Tag Archives: Keith Gray

My favourite books from Reading Matters

Whenever I go to a book conference or there is a visiting author in town I like to make sure I read at least one of their books before I listen to them.  It makes me more comfortable meeting them and lining up to get a book signed if I know what they write like and the type of stories they write.  I had read quite a few of the books by the authors coming to Reading Matters but there were others that I just didn’t get around to.  Some of my favourite Australian YA authors were going to be there (Gabrielle Williams, Vikki Wakefield and Myke Bartlett) and I had read all of their books and loved them.  There were other authors, like Keith Gray, Libba Bray and Fiona Wood, whose books I had seen on the shelf at the library but never read.

The books below are my absolute favourites from Reading Matters.  These are all books that I highly recommend and that I think all teens should read.

The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams

When Dodie’s parents go missing just as final year exams are about to start, she convinces herself they’re fine. But when the least likely boy in class holds the key — quite literally — to the huge secret her parents have been hiding all these years, it’s up to Dodie, her sister, the guy from school, and two guys she’s never met before, to take on the challenge of a lifetime. So now Dodie’s driving — unlicensed — to Sydney, and being chased by bad guys, the police, and one very handsome good guy.

The Reluctant Hallelujah is quite simply one of the coolest, quirkiest YA books I’ve read!  The premise blew me away and Gabrielle took me on this wild road trip from Melbourne to Sydney.  Gabrielle had me laughing out loud one minute, crying the next and falling in love with her characters.  There were times I just had to stop and soak up what I’d just read and then continue on with the next step of the journey.  It’s one of those books that had a real impact on me and I won’t forget it any time soon.

You can read my review of Beatle Meets Destiny, Gabrielle’s debut YA novel.  It was also the first book I reviewed when I started blogging in 2009 – yes I loved it that much that I had to say something about it.

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield

Seventeen-year-old Friday Brown is on the run—running to escape memories of her mother and of the family curse. And of a grandfather who’d like her to stay. She’s lost, alone and afraid.

Silence, a street kid, finds Friday and she joins him in a gang led by beautiful, charismatic Arden. When Silence is involved in a crime, the gang escapes to a ghost town in the outback. In Murungal Creek, the town of never leaving, Friday must face the ghosts of her past. She will learn that sometimes you have to stay to finish what you started—and often, before you can find out who you are, you have to become someone you were never meant to be.

You can read my review of Friday Brown here.

Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett

Sadie is sixteen and bored with life in Perth. It’s summer, and lazing on the beach in the stifling heat with her cousins and Tom is a drag. Then something comes out of the sea.

Dark menacing forms attack an old man, leaving him for dead and Sadie wracking her brains to understand what she saw. Then there’s a mysterious inheritance, a strange young man called Jake and a horned beast trampling the back yard.

Sadie finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient conflict that is nearing its final battle, a showdown that threatens to engulf Perth and all those she loves in a furious tsunami.

You can read my review of Fire in the Sea here.

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

It’s not really kidnapping, is it? He’d have to be alive for it to be proper kidnapping.’

Kenny, Sim and Blake are about to embark on a remarkable journey of friendship. Stealing the urn containing the ashes of their best friend Ross, they set out from Cleethorpes on the east coast to travel the 261 miles to the tiny hamlet of Ross in Dumfries and Galloway. After a depressing and dispriting funeral they feel taking Ross to Ross will be a fitting memorial for a 15 year-old boy who changed all their lives through his friendship. Little do they realise just how much Ross can still affect life for them even though he’s now dead.

I read Ostrich Boys when I got home from Reading Matters.  I met Keith Gray and listened to him speak twice, and he was such a funny, witty guy that I just had to read one of his books.  Boy am I glad I did! Keith talked about how he writes books for guys and he wants to show that guys are emotional.  This certainly comes across in Ostrich Boys, as Keith introduces us to a group of guys who are going on a journey to do one last thing for their friend.  Blake, Kenny and Sim are all quite different and their personalities clash a few times on their journey, but they band together for their dead friend, Ross.  They face a few challenges, including lost train tickets, lack of money, and the police, and learn some difficult truths about each other.

I felt really connected to the characters, especially the narrator Blake, and Keith made me feel like I was right there beside them.  I loved the dialogue between the characters, which could be hilarious one minute and then serious the next.  There is a lot in this book about being a guy and our relationships with those around us. There were so many parts of the book that I really loved, but probably my favourite is when Blake is having a discussion with Kayleigh about friendship.  Blake tries to convince her that, even though they don’t buy each other presents and call each other every night, he knows his mates would be there for him if he needed them. 

