Jazzy Reviews

14. Feb, 2019

"Richard, what are you doing?" Mom says, horrified. It's one thing to see the weapons laid out. It's another thing to see them being loaded.

"Protecting my family." The pounding on the back door is more frantic than ever.

"Let's not jump to conclusions," Mom says, her voice quivering.

But Dad is single-minded. He straps on his Kevlar vest. "Get everyone into the safe room."

THE GIST

In the midst of a horrifying drought, 16 year-old Alyssa Morrow's life is turned up-side-down from "The Tap-Out". With water a rare commodity and her small Californian town rife with violence and crime, Alyssa is forced out of her house. To avoid death by dehydration, she hits the road with her brother and the "freak" who lives next door. Picking up strangers on the way and watching the thirst bring out the worst in people, two questions remain; how long can they survive without water and where can they find it?

THE JUDGEMENT

I discovered Dry in the YA section of my local bookshop, its fire-red cover drawing me in.

Dry is split into many perspectives; those of Alyssa, Kelton, Garrett, Henry and Jacqui. They are pictured on a nerve-racking car journey during The Tap-Out. There are also unique "snapshots" given as side-stories, adding a greater personal dimension to the disaster.

I loved how much the characters grew to like each other. For example, upon meeting the rebellious teen Jacqui, Alyssa and her comrades were unsure of her. However, with time their trust increased in her. Crisis can sometimes bring out the best in people, along with the worst.

I enjoyed Dry because of the plausibility of the situation happening in real life. I was delighted by the way the tone constantly changed throughout the story; there were nail-biting scenes, sad moments and humorous parts.

At the end, it was revealed that the authors are adapting Dry into a movie. I can't wait to see it on the big screen and hope it lives up to the novel! I will definitely be looking out for more of the Shustermans' novels and have already added the famous Scythe to my reading list.

Dry features fear, desperation and raw emotion. It is violent and shows what humans will do for the bare necessities of life. There is a scene resulting in the death of a character, which I found traumatic. Therefore, I recommend Dry to readers aged 13+

I absolutely loved Dry and read it late into the night. Even after I had finished, I flicked back to the start and read it again. The writing style isn't too complicated and I felt like I could relate to the characters. I give Dry five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher:Walker Books Ltd
ISBN:978-1-4063-8685-1

8. Jan, 2019

I knew about making people laugh, but that was hard among those who didn't know me and my little problems, who saw the saliva at the corner of my mouth and straightaway thought I must be a halfwit. I wondered what I would choose if the fairy godmother who went AWOL at my birth turned up to make amends. Okay, Jacob, she'd say, what's it going to be, normal legs or a mouth that doesn't dribble from one corner?

THE GIST

Jacob O'Leary of Palmerston is forced to live with cerebral palsy and is desperately waiting for a chance to prove himself. When livestock are murdered in his small Australian town, a newcomer is unfairly blamed and Jacob seizes the moment to fight for justice. Will he solve the Palmerston case, or fail and be forever ridiculed?

THE JUDGEMENT

Upon looking at the front cover of The Beauty is in the Walking, I immediately recognised the author's name. James Moloney is known for stories such as The Book of Lies and Bridget: A New Australian, both which I read as a 'tween. I was keen to see how he would approach a YA novel.

James Moloney's writing style is descriptive and emotional. His choice to put Jacob in the first person made it easy for the reader to relate to and barrack for him. It allowed me a window into his thoughts.

Before I read The Beauty is in the Walking, I had limited knowledge on what cerebral palsy was. Jacob reveals how hard it is to deal with his social life and mental state. He details the constant pain he endures and his jealousy of his athletic older brother, Tyke.

Jacob's adoration of Amy is central to the story. He can't stop thinking of her when he is studying for his Year 12 exams and is constantly dreaming up plans to meet up. Jacob feels like his cerebral palsy is holding him back from love and this makes him try harder than ever to win Amy over.

Bullying has followed Jacob his entire life. When a cruel teenager confronts Jacob in a bathroom, he remains silent, scared and furious. Later on, he gives the same bully an inspiring speech.

Jacob is full to the brim with problems and a war is constantly raging within his head. He battles family, love, the Palmerston case, discrimination, exams, social struggles and more. The overlapping problems in The Beauty is in the Walking create a chaotic sense that lasts until the story's end.

