Leaving Jetty Road by Rebecca Burton.

Paperback, 261 pages

Published 25th August, 2004 bu HarperCollins (Australia) Children’s

IBSN: 0207200157

It’s year twelve for Nat, Lise and Sofia – three best friends living in Adelaide – and it’s a year of change, heartbreak, and growth.

Lise has convinced the others to become vegetarian with her as a New Years Resolution: ” Vegetarianism’s good for you, you know. And think of all the weight we could lose.” It’s just the start of her finally taking control of her weight and finally becoming thin!

Nat has taken on a Saturday job at the Wild Carrot Cafe, and immediately fallen for Josh – the gorgeous chef.

Sofe – who is never short on male admirers – may have finally found someone she is serious about.

Leaving Jetty Road is told from the perspectives of Nat and Lise. With Nat, you get a little romantic storyline. While with Lise, her need to control her weight is becoming a serious issue. We don’t meet Sofe in the first person, but she’s pretty constant in the novel, as a friend to both girls.

I simply love this book. I’ve read it maybe three times now. I feel a kind of nostalgia when I read about the beach and school and the Aussie settings in here. There’s also a kind of healthy, alternate lifestyle vibe throughout the whole thing – a lot of this comes from their vegetarianism, Nat’s job at the healthy cafe, and her opinionated love interest Josh.

For fans of Melina Marchetta, Good Oil by Laura Buzo, or other Australian young adult fiction aimed at females.

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Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Paperback, 335 pages

Published June 2nd 2009 by Simon & Schuster Children’s

IBSN: 9781847382313

The Second Civil War, also known as “The Heartland War,” was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue. To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as “The Bill of Life” was passed. It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies. The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively “abort” a child . . . on the condition that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called “unwinding.” Unwinding is now a common, and accepted practice in society.

Connor, Risa and Lev are three unwinds on the run, all three from different backgrounds. Connor is ‘troubled,’ and his parents chose to have him unwound. Risa is a ward of the state, and she has used up all the time they are willing to give her. Lev is the last of ten children, and his parents are tithing him.

Unwind is an amazing novel. There are many dimensions to the world Neal Shusterman created. It is all very well thought out, in my opinion. This was my second reading – my copy of the second book is in the post and I wanted to refresh my memory – and it was just as great the second time.

To be more graphic, unwinding is a surgical process where every part of your body is harvested. You are kept alive during the process, for legal purposes. Because you don’t technically die during this procedure, and all your parts get transplanted into other people, it’s believed that you are still alive, but in a different way.

Because there are so many extra organs and other body parts due to unwinding, medical ailments aren’t fixed anymore, you just have that body part replaced. Had a heart attack? Here’s a new heart. Gone bald? Have this luscious hair. Missing a limb? No problem, we have plenty of those lying around. This is the blasé attitude that surgeons (they’re pretty much all surgeons now) have.

It’s a terrifying, unbelievable concept. But this is a dystopia. And these people have been fed the ‘you will still be technically alive’ line so often, they truly believe it. Having teens unwound is actually an okay thing to do in this world. But then, what about the soul? And your conscious? Unwind really gets you thinking.

There’s so much other stuff in here too: Juvey-cops, uploading, Humpty Dunfee, clappers, storking, betrayal, murder, love, sacrifice, hope. Go and grab a copy of Unwind right away to find out what it all means!

The One that I Want by Jennifer Echols.

eBook, 288 pages

Published 6th December, 2011 by Simon Pulse

When Gemma saw Max and Max saw Gemma, sparks flew. At least that’s what Gemma thought, until Max asks her friend Addison out instead. But with Addison’s mum being the way she is, Gemma needs to go along too – with Max’s friend Carter. Let the torturous double dating begin!

Gemma just keeps falling harder for Max as the dates go on. They have a lot in common, not to mention amazing chemistry. The only thing Gemma has in common with Carter is an ability to lock lips, which they demonstrate every now and again.

Meanwhile, Gemma is having relationship issues with just about everyone. Since the weight dropped and she became a majorette, she has gained confidence (‘majorette’ is a new one for me – think of a baton twirling sector in the marching band, with a cheerleader type presence at football games). She’s standing up to her domineering best friend for the first time and trying to figure out how she fits in with everyone else now that things are different for/within her.

