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First book off the ranks in Project READ ALL THE YA. I actually finished this book a week ago, I've just been too busy to blog.

All I Ever Wanted

Mim Dodds is 16 years old and determined not to grow up like her mother. Which is understandable, given her mother is an overweight drug-dealer who lives in the crime-and-poverty ridden neighbourhood of Tudor Court. Mim has a set of rules - no alcohol, no swearing, stay in school - that she hopes will keep her on the path out. But the rules are tested when her brothers are arrested, and Mim has to collect a package of drugs for her mum from their supplier.

This is YA as gritty realism. Mim is surrounded by drugs, teen sex, alcoholism and domestic violence. Mim's rules protect her from the worst of the bad stuff, but her friends and family members suffer. And Mim's adherence to the rules breaks down once the package is stolen by the boy she has a crush on, Jordan Mullen. Mim tries to get the package back by befriending his younger sister, Kate, and enters some morally grey areas.

(Not too grey, though -- Mim is hardly an innocent, but I did notice that all the really gritty stuff like drug taking and teeange sex happens to her friends, one step removed from our protagonist. Oddly, it made me think of Katniss in The Hunger Games, who only kills the "evil" contestants in the arena. Where are the boundaries in YA, I wonder? Do we still need our heroines to be morally pure?)

I loved reading this book. The prose is conversational but tight. For a slim book it has a large cast of characters, but each one is deftly and distinctively drawn. And there are some striking images, like Mim's secret hiding place in an abandoned railway tower, where she has written her rules out on each of the steps she climbs to reach the top of the tower.

My only real disappointment was minor spoilers about the ending... )

A minor quibble with what is a great read.

It's an exciting book, and it got me excited about the possibilities of YA. I'm looking forward to reading Vikki Wakefield's second novel, Friday Brown, once I've worked through the Project list.


Some quick notes for analytical purposes: Female protagonist. First person, present tense. Contemporary setting. Australian author. Brooding bad-boy crush, but no romantic triangle.


Next book in the Project is Alison Croggon's Black Spring, a retelling of Wuthering Heights with witches and wizards. I'm about 100 pages in at the moment, and so far it's craggy and gothic and wonderful.

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Today is A. and my 12th anniversary. To celebrate, I drew a sloth on her morning cup of coffee.

David drew me an anniversary card on my coffee cup

That's right, isn't it? Twelfth anniversary is sloths?

Meanwhile, in writing news:

Passed the 5000 word mark on my new novel this morning. It's another fantasy YA, about a bullied teenager who finds a wizard's tower hiding in the back streets of Box Hill. Think Narnia meets Summer Heights High.

My previous novel, the grunge thing, is currently sitting in big submission pile at Hardie Grant Egmont's Ampersand Project. If you think I've started a new novel to distract me from thinking too hard about the previous one then congratulations, you're exactly right, have a drawing of a sloth.

The Emerging Writers Festival, my favourite festival in the world, is coming up. I've booked my ticket. I've also proposed another collaborative writing project for EWFdigital. But that's been spun off into a standalone festival this year, so I've yet to hear back about that one.

And finally, I've volunteered for a whole slew of panels at Melbourne's spec fic convention Continuum in June. My panels are: Reinventing the Fairy Tale; Plot 101; The heroines of YA; Marvellous Melbourne; and Misappropriations. Expect some blogging on those topics while I straighten out my thoughts.

I... I better go do some research.

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I have a YA novel in submission to a publisher, and I'm currently writing another one. And I've volunteered to be on some YA panels at Continuum.

So it's probably about time I got up to speed on actually reading YA.

I've read bits here and there - some Margot Lanagan, some Leanne Hall, a fair chunk of Scott Westerfeld. But I don't pretend to have a solid grasp of the field.

So I'm initiating Project READ ALL THE YA

Or as it should more accurately be titled: An Introduction to YA. YA is a vast field, and there's no way I can read everything. My goal is to get a grounding in the history of the genre, and what people are doing in it now. Then I can start slowly working my way through something like this of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels.

(Why yes - I am just linking to that article so I can find it again in the future.)

I've drawn up a list of ten book that I think I should read. They're a mix of classic and contemporary. They also lean more towards fantasy YA, since that's the area I'm interested in.

Reading lists can turn a pleasure into a chore. So I don't plan to read them in a set order. I'll read whatever one appeals to me next, and I'll probably break it up with other genres as well.

But here's my lists:

  • Isobelle Carmody - Obernewtyn
  • Judy Blume - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
  • Robert Cormier - The Chocolate War
  • Ruth Park - Playing Beatie Bow
  • S. E. Hinton - The Outsiders

  • Alison Croggon - Black Spring
  • John Green - The Fault in Our Stars
  • Patrick Ness - The Knife of Never Letting Go
  • Stephen Chbosky - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Vikki Wakefield - All I Ever Wanted

Anything you think I've missed?


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February 2019

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