TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN Sixteen-year-old Aza lives in fear of bugs and infection. She picks at her calloused finger until it bleeds, and bleeds again but her tendency to catastrophic thinking worsens when her neighbour's billionaire father disappears and there comes the chance of first love. A very personal story from John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, that excavates teen anxiety from the inside out.
THE BOOK OF DUST A fantasy adventure akin to Huck Finn's coming-of-age journey down the Mississippi River with 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead piloting a storm-tossed canoe across the half-drowned world of Oxford with a precious cargo pursued by a crazed murderer. For the fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series and those who are not.
THE EXTREMELY INCONVENIENT ADVENTURES OF BRONTE METTLESTONE Bronte is ten when she receives notice her parents have been "taken out by cannon fire" on board a pirate ship. Her parents bequeath to her a treasure chest filled with gifts which must be delivered to ten aunts. Jaclyn Moriarity is equally talented as her famous writer sister Liane.
MANHATTAN BEACH From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad comes something very different - historical fiction set on New York city's waterfront. Anna Kerrigan is 11 when her father goes missing and his absence follows her into wartime where she becomes a female navy diver and sole provider for her mother and disabled sister Lydia. Manhattan Beach is about the rip tides that push and pull on family.
THE LIFE TO COME Smug writers, vegetarians, casual racists - few escape Michelle de Kretser's sting in these five stories that roam Sydney, Paris and Colombo. Darting in and out of the narrative is the character of Narelle Reynolds, a writer of shallow ambition who changes her name to Pippa on her 18th birthday because "no one called Narelle's ever going to win the Booker". The Life to Come is a satirical novel for our short-attention-span, think-we-are-special-age and so full of acute observations and cultural blasphemies my copy was riddled in exclamation marks. Hilary Mantel is a fan. For good reason.
WIMMERA Mark Brandi's novel shares with Jane Harper's The Dry the brooding menace of drought and bushfire and suffocating small country town life, and the secrets, violence and lies of Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones. Brandi is the first Australian to have won the coveted British Crime Writers' Association's Debut Dagger Award and is a writer to watch.
A LONG WAY FROM HOME Peter Carey has long been fascinated by fakers and forgers and this road novel is told in alternating chapters between a radio quiz show champ and a rural housewife as they compete in a cross-country endurance car race in 1954. Nostalgia is leavened by sad truths.
SING, UNBURIED, SING I'm a sucker for a ghost story and in Jesmyn Ward's quintessential novel of a black American family there are two ghosts from the past hitching a ride as young Jo Jo's mother packs the family up to pick up the absent father from prison. Simply stunning.
I AM, I AM, I AM: SEVENTEEN BRUSHES WITH DEATH Some of Maggie O'Farrell's encounters with death - childbirth complications, plummeting planes and an encounter in a dark alleyway - are hair raising. Others seem a tad melodramatic until the purpose of her first autobiographical work unfolds: she is writing words of comfort for her young daughter who faces down death every day with life-threatening allergies.
SUNLIGHT AND SEAWEED, AN ARGUMENT FOR HOW TO FEED, POWER AND CLEAN UP THE WORLD In a summer in which heat records are sure to be broken, Tim Flannery dives into the clean technologies that just might sustain the world of our children and grandchildren: giant kelp farms that can do the work of forests, taking carbon dioxide out and deacidifying seawater,and concentrated sunlight stored to power homes and cities. Flannery offers some kernel of hope for us hopeless humans.