In 2015, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) surveyed public libraries to find out the list of Top Ten most borrowed books. It was disappointing to find only two Australian titles featured in the young adult category, which was overwhelmed by American books, many bolstered by blockbuster adaptations.
The Australian young adult literature community’s response was the creation of #LoveOzYA — a hashtag coined to harness the conversation, and talk about their love of Australian young adult literature, to champion these important stories.
LoveOzYA was born from readers and writers and all who love Australia’s national youth literature. It was not born out of patriotism or a rejection of international voices — far from it. LoveOzYA has been about the inclusion of voices. And it has been a movement, as the name suggests, about love.
This was the spur to create #LoveOzYA — not only an anthology but an entire movement devoted to the promotion of Australian creators and their stories.
Over the past three years the movement has grown, and to celebrate the past 12 months of brilliant new #LoveOzYA titles, founding member of the #LoveOzYA committee, and editor of the #LoveOzYA Anthology released earlier this year, Danielle Binks has compiled her top 10 recommendations for the Australian YA fan in your household:
Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology
The YA event of the year.
Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology has them all.
With brilliantly entertaining short stories from beloved young adult authors Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson and Danielle Binks, this all-new collection will show the world exactly how much there is to love about Aussie YA
The Undercurrent by Paula Weston
Paula Weston hooked me with her debut YA series, The Rephaim – all about angels and demons battling on earth. Now with this new stand-alone book she has once again declared herself the Aussie Queen of Paranormal Suspense! The Undercurrent is perfect for fans of superhero-anything! It’s a paranormal-Dystopian-thriller, a little bit like TV show Heroes, with some X-Men flavoured The Gifted, and a dash of Marvel’s Runaways. It’s high-voltage energy, coupled with serious discussions about the cost of technological advancement, and characters that’ll keep you hooked.
Gap Year in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor
My favourite review of this book was from Meg Whelan in Books+Publishing magazine, when she said; ‘Gap Year in Ghost Town is the Australian YA answer to Supernatural you didn’t know you were waiting for.’ It’s all about a family of ghost-hunters living in Melbourne, and the youngest son who is taking up the family business and getting practice in phantasm from a London hunter. If you want to read about quick-witted teen girls wielding swords, lifting the veil on the supernatural, all while getting a bookish ghost-tour of Melbourne – then this one’s for you!
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Described as a “feminist love letter to geek culture,” Jen Wilde’s debut delivers, ten-fold. It’s about a bunch of Melbourne teenagers who fly to L.A. for the (made-up!) SupaCon fan convention – where they encounter heart and hilarity. This book is spectacular, not least for its diversity and inclusivity of characters – all of whom are wrapped up in an honest and earnest portrayal of modern fan-culture, that celebrates difference and tells teen-readers to be themselves, and embrace who (and what) they love.
Night Swimming by Steph Bowe
Steph Bowe is one of the best, brightest (and youngest) authors of Aussie YA writing today, so it’s no wonder her third book is more of the terrific tenderness we’ve come to expect from her. It’s about the last three teenagers remaining in the small town of Alberton, and what happens when a love triangle threatens to collapse the sweet friendship they’ve developed. This is another beautifully inclusive book that represents modern-Australia for teens today, a book to warm the heart and make you smile.
Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
If you’d like to read a feisty feminist fairy-tale – this is the book for you! Nix’s stand-alone is a little bit The Princess and the Frog, meets Shrek and The Princess Bride. It’s pack full of heart and hilarity, and the added-bonus is that the book is set to be adapted into a CG-animated movie (with screenplay by the writer of Boss Baby!). Nix has so much fun in this book, turning fairytale tropes upside down and inside out – and with guest-appearances from the likes of Merlin and Snow White, this is a truly modern fairytale-take not to be missed!
Valentine by Jodi McAlister
Perfect for fans of Gina Damico, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Gena Showalter – Valentine is a kooky paranormal-mystery with strong romantic elements, and the first book in a series that continues with Ironheart in January 2018. It’s the story of four missing teenagers from the same small town, and the one thing that links them – that they were all born on Valentine’s Day, is the key to unravelling the mystery of their disappearance. It’s a little bit of the Sunnydale Hellmouth meets supernatural TV show Grimm – funny, spooky, and swoony all rolled into one fine package!
Australia’s Great War: 1917 by Kelly Gardiner
This is such a great book – linked to a wonderful series, commemorating the centenary of the First World War – that teen fans of historical fiction are sure to appreciate! Scholastic started this series in 2014, with Sophie Masson’s Australia’s Great War: 1914 (see what they did there?) and each year they’ve been bringing out a new instalment with fresh characters, and different perspectives, each year adding to this harrowing and important series. Seeing as it’s 2017, the 1917 instalment came out this year – written by award-winning historic YA author, Kelly Gardiner. Gardiner’s epic takes us to the trenches of the Western Front as seen through the eyes of young man Alex, and then to the homefront – and his sister Maggie’s story of political upheaval back home, as the war becomes increasingly unpopular. This series is so smart and sensitive, it doesn’t at all read like an info-dump history-lesson, instead all of the authors – and Gardiner in particular – really tries to communicate the tragedy and impact of war.
Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer
Reading a Gabrielle Tozer book just makes me happy – even if the story can have me in tears. Tozer writes such beautifully complex characters and situations, that are painfully relatable – and that’s the case again with her first stand-alone since The Intern duology. Remind Me How This Ends is the story of Milo Dark – who is stuck in stasis after school ends, and his friends all depart for adventures and life beginning. Then an old family friend called Layla Montgomery lands back in his life, after five years of silence. This is a gorgeous book about the push-pull of past and future, and what it means to be on the cusp of everything. It’s a story that really captures the coming-of-age nature of YA, but examines it in new and thoughtful ways that only Tozer can – with tenderness and truth. She’s perfect for fans of Siobhan Vivian and Maureen Johnson!
Because of You by Pip Harry
This is an Aussie YA book that takes a confronting look at homelessness in our society, through the eyes of two people who could not be more different, while realising how much they have in common. It’s a beautiful and necessary tale about the power of words, that shows young readers how to begin to make big changes via their own little corner of the universe. It’s definitely a gut-punch of a book, but one that you feel better for having read. Highly-recommend for sophisticated teen fans of Ellen Hopkins, Jo Knowles and Non Pratt.
Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield
Vikki Wakefield is one of the most creative and daring authors writing for young adults today. Ballad for a Mad Girl is an Aussie YA Gothis tale that smartly uses the supernatural to explore the depths of grief and growing up, and the pain to be found in both. This is a caring and keening novel, creepy but tender and wholly marvellous. Perfect for horror fans who loved David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 It Follows, and bookish fans who appreciated Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kate Rosenfield, or Meet Me at the River by Nina de Gramont.