, her friends, her co-workers and her patients, finds herself alone.  Grappling to be understood by those around her, the only solace she can find is to trust the white, middle class lawyer who has been appointed by the court – a person whose life experience is the complete antithesis of her own.  Another compelling and well written page turner from Jodi Picoult which focuses on the complex issue of racism that plagues communities across the US.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitable:  Year 9-12+

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me-you
Fourteen year old Lorenzo, a loner who tries very hard to ‘fit in’ tells his parents that he has been invited to go on a skiing holiday for a week with a group of kids from school.  Instead of going, he hides out in the cellar of his apartment block.  All is well until his half sister, Olivia, appears and wants to share his hiding place.  Ammaniti is a gifted writer who chooses difficult issues and confronts them head on.  The Italian title of this book is “io e te”.

Although this could be a somewhat confusing read for a YA reader, the message it sends is powerful.

Rating:  ****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitable:  Year 10-12

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The bone sparrowBorn in a refugee detention centre, life seems hopeless for Subhi.  With nothing to do, he wanders through the day mulling over the constant hunger and filth he and others endure and the brutality of the guards who keep them interned in the isolated detention centre. A single ray of hope enters his life though when Jimmie, a scruffy impatient girl appears from the other side of the fence and shows empathy, way beyond her years, for Subhi’s intolerable life.  This poignant read, which tells the story of refugees, particularly children, who find themselves caught in an ongoing battle with the Australian Government, is beautifully written and well deserving of a YA literature award!

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitable:  Year 9-12+

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Castagna - Incredible here and nowHurt in a motor car accident, Michael and his family struggle coming to terms with the death of Dom, their brother, son and grandson.  This is a story of grief and love as a family learns to cope with the unexpected and continue their journey of life.  Sad and at times confronting, the novel is, at its end, uplifting.

 

Rating: ***
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitable:  Year 9-12

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Being an author is certainly a very demanding job.   But being the author of a ‘difficult to talk about’ let alone ‘write about’ subject is something that fills me with admiration.

‘A secret safe to tell’ written by Naomi Hunter, is a book which falls into this category.  Based on her own life experience, Naomi has bravely broached this subject not just as a way of working through her own healing, but as an important subject that needs to be discussed sensitively with young children.

A secret safe to tell

As I read the online article in the Daily Mail Australia published just yesterday, it made me both sad and angry to learn that publishers had shied away from accepting the manuscript for publishing as it was a ‘risky topic to invest in’.   For all those who could have been helped by a book of this nature, the loss is achingly hard to acknowledge.

A secret safe to tell will be launched in Melbourne on Sunday 26th October: 3.-00 – 6.00pm at St Raphael, Nicholas and Irene: 531 Centre Road, Bentleigh when Naomi will be reading her book and taking questions. Further details are in this flyer.   Naomi can also be found on Facebook.

SSTT

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Determined to escape the poverty and crime linked to her home and family, Mim takes an oath with her best friend to stick to ‘rules’ that will deliver them a better life than those around them.  But just nine days before her 17th birthday, Mim’s life takes an unexpected turn when the parcel her Mum forces her to collect from a local drug dealer is taken from her.   This first novel, by new YA author Vikki Wakefield, is gritty and confronting. Mature themes including a near rape scene.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitable:   Year 10-12+

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Finding out who you are, after you have died, is a fairly morbid storyline.   But throw into the story numeorus deviant social behaviours such as drugs, sex, anorexia, drink driving and depression to name just a few, and the story becomes even more morbid.  At 437 pages, this is one hefty read.  Unfortunately it wasn’t until page 235 that I got interested to find out where the story was heading.   Some serious editing of this tome by Jessica Warman may help to make it a better read.   Disturbing mature themes throughout.

Rating:  ***
Theme Fiction:  Social Problems
Suitable:  Year 11-12

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Katherine “Katie” Tarbox, the author of the internationally bestselling book, A girl’s life online, is a reprint of the 2001 book Katie.com, a ground breaking memoir detailing her account with an Internet predator.   As a 13 year old, Katie meets Mark in an internet chat room.  Finding someone who understands and cares about her, their relationship remains a secret.  Travelling to Texas to meet him, it is only then that she discovers Mark to be a 23 year old Internet predator.  A landmark court case results in Mark being accused of paedophilia.  This true story, told by Katie as a 17 year old, is as relevant today as it was more than ten years ago when first published and remains in print and translated into more than 35 languages in 50 different countries.  An excellent read for older teenagers and their parents.  Mature themes dominate.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems, Memoir
Suitable:  Year 10-12+

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Written in the alternating voices of the ‘Shadow Girl’ and an annonymous writer who interviews her, this suspense filled thriller, written by John Larkin, stays with you long after the last page. Fearing for her life at the hands of her aunt and uncle with whom she has been living since her parents mysteriously disappear, the Shadow Girl runs away, forging a life of her own.  Determined to complete her education and fulfil her dream of becoming a medical researcher, the Shadow Girl lies her way into school while living on the streets.   Unimaginable horrors lurk around every corner, but worst of all is her fear that her gangster uncle will find her.  Touching on mature themes, including paedophila, this novel is not for the faint hearted.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems, Thriller
Suitable:  Year 10-12+ (Mature Themes)

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