Jacob is understandably tormented and the reader needs to be at the emotional age to empathise with him. Because of this, I recommend The Beauty is in the Walking to readers aged 12+

This is an entertaining and inspirational read and I admired how many obstacles Jacob overcomes. He experiences great personal growth and doesn't give up on his fight for righteousness.

I give The Beauty is in the Walking four-and-a-half bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Harper CollinsPublishers Pty Limited
ISBN: 978 0 7322 9994 1

9. Oct, 2018

"They are dangerous things, words," said the prince, his voice slow and meaningful.

I sensed trickery, and prayed for wisdom. A great stillness came over me. Wrapped in calm, I felt all my senses become heightened, alert. In a strange way I felt intensely alive, aware of everything about me, of every pair of eyes, and every change in the tense, treacherous atmosphere.

THE GIST

In medieval times a jester performs his new play, The Anger of Angels which ridicules the Prince of Goretti. At the same time, his 17 year-old daughter Giovanna meets Raffaele and falls madly in love with him. The play has dire consequences, wreaking havoc in everyone's lives. People are dying and the prince is blackmailing the jester in order to get a hold of the script. Giovanna is forced to travel to Goretti and hand it over so as to stop the misery it is causing. With love in the air and separation anxiety from her papa, Giovanna feels great pressure to complete her mission. The prince promises not to kill her, but Giovanna is untrusting. Will the prince be true to his word?

THE JUDGEMENT

The Anger of Angels has a medieval feel which captivated me from the very first page. It is exactly how I like a book to be written; it is descriptive, imaginative and has a spread of genres. It handles tragedy in a realistic way.

I love an ordinary protagonist. Giovanna is a girl who calls herself average in looks, except for one beautiful feature - her waist-length ginger hair. This feature makes her appear even more determined and feisty. It also sets her apart from the other girls in her village of Valenzio. I like the way this was written from her perspective and I felt like I really connected to her.

One of my favourite parts of the story is an example of bravery and character. After a huge argument with Ignazio (a secondary character), Raffaele is furious. Moments later, however, a tree falls on Ignazio and he is trapped. Raffaele has the option to leave him, or save him. His decision shows that he is the better person and is a strong character.

I think this book has an important moral; words can be dangerous. When the jester performs his play, he includes a riddle with a hidden meaning. The prince notices and is furious. Perilous events follow.

The Anger of Angels is a young adult novel. There is a romance between the two main characters (Raffaele and Giovanna) but nothing too iffy. There is also violence and a main character dies. Therefore, I recommend this book to readers aged 13+

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Anger of Angels. It is well-written and kept me hooked until the end. I would definitely vouch for this book if someone was looking for a medieval romance.

I give The Anger of Angels five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd
ISBN: 978-1-760650-60-5

11. Jul, 2018

"Hey," she says as I open the door. She looks really fed up. She isn't smiling and her eyes aren't as sparkly as usual. She's probably regretting that she offered to help me. She probably has a million other, better things she'd rather be doing. Like her homework. She'd probably rather be doing her homework than talking to me about what it means to be a refugee.

THE GIST

14-year-old Stevie is having it rough. Her dad has passed away, leaving her mum severely depressed so she is unable to work. Stevie has a passion for her dad's music and that is what gets her by in tough times.

Hafiz is a football-loving refugee from Syria. After his friend is hurt in a terrifying accident, Hafiz's parents had to send him away. He has been mistreated on the boat journey and arrives, scarred, in the UK.

Can these teens from two different worlds solve their problems together?

THE JUDGEMENT

This novel is named after a famous 70's song by Fleetwood Mac. This great title fits the storyline of the book; Stevie is going through so much and she needs to forget her past and look towards the future. She is named after one of the women in the band.

Each chapter within Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow varies between the characters' points of view. I have always enjoyed this layout because there are two sides to every story and I like getting inside people's heads.

This narrative is about a charmingly unlikely friendship; each character is being continuously tormented by an inner struggle and they help each other through it. The bond between Hafiz and Stevie is unique. It began as forced and awkward, but it grew. However, though they are close, they do not have a romantic relationship which is a relief in some ways; they could fight, break up and never talk to each other again.

