Celebrating YA Authors from Down Under
Australia Day is January 26th and what better way to celebrate the achievements of their country by highlighting its many Australian YA authors — and there are a lot! So many that it would be unwieldy trying to list all of them and their books in a blog-sized post. I decided instead to create a word cloud of as many as I could think of using Tagxedo (forgive me if I missed anyone). The program “Globalize Me! Young Adult Literature from Outside the U.S.” that I attended at the YA Lit Symposium in November focused mostly on Printz Award-winning Australian YA authors both familiar and unfamiliar to us in the US — since not all are published here yet.
Speaker Cathy Andronik, who is doing her doctoral thesis on Australian YA authors, spoke about the many Australian YA authors who are Printz winners (like Melina Marchetta, Margo Lanagan, Markus Zusak, Craig Silvey, Judith Clarke, and Christine Hinwood). She said that Australian YA authors have received the second highest number of Printz Awards after US authors. Third and fourth place go to those from the UK and Canada.
The second speaker was Australian Adele Walsh, who is the Program Coordinator at the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria. She mentioned a number of popular Australian YA authors who are just being published here or who still haven’t been published here. One exception is Cath Crowley. Her book Graffiti Moon, a romance about disguised identity, art, and much more was published here in February, although Walsh said the American version is different from the Australian version: “huge tracts of prose were changed.”
Another Australian author who might be familiar to some is Gabrielle Williams (Beatle Meets Destiny, published here in 2010), whom Walsh described as the Australian sister to John Green. Walsh said Williams’s other book, Reluctant Hallelujah, would probably never be released here because of its religious aspects. The plot concerns a teen (whose parents have disappeared) who finds the figure of the body of Christ hidden for decades in her basement and has to figure out how to remove it. As she and another teen are forced to move Christ through a series of underground storm drains, the plot could have ended up like the movie Weekend at Bernie’s but doesn’t because the author tried not to be disrespectful. Walsh said Williams got the idea for the plot after her husband saw a sign that said “Jesus is alive” and someone had written below that “and is in your basement.” Sounds like it would be a hit with Christopher Moore fans.
The popular Australian authors who haven’t reached the US yet include
- Vikki Wakefield, who writes in the vein of Meg Rosoff
- Kirsty Eager, whose book Raw Blue, described as a “sea gothic,” is available used through Amazon from some US book sellers
- Leanne Hall, author of This is Shyness, who writes urban fantasy with a surreal edge like Holly Black
- Fiona Wood, an Australian Rebecca Stead who’s written Six Impossible Things, which is about a boy who falls for the girl next door and walks the fine line between crushing and stalking
- Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea
- Tom Taylor, a graphic novelist
- Kelly Gardener, author of Act of Faith, a work of historical fiction
For more information from the presentation about these authors’ books, check out Walsh’s blog post.
Walsh said that in Australia, YA books are written for older teens, more like for 16-year-olds, and that the characters tend to be older as well — 19 or 20, in some cases. She said there’s a hole for younger YA there. They don’t have a Rebecca Stead. That’s why Six Impossible Things was written.
I hope these Australian YA authors will be published eventually in the US because I’m sure they’d be just as popular. The fact that there are so many books available here by renowned Australian YA authors shows just how universal the themes in YA books are, no matter the country they come from.
– Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Saving June by Hannah Harrington