You need to push Ostrich Boys into the hands of every teen you meet, especially guys.

And these are books that I’ve put on my TBR pile because they sound so good and the authors were really interesting…

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

“It was just Dad and me and Gully living in the flat above the shop in Blessington Street, St Kilda. We, the Martin family, were like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects. Dad was addicted to beer and bootlegs. Gully had ‘social difficulties’ that manifested in his wearing a pig-snout mask 24/7. I was surface clean but underneath a weird hormonal stew was simmering. My defects weren’t the kind you could see just from looking. Later I would decide they were symptoms of Nancy.”

This is the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything. And it’s about life and death and grief and romance.

All the good stuff.

Run by Tim Sinclair

Dee lives for parkour, and the alternate worlds he invents to escape his mundane life. He knows the city better than anyone-the hidden spaces at night, the views that no one else sees, from heights no one else can scale,. With parkour, he’s not running away. He’s free.

But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. And soon Dee is running for his life, running for real.

Run is an unmissable, paranoid thriller – genre fiction meets literary verse novel.

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Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #9

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Unleashing YA – Gayle Forman, Morris Gleitzman and Keith Gray on adult encroachment in YA

This was the final session of Reading Matters 2013, but it ended with a bang.  I didn’t take many notes from this session as I was wrapped up in the discussion and being thoroughly entertained by these wonderful authors.  Morris started it off with a laugh by introducing himself and Keith as members of the ‘Bald, Bespectacled and Sexy Club’ and that he was there under false pretences, he isn’t and never will be a ‘Young Adult author.’  Adele asked the question ‘Who does YA belong to?’ and Maurice immediately replied with ‘nobody and everybody.’

Keith believes that males are under-represented in YA fiction.  Publishers, editors, agents and librarians are mainly females.  He mentioned that that a press release for the Carnegie Medal once highlighted having a male on the judging panel.  Keith writes for boys, ‘I hope I don’t alienate women but the 13 to 14 year-old boy is my ideal reader.’  Gayle pointed out that ‘there is acceptability for girl readers to enter a boy book’ but would Harry Potter have been the same with Hermione as the main character?

Both Maurice and Gayle commented on how great the blogging community is.  Gayle noted that the ‘incredible conversation going on amongst young people about the books they love,’ and Maurice talked about how a UK blogger helped an author’s book to sell overseas rights.

Each of the authors were asked ‘why do you love YA?’ Keith said it’s because he thinks teenagers are ‘fascinating creatures’ who read books to ‘challenge and argue.’

When asked ‘where else does the needle of discussion need to move to?’ Keith said that he wants to see YA authors mixing with adult authors on panels.  He also wants acceptance of children’s and YA authors, ‘we’re still talking about the human condition and we’re writing books to the best of our ability.’  Morris wants that needle and dial taken away completely and stop worrying about what kids are reading.

 

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Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #3

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Gatekeepers: the good, the bad and my mother – Keith Gray

I hadn’t read any of Keith Gray’s books before Reading Matters but, now that I’ve met him, I want to read all of his books.  I had heard him talk at the Unconference on Thursday and his talk really struck a chord with me.  On Friday he talked about the gatekeepers of young adult literature.  He started by telling us a hilarious story about a ladder that he bought and the 18 different instructions that he was supposed to read before he used the ladder.  Like the rules that were a barrier to him using the ladder, the gatekeepers of young adult literature are a barrier to teenagers discovering books.  These ‘gatekeepers’ are publishers, librarians, teachers, parents and grandparents, and if one of these people takes offense at a book they can close the gate to teenagers.  These gatekeepers are looking out for the ‘f-bomb’ and other language that they find offensive, and sex (which Keith says will have them ‘not just barring the gate, but melting down the key’).

Keith suggests that the ‘best books allow you to explore things on your own two feet.’  He trusts his readers to be able to think about big, tough issues and use their own judgement.  He says that reading is ‘about learning empathy and opening your mind.’ I know I certainly wouldn’t be the same person without learning these things through books.

One of the things I really like about Keith is that he writes specifically with teenage boys in mind as his readers.  He mentioned that he likes to portray teenage males as thinking and feeling humans that show emotion.  As a male I hugely appreciate reading about those types of male characters in books, because I can really relate to them.  They are the sorts of characters who really stick in my mind because I have a connection with them.

Keith finished by saying that ‘readers are the best gatekeepers.’  We can be a bit overprotective of teenage readers and we need to learn to trust them.  They’ll decide for themselves what they do or don’t like, just as we do as adults.

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