Deadly Unna? – Phillip Gwynne

Deadly Unna? – Phillip GwynneDeadly, Unna? by Phillip Gwynne
Published by Penguin Books Pages: 273

'Deadly, unna?' He was always saying that. All the Nungas did, but Dumby more than any of them. Dumby Red and Blacky don't have a lot in common. Dumby's the star of the footy team, he's got a killer smile and the knack with girls, and he's a Nunga. Blacky's a gutless wonder, needs braces, never knows what to say, and he's white. But they're friends... and it could be deadly, unna? This gutsy novel, set in a small coastal town in South Australia is a rite-of-passage story about two boys confronting the depth of racism that exists all around them.

As I often am, I’m a little late to this reading party. It was in some boxes of books I was given from a deceased estate, although I suspect the person giving them to me had emptied their house of books as well and this one came from their children. But I’m not going to speculate any more about this out loud today, and hopefully not again.

Phillip Gwynne came to writing late in life, at the ripe old age of 35! So old, I say! This book was his first book and I’m hoping the rest of them are just as good and explore issues in the same way, making it easier for children and young adults to understand that things sometimes have shades of grey.

I had been told it explored issues of race, but completely forgot this when I opened the book. I was hooked from the first page and it was only on page three that I suddenly remembered which issues it covered. This brought it back to me with a big shock and made me glance through the first couple of pages again, but didn’t change how I felt about the book. Those feelings continued all the way through.

Gwynne has very cleverly taken me back to the 1970s when Polywaffles were all the rage (I’m being very grateful he didn’t depict an unwrapped Polywaffle in the swimming pool) and when some people were just starting to think of Indigenous as people. The book is set only a few years after the Referendum in 1967 when Indigenous were finally recognised as people. Essentially, people were beginning to think for themselves and that is part of what this book shows. The interesting thing to note is the Australian Indigenous already had the right to vote before the referendum, this happened between 1962 and 1965. The referendum changed very little as racism continued to happen and that’s one important thing this book shows. It also shows how it’s possible for someone to come to a changing of the mind. Having read this book I haven’t changed my mind, I still don’t like football.

In case you haven’t read this book and your young adults don’t have it on their shelf this link takes you straight through to buy the book. It is well worth reading. I probably won’t be keeping an eye out for the sequel, it apparently has a romantic bent to it. I don’t like football and I don’t like romance, two things challenging to avoid with an Australian young adult book.

Twilight – Stephenie Meyer

Twilight – Stephenie MeyerTwilight by Stephenie Meyer
Published by Atom Pages: 435

Here we go, for some reason you lot have been hanging out for this rant from me. I have to get this out of my system before I do my quiz for uni. If you’re a fan you might want to leave right now…you have been warned.

I now understand why 50 Shades of Grey is so bad. I’ve read the first 80 pages and there was so much repetition and so much bad writing I got so bored I gave up. Reading Twilight explains it all. And for those few of you who don’t know, 50 Shades of Grey is fan fiction of Twilight. Some adult female was so enamoured with Twilight she wrote fan fiction and put it on some fan fiction website. Somehow this translated to a published book, I’m sure there’s some magic in there.

There is so much repetition here, if Meyer cut the repetition even by one third it would be a much better book. Meyer seems to believe in tell rather than show and she tells us on ever so many occasions how clumsy Bella feels she is, but we also hear it from Edward. There is such a thing as being given information too many times. It gets boring and is an insult to the reader.

Getting to the story. Why does everyone get so excited by a very old man entering a 17 year old’s bedroom and just staring at her while she sleeps? This is not only pedophilia but stalking and also breaking and entering. That’s only two crimes with the potential for a third, it’s not many so I’m not sure why I’m getting all het up about it.

But, having been snarky, let’s go back to reality for a bit. Go back to high school and just think about the crush you had on the older teacher. I’ll emphasise that one older teacher, that older teacher who everyone had a crush on. In almost every class there is someone who thinks that older teacher is going to marry them, who thinks they are special enough. Actually, there was one person a few years ahead of me who did just that, as soon as she was of legal age they married. I reckon this is why Twilight appeals, not just to young adults but also their mothers. It’s about the girl who doesn’t realise she’s cool, the girl who is so clumsy she shouldn’t be let out without an escort and a bubble wrap suit, the girl who gets the cool-ever-so-much-older-guy.

