Thinking about some the most memorable YA books I’ve read over the years, I notice there is a heavy Oz slant. To name a few of the stand-out titles:
Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta
The first in a series dubbed the Lumatere chronicles, this fantasy powerhouse can stand alone. We begin with young Finnikin who hales from Lumatere, a once-great kingdom which been overtaken by usurpers and cursed for the past decade making it impossible to enter or leave. Exiled Finnikin explores bordering kingdoms in search of a way to break the curse- and he finds Evanjalin, a mysterious young woman with the unique ability to â€œwalk the dreamsâ€ of others and she hints that Lumatere’s true heir is alive after all.
It was a challenge for me to narrow down one favorite by Marchetta. I loved 2009 Printz Award Winner Jellicoe Road, Froi of the Exiles (I special ordered a copy from Australia after finishing Finnikin because I couldn’t wait for the US version to be published), Quintana of Charyn, Saving Francesca (Best Book for Young Adults 2005) , and basically everything she has ever written.
19 year old taxi driver Ed has been coasting through life with no real sense of purpose– until the day he stops a bank robber and begins to receive mysterious messages in the mail sent on playing cards. This sets Ed off in a series of interconnecting stories which eventually lead him to self-realization. Zusak’s tale is adventurous, enjoyable, sometimes comical, and ultimately unforgettable.
Zusak (2014 Edwards Award Winner) is best known for The Book Thief (Best Book for Young Adults 2007, Printz Honor 2007) which was originally published in Australia as an adult title. The Wolfe Brothers Trilogy is wonderful as well.
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey (Printz Honor 2012)
Small town outcast Jasper Jones appeals to Charlie for help late one night; a local girl has been found dead and Jasper needs Charlie to help him move her body. The suffocating setting of a stiflingly small Australian town in the heat of summer, and the characterization inspired by American classic â€œTo Kill a Mockingbirdâ€ make this one uniquely poignant.
Silvey’s first book, Rhubarb is an adult fiction title. On my to-do read!
The Midnight Dress– Karen Foxlee
Rose and her father are drifters; making their way through the Australian countryside, stopping where he can get work, and staying until he wears out his welcome (usually by drinking too much). Typically a loner, in their latest stop (the small coastal town of Leonora) Rose befriends the ebullient Pearl. Encouraged by her new friend Rose has a special dress made for the annual Harvest Parade, which should have been a happy one but instead ends with death. Each chapter starts at the endâ€¦ and this literary mystery will grab on and not let go until the end.
Foxlee’s The Anatomy of Wings is a great read as well!
As Karyn Silverman observes on School Library Journal’s Printz speculation blog, â€œSomeday my Printz will Comeâ€ in a discussion of this year’s title Zac & Mia by Australian writer A.J. Betts (http://www.ajbetts.com):
There’s something about Australia that always appeals (it’s an upstart young country like us, but also not, and as a result is familiar enough but still new and a little exciting. This is why Australians win Printz recognition so often).
If you need further evidence, here is a looooooong list of some more awesome Aussie YA writers:
Brigid Lowry (She is a New Zealander)
The proof is in the pudding, so read Aussie YA!