Tag Archives: Vikki Wakefield

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 #8

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Outsider, outside – Garth Nix, Tim Sinclair and Vikki Wakefield navigate the outside perimeters

Garth Nix thinks that all of his characters are outsiders in one way or another, but ‘you can be an insider/outsider, depending on context.’  Vikki says that her characters are exploring their own worlds from the inside, ‘she’s not outside – it’s her story, she lives there.’  She believes that books are open to our own ideals.

‘We’re attracted to flaws because we know we’re not perfect. It’s a nice feeling to open a book and see someone more screwed up than us.’

Garth says that the attraction of outsiders is that ‘everyone feels like an outsider in some way.’ He also points out that you ‘can be an outsider for three minutes and it can affect you.’  Vikki found her Welsh roots and discovered that finding out ‘something that happened centuries ago to your family, affects how you see yourself.  Suddenly my life seemed bigger.’  For Vikki, it was a moment of reckoning with a snake in her house and The Drover’s Wife that influenced Friday Brown.

Vikki says that she writes for teens like her who didn’t have books as a kid and didn’t have parents who were readers. When Vikki found books ‘the world was bigger.’ Vikki mentioned that she was surprised by the readers of her books.  She told the story of a teenage boy who loved Friday Brown and how she was surprised by this.  Vikki was also surprised when her books were shortlisted for prizes, as she never imagined they would be.  She believes that it’s important though that ‘age and sex do not define a reader.’

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Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #4

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You can’t say that! – Parental guidance recommended with Libba Bray, Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams

This session was a great way to end the first day of Reading Matters as it was absolutely hilarious!  I haven’t read any of Libba Bray’s books but I will have to remedy this immediately.  I’m a huge fan of Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams so I was really looking forward to hearing all about their books.  Each of the authors were asked if they had been asked to cut something out of a book or not write about a subject.  Libba said that she had never been told not to do something in a book, but she had been asked to ‘cut the talking penis scene in Going Bovine.’  Gabrielle’s latest book, The Reluctant Hallelujah (an amazing book about finding Jesus in the basement) hit some roadblocks in the publication process.  Her publisher was reluctant to publish it in Australia and her US publisher suggested changing the body of Jesus to the body of Elvis. Gabrielle writes comedy because she likes it, and this is one of the things I like most about her books.  She doesn’t approach issues in her books, instead she likes to make her characters three-dimensional so that the issues come to the characters.

Vikki Wakefield goes full-on with her stories and keeps going until it makes her laugh or cry. Someone needs to tell her when she’s gone too far.  She set out to be subversive with her first novel, but it wasn’t.  She pushed further emotionally with Friday Brown (and if you’ve read Friday Brown I think Vikki hit the nail on the head!).  Vikki suggested that there is a fear in white writers of writing indigenous characters, which means they’re disappearing. She believes that writers need to be taking more of a risk when it comes to this.

The next books they’re working on are:

  • Libba Bray – sequel to The Diviners
  • Vikki Wakefield – a love story from a duel point of view
  • Gabrielle Williams – a story set in 1986 with four characters, two aged 17 and two aged 23.
Me and Vikki Wakefield (author of Friday Brown)

Me and Vikki Wakefield (author of Friday Brown)

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YA Authors Assemble – Reading Matters is nearly here!

I am buzzing with excitement because in a few days some of the best YA authors around will gather in Melbourne for Reading Matters and I will be there.  I’ve wanted to go to Reading Matters for years and registered as soon as I possibly could (without even knowing which authors would be there).  In the past they’ve had some incredibly cool authors, including John Green, so I knew they would have some amazing authors this year.  When the author lineup was announced I was actually jumping up and down with excitement!

I will get the chance to meet some of my favourite Australian YA authors and some great international authors too.  My suitcase will be packed with books to get signed and I’m sure to come back with a few others.  Some of the authors I’m most looking forward to meeting are Morris Gleitzman, Vikki Wakefield, Gabrielle Williams, Myke Bartlett and Keith Gray.

These are just a couple of the sessions that sound totally awesome:

  • Everyone’s a critic – Myke Bartlett, Alison Croggon and Morris Gleitzman on setting their stories free.
  • You can’t say that! – Parental guidance recommended with Libba Bray, Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams.
  • Gatekeepers – the good, the bad and my mother – Keith Gray

I’ll take lots of photos, try to Tweet as much as possible and will blog about my favourite sessions when I get home.