So, Bella lusts after Edward, the cool-ever-so-much-older-guy. He makes one attempt to stay away from her and then puts the ball in her court ‘you should stay away from me’ he says, knowing she won’t. He hasn’t the self-control to stay away from her as the cool-ever-so-much-older-guy and knows she’s young and easily swayed so he puts the ball in her court. Now tell, why does she keep running after him? And then there’s the other problem. If he can read everyone’s minds how come he has no idea he dazzles people? Can’t he read their minds and know this?

Let’s have a look at the vampire issue. It’s a very lust-driven issue. The whole biting on the neck is very erotic and a metaphor for sex, a problem in this whole series. It was written by a Mormon who believes sex before marriage shouldn’t happen and yet she’s written a series of books about a young girl lusting after the ever-so-much-older-guy with lots of erotic imagery. And the image on the front cover of my book with a young girl holding out a red apple, another erotic image, one straight from the Garden of Eden, a nice biblical story.

For the record. The best way to read this book when you absolutely have to is with friends. Read a page each, if you’re from different cultures with different accents this only enhances the experience and makes it more bearable. I wouldn’t recommend a drinking game as you’d be drunk too quickly. Every time she mentions her clumsiness, every time she mentions how attracted she is to Edward…if you’ve read the book you get the idea.

Also for the record. I’m not giving you an affiliate link for this book. While there is some promise here, there is so much wrong. I just wish the editor had put a bit more thought into getting Meyer to write this properly.

I’ve been watching the movie while I write and there’s so much wrong with it. Continuity errors abound and I don’t normally notice those on the first viewing. I’ve seriously enjoyed some of the stunts and special effects, just not the sparklyness, vampires don’t sparkle. At least they didn’t put her in high heels with a broken leg.

Saving Francesca – Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Starting a new school is really hard, I’ve started a new school and it was a big challenge, admittedly I was a little older than Francesca and I didn’t have her more major challenges of going from an all girls school to a boys school just starting to accept girls and I also didn’t have a mother suffering a bout of acute depression.

Francesca comes into her own in this book, she finds friends who look after her and help her through the bad times, also making the person she really is come out again, redefining the word ‘friendship’ for her.

I love Marchetta’s books. They are an excellent snapshot of teenage life. She shows you the problem and shows you how the teenager solves it. Her characters have real heart, mind and soul and this shows through in her writing. The fact they’ve been on the school reading list is a good indicator of an important book that’s been written well and I totally echo this fact.

There are times when telling the truth and standing up for yourself and others is really important. One instance in this book is when Francesca talks to the drama teacher about the production he’s planning on staging. Henry IV has only one good female role model who can’t even speak English and the teacher has obviously not thought about casting the girls in the class so Francesca speaks up and tells him this also indicating Macbeth is better as there are the witches and Lady Macbeth so more scope for female casting and they’re better parts. They make a deal that if she doesn’t wow him in Macbeth auditions then they’ll do Henry IV and she gets to play the Welsh girl with no English. It works and she’s cast as Lady Macbeth. This is a win on two accounts, the first is a win for her personally, not just for getting a really meaty onstage part for she understands how to negotiate and that telling the truth can be a really good thing but also it gives the female students a buzz as it shows they’re being listened to and life in a previously all boys school is changing. When you’re leading the way things can seem hard and this is a win for them.

Her new friend, Jimmy, teaches them all a few things. Francesca’s mother is a fantasy expert and is meant to be writing a paper on it but when you’re acutely depressed it’s hard to do anything let alone write an inspired paper. Jimmy is also interested in fantasy and when he comes in she’s trying to write, all of a sudden he’s sitting there talking to her about it and this is the first time she’s talked in months. Some days or weeks later he has her laughing which changes how she feels about Jimmy, he’s still a friend but she forgives him a lot because of this. Her Dad still doesn’t like him and I’m not sure why, maybe because he doesn’t trust Jimmy with Francesca or because Jimmy is doing better at getting a response out of Mia than him.

If your teenager hasn’t read her books and they’re not on the book list for school don’t make them read them but just leave them lying around and hope they pick them up. These books are really important as they show how people can grow from their experiences, they show really strong characters and they do this in a much shorter time frame than normally happens so it doesn’t drag out into a really long book. Marchetta’s books are readable and understandable, also important is that they’re Australian and contemporary something we don’t see enough of.

