Top 4 young adult reads for school holidays
Calypso Summer by Jared Thomas
Calypso Summer is a story told by Calypso, a young Nukunu man, fresh out of high school in Rastafarian guise.
After failing to secure employment in sports retail, his dream occupation, Calypso finds work at the Henley Beach Health Food shop where his boss pressures him to gather Aboriginal plants for natural remedies. Growing up in urban Adelaide and with little understanding of his mother’s traditional background, Calypso endeavours to find the appropriate native plants.
This leads him to his Nukunu family in the southern Flinders Ranges and the discovery of a world steeped in cultural knowledge. The support of a sassy, smart, young Ngadjuri girl, with a passion for cricket rivalling his own, helps Calypso to reconsider his Rastafarian façade and understand how to take charge of his future.
Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson
Written from teenager girl Fuzzy Mac’s perspective, Grace Beside Me is a quirky, warmly rendered story of home and family life in a small town.
The black&write! judges remarked on the authentic feel of the Indigenous home life of Fuzzy Mac and her grandparents — her guardians since the death of her mother. Awkward episodes of teen rivalry and romance sit happily alongside the mystery of Gran’s visions and an encounter with a ghost.
The story sits against a backdrop of amazing characters including the holocaust survivor who went to school with Einstein; the sleazy, once-good-looking Mayor; the little priest always rushing off to bury someone before the heat gets to them; the wife basher up the road; Lola’s Forest, dedicated to Lola, a traditional Aboriginal woman who met Ned Kelly — and Nan and Pop. Grace Beside Me interweaves the mundane with the profound and the spiritual — it is full of wisdom and good advice (Fuzzy call’s Nan ‘the queen of all knowing’) on everything from how to to ‘sit a while’ in the bush and connect with country to how to properly hang out the washing.
Through a pair of ornate wrought-iron gates was one of the oldest universities in the country. Our paths had just intersected. It was 1985 and I, little black duck, was about to embark on a law degree.
Set within the explosive cultural shifts of the 1960s and 1980s, Becoming Kirrali Lewis chronicles the journey of a young Aboriginal teenager as she leaves her home town in rural Victoria to take on a law degree in Melbourne in 1985. Adopted at birth by a white family, Kirrali doesn’t question her cultural roots until a series of life-changing events force her to face up to her true identify.
Her decision to search for her biological parents sparks off a political awakening that no-one sees coming, least of all Kirrali herself as she discovers her mother is white and her father is a radical black activist. Narrative flashbacks to the 1960s, where Kirrali’s biological mother, Cherie, is rebelling against her parent’s strict conservatism sees her fall into a clandestine relationship with an Aboriginal man. Unmarried and pregnant, Cherie’s traumatic story of an unforgiving Australian society give meaning to Kirrali’s own rites of passage nearly twenty years later. The generational threads of human experience are the very things that will complete her. If only she can let go.
Read this lovely post on Alpha Reader
Reviewed in The Sydney Morning Herald
Roxy May Redding’s got music in her soul and songs in her blood. She lives in a hot dusty town and is dreaming big. She survives run-ins with the mean girls at high school, sings in her dad’s band and babysits for her wayward aunt. But Roxy wants a new start.
When she gets the chance to study music in the big city, she takes it. Roxy’s new life, her new friends and her music collide in a way she could never have imagined. Being a poor student sucks... navigating her way through the pressure of a national music competition has knobs on it... singing for her dinner is soul destroying... but nothing prepares Roxy for her biggest challenge. Her crush on Ana, the local music journo, forces her to steer her way through a complex maze of emotions alien to this small town girl. Family and friends watch closely as Roxy takes a confronting journey to find out who the hell she is.