The YA Verdict #7


Every second Sunday of the month, two book clubs meet to discuss YA books. One is the First Review Book Club with teen members, the other is the Young at Heart Book Club for adults who love YA.


Here are the verdicts, out of 10, on the books read recently by the teen members of the First Review Book Club:

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood

Available: Now

Stella's verdict: 6.5/10

"This is a story about overcoming differences, and learning to change."

Ady: not the confident A-lister she appears to be. Kate: brainy boarder taking risks to pursue the music she loves. Clem: disenchanted swim star losing her heart to the wrong boy. All are targeted by PSST, a toxic website that deals in gossip and lies. St Hilda's antidote to the cyber-bullying? The Year 10 Wellness program. Nice try. But sometimes all it takes is three girls; exploring friendship, feminism, identity and belonging.

The Last Days of Us by Beck Nicholas

Available: 18/12/17

Sam's verdict: 10/10

"A great book, about dealing with loss, and with life not always working out the way you want."

Five teens, one derelict Kombi, and an unforgettable road trip . . .

Six months ago, Zoey’s life went off the rails. After the tragic loss of her brother, she partied her way to oblivion, estranged her best friend, Cass, and pushed away her now ex, Finn. But when her destructive behaviour reaches dangerous heights, Zoey realises she needs to pull herself together and get her old life back, including her ex. There’s just one complication: Finn is now dating Cass.

Now, it’s the last week of summer and Zoey, Cass and Finn are setting out on the road trip of a lifetime to see their favourite musician, Gray, perform live, joined by Finn’s infuriatingly attractive bad-boy cousin Luc and his vibrant younger sister Jolie. Zoey thinks this is her chance to put things to rights and convince Finn they should get back together. But she wasn’t counting on her friends’ lingering resentment, Luc’s disarming sincerity, and Jolie’s infectious love for life to turn her plans upside down

Blackbird by N D Gomes

Available: 20/11/17

Tim's verdict: 7.5/10

"It's not your traditional missing person plot."

Olivia disappeared the night the blackbird died. On New Year's Eve, the dead blackbirds descended, hours before fourteen-year-old Alex McCarthy's sister Olivia went missing from a party. Alex is committed to finding out what happened to her sister, within the previously safe walls of their subarctic Orkney village. She knows that the dishevelled, sometimes intoxicated, Detective Inspector Birkens is her best shot. Yet as they uncover the secrets behind Olivia's last night, Alex starts to find things she may be better off never knowing . . .

Runebinder by Alex R Kahler

Available: 20/11/17

Lili's verdict: 5.5/10

"This book is a dystopian fantasy, set in a future where magic is just emerging and changing everything."

Three years have passed since magic destroyed the world. Those who remain struggle to survive the humanoid monsters called Howls roaming the streets. The Hunters fight back with steel and magic, doing their best to protect what remains of humanity. They have used their elemental magic to keep the Howls at bay, but it's never been enough to truly win the war. Humans are losing.

Tenn is one such Hunter, fighting for everything he once had, and for everything that could still be. With other Hunters, including his longtime crush, Jarrett, he struggles to find balance in a world of chaos. But when Tenn falls prey to Tomás, one of the six original and strongest Howls in existence, he realises that there's more to fight for than survival. He's become the pawn in a bigger game, one with potentially devastating consequences. And if he doesn't play his part, and discover the root of his power, it could mean the end of humanity.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Available: 30/10/17

Freya's verdict: 6.5/10

"A pretty thrilling story with mediocre plot development. The idea was really good, but doesn't reach its potential."

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope- Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back. There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

Vigilante by Kady Cross

Available: Now

Stella's verdict: 6.5/10

"This book is so intense, hardcore, explicit; it's very gripping."

It’s senior year, and Hadley and her best friend, Magda, should be starting the year together. Instead, Magda is dead and Hadley is alone. Raped at a party the year before and humiliated, Magda was driven to take her own life and Hadley is forced to see her friend’s attackers in the classroom every day. Devastated, enraged and needing an outlet for her grief, Hadley decides to get a little justice of her own.

Donning a pink ski mask and fueled by anger, Hadley goes after each of the guys one by one, planning to strip them of their dignity and social status the way they did to Magda. As the legend of the pink-masked Vigilante begins to take on a life of its own, Hadley’s revenge takes a turn for the dangerous. Could her need for vengeance lead her down a path she can’t turn back from?

If There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer L Armentrout

Available: Now

Gina's verdict: 7/10

"A bit cliched, but a good story about the risks and guilt of drinking, and how your decisions affect consequences."

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She's ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic – one of opportunities and chances. Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything. Now Lena isn't looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened. For what she let happen. With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends' entire existences have been redefined?