Divergent – Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is the story of Tris, born into Abnegation she has to make a decision to either stay or to join another faction at the age of 16. This is normal and happens to everyone. Under testing it turns out she’s Divergent with talents and skills most people don’t have and the authorities don’t want to foster, this is hidden by her tester and she chooses Dauntless. In this book we see her training by Dauntless, her initiation and the beginning of the revolution.

Things I like

The writing is good. It’s well written with good concepts and is well thought through. The idea that people get to choose who they will spend the rest of their life with is brilliant, it means they get to escape from any abusive parents or get away from a ‘religion’ that doesn’t suit them.

Each faction has different qualities and different responsibilities. Abnegation is self-less, always thinking of others and run the government. If you are more into research then when testing happens at the age of 16 you’re able to change to Erudite, if you’re brave you get to change to Dauntless. The problem here is that many families consider this change to be betrayal and don’t want to talk to you ever again despite visiting times being made available.

The world building seems pretty good. Each faction seems to be one aspect of society and I like how you actually get to choose your faction. It’s interesting how each faction is dressed in a certain way so that if you happen to meet someone from outside your faction you know instantly where they’re from. Schooling is done in a general location so you get to meet and potentially friend people from different factions.

Things I don’t like

Tris is 16, she chooses Dauntless and her trainers are only two years older than she. It means when she falls in love with Four, her main trainer, then it doesn’t feel wrong as two years is not a big gap. What gets me about it is that I can’t quite understand how a trainer has the skills and abilities to do this at only 18. The other trainer, Eric, is also only 18 and he’s supposedly in charge of the Dauntless. I understand there’s a lot of people who die off during training and then more further on as Dauntless life is rather brutal but I just can’t figure out how someone who is only out of training for two years could be the leader. Maybe some of this will come clear in the next two books.

The romance. I really don’t understand why someone has to fall in love in so many books. I’m sure someone will try to explain it to me and I know I won’t understand. I won’t tell you who as that could possibly be spoilers and I wouldn’t dare do spoilers here despite having mentioned it above. Will this romance stop me reading the rest of the trilogy? Don’t know as this is well written otherwise.

This link is to the set of four books (should you buy through this link I get a small percentage), despite the romance it’s good writing and I do recommend it. There is lots of violence and death, callousness is the word that springs to mind here.

Gone: Lies – Michael Grant

Lies by Michael Grant

Lies by Michael Grant

This is the third book in the Gone series, I will finally get through them all.

In Lies we find out what happened to Brittany, the girl who can’t die, and we find out more details of how hard it is to impose laws.

As with the other books I loved the creation and the writing but it is still very much Lord of the Flies and I have an issue with the cover. I’m assuming these are Sam and Astrid but they could very well be another couple such as Caine and Diana but they look way too clean and healthy. In this book Grant takes great pains to tell us how challenging it is to get oneself and one’s clothes clean in salt water, apparently the salt dries on the clothes and they itch (I’m sure you all know that itch). Grant also details the challenges involved in feeding all the kids, The Hunter tells us about his hunting, Quinn talks about fishing and we learn about the added challenges of harvesting vegies that arose in Hunger, all of which make it harder to eat properly and would make people start to look thin and malnourished. So why does this gorgeous young couple continue to look gorgeous, clean and healthy?

Apart from all of this, Grant is moving things on quite nicely. I won’t give you the details but I keep making guesses as to what is likely to happen at the end. Will the wall disappear for good and everyone get back to their families? Will the people stranded on the islands be rescued? Oh yes, the islands…I’d quite forgotten there might have been islands there and this caused me to chuckle when it was revealed who owned and lived on one island. It was quite obvious from the outset this was meant to be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with their menagerie of adopted children, only the adopted children don’t seem as grateful as they should be.

This book is quite dark as is the whole series, I’m not waiting for it to get easier to deal with emotionally and I do intend to read the other three books as soon as I can as they’re easier to deal with than The Hunger Games. At the library next week I’ll endeavour to get the next book and then with each successive visit the other two books but I won’t review each of them individually, at this point I’ll wait and talk about the series as a whole. Each book is as good as the last and each book has its good points and bad but I won’t discuss them individually again.

You can buy this book here. Yes, I get paid every time you buy a book using this link and I appreciate each and every single one.