My favourite Jennifer Echols book is Going too Far. It was also the first J.E. book I read – having just discovered eBooks, I was very excited at all the possibilities (so many young adult books that I have never even heard of, and so cheap!) and that excitement may have possibly rubbed off on my actual reading experience. Still, I’m fairly sure that Going too Far is my favourite from this author so far.

I feel – and once again, this is probably my age – that this is a cute novel and pretty fun to read, but not incredibly substantial. The subject matter (girl stealing best friend’s boyfriend) has been dealt with a lot before – twice in my e-collection alone! – and possibly better. I seemed to enjoy the others more (in my memory, anyway) – mind you, I did read Susane Colasanti’s Something like Fate in the glorious outdoors on my brand new Kobo eReader, lying on my banana chair in the afternoon sun, so that delightful experience could leave me biased! I did enjoy this novel, however. And it helps that it really doesn’t overstay it’s welcome – I read the whole thing this morning.

Max is pretty swoon worthy, as Gemma’s romantic interest. He is Japanese-American, wears cool Japanese T-shirts, is an amazing kicker for an opposing school’s football team, and aside from a habit of ‘making girls mad’ is a generally cool character.

Addison, the best friend, seems to be anything but. It’s quite annoying that she was portrayed as this horrible, manipulative, domineering friend right from the beginning. I noticed the same thing in Something Borrowed – that fairly recent movie starring Kate Hudson, featuring a similar story line – they gradually made her character really nasty so that it made it seem okay that her bestie had just stolen her fiance. It’s an easy way out, I think. What happens when friends who genuinely love one another fall for the other’s guy? If you act on that, what happens to your friendship? (I can’t really remember how it was in Something Like Fate or The Unwritten Rule (by Elizabeth Scott), so they may have done something similar there, after all.)

But taking into account Addison being a bad friend, and she and Max being quite unsuitable for each other, The One that I Want is done really well. Good resolution and character growth for the main character.

All you fans of Jennifer Echols, or the two other novels I mentioned, or this kind of book in general, have a read and tell me what you think.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore.

Hardback, 539 pages

Published May 1st, 2012 by Dial

IBSN: 9780803734739

Third book in the Graceling Realm series.

When we last saw Bitterblue back in Graceling, she was very young, recently orphaned, and the new Queen of Monsea. Now, she is eighteen, and spends her days signing paperwork and witnessing the odd criminal trial, while her advisors do all the real work.

Monsea is still in a sort of confused hazy state, due to King Leck’s evil reign. It’s not until Bitterblue begins sneaking out of the castle at night that she realises that her advisors (who were also around in Leck’s days) hide the truth of her Kingdom from her. One illicit after hours trip has shown her more than all her well planned, advisor approved tours of Bitterblue City.

She also meets Saf, his friend Teddy and their two sisters. Using an alias, she becomes a friend to the two boys, and grows even closer than that to Saf.

Bitterblue yearns to heal her hurting kingdom. But to do that she must first uncover the truth. What was her father, King Leck, really up to? How many of his crimes were physically committed by him, and how many did he force others to commit? Are there still loyal Leck followers out there, itching to get at Bitterblue?

Bitterblue was great. It is the third book in this series, and possibly the last. It ties up Leck’s loose ends quite well. It was interesting, because he is kind of at the centre of all three books – the first and third more so, but he still features quite prominently in Fire – without actually being a main character (or even alive, some of the time!). He’s sort of like a theme, rather than a character, if you get what I’m saying.

I enjoyed reading from Bitterblue’s point of view. She’s the queen, but she’s surrounded by people who do all her work for her and basically control, or at least manipulate, all her actions. It’s no wonder she started sneaking out. It’s not an entirely original concept (see Disney’s Aladdin for starters), but it’s a golden oldie.

My copy is in hardback, and it is seriously beautiful. There’s a heap of bridge drawings and maps in the back, as well as these gorgeous pictures for each part (part one, part two, etc – to be clear!). I don’t know if the paperback is as nice or not, but I am in deep like with my copy.

Read this if you’re a Graceling Realm fan (obviously), but also if you’re a general fantasy fan. I don’t think it’s essential to read the series in order. Go for whichever order you please!