Everybody Hurts by Joanna Nadin and Anthony McGowan

Available: Now

Louis' verdict: 6/10

"A story about a tricky relationship; overall, it didn't stand out."

Matt and Sophia live in the same city, but they come from opposite sides of the track. By rights they should never have met. They definitely should never have fallen in love at first sight, of all cliches. But, to their great surprise, they do. That's the easy part. It's what to do next that they struggle with.

Friends, family and circumstance are mostly against them. They betray themselves; then they betray each other. And in the end they learn, the hard way, what it takes for love to survive. It's true what they say. Everybody hurts sometimes. But sometimes, too, the pain is worth it.

Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian

Available: Now

Georgia's verdict: 7/10

"She's buried in grief, he's buried in his mind; their friendship helps them develop. Beautiful writing in this book."

Since Ava lost Kelly, things haven't been going so well. Even before she gets thrown out of school for shouting at the principal, there's the simmering rage and all the weird destructive choices. The only thing going right for Ava is her job at Magic Kebab. Which is where she meets Gideon. Skinny, shy, anxious Gideon. A mad poet and collector of vinyl records with an aversion to social media. He lives in his head. She lives in her grief. The only people who can help them move on with their lives are each other.

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Available: Now

Tim's verdict: 8/10

"The style is different, with a BIG twist. There better be a sequel! It has a real cliffhanger ending."

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, the same man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later she wakes up in a clearing just outside her hometown, alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the crime erased. Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him too, though he does his best to hide the signs. And as the world around them begins to spiral towards panic and destruction, the two troubled teens discover that people have been lying to them their whole lives.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Available: Now

Sam's verdict: 8/10

"It's an analogy about modern-day social media horror stories."

Can you fall in love with someone you've never met, never even spoken to; someone who is light years away? Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth, with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. Their only communication is via email, and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there's something worse than being alone . . .

The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless

Available: Now

Lili's verdict: 6.5/10

Sixteen-year-old Lucy Hart has been counting the days till she can get the hell out of Digger's Landing - a small Queensland fishing hamlet home to fifteen families, a posse of mongrel dogs, and Parkers Corner Store (no apostrophe and nowhere near a corner). But just like the tides Lucy's luck is on the turn, and as graduation nears her escape plans begin to falter; her best friend, Polly, is dropping out of school to help pay the bills, and Tom has been shipped off to boarding school, away from the flotsam of this place. And then there's Lucy's nightlife, which is filled with dreams that just don't seem to belong to her at all . . .

When the fish stop biting, like they did when her mum was still around, Lucy realises she isn't the only one with a secret.


Here's a summary of the comments from members of the Young at Heart book club (for adults who read YA) about recent book club titles.

The Things We Promise by J C Burke

It's the early 1990s and all Gemma can think about is looking perfect for her first school formal. Gemma's brother Billy - New York's up and coming hair and make-up artist - has made her the ultimate promise: he's returning home especially to 'create magic' on her and two friends for their end-of-year formal. Gemma's best friend, Andrea, is convinced it'll be their moment to shine; Gemma hopes it's the night Ralph will finally notice her. But when Billy arrives home from New York, Gemma's life becomes complicated. Her family's been keeping secrets; friendships are forged and broken; and suddenly the length of her formal dress is the least of her worries.

Average rating: 9/10

We loved this book, and think that all teenagers (and 20-somethings) should read it to learn about this part of recent Australian history. It's set in the early 90s, at the time of HIV/AIDS, the grim reaper ads, and the fear and hostility that was stirred up by these events. The protagonist, Gemma, is developed beautifully and cleverly, as she changes from a normal, self-centred, somewhat naive teenager to a young woman, battling discrimination and exclusion as her local community learns that her older brother has contracted HIV/AIDS.

J C Burke's background as a nurse informs her portrayal of all aspects of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and how patients were treated, from their medical treatment to the lack of real care provided. Several YAH book club members had read reviews by people who criticised the book, calling the author homophobic. We agreed those people obviously hadn't read the book! 

Please read this book!

Genuine Fraud by e lockhart

Imogen is an heiress, a runaway, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a chameleon, and a liar. Imogen is done pretending to be perfect, and Jule refuses to go back to the person she once was. Somewhere between the mansions of Martha's Vineyard and the shores of Cabo San Lucas, their intense friendship takes a dark turn.

Average rating: 8/10

e lockhart does it again, producing a thrilling, fast-paced tale with the twist we expect (and what a twist!). Every book she writes is like none of her others. This one was inspired by The Talented Mr Ripley (the book), the making of an anti-hero, Victorian orphans, superhero origin stories, class differences and intense friendships.

We weren't all sure that we felt sympathy for Jule, but we appreciated the writing, the carefully crafted narrative structure and the flawed but real characters.