Melbourne here I come!

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Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield

I can only think of a handful of books, among all the books I’ve ever read, that I’ll carry around in my head and my heart for the rest of my life.  Sometimes it’s the characters, the setting, or the feel of the book, and sometimes it’s the combination of all those things at exactly the right time.  When I first read the synopsis of Vikki Wakefield’s latest book, Friday Brown, I had a feeling that it was going to be one of those books.  As soon as I started reading it, I knew I wouldn’t be the same when I’d finished it.

I am Friday Brown.  I buried my mother. My grandfather buried a swimming pool.  A boy who can’t speak has adopted me.  A girl kissed me.  I broke and entered.  Now I’m fantasising about a guy who’s a victim of crime and I am the criminal.  I’m going nowhere and every minute I’m not moving, I’m being tailgated by a curse that may or may not be real.  They call me Friday.  It has been foretold that on a Saturday I will drown…

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.

Friday Brown is simply one of the most powerful, beautifully written stories I’ve ever read.  It’s one of those stories that you really lose yourself in and emerge several hours later, with your heart aching and a sense of loss.  You know that you’ll never forget the story, the characters, and the way they made you feel.

Vikki’s characters are always extraordinary and she introduces us to a menagerie of different characters in Friday Brown.  There is a sense of mystery about each of the characters in the book, as they all seem to have something they’re hiding or trying to forget.  I like the way that Vikki peels back the layers of her characters throughout the story and, even at the end, you still feel like you don’t know everything about them.  Although we don’t see much of Friday’s mum, her and her family curse are quite an imposing figure throughout the book.  Friday is forever running to escape the memories of her mother and the family curse that killed her.  If there is one character that I wish I could meet in real life it would be Silence.  He’s one of the most mysterious characters, but also the most loveable.  He’d had such a tough life and I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything would be alright.

Apart from Vikki’s characters, I think the thing I liked most about Friday Brown was the mood of the story.  From the first chapter, you get the sense that things aren’t going to end well.  You know that the family curse is hanging over Friday’s head, and this adds a darkness to the story.  You wonder if the curse will catch up to her or will she be able to break it.

Vikki Wakefield’s first book, All I Ever Wanted, was a stunning debut, but Friday Brown has really highlighted her incredible talent.  I would rate her as one of my favourite authors, especially of contemporary YA fiction, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.  Whatever she does write, I know it will be incredible!

Friday Brown is a book that everyone should read, both teens and adults alike.  You will fall in love with Vikki’s amazing story and make some extraordinary friends along the way.

5 out of 5 stars

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All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

My favourite quote from one of the greatest books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird, is

‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’

I was reminded of this quote while I was reading a wonderful book by debut Australian author, Vikki Wakefield.  Her book, All I Ever Wanted is the story of Mim, who is growing up in the suburbs.  She knows what she wants and where she wants to go – anywhere but home, with her mother who won’t get off the couch and her brothers in prison.  She’s set herself rules to live by, like ‘I will finish school, I will not drink alcohol, I will not be like everybody else, and I will not turn out like my mother.’   However, things aren’t going to plan; drug dealers are after her, her best friend isn’t talking to her, and the guy she likes is a creep.  Over the nine days before her 17th birthday, Mim’s life turns upside down.

All I Ever Wanted is a brilliant debut from Vikki Wakefield and I’ll eagerly await her next book.  I loved the character of Mim, whose voice was original and authentic.  Even though her life is tough, she stays true to herself and is determined not to turn out like the rest of her family.  The thing that really makes this book so great is the other people we meet who are a part of Mim’s life.  There’s the vicious, dodgy Mick Tarrant (who beats his family and his dog Gargoyle), her neighbour Mrs Tkautz (the grouchy woman who everyone thinks is a witch), Lola (the shy girl who lives next door), and Kate (the straight-laced sister of Jordan).  When Mim actually gets to know them she realises she has misunderstood them and maybe they aren’t so bad after all.  Mim and the cast of characters in All I Ever Wanted will stay with you long after you’ve finished their story.      Recommended for 13+      8 out of 10

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