Weekend Herald - Canvas

TEEN READS

- — Sarah Pollok

ALLEGRA IN THREE PARTS by Suzanne Daniel (Macmillan, $35) What do you do when your family fiercely love you but can’t love one another? Allegra may only be 11 years old but she knows what it’s like to be caught between grown-ups trying to forget the absence of the woman who brought them together. With her discipline­d grandmothe­r, Matilde, Allegra must be studious and restrained so she can one day become a doctor. When she stays next door with the bohemian Joy and her pet tortoise Simone de Beauvoir, she is Ally, the free-spirited child encouraged to explore and live according to her “true essence”. Meanwhile, Rick lives in a flat out back, trying to gamble less, surf more and be a better father to Al Pal. An unconventi­onal family but one that Allegra has come to know and love, until one day an unspoken tragedy disrupts the fine balance and calls her to question all she knows. Set in 1970s’ Australia, Daniel’s debut novel offers a thoughtful and sincere spin on the usual coming-of-age YA novel.

THE REST OF THE STORY by Sarah Dessen (Harpercoll­ins, $22) Emma was only 10 when the Saylor household went from three to two. Now it’s just her and her dad and a few faint memories of her mother before she died. Sheltered from her mother’s mysterious past by her well-meaning father, Emma eventually accepts having a family tree with only one side. Until one summer she is suddenly sent away to North Lake and is reunited with her mother’s almost-forgotten parents and siblings. Days turn to weeks and Emma slowly learns that her mother’s story couldn’t be more complex or different than the affluent life of her husband. A veteran of YA novels, Dessen’s latest story doesn’t fail to disappoint fans of her gripping and relatable stories. Packed with flawed and messy characters, relevant themes and a twisting, unpredicta­ble plot, this is a classic Dessen novel readers will easily fall into.

WATCH US RISE by Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan (Bloomsbury, $18) Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends with big dreams. Tired of how young women are treated at their pretentiou­sly “progressiv­e” high school in New York City, the girls join forces and start a Women’s Rights Club. The only issue? No one else seems interested in joining. Not to be discourage­d, they take to the internet, posting photos of Chelsea’s poetry, Jasmine’s response to the theatre department’s sexism and racism and other gender-fuelled reflection­s. One moment they’re just two girls and a computer; the next they’ve gone viral. With a newfound influence, the question isn’t how far the young feminists will go to be heard but at what cost? While Watch us Rise itself isn’t squeaky clean from feminist tropes or tried stereotype­s, it provides a great first read for any teen with an interest in the complex world of gender politics.

ROOM FOR A STRANGER by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing, $37) Meg has been on her own ever since her sister died. She isn’t lonely — she has Atticus her African grey parrot to keep her company — but after an intruder breaks in with a knife, she decides another human could be good to have around. Andy Chan needs a cheaper place to stay after the failure of his father’s business means it’s on him to cover university costs and accommodat­ion. Coming from different countries, cultures and generation­s, the pair couldn’t be more different. Just as they begin to bridge the gap, things fall apart. From the winner of the 2018 Victoria Literary Award for Fiction, Room for a Stranger isa quietly touching novel about life, loneliness and finding friendship in the most unexpected of places. Set in Melbourne, readers will love this heartwarmi­ng tale that serves as a muchneeded reminder of how despite our difference­s, our lives are all far more similar than we think.

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