I developed empathy for both of the main characters. Stevie struggles at school and at home, so I felt sad for her. I can relate to Stevie in a handful of ways. I have a passion for music just like her. It can help us through times when we are feeling down. Her talent comes in handy because later in the story, she has to busk for money. Stevie is poor because after her father's death, her mother became miserable which had obvious consequences.

Hafiz is picked on at school because he is a Syrian refugee. When playing soccer, he is rudely ignored and taunted by David Price, one of his team-mates. In fact, when it is obvious that Hafiz is in line for the perfect goal, David ignores him and tries to shoot, himself. Later, Price uses cruel stereotypes about Syrians and Hafiz responds by pushing him over. Hafiz's social situation is dire.

Stevie owns a book that her dad created when she started buying Justin Bieber. It is called, 'Stevie's Little Book of Big Song Wisdom' and it is very special to her. I like how the author has created a Spotify playlist with all of the songs featured in Stevie's collection. She holds it very close to her heart because it is one of the only things her father left behind.

This is an extremely emotional and confronting book and to understand and enjoy it, children need to feel for the characters. It also has mention of a teenage problem involving puberty, insults about rapists and terrorists, plus talk of relationships. Therefore, I recommend Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow to kids aged 12+.

This is a thoughtful and utterly beautiful story of friendship that is literally begging for a sequel (or even better, a prequel). I give Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1-4063-8780-3

29. Apr, 2018

Today I step out of my comfort zone and read something completely different to my fantasy-adventure genre.

Can we fix this? Can we stay the friends we’ve always been? Can we patch the rips we’ve made in each other so the ragged seams stop showing? Or worse: Is there something terrible she’s not telling me?

THE GIST

Riya and Abby are inseparable friends. They part when Riya moves from California to Germany. During that time, Abby's parents divorce and she is left unsure of herself and upset. The next year, Riya invites her to fly to Europe and tour the main cities and towns, together. However, they seem more distant than ever and there now are hidden secrets between them...

THE JUDGEMENT

Kim Culbertson has skilfully created an enchanting journey of teenage growth and friendship. Her style is not overly wordy, yet she gives the perfect representation of a certain place, person or mood. Each chapter is written from the point of view of two friends, Abby and Riya. I always enjoy narratives written in this format because I like to get inside the characters' minds.

The book's title, The Wonder of Us is very central to the story. Abby has a fascination with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the author has used this in a clever way; there are seven parts of the book and they are all related to Abby's obsession.

I love the construction of the characters - they are flawed and have realistic personalities. Both Riya and Abby make mistakes. For instance, Abby reveals that she cut a Skype chat short by lying that gravy was poured on the laptop. The truth was, Abby did not want to spend her family celebration with her previous best friend. Meanwhile, Riya has many crushes on boys. She is always distracted and doesn't think situations through properly. Abby can never talk to Riya, who has her head in the clouds. Riya also doesn't tell Abby about graduating high school early to go to a theatre school in London.

My favourite character is Neel as he has such a curious temperament. He is Riya's cousin and a change of plans leaves the girls in his care. Neel has a horrible girlfriend and when they break up, romance almost immediately blooms between Abby and him. On the one hand Neel is nearly too chilled, but on the other he can be really strict which is quite a drag for Abby and Riya.

There are many 'ups and downs' in this story. Abby constantly refers to her 'rough year' when her parents divorced; there are slight signs of depression in her though she tries to hide it. Abby wishes adults sympathised with her and that she had confided in her Dad about the past year, at the opportunity given. Riya learns things don't always go to plan.

The Wonder of Us has more than one moral. Dishonesty brings consequences to both girls. We are also reminded of the value of friendship and how no matter the distance, people can still maintain their relationship.

This book is appropriate for kids in the sense that there is no violence or bad language. However, Riya and Abby go through some difficult times and don't always act like perfect role models. They also kiss and flirt with boys and this is described in detail. Because of this, I recommend this book to children aged 11+.

I think this is an interesting novel. It has all of the elements of a good narrative drama - wonderfully-developed characters, romance, friendship and personal growth. Therefore, I give The Wonder of Us four-and-a-half bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1-4063-7717-0